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Free Organic Fish Fertilizer for the Garden

Posted by on June 22, 2015

One of my favorite books growing up was a book about Squanto, the American Indian who taught the Pilgrims how to garden. I loved that book and read it many, many times. I’ve never forgot how he taught the Pilgrims to plant corn. Following his advice, I used free organic fish fertilizer in the greenhouse.

Free Organic Fish Fertilizer for the Garden - IdlewildAlaska

Squanto saw the Pilgrims were starving, having never farmed in a place like the US. (Awe, the thrill of learning to plant in a new gardening zone. I can’t imagine doing it in a literal “do or die” situation!) He taught them to plant corn by planting a couple of kernels and a small dead fish together and then mounding the dirt up over it.

Squanto teaching the Pilgrims how to plant and fertilize corn. - IdlewildAlaska

Picture from

Now a days, we all know the wonderful benefits of fish emulsified fertilizer for our gardens.  The store bought version is usually a mix of leftover fish parts from fish oil and fish  meat processors. Depending on the brand, it may be cooked, cold processed, full of toxins and pollutants, or organic. I personally use only organic things in my garden. But as it often is with most organic things, it usually isn’t cheap.

The hubby and I went fishing with our brand new fishing reels at the Copper River this weekend. This is an annual trip for us, dip netting for our yearly salmon, filling our freezer to last us all winter long. The weather was beautiful. The scenery was amazing.

Glenallen, Alaska

Driving into Glennallen, Alaska, on our way to the Copper River.

And after 8 or so hours of fishing, we had 28 Alaskan red salmon and one very nice 38″ King salmon. It was hard work, but, as always, well worth it! See pics from our last year trip HERE. (Seriously, the area is breathtaking!)

King Salmon Fishing in Alaska - IdlewildAlaska

The hubby’s King salmon.

When we go dip netting for fish, because we are usually catching so many at once, we only gut the fish before bringing them home. Many people take the time to fillet their fish, tossing the carcasses back in the river. We prefer to use the whole fish in one way or the other.

Dip netting for Alaskan salmon - IdlewildAlaska

My uncle and the hubby fishing away.

I had work to do on the chicken coops, so the hubby cleaned all the fish. He set up a rubber folding table in the backyard and with a sharp fillet knife, the hose, a couple of large pots, and lots of gallon size baggies, he cleaned all 29 salmon. We now have 56 salmon meals (that King was huge!) in the freezer and the smoker is full of odds and ends. YUM!

The fish heads go into an extra large soup pot with water and will be boiled until nothing but a fish emulsion remains. This gets parceled out, froze, and fed to the dogs throughout the year. I know a lot of people would use it for fish broth, but we have our fish to eat and want to feed our three pups healthy food too.

Fish for the Garden - IdlewildAlaska

Most of the carcasses are used in the greenhouse. Much like Squanto, I buried the carcasses a couple inches deep in the greenhouse around my tomatoes. I did this last year and I swear the tomatoes grew six inches overnight. Okay, maybe not overnight, but the effect was wonderful.

Fish Fertilizer for the Garden - IdlewildAlaska

Burying the fish a few inches down keeps them from stinking up the greenhouse. We would do this outside too, but there was a black bear sighting in the neighborhood tonight, and their noses are much sharper than mine! I’d rather not entice them into the garden. The chickens are tempting enough. Last year we added fish to the orchard and garden.

I know not everyone has access to a bunch of fish carcasses, but if you do go fishing, don’t just toss the leftovers! Add them to your garden and see the reward!

Camping at the Copper River, Alaska - IdlewildAlaska

Can’t beat the view from our camping spot!

I love being able to use every part of this wonderful blessing God gives us every year. Not only is the salmon incredibly healthy for us and our pups, but who doesn’t love free organic fish fertilizer for the garden!


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8 Responses to Free Organic Fish Fertilizer for the Garden

  1. Kristin

    You were in my neck of the woods!
    Now that I have a high tunnel, I’ll have to try this. My hubby wants to get out there fishing…

  2. Ricki @ The Questionable Homesteader

    OK so as a vegetarian, I’ve never thought much about going fishing. But now I’m thinking I might have to take it up. Even if I don’t plant the bones and such in the garden I’ll benefit from the fish. My dog and cat thank you. 😉

  3. Mary Anne's Alaska

    My husband and I so want to dipnet on the Copper or Chitina next year! We at least plan to brave the chaos at the Kenai next month.

    OK, so the bear can’t smell the fish in the greenhouse? I was wondering how you don’t attract the bears right before I read your sentences about not burying them outside. I didn’t realize greenhouses would block off the smell that much.

    • IdlewildAlaska

      I went in the greenhouse this morning and there was no fishy smell at all. 🙂 (Kasilof is another great place to dip net. It’s free, unlike Kenai, less people, but the fish are usually just a bit smaller than Kenai fish.)

  4. Malia @ Small Town Girl

    This is GREAT!! My fella and I spend most of the summer fishing in the straights off of northern Washington and have often discussed using the carcasses in the garden. I’ve never heard of anyone actually doing it so I wasn’t sure how successful/smelly it would be. Now I’m going to have to try!

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