fertilizing advice?

Discussion in 'Soils, Fertilizers and Composting' started by chemicalx, Feb 1, 2008.

  1. chemicalx

    chemicalx Active Member

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    I've been keeping a database of all the plants I have, and all their individual care needs. But if I really followed each plant's individual fertilization requirements, seems like I'd have dozens of different formulas, and dozens of different fertilizing schedules to keep track of... So I'm wondering if there are any suggestions for feeding in a more simplified way, grouping plants to fertilize together without overfeeding some, and underfeeding others.

    Are there specific fertilizers that I shouldn't be without? (For example, should tomatoes have Tomato food, or would a general vegetable food be adequate?)

    I have the beginnings of a vegetable garden, as well as a few newly-planted fruit trees, potted succulents, houseplants, and then a mid-sized perennial garden with some herbs, bulbs, a couple larger shrubs and a few annuals sprinkled in for good measure. Most of the perennials are somewhat drought tolerant/low feeders, a few are California natives.

    I'd love to hear if anybody has any methods/advice to share.

    Thanks in advance!

    Lori
     
  2. lhuget

    lhuget Active Member

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    oh that's tough Lori. I use different fertalizers depending on soil composition, growing conditions and whether I want flowers/fruit, foliage colour etc. ie. the same plant could be fertalized differently in different spaces. I'm interested if someone else has a generalized fertalizer guide based on the overall health and show of the plant. It would be a GREAT resource for mixed gardens.

    Les
     
  3. jimweed

    jimweed Active Member 10 Years

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    If you ask me fertilizer companies probably spend more time and money on creative writing for there labels to get you to buy! Then they do on research. I am likely going to get slammed for this comment but... after 22 years in the tree, shrub, and plant fertilizing business I gave up 15 years ago on the recommended product labels and started using 20-20-20 on everything (all non-editable plants). I have never had a complaint or a problem ever. Every plant looks absolutely wonderful and I get called back every year or 2 for more fertilizer. And I fertilize thousands of plants each year. Well thats my story, Jim.
     
  4. M. D. Vaden

    M. D. Vaden Active Member 10 Years

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    No slamming from me.

    Reminds me of oil / fuel mix for engines. Every chainsaw, hedge trimmer and other 2 cycle engine I own, has a different mixture ratio recommended.

    So I figured what the heck - just go with 40 to 1 in all of them.

    Maybe I might get 3 months less life out of one chainsaw, but I don't care, because they all last 4 or more years, and I only have one gas can instead of 6 gas cans.

    So the same approach to fertilizing seems reasonable to me as long as the soil is not getting a bad overdose of some element.
     
  5. HortLine

    HortLine Active Member 10 Years

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    Many gardeners are starting to switch from synthetic fertilizers to organic ones -- it can be argued that not only are they better for the environment but also a healthier choice for plants. One great feature of organics -- it is almost impossible to overfertilize, and also it is safer around pets and children. There is a Candian company, Grotek, that supplies organic fertilizers to farmers and home gardeners in 17 countries. Two of their products you might want to try: Total Nourish Liquid Plant Food (2-1-3) and Total Nourish Powder Plant Food (3-1-2). They recommend using the powdered form in the spring and late fall and the fermented liquid one in late spring through summer.
     
  6. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    Never reapeatedly apply 20% phosphorus in particular to a soil without a soil test report indicating such a need. If fertilizing repeatedly for long periods sample soil and have it testing periodically to see where you are at.
     
  7. Chuck White

    Chuck White Active Member

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    My opinion on 20-20-20 is that it would be pretty hot. That level of fert is O.K. if you really are picky about keeping records to enable comparisons and in all cases keep from poisoning your soil with fert salts by adequate watering practices, spacing fert applications, etc.. For more average gardeners such as me, 10-10-10 or even 6-6-6 WITH MINORS works very well. Monitoring plant growth, color, flowering, etc., so appropriate specific changes can be made in chemical content or frequency works for me, and nothing is really going to happen so fast that a little research can't put you on a changed or more correct path, regardless of that which is befalling your plant.
     
  8. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    Excessive fertilizer flushed out with watering still affects the water supply even if the garden soil is rescued by this operation.
     
