webuser_355114

Fertilizer Program for Containerized Plants II

tapla
11 years ago

This subject has been discussed frequently, but usually in piecemeal fashion on the Container Gardening forum and other forums related. Prompted originally by a question about fertilizers in another's post, I decided to collect a few thoughts & present a personal overview.

Fertilizer Program - Containerized Plants IIsize>color>

Let me begin with a brief and hopefully not too technical explanation of how plants absorb water from the soil and how they obtain the nutrients/solutes that are dissolved in that water. Most of us remember from our biology classes that cells have membranes that are semi-permeable. That is, they allow some things to pass through the walls, like water and select elements in ionic form dissolved in the water, while excluding other materials like large organic molecules. Osmosis is a natural phenomenon that is natures attempt at creating a balance (isotonicity) in the concentration of solutes in water inside and outside of cells. Water and ionic solutes will pass in and out of cell walls until an equilibrium is reached and the level of solutes in the water surrounding the cell is the same as the level of solutes in the cell.

This process begins when the finest roots absorb water molecule by molecule at the cellular level from the surface of soil particles and transport it, along with its nutrient load, throughout the plant. I want to keep this simple, so IÂll just say that the best water absorption occurs when the level of solutes in soil water is lowest, and in the presence of good amounts of oxygen (this is where I get to plug a well-aerated and free-draining soil), ;o). Deionized (distilled) water contains no solutes, and is easiest for plants to absorb. Of course, since distilled water contains no nutrients, using it alone practically guarantees deficiencies of multiple nutrients as the plant is shorted the building materials (nutrients) it needs to manufacture food, keep its systems orderly, and keep its metabolism running smoothly.

We already learned that if the dissolved solutes in soil water are low, the plant may be well-hydrated, but starving; however, if they are too high, the plant may have a large store of nutrients in the soil, but because of osmotic pressure, the plant may be unable to absorb the water and could die of thirst in a sea of plenty. When this condition occurs, and is severe enough (high concentrations of solutes in soil water), it causes fertilizer burn (plasmolysis), a condition seen when plasma is torn from cell walls as the water inside the cell exits to maintain solute equilibrium with the water surrounding the cell.

Our job, because you cannot depend on an adequate supply of nutrients from the organic component of a container soil, is to provide a solution of dissolved nutrients in a concentration high enough to supply nutrients in the adequate to luxury range, yet still low enough that it remains easy for the plant to take up enough water to be well-hydrated and free of drought stress. Electrical conductivity (EC) of, and the level of TDS (total dissolved solids) in the soil solution is a reliable way to judge the adequacy of solutes and the plantÂs ability to take up water. There are meters that measure these concentrations, and for most plants the ideal range of conductivity is from 1.5 - 3.5 mS, with some, like tomatoes, being as high as 4.5 mS. This is more technical than I wanted to be, but I added it in case someone wanted to search "mS" or "EC". Most of us, including me, will have to be satisfied with simply guessing at concentrations, but understanding how plants take up water and fertilizer, as well as the effects of solute concentrations in soil water is an important piece of the fertilizing puzzle.

Now, some disconcerting news - you have listened to all this talk about nutrient concentrations, but what do we supply, when, and how do we supply them? We have to decide what nutrients are appropriate to add to our supplementation program, but how? Most of us are just hobby growers and cannot do tissue analysis to determine what is lacking. We can be observant and learn the symptoms of various nutrient deficiencies though - and we CAN make some surprising generalizations.

What if I said that the nutritional needs of all plants is basically the same and that one fertilizer could suit almost all the plants we grow in containers - that by increasing/decreasing the dosage as we water, we could even manipulate plants to bloom and fruit more abundantly? ItÂs really quite logical, so please let me explain.

Tissue analysis of plants will nearly always show NPK to be in the ratio of approximately 10:1.5:7. If we assign N the constant of 100, P and K will range from 13-19 and 45-70 respectively. (IÂll try to remember to make a chart showing the relative ratios of all the other 13 essential nutrients that donÂt come from the air at the end of what I write.) All we need to do is supply nutrients in approximately the same ratio as plants use them, and in adequate amounts to keep them in the adequate to luxury range at all times.

Remember that we can maximize water uptake by keeping the concentrations of solutes low, so a continual supply of a weak solution is best. Nutrients donÂt often just suddenly appear in large quantities in nature, so the low and continual dose method most closely mimics the nutritional supply Mother Nature offers. If you decide to adopt a "fertilize every time you water" approach, most liquid fertilizers can be applied at ¾ to 1 tsp per gallon for best results. If you decide thatÂs too much work, try halving the dose recommended & cutting the interval in half. You can work out the math for granular soluble fertilizers and apply at a similar rate.

The system is rather self regulating if fertilizer is applied in low concentrations each time you water, even with houseplants in winter. As the plantÂs growth slows, so does its need for both water and nutrients. Larger plants and plants that are growing robustly will need more water and nutrients, so linking nutrient supply to the water supply is a win/win situation all around.

Another advantage to supplying a continual low concentration of fertilizer is it eliminates the tendency of plants to show symptoms of nutrient deficiencies after they have received high doses of fertilizer and then been allowed to return to a more favorable level of soil solute concentrations. Even at perfectly acceptable concentrations of nutrients in the soil, plants previously exposed to high concentrations of fertilizer readily display these symptoms.

