Foliage Pro calcium deficiency

fun-giMay 21, 2012


I have been using Al's gritty mix almost exclusively since the beginning of spring (which based on temps and not the calendar, came quite early this year here in San Antonio). I was able to find what seemed to be the last gallon jugs of foliage pro in town, and quickly bought them. They had been in the warehouse for a year and had formed maybe a teaspoon or two of crystals in that time. I called Dyna-Gro and was told that the fertilizer had an indefinite shelf life. I then followed all directions and any advice I could find on the internet to try to re-dissolve the crystals. No matter what I did I could not get all of them to dissolve.

I began using the foliage pro anyway, and over the last month or so began noticing deficiency symptoms in about a half dozen plants. I first tried epsom salts in the hopes it was just too little magnesium, but had no change.

I then called Dyna-Gro again, and found out that they have found that 2 different types of crystals usually form. I don't know what the other would have been, but from my description I was told that mine were probably calcium sulfate. Also, the amount of crystals I had that would not dissolve would probably make up about half of the calcium that was originally in the fertilizer.

Sorry this was so long to get to the point, but I wanted to make sure I gave as much info as I could for other FP users.

I went and bought Botanicare's Cal Mag Plus to supplement the calcium as I read good reviews about it. If anyone has any experience using the cal mag your input would be appreciated. I used it at full strength the first time, but any advice on weaker amounts in conjunction with the foliage pro would be useful.

Thanks as always,


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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

When that happened to me, I just added a little water to the fertilizer, warmed it to about 90*, agitated it, and it all went right back into solution.

If I needed a Ca source in addition to what was in the fertilizer, I'd probably just opt for adding a little CaSO4 (gypsum).

Sorry - haven't used the Ca/Mg+, so can't help you there.


    Bookmark   May 21, 2012 at 10:46PM
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Hi Al,

I even went as far as to filter the last remaining crystals from the fertilizer and put them in fresh hot water. They still wouldn't dissolve. I know this isn't typical, I just thought I would report my experience.

As far as the gypsum, I tried it last year with my first gritty mix pot. All I could find was the powdered form, and it washed right out of my well sifted media.

Thanks for your thoughts.

By the way, do you have any idea how soon I should see improvement with added calcium. Would you expect it to be with the next new leaves or later.

Thanks again,


    Bookmark   May 21, 2012 at 11:26PM
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calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9

I have had other chemicals crystallize in the gallon due to age. My solution was to decant almost all the liquid to another container, leaving the mineral in the bottom of the gallon jug. I put hot water in the sink and kept the jug in the hot water. when the water cooled I shook up the jug and put new hot water in the sink. It took several times to get the crystals broken up and back into solution, then the poured off liquid was poured back into the jug. It would have been easier to strain off the crystals and crush them up mechanically. Al

    Bookmark   May 22, 2012 at 10:27AM
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Had the same thing happen to me, a pretty significant amount of solids crystallized out from a 1 Qt bottle of FP. I fear I may have been responsible. I was using one syringe to measure the FP and a second syringe to measure the Pro-TeKt, and I accidentally used the Pro-TeKt syringe to withdraw some FP from the bottle...oops. I don't know whether that small amount of cross-contamination could make a difference, but I had a large amount of crystals formed, maybe 2-3 Tbsp. Does anyone have any insight here?

Anyway, I looked at the bottle of FP and it actually has directions for what to do if it should "liquid freeze". They suggest adding an equivalent amount of warm water to fully dissolve it, then subsequently use double the dilution. This did work for me.

I am however now worried since I had been using the crystal slurry for some weeks, just withdrawing the liquid. Now that everything's back in solution, I fear that the concentration might be too strong and the nutrient balance may be off. I should probably just buy a new one and next time take care of it right away if it crystallizes.


    Bookmark   May 22, 2012 at 12:45PM
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redshirtcat(6a MO StL)

It's difficult to keep Ca in solution particularly when there is S floating around. Foliage Pro has very little S (far less than the ideal fertilizer - almost a token amount so they can claim it's complete) probably for this reason. The best chance you have is to keep the pH low. I believe this is why a high % of their P comes from phosphoric acid. It could also explain why they provide what I understand are excessive levels of P.

I use Cal-Mag on a few of my plants (both the Botanicare product and my own mix of calcium and magnesium nitrates). Since I use a fertilizer injector for the FP (mixed with vinegar in a 1:4 ratio of FP to vinegar) I have to apply the Cal-Mag by hand which is a giant pain in the ass. I do it at the 1 tsp / gallon rate about once a week on plants showing symptoms or on plants that I know will show symptoms based on my experience last year.

As discussed in other places the pH of my water is around 10.3 (slightly up from last year) with a CaCO3 equiv of ~100ppm. I find that the vinegar staves off deficiencies related to soil pH and helps keep the Ca in solution. I've gone through about 8 gallons of FP and 4 of my homemade FP without any precipitation when tank mixed with vinegar.

I asked DynaGro about using sulfuric acid instead of vinegar and they predicted precipitation in that scenario. I didn't conduct a jar test but I may this year because I'd like to up the S and it would require far less product than vinegar. Probably won't work.

Depending on your water adding it to FP to try to get the Ca back in solution seems to me like it could be counter productive. Heating it will help (when I make my homemade version of FP keeping it warm when mixing is critical). I'm sure DynaGro knows more than I but I'm thinking with water sitting at a pH of 10 with reasonably high alkalinity adding water would be a mistake.

