Is it too early to start talking about Christmas? Maybe but I’m going to do so anyway.
This year I want to make some homemade Christmas presents. We live in such a consumerism orientated world. We have everything we need and then come Christmas we buy each other all sorts of junk that often ends up in the rubbish pile. A few years ago I bought my father in law novelty skull ice cube moulds, because of course, everyone needs those.
To do my bit to step out of this cycle of buying and throwing away, I am making my own presents. I’ve decided to write down a few and share what I am making, starting with this post: Homemade bath salts.
Who doesn’t love a relaxing bath with deliciously scented, soothing water.
Bath salts are ridiculously easy to make and you can make them unique with your own choices of colours and scents. Since it’s Christmas I did a batch of minty candy cane salts, as well as a classic lavender.
It’s a blend of muscle relaxing Epsom salts, cleansing salt, nourishing coconut oil and delicious scents. . Presented in a recycled jam jar, a strip of ribbon and a cute name tag. Voila! A perfect wee gift for your loved ones to enjoy.
As spring gets going, your vegetables will amp up their growth. A dose of liquid fertiliser can do wonders to ensure healthy growth. Unlike granular fertilisers, liquid fertilisers get the nutrients to your plants quickly, so you can feed them when they need it most.
When using a solid fertiliser in the garden it can be easy to add too much, which in turn can be detrimental to your plants. Too much nitrogen added to beetroot, for example, will lead to big green tops and not much root. A liquid fertiliser, on the other hand, makes it easy to give plants the boost they need, in a controlled dose.
You don’t have to spend money to get a nutrient-packed drink for your vegetables, I bet you have what you need at home for at least one of these recipes below.
5 Liquid Fertilisers your plants will love
Manure tea, compost tea, seaweed tea… if you add the word tea at the end it almost sounds appealing….
An excellent source of nitrogen. You’ll need 1 part well-aged manure and 5 parts, a large bucket (with a lid) and a sack/pillowcase.
Chicken, horse, sheep, it doesn’t really matter what manure you use for this tea as long as it is well-aged. Shovel the manure into the sack or pillow case and place in the bucket. Top with water and cover (it’s like a giant tea bag!) Let it sit for 1-2 weeks. When you’re ready to use it, dilute it to the ratio of 1:16.
You can empty the manure filled sack into your compost afterwards.
Same ratio as above, 1 parts organic matter to 5 parts water. This time you’ll be using some homemade compost instead of manure.
Homemade compost is known as black gold in the gardening world and compost tea is the golden liquid!
In a bucket, shovel 1 part homemade compost and top with 5 parts water. Stir and let it sit for 4 days. When ready to use, strain it through some sort of cloth (e.g an old t-shirt). Use it immediately and dilute to the ratio of 1:10.
Seaweed Liquid Fertiliser
Living in New Zealand means this one is an easy one to make- there’s nearly always a beach close by! Seaweed is packed full of goodies for your plants including potassium, nitrogen, phosphate and magnesium. It also helps combat transplant shock when moving plants and seedlings.
We are sticking with the 1/5 part ratio again. Scour your local beach for the seaweed, you won’t need a huge amount. Rinse the seaweed well first to remove excess salt, then place in bucket, cover with water and let it sit. The seaweed needs to decompose for this fertiliser so you can let it sit for about 8 weeks in a dark place, away from your house. This one can get a bit stinky! Dilute to a ratio of 1:2.
Banana Peel Liquid Fertiliser(s)
Banana peel is such a treat for plants, especially roses. They’re packed with potassium, phosphorus and calcium. You can make a banana peel fertiliser in a few different ways.
Banana peel tea: Soak 2-3 banana peels in 600ml water for a few days, the minerals will leach into the water and you can use the water as it is for your plants, no need to dilute. Give the soaked peels to your worms or put in the compost
Banana peel smoothie: Blitz your peels up with a cup of water to make a banana peel slurry! Pour this on the base of your roses, they’ll love you for it.
Banana smoothie: Spoiled, old bananas can be blitzed up too into liquid and poured around your plants. Try it in your vegetable garden!
This has to be the easiest one to source and make!
You can use all sorts of weeds from around your garden for this, especially those with tap roots such as dock. comfrey, dandelions or wild fennel. The long tap roots means the plant can absorb more nutrients which are passed into the leaves. These leaves can be put in the weed tea and all the nutrients will leach out into the water, ready to be poured back into the garden!
Stick with the 1/5 ratio (1 part weeds, 5 parts water) and fill a bucket with all your sourced weeds. Cover with water and put a lid on it. Let it steep for about two weeks. Dilute it to a ratio of 1:10 and use it anywhere in the garden! Once the weeds have decomposed in the bucket, chuck them in your compost and start again.
Making your own brine-cured olives feels like such an accomplishment. Tending to your olives, refreshing the water daily, tasting and testing… Once they’re finished the taste will far outweigh the effort spent on the brining. If you have an olive tree (or a few) on your property you’ll know how abundantly they can produce. Unless you’re planning on pressing for oil, in which case you’ll usually need 50kg minimum, there’s not much else to do with olives except for curing them.
The process for brine-curing takes patience but the effort involved is not difficult. Start by picking your olives.
Once you have your selection, if you have a real difference in colours, sort the green ones away from the black ones. This is because the green ones are less mature and will need a little longer to brine and lose their bitterness.
Once your olives are sorted, wash them well and remove any really damaged olives. A little bird pecked is fine, but if they are starting to rot then take those out. The same goes for any dry and shrivelled looking olives. You want them as plump and damaged free as possible. Use a sharp knife to cut a little slit into each olive. This will allow the water to enter the olive help remove the bitterness. Alternatively, you can carefully ‘crush’ your olives with a heavy object such as a meat tenderiser or a flat stone. Crush them enough to just break the skin but not to completely flatten the olives.
In a container or jar, soak your prepped olives in plain water for 5-15 days, changing and refreshing the water daily. Make sure your olives are completely submerged under the water. For black and ripe olives 5-10 days will be fine and for green 10-15 days is preferable. You can taste the olives after they have been soaking to test the bitterness. If it is still very bitter, soak the olives for longer.
After soaking in water, it is time to put your olives in brine. You can make a simple brine solution using a ratio of 1 parts salt to 10 parts water. Use an unprocessed salt such as rock salt or sea salt, not with any added iodine as this can affect the end taste of the olives. Boiling your brine solution (and then leaving to cool) before adding to your olives can reduce the chance of any moulds of bad bacteria forming on your olives.
Cover your olives with the brine in an airtight container, making sure the olives are again completely submerged. Let them sit in this brine for about a month, changing the brine fortnightly. You can taste them after a month to check the taste and bitterness. If they are still too bitter, keep soaking them in a fresh brine batch for another 1-2 weeks until you are happy.
Now it is time to jar up your olives in sterilised preserving jars. Make a fresh batch of salt brine and for every 2 cups brine, add in 1/4 cup of your favourite vinegar (I use my homemade apple cider vinegar). Add in any other flavourings you like such as lemon, lime, garlic, oregano, rosemary, chilli. Cover the olives with the brine and flavourings and let them sit for a week to infuse the newly added flavours before sampling.
Olives store well in a sealed jar for up to a year in a cool dark place. Once opened, store in the fridge and use within a month.