What do you feed your plants and/or lawn?

Discussion in 'Food & Cooking' started by layjo, Jun 8, 2001.

  1. layjo

    layjo

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    Hello everyone! I'm glad to see that this new forum is up and running. I have read that plants and lawns need three primary nutrients that they derive from soil in order to sustain healthful growth. Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potasium and a small amount of Iron. I know I need to do some more reading on this subject. I want to correct my soil so that it will grow good tasting and good looking plants and vegetables and such. I have started using an all-pourpose plant food. How do you feed your plants besides watering? I also cut back some of my plants and recycle the cliping back to the garden...hoping that it might help as a sort of mulch but i am wondering if it will help the plants growth any. Thanks in advance for you replies!
     
  2. papa

    papa

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    Dear LayJo:

    As gardeners we can improve our efficiency if we appreciate the way the garden works. In the ecosystem of our garden we the gardeners contribute an enormous subsidy in the form of energy.

    Everything we put into our gardens can be evaluated in terms of energy and expressed in calories as units of energy content. (One calorie is the heat needed to raise the temperature of a kilogram of water by one degree Celsius). Whenever you apply chemical fertilizer to your vegetable patch or use an insecticide spray against aphids, the garden receives an energy subsidy equivalent to the energy used to manufacture, transport and apply the chemicals. Similarly, watering the vegetable patch, making and spreading compost, weeding to reduce competition, trimming a tree to increase light penetration, and all the other tasks that we perform, add up a massive energy subsidy. This massive input of energy results in a massive output, which translates to a beautiful garden. I look at my garden as a balance sheet of energy. There is no reason why the energy at the input should exceed the dividends that we derive. That is why it is logical to compost as much garden “trash” as possible rather than burning it or throwing it out.

    First we need to look on how we want to improve the fertility of our soil. Our aim of a fertile soil can only be achieved by maintaining its humus content. Humus helps to give soil a structure by binding together mineral particles into small lumps. Within these lumps are minute spaces between the mineral particles, called “pores” that contain air and water. It is vital both for feeding plants and also for giving good structure so that there is aeration and drainage, and plant roots grow easily and healthy. In a garden where all the dead plant material is removed, the soil quality eventually deteriorates as its humus content is depleted. Extra nutrients can be added in the form of chemical fertilizers but this will do nothing for the soil structure. Much can be achieved by allowing dead plant material to accumulate on the soil surface but the best action is to dig quantities of compost into the soil to replenish its humus content.

    Second we need to improve drainage. My most favorite way of doing this is by raising the level of the beds. Earthworms are of prime importance for decomposition of dead material and for the maintenance of soil structure. Worms prepare the ground in an excellent way for the growth of fibrous rooted plants and for seedlings. Bacteria and fungi are the real powerhouse of decomposition and recycling. There are millions of soil organisms that recycle plant nutrients so that the chemical elements, which are contained in dead matter eventually, becomes available to our garden plants. Plants manufacture sugars and other organic substances, including starch, cellulose, lignin, fats, pigments and proteins, but to accomplish this they need many different chemical elements, almost all of which they absorb through their roots. The one exception to this is carbon, which they obtain from the atmosphere.

    Deep digging is important when we first plant flower borders or vegetable plots and no more than once every about ten years. Crop rotation is important to balance our demands from our garden’s soil. Conditioning our soil is important as well. The best materials for that are well-rotted manure and compost. In the vegetable patches you need two gallons of well-rotted compost or manure for every square meter of soil. Manure and compost can be dug into the soil or used as mulches around trees or shrubs. When used as mulch, one gallon per square meter is enough. Use cow, horse, sheep, pig manure but be very careful when using chicken manure. Chicken manure is extremely powerful! You should avoid putting any type of manure on young shoots because it will scorch them. Tree leaves contain high amounts of lignin, which is slow to rot down and which fungi than bacteria decompose. It takes two to three years for dead leaves to make good leaf mould. But, when you have it, leaf mould is so good that you may choose to use it as potting or seed-sowing compost. Blood, fish and bone meal are good ground fertilizers. The thing to watch is that nitrogen contained in these fertilizers is released quickly, so it should not be applied more than two weeks before crops are sown and planted. Organic gardening has been proven by University research to make vegetables taste better too.

