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Take a Hike | Dianne Erskine-Hellrigel
| Sunday, May 11, 2014

DianneErskineHellrigelEvery time you turn around, you hear people talking about sustainability, recycling, reduce, reuse. Well, here’s a new, interesting concept. Human urine is high in nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium – the same ingredients in commercial fertilizer.

Using urine to fertilize your garden is free, it’s definitely inventive, and it cycles these nutrients back into the soil. (Not to mention that it will save water because you won’t have to keep flushing.)

There are some reasons you should NOT use urine in your garden. For instance if you have a urinary infection, or if it is contaminated with fecal matter, you don’t want to fertilize with it. If you’re on drugs for any condition, you do not want those drugs introduced into your garden.

The approximate ratio of nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium is 11-1-2.5, which is comparable to commercial fertilizers. If you are a heavy meat eater, your nitrogen levels may be higher.

Nitrogen will produce a lot of green growth, but it will limit a plant’s flowering ability and fruit production if it is too high. Since Americans produce about 1 million gallons of urine per day, this is a sustainable source of fertilizer.

When urine is excreted by the body, it is sterile, unless you have an infection. Studies in Sweden determined that urine from one adult could fertilize crops to feed one adult. Since urine is high in nitrogen, use it on plants that require lots of nitrogen such as squash, tomatoes, cucumbers, trees, your lawn and other leafy green ornamentals. Don’t just pee on a bush. Put it in a bottle or jar and dilute it with 8 to 10 parts water (1 cup urine plus 10 cups water.)

Make your own fertilizer - for free.

Make your own fertilizer – for free.

You can water your plants this way a few times a week. Don’t do this daily, or  you will be delivering too much nitrogen to your plants, which could cause problems such as curled leaves and infestations of aphids. As long as you don’t use an excessive amount of urine, your garden will love it.

Urine is a great way to start up a compost pile. Use plenty of leaves, cardboard, straw and other similar materials. Straight (undiluted) urine can be added directly on top of wood chips or heavy layers of mulch.

So, you probably think this is pretty gross. Well, think about this: Cow pies jammed into a bag contain many more problems than your own urine. You will have weed seeds, bacteria, a terrible lingering smell, and it costs plenty. Urine is free. And if you continue to flush it, it’s costing you about 22 liters per day in water.

It’s time to get ahead of the game. Recycling your urine could be the next step in sustainability.

I can already hear you saying “ewwww.” But with the drought in Southern California, lots of water-saving methods will soon need to be considered.

So, for now, think about it. You can save 22 liters of water a day, and you can do your garden a favor while you’re at it. And when the next earthquake comes along, you’ll already be doing something to save water.

Dianne Erskine-Hellrigel is executive director of the Community Hiking Club and president of the Santa Clara River Watershed Conservancy. If you’d like to be part of the solution, join the Community Hiking Club’s Stewardship Committee. Contact Dianne through communityhikingclub.org or at zuliebear@aol.com.

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10 Comments

  1. Loved this! In WW2 American POWs in German POW camps used urine this way. It did help sustain them

  2. Pat Horanberg says:

    We have been doing the “if it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down” for years – it was actually something I read on a Marine base in Yuma. I like the idea of capturing it for fertilizer. Love your columns!

  3. msc545 says:

    This is not hygienic, and it’s also disgusting. As a matter of fact, you can also fertilize plants with human feces. Would you do this ?

  4. Tommy Rini says:

    Won’t work we all are on some type of pills.even kids. so in theory you could only use the pee of the very young…. You’re a little freaky lady. Good try but big pharm has polluted the human body too much…

  5. therese says:

    Great article! I did a lot of research on this years ago and begin implementing it in our garden again this year (We always have put pee in the compost pile but now it’s getting incorporated with our greywater and going into part of the yard, too.). Urine is actually quite sterile. Funny – some who find it “disgusting” probably pay top dollar for food grown in cow, horse, bat or chicken poop. If you’re curious, I’d suggest starting with diluted urine applications on fruit trees, etc. and reading “Liquid Gold.” Short, amusing and enlightening!

  6. KG says:

    Yea….no…

  7. This lady is actually extremely knowledgable, and cool as hell. It’s people like Carol that give the SCV it’s “ignorant redneck” reputation.

  8. And Tommy, I know loads of people who aren’t “on pills”. Even kids. She mentions in her article that if you are indeed on any type of drug, this won’t work for your garden. I think it’s “a little freaky” that you assume everyone is taking something.

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