The Hort Report: Use weeds to make fertilizer for your vegetables and flowers

Weeds to Riches…Shred and Add water

Use chopped weeds, stems, flowers and leaves to create a liquid fertilizer. | Photo courtesy of Laura Greenwell

With the weather we have been having over the past few days, hopefully many of you have done some planting in your garden and flowerbeds. 

Get your vegetable and flower transplants and seed in the soil because you don’t need to worry about cold weather.

The weather has been good for helping weeds grow. Remove all weeds from places you don’t want them in. 

Did you know you can put them to good use? You can use them to make fertilizer for your vegetables and flowers.

Fill a five-gallon bucket half full of chopped weeds, stems, flowers and leaves. Pack them in as hard as possible. Do this with weeds freshly chopped to get the most good from their decomposition.

Fill the bucket with water and sit it out in the sun for a couple of days. Put some kind of screen over the bucket to keep insects out of it. 

Pour the liquid into another bucket, using a strainer to keep everything but water out. Pour that liquid into a spray bottle to use as a spray to put on the leaves of plants or pour it into a watering can, fertilizing the soil at the base of plants. 

The longer you let the mixture sit in water and the sun, the stronger the mixture will become. After a couple of weeks of using this mixture, you may want to dump it into a compost pile, then start over with freshly chopped weeds.

You can also make an organic liquid fertilizer from any animal manure. I’ve done this myself. 

Fill a bucket about three-quarters full of manure. Add water, cover and sit in the sun.  A week later, drain off the liquid. Now you have organic tea fertilizer. 

Potatoes seem to be growing, and you should hill or mulch with straw or grass clippings to help them produce more. Adding compost as you hill or mulch them will increase their growth. 

Hilling and mulching also help protect potatoes from the sun. 

Be thinking about adding fertilizer now. As the potatoes grow, they need more fertilizer to produce more. Some of you may have added compost and time-release fertilizer where you have planted potatoes. It helps them get started. 

Compost and time-release fertilizer will work, but they take time. Using a liquid type of fertilizer will do more good. The fertilizer needs to have more phosphate and potassium than nitrogen. I would use Ferti-Lome Blooming and Rooting water-soluble fertilizer.

Keep the soil moist so the fertilizer won’t run through the root system too fast. Put a liquid fertilizer on at least once a week. Granular fertilizer will last longer but not work as fast. 

Never allow a granular fertilizer to come in direct contact with roots where the liquid can touch the leaves and not hurt the plants. 

Stop fertilizing potatoes about three weeks before you’re ready to harvest. If you don’t, they will keep producing leaves. Any new potatoes will be small. 

Stop watering potatoes about two weeks before being ready to harvest. 

As you plant vegetables and flowers, think about how you plan on weeding and harvesting them. Don’t plant them together so you can work in them all year. 

I appreciate your questions in the past and look forward to them in the future. Call me at 573-588-2040, visit me at Shelby County Implement in Shelbina, Mo., email me or find me on Facebook at Greenwell’s Greenhouse Group with your questions. 

Enjoy the great weather. 

Pat Greenwell is the owner of Shelby County Implement in Shelbina, Mo. He was a high school agriculture teacher for 11 years. He has taught adult vocational agriculture since 1987. He also is a research assistant at the Truman State University Ag Department Farm. 

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