Fertilizer Q's

Joe1980(5)March 25, 2011

Ok, currently I don't have any good fertilizer that contains micro nutrients. I am looking to get something with the good in it. I know how Al praises the foliage pro, but I'm not to hip on the idea of the high price, plus the shipping costs. I'd like to purchase locally, so is there any good options out there?? I am looking at this miracle grow stuff, with the micros in it. It's the box of water soluble 24-8-16 all purpose. Is this stuff a good route to go??

Also, do I need to supplement it?

How much should I mix, and when?

I am looking to optimize the growth of my house plants, and want to make sure I apply the correct way.

Note: I bring this to you because I will be trying out Al's 5-1-1 mix, having been used to bagged MG soil, and using run of the mill controlled release fertilizer. I gotta make sure I feed right with this new mix.

Thanks,

Joe

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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Hi, Joe. I used to use MG 3:1:2 ratio fertilizers (24-8-16 and 12-4-8) before I started using the FP. I used to mix STEM soluble micro-nutrients right into the 12-4-8, along with a little Spring 138 iron chelate (KEY-late) that is especially formulated for high pH situations (my water), but you will do very well with it as it is. It's a very good fertilizer for containerized plants, and I've been using 3:1:2 ratios on all my plants (that includes all houseplants) for a long time. Really, its only lacking nutrients unlikely to be deficient in container soils. If you're concerned, write me off forum & I'll send you a little STEM, but I really don't think you'll need it.

As you know from your reading, 3:1:2 ratio fertilizers come closest of all the readily available formulations to supplying nutrients in the same ratio that plants use. This is a considerable +, in that it allows you to fertilize at the lowest rate possible w/o incurring deficiencies. This can be particularly important to houseplants because EXCESS nutrients add unnecessarily to the EC/TDS (roughly the salt levels) of the soil and inhibit water and nutrient uptake as these levels rise.

I prefer the soluble fertilizers because fertilizers like fish emulsion and those derived from other organic sources depend on the activity of soil organisms to break the organic molecules down into elemental form before plants can absorb them. IOW - they break the organic molecules down into exactly the same salts that are supplied by soluble fertilizers. The rub here is that the organisms you must depend on to break down the organic molecules are boom/buts in their population levels, so delivery of these fertilizers are very erratic. This is yet another stark difference between growing in containers and growing in the garden where microorganism population numbers are more stable and reliable.

For houseplants, I would use a half recommended dose about every 2 - 3 weeks in the summer (for summer growers), and cut that back by half in the winter - so a 1/4 recommended dose. Alternately, if you're watering properly & flushing the soil when you water, you can fertilize every time you water with a 1/8-1/4 recommended dose, based on where the plant is in it's growth cycle - the heavier of the two (1/4) being reserved for summer. I use both strategies. I fertilize every time I water in the winter, but that's too time consuming in the summer (too many to water by hand, so I use the hose), so I switch to a half strength dose weekly (because my plants are outdoors and growing strong).

Fertilizing every time you water is foreign to many who don't understand the benefit in utilizing that strategy in conjunction with soils that allow you to water properly to keep soluble salts levels LOW. They mistakenly think that because you fertilize often, that you must be doing something wrong, but any strategy that keeps nutrients available and balanced, at levels that don't inhibit water or nutrient uptake is a very good strategy. There really is not a more effective way for the average or even new hobby grower to fertilize. Your plants are guaranteed all nutrients are available at all times at very low doses. It doesn't get any better. PLUS, because you are frequently flushing old nutrient concentrations from the soil, there is very little chance (practically 0) that the ratio of nutrients in the soil solution could get skewed to the point that antagonistic deficiencies would occur. This is a common problem with simply withholding nutrients in the winter because of heavy soils being poor candidates for frequent flushing, and because of the the surety of the salt build-up accompanying the use of those heavy soils that need to be watered in sips to prevent root rot.

What you have planned is an excellent strategy. You'll do fine.

Al

    Bookmark   March 25, 2011 at 11:26PM
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Joe1980(5)

Al, hanks for your reply. I am greatful, as I'm sure many others are, that you take the time to write a small book to answer our questions. I beleive I have the answers I need for fertilizing, so now all I have to do is impatiently wait for my 5-1-1 mix to be ready. I made it yesterday, and from what I gather, I have to let is sit for 2 weeks so the lime can do its thing??

