Adam Henson on how nitrogen fertiliser presents 'conundrum'

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Plants can struggle in the heat of summer and will even begin to wilt or lose their colour without the right nutrients. According to one expert, fertiliser is vital for plants as it provides essential vitamins and minerals for the plant to be “structurally sound” and “healthy”, but it comes at a cost. While paying out for commercial products is one way to ensure your plants get everything they need to thrive, peanut shells are a winning alternative, and cost just a fraction of the price. Here’s how to use them to rescue both indoor, and garden plants.

Speaking exclusively to, James Mayo, biophilic ambassador at Exubia revealed how nitrogen-rich peanut shells really are all you need to fertilise plants on a budget.

He said: “It’s crucial to fertilise your plants as much as possible between the start of April to the end of September because this is the period when plants actively grow.

“The plants sense the rise in temperature and extra sunlight and begin actively seeking nutrients to help boost their growth – if there isn’t a sufficient supply of the six essential nutrients that they need, they will be significantly stunted in development.”

Nitrogen is one of the key ingredients required by both houseplants and garden plants to flourish through the warmer months, and there’s plenty of it packed into the hard outer shells of peanuts.

James explained that all types of peanuts work, as long as they’re plain, without salt or flavourings which could dehydrate the plant.

He said: “Peanuts are an absolutely fantastic solution to fertiliser and are really nitrogen enriched.

“While you could use all of the peanuts, it feels like a waste when there’s an edible product.

“We suggested peanut shells because they’re a waste product, and with the number of shells that you rack up after eating quite a few peanuts, it’s enough for a couple of houseplants to survive for quite a while.”

Using peanuts instead of commercial fertilisers is very easy to do, and works with whole or crushed shells.

While you can sprinkle whole shells around the soil, James recommended crushing the nutty casing down into a fine crumb to make it “less noticeable” in houseplant pots and speed up the process.

He explained that peanuts can be even more beneficial if you soak them in water for a while before breaking them down as the moisture helps the soil to absorb the nitrogen more quickly.

Whole shells take around two to three months to become fully absorbed.

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Peanuts aren’t the only product that can be used in place of fertiliser, in, fact, James explained that most other legumes can be used too.

He said: “Whether it’s a nut, chickpea bean anything along that spectrum, it will be more than sufficient if you can’t use peanuts.”

Legumes can also be planted in between rows of crops to increase nitrogen levels in the soil instead of being sprinkled on top of the earthy planting site.

If legumes aren’t an option, nitrogen-rich seaweed, coffee grounds and even water from a fish bowl or pond work well as alternatives.

When to use fertiliser

Despite many warnings against using fertiliser in hot weather, James explained that it is safe to do as long as the plant is getting adequate water, plenty of light and air.

Peanut shells are ideal in the heat as they have just the right amount of nitrogen, though coffee grounds can often be overpowering for plants which are struggling to absorb liquids.

Giving plants a regular dose of fertiliser should prevent plants from wilting or developing yellow leaves, though James added that it can also be used as a remedy to fix these issues too.

He said: “If your plant has gone really brown or yellow, use an instant fertiliser like crushed peanuts or coffee grounds as they will decompose more quickly.

“If you give it enough nitrogen, the plant should come back to life and the leaves will return to their normal colour.”

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