Making fertilizer in the lab?

arjadiejai(WNY z6)March 21, 2011

Hey all! I've spent some time on Google and searching here...surely I can't be the only one:

I work in a biology lab in Colorado, with a huuuuuge sunny window where I can put as many plants as I want. Lots of direct sunlight in the morning, bright indirect for most of the day. It's super dry, so I decided to start with a handful of succulents (hopefully forgiving of long weekends and the occasional vacation).

To get to the point, I have a large number of chemicals at my disposal and was wondering if I could make my own fertilizer. Has anyone tried this with any luck? Or at least have a good idea of where to start?

Thanks for any help!

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dellis326 (Danny)

I've not read about anyone doing that on this forum but on GW's hydroponics forum there has been threads about homemade nutrient solutions, you might try searching there.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   March 23, 2011 at 6:37AM
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Yeah, I once worked at an airport, but I cant fly. I worked too in a paint factory.....but I was warned not to fool around with the solvents that come out of taps designed for each product produced.
I'm not a biologist either, so I don't fool around with things I don't understand and not wish to experiment just for the sake of doing it.

Fertilizing plants is dealing with living things and thinking you can bring such chemicals together and the plant will accept it, is suggesting your next job is to fly like Superman.

Keep your feet on the Batman.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2011 at 3:17PM
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dellis326 (Danny)

If you worked in an airport and were trained to fly, then you could. arjadiejai did not say if he/she was a biologist but works with people who probably are and if is allowed access to chemicals at least either has some training to handle them or could be supervised/advised by someone who is or wouldn't be asking the question that was asked. Doesn't matter anyways since almost any compound that you can make fertilizer with is fairly easy to get anyhow and the few that aren't easy you can still find on the internet with a little looking around.

Some folks work with some pretty dangerous stuff and don't go running like a little kid when the subject come up. It's cool to voice your opinion but not in a way that scares someone away from expanding their knowledge base. Even if they don't go and make homebrew plant nutrients it's still good to learn what things go in there and what they do.

It isn't Xylene after all. . .

    Bookmark   March 23, 2011 at 7:32PM
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I'm not happy with what passes for container soil sold at retail outlets, so I build my own using a larger particulate. I find all the ingredients locally. Why do I do this? Because I possess the knowledge of what's needed and what's involved, and I'm not getting what I need or want from the gardening industry. What I end up with is a far cry better, and my plants are much happier and healthier.

If a person has the scientific knowledge, and has access to the various ingredients, all he needs to learn is which ones are right for the application he's thinking about making. He needs a recipe.

Personally, I think it's a lot easier to just purchase a bottle of fertilizer... it's certainly cheap enough and mixed well enough... but if you have your heart set on building such a mixture yourself, and you possess the knowledge... why not? Go for it!

There's nothing wrong with wanting to achieve a goal you've set for yourself. And there's nothing wrong with questioning industry authority and what they make available or the information they push. Industries operate with one goal in mind... and that goal is profit, and not always truth.

I think Superman might agree.

Keep in mind, though, should you embark upon your quest, that the contents of the internet cannot always be vetted.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2011 at 1:55PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

It's really not as complicated as it sounds, or as some portray it to be. You could easily make your own soluble fertilizers if you wanted to, from easily found chemicals, For instance, all the Miracle-Gro and other soluble fertilizers utilizing urea as their N source are, is a combination of urea, potassium chloride, potassium phosphate, iron sulfate, zinc sulfate or a zinc ammonia complex (depending on whether it's a granular or liquid fertilizer), probably manganese sulphate, and copper sulfate. Foliage-Pro just uses Calcium nitrate as both a Ca source and as the main fraction of the N source, and magnesium sulfate + a couple more micro-nutrients that would be easy to figure out.

The challenges would include combining the ingredients in amounts that add up to your desired NPK %s AND in a favorable ratio to each other. There are fertilizers that are technically 'balanced' and fertilizers that are balanced practically. You would also need to ensure that your nutrient sources wouldn't combine with other nutrient sources and react to form insoluble precipitants.

You could probably glean all the information you need from a good greenhouse op handbook like the Ball book Water Media and Nutrition for Greenhouse Crops.

FWIW - unless I was doing it to satisfy my curiosity or as a personal challenge, I wouldn't even consider it. The companies that make it by the megatons are very good at making the product at a very low price, compared to what you'd end up investing in terms of material ..... not to mention effort. A quart of MG 12-4-8 is about $5 and will last most of us using it on houseplants & containers a very long time.


    Bookmark   March 24, 2011 at 10:15PM
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That's kind of what I thought, too, Al... a person very well could... but why would they when it's already available at such a reasonable cost, and in formulations that are practical for our general uses?

It's sort of akin to baking regular sliced white bread... you certainly can, but as it's so easy to come by and priced decently, why would you? Now, if you were baking a specialty bread... that might be a different story.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2011 at 7:31AM
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arjadiejai(WNY z6)

dellis326: Thanks for pointing me towards the hydroponic forums, apparently I just wasn't searching with the right verbiage.

Putting chemicals on living things is a big part of my job description and there is someone in the lab that refers to me as "Wonder Woman." Maybe I should learn to fly?

Al: Thank you, that's exactly the type of answer I was looking for. I wasn't sure if it was going to get more complicated than simply following a recipe for a solution. So even though I have all the supplies at my disposal, it sounds like it isn't worth my time. Maybe something to play with in the future.

On an unrelated note: all the succulents I got from my local nursery came in a fast draining, soil-less mix! How cool is that, no re-potting needed.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2011 at 11:55AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

... always happy when it feels like I might have helped, Arjadiejai (interesting name). If you ever do need help with your soils or putting together a fertilizer program, please don't hesitate to look me up - if you think I can help.

Good luck. I hope everything turns out a strong grower for you!


    Bookmark   March 29, 2011 at 5:56PM
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