Vinegar extraction is a great way to pull minerals from some scrap materials that you may have in your kitchen waste. It can also be used to extract a little extra from some of your other composting and fertiliser making efforts. It has the advantage over organic ferments because it is quick, clean and focused on inorganic compounds.
Another great thing about vinegar extracts is that they are shelf stable and can be stored for a long time.
Unlike some of the other home fertiliser making techniques that are included on this website, the product is not alive and active, rather, these inorganic are used to feed microbes and plants at later dates.
The low pH of the vinegar 2-3, added to the general acidity of most of the ferments (my banana skin ferment measures an average of 4.3) that we cover in this website means that many of the microbes responsible for making things go ‘off’ simply cannot live in the extracts. Keeping the containers well sealed keeps others out and the result is something that you can store in a shady, cool place for many months.
The Acetic Acid in vinegar reacts with many inorganic compounds to help break down and extract goodies from a whole range of things.
Vinegar extraction can be used to extract Calcium and phosphorus from bones, egg or Oyster shells. You can use it to draw more goodness from the leftovers remaining after the molasses part of Fish Ferment making.
After any water extraction or ferment, you can soak the remnants in vinegar to extract even more goodness.
Vinegar is a sloution of an acid in water (that’s why you can’t buy 100% vinegar and as such, it already contains water. I buy double strength vinegar that is labelled as 8%. That means that there is 92% water in the solution, so you can save time doing both water and vinegar extractions of some things such as bones or shells by just using vinegar. For our gardening purposes, the compounds extracted by the acid are water soluble too.
Clean the stuff that you want to extract from. Remove as much organic material as you can. With bones, bake them in an oven until they are completely dry. Eggshells can be treated this way too to remove the inner lining. Bake eggshells at 170°C for 20 minutes, bones at XXXXX degrees
You don’t need to be as fussy with eggshells as you do with bones. If I’m not making an extract that is going to be stored, I just wash them, crush them up a bit and add the vinegar. After the second round of vinegar, the pieces of lining will float to the surface with the bubbles and you can just skim them off.
Place your material it into a container and cover it with vinegar. Don’t seal the container completely, the vinegar will cause gas to be released during while the acid reacts. You don’t need to worry about an airlock for setup either, oxygen doesn’t need to be excluded.
Leave it for a couple of weeks, shaking or stirring every few days to keep fresher acid in contact with the eggshell fragments.
Strain off the vinegar and replace it with more. Often you can get 3 or 4 extractions form the materials you are extracting from. It doesn’t matter if you forget about it and let it go for longer, it will be fine. I’ve forgotten about some lots for months at a time and they have not had any problems.
Filter yout vinegar extract and either combine it with a water extract that you’ve made previously or just store it by itself somewhere airtight and out of direct sunlight.
Most of what is in yout extract is inorganic mineral compounds, so you don’t need much. I put a tablespoonful into wery watering can that I am going to apply. At this rate, it won’t shift the pH either.
Minerals are important to many aspects of plant health. Calcium (Ca), Phosphorus (P) and Potassium (K) are probably the major ones that we home gardeners are interested in.
Calcium is the classic preventative and remedy for Blossom End Rot on our Tomatoes but it has other uses in the garden. Calcium is important for strong cell walls and strong cell walls means healthier plants that are more resistant to disease and pest attack.
Potassium helps with water transport into and out of plant cells. It helps plants to flower and to retain their flowers, it does the same for fruit too.