Monday, August 3, 2015

Some Information About Organic Fertilizers

This past Sunday I was trying to take back my yard from the weeds that have grown since February when the spring season hit at Possum’s (what’s the saying about the shoeless cobbler) and I got hit with an unexpected rain shower as I was finishing up about  3 hours of spraying.

I guess I will have a good idea how long it took for my concoction to become rain fast. Hopefully, where the spray had a chance to dry, the spreader sticker helped out, but there were other areas that didn’t have a chance to dry.

While spraying in my beds, I did notice a huge number of moths, which usually indicates a worm attack is not too far away. Time to get out a little preventive worm killer it looks like. If you have ever experienced worm damage, you know it hits your lawn hard and fast, so preventative applications will keep you from having any surprises if you go out of town or even take a long nap! The worm season so far this year has been weird – very spotty.

As the summertime heat and humidity begin to move into the Lowcountry, I want to remind you of some of the benefits of using organic fertilizers, composts, mulch, wetting agents with biostimulants, and bridge products. Some of the things I write about are generalizations (ex. 10-10-10 is all synthetic – a fertilizer blender could put organic filler in the formula, but not likely).

When you purchase a typical 10-10-10 fertilizer, you are getting 30% nutrients and the rest of the bag is probably not used by the plant. Filler usually consists of drying agents to keep the fertilizer from absorbing moisture and becoming clumpy. Filler is also limestone (might get a little calcium or magnesium benefit) or other non-nutritional ingredients (including rocks). The nutrients in a 10-10-10 are water soluble so the plant can absorb them. The 10-10-10 is usually all fast release, so once it goes out on the ground, the plant better be ready to take it in, or the Nitrogen (what part hasn’t already volatized into the atmosphere as N2 gas) and the Potassium will leach through the soil profile or run-off into non-target areas.

Unlike humans, plants uptake only the nutrients that they need. No obese plants out there! A natural or organic fertilizer may have a lower N-P-K ratio; however, all the ingredients are either a food source for soil organisms, plant essential minerals or micro-nutrients. Organic fertilizers are not water soluble, and depend on beneficial soil organisms to convert the nutrients into a form that the plant can uptake. This is the same process that feeds the trees from fallen leaves and limbs in the woods. This process is the true, original slow release fertilizer. Nothing is lost to evaporation or run-off which is good with all the water around here. If you own a pig (cattle, chicken) farm along a river and we have excessive rainfall, you could have some run off into the river; however, that is from surface run off and not leaching.

With an organic fertilizer you generally have slow steady growth as the soil organisms meter out the nutrients. Slow steady growth is easier to maintain and less susceptible to disease and insect attack. The plant will grow deeper roots, making it more drought tolerant; therefore requiring less water (lower water bill).

A 10-10-10 might cause “flush growth” that requires more hedge trimming or mowing. The plant will be more susceptible to disease and insects. Excessive fertilization could also add to thatch in the lawn areas. A plant that is putting out a lot of new growth is often sacrificing root growth for top growth and the landscape needs more water as a result.