Pee on my tomatoes? You can kiss my ash

I was reading up the other day on how ashes might help a garden when the title “Human Pee With Ash is a Natural Fertilizer, Study Says” caught my eye. I mean, really, how couldn’t it, right? I looked again thinking I must have seen it wrong. Nope. I clicked on the link because I wanted to know who the hell would do a study about the correlation between urine mixed with ashes and a bumper tomato crop, and more importantly why. Unfortunately, the story didn’t really say why the scientists felt the urge to do such a study, but it was rather amusing nonetheless.

Burning the brush

I'm one step closer to tilling the garden now that the pile of brush has been turned into ash.


Maybe hard-core gardeners have heard about this study before. After all, the story was from 2009 and was published by the National Geographic Society. Not me though. I think I would have remembered this one.

Although I know urine is high in nitrogen and plants use lots of nitrogen, I guess I’m not creative enough to make the connection that one would help the other. Environmental scientists at University of Kuopio in Finland did though. Their study looked at how tomato yields were affected by using three kinds of fertilizer: one with human urine and birch ash, one with commercial mineral fertilizer and the third with just urine.

The findings? Plants fertilized with urine and ash yielded almost four times more tomatoes than nonfertilized plants, similar to that of commercial fertilizer, which increased plant yield by five times over nonfertilized plants. And, get this, urine alone produced more tomatoes than urine and ash together. Of course, if it’s the actual size of tomatoes you’re looking for, stick with urine and ash fertilizer, the study says.

You know what I’m thinking at this point, right? What do these tomatoes taste like? And does anyone really want to eat tomatoes that are fertilized by human urine? Nothing to worry about there either, the study says. “A group of 20 taste testers ranked tomatoes grown by all methods as equally tasty.” Of course, the story also points out that substances in the urine – pharmaceuticals and hormones – could also be in the tomatoes. So while the tomatoes might taste jim-dandy, you might also see extra hair growing on your chinny-chin-chin. OK, so I embellished a bit, but you get my drift.

I have to say though, the best part of this story is when it talks about how simple it is to collect the pee. “Urine can be collected from eco-friendly, urine-diverting toilets. Or farmers could just collect their pee in cans.” All I can say is that if you’re going to do this, don’t use an empty Mountain Dew bottle for your whiz can. You’re not going to be able to tell the difference until it’s too late. Yuck.

A pilot program based on the results was supposed to be launched in Nepal, but I couldn’t find anything about that. Could be that Nepal farmers, like probably most of the rest of real world, thought the idea as disgusting as I. I don’t care if urine would give me bigger and more tomatoes. Not gonna happen.

No thank you, I’ll just stick to plain old ashes, of which I have plenty now that my husband burned the pile of brush in the garden today. And if I should have to spit out a few pieces of wind-blown ash while I’m tilling them under, I’ll take comfort in knowing that smoke tastes a lot better than pee.

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Barbara Shay on April 9, 2012 at 8:17 pm

    Great read, Julie. Made me chuckle, and wince.

  2. Posted by WillowCottageGardeners on April 8, 2012 at 3:06 am

    Great post! I was thinking of alternative fertilizers but may give this one a miss! Her x

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