Joe

    Bookmark   March 26, 2011 at 10:07AM
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jodik_gw

The way I fertilize is akin to providing a buffet for my plants. As Al says, they are guaranteed all nutrients are available at all times at very low doses. It doesn't get any better, or easier!

I use regular old liquid all-purpose Miracle Gro plant food in 12-4-8, plus the occasional addition of STEM micro-nutrients, and I mix in a weak strength. The buffet is open 24/7, 365 days a year, and my plants seem to really enjoy it.

Before I came across Al's many 'abridged books' here in the forums, I was quite confused about fertilizers, mediums, and the basics of how plants grew and what they required. After absorbing quite a bit of knowledge, it remains unclear why so many fallacies and so much misinformation are a part of gardening in general.

I hope to read many more of Al's 'abridged books' on various growing issues, and so grateful he takes the time to write them! :-)

    Bookmark   March 26, 2011 at 12:09PM
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countcoco

IMO, it's definitely better to spend a couple extra bucks a year on dyna-gro than using MG. The dyna gro line is highly concentrated and you'll only have to use about a quarter tsp per gallon. For someone like you (I believe in the soil thread you mentioned you have about 20 plants), dyna-gro isn't going to break the bank, but I'm sure you'll see a huge improvement in your plants within 1-2 weeks of using it.

I've been using liquid grow (7-9-5) and pro-teKt (0-0-3 + silicone) and I couldn't be happier with the results.

A cheap way to amend MG with micros would be to mix a little montmorillonite clay (available at pond supply places) with your water and MG, although I don't really recommend it because montmo is quite difficult to dissolve in water.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2011 at 7:31PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

FWIW - Turface is calcined (fired at high temperatures) Montmorillonite clay.

Al

    Bookmark   March 26, 2011 at 8:43PM
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meyermike_1micha(5)

Al:

You are a very generous man and thank you for your continual effort to see that we are not left in the dark, AND THAT WE ARE EDUCATED.

Thank God we have someone here like YOU

By the way, I will never forget the help you gave me with MG fertilizer until I started using FP:-0)))) Thank you thank you!

Mike

    Bookmark   March 26, 2011 at 10:44PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

You're welcome, Mike. It's been fun watching your skills and abilities grow, and to see your hard work come to fruition in your plants. Strong work!

Al

    Bookmark   March 26, 2011 at 10:55PM
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jodik_gw

Foliage Pro is on my list of "things to acquire", but I need to use up the fertilizer I have, first. What I have works fine for the moment, and I can't justify throwing away perfectly fine, usable fertilizer.

One thing I have done, though, is relegate any fish emulsion or other fancy fertilizers to the garden, where they'll do more good.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2011 at 9:03AM
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Joe1980(5)

Well, I sucked it up and ordered some Foliage Pro 9-3-6 off of the internet. I calculated it out, and if I only need a 1/4 tbsp per gallon, with the 32oz container I ordered, that will last for 256 gallons, which will take me years to use. If a product is so good, you'd think that stores would want to sell it, but apparently not. Well, at least I got whats best for my plants.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2011 at 11:06AM
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Joe1980(5)

Oh, and am I right in that I have to wait for 2 weeks or so to use my freshly made 5-1-1 mix?? If it matters, the particle size of the lime I have is comparable to garlic powder/salt.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2011 at 11:12AM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Hey, Joe, there is no imperative to wait two weeks....
you *can* mix and pot the very same day, although letting the mix "rest" will allow the Lime phase reaction
to finish (warm temps and moisture hasten the process).

Josh

    Bookmark   March 27, 2011 at 1:51PM
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countcoco

FWIW - Turface is calcined (fired at high temperatures) Montmorillonite clay.

Thanks for the info. Turface is very popular amongst the planted aquarium crowd due to the high cec rating. Is calcined montmo different from calcium montmo on the molecular level??

Joe, glad to hear you took the plunge. How much was the half gallon container w/ shipping?

