Men have a natural advantage when it comes to creating their own free fertiliser but with a little ingenuity you can create your own upcycled urine collection system for the women of the household and be water-wise at the same time
Starting a garden can be hard when you have very little disposable income, you’re in constant pain and you’re renting. Hard, but not impossible. While overcoming the challenges of growing fresh fruit and vegetables can be its own reward there is nothing like eating strawberries straight out of the garden or picking a bowl full of herbs and salad greens for lunch.
Cost can be a huge hurdle. If you want to be pernickety about it, a cheap bag of potting mix is the price of a kilogram of in-season tomatoes and that bag of potting mix may not produce much. I live in rural New South Wales and, while the staff at the local supermarket are fantastic, purchasing affordable fresh food locally can be a challenge. The decision to try to grow as much fresh food as possible was a no-brainer for me but would require more thought if you lived close to a shopping centre, market or local farmer. Choosing easy to grow but relatively expensive to buy crops is definitely the way to go.
I lower the cost of gardening by not buying fertiliser. A few years ago I invested in a worm farm but these are also easy to make. To supplement my worm castings, worm juice and home-made compost I have also begun using a somewhat little known but highly effective home-made free fertiliser.
I harvest my own urine, wee, pee, piss, tinkle tincture or whatever you’d like to call it. Put away that look of horror. Urine is sterile and loaded with the right form of nutrients for our plants. A lot of gardeners have anecdotal evidence of a corner of their yard blooming after a barbecue and, only the other day, I was chatting to a chap down the main street who informed me that he’d never seen a lemon tree in better condition after the area was designated the men’s loo at a gathering.
Many communities are now faced with severe water shortages and some regions have run out of water and are reliant on water carting. While we are encouraged to ‘if it’s yellow, let it mellow‘ to save water I’d like to add that it’s easier not to flush if you aren’t putting anything in the toilet to begin with.
The challenge was how to get the urine to the garden without breaking the law and traumatising my neighbours. Wee also needs to be diluted before applying it to plants (but can be used neat to destroy weeds). So, I created this design based on how I used to collect urine from female patients (for measuring not for analysis) when I was nursing. Some patients hated using a bedpan in bed and commode chairs weren’t always easy to come by so it was fairly straight forward to place a slipper pan in a standard toilet.
Grab an empty three litre milk container and cut the largest possible window out of one side. This is where you’ll be peeing into so, unless you have a fantastic aim, I suggest the bigger the better. Keep the lid on. Place inside the toilet and put the seat down. There isn’t too much overhead space but, with a little practice, you can wiggle into the right position. When you’re finished, carefully remove the container, tilt ever-so-slightly towards the base (not too much as you’ll wear the contents through that extra large window) and remove the lid. Now tilt the other way and pour the contents slowly into another container. You have a few options here. You can either pour the contents directly into your watering can for immediate use or you can save up enough to add to your washing machine grey water. I have repurposed a bleach bottle for this and labelled it ‘humanure’. Not strictly true (that’s compostable number twos) but it’s kinder on the eyeballs and offends less sensibilities than a bottle labelled Urine sitting in your bathroom. When pouring your wee into a bottle with a narrow top it’s best to do this over the toilet and, until you’ve perfected your technique, expect to handle a little of your sterile and warm deposit. Hand washing (which we would do anyway) takes care of that.
Wee should not be kept for more than twenty four hours (the stench alone is a great motivator) so I start harvesting urine the afternoon before I’m going to water. Once I’ve filled my bottle I dilute it 1:10 with my grey and recycled water. There are plenty of articles online about how to use urine in the garden but here’s a few I’ve found: