Monday, December 16, 2013

How To Make Your Own Fish Fertilizer

Remember that old story of the natives teaching the Pilgrims to bury fish beneath their corn plants? It works. That’s why “fish emulsion” or “fish fertilizer” is still sold as a common organic fertilizer. Plants love it – and you can make it yourself. This is a good thing, because fish emulsion is really expensive.

As I posted previously, my friends Rick and Mart came over a few weeks ago for a major yard work day. Both of these guys are pretty hard-core plant geek/survivalist/homesteader types.

When they arrived, Rick said, “Hey… I brought you a little gift from the Caribbean market.” He then proceeded to haul two buckets of nice fresh fish guts and parts from the back of his truck.

I was thrilled. What thoughtful friends I have!

Once I had this bounty… it was time to make it into something amazing for my plants.

If you have access to fish waste, you can do the same thing I do. It’s easy and it smells incredible. Here’s how I’m doing it.

Step 1: Get A Big Barrel

After this particular project, you’re not going to want to use this barrel for anything else, so choose wisely. I got a great used 55-gallon drum with a top from the local feed store:


You want a lid for this thing to make sure animals stay out and that none of the fish turn into undead zombie fish and escape in the night. They’ll come in your windows and stuff, trashing your house and eating your brains. Don’t let that happen.

Step 2: Throw In The Guts!


Isn’t that an amazing picture? I think that should be the cover of a punk album. Or maybe something by Aphex Twin. You can almost smell the ocean. I threw in crab parts, too, since they’re loaded with calcium and other nutrients. I don’t know how well they’ll break down in the final scheme of things, but I imagine they’ll go eventually.

Step 3: Add Some Carbon!

We all know about the whole C:N part of composting, right? That is, for nitrogenous material, it helps to add some carbon so the microorganisms get plenty to snack on as they break down a pile. I’m doing the same thing with my fish fertilizer. In this case, I used shredded moringa tree trunks.


You’d never know there was a hellish slop of yucky piscine waste beneath that, would you? Looks pretty innocuous, if I do say so myself. You could probably use sawdust, mulch chips, shredded paper or straw in this mix… the idea is just to give a little more balance to your fertilizer. We’re anaerobic composting, here… it may be nasty wharf-scented sludge, but it’s still compost.

(To read the rest and see the final steps, click on over to The Prepper Project)

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At December 16, 2013 at 3:03 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fish emulsion is a must have for my garden and I'm ever so thankful they have it bottled up all nice and pretty at our local garden store. This is a wee-bit hardcore for me. :-) I bet your neighbors love you.

At December 16, 2013 at 3:09 PM , Blogger David The Good said...

Oh yeah. I'm sure they love me. The folks on one side are bird watchers. Vultures are birds, right? On the other side, the fellow is a hunter/fisherman. The stench probably reminds him of the wharf.

At December 16, 2013 at 3:27 PM , Blogger rycamor said...

You're welcome for the fish guts. Now I have to keep reminding myself to go there every Saturday to pick up a bucket or two.

How much better would you say the emulsion thing is to just burying them under ground in your hugelkulture beds?

At December 16, 2013 at 3:37 PM , Blogger David The Good said...

I don't know that either method would be better - just a matter of usage.

Burying under a hugelkultur bed may still result in animals digging, unless you went good and deep. Or mixed in human waste. Animals apparently don't like that. On the other hand, it's a nice, non-smelly way of directly increasing the fertility of a patch of ground.

Getting the emulsion thing going also allows for quick fertilization of plants in need, i.e. transplants, sad citrus, drought-stricken bananas, etc.

At June 3, 2014 at 6:54 AM , Anonymous Craig Totten said...

Fish fertilizers are quite helpful fertilizer for growing plants. Most probably in fertilizer we have found different types of chemical ingredients that is quite harmful for plants; therefore professional gardeners are used to adopt fish fertilizers. A natural way for the growth of plants; in this above article we can get steps for how to make our own fish fertilizer.


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