hhl_04Maybe you’ve noticed — nowadays consumers experience a lot of distrust and suspicion when purchasing anything from the supermarket. Due to the move from family farming to high scale industrial agriculture, a lot of our fruits and veggies are lacking the amount of vitamins and minerals they once had. According to a study done by the University of Texas and The Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry[1] in 2004, focused on the Department of Agriculture between 1950-1999 focused on 43 different fruits and vegetables the nutrient content has steadily declined since the records started in the 1960’s. The result?[2] You would need to eat five apples today to get the nutrients you would have gotten in 1965.

How to add more nutrients to any soil to grow the most nutritious fruits and veggies possible

There is also the fact of added chemicals from pesticides and fertilizers. This unnatural change has led many to seek organic alternatives, which cost more or have begun to look into growing produce of our own. If you happen to have the time and space to be able to grow your own produce I highly suggest it. There is nothing quite like planting your own food and watching it flourish with the added bonus of knowing exactly where the food on your plate came from. It may not always be the easiest task to begin, especially if the soil at your home has become void of the nutrients needed for a garden to flourish.

There is an immense amount of information out there about what products to use and how to begin a home garden that it can become overwhelming which is just the opposite of what a garden should be. Here are some of the most cost effective ways to bring nutrients back to your soil and start your very first garden chemical free and full of nutrients.

Many of the companies invested in the gardening industry would have you believe that you need to purchase special products to rejuvenate your soil but there are many ways to bring life back to your soil and in turn life to your plants from basic things right at home.

Cheap Ways to Add More Nutrients to Your Soil

soil

Compost Compost Compost

Commercial NPK (nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium) lack trace minerals that occur naturally. Creating a space for organic growth that will provide the nutrients necessary is viable through composting. Start a composting pile with what are considered your “greens,” and your “browns”[3] leftover veggie peelings, fruit waste, tea bags, plant prunings, grass, eggs, scrunched up paper and so much more. These all help provide nitrogen and moisture important for healthy soil. Avoid cooked foods and meats and dairy. They attract unwanted pests and create an unpleasant smell after time. A few weeks before planting time add a few inches of your compost to your soil. In 2-4 weeks once the plants have begun to grow, add some of your compost around the plant’s base for weed control and moisture retention. It also slowly releases nutrients when watered. The more organic matter you get into your compost the better.

Leaves

Utilize those leaves that you are going to have to rake up anyway and repurpose them into leaf mold for your garden. Leaf mold is basically broken down partially decomposed leaves. You can easily break up your leaf piles by running over the leaves with a lawnmower a few times. Leaf mold can hold up to 500 percent its weight in water helping to retain moisture in the soil, absorbing rainwater and on hot days cooling down roots and foliage. When the leaves become soft and crumbly incorporate it right into the soil.

Molasses

This is an organic cost effective way to add a source of calcium, magnesium, potassium, and iron; one tablespoon provides up to 20% of the USDA daily value of each of those nutrients. Blackstrap molasses is the most effective route but any of the unsulfured forms of molasses will work as well.  Other than the natural minerals, the natural sugar content will feed the microorganisms in the compost or soil of the garden.

Coffee Grounds

 

If you start your mornings with a cup of Joe this is a great way to utilize something that would otherwise be taking up space in a landfill. Coffee grounds help add necessary nitrogen to your compost pile. You can very literally just throw your used coffee grounds, filter and all onto the compost pile. Keep in mind that coffee is a green composting material which needs to be balanced out with brown. If you want to use the coffee grounds as a fertilizer simply add the grounds into the soil around your plants.

Earthworms

These little earth dwellers are great helpers to a successful garden. They eat the organic matter (compost) which then breaks down into smaller pieces making it easier for bacteria and fungi to feed on it and turn it into nutrients for your plants. They help increase the amount of water and air that gets into the soil. They leave behind castings (a mixture of manure and the slime from their bodies) that are great fertilizer and their burrowing creates a drainage system. These wiggly little ones are quite the helpers in any garden.

They will naturally surface if your soil is rich with organic matter. When starting your garden and creating the organic matter buying them in the beginning, is not a bad idea, but a natural vermicompost route is great.[4]

Urine

Odd but true. It naturally contains nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus, the same three things that are in conventional fertilizers and it is readily available and sustainable! Find a system that works for you and once a day or so gather the cumulated urine and put it in a watering can dilute 5 to 10 parts water and sprinkle the tinkle mixture onto the soil around your plants. Avoid spraying directly onto the plants. Any odor is gone almost immediately after being added to the soil. Urine can be added to your compost as well.

Mix Plants

Mixing plants and crop rotation is key in keeping your soil healthy and happy. We cannot survive on one food alone and neither can your soil. Some plants provide lots of organic matter that feeds the other plants, some root systems pull from far below and some spread horizontally to keep topsoil and other root systems in place. Some even repel insects. Having a mixture of produce is not the no that you might have assumed. Mix it up. If you’re really feeling brave adding edible flowers[5] to the mix is a great touch. Not only does it add to the aesthetic of your new garden but to your dinner plate! Edible flowers are a great addition to any salad, as well as teas and even alcoholic beverages. Pull out an Anyatini or Dandelion wine with friends at dinner and shock and awe the whole table.

There you have it. With naturally organic and healthy soil, patience and an attentive hand you should be well on your way to a flourishing, organic, cost effective start to your new garden.

 

Sources:

Clippard, L. (December 1, 2004). The study suggests nutrient decline in garden crops over past 50 years. Retrieved from http://news.utexas.edu/2004/12/01/nr_chemistry

Davis, D., Epp, M., & Riordan, H. Changes in USDA Food Composition Data for 43 Garden Crops, 1950 to 1999. Retrieved from http://saveoursoils.com/userfiles/downloads/1351255687-Changes%20in%20USDA%20food%20composition%20data%20for%2043%20garden%20crops,%201950-1999.pdf

Schwarz, M., & Bonhotal, J. Composting at Home – The Green and Brown Alternative. Retrieved from

http://cwmi.css.cornell.edu/compostingathome.pdf

Pleasant, B. July 2008.  Vermicompost: The Secret to Soil Fertility. Retrieved from http://www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening/vermicompost-zmaz08jjzmcc.aspx

A to Z Guide To Edible Flowers. Retrieved from http://www.odealarose.com/blog/complete-guide-edible-flowers/a-to-z-guide-edible-flowers/

Image Sources:

https://pixabay.com/en/green-landscape-tree-nature-soil-973596/

http://www.1stop-gardening.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/img_0541.jpg

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Rose Rennar

Rose Rennar is a proud parent and passionate writer. She has experience in a wide range of areas making it possible for her to work for local media outlets in everything from sustainability and health and wellness to beauty and motherhood in both online and in print media. These days when she isn’t busy freelancing, writing or editing you can find her in her garden, being a goof with her many pets and family or at a desk somewhere toiling away at her own fiction writing. You can follow her recent adventures as well as updates on new articles on her Twitter.