You will still need to guard against watering in sips, and that habitÂs accompanying tendency to allow solute (salt) accumulation in soils. Remember that as salts accumulate, both water and nutrient uptake is made more difficult and finally impaired or made impossible in severe cases. Your soils should always allow you to water so that at least 10-15% of the total volume of water applied passes through the soil and out the drain hole to be discarded. This flushes the soil and carries accumulating solutes out the drain hole.

I have recently switched to a liquid fertilizer with micronutrients in a 12:4:8 NPK ratio. Note how closely this fitÂs the average ratio of NPK content in plant tissues, noted above (10:1.5:7). If the P looks a little high at 4, consider that in container soils, P begins to be more tightly held as pH goes from 6.5 to below 6.0, which is on the high side of most container soilÂs pH, so the manufacturer probably gave this some careful consideration. Also, P and K percentages shown on fertilizer packages are not the actual amount of P or K in the blend. The percentage of P on the package is the percentage of P2O5 (phosphorous pentoxide) and you need to multiply the percentage shown by .43 to get the actual amount of P in the fertilizer. Similarly, the K level percentage shown is actually the level of K2O ( potassium oxide) and must be multiplied by .83 to arrive at the actual amount of K supplied.

To answer the inevitable questions about specialty fertilizers and "special" plant nutritional requirements, let me repeat that plants need nutrients in roughly the same ratio. Ratio is an entirely a separate consideration from dosage. YouÂll need to adjust the dosage to fit the plant and perhaps strike a happy medium in containers that have a diversity of material.

If nutrient availability is unbalanced - if plants are getting more than they need of certain nutrients, but less than they need of others, the nutrient they need the most will be the one that limits growth. There are 6 factors that affect plant growth and yield; they are: air water light temperature soil or media nutrients. Liebig's Law of Limiting Factors states the most deficient factor limits plant growth and increasing the supply of non-limiting factors will not increase plant growth. Only by increasing most deficient nutrient will the plant growth increase. There is also an optimum combination?ratio of the nutrients and increasing them, individually or in various combinations, can lead to toxicities.

When individual nutrients are available in excess, it not only unnecessarily contributes to the total volume of solutes in the soil solution, which makes it more difficult for the plant to absorb water and nutrients, it also often creates an antagonistic deficiency of other nutrients as toxicity levels block a plant's ability to take up other nutrients. E.g., too much Fe (iron) can cause a Mn (manganese) deficiency, with the converse also true, Too much Ca (calcium) can cause a Mg (magnesium) deficiency. Too much P (phosphorous) can cause an insoluble precipitate with Fe and make Fe unavailable. It also interferes with the uptake of several other micro-nutrients. You can see why itÂs advantageous to supply nutrients in as close to the same ratio in which plants use them and at levels not so high that they interfere with water uptake. I know IÂm repeating myself here, but this is an important point.

What about the high-P "Bloom Booster" fertilizers you might ask? To induce more prolific flowering, a reduced N supply will have more and better effect than the high P bloom formulas. When N is reduced, it slows vegetative growth without reducing photosynthesis. Since vegetative growth is limited by a lack of N, and the photosynthetic machinery continues to turn out food, it leaves an expendable surplus for the plant to spend on flowers and fruit. Plants use about 6 times more N than P, so fertilizers that supply more P than N are wasteful and more likely to inhibit blooms (remember that too much P inhibits uptake of Fe and many micro-nutrients - it raises pH unnecessarily as well, which could also be problematic). Popular "bloom-booster" fertilizers like 10-52-10 actually supply about 32x more P than your plant could ever use (in relationship to how much N it uses) and has the potential to wreak all kinds of havoc with your plants.

The fact that different species of plants grow in different types of soil where they are naturally found, does not mean that one needs more of a certain nutrient than the other. It just means that the plants have developed strategies to adapt to certain conditions, like excesses and deficiencies of particular nutrients.

Plants that "love" acid soils, e.g., have simply developed strategies to cope with those soils. Their calcium needs are still the same as any other plant and no different from the nutrient requirements of plants that thrive in alkaline soils. The problem for acid-loving plants is that they are unable to adequately limit their calcium uptake, and will absorb too much of it when available, resulting in cellular pH-values that are too high. Some acid-loving plants also have difficulties absorbing Fe, Mn, Cu, or Zn, which is more tightly held in alkaline soils, another reason why they thrive in low pH (acid) soils.

So, If you select a fertilizer that is close in ratio to the concentration of major elements in plant tissues, youÂre going to be in good shape. Whether the fertilizer is furnished in chemical or organic form matters not a whit to the plant. Ions are ions, but there is one major consideration. Chemical fertilizers are available for immediate uptake while organic fertilizers must be acted on by passing through the gut of micro-organisms to break them down into usable elemental form. Since microorganism populations are affected by cultural conditions like moisture/air levels in the soil, soil pH, fertility levels, temperature, etc., they tend to follow a boom/bust cycle in container culture, which has an impact on the reliability and timing of delivery of nutrients supplied in organic form. Nutrients locked in hydrocarbon chains cannot be relied upon to be available when the plant needs them. This is particularly an issue with the immobile nutrients that must be present in the nutrient stream at all times for the plant to grow normally.

