Back in the day there ware none of the composts and fertilizers around that you can buy nowadays. Mostly animal manure was used to fertilize the garden but sometimes it was too fresh, it hadn’t been stored long enough and that’s no good as it can burn the plant roots and often it would kill them as it was too strong.
Ernie used to make his own fertilizer in an old cider barrel. He kept it at the bottom of the garden because it was very smelly.
He would use fresh manure, just a shovel or two of it mind, and a shovel or two of wood ash from the fire. Then in would go as many nettles as he could find, and there were always plenty in the hedgerows close by. He would pull them up from the bottom, his hand under the leaves. Nettles only sting if you push against the barbs. Once he’d collected a load he would put them on the ground and stamp all over them to bruise them before throwing them in the barrel. It takes an awful lot of nettles to fill a cider barrel, usually he would come home with bundles he’d collected on the way to and from the farm.
When he had enough he would put in a few pails of water and give it a good stir up to mix in the ash and manure. the lid would go on and he’d leave it for about a month, just opening it to give it a stir a couple of times a week.
It was very concentrated and he diluted it down when he was ready to use it, It needed to be the colour of tea before you add the milk. The barrel would last the whole season even if we never used anything else. Oftentimes some would be left at the end of the season and he would just add to it to make sure there would be enough for the following spring.
Plants know what they needs see, they take what they need from the soil and leave the rest. Ern said that by mixing the ash and the manure and the nettles there was a good balance of things that made it useful all over the vegetable garden as all the ingredients provided different things to improve the soil. Just using one thing wouldn’t suit all the plants so he mixed ’em altogether.
I think the natural way is better than all the chemical muck that goes into gardens now. It can’t be good eating all those chemicals can it?