I'm new to DIY farming and have invested in a vertical farming unit. I love the efficiency and effectiveness of these systems in providing nutrients, oxygen and water to the roots of plants in a small footprint.

The unit came with nutrients labelled A and B, which you would add ml of each to your water reservoir to make the water nutrient rich to grow tasty vegetables. This got me wondering... is it possible to extract my own plant nutrients from tons soil I have laying around?

is it possible and how would one achieve this?

  • What exactly are the 'nutrients' you want to extract? That would be the first question. Why do you think they are in the soil? Nature doesn't waste chemistry. I'd love to finally see a soil test of any soil from anywhere that has 'nutrients' incorporated au naturally. The chemistry what you call nutrients is tied up in live bio mass. Those same chemicals are used up first by decomposers. As soon as something dies, a leaf falling to the ground, that something is set upon by decomposers. The decomposers use up the nitrogen before it is 'saved' for the plants. When the live biomass is...
    – stormy
    Aug 6, 2018 at 21:45
  • 'harvested' the chemistry leaves the site, the soil. The rainforests are a great example. One would think that ancient soil would be full of 'nutrients'...chemistry. But it is NOT. Lots of organic matter incorporated but so little chemistry only one crop is grown and the poor people trying to eck out a living and have food to eat HAVE to supliment the chemistry to grow more food in that soil. Removing the biomass is also called 'mining' the chemistry from that ecosystem.
    – stormy
    Aug 6, 2018 at 21:49

2 Answers 2


Yes it is possible; however, it would be more efficient to simply buy the raw materials and mix your nutrients from them. While your logic is correct the process itself would be very messy and in-fact could be dangerous.

It would start simple with water and compressions of the the soil. This would leave you with a generic mix of both toxic and non-toxic particulates. Your best bet at this point would be to send a sample to a lab for testing so that they could tell you the composite of the liquid/slurry. It would then be up to you to distill out the portions of the slurry which you dont want leaving you with what you desire.

  • 1
    I agree, it's not worth the effort and the results probably won't be what you expect. I mix my own fertilizer. I just bought 2 lbs of ammonium sulfate (for nitrogen) and 2 lbs. of potash (for potash, of all things). I get a high K blooming mix, like 0-45-0 for the phosphorus component which also brings along the trace micro-nutrients I do this mainly because I grow cactus and they can't use urea-sourced nitrogen (the most common/cheapest form of nitrogen in commercial fertilizer).
    – Tim Nevins
    Aug 6, 2018 at 21:15
  • @TimNevins So what you are supplementing your soil with is what? 2 - 1 - 2? What is the percentage of potassium? Ugh, what an awful lot of work. When SHTF this will be a great thing to teach others how to do but until then...I use GroWilla! Trace micro chemistry, I wait to see the plant. It tells us what chemistry they are missing or are in excess.
    – stormy
    Aug 6, 2018 at 21:56
  • No, I make a mix that is 10-5-5, essentially. It's not very difficult, it might take me an hour to mix a year's worth of fertilizer. I mix the powder with the water (which also adds an acid component), I also add citric acid. My solution is somewhere near 5.0 pH. I use tap water in Arizona which has a lot of dissolved solids and hardness, so I can't precisely control water quality/content. I do the best I can with what I have.... Keep in mind I only grow cactus and a few succulents so my needs are fairly narrow.
    – Tim Nevins
    Aug 6, 2018 at 22:17

Compost tea could be your answer.

  • I'm familiar with compost tea, I was looking for an answer that's more concentrated like the nutrient A & B bottles I received. To be able to extract and test to know the percentage of each nutrient extracted and store it for later use.
    – Nxlevel
    Aug 6, 2018 at 17:17

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