What is my approach? I have been very happy with Miracle-Gro 12-4-8 all purpose liquid fertilizer, or 24-8-16 Miracle-Gro granular all-purpose fertilizer - both are completely soluble. I incorporate a granular micro-nutrient supplement in my soils when I make them (Micromax) or use a soluble micro-nutrient blend (STEM). I would encourage you to make sure your plants are getting all the micro-nutrients. More readily available than the supplements I use is Earth JuiceÂs ÂMicroblastÂ. Last year, I discovered a fertilizer by Dyna-Gro called Foliage-Pro 9-3-6. It is a 3:1:2 ratio like I like and has ALL the primary macro-nutrients, secondary macro-nutrients (Ca, Mg, S) and all the micro-nutrients. It performed very well for me.

When plants are growing robustly, I try to fertilize my plants weakly (pun intended) with a half recommended dose of the concentrate at half the suggested intervals. When plants are growing slowly, I fertilize more often with very weak doses. ItÂs important to realize your soil must drain freely and you must water so a fair amount of water drains from your container each time you water to fertilize this way. This year my display containers performed better than they ever have in years past & they were still all looking amazingly attractive at the beginning of Oct when I finally decided to dismantle them because of imminent cold weather. I attribute results primarily to a good soil and a healthy nutrient supplementation program.

What would I recommend to someone who asked what to use as an all-purpose fertilizer for nearly all their container plantings? If you can find it, a 3:1:2 ratio soluble liquid fertilizer (24-8-16, 12-4-8, 9-3-6 are all 3:1:2 ratio fertilizers) that contains all the minor elements would great.

How plants use nutrients - the chart I promised:

I gave Nitrogen, because it's the largest nutrient component, the value of 100. Other nutrients are listed as a weight percentage of N.

N 100

P 13-19 (16) 1/6

K 45-80 (62) 3/5

S 6-9 (8) 1/12

Mg 5-15 (10) 1/10

Ca 5-15 (10) 1/10

Fe 0.7

Mn 0.4

B(oron) 0.2

Zn 0.06

Cu 0.03

Cl 0.03

M(olybden) 0.003

To read the chart: P - plants use 13-19 parts of P or an average of about 16 parts for every 100 parts of N, or 6 times more N than P. Plants use about 45-80 parts of K or an average of about 62 parts for every 100 parts of N, or about 3/5 as much K as N, and so on.

If you're still awake - thanks for reading. It makes me feel like the effort was worth it. ;o) Let me know what you think - please.

Al

Here is a link to the first posting of A Fertilizer Program for Containers

Another link to information about Container Soils- Water Movement and Retention

Comments (150)

  • margo_k
    9 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    I have not tried Foliage Pro yet but do have the liquid MG 12-4-8 (yellow bottle) and the all purpose MG 24-8-16 blue granular. They seem to work well for me, although from what I've read here they're missing a few nutrients, so the need for gypsum and epsom salt in the grit mix.

    With the success of FP, I wonder why companies like MG and Peters have not adjusted their fertilizers to include ALL nutrients, including the missing ones, like FP has done?

  • tapla
    Original Author
    9 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    Hey! You've been paying attention! âº

    In order to be competitive, most soluble fertilizers utilize urea as the N source. In order to include soluble Ca, they would have to use CaNO3 (calcium nitrate) the only soluble form of Ca suitable for fertilizers. It's much more expensive than urea, so they leave it out. Additionally, the largest % of (garden) soils usually have plenty of Ca (it's used on gardens & beds, too). I'm sure they leave the Mg out because of it's relationship with Ca. If the fertilizer (Miracle-Gro et al) had Ca but no Mg, an antagonistic deficiency of Mg could develop, even if there was already ample Mg in the soil. Finally, most commercially prepared container media are treated with dolomitic lime to adjust pH. As you know, the lime does dual duty, serving also as the Ca/Mg source for whatever is planted in the soil.

    Since the gritty mix has a little higher pH than the 5:1:1 mix, we tend to want to use gypsum (CaSO4) and Epsom salts (MgSO4) as a source for Ca and Mg because neither have any appreciable influence on pH.

    Got all that? âº

    Al

  • tapla
    Original Author
    9 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    Sorry - that weird combination of symbols (âº) is supposed to be a smilie face. ;-)

    Al

  • JerryVentura Jordan
    9 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    I might have missed this somewhere, so I'm just going to ask and see what I get. I'm going to start planting tomorrow my plants into the Gritty Mix, I'm going to start switching out all my indoor plants as well as all my outdoor tree's (in containers). How does everyone water? Would it be best to run the hose over all the pots a little, then come back with the mixed fertilizer and pour some into all the containers? Or would I mix up a full water can of fertilizer for each plant? This last method seems like it might be a little wastefull.

    I also would like to know where everyone bought there Foliage Pro? I buy a lot online, so I'd like to know some reliable online dealers. I decided to go with the Foliage Pro because of all the reading on here that I've done. Thats the one thing nice about converting small patches at a time of my property to native plants is there is no fertilizing to be done, ever. At least here in California Coastal Sage Scrub. In fact I killed some with kindness when I first started.