    As you have already realized, I am a strong proponent of organic gardening. I hope this helps. Your question was very good. Unfortunately, it covers such a wide area that I think we need to break it down. I think that we should have separate topics each for lawns, flowerbeds, trees, vegetable patches and herbs. This is a new forum so we need some time to organize it. When Cape Chef comes back from his trip to Maine I will talk with him about creating some specialized topics. That way, we can also have a resource of information to which we can easily refer at a later time. Something like the recipe section.

    I hope that you do not mind my long postings.

    :)
     
  3. papa

    papa

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    Dear Dave the mad baker:

    Great job! No wonder your veggies are doing so well!

    In order to protect my strawberry patches I used to buy a plastic net that nurseries sell for the protection of fruit trees from the birds (towrap around the tree). I used to save branches from trimming my trees and use them as stilts on which I attached that net. Light, rain and air circulation are not blocked by the net. It is not expensive at all and it worked perfectly for me. It was also very durable and I kept using it year after year.

    The best strawberries I have ever grown were the "fraises du bois" (forest strawberries) in France. They were tiny but the most flavorful!!!!

    ;)
     
  4. pastachef

    pastachef

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    Papa, thank you for the very informative article on grass and fertilizers, etc. I think I am now able to understand my 'moody' grass :) Of course, having two dogs could put any lawn in a bad mood.
    :D

    [ June 08, 2001: Message edited by: Pastachef ]
     
  5. w.debord

    w.debord

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    Layjo you can really recieve alot of help from your local college (assuming yours would be similar to the ones near me). They have what's call "the county extention"...(I don't know why exactly it's called that) in colleges that have horticultural classes. Call your local college and ask for the number directly.

    I can call this extention and ask them ANY gardening questions and they'll help me for free. They study the soil in my area and know about my specific area on top of knowing about plants and trees. They have kits where you dig up soil from your yard and send it to them (it's cheap)and they do tests on it and tell you what your soil is made of and what items it lacks. They can even tell you very specific details and make recommendations specific to your area.

    In order to improve your soil you must first know what it is and what it needs, right?

    These professionals (students and professors) have even come out to my home (for free) and helped me learn about my lawn and gave me pointers on trimming my apple trees. It's a wonderful service I highly recommend not being shy...give them a call and ask even the simplest questions or the most difficult.

    In my veg. garden we apply the clippings from the lawn to mulch. It does several things...controls moisture evaporation, prevents weeds, breaks down into compost and it's free.

    Don't get stuck worrying about perfect soil. Plants can be most forgiving and hardy. If it's not one element to battle then it's another like problem bugs...but that's a learning process to.
     
  6. linda smith

    linda smith

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    Wow guys. I leave for one day and presto... Garden Forum. No moss growing here. I am a big fan of mushroom compost. I dumped about 300 pounds of the stuff into my garden before planting this spring. It gets my vote as the best.
     
  7. layjo

    layjo

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    Wow! Thanks for the descriptive advice! I like reading long post and replies that have good info and content! I guess I was being a little too broad in my question, which could probably be broken down into many differnt questions. Well I have tackled small gardens in the past, but I want to get into more effective gardening practices. I am In agreeance with the idea of organic gardening. I will have to do some more research on it and i would like to continue those practices. Thanks for the descriptions Papa, Dave, Linda, W. Debord, and for joining in the disscussion Pastachef. I look forward to breaking
    down more sections of my big question in to small ones to get my knowledge of the soil in a positive growth!
     
  8. papa

    papa

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    Dear PastaChef:

    This is a good question.

    I use a rake to incorporate the lawn seeds into the freshly turned soil.

    I am waiting to see what CC does because my method is not based on any professional advice. It is just something I always do. :rolleyes:
     
  9. w.debord

    w.debord

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    When we bought our home 9 or so years ago only the front yard came sodded and we were on our own to do the back. We seeded it...anyway we kept getting bad areas of grass that were "wild grasses" not the mix we put down (not annuals grasses like crab either). Anyway every year we'd kill the bad areas and replant....we tried everything over and over, it became extremely frustrating (we are very into gardening so our failure with our lawn was very frustrating, we even hired two different consultants to help). Raking the areas stirred up the bad seeds from weeds and foriegn grasses and a light layer of dirt made for uneven terrain. We could never win!

