Human Urine As Fertilizer In Your Home Garden?

Believe it or not, human urine contains almost the same ingredients in the same proportions as a bag of fertilizer. So why aren’t we all just peeing on our lawns and gardens?

In one year, the average human being produces enough urine to fertilize 6,300 tomato plants which would produce 2.41 tons of tomato fruits in just one season. - ABC News Technology & Science column, Sept 9, 2009

 

urine as fertilizer for tomatoesWow! That fact makes me want to run outside every time I feel the need and drench my vegetable patch. But hold on a minute, you say: “wherever my dog pees, she leaves brown patches of grass, which means the grass isn’t flourishing with her urine”.

That’s correct. Undiluted urine is extremely high in nitrogen and sometimes high in salts. The high nitrogen content actually “burns” the plant it comes in contact with. Dilute it however, and it’s more efficient than any chemical fertilizer. Healthy human urine is rich in nitrogen, potassium, and phosphate, which are all essential for healthy plants. If you look at the ingredients on a bag of chemical fertilizer, you’ll see the word “urea”, which is present in, you guessed it, urine.

According to the ABC article“Surendra K. Pradhan, K. Holopainen and Helvi Heinonen-Tanski of the University of Kuopio in Finland have found that wood ash and human urine perform just as well as more expensive mineral fertilizers, while doing less damage to the environment. The combination is rich in nutrients, nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium and magnesium. 

“The researchers raised a healthy crop of tomatoes in a carefully controlled series of laboratory experiments. The plants were grown in four different ways in a greenhouse. Some received no fertilizer, some received commercial fertilizer, some received just urine, and others received human urine and birch ash collected from the furnace in the home of one of the participants.

“During the growing period the plants that received commercial fertilizer and those that got the urine and ash performed about the same, substantially higher than the ones that got only urine, and four times greater than the unfertilized plants.

“Urine was collected from several eco-toilets in private homes, the study says, and stored for about six months (at 45 degrees F) while the researchers analyzed its “microbiological properties.” No harmful substances were found.”

Okay, but peeing on my plants is “yucky”. Sure, but let’s take a look at the bigger picture and how this may contribute to successful agriculture in Third World countries, where chemical fertilizers are failing miserably and decimating already damaged soil.

Read about the health effects of lawn fertilizers and pesticides

See all of my posts on fertilizers

 

According to All Africa Global Media

urine as fertilizer

“In Uganda, members of Nezikokolima Farmers Group in Nabuti Village, Mukono District have substituted the use of compost manure with human urine to fertilise their gardens and they say their vegetable yields are impressive.
“It was introduced to the group by the Ecological Sanitation Project commonly known as EcoSan, implemented by Kampala City Council.
“Human urine contains a bulk of nutrients and it is a quick acting fertiliser which…can boost farm productivity,” says Dr Onesmus Ssemalulu, a soil scientist with Kawanda Agriculture Research Organisation.
“Patrick Makhosi, also a soil scientist with Kawanda Agricultural Research Organisation says that applying urine once every week for at least two months will more than double the yield of vegetables. The urine should be diluted with water at a ratio of 1:9 and applied to the plant where the stem touches the ground.
“Whenever we brought the urine, we would keep it in tightly closed containers for at least 14 days to facilitate decomposition and the death of disease causing pathogens, making it safe to both the users and the plants,” says Jessica Kalema a member of Nezikokolima Farmers Group.”

Hmmm… You doubters might say, “Well, what about here in America? What do our scientists say?”

From The Washington Post: “Urine is “a good natural nitrogen containing substance and probably could be easily utilized” as a fertilizer, said Dr. Philip Tierno, director of clinical microbiology and immunology at New York University Medical Center, New York City. “There’s nothing wrong with using it,” Tierno said. He added that there is little risk of contamination by urine-borne pathogens, because they would be in competition with microorganisms found in the soil and would “probably lose the battle. Urine is actually a relatively clean substance.” Tierno is the author of the book The Secret Life of Germs.”

