Miracle Grow --- How Often?

Fred_in_Maine(Southern Maine)July 7, 2005

I have read that the frequent watering required for container gardens leaches out nutrients.

I am brand new to gardening and, since I know zero about organic methods of replenishing nutrients, I am relying on Miracle Grow this first year.

I am using 5-Gallon buckets to grow tomatoes, bush beans, cucumbers, eggplant, squash and peppers.

Can anyone offer some advice about how often I should be adding Miracle Grow to my soil waterings? Can this be overdone?

Also frequency of foliar feedings? Can this be overdone?

I gave my plants a foliar feeding with a very dilute solution of Miracle Grow two weeks ago and the results were astonishing!!! As an experiment I did not foliar feed one of my tomato plants and it is only 3/4 the size and 1/2 the density of all the others that got the foliar feast.

It would be nice to know that I can do this with some frequency but I would hate to make the mistake of over-applying my enthusiasm and harming my babies.

Thanks for any wisdom. Fred

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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

No one can say definitively how often to apply fertilizer(s). It depends on soil composition, how fast it drains, how often you need to water, & how you water. It's good to know that too much nitrogen can have an effect on blossom abortion & thus fruit yield. High doses of N will often stimulate fruiting plants to channel growth into vegetative tissues (leaves & stems) instead of reproductive tissues (blooms & fruit). Probably a good idea to allow leaf color to be your guide. If leaves are healthy & deep green in color - no fertilizer necessary. If they appear yellowish (especially oldest leaves), or growth seems stagnant, add fertilizer at half recommended dose & again at half dose at half the suggested interval if necessary.


    Bookmark   July 7, 2005 at 11:57PM
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lighter(z9 TX)

What I do?- I like to put about a 1/4 of the reccommended amount into my water jug about once a week. Now that we are in intense heat in Texas, I do it a little smaller (about a half a teaspoon to a gallon) every other day- we have to water here every day with our containers!!

Just don't overdo it and be sure not fertilize- even a little- during the day with the sun and heat. This will surely burn your babies!

    Bookmark   July 8, 2005 at 9:07PM
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Fred_in_Maine(Southern Maine)

Al, Thank you so much! Very practical advice, Al, about checking leaf color. This makes a lot of sense to me.

Most of my plants look pretty green so I'll just keep an eye on their color. They all get full sun and the days are long in Maine this time of year. Most days a "finger test" shows moist soil. Rain has been plentiful.

Big Beef and Sugar Snacks are rich green. Early Girl tomato plants are looking a tiny bit light in color and the leaves are sometimes curled, but the growth continues very well and there are a good number of Early Girl flowers and some very tiny fruit just beginning to develop.

I feel like such a good father!

I'm very glad you told me about Nitrogen's potential to divert energy to leaf growth at the cost of fruit growth. I never knew this. Thanks.

Is there a nutrient that might encourage fruit growth now that the other growth (leaf and stem, etc) looks good?

Thank you, Fred

    Bookmark   July 8, 2005 at 10:53PM
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Fred_in_Maine(Southern Maine)

Lighter, I've heard about daily watering with container gardens. So far I haven't needed to worry about dry, hot days. It has been a cold and wet spring in Maine. 23 days of cold temps and rain in May. Average last "Frost Date" doesn't come until May 25.

I didn't get my babies outside until June 1st. Then, June was off and on sun and rain. So far July is a combination of 80 degrees and bright sun followed by days of 60s to 70s and drizzle/rain.

Thanks for your advice about not fertilizing during sun and heat. Fred

    Bookmark   July 8, 2005 at 11:12PM
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mcav0y(z3/4 Anchorage)

This is my first year gardening, so I am doing alot of experimenting. I water either every other day or every day depending on the how warm/sunny it is. I am feeding my herbs and hanging baskets (annuals) every two weeks with the recommended strength. So far, things have been spectacular. As for the herbs, I want them to grow alot of greenage before they flower.

As for my tomatoes and strawberries, I was feeding them at the same rate, but dropped to 1/2 or 1/4 strength every two weeks when I started to see buds. So far I have lots of unripened strawberries and a ton of blossoms on the tomatoes... No fruits yet to report on

    Bookmark   July 9, 2005 at 1:47AM
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Tyrell(Zone 9, CA)


I'm new on these boards, just started posting last week, but I've been gardening for 34 years, strictly organically.
Here are two things from your original post:

"Can anyone offer some advice about how often I should be adding Miracle Grow to my soil waterings? Can this be overdone?