    Bookmark   March 27, 2011 at 2:23PM
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Joe1980(5)

I ordered the quart/32oz container. That's actually 1/4 of a gallon, but, none-the-less, I payed $19.99 for it on amazon.com, and alas! It was ordered along with a bunch of other stuff my wife had in the shopping cart, and qualified for the free shipping, so I did alright. If alone, it would have been $5.99 shipping.

One thing about amazon I've learned, is that deals come and go all the time, because they are selling from different suppliers. There are different prices and shipping costs depending on which supplier you are getting it from. Either way, if it works better, it's worth the cost. I found it cheaper at other places, but the shipping cost offset the cheaper price, so amazon was the best route. I'll wait until I get my foliage pro before I begin repotting, although I'm chompin' at the bit to get this project rolling.

Joe

    Bookmark   March 27, 2011 at 2:33PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Joe, that's the same price I pay locally - $19.99.

I received a small 11 ounce bottle for Christmas the year before last, and I just finished it recently.
So I bought two 32 ounce bottles, re-filled the small bottle I'd finished, and gave that to my brother.

Josh

    Bookmark   March 27, 2011 at 2:46PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Countcoco - same material, only to make Turface, the fine powdered clay is fired at very high temperatures until it fuses together to form a ceramic-like particle that is very porous. According to Profile Corp, a pound of Turface has about 14 acres of surface area. That is a lot of surface to hold water and lots of ionic attachment sites (CEC) for holding nutrients.

I know that bentonites/Montmorillonite clays come in two varieties, depending on what the primary mineral ion is - sodium or calcium. I haven't had cause to look into which Turface is made from because it's inert and of no consequence to me personally, but if you decide to chase after the answer, I'd be curious as to what you discover.

Al

    Bookmark   March 27, 2011 at 3:44PM
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lathyrus_odoratus(5A-IL)

Joe, I use DG FP on my indoor and outdoor container plants. I've been using my first container for 18 months and probably have 1/4 of it left. I have over 400 African Violets, about 50 Streptocarpus, and outdoors I have 5 or 6 Earthboxes I water from May until October.

I can never find STEM, so this works much better for me - fast, easy, includes everything.

They're just coming into bloom, so you're only seeing green, but you can tell from the photo that these AVs are very happy with DG FP.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2011 at 3:24PM
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jodik_gw

Nice, Lathyrus! AVs are the one plant I can't seem to make happy... although, I haven't tried one in quite a while.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2011 at 5:21PM
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lathyrus_odoratus(5A-IL)

Jodi - I call them the Goldilocks of the watering world...too wet, you're screwed. Too dry, you're screwed. They have so many fine roots that even a few hours completely dry will kill a large part of the roots. But, the leading cause of death is over watering; they hate perched water just as much as being dry.

I find that a modified gritty mix works great. I don't use the granite because I repot too frequently, instead using screened perlite. I found bark that is the exact size of the perlite from a mail order - it's cheaper than Reptibark and a better size, at least from what I've seen in the city. It also is perfectly uniform, there are no fines. I don't measure, but it's about 2-3 parts perlite, 2-3 parts bark, and 1-2 parts peat. For most plants, that amounts to watering every other day.

But the biggest key for me is related to when I water. I was waiting until the wick was dry, but that was causing a lot of problems. I found that I have to water when they are just damp. If I let it go, like I would a hippe or just about any other indoor plant, they'd spend several hours without any moisture. That would kill many fine roots.

Once I started watering when the wick was damp or a wooden skewer tested just damp, all the root issues stopped.

Whenever you're ready, let me know; I currently have over 500 and a lot are duplicates that need a home. I won't even care if you kill it - I just need to send some away from my house, lol - but I don't think you will this time.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2011 at 4:10AM
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lrvjim(7 to 8)

Lathyrus- If you can share your source for that bark without violating some forum rules I would be in your debt. I have looked locally and can't find anything that size.

Your violets look happy, happy!!

Thanks Jim-

    Bookmark   March 29, 2011 at 8:12AM
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lathyrus_odoratus(5A-IL)

I don't think it violates anything, Jim. And, thanks for the compliment regarding the AVs. It took a lot of trial and error, and a few dead plants, but they are happy these days.

