7 Days to Grow Your Own Natural Fertiliser

There is a plant you can easily grow in many parts of the world for fabulous soil improvement and nutritious animal feed that doubles it's size every seven days - Azolla (water fern, fairy moss...)...an abundantly useful resource and well worth harvesting.

Azolla (Azolla pinnata or Azolla filiculoidesis a native perennial water plant that grows wildly on a dam near my house. Close-up you can see that it is a lovely looking little floating fern. It has little dangling roots that suck up nutrients and clean the dam.

The kids and I have been out harvesting it regularly to add to the compost, the garden and to feed the chickens. 

I've been watching it spread across the dam over the past couple of weeks. The kids and I keep harvesting, but there always seems to be more. We are planning to go and collect as much as we can before the frosts come and it sinks. It is a fabulous food for animals and excellent for making compost, liquid fertiliser and improving soil structure.

A hands on (and feet in) kind of homeschool lesson on pond ecology - and a super fun splash in the pond trying to work out how to float Monty.

The reasons I love Azolla:

Yesterday's collection. Today we had another load the same. 

Even a small urban garden could benefit from a small waterbody containing Azolla. You could grow it in a tub on your verandah and grab handfuls regularly to add to worm farms or directly only potted plants. All you need is a handful to get you started.

It's easy to keep in a pot, tub or bathtub at home too. (a few waterlilies in there too)
You can set up an old bathtub too and grow enough to feed your chickens.

Like legumes and pioneers in permaculture systems, Azolla is also helpful in fixing nitrogen and as it decomposes it puts lots of nitrogen into the soil.

Azolla farming is popular in Asia. IN rice paddies azolla acts as a natural fertiliser, and because it creates a mat, it suppresses week growth. Cutting the cost of fertiliser and weedicide is a great benefit to small farmers - as well as being better for their health and the health of the environment.

Do you grow it? How have you been integrating it into your system?

Extra information:

Milkwood did an excellent blog about it back in 2012 https://www.milkwood.net/2012/08/06/azolla-water-fern-as-protein-rich-animal-feed/ if you want to read more details.

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