Why I Pee On My Tomatoes (and you should, too)

by Michael Nolan on 16 June 2011 · 29 comments

in Articles, Gardening


When I first read the article on the Science and Development Network I was sure they’d been hacked, but as I read on I started to understand that the simple idea was so crazy it would probably work. 

Since the experiment would not cost me anything at all and in a roundabout way was going to save money, I got started immediately.

The article, posted on September 9, 2009, is called “Tomatoes thrive on urine diet”.  As mentioned before I was simultaneously skeptical and bemused by the titled alone until I began to see the science behind the claim and the simple, painless way that I could try it out for myself.  I have been a proponent of peeing on my tomatoes ever since.

Now for those about to tell me how gross I am and how you will never eat one of my tomatoes, I have three points to make:

  1. Animals piss on your plants all the time and you still eat the produce.  If you wash what you grow, you’ll be just fine.  Also, my diet is a hell of a lot better than that of the local stray dog population.
  2. I don’t pee directly on my tomato plants.  I water the roots with my collected urine.
  3. Get over yourself.  Seriously.

Studies have shown that the yield can be as much as 4 times as high and that the quality (and safety) of the produce is not compromised in any way.

peeIn the study “Stored Human Urine Supplemented with Wood Ash as Fertilizer in Tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) Cultivation and Its Impacts on Fruit Yield and Quality”  in the August 2009 edition of the  Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, various combinations of human urine, fertilizer and wood ash were used.  Results and details about the study can be seen here.

My Experience

My own experience has followed closely with the results of the study.  Here are the high points:

  • a substantially increased yield, even in sub-par soil conditions
  • less money spent on fertilizers and amendments
  • less water used for toilet flushing
  • less water used for watering the tomatoes

Between the two of us we don’t pee enough to sufficiently water all of our tomato plants, but by supplementing the regular watering schedule with our own homemade nitrogen, phosphorus and magnesium solution we are adding nutrients to the plants that will add nutrients to us later in the season.  Do I expect that everyone will be so evolved as to “lower” themselves to collect their own urine and use it to water their tomato plants?

I can only hope.

{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

Chris K. June 16, 2011 at 11:19 am

So how much pee do you use? Is one little boy enough, or should I put my whole herd (all three) to work?

Michael @ MEG June 16, 2011 at 11:25 am

We keep a lidded bottle by the toilet and use that to collect urine. Once a day (in the morning) I apply about a cup to each tomato plant until it runs out. The next day I continue the process until all of the tomatoes have been watered. Then I start over. I usually have enough to water 3-4 plants per day. Then I water as usual in the evenings.

Incidentally, urine has also shown positive results for cucumber growth as well as corn, cabbage and wheat.

Pine Tar Patch June 16, 2011 at 11:32 am

We use our urine to fertilize all the plants in the garden. We dilute the urine 20 to 1. 5 gallons of water to 1 quart of urine. We don’t produce enough urine even diluting it to water everything every day so we rotate through the garden. On days we don’t have time to do this we apply the urine undiluted to the compost pile. This is our first year peeing on our garden and it’s the best it’s ever looked.

Michael June 16, 2011 at 12:02 pm
Scott June 16, 2011 at 4:11 pm

Makes sense to me. Everywhere my dog pees on the lawn is dark green and the grass is taller. Maybe I could get the neighbors to ‘contribute’ too.;-)

Samantha K June 17, 2011 at 12:32 pm

Makes complete sense to me. Bet this would also give the groundhogs pause when raiding my garden!

Michael @ MEG June 17, 2011 at 12:51 pm

I’d wager that it helps keep the deer and other wildlife at bay too.

Gina June 17, 2011 at 2:32 pm

We water and fertilize our plants with urine too! We dilute the urine roughly 10:1 with water and use it on the tomatoes and peppers. We have two little boys and collected pee for the plants has been great encouragement for both getting the boys interested in food production and for potty training.

myna lee June 18, 2011 at 7:52 am

a cup a day for one tomatoe plant?
or a cup every few days? and… are your toms in the ground or containers?

