By Dave Beetleshack
Fertiliser! What an exciting topic.
Nitrogen, Phosphorous & Potassium. They are the 3 key ingredients that have driven the so called Green Revolution, also known as the industrial food system in which we humans have been managing to destroy the planet, and our own bodies, at an astounding rate…..
When it was discovered that plants grew well and quickly as NPK were applied, there was a light bulb moment for scientists world wide. The Second World War had just ended and there was a shitload of NPK lying around. You see, it also happens that those three ingredients are key to making bombs; but with the war over, what were we going to do with all that stockpiled NPK? Turn them into synthetic fertiliser of course.
As is often the case, we humans were a little too smart for our own good. Nature doesn't really like synthetics, preferring the more natural, life/death/decay/manure cycle that has been sustaining the planet for millennia upon millennia, so it only took a few decades to see the problems being created by synthetic fertilisers; stripped out minerals, crazy weeds, incredible loss of topsoil etc...
Another interesting factoid - over 60% of the worlds gas supply is used in making synthetic fertiliser. Gas extraction is a hot button topic at the moment but regardless of your position on CSG etc, imagine the benefits to the environment if we were able to quickly eliminate 60% of the demand for gas, and the resultant reductions in emissions?!
Okay - I can hear you saying "Step off your soap box and get to the point Dave!"
My point is that it is easy to make your own fertiliser at home (and not with a chemistry set). Apart from good compost, animal manure etc which are all great, we often tend to overlook one of most prominent resources we have - our own personal waste. Let's leave the solids alone for today and just focus on the liquids. Urine is (amazingly) the perfectly balanced concentrated mix of NPK, among other important minerals, and can be mixed with water to make a great home fertiliser. It's sterile (as long as you don't have Hepatitis or some other infection) so can be stored safely for long periods and is being adopted as a key agricultural input in many parts of the world (Sweden for example).
Upon learning all of the above, I set about getting my own storage solution sorted for home brewed, liquid fertiliser.
To do the same, you'll need:
- 1 x 23 litre home brew keg, with air lock and tap
- PVC 90mm - 50mm reducer with cap
- Hole saw
- Use the hole saw to create a round hole for the reducer to plug into the screw top lid of your home brew keg
- Plug in the reducer, which basically acts as a funnel
- Fill the air lock with water (this stops any nasty smells)
- Remove cap, wee into the reducer; when finished, put the cap on and you're done!
- Repeat step 4 as necessary
When you need to fertilise your garden, tap off some of the liquid gold and mix with water at a ratio of 1 part urine : 10 parts water and off you go. Avoid hot summer afternoons if possible (I'll let you work that one out for yourself).
At first it may sound a bit gross, but this is pretty much how nature has be functioning forever; utilising waste as fertiliser for new growth. It seems preposterous that we would consider it normal to squander such a prevalent and available resource. As Joel Salatin likes to say, "Folks, this ain't normal!"
So there you go - I bet you weren't expecting that for your evening read!
With a passion for all things green, Dave will be sharing his journey as an (wannabe) urban farmer. A small 1/2 acre plot of sloping land and 3 wild kids won't hold him back. From planting to harvesting to preserving, Dave is our go-to guy when it comes to the garden. On a large scale, his dream is to raise awareness of the need for reconnection of local people with local food, to benefit the general health and well-being of the community as well as the earth. You can follow his journey more closely over at Blindberry Farm.