Milk is an amazing organic fertilizer to build natural fertility! In your orchard, pasture and garden it is a completely natural, holistic and Organic option. When your goats or cow is giving you an overabundant supply of milk this is one great way to put it to use without wasting it.
The problem of finding natural, holistic, organic fertilizer is easily solved on the homestead by extra milk or whey from making cheese. Diluted it can be applied to even your indoor plants.
When I first came across this I was so glad to have yet another resourceful way of using our excess milk and whey. There are peak seasons where you are up to your eyeballs in milk and simply don’t have time to make cheese or soap every other day.
Over the years I’ve heard of the benefits of using milk in the garden or soaking watermelon seeds in milk. I’ve never watered a pumpkin with milk like Almanzo, but I have taken the Garden Guy’s advice and soaked my watermelon seeds in milk. And yes, the water melons always turned out amazing!
Here are the quotes from the few resources I’ve found over the years. Compared to all the gardening and homesteading books out there, this isn’t much on the subject. It is enough though to make you realize that it might be a good thing to pay more attention to.
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Milk as Organic Fertilizer on the Pasture
“[Raw milk or whey]..is useful on both large areas or the smallest flowerpot with results that are consistently impressive...David Wetzel..dressed sections of land with various ratios of raw skim milk or whey and water using a tractor-mounted spray rig. Results have been so gratifying that Wetzel urges those needing fertilizer to order up a tanker of milk from the nearest dairy. He suggests paying the farmer a premium over the meager price he would get from the co-op. ‘It’s worth more on the land,’ he declares.
Many formulations are possible, but according to Wetzel, a mixture of three gallons of milk to seventeen gallons of water is highly successful not only to promote vigorous growth of grass but to build lasting fertility.”
—From: Keeping A Family Milk Cow, Grohman, J. S. (2013) pp. 193-4
For the small-scale homestead, that would be about 1 cup of milk or whey to every 6 cups of water—more or less. It’s not an exact number.
You can mix up your diluted milk in a five gallon bucket and dump it on your pasture.
If you want to get fancy you could buy a sprayer (that hasn’t had chemicals in it before) and use that. It might make things a little bit easier.
Milk as Organic Fertilizer on Houseplants
“In recent years I have made it a practice to rinse out every jar or glass that has contained milk and poor the washings into a handy bucket. I use this cloudy water on potted plants. The results have been hugely rewarding…”
—From: Keeping A Family Milk Cow, Grohman, J. S. (2013) pp. 194
This is simple and yet the rewards she goes on to describe in her book show that it’s more than worth it. Plants too well with a diluted amount of milk!
Milk as Organic Fertilizer in the Garden
“When I was a kid, my dad would soak the Watermelon seeds in a milk-bath a day before we planted them. Why milk? I still don’t know, but we always had the best Watermelon patch in town!”
—From Extreme Gardening by Dave Owens, “The Garden Guy” (page 81)
I have to say, my own experience confirms the benefits of this great tip!
“For years I had been congratulating myself on the exuberant growth of my rose bushes. I treated them with whey and milk washings and thought myself quite original, but no, some farmers have known this for years.”
—From: Keeping A Family Milk Cow, Grohman, J. S. (2013) pp. 193
“‘Well, well, Mr. Wilder, so your boy’s got first prize!’…’I never saw a pumpkin that beat it for size. How’d you raise such a big pumpkin, Almanzo?’ ‘I raised it on milk. It’s a milk-fed pumpkin.”
—From Farmer Boy, by Laura Ingalls Wilder (page 271-273)
Both of these quotes are quite interesting!
If you are wondering how to apply it, I’d go with the recommendations for fertilizing pasture (about 1 cup of milk or whey to every 6 cups of water).
Milk as Organic Fertilizer in the Orchard
Sorry, no quotes here. I wish I had, but as of yet I have not come across any directly related to the orchard or trees.
After reading the quotes above, I think it’s safe to say it would be great for your fruit trees too. I’ve used it on my fruit trees and have had no problems, although I can’t really tell yet (by looking at the trees) that it is actually benefiting them. Understanding how great it is for the pasture and garden and understanding a little bit about the microbes in the soil though, I assume the results would be similar.