  9. chemicalx

    chemicalx Active Member

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    Thanks for the replies - much appreciated!

    I do plan to look for organic fertilizers - good to hear there is less problem with overfeeding with organics, since I wasn't sure. I've used a Terracycle product for my houseplants in the past, and was happy with the results - even happier to support Terracycle's environmentally spectacular business model. I will also keep a look out for the Grotek brand that was recommended.

    Lori
     
  10. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    There would be less overfeeding with organics because of them being weaker! What you want to do is determine what nutrients, if any need to be supplemented and apply those using whatever product provides them in adequate amounts.
     
  11. doccat5

    doccat5 Member

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    Don't guess, soil test. It will give a more accurate picture of what your soil actually needs. Many states provide soil testing kits at the local extension office and the state lab does the testing for a nominal fee.
    Compost is the best way to go with the addition of microbiological liquids to provide additional benefical microorganism in the soil.
     
  12. chemicalx

    chemicalx Active Member

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    Just wanted to give an update - I just tested soil from one area last week, and boy that was eye-opening! I figured it'd be pretty all-around depleted, but it had sufficient-to-high levels of both potassium and phosphorus, and was completely deficient on Nitrogen. Explains why my pelargonium is flourishing there, but the canna is not happy.

    I used one of the regular old soil testing kits you get from the store, so I'm sure it's not quite as accurate as the professional tests. I'll need to do a bunch more tests in different locations of the yard, since the soil seems to vary a lot from area to area. (One section was under concrete for 40 years, so I've been trying to amend the heck out of it with compost.)

    Thanks for all the advice, now I won't be fertilizing by guesswork!
     
  13. doccat5

    doccat5 Member

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    Glad to hear it's working for you. I normally do a send to the lab type in the fall, they're not quite so busy. And keep an over the counter type for spots I have some questions on.

    doccat5
     
  14. Gardenlover

    Gardenlover Active Member

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    What if the soil is naturally low in phosphorous....How can you know precisely that you have not over fed with too much phosphorous?
    I know It all depends on how much quantity the crop growing pulls out of the soil but without expensive testing there is no accuracy
     
  15. Gardenlover

    Gardenlover Active Member

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    YES....

    20-20-20 fertilizer with TE(trace elements) has worked well for me and many people I know. The crop that it was used on was Olive Trees. It would be applied at: 2 tablespoons per young olive tree followed by irrigation. This would be done every 15 days for the duration of the growing season...it stops late august so the tree can harden off.
     
  16. doccat5

    doccat5 Member

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    Why would the soil be low in phosphorus, first of all. Normally there is always some present in the soil. Normally an indicator of low phosphrous is the plants themselves. P is normally absorbed by the plant root system and helps to build long strong roots. If the soil is not "healthy" your plants are much more prone to disease and damage from pests.
    Good compost should have plenty of NPK to help improve your soil. The healthier your soil, the healthier your plants and the stronger they are to fight off disease and insects.
    I haven't use a chemical commercial fertilizer in over 20 years other than some Osmocote for my young roses. We make our own compost and I amend with that. I also side dress my plants with compost during the season.
    Most states have extension offices that can provide both the materials and an explanation on how to take a good overall soil sample. I know the costs vary but they are really not all that expensive and they are done in a state lab. Most of those were orginially geared for farms and big agribusiness, but the trend is changing to the benefit of the small home gardener and grower.
     
  17. Gardenlover

    Gardenlover Active Member

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    I've has soil tested from my olive farms and soil test showed VERY LOW levels of phosphorous. The soil is a red soil clay in structure with VERY HIGH calcium levels. That is why I indicated low phosphorous in my previous post.
     
  18. TheInfiniteRuckus

    TheInfiniteRuckus Member

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    i have to agree, i'm a 20-20-20 user myself. yes i agree that it is a very hot fertilizer so what i do is add two gallons of water to 1 scoop to cut the mixture in half to make it more like a 10-10-10. 10-10-10 is still on the high side so if you want you could also cut back even more you could use a half scoop to 2 gallons of water or 1 scoop to 3 gallon water to decrease the value back closer to a 5-5-5. my main focus is to keep the n-p-k ratio even so it is never lacking any nutrients. there are many cases of over feeding but very few of underfeeding.
     

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