Say No to DEF as Fertilizer: Better Options for Your Garden

If you’re an avid gardener, you may have wondered if Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF) could be used as fertilizer. DEF, which is mainly composed of urea, is commonly added to large truck engines to alter exhaust emissions. However, using DEF in your garden or lawn is not recommended. Let’s explore why and discover better alternatives to nourish your plants.

DEF vs. Urea Fertilizer: A Mismatch for Your Garden

DEF is a mixture of about 30% urea and water, making it an inefficient nitrogen source for plants. In contrast, urea fertilizer has a nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium (NPK) ratio of 46-0-0, meaning it is a concentrated nitrogen fertilizer. The low urea content in DEF makes it a wasteful choice for enriching your plants’ nitrogen levels.

Moreover, DEF is primarily designed for use in truck engines and is not approved for field applications. While it may be slightly easier to store compared to granular urea, its effectiveness as a garden fertilizer is questionable. Urea fertilizer, on the other hand, is more affordable, potent, and specifically manufactured for agricultural use.

DEF As Fertilizer

The Perils of Using DEF as Fertilizer

While DEF may seem harmless for garden use, it lacks regulation and transparency regarding its ingredients. While DEF predominantly consists of urea and deionized water, it is not subject to FDA inspection or full ingredient disclosure. This raises concerns about potential impurities or unknown compounds in the product.

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Furthermore, the purity and quality of DEF can vary, especially considering the increasing cost and importation of urea in the United States. As an alternative, there are numerous nitrogen fertilizers available that can safely enhance your soil’s nitrogen levels. Organic options such as coffee grounds, compost, and even human urine can be effective and eco-friendly choices.

Urea: The Affordable Solution for Your Garden

Urea is an economical fertilizer widely used in agriculture globally. It is easily transportable and simple to apply. With a nitrogen content of 46%, urea is a cost-effective way to supplement nitrogen-deficient soil. Before applying any nitrogen product, it’s essential to test your soil and ensure a balanced NPK ratio.

For nitrogen-demanding plants like beets, soil amendment before and after cultivation is beneficial. However, be cautious when applying nitrogen-rich fertilizers directly to plant leaves, as it can cause leaf burns. Additionally, nitrogen fertilizers can increase soil acidity, which may be detrimental to certain plants.

Alternatives to DEF: Nitrogen Fertilizers to Consider

If urea is unavailable or you’re exploring other options, several safe and low-cost nitrogen fertilizers can be used in your garden:

1. Human Urine

Government studies have confirmed that human urine can be safely used as a nitrogen supplement in garden soil. Ensure that urine is applied away from plant leaves to prevent nitrogen burns. Monitoring the pH of the mixture can also help avoid excessive soil acidification.

2. Coffee Grounds

Don’t discard those coffee grounds! Instead, collect them and add them to compost piles or use them to create a concentrated liquid nitrogen fertilizer. However, be cautious of coffee’s acidity and test the pH before application, ensuring it’s away from plant leaves.

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3. Blood Meal

Blood meal is an organic nitrogen fertilizer readily available at most stores. With an NPK ratio of 12-0-0, it provides nitrogen as well as other beneficial minerals to the soil. Blood meal is also known to repel garden pests such as squirrels and rabbits.

Embrace Urea: A Sensible Choice for Your Garden

While DEF may initially appear suitable for your garden, it falls short as a fertilizer due to its low urea content and lack of regulation for agricultural use. Urea, with its high nitrogen concentration and affordability, remains a preferred option for gardeners. It is essential to make informed decisions about fertilizing your soil to promote healthy plant growth.

So remember, skip the DEF and embrace urea or other nitrogen-rich alternatives for a flourishing garden. Your plants will thank you for it!

Ames Farm Center