• Cut The Crap

Making Chemical-Free Gardens The Norm Again

Updated: Jul 15, 2020

Not only are chemical fertilizers and pesticides harmful to wildlife, water, and the soil, but they are also harmful to our bodies as we ingest them. If you read our previous article where we interviewed a local Milwaukee sustainable farm owner, you may remember just how hard our government makes it for independent farm owners to run without chemical fertilizers and pesticides, which is why I am such an advocate for community or backyard gardens!

As a first year gardener, I have just begun looking into the practice of permaculture, which promotes sustainable, natural, and self-sustaining gardening. Talking to folks who have adopted the practice of permaculture has opened my eyes to the problems that we cause for ourselves in our vegetable and flower gardens due to additives and unnatural things we are sold or told are "essential." Click here for a brief introduction video on the premise of permaculture.

These tips have been collected from gardeners and farmers across the United States and have all been found to be successful on a personal level! By keeping unnecessary chemicals and toxins out of our soil and water we can create a ripple effect and start a new way of gardening.

(Internally crying at how beautiful Bella's garden is)

Natural Fertilizer Tips:

-Save your eggshells for added calcium! Instead of just crushing those shells, dry them and turn them into a powder with a blender. Save your egg shells, air-dry them, turn them into a powder with a blender, and then sprinkle on your garden.

-Find a local shop or fish farm that’s disposing of fish guts, and put a fish head or fish guts into the bottom of your hole when planting tomatoes. A local gardener told me this tip, and says it makes their tomatoes grow like crazy! You could also use the old water from your fish tank as a fertilizer when you switch/clean the tank.

-Try pouring boiling water on weeds instead of weed spray!

-Ask on marketplace or contact your local nursery and see if anyone local makes compost tea. Similarly, start a backyard compost bin, Bokashi, or indoor worm compost bin.

-Get a rain barrel to reduce your water consumption! Search online for a used rain barrel, ask in a local buy-nothing group, or refer to this super easy and comprehensive guide from the DIY Network for a rain barrel!

-Save your pasta water to give plants a nutritious mineral drink! Make sure you use unsalted pasta water and let it cool down before applying to plants.

-Soak a banana peel in water for fertilizer “tea”. Banana peels have high mineral contents of potassium and phosphorus, which both aid in the growing of healthy and strong plants. They also have calcium and magnesium, which helps nitrogen become more readily available in your soil for the plants.

Here is my banana tea being made in my favorite pickle jar!

-You can balance out alkaline soil with coffee grounds, due to their inherent acidity. After doing research, I would not recommend adding coffee grounds as a frequent fertilizer due to the potential to kill living organisms like worms or microbes that are critical to soil health.

-Use your grass clippings as mulch!

Natural Pest & Weed Control:

-Try pouring boiling water on weeds instead of weed spray!

-Use a non-toxic soap and water mixture to control mites, aphids, whiteflies, beetles, and other hungry little insects. To make a basic soap spray insecticide, mix 1 1/2 teaspoons of a mild liquid soap (such as castile soap) with 1 quart of water, and spray the mixture directly on the infected surfaces of the plants.

-To make a basic garlic spray, take 2 whole bulbs and puree them in a blender with a little water. Let the mixture sit overnight, then strain it into a quart jar, adding 1 teaspoon of non-toxic liquid soap, and enough water to fill the jar. Use 1 cup of mixture with 1 quart of water, and spray liberally on infested plants.

-Plant Marigolds around your garden 2 weeks before planting for above and below ground pest control!

-Chrysanthemums contain a chemical called pyrethin that’s toxic to insects but safe for human and animal consumption. Planting these like the Marigolds will repel Japanese Beetles, which we all know and hate (especially this year!)

-Lavender not only repels pests in your garden, it also smells amazing and has so many uses. Not only can you make delicious tea or bakery items, you can also repel most insects you’d want to keep out of your garden, particularly fleas, moths and mosquitoes.

Hopefully some of these tips will inspire you to properly dispose of your harmful chemical fertilizers and pesticides at a household recycling center near you! As always, comment or reach out to us with suggestions, your own personal tips, or just to say hello! As always, keep Cutting The Crap!

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