The Big Two
I grow organic gardens, and I have found success with these types of fertilizers and additives. Remember that when you buy potting or raised bed soil, you need to avoid those containing timed-release chemicals. I feed on a pretty irregular basis. Usually when it pops into my head during the usual times spring and early fall. Just because I do as little thinking and planning as my style of "guerilla gardening". I scrutinize every plant and planting, making the proper allowances for color, height, width, optimum bloom periods, pest resistance, drought and disease resistance, and most of all, ease of care and lots of bloom for my buck. Exact scheduling just doesn't work for me. Many times to my dismay, but nature tends to be very forgiving of my lacksadaisical impulses.
So..... with other gardening stuff, I do much less thinking and planning than I should. My plants are very forgiving.
I know the best times to apply what, and hopefully, i'll
remember to do it. My theory (and lame excuse) for not being so strict
with certain gardening procedures is that it has to be fun or why garden
at all. I can just as well call myself a farmer and count crops, rather
than landscape and take time to smell my roses. I admire farming, we
cannot survive without farmers. And I grow a few small crops of
space-saving salads and berries.
That's not to say that I don't know the proper ways and times.
Below, you will find those as real data from my experience and education if I have it, and results are according to the performance of my gardens. As always, plants that benefit and what they benefit from, are based upon my intensive organic gardening in USDA Zones 5 and 8.
It's interesting to note that when you research online, you pull up a grab-bag of advice. Some advice is conflicting.
Nothing to me is set in stone if i've grown something here that shouldn't survive, or killed something that even someone with a black thumb would have success with. It's all part of the education process. Also, I've seen sites that call tried and true or even slightly tried and true remedies and methods, call certain gardening info a "myth". Even though I have done or not done what was recommended by said sites, my information is based totally upon my gardens, my experience, and my personality. Fairies, elves, greenmen, woods spirits and angels might be viewed by some as "myth". But a lot of these things are as real as death and taxes to me. Myth is what you make of it. What works for some just does not work for others, but that doesn't make information less valid and valuable or New Age mysticism. Also, I like to read the fine print. Because there's sometimes a reason it's tiny .... some sites are written or sponsored by fertilizer, chemical, gardening supply houses and other suppliers who have skin in the game as to what you purchase and use. I'm one of those people who consider tiny text a possible consideration or a sales pitch. If it's truth, YELL the text. But that's me. In times of GMO and chemical poison avoidance, there's good reason to research naysaying sites and beware of how the word "natural" is used. There are lots of natural poisons, so that's pretty relative too. Research and knowledge are invaluable tools for the gardener and landscaper.
So on to the fertilizers and such..... I'll write about them in order of favorites.
Concentrated Liquid Fish Emulsion Fertilizer
It immediately made sense to me when I remembered the Thanksgiving story about how the Pilgrims were so clueless, they would starve if not for the friendly Squanto and other Native Americans teaching them how to grow their food and work the lands. And they would have never made it through a New England winter without survival knowledge.
For centuries, Native Americans knew the value of fish as fertilizer. While preparing the ground to plant corn, Native American people placed a fish in the soil, mounding fresh dirt on the buried fish and planted a corn seed. Perhaps this was the first Snatural slow-release fertilizer.
The fish slowly decomposed, feeding the crops until harvest.
I have limited science knowledge about commercial fish emulsion processing, but this much I do know.... It is made up of and smells just as you would imagine a fish fertilizer would smell. It comes as de-odorized, if you wish, but to me, it stinks a bit anyway. Once you get over the smell thing, especially outdoors, you're happy to put up with an hour of malodorousness. Some people don't smell it as much as I do. Anyway, the benefits are well worth lighting an incense stick. It does really just go away in a short period of time.
Fish emulsion is made from whole fish and you-name-it fish byproducts, that would normally be thrown out during processing of cold-water fish. My favorite is made up of mostly or all salmon. All the throwaway stuff from different types of fish is squished into a porridge of sorts. This slop is then processed to remove the oils and fish meal we use in our fish oil caps and animal feed, etc. The liquid that's left is fish emulsion.
The emulsion is strained of any solids, then sulfuring
acid is added to it preventing microbes from growing. The fish
slop-turned-fertilizer is shipped and sitting on garden supply shelves
everywhere. It's really all the same. I will say that it seems rather
expensive for what it really is, but it is super-concentrated, and a
gallon lasts in my large gardens for the entire season, including
feeding my houseplants. I do buy by price. It's fish slop to me, and the
label tells you the ratio of nutrients in it. You use very little per
gallon of water and you have a lot of fertilizer to water with or use as
I usually use Alaska brand, but there are several others. The 3 numbers on the container label tells you the levels of nitrogen, etc., which I determined to be different for different types of plants and gardening. But not hard to know which to use for your plants.
Fish emulsion fertilizer benefits:
Doesn't burn and makes a great foliar spray so that you can leaf-feed your entire garden at once.