So while the “ick” factor definitely exists here, I just wanted to show the science behind using your own urine as fertilizer. After all, it’s a waste product just like any other mammal’s and we use plenty of their waste in organic fertilizers.

If you’re healthy and you want to make the leap, it should be perfectly fine to use your own urine as a garden fertilizer, and I’d love to hear about your personal experience with it. Folk wisdom also claims that it’s an excellent way to keep critters like rabbits, deer and squirrels out of your garden. It’s also a quick nitrogen boost for a struggling compost pile.

Just thought I’d put the science out there for your consideration.

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About Todd Heft

Todd Heft is an organic gardener and freelance garden writer who lives in the Lehigh Valley, PA and has gardened for most of his life. When he isn't writing or reading about organic gardening, he's gardening. His first book, "Homegrown Tomatoes: The Step-By-Step Guide to Growing Delicious Organic Tomatoes In Your Garden" is available on Amazon now. Google
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49 Responses to Human Urine As Fertilizer In Your Home Garden?

  1. Hamne says:

    I’m currently into hydroponycs, I found no mention about using diluted urine along others organics matters in this kind of system, is it possible?

    • Todd Heft says:

      Hamne: I’m not an expert on hydroponics, so I really have no idea. Growing hydroponically is considerably different than growing in soil, so I would check with an expert on that.

  2. Admiring the dedication you put into your website and in depth information you provide.
    It’s nice to come across a blog every once in a while
    that isn’t the same old rehashed material. Great read!

    I’ve saved your site and I’m including your RSS feeds to my Google account.

  3. victor says:

    I have started to use diluted urine as a fertilizer on my garden, but am concerned as it may increase salt levels in the soil and have adverse effects on soil life such as worms. Anyone have any comments on this.

    • Todd Heft says:

      Victor: Diluted urine (see article for details) will not adversely affect the life in the soil, nor the health of your plants – it will enhance both. Commercial fertilizers made from ammonium nitrate (the source of nitrogen) increase the salts in the soil and cause worms to retreat.

  4. arlo says:

    I’ve been using diluted urine for a few months now with very good results. My high hedges and Star Jasmine vines are bursting with new growth and my container Yesterday, Day and Tomorrow bushes are a riot of blossoms, unlike previous years. For my many potted impatiens, I just pee directly into a half-full watering can (producing 1/2 cup of urine in one gallon of water, or 30:1 mixture), and save a trip indoors to use the toilet. But generally I pee throughout the day, into a plastic fruit juice container, the day before fertilizing. I use a 10:1 urine dilution on ground plants and 20:1 for most container plants. Passersby have praised my rose bushes in full bloom and my impatiens are unusually healthy-looking and colorful. About half of my impatiens survive the winter and I have one pink lavender impatiens that is about 12 years old. The frost damaged it this year and it died back, but the new fertilizer helped it produce speedy new growth this spring. So far, the only negative is the accelerated growth of nearby weeds, benefiting from the fertilizing runoff.

    • Todd Heft says:

      Arlo: Thanks for the input. Do the passersby know of your secret fertilizer technique?

      • arlo says:

        Todd, no. I have not discussed fertilization with any passersby; but one person, quite familiar with my “Yesterday” plants, was very surprised by the profusion of blue, lavender, and white blossoms and I volunteered that I had “changed fertilizers”. Regarding any future queries, I guess I can at least say that my new fertilizer is organic and contains auxin A (as per reader comment below), a growth promoter.

        Also, I have decided to try your greater 9:1 concentration. This amounts to 3.2 cups of urine per two gallons of water-urine mixture. I prefer to store urine no longer than 18 hours to control odor. My body will produce about 3 1/2 cups in that interval; so most of my daily urine production will evidently be used for fertilization for a week or so.

  5. Ajidulce says:

    Not applied to the foliage of leaf vegetables, right?
    Only the soil?

  6. claude piotte says:

    I am considered elderly and have a few chronic ailments that require daily medication. Does this mean I cannot use my urine as fertilizer? Is there a list of either specific medications or types of medication or chemical ingredients that would prevent the use?

