We use herbs for nutrition and health but don’t often consider that these same benefits can also extend to our gardens. Fertilizing with many of the herbs you already grow is a simple way to give the garden a boost and reduce the expense of purchased fertilizer.
Below you’ll find three especially useful herbs for fertilizer and some of the ways to use them as such.
3 Herbs That Can Add Nutrients To Your Garden Soil
Almost any herb that is known to have nutritive value can also be used to fertilize the garden, but the following three herbs are especially potent in their concentration of nutrients essential to plant health.
Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile), Russian comfrey (Symphytum x uplandicum), and dandelion (Taraxicum officinale) are high in their concentration of potassium, phosphorus, and calcium. Comfrey also concentrates magnesium. In addition, comfrey and dandelion accumulate copper and iron.
When used appropriately, these herbs can enrich the soil that feeds our edible and medicinal plants – which benefits us, too!
6 Ways To Fertilize Your Garden With Herbs
Although there are many ways you can take advantage of using nutritious herbs to fertilize your garden, below are six ways to get you started.
1. Dried or Powdered Herbs
Dried or powdered herbs are easy to make from homegrown herbs or they can easily be purchased if you don’t have them growing in your garden. The benefit of having dried herbs on hand is that they can fertilize the soil in early spring before fresh herbs have leafed out.
To use dried or powdered herbs as a fertilizer, simply sprinkle a little along each planting furrow before seeding or transplanting, and mix them into the soil with a digging fork. Remember, because dried herbs are concentrated nutrient sources, a little will go a long way.
2. Energize Compost
Oftentimes, the compost bin becomes full of dried, brown material – such as leaves and other yard waste – that can slow down the composting process. To energize the compost with fresh, green plant matter, layer in chopped herbs. They will not only speed up composting, but they will improve the nutrient value of the finished compost.
3. Green Manure
Green manure is essentially fresh, chopped, green plant matter. It is used as a high-nitrogen fertilizer in place of animal manures. To use herbs as green manure, chop the plants into 3 to 4-inch pieces and incorporate them into the garden soil in the fall, or at least, two weeks before planting.
4. Liquid Fertilizer
When herbs are steeped in water for a period of time, the nutrients in them will become activated by microorganisms, making them more bioavailable to plants. Liquid fertilizers are useful for giving established perennials and fruiting vegetables a mid-season boost.
To make an herbal liquid fertilizer, follow the instructions for creating compost tea, substituting herbal plant matter for the compost.
Mulch can help retain soil moisture and prevent erosion. While as a green manure, chopped herbs are incorporated into the soil. Used as a mulch, the chopped plant matter is simply laid on the surface of the soil. It will naturally biodegrade and act as a slow-release fertilizer.
Green mulch is best used under mature, fruiting plants such as tomatoes, peppers, or cucumbers. Herbs can also act as a living, permanent mulch when planted under fruit trees or other perennials. Simply chop the herb plants back from time to time, or let them die back on their own.
6. Stimulate Seedlings
To give seedlings a leg up when transplanting them into the garden, bury one or two fresh herb leaves (not stems or flowers) underneath each planting hole. This slow-release fertilizer will activate as the seedling begins to grow.
As you can see, the nutritive value of herbs can be just as important and useful to our gardens as they are to us. Use chamomile, comfrey, and dandelion to give your garden a fertilizing boost.