How to make liquid organic fertilizer

Jun. 17, 2014 @ 05:14 PM

While the long term goal is to build a balanced and nutrient dense soil, sometimes we need an immediate fertility boost for our plants. And if we are growing in containers, our plants depend on us for regular feeding. Rather than reaching for a chemical “miracle” fertilizer, why not use a plant based liquid tea to quickly feed not only your plants, but the soil as well. Just like the breakfast smoothies or protein mixes we drink for a quick and convenient meal on the go, liquid fertilizers can contain a wide range of nutrients depending on the goal. With a liquid fertilizer, you will save time by watering your plants and fertilizing at the same time. And because liquid fertilizers soak into the soil, goes directly to the root zone and does not just sit on top of the soil, there is less chance for runoff. Although quick-acting, liquid fertilizers are also short-acting and should be applied every two weeks. It’s important that your plants are not suffering from drought stress before using a liquid fertilizer

Liquid fertilizers such as fish emulsion and seaweed concentrates are convenient and effective but can also be costly. You may have the ingredients for a great liquid fertilizer already growing in your yard. Certain plants are considered “dynamic accumulators” because they gather certain micronutrients, macronutrients, or minerals and store them in their leaves. For instance clover, comfrey, lambs quarters and nettles will gather large quantities of nitrogen out of the air via a symbiotic relationship with soil bacteria. When these plant die or are harvested, they break down and release the stored nitrogen. Other plants are mineral rich because their long root system reaches deep into the earth to draw up nutrients into their leaves.  By using a wide variety of plants to make an herbal tea fertilizer, we can meet the growing needs of the plants in our landscape.

Making a liquid fertilizer from plant materials is similar to making a good cup of herbal tea. Simply place freshly harvested leaves in a bucket with a lid, add water and wait for it to brew. Some recipes call for the mixture to stand for several weeks until it composts into a thick concentrate.  However studies have shown that a majority of the nutrients will be extracted after only three days without the unpleasant side effect of the mixture developing a very strong odor. After three days, strain out the plant material to add to the compost pile and dilute your liquid fertilizer to a ratio of 1part liquid fertilizer to 10 parts water.


Mary Roberts and Ray Tarlton are owners and managers of  Windcrest Farm, a USDA Certified Organic farm and greenhouse in Monroe, NC . Visit for more information about plants, produce and classes. Facebook: Windcrest Farm Organics