Monday, February 27, 2017

A Little More About Organics - Love Those Organics!

Horticulture Hotline 02/27/17
  Bill Lamson-Scribner

It seems as though many of you are getting the “spring itch”.  I have been asked several times, “When can I fertilize?”  It is a little too early, or make that a lot too early, to fertilize with conventional high nitrogen (the first number on the fertilizer bag).  Now is a good time to take a soil test and plan out your fertility program for 2017.  If you are dying to get outside and start spreading something, consider organics. 

Back to Nature and Bradford Organic products are the perfect organics for your Lowcountry yard.  All organics are good - some are better than others.  As the old saying goes, “There is good compost.  There is cheap compost.  But there ain’t no good, cheap, compost”! 

For the nitrogen in these organic products to become available to the plants, micro-organisms must break the nitrogen down into a form that is useable to the plant.  These organic products can be applied year-round without having to worry about causing flush growth that might get burned off by the cold.  As the plant (grass, tree, shrub or flower bed) is ready for the nutrients, the micro-organisms will make them available to the plant.  This “system” is what you find in Nature (forests). 

Cotton Burr Compost is considered by many to be unquestionably the finest soil conditioner on the market.  It is prized for its ability to loosen tight, clay soils or improve moisture retention in sandy soils.  Cotton Burr Compost can be used alone or in combination with other organics.  Back to Nature (the manufacturer of Cotton Burr Compost) blends cotton burrs with other components to provide diverse benefits from different organic sources.  Natures Blend and Flower Bed Amendment are two popular products that are derived from Cotton Burr Compost.

Flower Bed Amendment can be applied to your beds as a top dressing or incorporated into the ground.  This product contains cattle manure, cotton burrs, feather meal, cotton seed meal, alfalfa and sulfur.  Alfalfa meal is high in nitrogen and contains Triacantanol, a natural growth enhancer and may help in the suppression and control of certain fungal diseases.  Flower Bed Amendment is an important food source for the beneficial soil organisms that make nutrients available to plants, aerate the soil, and help to keep harmful organisms and pathogens in check.  Most of the soil samples I see are very low in organic matter and could benefit greatly from this combination of organic components.

Natures Blend contains composted cattle manure, cotton burrs, alfalfa and humate.  The addition of humate to this product makes it the “top shelf” soil conditioner in their line of products.  Humates have high levels of carbon that help feed the micro-organisms in the soil.  These micro-organisms make nutrients available to the plant, aerate the soil, and compete with plant pathogenic organisms in the soil. Natures Blend also has the alfalfa and its benefits. 

Corn Gluten by Bradford Organics (09-00-00) is an organic preemergent as well as a great source of nitrogen.  If you have been using preemergents in your lawn and beds over the years, you can make an easy transition to Corn Gluten and still get great results.  If your yard is a sea of weeds and you have never used preemergents, expect some control the first year but it will not be 100 %.  The chemical preemergent products only claim to be about 85% effective.  By creating a healthy yard through the use of organics, the competition from weeds should diminish.  Many people that started using Corn Gluten as a preemergent, are also using it as a fertilizer because of its long term feeding of the landscape.

SeaHume would do great by itself or in combination with any of the above. SeaHume, as many of you have experienced, causes quite the synergistic effect when put out with compost or fertilizer (compost or fertilizer 10, SeaHume 10 together 60) SeaHume is a combination of cold water kelp (Ascophyllum nodosum) and humates.

The seaweed is full of sixty major and minor nutrients, amino acids, carbohydrates and natural occurring plant growth promoting substances (bio stimulants, gibberellins) that increase plant vigor, quality and yield. Humates increase the availability of nutrients in the soil, increase root growth, keeps nutrients in area that roots can reach (increase CEC), make the soil more friable and many other benefits including more drought tolerant (less water bill).

All these above products can be used to form “compost tea”, or “compost stew” if you prefer.  By top dressing these organics across your lawn or beds, your soil is getting some compost tea every time it rains!