    Thanks for the help.

    Jerry

  • greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a
    9 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    Hey, Jerry!

    I usually pre-wet the container mix, then fertilize until a bit runs out the drainage holes.
    Because I use a mild dose of the fertilizer, there isn't too much waste.

    Last weekend, I stopped in at a local indoor growing/hydroponics store that opened
    a few months ago - it's less than five minutes from my house. Anyhow, they stocked quite a few
    other Dyna Grow products, so I asked if they'd order some Foliage Pro for. I told them that I'd been
    paying about $20 for 32 ounces. On Friday I picked up the bottle, and I saw that they'd stocked their
    shelves as well....which is awesome.

    Any indoor grow shop ought to be able to order for you, if they don't have it on hand.

    Good luck!


    Josh

  • jodik_gw
    9 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    I do the same, Jerry... pre-moisten the mix, then water with a weak solution of fertilizer until a little bit runs out the drainage holes. Since I'm mixing the fertilizer at such a weak strength, there's barely any waste.

    I haven't been able to locate Foliage Pro locally, so when I'm ready to get some, I'll probably end up ordering online. In the meantime, I'm using up the bottle of Miracle Gro all purpose liquid I have.

    When I say I use a weak solution of fertilizer, I mean I mix it at about 1/4 to 1/8 of the recommended strength, and I use it about 3 out of 4 times watering... on the 4th watering, I flush with clear water. This helps keep any salts from accumulating within the pot.

    I'm not sure where I'll order Foliage Pro from... I'll do the research for pricing and whatnot as the time nears. We do a lot of shopping online, so I have no issues obtaining what I need from an online source. A lot of places offer free shipping with a certain purchase amount, or other incentives... or I could check out Ebay... I still have time.

    When it comes to fertilizer in the gardens, I'm all about using Mother Nature to her best advantage! We compost everything, and are lucky to have our choice of manures to add to the compost piles... horse, goat, fowl. Some of the best natural fertilizer I use comes in the form of used pool water from our flock of Muscovy ducks! I save it when I clean out their kiddie pool, and I pour it on the garden beds. You should see the growth! Incredible!

    Of course, I'd never use any of that in my container growing. Organic methods are best left for the gardens.

  • meyermike_1micha
    9 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    Pay no mind to that negative talk about Foliage Pro.

    It was just stink bomb released on this thread, and all the positive talk about it will blow it away.

    Foliage Pro, Foliage Pro all the way.:-)

    By the way, thanks so much for such an informative thread Al! The explanation about why certain minors are missing and how to make up that deficit is just what many needed to hear:-)

    Mike

  • californian
    9 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    Al writes:
    In order to be competitive, most soluble fertilizers utilize urea as the N source. In order to include soluble Ca, they would have to use CaNO3 (calcium nitrate) the only soluble form of Ca suitable for fertilizers. It's much more expensive than urea, so they leave it out.

    Al, I just bought a 50 pound bag of Calcium Nitrate last week for $14.13, so the cost of what they put in a gallon of Foliage Pro would be minuscule. What is your connection with the company that manufactures Foliage Pro and all their other products being touted on this forum and now others?

  • jojosplants
    9 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    "Connection" ?

    Here we go again!

    Grow up!!!!

  • tapla
    Original Author
    9 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    This is a repeat performance of the disruption of someone else's thread with the same accusations and other unfounded remarks last summer, prompting those involved to TELL Californian none of us have ANY connection to any fertilizer producer. FP 9-3-6 fertilizer is simply the best way I've found to date to deliver all 12 essential nutrients in a favorable ratio. Until I find something better, I'll recommend it wholeheartedly, no matter his/her chagrin or disagreement with my and other's choices.

    I invited him/her to share the secret 'recipe' for making his/her version of FP last summer, but all I got was vagaries and a link to FP's MSDS sheet, which wasn't at all helpful. I don't know what the real underlying beef is, but it would be best if her/she started his/her own fertilizer thread where he/she could feel free to decry my foolishness, instead of making unfounded accusations based on conjecture that cannot be supported and wrecking the harmony of this one.

    Al

  • redshirtcat
    9 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    Or even just point us to another liquid fertilizer product with 3-1-2 and all minor nutrients that is readily available and easy to use.

    I use FP because it is the closest thing to 5-1-3 that I can find that is soluable and has all the micro nutrients.

    5-1-3 is supposedly the ratio of nutrients that citrus actually use and the fact that it is soluable and contains all the micro nutrients make it easy for me to use in my soilless mix containers.

    Californian you were asked to offer an alternative and you haven't - maybe if you did then people would use it and stop talking about FP (and stop thinking that you're a forum troll with nothing to do except harass people without cause).

    Until you offer a readily available alternative that meets my needs I will stick with FP and also consider you to be an a**.

  • redshirtcat
    9 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    And you know what? While I'm pretty sure this is not the case - if Al *is* working for DynaGrow and is somehow associated with Foliage Pro then they are running an incredibly expensive and effective ad campaign - the best damned marketing campaign I've ever seen. Why? Because it's actually *helping people*.

