Question for Al: Ammonium Toxicity

Oxboy555(Las Vegas)December 16, 2013

Al, this is a bit off topic for containers, but your other post a few weeks ago about the dangers of using organic ferts during cold, wet weather got me thinking.

I live in the mid-desert southwest. If is still pretty cold in Feb, but I see rose care articles saying one should start with organics like fish emulsion, alfalfa, seaweed etc at this time.

I'm wondering why this is repeatedly advised? Maybe ammonium toxicity is more a potential issue in containers than in-ground?

I'm just trying to get more wisdom on the topic. I don't want to endanger my plantings but I also don't want to miss a key time to jumpstart my spring growth season.


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drew51 SE MI Z5b/6a

I myself would love to see evidence of this too, as traditionally organics are low in nitrogen, so how these low levels could possibly become toxic would interest me.
When I use organics I often supplement with nitrogen heavy inorganics. Such as ammonium sulfate (speaking of ammonia!)

    Bookmark   December 16, 2013 at 7:37PM
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Oxboy555(Las Vegas)

Shameless bump.....was still hoping I might entice Al to take a stab at this question. :)

    Bookmark   December 31, 2013 at 3:08PM
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calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9

When I had a question for Al(tapla), I emailed him direct and he gracious answered quickly. Al

    Bookmark   January 1, 2014 at 9:43AM
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Oxboy555(Las Vegas)

Good idea.

    Bookmark   January 1, 2014 at 6:57PM
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drew51 SE MI Z5b/6a

I decided to look into this and it certainly is possible. Two causes for it, lack of bacteria and fertilizers with ammoniacal nitrogen. If you can avoid these fertilizers, you shouldn't have a problem. I know many like to keep fertilizing during the winter. I myself do not. I have heard the reasons why, but my belief is the plants can only store so much nitrogen, and it doesn't take much for the tanks to be full and soon the roots are a burning. Heck I don't even water cacti much in the winter, let alone fertilize. One exception is Christmas and Easter type cacti, and similar succulents do flower in the winter so require fertilizer. These are also very sensitive to salts.
As far as roses, remember organics take time to break down, at least 2 weeks to a month or more, so you want to fertilize before they start growing. Plus bacteria usually do not die off completely in ground, even in the winter. I usually put down organics in March for April growth.
Anyway organic can cause problems in the winter, and switching to soluble makes some sense to me. Most of my plants are dormant and the soil is rich enough, I don't fertilize, but to each his own. If it works don't fix it.
Low doses is not going to hurt anything as long as you don't have build up, and that is near impossible with soluble fertilizers. Too much could be a problem.
Some plants though like most cacti, you could certainly kill the plant if you fertilize while dormant, even in small doses.
Normal house plants could even benefit from winter fertilizers. Again to me soil, fertilizer, light, all depend on what you are growing. Plants differ so much.
I water my cacti a few ounces every month and that is it.
I still have about 40 gallons of rainwater, so all set for the winter. I keep it in my garage.

On another subject I finally found a good substitute for granite. Yeah! Horticultural cork! Acts like granite, doesn't absorb any water. It won't last like granite, but will last longer than pine bark. Super light weight, and that is exactly what I needed! Speaking of which Monterey Pine Bark lasts a lot longer than any other type of pine bark. Awesome stuff! I found a good mix at last! Cork, Monterey Pine Bark, and pumice.

    Bookmark   January 3, 2014 at 2:17AM
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Oxboy555(Las Vegas)

Drew, can you post up a picture of the cork and how it looks in the mix?

    Bookmark   January 3, 2014 at 1:25PM
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calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9

Cork is just another kind of bark. I would not consider it as a substitute for granite. Like Perlite, I would expect it to tend to migrate to the top of the mix. Getting the pieces the right size for the mix could also be a problem. Al

    Bookmark   January 4, 2014 at 9:55AM
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