It can be used any time of year.
Plants grow stronger and more pest-resistant.
You can water with the diluted fish emulsion every time you water your plants. I prefer every few weeks, unless I see a plant needs help or is kinda scrawny. I use other types of natural fertilizers, so I don't use it every week. But you can use it every few days if you've a mind to. The nutrients are released quickly, so you might want to use it often. It won't hurt your plants.
I have seen amazing difference in size and amount of healthy foliage, fruits, I have larger plants, faster growth and better flowers. My veggies love it, and so do my houseplants. Bugs don't seem to like it. And contrary to what you might think, roaming cats aren't fans of the smell either.
Using Epsom Salts in The Garden
My love for epsom salts is far-ranging and enduring. I depend on it as a bath soak to ease my gardening mishaps, such as sore knees, back, thorn cuts, muscle strains and sprains, tendonitis. I always enjoyed it's stress-relieving qualities in perfumed salts. Old-school organic gardeners have given me lots of tips over the decades.And using epsom salts in the garden is one of the best. I'll begin with impressing you with science.... Epsom Salts are magnesium sulphate. It helps seeds germinate, makes plants grow bigger, fatter, produces more flowers, increases chlorophyll, and slimy slugs and dreaded voles can't stand it. Much like fish emulsion, it's a gentle fertilizer that can be used along with that schedule.It can be mixed in with the fish fertilizer routine once a month. It can also be sprayed on the foliage every few weeks. Epsom Salt is not persistent and doesn't build up in the soil, so you cant overuse it. My kind of stuff.
I've spread the word about this garden wonder over the decades, and i've been met with many a raised eyebrow. But, I use it religiously. At all times during the growing season. Nowadays, you can find the research that shows Epsom Salt is recommended by Master Gardeners and by commercial growers. And you can view the tests conducted by the National Gardening Association that confirms what i'm telling you. My roses perform splendidly, and coincidentally, i'm sure, they are not plagued by those little life-sucking aphids. My tomato and my frying pepper plants sing with joy and produce larger crops. They used to be kind of spindly and slow-growing. My hostas have brighter colors and less spotting on larger leaves sitting atop much larger plants. Our winters are long, so houseplants serve as a little living joy when everything else looks grey, cold and dead. I have great success using epsom salts for foliage and climbing plants.
My bag of epsom salts is specifically for the garden (another way to sell it, I suppose). Plain epsom salts in the pharmacy are perfect.
Do not EVER use the type that's fragranced for baths or that includes herbs or oils for medicinal use that is sold in the health and beauty section. Get the plain old unadulterated salts for the garden, save the other for the soothing bath you'll want after a workout in your gardens. The label on mine tells me how to use it. Naturally, I might vary a bit from how much is recommended. That's the beauty of natural fertilizers. They forgive me.
I water my houseplants with 2 tablespoons mixed into a gallon of water. I like to keep a gallon jug of water nearby and I just mix it in when I need it. Once a month is sufficient. You can use the salts in a diluted mixture of fish emulsion and water with both once a month. I try to remember to do that.
For my roses...
It's recommended to use 1 tablespoon per foot of plant height per plant every two weeks. I hate doing math when I don't have to, so in the early spring when I have room to get to the bases of rose plants without losing a pint of blood, I use my little hand-weeder (looks like a claw) to scratch in about a half cup into the soil. If i'm planting roses, I toss some into the planting hole before sticking the bush in. It encourages healthy new canes and flowering.
My broadcasting method in early spring is my favorite! I'll get big bags of the salts, and when I know it's going to rain, i'm scattering handfuls all over the entire garden, like i'm throwing chicken feed, instead of feeding single plants. Being careful not to throw it on top of plants to settle there it's undiluted, so it will burn leaves if it's sitting in one spot on the leaves for days. The whole garden benefits, and I don't need to bend down or schlep water. Bonus.
I don't do many evergreen shrubs, but I do use the salts on rhododendrons and spreading juniper. Label says 1 tablespoon per 9 square feet of shrub. Spread onto the root zone every 2-4 weeks. The label doesn't say to add it to water. But sometimes, i'd rather water it in. It might not rain for a while.
I have a lot of specimen and dwarf flowering trees.
Apply 2 tablespoons per 9 square feet of tree 3x per year. Too much math. I scatter 1 cup of salts at the roots once a month during the spring and summer, just before a rain. My flowering cherry trees are the first to flower in spring, and they show the benefits of the fertilizer by the amount and length of time of flowering.
Helpful hint Except for new plantings, when you will water it into the planting hole, do not scratch or dig the salts into the soil around the roots to fertilize. It will burn them. That's why it should be scattered over the soil under your plants. It'll go in slowly with the rains, or you can dilute it and water it in.
Now, after all that work, it's a good time to take that long, hot bath with epsom salts. If there's any left.
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