    Al personally responds to all requests for help that I see in this forum (including mine) and offers detailed, thoughtful answers that are incredibly helpful to me and I assume most others judging by the response he gets.

    So while I take him at his word that he has nothing to do with the company - SO WHAT IF HE DOES? If he's a shill for a company (he isn't) then I don't care because I'm results oriented and he gives me results.

    I suppose in addition to working for DynaGrow he probably also works for the company that makes Turface, the company that makes Axis, the consortium of companies that sell crushed granite, and Pine Bark suppliers the world over.

    They have all come together in the person of Al to poison the minds of gardeners the world over in every possible forum. These companies and Al are also surely involved in a plot to piss you off personally. Looks like it's working!

  • tapla
    Original Author
    9 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    Yikes! - I really appreciate the support, RSC, but please pull your talons in - it's not worth your getting booted over. If it gets worse it can be reported. Hopefully admin is lately becoming more aware of who's helping, and who's hindering those helping because of a personal conflict.

    Al

  • jojosplants
    9 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    I've read plenty a thread where Al also suggests we use miracle grow if we don't have or want to get Foliage Pro... so with that being said..
    If he was a rep, which we all know he isn't, than he'd be in a world of hurt with Foliage Pro. ;-)

    JoJo

  • redshirtcat
    9 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    Sorry Al - I didn't mean to go all negative on you. I've noticed most of the people in this forum seem to be very nice, positive, upbeat, and supportive.

    I'm less that way - you've been very helpful to me which I appreciate but I do tend to be combative. I especially love making fun of conspiracy theorists because they invariably always then assume that I'm part of the conspiracy which, for inexplicable reasons, brings me great joy. I must be mean spirited at heart. I should feel sorry for them. I don't.

    I don't much care if I get banned as I have several other ip addresses but I will try to behave so as not to ruin the positivity you guys have around you :)

  • tapla
    Original Author
    9 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    My only concern was for you. It's always great to have support, but I don't want anyone to get the boot because they had my back - no matter how much I appreciate it.

    Take good care. ;-)

    Al

  • jodik_gw
    9 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    I think the simple fact that these negative naysayers never answer questions posed, and never offer alternatives or any valid information to back up their claims speaks for itself. It shows them to be exactly what they are.

    Anyone with a true concern would happily and with haste offer up information and corresponding evidence in support.

    I, too, operate from a "results oriented" position, and until I find out for myself that a recommended product is not worthy, I'll continue to offer support. Friends don't steer other friends wrong, so if Al and everyone else who sings the praises of Foliage Pro keeps singing, I'll hum a few bars, too.

    I find it incredibly annoying that some people can't seem to utilize independent cognitive thought, processing fact and fallacy and weeding out the latter, and reaching a solid conclusion based in logic.

    It's not worth getting too steamed over, though... we'll let the facts of the one sided debate speak for themselves, and move forward with the learning...

  • meyermike_1micha
    9 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    Oh Redshirtcat: I think you stole the words right out of our brains and had the courage to speak up. But don't ever let the naysayers get the best of you, since loosing you would be a very sad thing. I love reading your posts lately, and although sick, I had to tell you:-) Never give a troll a reason to smile.
    I understand Al's concern and I'll bet GW will understand you too. We do.

    Jodi: I am 110% in agreement with you. You certainly have a way with expressing the very things on my mind and I appreciate you doing that for me and probably many others. You are the best:-)

    Nite all, and like I said, Foliage Pro all the way!

    Mike

  • nugardnrinnc
    9 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    There always someone negative trying to bring others down, but no problems here. I've only been on here a few weeks and have seen how helpful and informative Al is to everyone. There is nothing more admirable than a person who gives time, energy, and thought to help people they don't even know.
    Anyway this is all so fascinating to me. It's basically the perfect plant diet. Amazing how it all works and how well it is explained. I actually had a discussion with a long time worker at the local nursery today(who I haven't seen in 4 months) on what I have learned in the past few weeks on here. Many of the concepts were new to her and I tipped her off about this site and all the wisdom shared here. And we talked about the 9-3-6(not gonna say any names here) which she hadn't heard of and was gonna look into. She did ask if there was talk of bloom food or other specified forms. I knew there was but didn't see any talk and now I see why. I decided to look deeper and find out more about fertilizers and how to use them, because honestly I did commercial landscaping for 4-5 years and all we ever really used was 10-10-10 and other supplements. I found this very informative thread that answered all my questions and more. Thanks Al and others.

  • tapla
    Original Author
    9 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    What a kind assessment! Thank you! Thanks too, to JJ, Jodi, Mike and Redshirtcat. It's always nice when people offer kind words or their appreciation.

    You may find the link below that addresses the myth that high-P fertilizers are a good way to increase bloom production.

    Al

  • Eetrey
    9 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    Thank you so much for this post. I now feel confident about the manner in which I fertilize. I needed a post like this to satisfy my curiosity about fertilizer in container gardens. You did more than just that with this very informative post. Keep up the good work.

  • tapla
    Original Author
    9 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    Thank you very much Eetrey. It always means a lot when someone takes time from their day to make an effort to express a thank you or well-wishes, or share a success story. It also says something about you as a person, and your kindness is appreciated.

