Drop that NPK! Fermented “weed tea” has way more nutrients than commercial fertilizers, and it’s FREE!
Before synthetic, chemical fertilizers existed, our great-grandparents used compost, manure and even urine to make their food grow. Another long-forgotten organic fertilizer is WEEDS, which may be the most potent fertilizer of all!
That’s because weeds are “dynamic accumulators of nutrients.” Their long tap roots reach deep down into the soil, gathering minerals conventional crops can’t reach, and converting them into more bio-available nutrients stored in their leaf tissue.
Most chemical fertilizers on the market contain little more than NPK (nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium).
“This is like candy to plants — a short burst of energy, where very soon they’re going to need more and more,” notes The Ripe Tomato Farms on YouTube.
Meanwhile, weeds contain a diverse array of micro-nutrients that are almost non-existent in commercial fertilizers, such as magnesium, boron, copper, iron, manganese, zinc, selenium, silicon and sulfur.
“To combat micro-nutrient deficiencies, you’d be hard-pressed to find an easier way than fermenting weeds,” The Ripe Tomato Farmer says.
In a video, he demonstrates how to make a “super-charged liquid fertilizer” by simply tossing weeds in a 5-gallon bucket, covering them with water and a lid and straining after 4-6 weeks.
Other fermented weed-tea recipes recommend using a screen or cheese cloth instead of a lid and stirring at least weekly to keep it aerated.
Dilute the strained “tea” with about ten times as much water and pour onto soil at the base of your crops, or spray onto their foliage for even faster nutrient absorption!
Or, if you’re too lazy to make weed tea (like I am), you can just toss them into your compost, or directly onto the soil around the base of the plants you’re trying to grow.
Many gardeners send their weeds to landfills instead of using them as compost because they are afraid the seeds will multiply and takeover. You can avoid this waste of valuable nutrients in two ways:
1. Make “tea” and strain the seeds out as noted above.
2. Pull or snip the weeds before they flower or “go to seed” and compost in place.
I’ve been practicing the second option for the past year, snipping the tops off the weeds as they sprouted in my garden bed, and tossing them around the base of my tomatoes, lettuce, corn and peas.
I prefer ripping or snipping the tops (stems and leaves) off the weeds so as not to disturb the soil. The remaining roots will rot in the soil and add organic matter.
It definitely doesn’t add a quick flush of nutrients the way a liquid fertilizer would, but the weeds I used as mulch in early spring had decayed and turned into compost by late summer, and kept my tomatoes growing well into October.
I anticipate super-rich soil this year, as the layers of organic matter have had all winter to compost. As you layer your weeds, the bottom layers become nutrient-rich soil, while the top layers serve as mulch.
The Ripe Tomato Farmer’s favorite weeds are aranthus, bee balm, borage, birdsfoot, chickweed, chicory, cleavers, clover, comfrey and garden cress. Another nutrient-dense weed popular in fertilizer making is dandelion.
David the Good points out another brilliant way to convert your weeds into nutrition on his YouTube channel — feed them to your chickens for more nutritious eggs!