Home Made Plant Food
Making organic liquid fertilizer ‘tea’ from green discards
Bioponica teaches diy hydroponics and diy aquaponics gardeners an inexpensive method to make an organic liquid fertilizer.
Compost Tea or Fertilizer Tea?
Both are beneficial, but a ‘fertilizer tea’ is technically different than a ‘compost tea.’
Compost teas are made from dry compost. It is providing an additive to the water, but the level of nutrients is not sufficient to call it a “fertilizer”. Primarily, a compost tea is providing plant beneficial microbes. Compost microbes are often predominantly fungi which can play an important role in helping plant roots source phosphorus and calcium from the soil.
A better home made plant food fertilizer would be an organic liquid fertilizer tea with a specific minimum amount of either nitrogen, phosphorus or potassium. If labeled and sold as a “fertilizer” it must stand up to a guaranteed analysis with a consistent level of these primary plant nutrients. Compost teas do not do this.
One reason compost teas cannot compare to fertilizer teas is because dry, windrow composting loses much of the nutrients to the atmosphere or runoff that are otherwise captured with fertilizer teas. Ammonia for instance is vaporized as the compost is aerated or turned. Potassium and other minerals are quickly leached and lost to runoff if when irrigated. So, while a compost tea and a fertilizer tea may be both considered a home made plant food, only a fertilizer tea has the nutrients to fully fertilize the plants.
Making fertilizers at home with the NPK Nutricycler™
To produce a home made plant food that is “fertilizer grade” begins with sourcing a suitable green biomass. Grasses and yard trimmings provides an excellent source of nitrogen rich plant nutrients. To start the fertilizer extraction process and to preserve the nutrients we use silage barrels. Plant matter is packed tightly into barrels with sealable lids to make air tight and the process of silage fermentation begins.
Fermentation is a low oxygen, acidification process that breaks the plant matter cell wall and releases nutrients. Grasses that have been properly silaged, can retain their nutrient value for months or years. The smell is sweet, like a brewing batch of beer.
Grasses and green yard trimmings are an excellent source for making liquid fertilizer.
Grasses are an excellent source of liquid fertilizer. Ever present, easy to harvest and full of nutrients!
To put things in perspective, a 5000 square feet yard will produce 1500 lbs of grass per year. Using the NPK Nutricycler™ we can convert that grass into 2500 gallons of a liquid fertilizer with a mg/liter NPK value of 211-62-544. A typical hydroponic solution for growing lettuces or other green leafy plants is about the same is about 177-52-219. This means that undiluted, the extract from grasses is suitable for growing other green leafy plants.
To maintain this level, we just add more of the fertilizer with each water top off. Without all the calculations and measurements of TDS and EC and pH, an DIY fertilizer process is pretty evenly matched to plant growing needs by volume as the plant grows.
Why are hydroponics growers spending a fortune on similar concentrations of liquid fertilizer, without the benefits of organic, when it is so easy to diy fertilizer with the NPK Nutricycler™?
Bioponica has spent the past 5 years studying and testing this process. It works!
Non-meat, non-fat kitchen discards are another ideal source for home made plant food
Kitchen discards are high in nitrogen and have higher values of phosphorus and potassium. By placing these fresh greens into a Tea Bag and submerging in water fermentation takes place within the bag. It is similar to a silo fermentation, except by forcing the biomass into the water, a more rapid extraction occurs. In fact, after the grasses are removed from the silage, they are also placed within Tea Bags and submerged in the water. This pulls the nutrients from the plant matter and makes soluble the plant derived organic fertilizer.
Restaurants, school cafeterias, breweries and coffee shops provide an ideal source of nitrogen and mineral rich fertilizers.
Final steps in making home made plant food
Extraction – Aeration – Biofiltration
Bioponica has developed this process for extracting biomass in water using Fertilizer Tea Bags to make a liquor that can be ultimately applied to the soil or soilless grow bed. But if you wish to use this in a hydroponics or aquaponics setting it requires a couple final steps. Soil gardeners can place the liquor directly on the soil. However, because organics may be a bit rich for the soil, they can get moldy or attract flies:
Carbon Removal – decarboxylation takes place in the presence of oxygen and bacteria. Oxygen contributes by chemically bonding to carbon and ligating the soluble organic matter and converting to CO2. It also provides a key element to support the aerobic respiration process of bacteria which consume the organic compounds and further decompose, releasing the carbon in the form of CO2 and releasing the inorganic, plant ready nutrients, into the liquid.
