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Liquid Fertilizer

Feeding your mature plants throughout the season is best done with the application of liquid fertilizer.

As your plants grow in the garden they may require additional nutrition to support fruit production. Once the plants are established it is often difficult to apply compost to the garden beds without harming the plants' leaves, flowers, and fruit.

citrus
Mature plants, like this orange tree, often need extra nourishment.

How does it work?

Plants are always on a liquid diet. Plants drink their nutrition through their roots as the water-soluble nutrients in the soil become available to them by being washed into the soil solution by irrigation water or rain.

irrigation
Plants in the Lotan eco garden need to be irrigated and liquid fertilizer helps.

What is it?

Liquid fertilizer is a broad term to describe nutrients dissolved in water. There are some organic brands available in a concentrated form at garden supply stores but we recommend that you make your own. There are two main categories of home-made liquid fertilizers: compost teas and "green" teas.

Compost Tea

The idea behind compost tea is based on the same principles used when applying compost to soil. When compost is added to soil at the beginning of the growing season it acts as a slow-release bank of nutrition for the plants. Every time moisture is applied to the compost (via rain or irrigation) some of the water-soluble nutrients are washed into the soil water and can be taken up by plant roots.  Making compost tea provides a liquid bank of nutrients which can be given to the plants in small "easily digestible" doses.

tea
This concoction is to a tree what a mug of freshly brewed tea is to you and I.

How to: Make Compost Tea

Just as the name implies, brewing a batch of compost tea is a lot like making a pot of tea. The amount of compost you use will vary depending on the size of your brewing container and the strength of your compost. In general, a 1 to 20 compost to water ratio is good for making standard compost tea.

spout
The compost tea container we use on Lotan has a spout at the bottom..

Use a mesh bag, a sheet, an old pillow case, or any other semi-permeable material for the "tea bag". Place some mature compost into the bag and tie it closed.

Almost immediately you will see the water start to change color, taking on a brownish tone as the nutrients from the compost are dissolved into it. After about two weeks the tea should be finished steeping. Take out the tea bag and empty its contents onto the garden as a soil amendment.

seep
A compost tea 'teabag'.

Start by giving annual plants 8 oz or 0.25 Liters of compost tea per week and observe the results.

Green Tea: Why, What, and How?

Similar to compost tea, "green" tea can be used to give liquid nutrition to plants throughout the season. Making tea out of green plants is a way to capture the water soluble nutrients that plants accumulate in their leaves. Many kinds of green plants can be used to make "green" tea.

Weeds are commonly used in green tea. Not only are they unwanted to begin with, it is also widely believed that weeds in general are adapted in particular micro-climates to grow well on whatever particular nutrients are in abundance in the soil where they grow. For that reason it is important to put those same nutrients back into the soil that the weeds have removed.

Resources:

  • Book: Compost, Vermicompost and Compost Tea: Feeding the Soil on the Organic Farm by Grace Gershuny
  • Book: Compost Tea Making by Marc Remillard
  • Website: http://bit.ly/uwQZmT (Soil Foodweb)
  • Website: http://bit.ly/kdA2yV (Pennsylvania DoPA)

 


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This work by Center for Creative Ecology, Kibbutz Lotan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at www.kibbutzlotan.com.