Start seedlings with liquid fertilizer


Notes to broadcasters

Content: Soak legume tree leaves or manure in water for two weeks to make liquid fertilizer.  Use this fertilizer for watering seeds and young transplants.


Other DCFRN items about the care of vegetable seedlings are:

Watering seedlings and applying no-cost fertilizer – Package 6, Item 6

Vegetable gardening (Part 2 – Planting seeds in a garden and in a seedling bed) – Package 7, Item 3

Vegetable gardening (Part 3 – Care of seedling plants in a seedling bed) – Package 7, Item 4

Some simple ways to boost vegetable production – Package 9, Item 8


It is helpful to give garden vegetables, especially young seedlings, some extra plant food to help them get started growing. Liquid fertilizer that you can make yourself can give your plants that extra food for a good start. Some farmers in the Philippines use it on their garden crops all season. Let me tell you about two different types of liquid fertilizer; one is made with green leaves, the other is made with animal manure. Both are good for watering seedlings.

Liquid fertilizer from legume tree leaves

Collect leaves from legume trees such as gliricidia or leucaena. You can also use green leaves from other types of plants, but leaves from legumes are better because they have much more nitrogen in them. Put the leaves in a strong sack or gunny bag. Tie the top of the bag securely. Put the bag of leaves in a 200-litre (45-gallon) drum of water. Place a heavy rock on top of the bag to hold it down under water. Place a tight lid or cover on the drum. If you do not have a drum, you can use a pit lined with a single plastic sheet. Or use a large earthen pot. Use any container that will hold enough water and the bag full of leaves.

Soak the leaves in the water for two weeks. After two weeks, your fertilizer is ready. Mix one part of the liquid fertilizer with three parts of water, and sprinkle the soil in your garden with this solution.

This fertilizer has lots of nutrients in it. It will have quite a lot of nitrogen in it if you use legume leaves. Of course, these nutrients are important for your soil and plants. The solution from some leaves will also repel insect pests. For example, leaves from gliricidia and neem trees have this effect. You might try testing leaves from different legume trees to see what works best for you.

Liquid fertilizer from manure

You can also make good liquid fertilizer with manure instead of leaves. Follow exactly the same method but instead of leaves, put some well-rotted manure in the sack to soak in the drum of water. Chicken and rabbit manure have the highest nitrogen content, but you can use manure from other animals if you have some. It is also a good idea to add a little bit of wood ash, bone meal, compost, or any rotted organic material to the sack. Hang the sack from a strong pole placed across the top of the drum. Let it stand two weeks. The water will turn a dark colour as most of the plant food in the manure washes into the water.

Again, before using this liquid fertilizer, add one part of it to three parts of clean water. The solution should be the colour of regular drinking tea or even lighter so that it won’t burn the young seedlings. Sprinkle the solution on the soil around the base of the transplants, not on the leaves.

Feeding your vegetable seedlings with liquid fertilizer gives them that extra boost of plant food that they need when they are young, to really get them growing strong and healthy.

Information sources

1. Liquid fertilizers, page 34 of Intensive vegetable gardening for profit and self-sufficiency), Peace Corps, Washington, D.C., U.S.A.