Yes, you read that correctly.
Far from being solely the behaviour of the woefully inebriated, introducing urine to one’s garden space is actually an age-old practice that’s used by gardeners and farmers around the world. It has a number of different uses, so depending on what your garden needs, you can use it a variety of ways.
1. Urine as Fertilizer
Did you know that human urine is chock full of nitrogen? Okay, maybe you did, but you might be wondering why that’s a good thing, and what it has to do with your garden. Well, plants generally need more nitrogen than any other element, as it’s used to synthesize amino acids, enzymes, proteins, and chlorophyll, and some plants suck up far more than others do. Corn, for example, requires much more nitrogen than most other plants, which is why they were generally paired with beans as part of the Native “3 sisters” combination: beans deposit nitrogen into the soil, and thus help corn to thrive.
We’re not talking about beans right now, though: we’re talking about wee, which is such a high-quality fertilizer that a single person’s urine would be enough to fertilize up to one tenth of an acre of vegetables for an entire year. If you plan to use pee as a fertilizer for actual plants in your garden, be sure to dilute it in a 20:1 ratio (20 parts water, 1 part pee) and sprinkle it around on the soil around the plants, not the plants themselves.
2. Soil Enhancer
As urine isn’t merely rich in nitrogen, but also phosphorous and potassium, it replenishes soil that has had its minerals depleted by over-farming. Get a bunch of friends together and have everyone pee in your garden in late autumn, then put down some layers of vegetable peelings, leaves, and hay as mulch. By springtime, that soil will be loaded with nutrients that will plump up your parsnips and coddle your cabbages.
3. Compost Accelerator
The whole point of composting vegetable matter is to break it down so it can be used to fertilize the next generation of plants, but that decomposition takes time.
The uric acid present in urine accelerates compost decomposition, so taking a leak on your compost pile is actually fantastic for breaking it down. Of course, uric acid is most concentrated in your first pee of the day, so if you’re aiming to let loose on the compost, you’ll either have to trudge out there will a full, insistent bladder, or else keep a jar/watering can/bucket in the washroom to collect said liquid gold and then toss it on the compost when you’re a bit less bleary-eyed.
4. Weed Murderer
Have you noticed that when dogs urinate on specific patches of grass, that grass tends to die? First it goes yellow (from the acids in the urine), then it dries up as it dies. Guess what? It’s not just un-diluted dog pee that will kill plants: human urine will do the same.
It’s been mentioned that you have to dilute urine like crazy-pants to ensure that it’s safe for the garden, because the acids contained therein will burn and kill your plants if you use it full-strength. You can, however, use that full-strength pee on weeds that you don’t want in your garden.
5. Fungus Fighter
Speaking of things you don’t want in your garden… sometimes plants can develop fungal diseases like leaf rot and downy mildew. Remember that uric acid we talked about? It’s also great for eliminating/discouraging those fungi on plants like berry bushes and low trees. You’ll have to dilute it by about 50%, and then use a spray bottle to spritz the watery wee on the affected areas.
*Note: in both World Wars, soldiers apparently urinated on their own feet to get rid of (or even prevent) athlete’s foot and other foot-fungi that thrived in the damp trench conditions. Whether this was effective or not, I have no idea, but it’s possible that it helped!
6. High-Carbon-Soil Balancer
Most people don’t give much thought to how soil is made, but just like most other substances on the planet, it has to be built. That rich, dark soil that’s so gorgeous for planting was created over time from broken-down plant matter, including sawdust, leaves, branches, and hay. These are dry “brown” materials, high in carbon, that break down very, very slowly, while those that are high in nitrogen are moist “green” materials, such as lawn clippings, vegetable peelings… and urine.
Ideally, you’ll want to have equal portions of brown and green matter so that your compost is well balanced, but those who keep compost heaps generally have a great deal more in the way of lawn clippings and leaves than potato peels and carrot tops. To boost the nitrogen quotient, add un-diluted urine to the heap: it won’t just accelerate the breakdown (as listed in #3), but will help to balance out the nutrient ratios in your future soil.
7. Animal Deterrent
If you’ve ever spent any time with a dog, you’ll notice that they like to mark their territory with their urine so all the other neighbourhood dogs know who lives where, and not to disrespect boundaries.
Apparently, the scent of human urine (again, early morning pungent pee) can keep animals such as cats, foxes, and rabbits away from your garden. This hasn’t been tested by anyone I know and could just be hearsay, but it could be worth a try! Do note that this supposedly only works with adult male urine, as it’s full of potent hormones and manliness and such.
8. Deer Defense
This is really an extension of #7, but is special enough for its own little section.
If you live in an area that’s frequented by deer, you’ll likely have had some issues with the lovely beasts nibbling greenery from your garden. To keep them out of your lettuce bed, you should apparently fill a spray bottle with your own early morning urine (if you’re a guy—ladies will have to coax a partner or friend to donate instead), and then hose down the nearby trees, a few feet from the ground. Like, the height at which a deer’s nose will smell it easily.
The idea behind this is that deer are frightened of humans, and the strong scent of human presence should be enough to spook them away. If it doesn’t work, call up your local zoo or wildlife centre and ask them for a bag of coyote or wolf poop: that should keep them from venturing too close.
If you do decide to put any of these into practice, do let us know how/if they work for you.
As a side note, if you happen to get caught urinating in your yard after a night of particularly fervent partying, you can use some of these benefits as an excuse for your behaviour.
Raised beds look amazing in any garden space: How to Build a Raised Garden BedFeatured photo credit: crossbreed dog peeing on grass via Shutterstock