Roberts Flower Supply is an orchid supplier: http://www.orchidmix.com/index.htm

They have two excellent options. First, the small new Zealand (this is truly perfect in size - no fines, no dust - amazing). It's expensive, though. I just bought both kinds to see which would work. I love this the most, but can't justify the price.

The second, and least expensive, option is the fine fir bark. If I'd never seen the New Zealand, I'd have sworn this was the best thing in the world. The price, IIRC, for 2 cu ft is the same as the nursery Al recommends in the Chicago area. Since that is looooooong drive, I figure I didn't lost that much be getting it here. And, it's really wonderful.

These do NOT have any fraction of material under 1/8", so if you need/want to add some fines for a bit more retention, you have to add some other item, such as a bit of peat.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2011 at 10:55AM
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jodik_gw

Thank you for your generous offer, Lathyrus, it's very sweet of you! :-) At the moment, however, I seem to have the same issue with amaryllids! I'm overcrowded! Stuffed to the rafters with pots of every size! I need to thin out my collection, and have plans to do so this spring. Once I bring my current collection down to a manageable size, I'll think seriously about trying another African Violet.

Long ago, in another life... or so it seems... I had a small collection of about 5-10 African Violets. They sat on a coffee table in front of a southeast facing patio door. They were constantly in bloom, and they made for a wonderful source of conversation when friends came to visit. A plethora of pinks and purples and lavenders... so pretty!

And then, we moved. I lost that great source of light, and subsequently lost interest in trying to please them. But that was a long time ago... before I learned so much about mediums, moisture retention, and all the other good stuff!

My interests in plant species has evolved to include orchids, Plumeria, Hoya, a few succulents, and assorted other plant types... I can already see it coming full circle to include some of the plant types I killed before I learned so much about growing. There just may be an African Violet in my growing future... one never knows! I'll definitely keep your offer in mind, thank you! :-)

Also... thank you for giving up your bark source! I'm heading up to Oak Hill Gardens to check out what they have, which Al tells me is a good bet... but if for some reason I can't get there, I might just look into the source you mention.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2011 at 11:40AM
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lathyrus_odoratus(5A-IL)

It's easy to get an excess of plants, isn't it????

I know have about 30-40 extra Streptocarpus to add to the 400 too many AVs...crazy!

    Bookmark   March 30, 2011 at 3:30PM
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Joe1980(5)

Hey, with the Foliage Pro, it says for maintanence to use 1/4 tsp per gallon. Should I stick with that, or go less/more? If I had to guess, I'd say 1/4 tsp while growing, 1/8 tsp otherwise???

    Bookmark   April 1, 2011 at 5:47PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

How much to fertilize depends on temperature & how robustly the plant is growing. The maintenance dose is good for every time you water IF you're using a fast soil that allows you to water properly w/o risking root rot. When plants are outdoors and humming along in the summer, I usually use 4 tsp in 2-1/2 gallons of water as a weekly dose. For indoors, about half that would prolly be better. Better to start a little on the low side until you feel your way into it. You can always go up, but spoiled foliage is what you net before you'll know you have to go down.

Al

    Bookmark   April 1, 2011 at 6:05PM
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Joe1980(5)

Basically the plants will be in either the 5-1-1 mix, or the gritty mix. I will not be using any fertilizer on plants that are still in the old soil. I'm basically repotting 1 or 2 each day, until all are done. My first watering is with no fertilizer, but the time will be coming up here soon to fertilize. I'll go with the 1/4 tsp as directed to start, at each watering.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2011 at 6:16PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Al

    Bookmark   April 1, 2011 at 6:56PM
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lathyrus_odoratus(5A-IL)

Joe, I use 1/8 tsp per gallon for my indoor plants, every watering. I have many African Violets, Streptocarpus, pothos, Chirita, Philodendron, etc. I use a modified gritty mix for all but two of over 500 (just haven't gotten to them yet...).

When I used 1/4 t on the AVs, the foliage showed me quickly that it was too much. it could be that some of the others would do better with more, but they are showing no signs of slow growth, deficiency, etc., so I leave it at this.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2011 at 6:56PM
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