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
Wow! 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
According to All Africa Global Media
“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.