    • Todd Heft says:

      Claude: That’s an excellent question. Unfortunately, there’s no solid research to tell us for sure, one way or the other. Your own pharmaceutical residue shouldn’t harm you, as you’re already taking the medicine.The real danger is in the runoff, into storm sewers – yours, along with everyone else’s. To be safe, dilute your urine 3 parts to 10 parts of water, and only apply it to garden soil with perennials and annuals, not vegetables that come in contact with soil. The ecosystem in the soil will break the residue down to some degree, and plants will pull it up and store it.

  7. Beth says:

    I did this at my old house and had the most beautiful flower garden as a result. I kept it secret, and often snuck outside at night to disperse jars I had filled throughout the day! LOL When we moved, my cat kept going back to our old house. This went on for months. We’d have to go pick him up every morning. When I started using my “all natural” fertilizer at the new place he finally stayed put. My husband thought he’d just finally come to terms with the move. I didn’t fill him in. He would have freaked! LOL

  8. Barbara Pace says:

    I wanted to see if I was insane, so I started searching for info on this topic.
    I have been using my bodily waste for about six years in my veggie garden. It works good! I am not on any meds except for advil and I take lots of vitamins to maintain my own health. I grow most of my food and can’t afford buying fertilizer — this works for me!

  9. Foo says:

    It’s worth mentioning that you should stop peeing on your crops/gardens when you’re taking medicine, or on the pill.

  10. Sophorn Chhay says:

    When I was a kid, my mom used to make me urinate on her garden. It worked great for her. Scientific studies aside, I had real experience proof that it works.

  11. Bill Boyd says:

    Since our Sept., 2012, move-in, I’ve been working to transform dense, highly compacted clay soil mixed with pebbles and larger rocks into friable productive vegetable garden soil. In addition to composting all kitchen scraps (except meat products), I keep most of the ~800 sq.ft garden in continuous cover crop (winter cover = rye and Austrian winter peas; summer = successive buckwheat). Plus, I add my urine, miserly saving nearly all whether becoming available day or night.

    As I broadcast the urine on the winter cover, I do not dilute it. However, for growing season cover and all vegetable crops, I dilute one day’s and night’s the following day with water, about 1 to 5-10.

    For such horrendous soil, this precious commodity has contributed immensely to a satisfying yield.

    I look forward to growing fertilizer-demanding crops, particularly sweet corn which I hope will allow me to raise huitlacoche, aka edible corn smut–a true delicacy.

    Thanks, y’all.

    Bill

  12. cal says:

    What’s natural is best. Need I say anymore.

  13. Tuckers says:

    Hi there, I have been using my urine on the vegy`s and every vegy is healthy and lush. Time will tell as i only star ted using it this season. Thank you for your site, it has been very enjoyable to read others doing the same. Do you think you can overdo it.?? secondly would you do it once a week ????
    Have a happy Xmas Kind regards Tuckers Australia

    • Todd Heft says:

      Tuckers: The research team in the story diluted the urine 9:1 with water, so they used just a small amount in every application. But in their experiments, diluted urine was the only fertilizer applied. In my personal experience, I typically cut it in half with water whenever I use it. But just as with any fertilizer, it should only be used when necessary, as you can still overload your soil with nitrogen if applied too frequently. As far as frequency, that’s going to depend on the needs of your specific soil, weather, rainfall, and crop. Just experiment a little with it and see what works best for you, but build the frequency slowly until you see your plants or veggies responding to it. And don’t forget to use it on your lawn, too.

