Why You Should Start Using Leftover Dog Food In Your Garden

Using leftover dog food in your garden — it's an interesting prospect for sure, but does it really work? Apparently so, and it makes sense if you think about it. Dog food isn't so different from food we eat, and it breaks down the same way as any other protein-based supplement would. Expired dog food or dog food that you would otherwise throw out are both viable sources. The reason it's beneficial as a fertilizer is because as it breaks down, it gives your soil a slow, steady supply of nutrients for your plants — instead of shocking or burning them with a sudden infusion of fertilizer.

The way it works is a bit different than other fertilizers, but you can understand why it's a good idea if you look at some of the ingredients. Most dog food contains 35%-40% protein. Some of the nutrients that are released into the soil when dog food breaks down are nitrogen, phosphorus, calcium, and potassium, to name a few. When you prepare it correctly and add it into the soil the right way, it's both safe and beneficial.

How to use dog food as fertilizer

The best way to use your new fertilizer is by adding water to the food first and allowing it to expand. Mixing it well — using a blender, for example — will further help it along. It also helps increase the rate at which bacteria break down the food into nitrogen. Since this is a slower process anyway, speeding it up wherever possible is desirable. Grinding it up first also helps for easier distribution.

Next we're going to mix it up with 2 to 4 inches of topsoil. Blend the mix very well and then apply it to the garden soil or outdoor potted plants. Water it and let it rest. Afterward, put down a layer of mulch, mainly as a deterrent to any other pests who still might smell the dog food and try to dig it up. The more you do to help break it down before applying it, the more you will reduce the potential smell. You don't want any dogs digging up the area — they could get poisoned by eating the potting soil mixed in with the dog food, so keep that in mind.

Adding cat litter

Another interesting recipe for fertilizer using dog food also uses cat litter — unused, of course. Cat litter has potassium-rich clay that is released by the litter into the soil. Additionally, it helps the soil retain moisture better so that nutrients aren't simply washed away. The third ingredient is alfalfa pellets, which add trace minerals and macronutrients, as well as helpful bacteria, nitrogen, and organic matter.

According to Balcony Garden Web, for a 6-foot-by-6-foot garden plot, use 25 pounds of dry dog food, 20 pounds of cat litter, and 25 pounds of alfalfa pellets. Basically, you blend all the ingredients together and till them under and into the ground to a considerable depth, using a shovel or a tiller. Afterward, water everything about 3 to 4 inches deep and place flattened cardboard boxes across your garden, making sure they overlap each other by at least 6 inches in order to keep weeds from growing through. Next you water the cardboard until it sags, then cover it up with 4 to 6 inches of coastal hay mulch. Continue to water the site deeply once a week for three to four more weeks.