'Transplant' Fertilizers

Discussion in 'Soils, Fertilizers and Composting' started by Junglekeeper, Feb 1, 2006.

  1. Junglekeeper

    Junglekeeper Esteemed Contributor 10 Years

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    Vancouver BC Canada
    According to this PDF document[super]*[/super], it is a myth that phosphate fertilizer stimulates root growth upon transplanting. It is written in the context of field culture but I expect the findings would also apply to indoor container culture. If a high phosphorus fertilizer is to be avoided, should one apply a fertilizer appropriate to the plant but at half-strength instead? Also, are high phosphorus 'transplant' fertilizers to be regarded as snake oil?

    * Thanks to Daniel for the link to the list of horticultural myths posted in another thread.
  2. Daniel Mosquin

    Daniel Mosquin Paragon of Plants UBC Botanical Garden Forums Administrator Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
    (no thanks required, I believe it is Ron B who has suggested the site a number of times)
  3. mr.shep

    mr.shep Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    San Joaquin Valley, California
    Actually, it might be a myth that the application of any
    fertilizer will promote root growth upon transplanting.
    Adding in certain plant hormones might be another
    matter. Applying ammonium nitrate at transplanting
    time can be more injurious to a root system than the
    additional phosphorous can be. Why use a fertilizer
    when we transplant anyway? Wait for the plant to
    settle in and then add in fertilizer later if desired.
    What we want to do is protect the root system during
    a transplanting, not immediately trigger the plant into
    producing shoot growth at the expense of killing off
    some off root system. I would not add in any fertilizer
    at all with NPK during or immediately after a transplant.
    I'd wait until the plant showed signs it has started to
    adapt to its new planting site or new container before
    I would even contemplate fertilizing the plant with
    any nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. I might not
    feel the same way about adding in minute quantities
    of manganese, zinc, iron, calcium and sulfur but only
    in a liquid form soon after the transplant.

    Under what conditions and which plants were transplanted
    that did not show any signs of new root growth with the
    addition of phosphorous and what quantity of phosphorous
    was applied in actual field studies? Was the phosphorous
    applied sans other macro-nutrients?

    I am not arguing the basic over usage of phosphorous
    as I know that is more than true in the Mid-West and
    to some extent here as well with various production
    crops but plenty of crops not widely grown in Pullman
    do respond to applications of fertilizers having some
    phosphorous in the formulation in conjunction with
    other nutrients. These fertilizers are not applied solely
    as a standalone phosphate fertilizer like a single
    superphosphate will be used around here for Alfalfa,
    Vetch and dry land Clovers among others but then
    again these are agronomic crops, not trees and shrubs.
    So I guess the recommendation out of Pullman is do
    not use phosphorous on production Apples in the state
    of Washington as there is already enough residual
    phosphorous in the soil to preclude any additional
    applications of fertilizers containing phosphorous in
    them. That may be okay for Washington but will not
    be recommended here for our production Fruit & Nut

  4. jimmyq

    jimmyq Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    Metro Vancouver, BC, Canada.
    FWIW. a certain tree guru said to a group this Summer, " you can't feed a plant "which drew a few oohs and aahs, he then qualified it by saying "a plant manufactures its food through photosynthesis" which Google defines as "The process by which green plants make carbohydrates such as sugar, using water, carbon dioxide, and sunlight". no mention of "plant foods or fertilizers" as such. I need to see more intelligence on this subject as I am unsure what these observations and definitions really mean when it comes to plant growth.
  5. Junglekeeper

    Junglekeeper Esteemed Contributor 10 Years

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    Vancouver BC Canada
    Would this apply to an indoor potting mix? These mixes are typically a combination of peat, perlite, and sand without any fertilizer charge. Wouldn't this be a medium almost devoid of nutrients to start and thus would require an initial boost?
  6. pierrot

    pierrot Active Member 10 Years

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    British Columbia
    I would tend to agree with Jim (Mr Shep) that the best thing to do is to let the plant settle into the new environment. If we are using "Native Soils") i.e. not bringing in "new" soil from a garden centre or another place that has no relation to out own garden) we should be restoring the fungal and biological entities back into that area. Then the old addage "Feed the soil not the plant" will work.

