Going Au Naturel…

Don’t worry…I haven’t become a nudist.  But I did fertilize with all those wonderful organic fertilizers that my garden loves:  alfalfa pellets, bone meal, blood meal, cottonseed meal, and milorganite.  That along with the horse poopy I put down a couple of weeks ago and the rain we’ve been getting lately means the garden should start looking much healthier and happier soon.  I cut way, way back on the fertilizing earlier in the season cause of the drought and high temps cause I didn’t want to force new growth that was just gonna get fried and stress the plants out.  So my fertilizing schedule is totally off this year.  But having to deal with what Mother Nature sends us is just a part of gardening.

So, you ask, what exactly does all that organic fertilizer stuff do?  Good question!  Organics provide nutrients to the plants along with improving the viability of the soil as they break down.  Most of the organics I use are slow release except for blood meal which is considered a fast release organic.  Here’s what I use and what they do:

  • Alfalfa Pellets:  Gives the plants slow-release nitrogen and trace minerals.  It also contains a naturally occurring plant hormone called triaconatol that stimulates growth by improving photosynthesis and cell division.You can use either alfalfa meal or alfalfa pellets.  If you use pellets be sure to get the pellets used for horse food and not for rabbit food.  The rabbit food pellets have salt added to it and salt build-up in the soil is not a good thing.  I use 1 – 2 cups per bush depending on the size of the bush.  3-0-2
  • Blood Meal:  Gives quick-release of nitrogen.  Yes, it is exactly what the name says:  made from blood, usually from cows.  It’s awesome in its ability to green plants up quickly that need a nitrogen fix.  This stuff is very potent so be sure to use it as recommended on the bag!  Mine’s from Hi-Yield and 1/4 of a cup (yes, only 1/4) is enough for a 3’x3′ area.  That’s a big area for only 1/4 of a cup.  Lessen the amount for smaller bushes and plants in containers.  For large climbing roses or trees the amount can be increased.  It’s water soluble so it can be mixed in a water can and used that way.  I’ve never used it in a sprayer so I don’t know if that’ll work.  12-0-0
  • Bone Meal:   This is basically ground up bones.  It proves a very slow-release of phosphorous and calcium.   It doesn’t travel easily through the soil so be sure to either work it into the soil or add it to the hole when planting.  I use 1/4 – 1 cup per bush.  4-12-0
  • Cottonseed Meal:  Provides a slow-release of nitrogen, phosphorus, potash, and minor elements.  It also loosens heavy soils and helps sandy soils hold water and nutrients.  1 – 4 cups per bush depending on the size.  6.5-2.5-1.5
  • Milorganite:  Slow-release of nitrogen and phosphorus and iron.  1 – 2 cups per bush depending on size.  5-2-0

Organics are awesome cause they increase the biological activity of the soil structure as they break down.  Simply put, all the little microscopic and not so microscopic critters that make your soil healthier like to hang around where organics are.  The microorganisms break the organics down and release the nutrients for the plants to use.  As the breaking down happens other critters, such as earthworms, show up to either munch on the organic goodies or use them in building their tunnels.  And we all know how incredibly cool and helpful earthworms are to our gardens!  So by using organics you not only fertilize your plants you also increase your soil which in turn helps your garden to be healthier and happier.

The three numbers at the end of each organic description, i.e., 5-2-0 for Milorganite,  represent the macronutrient analysis of Nitrogen-Phosphorus-Potassium of each fertilizer.  All of my organics are from Hi-Yield except for the Milorganite.  The numbers can be different if your organics are from a different distributor.

There are differing opinions of whether organics should be worked into the soil of existing beds or just used as top dressing (meaning just thrown on top of the soil).  I personally agree with the opines that as organics decompose (or “cure”) they generate heat.  And that heat has the possibility of damaging the tender feeder roots of plants if the organics are worked into the soil.  So I pull back the mulch, toss the organics around the drip line, and put the mulch back in place over the organics.  (The “drip line” is the area below the canopy of the plant’s leaves.  Keep in mind that roots rarely grow past the plant’s drip line.)  Please, please, please do not pile the organics up against the trunk or stems or base of the plant!  That same curing heat that damages the feeder roots means the organics are too hot to be placed up against the plant.

I’ve got the perfect example of an organic that was too hot and damaged the plants it was on.  Remember my post on getting two loads of horse poopy?  Well, one load was aged and one load was fresh.  Usually I unload stuff like that onto the driveway by the double gates but I knew the heat from the horse poop along with the heat from the driveway along with the fact that it was August in Florida would probably kill me if I put it on the driveway.  So I put both loads in separate piles on the grass.  In the pic below, the pile in front is the aged one and I was just starting to unload the fresh one.  The aged pile actually sat on the grass for about twelve hours longer than the fresh one did.   

