One option for fertilizing your garden organically is to use fish emulsion. However, buying it at the store can run you $20-$25 a gallon. Here’s a way to make it yourself, care of Chris Edwards, farm manager at Fresh Roots Farm in Atlanta. You will need:
- A bucket WITH A LID—any size
- Brown material, such as dried oak leaves—enough to fill 1/3 of the bucket
- Fish scraps—enough to fill 1/3 of the bucket
I used a 5 quart bucket, but you could make much more. A 5 gallon bucket would work great. Check your grocery store fish counter for fish trimmings. If they make their own filets on-site, they may be willing to give or sell you pieces of bone, fins, or heads. I got my scraps from the DeKalb Farmers Market in Decatur for $0.60 a pound. (NOTE: If you have a feline companion, fish scraps are also a good alternative to processed cat food.)
1. Layer leaves and fish pieces in three or four layers until the bucket is 2/3 full. End with fish on top to keep the leaves from floating.
2. Cover with water, leaving a couple inches of space at the top.
3. Seal the bucket well and place in an out-of-the way place.
4. Check the bucket every day for a week, and then every few days, to see if gas is building up. If so, release it by opening the lid for a moment. Stir once a week once gases start forming.
5. Let the emulsion sit for about a month. It will break down faster in warmer weather, slower in cold.
To use your emulsion:
1. Strain out the leaves and fish scraps by pouring the whole concoction through a spare colander. Alternatively, use the lid to catch the material while pouring the water into a second bucket. BE CAREFUL to keep the emulsion off your skin and clothes as the smell of fish can follow you for several days.
2. When applying, dilute about 5 oz. of emulsion into one gallon of water. (Use a 15 oz. can filled 1/3 to 1/2 of the way.) For more, dilute two full 15 oz. cans into a 5 gallon bucket of water. Make a weaker solution for younger seedlings.
3. The left-over scraps can be used to make another emulsion. Simply add more water and start the process over again. Material can be used up to 3 times.
NOTE: Once fish emulsion has been used in a watering can, it will always smell like fish, so designate one receptacle for its use.