  14. Keith Taylor says:

    One of the reasons that human urine is so good for plants is because it contains an abundance of auxenotriolic acid or “auxin A”. Auxins are growth-regulating plant hormones, some of which inhibit growth and others of which promote growth and root development. Human and herbivorous animal urine contain growth-promoting auxins, which makes them so effective in the garden and on the lawn. You don’t have to believe me: just point your web browser at http://www.ehow.com/about_5449367_plant-stem-elongation-fruit-growth.html … or Google “urine and auxins”.
    Here is a tip that really works: if you have hard-shelled seeds that you want to sprout, instead of going through the horticulturally accepted and tedious tasks of scoring or scouring or soaking the seeds in water, put them into fresh cow manure. I can personally guarantee that you will have an almost 100% germination rate in a very short while, if you only ensure that the dung is kept moist .
    A notoriously difficult seed to sprout is the African marula, pronounced “ma-rool-a” with the accent on the second syllable and the “oo” short, as in “book” or “cook”, not long, as in “root” or “boot”. The marula is a member of the Cashew-nut – mango – pistachio family (Anacardiaceae). Its fruit is the one that is notorious for making elephants drunk. All the literature suggest scoring the seeds deeply and then, when they are soft, prising the caps off the 2 to 3 seed-compartment covers. They have a 10% to 25% success rate … if they are lucky. Putting them straight into fresh cattle dung or rabbit dung mixed with rabbit urine ensures a 98% to 100% success rate.
    If you don’t have access to any herbivore dung (horse, sheep, goat are included here) you might try bird turds (poultry or pigeon), but as I have never tried this method, all bets are off if you do.
    This is because Nature has provided these seeds with the tough coating so that they can survive the digestive tracts of the animals and birds that eat them. However, the birds normally have crops which contain grains of sand that act as a kind of sand-paper to break down the seed husks. There are enough of the digestive bacteria in the fresh herbivore dung to soften the coatings. Then the minerals and nutrients in the dung get to work … and Bob’s your uncle.
    Namaste.

    • Todd Heft says:

      Keith:
      Thanks for the excellent info on seed germination. I’m not anti-science by any means, but when you get right down to it, we have yet to improve upon the natural cycle.

  15. Alan says:

    I fill a five gallon gas can up, and when it’s full, I use a Hozon fertilizer siphon to disperse it into the yard with a sprinkler. My grass has never been greener and the neighbors keep asking me what I’m using. I keep lying to them at my Wife’s request. :)

  16. Lynne says:

    The pH of human urine is 6.0. This means that if you water your garden with human urine you are lowering your pH. The study was done mixing wood ashes with urine. I assume this was done because not only are wood ashes high in potassium they also raise the pH. So what is the ratio, wood ashes, to urine to water that would work best to keep the pH neutral and not burn the plants?

    • Todd Heft says:

      Lynne:
      Actually, pH of urine will vary anywhere from 4.6 to 8 depending on one’s diet. Using it as a fertilizer, when properly diluted with water (scientists recommend 9:1), won’t have any substantial affect on the soil pH. The wood ashes were used in the experiment so that the combination would mimic synthetic fertilizers which are composed of nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous. Burned wood will have both of these last elements. The experiment is really targeted for agricultural use in developing countries where synthetic fertilizers are too expensive and have caused irreperable damage to the soil. Oddly enough, human waste, wood ash and animal manures were used quite effectively for thousands of years in agriculture before the invention of synthetics.

  17. nicolas says:

    My Mom always told me to go outside on the rose trees in the summer. She always had beautiful roses. I use my own urine to fertilize hibiscus, basil, and roses. They look great and take the summer in Texas better than the ones without urine… The most natural way to fertilize !

  18. APP64 says:

    I have a stash of 32 ounce cups (the kind you get at the gas station when you purchase soda) in my master bathroom; I simply urinate in one of those, top it off with water and throw it on the grass. I’ve done this for two years and the areas which are hit repeatedly with the mixture are incredibly lush and a dark, vibrant green. The process also makes me feel good knowing that I’m not wasting one or more gallons of water to flush the toilet.

  19. Majeed Sheraidah says:

    How often we should use the urin to fertilize; say; vegetables, flowers, shrubs and fruit trees. I have a pomogranate tree, pear tree , fig tree and two loquat trees in my garden. The same question for the lawn.
    Thanks.

    • Todd Heft says:

      Majeed:
      When the urine is diluted 9:1, you can use it whenever you “water” the plants. There’s absolutely no chance of burning your plants or lawn this way as there is with bagged fertilizers. If you have a dog, use her elimination to your advantage – whenever he/she pees on the lawn, dilute the area with a gallon of water.