Poopy and Crazy Dog

The next two pics were taken about a week after I’d put the poop into the beds.  This is the grass that had the aged poop on it.  You can see that some of the grass was killed, but definitely not all of it.

Aged Pile Area

And this is the area where the fresh pile was.  Pretty much all the grass and weeds were killed cause the heat coming from the pile as it decomposed was extremely high.

Fresh Pile Area

 
See the difference?  Today the aged pile area is all filled in and looks great.  The fresh pile area is just barely starting to show new growth.  The grass will eventually fill in, but in the meantime it doesn’t look real pretty.  So keep that in mind before piling any type of fertilizer right next to the plant.
 
I like mixing my own organics so I buy 50-pound bags of each type mentioned above from a local feed store.  If you’re not into doing that, there are some great pre-mixed organic fertilizers out there:  Rose Tone and Plant Tone (any of “Tone” fertilizers actually) and Mills Magic Mix are just a couple I can think of off the top of my head.  Check with your local nursery for more recommendations.  If you grow roses your local rose society is your best bet for info.
 
Oh, please don’t forget to water well after putting those organics down!  Watering helps to start the curing process.  Even better is try to time it where you put the organics down before just before a good rainstorm comes.  That’s definitely what I try to do.
 
My next post I’m gonna introduce you to my East Fire Pit Bed and East Pool Bed.  Here’s a teaser of that post for you:
 

Baronne Henriette de Snoy 07-30-2011

 
 

Baronne Henriette de Snoy 07-30-2011

 
 This week I’m hanging out with these very cool blogs.  Be sure to check them out!
 
Well, that’s all for now.  Cheers to an awesome rest of the day!
 
Jeanni
 
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16 responses to “Going Au Naturel…

  • susan

    Hey Jeanni…I’m going to enjoy seeing all the pretty roses on your garden blog. You will love Sherry’s blog – If Sweat were Irrigation. She grows tons of old fashioned roses in Ocala. I think the link is: http://ifsweatwereirrigation.blogspot.com. If that doesn’t work…look on my sidebar on my blog and you’ll find her.

    I’ll be back!

    • Jeanni

      Hi, Susan! Thanks for stopping by. I’d found Sherry’s blog already…we grow alot of the same roses. Looking forward to talking with you about Florida gardening!
      Jeanni

  • Carol Samsel

    Love the rose and thanks for refresher on the organics….

    • Jeanni

      You are very welcome, Carol, for the refresher! I love talking about plants and gardening and am very glad there’s people out there in blogland who like to hear about stuff like that.
      Jeanni

  • mary

    I used alpaca poop the last 2 years and it is awesome stuff! Love roses- such a pretty picture!

  • Jane

    Some wonderfully helpful information here. I’m going to pass this on to my DIL…she’s mad about roses!

  • Beth

    Jeanni, This is a really interesting post! One issue I had when I planted bulbs with bone meal, was that the rabbits or squirrels dug them up. I am a firm believer in compost and I do make my own. Your pink rose is a real winner, Jeanni.
    Beth

    • Jeanni

      Hi, Beth. Yeah, unfortunately the wildlife and dogs and cats do like the organics. I’ve found Gibbs scrounging in the garden beds digging for the good stuff a couple of times. And I had either the neighborhood possums or armadillos dig up a newly planted Champney’s Pink Cluster rose to get what was in the hole. Were the rabbits and squirrels after the bone meal or after the bulbs? They do like both. I don’t know how many bulbs you plant, but one thing that helps is to plant the bulbs, put a layer of soil down, put a section of chicken wire down, then put the rest of the soil on top of the chicken wire. Most of the time the chicken wire keeps the critters out. Don’t use extremely small gauge wire though cause there has to be enough room for the plants to grow through. I make my own compost too. It’s just a very small pile of it, but it’s better than it going to the landfills.
      Jeanni

  • abeachcottage

    Interesting post and very informative too. Your roses looks great as well. Thanks for linking to BC Good Life Wednesdays.

  • FlowerLady

    Hi Jeanni ~ Just found your blog through Susan’s Central Florida Gardener blog and am glad I did. Great info on feeding organics to roses. I also grow roses. I look forward to reading more of your blog now that I’ve found you.

    FlowerLady

  • Cottage and Broome

    A lot of good information about poo, but I agree going natural is better. Loved your rose picture, if you get a chance stop by and see my northern garden. Thanks Mom from Cottage and Broome

  • Patrick's Garden

    Our local tomato guru applies two hand fulls of soybean meal pellets to his tomatoes and swears it keep all his tomatoes (early, mid and late) producing til end of season. Heard of it?

  • Ava

    Lot’s to learn here, I’m going to try some of this on my garden ! xx Ava

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