'Food Spikes'-- just want your opinion

Lamora(4)July 14, 2012

Hi everyone. I do hope your weekend is going good.. :)

I was just wanting some imput on those Food Spikes you just put in the soil and leave them.

I know I do not feed my plants like I should. I feed/water them at different times and was told NOT to let the food sit in water for more than a day. I use gallon jugs when I feed (liquid feed) and most the time I don't use up all the water. Not a big deal really, I was just wondering about the spikes.. if those would be better feeding.

So I was wanting any opinions on the Food Spikes, if anyone has any.

Thanks for any opinions and imput.

Marjie :)

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They're fine. There isn't anything bad about them other than the fact that you're paying a premium for the convenience. I have used them for the same reason you mention, that it is easy. An alternative would be to buy a small bottle of Osmocote and use that instead.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2012 at 7:05PM
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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)

Hi Lamora,

From what I've observed here, not a lot of us use these, not sure the reason.

Personally, I use fertilizers I mix up from powder. I prefer to control their strength (or diluteness) myself. I've never had any trouble leaving the fertilizer in water overnight. Been doing so for years, including earlier this week; I'd be skeptical of that caution.

Then again, I grow mostly succulents so I only fertilize them maybe twice a growing season. For my Houseplants & Hoyas I fertilize more (w/ liquid mixed from powders as I said above).

    Bookmark   July 14, 2012 at 9:16PM
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Hi Lamora...How are you?

If I'd known you used spikes, I'd have sent 20 packs. lol.

I don't use Spikes for a couple reasons.

Spikes basicially fertilize the area where they're inserted, not the entire rootball. After watering, the food doesn't permeate throughout soil.
If you use several spikes per pot, it might work, but then there's a chance of over-fertilizing and excess salt buildup.

I once bought large, 5-inch spikes, placed in two Citrus, (tree) pots. Don't know the reason, but both citrus died. Coincidence? Maybe, but I'll never risk loosing another citrus again.

Fertilizing takes time, longer for those who have many plants..Instead of spikes,, why not use timed-release-pellets..they last about three-months, and easy to apply..Sprinkle and water.

There are numerous types of pellets on the market, for various plant varieties. Toni

    Bookmark   July 15, 2012 at 11:41AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Why are you fertilizing at different times? Whatever your reasons might be will surely be negated by the use of fertilizer spikes.

I'm not sure why you can't mix up only the amount of liquid fertilizer that you want to use at any one time. Just because you use a gallon jug doesn't mean you have to make that much.

I guess I just don't understand why you are making this more complicated than it really is. And then trying to simplify the job by using a truly inferior carrier of plant nutrition.

Think about it.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2012 at 12:20PM
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Thanks for the responses.
Toni- i don't use them right now- that is why i was asking what everyone thought about them. But been thinking on it tho. The pellets sounds like an almost better idea tho.

I was going to feed them today (my old liquid food) but they are still wet from the rain we got yesterday~~ boy~~ were they in heaven with that! ;) So I think I will wait till they dry out before doing that. (not wanting to over water) This is one reason I wanted some input on this.

What about winter feeding with the pellets.. if they last about 3 mths. Maybe late Fall thru Spring? Not feeding in winter? So if I get it in Aug. it would be Nov. for the next feeding.. is that ok? then wait till spring.. these are all indoor plants btw. If that makes a difference.

Thanks again
Marjie :)

    Bookmark   July 15, 2012 at 12:23PM
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rhizo-- guess we were "talking" about the same time. I don't want to make it complicated. I just wanted to know what others thought about them so I can make an informed decision on it-- They haven't been feed for 2 mths now, thought it was time and was just wondering about other forms of feeding. Thats all. Nothing complicated about it. Just wanted opinions. Good or bad. personal exp--I love those too. :)

The reason I feed them at different times is because they get watered at different times, I do not want to over water them while feeding, and I like to do it all at once so I know it has been done. But since I can keep the feed in water for a while (not sure who told me it wasn't good) I won't stress about it. Not that I was stressing if they haven't been fed. I was just wondering what others thought. (different strokes for differnt folks-- right?)

Marjie :)

    Bookmark   July 15, 2012 at 12:46PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Don't use fertilizer spikes.

