Me, selling can gardens in Montréal - Summer 2012
Via Modern Farmer:
Instead of water wings and inner tubes, Dennis and Danielle McClung’s backyard pool in Mesa, Arizona, is filled with tomato plants, grape vines and wheat. There’s a chicken coop and a fish pond, and the food that comes out of the pool, from tilapia to tomatoes, feeds the McClung family of five. It’s a system that took a few frustrating failures to perfect, but now the McClungs hope to take swimming-pool farming international.
When the McClungs bought the foreclosed home in 2009, the backyard was a suburban wasteland with a cracked, concrete, in-ground pool. “The real estate agent told us we had to do something about the pool, but he didn’t give us a good option,” Dennis says. “So we figured we could turn it in to a greenhouse.”
#greenhouse #upcycle #DIY
Responsible DIY, people.
I’ve written before about how urine is both free from most harmful pathogens, and great for your garden in a number of ways (with the exception of the urine of people/animals using bioaccumulative prescription drugs or antibiotics).
It contains all three of the essential nutrients leafy plants need: Nitrogen (12%), Phosphorus (1-2%), and Potassium (2.5-5%).
Urine is chock full of nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus, which are the nutrients plants need to thrive—and the main ingredients in common mineral fertilizers. There is, of course, a steady supply of this man-made plant food: an adult on a typical Western diet urinates about 500 liters a year, enough to fill three standard bathtubs. And despite the gross-out potential, urine is practically sterile when it leaves the body, Heinonen-Tanski pointed out. Unlike feces, which can carry bacteria like salmonella and E. coli, urine poses no health risks—astronauts on the International Space Station even drink the stuff—after it’s purified.
Cynthia Mitchell, an Associate Professor from the Institute for Sustainable Futures at the University of Technology in Sydney (UTS), figures we are quite literally flushing a fortune down the toilet, while global ground reserves of phosphorus are unlikely to last more than 50-100 years. And human urine, of which we pass some 500 litres per year, is rich in phosphorus, a key ingredient in agricultural fertilisers. “Urine will soon be too precious to flush down the loo,” Professor Mitchell said. “Already in parts of Europe urine separating toilets are being introduced.” Apparently all new homes in the local council of Tanum, in south-west Sweden, are required to have urine-separation toilets. That is the pee goes down one tube, and poo another. She goes onto say, “Sweden has set a national target that 60% of phosphorus in organic waste, including sewage, must be recycled. At least 30% of that goes to fertilise agricultural land.” The Prof is calling on drought plagued Australia to realise “a revolution in sanitation, as dramatic and far-reaching as the construction of London’s sewers during the Industrial Revolution.”
The most interesting thing I have read, however, is that urine/urea can be used as an effective fungicide that does not kill essential insects. Living in rainy Denmark, where almost all of our fruit trees are afflicted by fungal blights, this was very welcome news:
People who live in wet climates are often all too familiar with the effects of mildew on such plants as gooseberries, currants, raspberries, grapes, phlox, and roses … and if the same individuals keep fruit trees, they’re probably acquainted with apple or pear scab (Venturia inaequalis) as well. Many commonly used holistic controls aren’t terribly effective against these fungi, while more potent fungicides—including lime sulfur—do indeed destroy mildew and scab but, unfortunately, also kill Anthocoris musculus, a valuable predator of mites and aphids.
The dilemma does have a resolution, though, and it came about through the work of an English entomologist, Dr. Peggy Ellis. Since commercial fruit growers commonly spray a 5% solution of synthetic urea on fallen leaves to control apple and pear scab, Dr. Ellis reasoned that human urine—which contains 2 to 4% urea, depending on the diet—could serve the same purpose.
The entomologist first tested her theory on a backyard gooseberry patch, and was pleased to find that the urine was extremely effective in combating a mildew problem that had afflicted the plants. Encouraged by this success, she reported her discovery to the members of the Henry Doubleday Research Association in the fall of 1978. As a result of her report, I soon became aware of this breakthrough in holistic fungus control. And since my own currant crop was plagued with a severe mildew problem at the time, I was able to test the remedy immediately … and my results were every bit as good as those that Dr. Ellis had observed.
So if you can get beyond the “ick” factor, think about peeing into the watering can or rain barrel next time you have to go, or make an outdoor toilet that is just for that purpose: your plants and the planet will thank you.
Here are some tips to get started:
5 Ways To Use Pee In The Garden
Okay, I’ve convinced you! You are ready to drop trou’ and add your liquid gold deposit to your garden. But how do you pee in the garden in the most effective way (and without getting arrested for indecent exposure in the process!)?
1. Compost Accelerator
Is your compost pile cold? A little long on carbon and low on nitrogen? Pee, poured or – ahem – directly deposited – on the pile can start to speed things up and add moisture. If you are nervous about using urine directly on your plants, incorporating urine into a compost pile is the way to go.
2. Dilution is The Solution
Dilute fresh urine at a 4:1 ratio and apply to the root-zone of corn every two weeks or as needed. (Some people say corn, being a grass, can handle fertilization with straight urine. Proceed with caution.)
Dilute fresh urine at a 10:1 ratio and apply to the root-zone of fruiting plants like tomatoes, peppers and eggplant, or to leafy crops like cabbage, broccoli, spinach and lettuce every two weeks or as needed.
Dilute fresh urine at a 20:1 ratio and water in to the root zone of seedlings and new transplants.
3. The Straw Bale Sprinkle
When Straw Bales are used for gardening, they must be “conditioned” or partially broken down / composted before use. This is accomplished with the addition of a very high nitrogen fertilizer. Guess which free, Bud Lite-hued high-nitrogen fertilizer I’d recommend?
4. Deep Mulch Direct Application
If you thickly mulch your woody perennials, cane fruit and fruit trees with a high-carbon material like leaves or woodchips, you can apply your urine straight onto the mulch, which will absorb and moderate the straight shot of nitrogen in your pee.
5. That Asparagus Smell!
If asparagus makes your pee smell funny, take revenge and pee on your asparagus! Nutrient hungry, deep rooted, perennial and salt-tolerant, asparagus might be the ideal crop to fertilize with pee. If you grow your asparagus under a thick layer of carbonaceous mulch, like straw or wood chips, use the Direct Mulch Direct Application technique, otherwise dilute 2:1 if your asparagus is in the sandy soil it prefers, or 4:1 in heavier soil. Apply throughout the growing season, along with a good source of potassium, like bone meal, in the early spring.