    The last three years I've been working at a world class golf club and the head grounds keeper likes pastries so he's been kind to share his knowledge and advice with my husband and I.
    His main points were: most people don't germinate properly, you must water multipal times during the day so the seed remains moist NEVER drying out. Mulch helps greatly to retain the moisture or use a sprinkler with a timer. Then he taught us to leave the bad stuff there and let the good grasses become so healthy that they crowd the bad stuff out. THAT'S finally working...it's taken time though. We used to let the lawn go dorment in the hot summer and that allowed the bad stuff to survive and flurish and the good grasses never got healthy enough to crowd them out. Plus acouple of other tips that have really helped.

    P.S. I still like the blue/green mulch stuff that you can buy at the store. It has seed and fertilizer mixed in....I add my own blue grass seed and that works really great when I have a bare spot I want instant results in.
     
  10. pastachef

    pastachef

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    I have a question about my lawn. A small section has to be dug up and replanted every year, because it develops bald patches. I suspect it's the dogs. My son just dug it up five days ago, strew grass seed all over it, then covered it with hay and watered. We lightly water it every evening. My question is this...shouldn't he have thrown a thin layer of dirt over the seed before he covered it with hay?
     
  11. pastachef

    pastachef

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    Wow, W.Debord, that's good advice. Everyone else here would have told me I'm crazy for watering the seeds several times a day, which I've been doing. Linda, could you tell me about the mushroom compost? That sounds interesting. Thank you everyone.

    [ June 11, 2001: Message edited by: Pastachef ]
     
  12. mudbug

    mudbug

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    Layjo,

    There are so many things you can add to your soil. If you want to correct your soil, you first need to find out what kind of soil you have. Find out what state your soil is in by determining the pH level of your soil before deciding what needs to be added to it.

    There are test kits at your local garden centers and it takes just a few minutes to do. Just take a sample of soil, add water to the chemical in the tube and it will turn a certain color which will tell you whether you have acidic soil or alkaline soil. In addition to everyones comments, lime is also important. It supplies calcium, an essential element for plant growth, unlocks soil fertility (making other nutrients available in acid soils), helps to decompose organic matter, release nitrogen, and stimulate the work of microbes and root bacteria.

    For more on soil pH, click here

    Here's a listing of options for things you can add to your soil. Keep in mind that different plants prefer different mixtures.

    Slag, an industrial by-pruduct good for legumes.
    Bloodmeal, from slaughterhouses for hastening plant breakdown in compost
    Bone Meal for phosphorous and nitrogen
    Coffee grounds
    Compost a gardener's gold. Basically a mixture of any of the above and or plant material allowed to heat up in the sun to decompose with aeration and water.
    Cottonseed Meal
    Grass Clippings, make sure no pesticides were used
    Greensand and Granite Dust, source of potash
    Hulls and Shells of cocoa beans, buckwheat, oats, rice and cottonseed for fertilizer and mulch.
    Leaf Mold, dampened shredded leaves with lime.
    Leaves, use as compost or mulch.
    Manure - make a manure tea by putting say 4 cups of manure in an old cotton tee shirt. Tie it up. Fill up large plastic bucket with water and immerse the manure into it. Let it sit a day or overnight and you will have a rich tea to feed your plants.
    Mushroom compost
    Peat Moss, great as a mulch
    Phosphate, lots of minerals
    Sawdust, a great mulch
    Seaweed and Kelp, high in potash
    Sludge, similar fertilizer as barnyard manure
    Wood Ashes
    Wood Chips

    At home you can save your eggshells, coffee grounds, tea grounds, any vegetable waste, & ashes from hardwood coals (not charcoal) to add to your grass clippings and leaves for compost. Try to avoid any fruits as these attract fruit flies and other inscets you don't want in your compost pile.

    If you have a lot of clippings, I would recommend a compost pile with plastic on tip. This will help heat the pile and you won't have to turn it. It will yield rich, black compost much quicker. This instead of spot composting which I'm not sure is as effective. Let the clippings deteriorate outside of the soil before adding. It will add much more in the long run. ;)
     
  13. papa

    papa

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    Dear cchiu:

    That was a wonderful posting! Thank you!