    In most areas where there has been extensive cropping or urbanization ther is little need to add more phosphate into "our little patch". I acknowledge there may be a need in certain areas where 'production' is occurring but it seems that most people and retailers are in the mind set that bone meal is all you need. Time, patience and good preparation of the soil will do you better than a handful of bone meal.

    I have had good success using native soil and a liquid transplanter with a root hormone added to it. the theory is the root hormone will act like an anti septic and being in a liquid form the plant and the soil will absorb as much as it can use at any one time.

    It may just be a placebo effect for us humans!!

  7. mr.shep

    mr.shep Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    San Joaquin Valley, California
    Would this apply to an indoor potting mix? These mixes are
    typically a combination of peat, perlite, and sand without any
    fertilizer charge. Wouldn't this be a medium almost devoid
    of nutrients to start and thus would require an initial boost?

    I did not want to come back into this thread just yet as I am
    a little uptight about something, so bear with me.

    Indoor potting mixes still have some humus (either ground
    fir, pine or redwood) in them. When the humus breaks down,
    the decomposition of a solid into a liquid form will enable the
    roots have some nutrients to utilize. That was in effect one of
    the rationale for not adding a fertilizer form of phosphorous
    to the soil medium as we will get some phosphorous from the
    potting soil at some point in time but the summation (bottom
    line in the .pdf file ) had nothing to do with the actions or
    interaction of a phosphate fertilizer upon an actual transplant.
    Some people forgot or never knew that phosphorous by itself
    does not help generate new root growth but instead helps
    maintain the old roots and helps strengthens the new (more
    recent) root growth.

    I am not into boosting. I am into protecting what I've got
    for a root system. I developed my own line of a cereal
    crop as well as a field crop just to disprove what I was
    taught for many years that in order to produce a decent
    field crop I needed 400 pounds of nitrogen, 300 pounds
    of phosphorous and 350 pounds of potassium per acre.
    I felt I could cut those amounts in less than half and be
    successful at it and I've been doing that for 27 years now.
    We do not need that much fertilizer to be applied just to
    produce a good crop as much of it is simply wasted and
    I proved it to me that I could do just fine doing things my
    way and I have. By the way I do my own soil testing and
    soil analysis so I know what I need or want for nutrients
    before I ever fertilize either of those two crops. I have
    not seen phosphorous toxicity per say down here but
    when we apply that much phosphorous year in and year
    out, as mentioned above, just on that one crop I would
    think I am in a better location to see what excess P205
    can do to a plant than most people will. In the Mid-
    West on corn, too much but also not enough phosphorous
    can yield what some people may think is the old virus
    yellows condition as we called it. Some people simply
    call it yellows (corn yellows, yellows of corn) for short.

  8. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    WA USA (Z8)
    The first step to finding out about nutrients in a soil/medium is to sample it and have it tested. Don't fertilize blindly! Withholding fertilizer from a plant that needs it is also counterproductive. Recent handling (planting, transplanting) does not automatically preclude a need for fertilizer.
  9. mr.shep

    mr.shep Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    San Joaquin Valley, California
    When someone writes of using ammonium nitrate
    as a supplement for transplanting it should not be
    used as a generalization. The use of a double form
    of nitrogen should be specific in which plants can
    tolerate the nitrogen and which plants cannot at time
    of transplant. Also, age of the plant being transplanted
    also is a concern.

    When we bump up a one gallon sized plant to a five
    gallon we are in effect giving the plant a boost just
    with the new soil. We can work wonders at times
    just by giving the plant new soil. The one area that
    most of us fail our plants is that we leave the plants
    in containers too long without adding in new soil
    periodically. We have to allow and think in terms
    that the soil will break down on us and for container
    Japanese Maples the reason why the plants falter after
    about 10 years in a container is that we have not
    replenished the soil medium for the plant to grow in.
    Many times when a Lemon starts to have its leaves
    turn yellow we do not have to automatically fertilize
    the plant. We can give the Lemon new soil and wait
    for a little while before we give the tree some added
    nutrients to help for the signs of chlorosis. This is not
    rocket science, when we can see the plant is not happy
    we do something for it. Many times all we need to do
    as a quick supplement is give the plant new soil and
    later after the plant has had time to adjust then we can
    go in and fertilize it if we want.

