Plants use a lot of nutrients when they’re growing, putting out flowers, or producing fruit. For many gardeners, the solution is to get a bag or bottle of plant food from the local garden store, but is that really the best option? In this guide, an expert has shared everything gardeners need to know about making their own plant food, including a simple recipe and why making your own plant food is a good idea.
So what do gardeners need to make their own plant food? According to Cayla Leonard, gardening expert at HappySprout, for “the best plant food”, gardeners will need to cover a few “key nutritional needs”.
She explained: “Plants use a range of nutrients in a myriad of different ways. If you know your soil is deficient in something, or that the plants you’re going to be feeding use a particular nutrient more than others, then this is a good place to customize your plant food.”
Gardeners may want to test their soil before starting, especially if they plan on adding any micronutrients to their food.
Plant food is typically used to help developing and maturing plants, which means they’ll need nitrogen, magnesium, and sulphur.
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The expert shared: “The easiest way to make plant food that’s better than store-bought versions is to use sources of these nutrients that are either liquids or water-soluble solids. Solids that cannot be dissolved in water are much harder to dilute, meaning you have to be really careful when using your food. Liquids and water-soluble solids, however, can be mixed with and stored in water for easier and safer use.”
According to Cayla, the “best way” to get water-soluble magnesium and sulfur is through using Epsom salt. Epsom salt sees a fair amount of garden use in fertilizers and pest control home remedies, and it’s useful for this as well.
However, gardeners need to ensure that the Epsom salt they are using is unscented. Although lavender scented Epsom salt is great for soothing baths, plants will find it less relaxing.
Nitrogen is a little more difficult to find in a water-soluble form. Coffee grounds, grass clippings, and manure are all great sources of nitrogen, but they don’t dissolve in water very well.
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The expert suggested: “One easy way to add nitrogen to your plant food is plain, unscented, household ammonia.”
Gardeners then need to make sure that their homemade plant food is balanced. Cayla said: “It only takes a very small amount of each ingredient to make a safe and effective plant food.
“Having too much of any nutrient is just as bad as having a deficiency, and, in some cases, worse. You can always add more, but it’s difficult to remove excess from the soil. This is especially true of ammonia.”
For this recipe gardeners will need: one gallon of water, one and a half tablespoons of Epsom salt and half a teaspoon of ammonia.
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Some variations of the recipe also include one and a half teaspoons of baking soda, which can help keep fungal infections at bay.
The expert warned gardeners to be careful when measuring their ammonia. She said: “It’s far better to add slightly less than half a teaspoon than it is to add slightly more. Pay close attention to the difference between tablespoons and teaspoons as well.”
Mix the carefully measured ingredients into the gallon of water and let it sit. Once everything is completely dissolved, it’s ready for use. Mix the plant food in a sealable container and store it as is.
Be sure to keep the plant food away from children and pets, as ammonia is not safe for consumption. Simply water plants with the solution once every two to three weeks or as needed.
Homemade plant food contains all the nutrients your plants need, but so do store-bought ones. So what does homemade plant food offer that store-bought doesn’t? In short, control.
Cayla said: “You can tailor your plant food to your garden’s specific needs. You know with 100 percent certainty what is in it and what isn’t — meaning no harsh chemicals or fillers — and it can be made fully organic if you so choose. Additionally, you control the size, and large portions can be made quickly and inexpensively.”
Using this simple recipe and the instructions provided, any gardener can make their own plant food at home. Gardeners may already have the ingredients they need. If not, they’re fairly easy to find.
The expert added: “Remember to use unscented ingredients, measure carefully, and keep it away from children. If your plants are delicate or sick, it’s safer to use store-bought plant food. Otherwise, enjoy your control and the peace of mind that comes with knowing exactly what you’re giving your plants.”