Potassium Silicate (Pro-TeKt) is highly alkaline and should never be mixed with acidic solutions. It's possible that all of the Ca, Fe, and Mg precipitated out into Calcium Silicate and etc. Your case is strange in that if the Ca did precip out into calcium silicate then there's no chance you would have been able to get it back into solution by heating it... not sure what happened to yours. But you certainly don't want to mess around with adding pro-tekt to anything containing Ca, Mg, Fe, etc that is supposed to remain in solution.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2012 at 9:09PM
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Thanks for providing an interesting analysis of the problem. In your opinion would it make sense to add Pro-TeKt to the FP + vinegar solution only after dilution? This is what I have been doing so far this year. Or would the acid-base chemistry interfere with nutrient availability if all three are combined, even at large dilution? Would it then be better to fertigate with FP + vinegar on one day and use Pro-TeKt at the next application on a different day for example? FWIW, my water is ~pH 7.2. I don't know my carbonate levels, but I have observed that it takes 1.5 tsp of vinegar per gallon of water to drop the pH to Alex

    Bookmark   May 24, 2012 at 9:23AM
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Redshirt, that is quite an interesting analysis. Although I have not seen this with FP, it does make sense. I had the crystalization problem with another Dyna Gro liquid fertilizer some time back. Just cannot remember which one it was.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2012 at 9:48AM
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redshirtcat(6a MO StL)

You should not add Pro-TeKt to FP (or any acidic solution) before dilution. At large enough dilutions (again, depending on the quality of your water) you can add whatever you want to whatever else you want in principle...

I wasn't encouraging you to mix your FP with vinegar unless you need/want it for water quality reasons. I'd make that decision separately from the question of FP and Pro-TeKt - lots of people think vinegar is a waste of time. I suppose what I was saying is that certainly adding things like Pro-TeKt will cause crystallization and depending on your water quality adding even water to attempt to get things back into solution isn't necessarily a good idea.

If you're using a watering can then I'd expect everything to work just fine mixed into a gallon of water. 2 tsp into 1 gallon is like 1:380.

I was mostly just complaining aloud about trying to use/make a complete liquid fertilizer...

    Bookmark   May 24, 2012 at 1:18PM
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All though lacking some micronutrients, I would suggest using "Maxibloom" from Generial Hydroponics as it is a dry soluble fertilizer that has high levels of Calcium, Magnesium, and Sulfur. The only micro nutrient it has is iron, focusing on the high levels of secondary macronutrients. It is easy to use because it is a dry soluble fertilizer. I use Maxi with fruiting tomatoes and peppers, but for over all plant maintenance I would suggest Foliage Pro because of its superior micronutrients and NPK ratio.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2012 at 4:00PM
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sutremaine(UK S.Wales 9)

"As far as the gypsum, I tried it last year with my first gritty mix pot. All I could find was the powdered form, and it washed right out of my well sifted media."

Perhaps you could make the gypsum part of the fertigation routine?

    Bookmark   May 27, 2012 at 1:28PM
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I have been using the same two jugs of FP and Pro-TeKt for the last couple years, this year I got sloppy with the lids and lost track a couple times (i use them simultaneously) and low and behold the FP precipitated something extremely hard to dissolve, and a LOT of it. I do not know if it was related to the small amount of contamination from the lid or the age of the product and being left in the sun for some periods of time.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2014 at 5:33PM
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drew51 SE MI Z5b/6a

Wow, what a mess! Thanks for letting us know about the problems with these products. I shall stay far away...

    Bookmark   January 12, 2014 at 9:32AM
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shazaam(NC 7B)

As long as they're properly stored and mixed, there are no problems with the products and there's no need for anyone to "stay far away" from them. If stored at room temperature, Foliage Pro is very stable and lasts a long time. If exposed to cold temperatures (under 40-45 in my experience), some of the elements will precipitate. They're easy to get back in solution by mixing with hot water, though. That's a small inconvenience for a complete fertilizer, and one that's easily avoidable. Is there any any chance that's what happened with your jug, phildeez? I've never run into any problems in hot weather. It also seems unlikely that switching the caps back and forth would create enough cross contamination to have led to significant precipitation.

    Bookmark   January 12, 2014 at 10:13AM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

The challenge that I find with container planting is that you need constantly to add all the nutrients the plant needs, in the proper amount. This is not the case with in ground growing.

The potting mix is just a medium then you have to balance the nutrients. Brands like MG, claims that they have already done it for you and you should not worry about it for several months.

This post was edited by seysonn on Mon, Jan 13, 14 at 8:22

    Bookmark   January 13, 2014 at 6:49AM
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Old thread, but common problem it sounds like. I agree w/Shazaam that the small amount of cross contamination you've created wouldn't cause significant precip.

I realize that this thread started a while ago and that the original poster may no longer be following but I figured I'd give a little insight from a chemistry perspective. Long term storage and temperature fluctuations will cause different components to solidify by a variety of reactions. Diluting the stock or re-dissolving the precipitates after decanting can deal with some of this. I would warn against heating the entire stock as this can cause problems.

If the FP has formed solids after experiencing a period of low temp, that is likely just salts that have formed due to their lower solubility at lower temps. For the precipitates that form, I'd guess they are either Calcium Phosphate or Calcium Sulfate. As redshirtcat mentioned, there doesn't seem to be much sulfate in FP so I'd guess phosphate is the culprit. In either case, both calcium sulfate and calcium phosphate precipitate at HIGHER temperatures (unlike most other things) so trying to heat the solution will not fix the problem. Dropping the pH is the best way to go. Either vinegar or citric acid should do the trick. Sulfuric or phosphoric acid will cause additional precipitate to form. An easy way to test this is take some of the precipitate and strain it out using a coffee filter. Scrape it into a glass and add a little vinegar. If it re-dissolves you can scale up and use the vinegar/filtrate solution as a supplement.

    Bookmark   January 13, 2014 at 2:23PM
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