    The key element for most plants but not the leguminous
    types that can fixate atmospheric nitrogen on their own
    and store nitrogen in their root nodules is that we apply
    phosphorous in conjunction with other nutrients, not as
    a standalone phosphate fertilizer. What is written in the
    .pdf file is accurate for usage of phosphorous by itself but
    doing that is not and has not been recommended for many
    years. Some of the reasons why were indeed pointed out
    in the file. The initial question dealt with transplanting
    in how phosphate fertilizers have not shown to produce
    root growth. Applied by itself phosphorous can be harmful
    rather than be beneficial to a root system. When we also
    add in calcium, potassium, sulfur and a small quantity of
    iron then the phosphorus in the root system can work for
    us to help strengthen the roots, not force or enable the
    plant to produce new roots. The latter part is the myth
    but I am not sure that "phosphate fertilizer" should have
    been referenced in the .pdf file as no one really is applying
    phosphate fertilizers much any more as a standalone.
    In labs people have used phosphate fertilizers for plants
    grown in test tubes and in culture and depending on
    where the plant is in its development then a small amount
    of ammonium nitrate may indeed be more helpful as a boost
    in cellular grown plants but in actual field studies I am not
    so sure that ammonium nitrate can be much better for us
    but we also need to qualify which plants will it be used on
    and are these plants to be transplanted into the ground or
    bumped up to a larger container. For container plants, I
    would never use ammonium nitrate by itself or a single or
    triple superphosphate at transplanting time. I would be
    hesitant to use the latter at any time for container grown

    Thanks Ron, I was not trying to be rambunctious or off
    the wall. I've been an advocate of using less fertilizers
    for many years. To me the timing to apply a fertilizer
    is more important than how much fertilizer we apply.
    I'd rather apply smaller amounts when I feel the plant
    can use it rather than to automatically apply "x" amount
    of pounds or ounces all because someone else suggested
    I do so.

  10. Anne Taylor

    Anne Taylor Active Member 10 Years

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    Victoria B.C.
    Dear Ron and Mr. Shep,
    I am really intrigued by this whole concept of how plants take up, make use of and react to soil nutrients. Having been involved with installations lately, I'm finding I'm prone to mixing in light amounts of a 4-2-2 organic meal fert and allowing the surrounding soil to enliven itself. I think of it as a "buffet for the wee beasties" needed to start a microbe chain. 'Feed the soil' actually works.
    Certainly pouring chemicals in doesn't.
    I know because when I started planting my back yard slope out here in the woods, I had to chip away at the mountain 'soil' consisting of an inch of duff, rocks the size of oranges and fine silt. I tried lugging buckets of earth up the hill. I quit really soon. It just didn't help.I swore the more I'd topdress the more it sunk into the mountain. Then when the soil feeding concept came along, I began with this organic fert from the feed store, sprinkled it twice a year for sure, cause it was easy to lug up the slope. OK ,OK, - so I added half composted leaves one fall - cause they were in the way, some lousy topsoil once, and a couple of really skimpy dressings of bark mulch. I did actually sprinkle the organic fert though.
    4 years in total I've been at that mountain side slope . Except by golly if the last couple of times I went up to dig a hole, wasn't there just the most lovely worm laden earth? For like a foot or so deep.- And in several places! I guess I got something going good. Struck a balance maybe. Some fine wee beasties have sure made this their home, and I'm very grateful.
    Now I have a question for you..... What do you know about " willow water" as in the cuttings from salix infused into water as a natural hormone for rooting. I know of several old timers who swear by it. Anything on the mythbusters?
  11. mr.shep

    mr.shep Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    San Joaquin Valley, California
    Sap collected from a freshly cut Willow stem mixed
    in with rooting hormone and a talc or paste made from
    the mixture used as a "quick dip" can indeed facilitate
    rooting in a variety of plants. In the sap is an acid,
    pretty much the same acid that is the active ingredient
    in aspirin. I am not going to go into the concentration
    we used but it sure helped with some of the tougher
    plants to root from cuttings.


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