They are inefficient at best, and very harmful at worst. I've seen more fertilizer burn
result from their use than any other fertilizer product. My advice, Avoid Them.


    Bookmark   July 15, 2012 at 1:36PM
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Hi Marji,

Fertilizing in general is vastly over-rated thanks primarily to the marketing campaign of Miracle-Gro. They want you to believe that their product can solve every plant problem! Indoor plants use nutrient in very minute quantities, so replacing them is rarely necessary.

The label directions on most fertilizers are based on the ideal growing conditions of nurseries and greenhouses. If your plant is not healthy and growing vigorously, don't fertilize. If you are going to use fertilizer, dilute it to half-strength. Excess fertilizer is far more often a problem than lack of fertilizer.

Powder and liquid fertilizers that you dilute with water are the most economical and also the easiest to control because you can dilute to any strength and apply on any schedule. You can make up a large batch and use it over the course of a month, if you want.

Spikes tend to create "hot spots" in the area where they are inserted and I don't recommend them.

Timed released fertilizer pellets slowly release nutrients with each watering over a period of 3 to 6 months. In many cases, you can apply the pellets once or twice per year and that's it. The difficulty is that once they are in the soil, they cannot be removed for periods of slower growth.

I have written an article on the ins-and-outs of fertilizing indoor plants that I will email to anyone who sends me an email request at willcreed@verizon.net.


    Bookmark   July 15, 2012 at 2:41PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Fertilizing is a very important part of container culture. Most of us with any significant experience realize that we need to shoulder the burden for supplying all the nutrients essential to normal growth, and relying on the soil to provide those nutrients is a good way to ensure disappointing results.

If you're watering appropriately, hot spots and localized concentrations of fertilizers aren't a problem. The salts in fertilizers disperse very quickly in moist soils. I don't like them because they offer no control, which is the same reason I prefer to avoid controlled release products. Once you've fertilized, you have little recourse, other than to try to remove the prills (or stakes), or let dispersal run its course. I, for one, like to withhold fertilizers during the dog days of summer. You can do that with stakes, but who remembers?

The fertilizing goal that is to your plants' best advantage, is to have all the essential nutrients plants normally take from the soil, IN the soil at as close to the same ratio as that in which the plant uses them, and at a concentration high enough to ensure no nutritional deficiencies, yet low enough to ensure the plant has no difficulty taking up water and the nutrients dissolved in water.

That is easier than it sounds. Frequent low doses of appropriate soluble fertilizers coupled with a soil that drains freely enough so you can flush accumulations of salts from fertilizers and tapwater provide a constant state of nutrition the plant will appreciate.

The idea that you shouldn't fertilize plants in winter is only half thought through. You shouldn't OVER-fertilize in winter, but you should maintain all nutrients in the soil in a concentration that meets the goal above - otherwise you ensure some degree of limitation. This has much more to do with soil choice/watering habits than fertilizer choice, but fertilizer choice is important.


Here is a link that might be useful: More about fertilizing containerized plants.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2012 at 3:32PM
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Most people are growing their plants in potting mixes that have an abundance of nutrients and they are growing those plants in less than ideal light, which is the real growth regulator. In tos circumstances, growth is les tha optimum, watering is reduced and the need for nutrient supplements is greatly reduced.

Fertilizing can be very important if you are growing your plants in soil-less or hydroponic media and in optimum light conditions. Most of us are not.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2012 at 8:41PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Traditional potting mixes break down so slowly, and such a significant part of them gas off, that relying on the breakdown of soil particles as the sole source of our plant's nutrition is a decidedly poor strategy. That there is a potential abundance of nutrients locked in the soil's hydrocarbon chains is no guarantee they will be available when needed; and in some cases it might actually work against the grower (as in N immobilization). It takes microbial activity to cleave the hydrocarbon chains, and containers are generally hostile environments for soil biota at worst and produce erratic populations at best. Also, the more open the soil (i.e the faster it drains and the less water retentive it is) the greater the need for regular nutritional supplementation. Container culture is quite different from growing in gardens and beds in that regard. Where 'feeding the soil' and relying on the soil to supply almost all the plant's nutritional requirements is a workable and productive goal for gardens and beds, it doesn't work well in container culture for a number of reasons.