    Al

  • Kinder Devonshire
    9 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    Foliage Pro 9-3-6 is the favorite fertilizer on the African Violet forum. Looks like I am going to have to buy a larger bottle.
    Ruth

  • tapla
    Original Author
    9 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    Cool - any idea how long it's been a favored product? Anyone?

    Al

  • Kinder Devonshire
    9 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    I have been on the Violet forum for a year, It has been recommended there for several years from what I saw in the back posts.
    Ruth

  • edweather USDA 9a, HZ 9, Sunset 28
    9 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    Is CRF and Granular fertilizer the same thing? Thanks.

  • tapla
    Original Author
    9 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    CRF = Controlled Release Fertilizer and it disperses fertilizer primarily based on temperature. The most common name associated with CRF is Osmocote, but there are many other manufacturers of CRFs. Granular fertilizers can be either soluble or insoluble, the soluble granular formulas carry names like Miracle-Gro, Peters, Schultz ...... Fertilizers you commonly buy in large bags for the lawn & garden in granular form are usually a combination of soluble and marginally soluble ingredients. This is so you get that initial shot of nutrients so you can be sure you got what you paid fore. After the soluble fraction of the fertilizer is dissolved an in the soil, the less soluble portion still releases nutrients, primarily based on moisture levels, but to some degree, temperature, too.

    Al

  • jodik_gw
    9 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    The only problem I have with CRF fertilizers, such as Osmocote, is that I'm never sure how much fertilizer is being released when I water... or how long the little pieces actually remain viable within the medium.

    Peters granule/water soluble fertilizer is a product I've used in the past... and it seemed to work fairly well.

    Quite honestly, I like a liquid fertilizer over other types. There's no settling when mixing, and I know it's being evenly dispersed every time I water. I control amount/strength through measurement and water volume, and I control how often my plants are getting fed.

    I suppose it all depends on how many plants a person has to water and/or other factors, but I pre-mix my fertilizer water, complete with added micro-nutrients, and keep several gallons at the ready. I save the thick plastic milk jugs available at Sam's Club for the purpose. They seem to be molded better than most other gallon milk jugs I've come across, and they last a very long time for my purpose.

    The way I look at it... if no one liked Foliage Pro, no one would even mention it. The simple fact that people talk about it in a positive fashion, and that so many people talk about it, tells me there's definitely something there! The best recommendations come from people like Al, who have been studying the issues and comparing products for a long time... and the best point to consider is, he has nothing to gain by recommending it, other than the notion that another grower will find satisfaction.

    Well... I move ever closer to looking for a Foliage Pro source! I'm amazed at how long one bottle of Miracle Gro can last when feeding on a continual low dose plan! :-)

  • kernul1
    9 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    Hi Al,

    I had a question related to prolong periods of rain and liquid fertilizer that I was hoping you could help me out with.

    I'm using the gritty mix and the weak Foilage pro that I apply at every watering. It is the rainy season though in california's bay area and it seems like it has been raining every day for the last two weeks.

    Questions:
    1) How long can most plants go in the gritty mix without getting any foilage pro before damage to the plant?

    2) Let's say it rains for 7 days, 1 day of no rain and then another 7 days. If I apply foilage pro during the 1 day of no rain will it be absorbed by the plants? Or does it just get flushed out when the rain comes the next day?

    I'm assuming the answer is when all the rain stops you just give a larger dosage of the foilage pro but I wanted to be on the safe side and ask.

    Thanks in advance!

    Best,

    Bill

  • tapla
    Original Author
    9 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    Everyone assumes that a heavy rain washes out all the fertilizer, but fertilizer ions attach themselves to available attachment sites on colloidal surfaces and hang around during rains. One of the nice things about soils that drain so freely is you CAN fertilize in the rain with little worry about over-watering. I'd just take into consideration that you WILL need to fertilize a little more frequently during periods of heavy rain, but I wouldn't worry about it. If your plants start getting light in color, you're prolly losing some potential growth, but if they're not - no reason to be too concerned.

    We don't get monsoons here, but I've gone more than two weeks w/o fertilizing during periods of frequent rains and not run into problems.

    Al

  • kernul1
    9 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    Great. Thanks Al!

  • tapla
    Original Author
    9 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago
  • edweather USDA 9a, HZ 9, Sunset 28
    9 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    Hi Everyone,

    I apologize in advance if this is a stupid question. Some things take me a while to understand.

    When adding the lime, and CRF (if preferred) to the 5:1:1 mix, is it added to the whole mix, or top dressed into the containers? I assume it's blended into the whole mix, but I felt I just had to ask. Thanks. Ed

  • tapla
    Original Author
    9 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    Fully incorporate it, Ed.

    Al

  • edweather USDA 9a, HZ 9, Sunset 28
    9 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    Al, thanks. I'm extremely excited about growing my tomatoes in containers this year for the first time. I'm also very grateful for the generous, knowledgable people of this forum who are willing to give of their time to answer questions. Thanks again. Ed

  • JerryVentura Jordan
    9 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    Morning Everyone,

    I know, here we go again, but I really want to make sure I'm going at this somewhat correctly.

