Keeping the horses happy

One of the best natural fertilizers this side of dung is, well, the other side of dung. Alfalfa pellets, widely available at livestock stores, are about as good as it gets and can be used in a number of ways.

  • Sprinkled lightly into the soil and worked in, they decompose slowly, adding a range of nutrients and organic matter
  • A cup or two soaked for a few days (or longer, if you can bear the smell) in a large pail of water, in which case they create a sort of “compost tea”i was driving away vermin with the odor of this fermenting grog for weeks at one point last spring

I learned about this trick for use with roses, and promptly experimented on tomatoes as well, with equally strong results. It turns out that when fermented as “alfalfa tea”, a particular alcohol develops that roses find a particularly useful as a growth hormone.

I’m not sure that tomatoes enjoy the same intoxication, but in either case, you get richer soil and plants that are far happier than they would be if you simply added Miracle Grow because you’re not just adding a chemical, you’re adding decomposing, nitrogen-rich plant matter.

As is the case with human food, be sure you get pure alfalfa — there is a growing tendency of manufacturers to add sugar or blend in other ingredients.