    Bookmark   July 15, 2012 at 9:10PM
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I should have explained my fertilizing technique using Timed-Release Pellets.

I include pellets to freshly mixed soil/mediums made in large quantities. 'Repotting or topping.' Throughout the growing season, 'spring-autumn,' my plants also get water-solable fertilizers. Different types, depending on plant.

I do not fertilize from late autumn until spring...Especially Succulents.
One ingredient added in tropical mix is black soil, 'not top soil for outdoor gardens,' Black soil provides nutrients year round.

However, before winter, I spray ALL plants w/Fish Emulsion. Mainly to control Scale, but as a last-supper (organic fertilizer) before dark, grey days approach.

I believe it was Will who said there's a 6-month slow-release fertilizer. I've never seen this type but assume it'd work as well as 3-month.

Since pellets release a small amount of fertilizer per watering, and because watering is reduced during winter months, there's no need to worry about plants being over-fertilized during the dark days of winter.

For the reason above, additional fertilizers, DURING GROWING SEASONS should be added, provided plants are getting adequate sunlight.

Anyway, felt I needed to explain pellets are not the sole fertilizer used... Toni

    Bookmark   July 16, 2012 at 12:10PM
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Thanks for all this imput. I went ahead and made up some food in some water. I am watering as needed for one feeding..yes, I am keeping track of what ones are getting fed. I think I will keep doing what I am doing till next Spring, since I do have food now and it seems to be working. And see what I can do in Spring. I know there is at last one more feeding before that.

So I should NOT feed during winter months. I understand that, but when should the last feeding be done? Yeah- I know I am asking early, but I just want to know before then. Just so I know.

Anyway-- thanks again for all the great responces on this.
Marjie :)

    Bookmark   July 16, 2012 at 11:24PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Lamora - Consider carefully: there is no one size fits all advice for how/when you should/can fertilize. The advice to withhold fertilizer in winter is based on an assumption - actually 2 assumptions. One, that your plant won't use the nutrients (it will), and two, if you do you can over-fertilize and cause fertilizer burn. To illustrate that the advice doesn't fit all applications, I fertilize with a weak dose of fertilizer every time I water - all winter long, and I water on average every 3 days. You may have seen my plants - almost everything I grow is w/o a blemish on the foliage, so it certainly can't be said that fertilizing in the winter is inherently bad. There can be no harm in having nutrients available at low levels at all times during the winter. No one removes the nutrient supply of plants growing in the landscape in the winter, do they? Those plants dine on exactly the same salts you supply when you apply your Miracle-Gro or Foliage-Pro or whatever fertilizer you use.

I grow under lights, but that makes little difference because nutrient requirements are linked with water requirements. Under low light conditions, plants grow less so they need lower volumes of nutrients - but they also use much less water. Using less water would mean I water less frequently means I am supplying a volume of nutrients based on the plants growth/water requirements. If we're using a soil that allows us to water correctly, that is so we flush the soil when we water, it makes perfect sense. Over-fertilizing is virtually impossible, there is always an adequate supply of nutrients in the soil, the ratio of nutrients can't get so skewed there are toxicities or antagonistic deficiencies - what's not to like?

If you're using a soil that requires you to water in sips to avoid root rot, you're kind of stuck, and you'd better come down on the safe side and fertilize sparingly or not at all in the winter. This advise isn't parsed because it's good for your plant, it's given because it's a requirement to save it from high salt levels that occur because you're unable to water correctly. In essence, it's the lesser of two evils.


    Bookmark   July 17, 2012 at 8:01AM
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Hi Marj,

I reread this thread, noticed Karen leaves fertilizer over-night.
Since her plants are healthy, obviously the fertilizer she uses doesn't cause harm when left out.

However, I've read via books, internet sites and more importantly, fertilizer packages, fertilizers should be used within a short period after 'mixing/preparing.'

I don't know the reason unless it's believed chemicals change in open air or sitting fertilizer is less effective.

Heck, if it's true fertilizer can be pre-made and left out, I'd have been mixing in advance since my first plant purchase. lol.