    I'm using Foliage Pro. At this point I'm watering still twice a day because most of the plants are not fully established yet. I've been giving a quick squirt with the hose in the mornings and then a soak with fert in the evenings (FP 1/4 tsp. in 2gal). These are all outside plants, my house plants only get watered once a week, so they're easy.

    So are you all fertilizing everytime you water? Even if it's twice a day? And I'm curious if your using FP, how much do you mix everytime you water?

    Jerry

  • tapla
    Original Author
    9 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    If you want to, it's fine to fertilize at the low doses you mentioned every time you water (fertigate). I do this in the winter because I water from a small watering can and just include 15-16 drops of 9-3-6 per gallon of water. In the summer, I have to water with a hose because of the number of plants I tend, so it's just not in the cards that I would fertilize every time I water, so I usually fertilize every weekend. It IS important if you're fertilizing at every watering, that you apply enough water to flush the soil and keep fertilizer salts from accumulating.

    Thank you for the kind comments, Ed. You're very welcome. I'm always happy to do whatever I can for pleasant people. ;-)

    Al

  • JerryVentura Jordan
    9 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    Thank you Al,

    I might consider just fertilizing on the weekends, that would be easier on my back. Once most of my container plants get good and established I don't think they will need to be watered here where i live more than twice a week. All my veggies this year I'm trying out in different cloth pots, and they all sit on the dirt, so I'm guessing they will need everyday or everyother.

    Jerry

  • TheMasterGardener1
    9 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    I have some things to add. I would like to hear your thoughts on this. To have a full program of fertilizer that would replace the best compost.
    Micronutrients
    Macronutrients
    Vitimins (even C!)
    L-Amino D-Amino Acids Folvic Humic ect...
    Carbohydrates
    I could go on...
    Now we all know kelp can have alot of these things. I have all of this from the GH line. I am now looking into some of the other fertilzers aswell because my garden size will be increasing. I grow edibles so I like to use a good line. This line was expensive upfront but it has lasted for quite some time now. I have a tomatoe that I use MG tomato fertilizer and gypsum and nothing else. It produces about the same as the others that have the GH line and the additives!

    BTW I am learning alot from this forum. Thanks.

  • TheMasterGardener1
    9 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    I have some things to add. I would like to hear your thoughts on this. To have a full program of fertilizer that would replace the best compost.
    Micronutrients
    Macronutrients
    Vitimins (even C!)
    L-Amino D-Amino Acids Folvic Humic ect...
    Carbohydrates
    I could go on...
    Now we all know kelp can have alot of these things. I have all of this from the GH line. I am now looking into some of the other fertilzers aswell because my garden size will be increasing. I grow edibles so I like to use a good line. This line was expensive upfront but it has lasted for quite some time now. I have a tomatoe that I use MG tomato fertilizer and gypsum and nothing else. It produces about the same as the others that have the GH line and the additives!

    BTW I am learning alot from this forum. Thanks.

  • tapla
    Original Author
    9 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    Well ...... since you asked - ;-)

    Fertilizers like Foliage=Pro contain all 12 essential nutrients plants normally get from the soil in the ratio in which plants use the nutrients, which allows you to supply everything essential at the lowest TDS/EC levels possible w/o deficiencies.

    I can't see a need to supplement amino acids or fulvic/humic acid in a soil that is about 90% organic when they're a byproduct of the composting process that takes place in all container media with a notable organic fraction. Those organic acids are more useful applied to sandy soils LACKING in OM. Plants aren't like humans in that they MAKE vitamins, and they have no way to absorb carbohydrates, which are broken down in the soil into C,H, and O, all found in water and CO2.

    Applying nutrients in a soluble form ensures they are immediately available for uptake ..... no waiting for soil organisms to cleave hydrocarbon chains, and you have control over what/how much your plants are getting. In the end, the nutrients plants take up to use as building blocks for making their food & to keep their metabolisms running smoothly are EXACTLY the same salts that they take up from hydrocarbon chains. Plants don't care where their nutrients come from, as long as they get them.

    I'm all about results, and I've tried fertilizing with fish/seaweed emulsions & fertilizers that derive a significant fraction of their nutrients from organic sources like feather meal, blood meal, hoof/horn meal ...... and I've never been as happy with their efficacy as I've been with plain ol' Miracle-Gro 24-8-16, 12-4-8, or my favorite - Foliage-Pro 9-3-6.

    AL

  • TheMasterGardener1
    9 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    Thanks for the response. I am going to try Foliage Pro. It has all the essential minerals plants need for vigorous growth right in it!
    I also agree about the organic fertilizers that they do take a while to become available to the plant. They are not always stable either. Thanks again.

  • TheMasterGardener1
    9 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    Hi. This is one of the additives. It is a carbohydrate complex for plants.

    "Our scientists have formulated FloraNectar to optimize the greatest transference of sweetness and aroma into your fruits and flowers.

    FloraNectar contains all natural raw cane sugar, molasses, malt syrup, select plant based esters, L-amino acids, organic acids, polyflavonoids, vitamins and essential minerals.

    This unique blend of ingredients helps your plants regulate enzymes that trigger specific reactions involved in maintaining optimal metabolism. This allows your plants to achieve a balance between respiration and photosynthesis in high intensity growing environments where the rate of respiration can sometimes exceed the rate of photosynthesis.

