As an avid permaculturalist, I’m constantly thinking about new ways to introduce biomass back into my gardens. Harvesting fruit and vegetables, mowing grass with the catcher on, and even the odd bout of pruning all deplete the nutrients in our soils. We all know about the importance of composting as a way of recycling organic household waste and adding a bit of love back into the garden, but what about peeing outside?
Far from peeing in your yard being necessitated by late-night drunken tomfoolery or as a last resort when all the toilets are occupado, research shows that it can actually do your plants and property a lot of good. In fact, farmers and green thumbers alike have been using this practice for thousands of years, and there’s no reason why it shouldn’t continue into the future.
Here are six benefits of peeing in your yard.
1. Fertilize your plants and lawn
Rather than being simply a useless waste product fit only for flushing down the toilet, your pee is actually a treasure trove of important nutrients. First and foremost of those nutrients is nitrogen, an element that’s critical to the healthy growth of all plants.
So why not put that nitrogen to work as a natural, free and effective fertilizer for the plants in your yard? Research shows that such a suggestion isn’t as ridiculous as it sounds, with large-scale sustainability projects in third world areas like Uganda and Amazon countries showing that human urine is a highly effective fertilizer in agricultural settings. And let’s not forget a study published in the prestigious International Dry Toilet Conference, which showed that plants fertilized with human urine exhibited the fastest growth, even when compared to standard mineral fertilizer.
But it’s important to remember that all that nitrogen in your pee can spell bad news for plants if it’s administered at high doses. When planning to use pee as a fertilizer around your garden or on your lawn, be sure to dilute it to a ratio of 20:1, consisting of 20 parts water to one part urine. To play it safe, also be sure to sprinkle the diluted pee mixture away from the stems and leaves of your plants — it’s potent stuff!
2. Enhance your garden
Not only does your pee contain a whackload of plant-boosting nitrogen, it also contains a good amount of potassium and phosphorus. Together, these three are reverently referred to as NPK: the terrific trio of nutrients that form the building blocks of any flourishing garden.
3. Kill weeds
While a lot of good can come from using pee as a diluted fertilizer, you can definitely have too much of a good thing when it comes to peeing on the plants you love. But that knowledge can be harnessed and put to use killing off pesky weeds around your yard.
You see, too much nitrogen can cause most plants to turn yellow and shrivel, on account of something called “root burn.” This is essentially just a plant’s response to receiving too much of just one nutrient (in this case, nitrogen), and it can very effectively and very rapidly kill a plant if applied repeatedly. Added to that are the salts we excrete out in our pee — they can be harmful to plants too, making your pee something of a double whammy when it comes to wiping out weeds.
So if you don’t want a particular plant growing in your yard, peeing directly on it should wipe it out within a few days.
4. Boost your compost
Word on the street is, the uric acid present in your pee can actually help to boost the rate of decomposition in your garden compost. Faster decomposition means you can start using that “black gold” that almost miraculously appears at the bottom of the compost pile sooner. But there’s not a lot of research to back this claim up, so it’s something of a leap of faith.
What we do know for sure, however, is that human pee contains lots of nitrogen. Increases in nitrogen can boost soil microbiological activity, meaning your compost may benefit from a healthy dose of pee if it’s lacking in nitrogen. Be sure to balance out all that nitrogen with plenty of carbon-rich additions to your compost, however.
5. Use it as a natural antifungal spray
The high uric acid content in your pee also makes it a great natural antifungal agent. If fungus is a problem on hardier plants like berry bushes and small trees, you can dilute your pee with 50 percent water and spray it directly onto affected foliage and stems.
6. Deter pests
This one is probably an old wives tale, but some people swear by the use of their own pee as a deterrent for keeping pests like rabbits, foxes and even deer out of their yard. Apparently, the pheromones in our pee raise a red flag to certain pest species, who steer clear when they catch a whiff.
But the science doesn’t really back this one up, unfortunately. A 2001 study showed that human pee wasn’t more effective than a control for keeping away gray squirrels from the garden (but raccoon and red fox pee were), while another study found that human pee didn’t prevent the marauding of white-tailed deer during the winter. Apparently, “deer do not respond aversively to odors of non-predatory mammals or occasional predators with which they lack a long evolutionary association” (i.e. us).
That being said, the anecdotal evidence is considerable, so it’s worth a shot, right? At the very least, you can probably kill a few weeds while you’re at it!
— Liivi Hess