Got a doc appt, want to add more about winter feeding. Talk to you guys later, Toni

    Bookmark   July 18, 2012 at 11:03AM
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:) So what I am understanding is it is like everything else, a personal choice. The plants have fast draining soil. And I am flushing every watering. So, if I am understanding Al, I should be able to feed a very low dose every time I water. Even in winter, but less. Ok that makes a bit more since to me.

My plants dont seem like they are being deprived of food right now, they "seem" fine, growing real good, (cept for the TC cuttings-- but they dont look like they are dying either) And like I said, they havent been fed for 2 mths now. I would just like to do the best for them.

Before we moved from WA, they were getting fed about every 2 wks, then the move,, they didn't do so well so I stopped feeding them. (I guess your not supposed to feed a "sick" plant) It is warmer here, they are out on the porch in the shade, they get watered when dry.

I just thought they could do better with a bit of feeding.

Oh and the Bromeliads? Do i put the food in the soil? or like I was watering them, in the "funnels" of the leaves (for lack of words right now) Somewhere I heard that putting food directly on the plant was a bad thing. Just put in soil.

I really appreciate all this advice and imput. I am going to have to look at different foods for plants. I was looking for that Fol-Gro or Pro-Gro or something like that..it was mentionded a while back.. but I cant find it in any stores here.

Anyway-- thanks for the advice,, very much appreciated..
Marjie :)

    Bookmark   July 18, 2012 at 11:18PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Foliage Pro 9-3-6 - check for it in a Hydroponics shop, if you have one locally.


    Bookmark   July 19, 2012 at 8:48PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Lamora - Please be sure you understand that if you decide to fertilize very frequently with very low doses, it's important that you're able to water properly; that is, so each time you water you're flushing the soil of accumulating salts. If you can't water that way because your soil is too water-retentive and you'll be running the risk of your soil remaining soggy for too long - you need to use a different strategy.

That you should never fertilize a sick plant is often rigidly repeated, even in the face of a fatal flaw in the advice; that being, if a plant is "sick" because of a deficiency of one or more nutrients, which often happens, withholding fertilizer is a death sentence. There is no substitute for the ability to reason. It separates you from the limiting effects of one size fits all convention, which is widely substituted for understanding when it comes to growing things.

Never add fertilizer to the cup of Bromeliads. It can damage the foliage, especially as the water evaporates and the fertilizer solution gets more concentrated. It's a good idea to use distilled water, rain water, or dehumidifier water in the cup, or flush the cup regularly to reduce the level of salts that accumulate from tap water.


    Bookmark   July 19, 2012 at 9:26PM
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I appreciate all this information but i am a bit confused about it. Why is one saying we should feed our plants all winter when the majority of us do not have the luxury of lots of light or heat created from them? It seems that plants will always need to be fed if given the right conditions all winter, meaning extra light, heat, and air movement. Plants are very active for those that can provide that, but the majority are stuck with dismal light at best by the middle of fall and through winter.
My plants would of been lucky to see more than 4 hours of direct sun at best on the only few sunny days I got when I use to live in zone 5.I don't care what kind of mix one uses, if a plants need for light,air movement, and warmth, is not met to a large degree, neither will its need to take up nutrients. I have fed my plants with minute dosages in fast draining mixes all winter in the past, just to be met with spindly weak growth and mite attack.
Tapla, do you feed your plants that are in dormant stage, not under lights all winter? Do you grow most of your plants in less than optimal conditions like most of us and still fertilize?

    Bookmark   July 20, 2012 at 9:35AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

You seem to have it all figured out and aren't really in need of my help. Your commentary sounds much too familiar (sort of a deja vu experience) for me to want to engage in chasing my tail. Obviously if one person follows a pattern and has excellent results, it's pretty obvious the person who claims to follow the same pattern with poor results is missing something.

Best luck.