    I am learning so much from you guys!

    :)
     
  14. cape chef

    cape chef

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    Wow!!!!!!! I was gone a couple days and you guys have come up with ways to save the planet!!This is great, I don't no what to add. But I'll try. This is in regards to the origanal Qs about your lawn.
    healthy green turf makes everything around it look better. It also is a great play to chill and play with the family,while preventing erosion and enhancing the value of your home. A good lawn is the result of conscientiuos gardening,whether your starting a lawn with a carefully chosen cultivar orrejuvinating a excisting lawn od unknown parentage. Build a strong lawn by useing grass species adapted to your climate.Encourage healthy growth naturally by letting light grass clipings remain were they fall and by applying compost or other organic material.Relying on high nitrogen chemical fertilizers can lead to problem prone,shallow rooted lawns that need mowing more often. For fertilizing you don't need to know every grass plant in your yard by name to grow a healthy lawn. The most important thing to note is the time of year your grass starts to grow rapidly. This is the time to lay down a good organic fertilizer. In the north where I live were cool season grasses have a growth spurt in spring and anothe rin the fall,plan to fertilize twice.For warm weather grasses fertilize in the spring as it greens up and again in a few weeks. Choose finly pulverized,weed free organic fertilizer,like procced manure or sifted compost and spred it evenly on the lawn just before rain is expected ( I use a rotory spredder)Mow the grass about a week after you fertilise, Let the clipping stay on the lawn (thats were you will get you nitrogen)A couple of cool season grasses i have used are Kentucky blue and fine fescue. Good ones for warmer climates are bermudagrass,centapedeand Zoysia.
    Also don't forget about de thaching your lawn if it is more then a 1/4 inch thick. What happens if you use a chemical fertilizer your lawn will grow fast and lush,but the clippings will form a thick thatch that will not allow new shoots to get the air they need,Just use a thatching rack and go to work. Also every two or three years it might be a good idea to rent a airator for you lawn,especially hi traffic areas.
    i hope this helps
    cc
     
  15. cape chef

    cape chef

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    Hi pastachef...

    Ther could be a couple factores effecting your "bad patch"Yes urine from cats and dogs are the end all to lawns ,shrubs Etc.Be sure you are using the proper seeds for that patch,Warm or cool climate? sun,shade ,hi traffic etc.I also follows papas advice on gently racking in the seeds and I do top of with a 1/4 inch of topsoil then over seed that.I do not recommend hay becouse it is ladden with weed seeds,I prefere to use straw.Also,check and see is you have a infestation of grubs,those little suckers can really do a number on your grasses root system.Be sure the soil that you are planting in is well primed with hummis,a little manure or sifted compost and organic top soil.That should solve the issue,unless it is grubs....I have to go pick up one of my daughters,so I will post later about how to try and rid your lawn of grubs
    cc
     
  16. pastachef

    pastachef

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    Thank you, Cape Chef, We've decided to start all over again. It doesn't seem that grubs are the problem, but I'm sure the dogs are. Also, when my son threw down the seeds he definitely should have covered them with a thin layer of dirt. He now says that he had forgotten that. He's been very absent minded since the break up of his marriage and gardening may help get his mind off of it. Is there any magic formula to making a lawn sturdier against dog urine? They have to go somewhere?
     
  17. papa

    papa

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    Dear Friends:

    I thought to mention an alternative to a grass lawn that I planted in France.

    Some areas of my lawn were not used for walking but they were strictly for visual beauty. I replaced the grass lawn in these areas with chamomile. It spread very quickly, it looked beautiful when it flowered and the smell was "out of this world". It did not need any maintance not even cutting.

    I thought to mention it as an alternative. ;)
     
  18. mudbug

    mudbug

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  19. pastachef

    pastachef

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    I just have to tell you all that my yard is looking better and better with all of this encouragement :)
     
  20. cape chef

    cape chef

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    Cheers Pastachef!!!!!

    We are so happy to hear that.

    Keep up the good work,and let us know how the "patch" fills in
    cc