Nitrification – after much of the carbon has been removed a second class of bacteria dominate. These are the nitrifiers. Their role is to convert ammonia compounds into nitrate, a more plant ready form of nitrogen.
Clarification – when using fine line irrigation or raising plants in deep water culture or NFT nutrient film technique and even in soilless media beds it is often necessary to remove suspended solids from the water. This keeps the roots clean from detritus and allows for more root oxygenation.
For homeowners, and small scale gardeners, Bioponica has developed Vortex Aerator and Biofilter to convert the leachate or fertilizer “liquor” into a more plant ready fertilizer tea. This Kit, provides the necessary steps of aeration, decarboxylation and nitrification.
What is fertilizer?
What is ‘fertilizer’ really depends on who you ask. Manufacturers will tell you it’s primarily NPK, nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. And most of the time you’ll get a petrochemical. Organic farmers and health consumers recognize the importance of all the trace and macro minerals that make up a balanced NPK fertilizer. Fertilizers are nutrient sources that nourish plants, ponds organisms and soil microbes.
Bioponica’s research, engineering and development goals are to close the loop on sustainablility with simple systems that make use of natural processes.
For making fertilizers we have developed the NPK Nutricyler™ to convert kitchen discards and lawn trimmings. Without waiting for plants to compost as in windrow composting, gardeners can quickly convert household waste into a complex nutrient blend liquid fertilizer.
The end product is superior to manufactured petro chemicals as it has a complete blend of nutrients, directly from the plant – for the plant. Micro and macro nutrients, hormones, phytocompounds and growth factors can all be derived from green discards with the NPK Nutricycler.
What are the fertilizer ingredients ‘N-P-K’?
NPK are the primary elements that plants are required for growth and so they are used as the most important of fertilizer ingredients:
Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P), and Potassium (K), each of these being essential in plant nutrition.
- Among other benefits, Nitrogen helps plants grow quickly, while also increasing the production of seed and fruit, and bettering the quality of leaf and forage crops. Nitrogen is also a component of chlorophyll, the substance that gives plants their green color, and also aids in photosynthesis.
- Phosphorus, also a key player in the photosynthesis process, plays a vital role in a variety of the things needed by plants. Phosphorus supports the formation of oils, sugars, and starches. The transformation of solar energy into chemical energy is also aided by phosphorus, as well as is development of the plant, and the ability to withstand stress. Additionally, phosphorus encourages the growth of roots, and promotes blooming.
- Potassium, the third essential nutrient plants demand, assists in photosynthesis, fruit quality, the building of protein, and the reduction of disease.
While these three elements only scratch the surface of healthy plant nutrition and growth, they are the main nutrients required in the development of healthy, productive plants.
Plant derived fertilizers contain the bulk of macro and micro nutrients not available in manufactured and mined fertilizers
- Remove waste discards from the environment.
- Feed microbes and plants nourish plants without cost and impact of manufactured fertilizers.
- Grow more nutritious and healthy organic plants
- Gain symbiosis and understanding of microbes that reduce labor and effort in farming
- Reduce toilet flushing, water waste and waste treatment costs with urine recycling.
Organic liquid fertilizer teas contain sugars, carbohydrates and complex lignins and an NPK value that reflects that of the actual plant used, without loss associated dry composting.
Primordial Soup Teas are a 100% blend of organic biomass for making fertilizer teas.
Primordial Soup Teas are biomass blends developed for growers to easily produce a home made plant food extract for growing plants in all environments, soilless and in-ground.
Starting with silaged and or dehydrated organic biomass we take our fertilizer calculator to come up with NPK fertilizer numbers that match the plant requirements. Our blends include a 222 All Purpose, a 054 Tomato Blend and a 412 Green Up Blend.
Bioponica developed a fertilizer calculator by researching plant and biomass nutrient content and calculating a formula that gives us the NPK we are looking for. It’s all there in the biomass. The difference between this and compost teas is that we’re drying and blending prior to composting. And the product is ready to make into a tea without having gone through a compost process. Within the tea bag, the composting takes place very quickly.
We can call this a compost tea but the “composting” actually takes place in the tea bag. Not on the ground where typical composting is done. As a result all nutrients are retained and not lost to the atmosphere or to leaching on the ground.
The Bioponica process was developed by a waste water engineer and a holistic physician to demonstrate an alternative method to how to make a compost tea. We call this tea a biomass tea or fertilizer tea. It’s much higher in nutrients. We did the fertilizer numbers!