Urine as fertilizer: Would you try this?


“You know what really works? Urine.”

That was what my UPS carrier told me the other day in an exchange about keeping my plants alive. I had a lot of houseplants I’d just bought sitting outside, waiting to be repotted. “Who’s the green thumb?” he asked, handing over a parcel. “Well… they’re mine, but they’re replacing things I killed. So… not me,” I replied.

And that’s when he said it: “I started using some urine in my planters and everything is thriving!” he beamed.

“I’m never going to look at those plants the same way again.” I told him, slowly backing away. (And thinking: ‘I’m never going to look at you the same way again.’)

But I looked it up, and he’s right.

Scientific American published an article, appropriately titled “Gee Whiz,” and it makes a really compelling argument for peeing in your yard:

Recycling urine as fertilizer could not only make agriculture and wastewater treatment more sustainable … but also bolster food production and improve sanitation in developing countries.

Urine is chock full of nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus, which are the nutrients plants need to thrive—and the main ingredients in common mineral fertilizers. There is, of course, a steady supply of this man-made plant food: an adult on a typical Western diet urinates about 500 liters a year, enough to fill three standard bathtubs. And despite the gross-out potential, urine is practically sterile when it leaves the body, [researchers] pointed out. Unlike feces, which can carry bacteria like salmonella and E. coli, urine poses no health risks—astronauts on the International Space Station even drink the stuff—after it’s purified.

What do you think? Maybe that Fiddle Leaf Fig of yours would finally make it!

P.S. Small-space living

[Quoted: Mara Grunbaum in Scientific American / Photo from our Dining Room]

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