Also frequency of foliar feedings? Can this be overdone?"

My advice on both of these is very simple: NEVER DO THEM!

I like to find the simplest, cheapest, easiest way of doing anything in life. When I bought my house in 1972, I was the Sergeant Shultz of Gardening; I knew nothdingk. NOTHDINGK. So I started doing a LOT of reading. And I groaned when I read about all the signs of decfiencies of various nutrients, and how this or that plant needed this or that nutrient, at this or that time.
If you simply put a good, at least 3-inch layer of grass clippings on top of the soil in your pots (if more will fit, pile it on), it will do all the following.

1. Provide all the nutrients your plants need. And you don't have to worry about plants getting too much nitrogen, what time of day to feed them, or how much. Nature, in the form of the clippings, will take care of all that.
Someone else mentioned the problem if tomatoes getting too much nitrogen decreasing fruit set. But recent research has also shown that the too-rapid growth produced by chemical fertilizers (like the foliar feeding you mentioned)results in thinner cell walls. That makes plants more susceptible to diseases and insect attacks. They look great, but get sick more easily. Kind of like a tanned person with skin cancer!

2. Keep the soil cooler and moister between wateriings. That can let you go an extra day or two between waterings.

3. Permanenlty elimninate weeds.

A couple of tips if you think you'll try this:

1. Always throughly soak the soil before you apply the clippings. (See more on this below.) That lets the clippings "lock in" soil moisture. Then try not to wet the clippings till they dry a little, to reduce the chances they'll smell a little.

2. Make a "collar" from a small yogurt cup to put around the stems of your plants. You don't want to let the clippings touch the stems, cause it could rot them. The collar will also let you pack the clippings deeper without any danger of that happening.

Two other things you can do to significanlty reduced how often you need to water, and make your plants a lot happier in the bargain:

1. If you don't have something to catch water that drains out the bottom, put a saucer or something under your pots. Soil shrinks as it dries, so what happens in pots is a space is created between the soil and the pots, You water, see water run out the bottom, and assume- mistakenly- that the soil has been moistened. But the interior of the rootball will still be bone dry. If water collects in a saucer, it's then slowly drawn back up into the rootball by capillary action. This is the principle behind "self watering" pots.

2. Shade the pots. Remember, only your plants, not the pots, need sunlight. Some materials can get so hot in the afternoon sun that it actually cooks roots touching the inside of the pot. Leaning a piece of plywood or cardboard against the pot to shade it at least from the afternoon sun, will keep your plant cooler. A cooler plant trasnpires-sweats- less, so it needs watering less often.

To recap, grass clippings
Are Free,
Reduce how often you need to water,
Eliminate all the complications of "fertilizing," Just pile 'em on and feghdeaboutit, and
Permanently eliminate weeding.
How can you beat that?

If you're skeptical on any of these, and I'm sure some of them sound "too good to be true," try them on a few of your plants and see what happens.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2005 at 10:12AM
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Fred_in_Maine(Southern Maine)


Thank you so much. That is a heaping helping of great advice. Im going to start collecting grass clippings for my containers.

My tomato plants sure have grown a lot since I first posted this message. I had no idea tomato plants could get so large and heavy. Now the fun part has been trying to keep them supported.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2005 at 7:13PM
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username_5(banned for no reason)

Hey Fred, the reason you see such a difference with Miracle Grow is that it causes a flush of growth. It is kind of a 'super charged' fertilzer if you will. It is fine for container plants, particularly annuals which are only around for one season and we just want max growth/fruitset. It is true though that you want to go easy on the nitrogen for plants grown for fruit or flower.

Grass is a great mulch and fertilzer, but my conern with it in a container is that it would break down too slowly to provide enough food for the more 'hungry' plants. Keep in mind that potting soil starts with very little in the way of nutrients and because they drain so well the nutrients don't stay in the pot very long.

Generally liquid based ferts are the way to go with pots since you can replace the nutrients when you water.

There are great liquid ferts available such as the Dyna Grow brand.

If you want strictly organic then you may be interested in these products

How often to fertilze? Well you can do as some suggested and develop an eye for how the plants look, but other ways to do it are to feed at 1/4 to 1/2 strength every other watering and see how it goes. Lower doses for plants requiring low fertility and higher for those requiring more fertility. It is more art than science in practice.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2005 at 10:49AM
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