In order to have healthy plants, you need good soil. We at GfC have been participating in the City of Boston's compost program. The City collects our cuttings after each Clean up, and then returns with a truckload of nutrient-rich garden soil in the Spring. We use it for our border gardens first, but after that, there is usually plenty for members to use. Spreading a thin layer over your plot will help feed your plants all summer. You could always buy a bag of soil from your local garden center to use instead.
Chicken poop is great general fertilizer for gardens. It's as simple as that: poop from chickens sold by the bag at the garden center. The easiest way to use it, is to spread a thin layer before planting, and using a shovel or a rake, work it in to the soil. You could also put a bit in the hole before placing a plant into it. Last, if you already have plants in the ground, you can pour a little bit around the base of each plant and work it in using a 3-pronged garden fork. Then water.
Some great 'free' ways to feed plants are hiding right in plain sight, in your home. Coffee grounds are high in nitrogen, and make a effective fertilizer for acid-loving plants, like "leafy vegetables such as spinach, tomatoes, corn, roses, camellias, rhododendrons and azaleas. As a bonus, coffee grounds are reputed to have a deterrent effect on garden pests." Again, work it into the soil around the base of your plants with a 3-pronged garden fork, then water. Read more about that here.
Banana peels are good general fertilizer and also deter aphids, (those tiny white bugs that collect on the underside of leaves and ruin plants). Remove any stickers first. Cut the banana peels into 1/4" strips with sturdy kitchen scissors. This makes them easier to spread, and by chopping them, you kickstart the composting process, releasing the beneficial vitamins and minerals in the peels. Spread the strips around the base of your plants and put a thin layer of soil on top to deter flies. The decomposing banana peels will feed your plants AND protect them from aphids!
Another thing that certain plants love are eggshells. Every time you crack an egg, rinse off the shell and put it in a jar or flower vase on your kitchen counter. Once you get a few, use the handle of a wooden spoon or meat tenderizer to crush them. (Kids especially love doing this. It's a great way to get them interested in gardening!) Tomatoes, known to be 'heavy feeders,' meaning they need a lot of fertilizer/food throughout the growing season, absolutely love the calcium in eggshells. Spread a thin layer around the base of plants and leave it on the soil surface. This should be the last step when planting. The sharp edges of the crushed shells deter soft bunny paws AND slugs!
Look for more blog posts here about ways to help your plants thrive. If you are interested in writing a blog post, or have an topic you'd like to see addressed, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.