The Casual Gardener: Hair and matches among household waste to help plants grow

There's no shortage of everyday household waste items that can add fertility to your garden

Fertilise your soil and help your garden grow with household waste items

GARDENERS have always tended to be thrifty, recycling and reusing household items that would otherwise be thrown away. Material that in other situations is deemed undesirable, such as horse manure and kitchen waste, are transformed to become part of the gardener's armoury for maintaining a fertile and productive garden.

Outdoor specialists this week revealed 10 unexpected items that will add fertility to your veg patch, beds and borders.

From banana skins and eggshells to the more unusual fireplace ashes and potato water, these are items that can be found in the average household.

“You might not think your used-up coffee grounds contain much in terms of nutritional value, but they can actually provide your plants with vital antioxidants and minerals like potassium and nitrogen,” said a company spokesman.

“Similarly, white vinegar, coconut milk and banana peels are all bursting with important nutrients that can help your plants grow and thrive.”

Here's the top ten items they listed and why…

1. Hair

Hair – whether sourced from a human, dog, cat or horse – works surprisingly well as a natural fertiliser thanks to its high levels of magnesium. It can take up to two years to break down, but when used in compost, the hair can provide structural support for roots and help break up thick or clay soil.

2. White vinegar

Mixed with water, this makes for a great acid feed. Mix a tablespoon of vinegar into a gallon of water to feed your roses and hydrangeas once per season – but make sure you test your soil before doing this, as you don't want the PH to be too low.

3. Banana peels

Tossing banana peels right into your garden will give your plants a nice potassium boost as they break down. This will help to make your plants strong and healthy, allowing them to fight off pests like aphids.

4. Eggshells

Dry eggshells out and add them under your mulch and they will slowly break down and give your plants calcium. For even quicker results, you can grind them up and place in a small amount of vinegar overnight to break them down and make the calcium ready to be utilized by your plants. You could even give them a whirl in a food processor and sprinkle the eggshell powder.

5. Ash from the fireplace

Lightly coating your soil will fireplace ash will supply potassium and calcium carbonate, and increase the pH of your soil.

6. Coconut milk

Make a ‘tea' containing one tablespoon of dried coconut powder to give gallons of water, then use this mixture once a week or every other week to add electrolytes and bacteria to the soil.

7. Coffee

Use coffee grounds to fertilise your soil and provide your plants with antioxidants, potassium, phosphor and nitrogen – but make sure the grounds are dry, as using wet coffee can cause fungus to grow which will harm your plants.

8. Potato water

The water you use to boil potatoes can be used to water your plants, as long as you haven't added any salt – so think twice before tipping it down the drain!

9. Green tea

Green tea is especially beneficial for raspberry plants, as they require a great amount of iron which green tea has stacks of. So instead of throwing away the green tea leaves you've used to brew your tea, simply give it to your plants.

10. Matches

Good, old-fashioned strike matches are a great source of magnesium, so simply place the whole match in the hole with the plant or soak the matches in water to use this as a fertiliser. The magnesium will dissolve into the water and make application easier.

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