    As a result, FloraNectar ensures optimal metabolic rates during the flowering and fruiting phase when nitrogen levels have been reduced.

    FloraNectar also promotes a sturdier plant structure during the vegetative phase when high levels of nitrogen are present.

    FloraNectar fulfills the additional energy requirements of your plants throughout all phases of growth and during stressful times of transition."

    www.generalhydroponics.com/genhydro.../floranectar.html

  • tapla
    Original Author
    9 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    I tend to be very sceptical of 'miracle' products like Eleanor's fertilizer and Superthrive that use broad & vague rhetoric to tell you they do everything but cook a perfect 2-minute egg. If it worked like they want to believe it works, they would assuredly lay out the mechanism by which it works to satisfy the sceptics & even the cynics, thereby separating them from the ability to taint the manufacturers sweeping claims. It's sort of like the gritty mix or FP 9-3-6. I can recommend these products for container culture & make help you believe they will work because I can explain why and how they work in a way that leaves you feeling satisfied that your odds of seeing them as beneficial are very good. The many others adding their voices don't hurt, either. OTOH, we can see that it's difficult to sell heavy, peat-based soils when we look critically at them from the plant's perspective - or with the aim of optimizing growth and vitality. There will always be as few people who LOVE these heavy soils for whatever reason, but when it comes to convincing the masses that they truly ARE the best from the plant's perspective, the conversation usually finds them coming up short because of inherent issues that are very difficult to remedy. The same can be said of certain types of fertilizers.

    As a result, FloraNectar ensures optimal metabolic rates during the flowering and fruiting phase when nitrogen levels have been reduced. How can they make this claim? How can they 'ensure' anything optimal?

    FloraNectar fulfills the additional energy requirements of your plants throughout all phases of growth and during stressful times of transition. How? Plants' only source of energy comes from the sun & is stored in the sugars, starches, oils, and other bio-compounds they manufacture themselves ....

    When it comes to horticultural products, if it SEEMS too good to be true, there's a very strong likelihood it isn't. It doesn't bother me that some one else might be convinced of the product's value, but personally, I need a lot more convincing & something with a little more substance to sink my teeth into before I take the hook. ;-)

    AL

  • TheMasterGardener1
    9 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    Picture a compost pile that orange peels wher put in. Now I know the Sugars in the orange with break down but that what is broken down is SUGAR. It is in good soil in trace amounts. That is why if we use these soiless mixes that have none of this in it we need to replace it for the plant. Fact is GH is nothing new. NASA uses it and it only. Flora Necture is included in their program so there is a need for these sugars and acids that are in this. Sugars help plants uptake nitrogen quiker along with many other factors.

    Fact is I have learned alot so I can share some information aswell. Al's 5-1-1 looks to me as the best grow medium in the world!!!
    When I use sugar in my program in soiless I see the plants have stronger branching than the ones I only used the base line. Fact is you DONT need to add this because A baseline fertilizer will work. Plants make sugar on their own but To put it in broad terms. This provides a ballance when using fertilizer because the sugar fills in the gaps of any missing things that the plant might want. A little goes a long way so why not try it.

  • tapla
    Original Author
    9 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    Plants couldn't absorb sugar unless it was broken down into elemental form. When sugar IS mineralized, it breaks down into carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen - nothing more. There is never a shortage of these essential elements because carbon and oxygen are abundantly available in the atmosphere and oxygen and hydrogen are abundant in the water plants absorb.

    If there WAS an advantage, it would be in that sugars and other carbohydrates are used as food sources for soil micro organisms, which are helpful in improving the health and structure of mineral soils (gardens/beds, ....), but feeding soil organisms that only break down soil particles faster, is in my view counter-productive because of the heavy emphasis I put on the importance of soil structure.

    Why go to the effort of creating a well-aerated soil if you intend on using amendments sure to prematurely undo your good intentions?

    AL

  • TheMasterGardener1
    9 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    Yes I see what you are saying.
    "If there WAS an advantage, it would be in that sugars and other carbohydrates are used as food sources for soil micro organisms, which are helpful in improving the health and structure of mineral soils (gardens/beds, ....), but feeding soil organisms that only break down soil particles faster, is in my view counter-productive because of the heavy emphasis I put on the importance of soil structure"

    They use this in hydroponics where microbs dont exist so this product is usfull in soilless grow medium (same thing as hydro). GH is a "rule of thumb" used by NASA and there is no way they would make a usless product. This is only one "brand" there are other carb supplements in other nutrients companies.

  • TheMasterGardener1
    9 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    This is why I am learning so much on here. Anyone can say they can grow really well by going out and buying a full line off nutrients with additives. By Having these "debates" I am now learning ways to save money while expanding my garden.
    Again growing with just macro and micro nutrients will take plants through their life. However I find with these additives my tomatoes are sweeter and have thicker branches that hold bigger tomatoes.

  • tapla
    Original Author
    9 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    This thread is about to top out at 150 posts, so I'll try to use up the last two text boxes to leave a link to the continuation, which has already been posted. If you click on this embedded link, it should take you to the new thread.

    AL

  • tapla
    Original Author
    9 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    The continuation can be found by following the link provided. Thanks for making this thread fun and successful!

    Al