For the last few years I have been dealing with two challenges; a tiny septic tank that needs to be pumped frequently, and a garden that grew and grew in size – bringing with it a need for a lot of irrigation water in our long dry summers. It doesn’t rain here from the end of May until the end of September or later. AND it often gets very hot in the middle of that dry spell. So I have needed to find ways to conserve water wherever I could so I would have enough for the garden, and I needed to stop filling my septic tank with water used to simply flush pee. My main solution has been to NOT flush when it’s just urine, but that can get pretty unpleasant to say the least. And then there was the issue of wasting all that urine!
I discovered a few years back what a great fertilizer pee is and have already done a blog post on it! It’s become my favorite fertilizer! I just needed a better way to collect it. Using large yogurt containers to catch it was really not working out well for me. Besides invariably peeing on my hand, dealing with the containers was a hassle for so many reasons. So I found myself avoiding it.
At one point I bought myself a cheap toilet seat and sat it on a 5 gal. bucket in my potting shed – to use when I work in the garden. It slid around and was a total pain to use. Finally out of desperation I went on line and discovered Luggable Loos! They are an amazing, lightweight plastic toilet seat that clamps firmly on to a 5 gal. bucket, but not so firmly that you can’t get it off to empty the bucket. After using it for a month or so I liked it so much I got another one for in the house. I have a big walk-in closet in my bedroom/office with the perfect place for one. So in one fell swoop I solved three problems!
But there was still a challenge to deal with. Because the toilet seat isn’t THAT easy to take off – and mostly because I am lazy, and emptying the thing every day was sometimes a challenge, it would get pretty stinky. Urine doesn’t smell at all when it’s fresh (unless you ate asparagus the night before!)… but two or three days of sitting – well – I’m sure you know. That wasn’t such a great thing to have in my clothes closet, as you might imagine…
Then one day, as I was reloading my half barrel of biochar after a debris burn this winter, and adding urine to “charge” it – two things occurred to me. One – I could put some char in my pee buckets and “charge” it that way – AND – I remembered that charcoal is a great deodorizer! So I shoveled about 12 inches into each of them and Voila! – no more smell! When the urine reaches the top of the charcoal I haul the bucket to the garden, take a big mesh strainer and put it on a small 2 gallon bucket. Then I slowly empty the pee bucket into it, catching any charcoal in the strainer and putting it back in the “toilet” for a couple more rounds. Fine charcoal powder goes with the urine into the small bucket. This – it turns out is a great combination for most plants in the garden because it adds potash.
I then use it in the garden and on potted plants by putting a quart or two into a 3 gal. watering can of water to fertilize whatever needs it at the moment. My houseplants love it, too. I’ve never had such great blooms on my African viotets! After a few rounds of that I empty the saturated charcoal onto a compost pile or somewhere that needs it and add fresh charcoal to the “toilets”. The system keeps me from using a toilet for urine and wasting water, and collects a valuable resource simply and easily. The toilet paper gets saved for a compost pile.
Here is a little more information if you need it:
“The average person flushes the toilet five times a day, and four of those times are just for urine. This means that 80% of our flushwater—or over 4,000 gallons of clean water each year per person—is used just to get rid of urine! That is a lot of clean water used to transport ‘liquid gold’ into the sewer, where it becomes pollution. If we save it instead of flushing it, we can harvest a valuable resource that we can use in agriculture.”
The Rich Earth Institute
Human urine is naturally rich in nitrogen (N), potassium (K), and phosphorus (P), the three components of most synthetic fertilizers (NPK)
In the first US trial using human urine as fertilizer, hay grew greener, more lush, and with significantly increased yields
For the average person, a year’s worth of urine contains about eight pounds of nitrogen and nearly one pound of phosphorus – enough to grow about one year’s worth of food, naturally
From an article in Mother Jones magazine:
“For more than a decade, 130 households in Stockholm, Sweden, have collected their urine–nearly 40,000 gallons of it per year–and trucked it off to be sprayed on crops. More than 600,000 Chinese households in at least 17 provinces use special urine-diverting toilets to fertilize crops such as sugarcane, watermelons, and peanuts. Farming communities in 17 African countries have also taken up the practice of collecting urine. And in the central Mexican village of Tepoztlán, an environmental group wheels a urine-collecting porta-potty to fiestas and uses the cache on local fields.”
Human urine is a very high-quality fertilizer. It is so high-quality, in fact, that a single person’s urine would be enough to fertilize up to one tenth of an acre of vegetables for an entire year.”