Friday, July 22, 2011

Making your own fertilizers to supplement poor desert soil

Arizona soil, like desert soil everywhere, is highly alkaline and very low in nitrogen.  Increasing the nitrogen content of your soil is the most important thing you need to do.  Lowering the alkali level is also worthwhile, though not as pressing.  If your nitrogen is too low, your plants will turn yellow and fail to fruit. 
The expensive way to increase nitrogen is, of course, just to buy fertilizer supplements, such as blood meal or peat moss. 
If you raise animals, their droppings are an excellent source of nitrogen, and from their remains you can make your own blood meal and bone meal.  Blood meal is just dehydrated blood, and bone meal is just powdered bone, after all.  
Amending the soil with lots of organic material is always a helpful choice.  The ultimate example of this is plowing under cover crops, especially the "nitrogen fixing" types, like clover or fava beans.  Of course, a compost pile is good for this purpose too. 
But, there is an even easier method.
Now, I think the attractiveness of this "easy button" method depends on how much "hippy" you've got in you.  I don't think the average suburban-housewife kitchen-window gardener wants to follow through with this method.. but the more hippy-type environmentalist and off-the-grid permaculturist will find it quite useful.. in a word: urine.
Basically, this stuff is the ultimate "wonder amendment" for desert soils, being acidic and high in nitrogen.  Its N/P/K value is approximately 12/1/3.  Obviously, it is easily available (don't even need a trip to the store!), comes cheap, and in large volumes...
It is too acidic to use directly on plants, so it needs to be diluted before use.  A bucket full of water, or a standard flush, dilute it perfectly.  
The good news is, urine is completely sterile, not dangerous at all (unlike the, ehem, "solid wastes" produced by humans).  Don't use it, though, if you are sick, or on medications. 
You can see some other cool suggestion in an article over at Survival Blog ( 

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