Michael @ MEG June 18, 2011 at 8:24 am

I should have been more specific. We have approximately 30 tomato plants, all of which are in the ground on the homestead. When I water with urine, I give them about a cup each. I start with Plant 1 and give each plant a cup until it runs out that day. For example, let’s say that on day 1 I am able to water plants 1,2 & 3. Then on day 2 I start with plant 4 and water until I run out. Each day I pick up where I left off until all of the plants have been through the cycle and I begin again. I hope this helps.

him June 20, 2011 at 5:58 am

probably helps a lot to have the people peeing, be organic eaters too… the more processed foods & E numbers in your urine the worse it will be for the plants

if we all ate organic, we could probably start turning human waste into a decent manure too, which would solve TONs of our pollution problems.

Lynn Fang June 27, 2011 at 10:59 am

That is an awesome idea. I will have to try it sometime. What about composting human feces? That would give you extra “free” fertilizer :P

Michael @ MEG June 27, 2011 at 11:01 am

I have not and would not compost human feces to be used anywhere around where food crops are being grown, but I am looking at having a composting toilet in the future.

pburke August 29, 2011 at 7:28 am

thank you for confirming what i always knew,but coulnt get most people to take seriously.

Alicia at GreenLifestyleConsulting.com May 14, 2012 at 9:41 am

This sounds super cool. Unfortunately, where we live, in the urban suburbs, if anyone found out they would probably call social services on us. With the age of my children, I don’t think I could get my boys to keep the secret…

Julian Ruck May 14, 2012 at 12:44 pm

…Humanure is legit. Anything incinerated is sanitary…though I have no direct experience with them, my understanding is that Waste Incinerators are the way to go…a bit expensive, but a great mix of high-tech and ‘old school’….

her May 14, 2012 at 3:19 pm

Humanure works great! Read Humanure Handbook, lots of testing to back it up. It doesnt have to be high tech, 5 gal. bucket, sawdust and some straw (or weeds) to cover the pile. You build the pile for one year and let it sit for one year after that. Several years now we have used this and it saves tons of water, and gives you the best compost.

ruttle May 15, 2012 at 12:37 pm

I just planted my garden over the septic water and you should see my tomatoes They love it. They are huge and every time we take a shower or run the dishwasher or flush the toilet the garden gets watered.

Sheri - The Happiness of Living August 30, 2012 at 11:02 am

My grandparents urinate in their backyard all the time. My other grandmother has drank her own urine for health reasons. I thought what they did was nuts until I did my research. Now I recently urinate for my compost, plants, and trees. It saves on flushing. My question is do I need to dilute the urine that is being used on my trees?

Michael Nolan August 30, 2012 at 11:04 am

In general I do dilute urine, but I’m not entirely certain that it is necessary.

Cathie September 10, 2012 at 5:09 pm

I am a first time gardener and as I browsed in the internet how to do gardening, I encountered using urine and banana peel as fertilizer. I tried using my urine for my tomatoes, and roses. I watered them 50/50 diluted urine 2x a week. I also put banana peel around the plants once a week. It was amazing! I have lots of flowers in my roses and fruits in my tomatoes. It save me from buying expensive fertilizer. I will do the same again next year. Enjoy gardening!

Berry January 20, 2013 at 8:56 am

Should the urine be freash or let it sit in bottles for a long period.

Michael Nolan January 22, 2013 at 1:23 pm

I use it fresh.

Sylvia Neal June 26, 2013 at 3:31 pm

What if you take a lot of medicine, like Metformin, heart meds, aspirin, etc.?

Michael Nolan July 8, 2013 at 8:12 am

Of course I would not recommend it if someone is taking medications, smoking, etc.

Rosemarie October 26, 2013 at 7:07 pm

My garden went south due to too much rain. I had few container plant peppers Swiss chard etc. Not doing that great I tried diluted urine and it is amazing how they grew. I am sold.
I do not dare tell anyone they think I am a bit nutty anyway and now they will think I am sick. I live alone so no one needs to know.

Michael Nolan October 28, 2013 at 11:30 am

It will be our little secret. I promise.

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