Fish Fertilizer and Fancy Flowers and Philanthropic Fellas and Fillies

Fish Fertilizer

I was just visiting Gardening Without Skills’ blog, and she was talking about fish emulsion fertilizer.  Well…..a couple weeks ago we went fishing and caught 21 small catfish.  Lucky me, I got to clean all 21.  By the time you finish cleaning a small catfish, almost half the fish is in the garbage pile. 


Eco-friendly woman that I am, the green in me wouldn’t let me throw all the nibblets away without trying to make a batch of fish emulsion.  I used, approximately, one part fish parts (no heads…would probably take forever to decompose), one part shredded leaves (it’s supposed to help mask the odor and absorb the organic nitrogen), and a few spoonfuls of brown sugar (to help build microbes and speed decomposition).  The recipe called for molasses, but I didn’t have any.   Next you add water and stir every day for a couple of weeks while the fish decomposes.

I’ve read stories about maggots (yuck!!) finding their way into the container, so what I did was sat my bucket inside an old pillow case and secured the top so that nothing could get in except oxygen.


That’s what it looked like on day one.  Tuesday will be two weeks, and the only smell it’s giving off is that of something sweet fermenting (hope I didn’t add too much brown sugar).  It did have a kind of funky smell the first couple of days, though.  No fish parts are visible now either.  Next I’ll have to drain the liquid and figure out how I’m supposed to store it.

Fancy Flowers

On to a prettier picture.100_0151

That’s a bloom from the tree peony…and there are a few more to come.


I’m so glad you guys told me what the plant was.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Philanthropic Fellas and Fillies

Earlier in the day I spent a few hours at a work day that Greg Bratton, Master Gardener, and Dinah Ramirez, Coordinator for Healthy South Chicago, had organized for two of their community gardens.  The volunteers were supplied by the University of Chicago Hospitals.  There were about 30 volunteers split between the two gardens. 

Here’s a picture of Caroline  (on the left) who was in charge of the volunteers and one of the young ladies who volunteered.


They did a lot of work: pulling weeds, moving debris, painting the fence, planting seedlings and just generally making things look nice and neat.



While they were relocating these pieces of wood, they ran across two garden snakes.  That was a first for me.  I’ve heard about snakes in peoples’ back yards, my mother-in-law sees them relatively often, but I had never seen one.  I missed out on a perfect Kodak moment because I didn’t have my camera with me when one of the volunteers picked the snake up just behind its head and posed for a picture.  I thought I snapped the shot with my phone, but I’m just a little phone picture taking illiterate and there was no picture when I checked the camera.  When they ran across Snake #2 I had my trusty camera with me.


You’ll have to kind of zoom in to see it. It’s in the upper left quadrant of the space between the closest two railroad ties.  I guess it was resentful of people redecorating its home because it sat there for a long time.

Here’s a zoomed in picture (just for you, Annie’s Granny)


After a long morning of hard work, the volunteers sat down for lunch.


Refreshments were supplied by one of the neighborhood hospitals (fruit trays) and Neil Bosanko from the South Chicago Chamber of Commerce supplied the sandwiches.

100_0143(Left to right:  One of the community residents who helped barbecue the hot dogs; Dominique Bowman, who is starting her own community garden with the help of Gregory Bratton; Dinah Ramirez, she sat up the refreshments and made sure everbody was nourished and hydrated, and Neil Bosanko who supplied the sandwiches).

The volunteer program at U of C is kind of a big deal.  They sent out their camera man to snap a few shots.  Here’s a shot of the ameature photographer taking a picture of the professional photographer.  (We know his job is not in jeopardy).100_0149 

 This guy here gets my pick for “Worker of the Day.”  From the time they got there until they sat down for lunch, whenever I’d see him, he was working.100_0150

 I even ran into one of the ladies (pictured on the left) from my Building Urban Gardens class.  They have a community garden about a mile from where I live.100_0145

Congratulations, Gregory and Dinah, on your successful work day.  Here’s hoping the garden is as successful this year as it has been in the past.

Happy Gardening!!!!



  1. May 17, 2009 at 8:57 am

    Cheryl, you have more guts than I have! (Pun intended).

    Cherish that tree peony. Wasn’t I reading on someones blog just this week that those babies sell for around $100?

    I zoomed, I still can’t spot that darned snake 😦

  2. gardengoodies said,

    May 17, 2009 at 9:21 am

    Love the pun (LOL). I had to throw the rest of the fish parts away on a Tuesday, and the garbage isn’t collected until Monday. I’m sure my neighbors thought I had a body in the garbage can.

    The wife who lived here before us must have loved to garden. They had an apple tree (which, sorry, had to go because it was causing too much shade) and a huge grape vine. I tried to save the grape vine, but the tree cutter cut there when I said to cut here and cut the piece of the vine I was trying to save…boo hoo, tears streaming down my cheeks). I didn’t even say anything to him because what good would it have done? I’m hearing that the tree peony is a high ticket item, but I never knew they existed. I’ll be looking out for them in the store.

    p.s. I zoomed the picture. It’s in the post right under the full sized picture.

    • May 17, 2009 at 10:04 am

      OK, now I see it! When we lived in our previous house, we had snakes in our garden. Each year, the first time I’d spot one, that’s when the garden would go to weeds! I’m not gardening with no stinkin’ snakes. I’m a pretty brave woman, but I am terrified of snakes….even little garter snakes. Nope. Nuh-huh. Not for me. Although I did chase a 6′ long King Snake with a camera one day in AZ, after he slithered up onto the front porch where we were sitting!

      • gardengoodies said,

        May 17, 2009 at 10:26 am

        You sound just like my mother-in-law. I’ve got stuff growing everywhere, and when she comes over, I think she spends more time looking on the ground for snakes than looking at the plants.

        Chasing a King Snake. Not for me. That definitely qualifies you as being a brave lady.

  3. May 19, 2009 at 2:52 pm

    Thanks for the idea of making your own Fish Fertilizer I will have to give it a try next time I go fishing. Did you end up using it?

  4. gardengoodies said,

    May 20, 2009 at 12:50 am

    The only thing I’ve done so far is taken some of the leaves out and added them to my potting soil mix. I’m going to apply some to a test section first.

  5. Kate said,

    June 5, 2009 at 4:59 pm

    I’ve gotta ask – now that it’s been awhile – how is your fish fertilizer??

    • gardengoodies said,

      June 5, 2009 at 5:26 pm

      I’ve got to be honest. I’m a little afraid to use it. It never really stank, which you would expect with fish innards. And when I read about people using it they talk about a fishy smell.

      I did strain it and put the leaves in with the compost and I’ve been puting just about a tablespoon into a gallon of water and watering transplants with the water. The plants are doing okay, but who knows if they were going to do okay anyway. I keep saying I’m going to do a real test with a stronger solution but I haven’t got around to it yet.

  6. Kate said,

    June 5, 2009 at 5:31 pm

    That IS strange! You’d expect it to be foul smelling for sure!! I can’t imagine it would hurt anything to keep doing what you’re doing though. Thanks for the update!

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