  20. Majeed Sheraidah says:

    I had an Iraqi friend living in Kuwait. We played cards in the evenings and any time one of us had to go to release himself(urinate) our host asks if the person goes out to urinate under one Mango( Alfonso type) tree. We all laughed but did it . The fruits were the best of its kind that were growing in other friends gardens. We never mentioned this to others or the family as they would have refused eating the Mango fruits he gave us to take home.

  21. RichSoil says:

    Over the past 2 growing seasons, I’ve been using human urine to fertilize citrus trees and garden vegetables. I have not diluted the urine 9:1 and often apply it undiluted. Both fruit trees and vegetables have responded very positively to this treatment. I’m done with buying commercial fertilizers!

  22. sunshinegardengal says:

    Human urine diluted as a fertilizer for grass is also amazing! I purchased a dial spray and have the urine in the container full strength for auto dilution. My grass as well as flower/veggie plants are doing wonderful. I have never seen my grass greener and so healthy. It’s amazing and all naturally organic.

    • Todd Heft says:

      Wow, that’s great! Containerized and everything. When you think about it, it’s the oldest fertilization method in history. It’s just tough for people to get past the “ick” factor … and of course, local health ordinances.

  23. Urine is proven to be a good fertilizer since it contains urea that is one of the main components of commercial fertilizers. This can also help in the protection of the environment since it does not emit any toxic components.

  24. Ole Wik says:

    I sprinkled urine around my two-tree apple orchard when the fruit was growing. I also soaked an old washcloth and hung it on a branch. These measures successfully repelled the resident bear up there. I even saw a bear near the trees, but it wouldn’t approach. This was the first time I actually beat the bears to a crop.

  25. Urine makes a good organic fertilizer for gardens. It contains urea that is present in all commercial fertilizers. Gardeners must make choices in preserving the beauty of their plants while still protecting their health and the environment.

  26. NicoleFarmer says:

    Great post! I’ve often thought about this, but I was worried the neighbors might see me.

  27. Helena says:

    My friend and I are doing a home garden together, the plants weren’t looking very good until I saw somebody using human urine as fertilizer for the plants. I google-d it and its safe to use, so I tried it and OMG my plants are beautiful, shiny, bushy and just beautiful. Unfortunately, my friend does not know I am using urine because, the first time I mentioned it she was freaking out like, it’s so disgusting etc. The good part is that when she comes over she’s always amazed how beautiful the garden is…

  28. ohsnap says:

    I have used urine (diluted) for two weeks and cannot believe the difference in my plants. I also pour it straight into my compost bin. There is no odor. Not to mention the water I’m saving for not having to flush all the time.

  29. Derek French says:

    Cat pee is better for keeping squirrels, rabbits, and unwanted house guest out of your garden or flower beds. I have a role of landscape fabric that was utilized as a litter box by some of my cats. One year later – even under mulch- it retains its scent when wet or warmed by the sun. I suspect this is due to (a) the higher concentration of urea in cat pee (they originally were desert animals) and (b) the odor retaining properties of fabric as opposed to natural surfaces.

    It does raise a question though: what dilution ratio of water to human urine would provide fertilizer benefits without the odor?

    • Todd says:

      Wow, that’s a great idea! Someone should market that.
      The suggested dilution by scientists is 9:1 (1 part urine, 9 parts water).

      • Anna says:

        I first read of using one’s urine in the Farmer’s Almanac several years ago. A woman and her sister growing geraniums diluted only one to one and doubled their flower yield. I have used it this way for years now, peeing onto a good sized pitcher at night, then in the morning, pouring out enough pee if I need to so that the ratio is about on to one. I have lots of happy potted plants, some vegetables, mostly flowers. No burning ever. No smell either. Great yield! Sad that the few times I have mentioned the idea, not that I do it, to friends, they think it is icky! Funny yet sad that my urine is icky to them but a strange cow’s feces are not! And mine is free, organic, and uncontaminated with hormones! What a place!

  30. Robin says:

    Excellent post…there always seems to be controversy over using urine as a fertilizer. Your post is the first that I have read that has good scientific background and facts in it. I think that there is something that may start being saved around here!

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