    Bookmark   July 20, 2012 at 3:11PM
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Hi again.
Al- not sure who you are referring to, but thats ok. :) If it is me, thats ok too. Sorry you feel like your chasing your tail. I learn a lot from you, So I hope you don't feel like your wasting your time with me.. I just learn slow and sometimes it takes a few times for me to "get it"

Like I said before, I didn't want to make it complicated.. I just wanted opinions on the subject.. what others thought. Now that I have others opinion on silly little spikes-- I think I will stay with what I have. And thanks to you, I won't be afraid to feed them more often and now I know how to feed my Bromeliad-- I haven't fed the new one yet, but now I know how when I do. Thank you for that bit of info I didn't have before. I would have done a lot of dammage to it. :(

Still friends?
Marjie :)

    Bookmark   July 21, 2012 at 1:43PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

I believe Al's post was a response to the post immediately before his.


    Bookmark   July 21, 2012 at 2:59PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

So sorry, Lamora. I wasn't referring to you at all. I have all the patience in the world for someone who wants to learn or improve their skills. No worries - I'm always glad to lend a helping hand whenever I spot an opportunity. ;-)


    Bookmark   July 21, 2012 at 3:49PM
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:) love the pic!! and thanks..

    Bookmark   July 22, 2012 at 1:38PM
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Hello everyone.

I just wanted to make everyone aware of the fact that I just found out that 'dirtbites', my cousin or cousins, temporarily living with me from the south, have decided to take part of these forums to try to prove me wrong with my porous mixes by taking any of us up to task favoring what she does, actually both of them as a team. Out of respect for me and MY laptop, they have stopped and will not be around any longer. It just so happens I just found out by accident thank God!
What a shame.

My apologies


    Bookmark   July 22, 2012 at 2:08PM
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Mike, that's awful! Why on earth would family members do something so immature???

It's heroic of you to come forth. Especially on a thread that could have turned into a battle zone. Thanks. Toni

    Bookmark   July 22, 2012 at 3:10PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

I hope Lamora's ok with me taking a minute to explain something. About battle zones - I know many of you think I like to argue, or that I'm rude, but please consider something - I recognized the baiting/trolling in this and the other thread about MG, and decided it wasn't worth arguing about. What IS worth arguing about is when someone intentionally sows misinformation in order to get under another person's skin. It's not that I feel the need to retaliate, but I do feel the need to correct misinformation. I think it's horribly selfish to intentionally say things we know are wrong for all the wrong reasons. This isn't the case here, but THAT is what makes me point to the misinformation and the personal effrontery often utilized when someone runs out of facts. It's not for me that I engage in debate, it's for others that are impressionable and are in danger of having their growing experience harmed because someone needs to either feel good about themselves (ego) or feels the need to annoy. I can make up my own mind, but so many others can't, because they often lack too many pieces of the puzzle. I have a real hard time looking away from advice that has the potential to hurt someone, so when someone tells me something about growing I know not to be true, I can easily look away to save the effort of disagreeing, but not so easily, for instance, if Lamora's not getting the full picture or is being mislead. I'm not saying that this particular post was like that, only explaining how I think. If I engage someone in disagreement it's almost always because I think readers will benefit from seeing both sides clearly, or seeing another reasoned response. I'd much rather be diplomatic when I can, but once a thread is off the rails I think simply being direct, impersonal, and working with facts instead of opinions works best.

Most often, when I talk about myself, you'll find I'm sharing a little bit of my heart, so it makes it easier to understand where I'm coming from, hopefully. For those who think I'm bristly, please try to understand that when I post here I'm guided by certain principles. I'm old enough to be guided by such, too. ;-) What I mean is, I always try to avoid a disagreement unless I think what someone is saying has the potential to harm someone's growing experience or mislead them. If that occurs on a thread I'm participating in, I feel obligated to disagree - a pretty simple MO. I also try to word every post so it has the potential to enlighten someone - either today, a week from now, or a year down the road when someone is doing a search and comes across a debate.

Frankly, the way the post above was worded, I was concerned that a person who had made it a point to wage a vendetta for well over a year was back, so I'm really relieved Mike stepped up and explained what was going on. In an email reply to Mike, I explained that there's no reason to ask his nephew to withhold his opinions, but he does have reason to ask him to play fair. All's well, no blood shed or high drama. All the questions posed by dirtbites have been answered over & over again, so unless someone is really interested in hearing the answers, we'll just move along.

Thanks again, Mike.


    Bookmark   July 22, 2012 at 5:03PM
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