May sound disgusting to some, but urine is considered sterile if the source is healthy and free of viruses and infection. Urine is mostly water and urea. Urea is a chemical compound produced by the processing of protein in our bodies.
Why might urine be good for the garden?
High in nitrogen, urine also contains more phosphorous, potassium and trace minerals than many of the fertilizers we buy at the store! Urine from drug-free, healthy people could end up one of your favorite fertilizers.
Where do I find urine?
Stupid question? Well, not really…
Humans, mammals, amphibians and some fish create the natural form of urea. The urea in our blood gets processed by our kidneys and also through our sweat glands before it’s converted to urine for easy exit.
Synthetic versions of urea can be created in liquid or solid form. It’s colorless, odorless and a prime ingredient in many fertilizers.
Synthetic urea-based fertilizers do almost nothing to improve the organic matter of the soil and their high concentrations can actually throw your soil off balance.
Learn more about the differences between synthetic and natural urea above in the section on the Differences Between Natural and Synthetic Fertilizers.
Safely Collecting Urine
My kids have a healthy diet and usually don’t take medications. They are an entertaining source of free fertilizer. When asked to pee in a bucket, they usually laugh and think it’s fun, especially as they pretend to spill it on the way out of the bathroom. If you have boys, well, the process may be easier.
The chance that urine from your immediate family will spread disease is slim.
Human feces are a big safety risk in the home garden. It can wash away with the urine. Feces contain bacteria and pathogens that can make you awfully sick.
If you’ve ever supplied a urine sample at the doctor, they always provide a sanitary wipe to use prior. If you thought it was to clean up the area after you make a mess, then you’ve been doing it wrong all these years!
As my grandmother used to say, “kids are busy” and if you think about it, kids don’t take the time to ensure they are squeaky clean after a bathroom visit. It’s best that kids clean themselves properly before peeing in a cup. That may take all the fun out of it, sorry!
Which plants may benefit from urine?
Any plants that need nitrogen will benefit from urine. Because urine offers other nutrients beyond nitrogen, it is a good choice for tomatoes if diluted well and applied early in the growing season. Apply urine at least a month before harvest. If serving tomatoes that have been fertilized with pee gives you the “willies”, try it in the compost pile.
Combine urine with…
In my wildest garden dreams I never envisioned myself stirring a cauldron of nutritious pee soup for my soil. I can be a witch sometimes but that’s another book. My advice would be to forgo mixing anything with urine.
Some folks apply wood ash at the same time in small quantities. See the wood ash recipes for recommendations.
Recipe for Using Urine in the Edible Garden
Once I’ve watered my plants, I then water with the diluted urine. Man, I’m a pain about watering first. Sorry to be so repetitive but it really does make a difference. Moist soil will enable any fertilizer to disperse more uniformly. Try not to contact the leaves or fruits when pouring diluted urine near your plants.
A good ratio of urine to water would be 1 part urine to 8 parts water. It’s fine to dilute it even more. No need to be precise, if you think you have about a cup of urine, fill a gallon jug half way with water and then add the urine.
A little less than a half-gallon of urine would work well in a 5 gallon bucket of water. Fertilize at least a month before harvest of edible crops.
Urine Quick Tips
- Storing undiluted urine pee for more than a day will create a smelly situation but it should not grow harmful bacteria if the product does not contain feces. In fact, pathogens should be killed off in 1-2 months if urine is stored in warm temperatures and exposed to the sun’s rays. There is a good article online about the use and storage of urine on the Permaculture Research Institute’s website. Check that out and more in the Bibliography. Go to the topic Urine.
- Nitrogen produces lots of leaves and green growth so be careful not to over-apply urine to flowering or fruiting plants.
- I do not use urine near lettuces or other leafy greens because not enough time passes between application and harvest. I also do not use urine on soil where root crops are growing unless I apply it 120 days prior to the harvest date.
- Urine works well to heat up your compost pile. If your anatomy and housing arrangements allow, pee straight into the pile and turn it under or cover with carbon-rich materials to balance out and react nicely with the nitrogen.
- In some parts of the world, human fecal matter is dehydrated and used in agriculture. I’ll leave that up to the experts for now!