Thursday, August 20, 2009

Pantry Plant Food

My grandmother (Mema) had beautiful house plants, especially after she retired (she was a dental assistant). She bustled about with them, moving them to the porch on sunny days and rotating them in front of windows in cooler weather.

She fertilized them all with a homemade concoction that she would mix up when she needed it each month. The photo above is the recipe, in her own handwriting. Nandy made notes on it and copied and laminated it after she passed away so that it wouldn't be lost - so the other handwriting on it is his.

Pantry Plant Food

1 tsp Salt Petre
1 tsp Baking Powder
1 tsp Epsom Salts
1/2 tsp Household Ammonia

Mix into 1 gallon of warm water and water plants thoroughly one time per month.

Skip November, December, and January for plants to rest (water but do not feed during those months).

All these ingredients are so inexpensive that all together they will probably not cost as much as one box of commercial plant food.

You can get Salt Petre at a full-service pharmacy (a locally-owned one would be best, or try a CVS). Baking Powder is probably in your cabinet already, and Epsom salts and Household Ammonia are also available at the grocery store, probably either on the cleaning aisle or the bar soap aisle. There are many other uses for Epsom Salts, you can learn more at the Epsom Salt Council website.

An IMPORTANT Note about Ammonia. NEVER MIX IT with bleach. Ammonia is a natural product but if mixed with Chlorine there is a chemical reaction that releases chlorine gas. Bad Bad stuff. If this should ever happen, hold your breath, get everyone out of the room/house immediately and get help to air it out before anyone returns. I store ammonia in a separate location from bleach, just to be safe. Other than not mixing it with bleach, I'm not aware of any other special handling required with ammonia (it is actually the bleach that is more the issue in the combination). Please leave a comment if you have more to add!

Ammonia stinks to high heaven so despite the fact that it is wonderful for cleaning and disinfecting, it is doubtful you will want to use it for anything other than your plant food, so get only a small bottle!

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