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Saving money on fertiliser

How to make your own fertiliser

An average 25kg bag of fertiliser will typically cost you between £20 and £25, no matter which brand you use. Specialty houseplant fertilisers will cost the same amount per litre, although you will need to use less of these types. The well known liquid houseplant fertiliser brand Baby Bio costs between £1.25 and £2.99 for 175 ml, for example, depending on where you shop (Wilko is one of the cheapest places to buy this brand). Keen gardeners can find that these costs can really add up. Luckily, you can make your own fertilisers using food waste - which costs you nothing.

Types of food waste that can be used as fertiliser

Banana skins, tomatoes, mushrooms and coffee grounds from your coffee pot are all good for your plants. These types of food waste contain varying amounts of phosphorus, nitrates, magnesium and potassium. All of these are vital for plant health. Plants use phosphorus for protein synthesis and thus for tissue growth and repair, for example. Nitrates are also used to make proteins, whilst potassium is vital for plant respiration. Banana skins are best for giving your plants a boost of potassium as they are packed with potassium (as well as being rich in phosphorus). Potassium deficiency can be treated with a chemical fertiliser known as potash. But why purchase this product when you could simply grind, mash, or chop some banana peels and bury them around your plants' roots? Another option is to create a banana, tomato, mushroom and coffee 'tea' by steeping this food waste in water and using the water to water your plants. This can avoid the unsightly appearance of banana peel or tomatoes in your elegant plant pots.

Composting tips

Creating your own compost is a fantastic way to get rid of food waste - and to create some fertiliser for free. Keeping your compost rich in mineral-packed waste such as banana peel, tomatoes, mushroom ends and coffee grounds is advisable. In order to mulch effectively, your compost pile itself needs a 'balanced diet' of two key substances: nitrogen and carbon. These substances can be obtained for free from waste products around the home. Food, grass clippings or animal manure provides the nitrogen whilst carbon can come from hay, dead leaves, wood chippings or shredded newspaper. If you have a pet such as a hamster or a guinea pig, try throwing their used bedding into the compost heap to provide it with both nitrogen and carbon. Aerate the compost heap once a week by turning it over with a fork. A standard compost bin will set you back around £20, but you can also create a free compost bin from an old bucket. Alternatively, simply fence off a corner of the garden and use it as a compost heap. Worms will often find their way into the compost heap naturally and aid its composting progress. If your compost is struggling to mulch, though, a colony of live earthworms can be bought for as little as £2-£3 and added to the mix.
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