If you're a fan of FoodCycler, you probably already know that this countertop "electric composter" creates an incredible soil amendment for your garden.
What's soil amendment?
Soil amendment, or soil conditioner, is a soil additive you incorporate into your garden to increase water retention, aeration and organic matter.
The FoodCycler takes household food waste and transforms into a by-product which can be used as a soil amendment in your garden beds. While the nutritional make-up of your by-product will depend on what you add to your cycle, on average the FoodCycler produces a soil amendment with an NPK of 4-1-1.
NPK stands for Nitrogen-Phosphorus-Potassium. These are the three macro-nutrients required by plants for healthy growth. You'll often find an NPK ratio listed on bags of synthetic fertilizer at the store.
With an NPK of 4-1-1, you can see that the FoodCycler soil amendment is particularly high in nitrogen compared to the other two macro-nutrients. This means that your homemade fertilizer will likely have a powerful store of nitrogen ready to be made available to your plant roots, if incorporated into the soil correctly.
This blog post is going to list some nitrogen-loving plants which you can nourish with your homemade soil conditioner to make the most of your by-product's high nitrogen rating.
Nitrogen-Loving Fruits & Vegetables
You'll notice that many of the plants which thrive on nitrogen-rich soils seem to be predominantly leafy vegetables, as opposed to vining or root vegetables.
This is because nitrogen is particularly crucial to the development of leaves and plant tissues.
It's important to remember that, while all plants need nitrogen to grow and thrive, some plants need more nitrogen than others. "Fruiting" plants (such as cucumbers, tomatoes and zucchini) or root plants (like carrots) do well with a balanced amount of nitrogen in relation to the other two macronutrients (phosphorous and potassium).
If given an excess of nitrogen, these plants will focus all their energy on developing strong stems, vines and leaves instead of the fruit you're hoping to collect from them! With this in mind, let's look at some fruits and vegetables whose edible parts include their leaves.
You may have already seen wild rhubarb growing in dense, moist areas at the edges of wooded areas. Rhubarb loves semi-shaded spots with lots of moisture, organic matter and little salt. Rhubarb needs sufficient nitrogen in order to grow the leaf petiole (the edible part of the plant) and, in wild environments, can pull that nitrogen from the decaying organic matter nearby on the forest floor.
If you don't happen to have a wooded area in your backyard, then you'll need to take care of the application of nitrogen-rich organic matter yourself. This organic matter can be applied to the soil prior to planting rhubarb.
Brussel sprouts need a continuous supply of nitrogen to generate the sprouts that are both their "fruit" and a continuation of the brassica's thick, water-repellant leaves. You can mix in compost to Brussel sprouts' soil or add a "top-dressing" of nitrogen-rich fertilizer, sprinkling the granules or powder three inches away from the base of the stem.
If you are looking to add your FoodCycler fertilizer, we recommend incorporating it into the soil as you would compost, but three inches away from the plant's stem. Your homemade fertilizer packs a nitrogen punch - a little goes a long way!
You may have guessed it: as a green, leafy vegetable, kale needs sufficient nitrogen to support those green-hued chlorophyll molecules from which it sources its energy. A study performed by the ISHS determined that top-dressing kale plants with nitrogen fertilizer actually increased the amount of dietary fibre present in the plants' edible leaves.
For a plant whose name in the Cantonese pronunciation means "white vegetable", bok choy certainly offers a lot of chloro-filled leafy greens!
Mustard plants respond very well to continuous nitrogen application: yield can actually increase by more than 30%! Too little nitrogen availability, and you will start to notice yellowing, drooping leaves.
Lettuce is incredibly easy to grow - a perfect starter plant for the novice or container gardener. This easy-going plant also requires regular access to nitrogen in order to yield large, crunchy leaves.
This leafy green might be even easier to grow than lettuce! Spinach is a cold-weather plant with supple, earthy-flavoured leaves. Make sure that when you plant spinach seeds - or transplant spinach seedlings - that you're giving them a home in nitrogen-rich soil to support the growth of their tender leaves.
A notable exception to the list of nitrogen-loving leafy greens, corn absolutely devours nitrogen: corn crops can consume 150 lbs of nitrogen per acre! Gardening experts recommend that you fertilize corn generously just before planting and after planting, when the sprouts are between 4 and 8 inches, again at 10 inches and a final time just as the corn husks are producing "silk" (the long sticky, stringy bits you remove when shucking corn).
How do I incorporate more nitrogen into my garden soil naturally?
Conventional farming typically demands massive applications of synthetic and organic fertilizers on crops, (with devastating environmental consequences). Gardeners have also traditionally been guided to apply similar synthetic products to their household plots. It's only in recent decades that the focus has been to move away from synthetic franken-fertilizers to organic or natural fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides.
5 Environmentally Beneficial Sources of Nitrogen:
Animal waste, such as cow, sheep or chicken manure are naturally rich in nitrogen.
2) Cover crops
Cover crops, such as alfalfa or clover, are easy-to-manage crops which you can add to your beds after the growing season in preparation for the following year. These plants replace nutrients normally lost in bare soil between planting.
3) Legume companion plants
Legume companion plants, such as pole beans, are notorious for naturally fixing atmospheric nitrogen in the soil for their own use, but also for the use of neighbouring plants.
Some legumes, like beans, are actually key actors in traditional crop rotation. Legume roots have little bumps which house bacteria called rhizobia; these bacteria can absorb and process atmospheric nitrogen, making the nitrogen available to the plant roots.
Have you ever wondered why farmers will plant corn one year, and soybeans the next? This is to ensure that their nitrogen-hungry corn will reap the benefits of the soybeans' nitrogen-fixing abilities!
4) FoodCycler homemade fertilizer
The FoodCycler processes household food waste within hours. The by-product left over from the process has been scientifically proven to add nutrient-rich organic matter to the soil, with an average NPK of 4-1-1. This means that you can create your own homemade compost alternative from waste materials that would otherwise be sent to the dump!
Compost, or "black gold" is a phenomenal way to incorporate organic matter and fertilizer with a balanced NPK to your garden soil.