08. Mar, 2012
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“Deodorized” is a lie.
Don’t ask me how I know this.
We’ve found that using a well-formulated potting mix eliminates the need for extra fertilizers like this (following the advice of Eliot Coleman’s The New Organic Grower as well as some other organic growers we know). We make our own mix and have had no problems with plant health on that score. Ideally you shouldn’t need to use it; it’s the plant equivalent of a candy energy bar, not a balanced diet.
This eliminates the fish fertilizer issue, which we also don’t like as a highly processed industrial ingredient from sources of uncertain origin. Even for outdoor use, we don’t like our materials, plants, and trays smelling like fish (a good way to attract pests and critters to them). We do have some fish fertilizer on hand as a backup fix for certain situations, but rarely use it.
Coleman recommends against using additives like this for seedlings on grounds of plant health and overly high rates of growth, arguing as above for using a well-balanced mix in the first place. Again, similar to giving humans a well-balanced diet in the first place that eliminates the need for supplements.
Good to know! I have read most of The New Organic Grower, but it’s been a while. I’ll need to go back and revisit that section.
My impression was the seed-starting mixes were generally nutrient poor to avoid overloading the seedlings, then fertilizer was added later when they’ve used up their stored energy. But you’ve found it works well to have a more nutrient-rich mix and avoid supplementing later?
I did try making my own mix based on one of Eliot’s recipes the very first year, and remember that it didn’t go well. But, I had no experience with starting seeds at all, so maybe I should think about this again. Thanks for the tip!
Definitely revisit Chapter 14 of Coleman. We’ve come around to using that as our core reference for advice on growing transplants. (Liz from Happy Hollow Farm guided us in that direction, as she uses a Coleman recipe herself.) With regard to the question of nutrient availability, see in particular the “Compost and Soil” section on p. 138.
A lot of commercial mixes are nutrient poor, and we went through a similar iteration as you in figuring out what we wanted to do. But after some tinkering, we’ve done very well with our own mix, which is only a slight modification of Coleman’s recipe.
Our mix uses on-farm ingredients like leaf mold (aged leaves, partially broken down), blood meal from on-farm meat processing, and compost (made to OG standards from our animal bedding), all of which add nutrients; on-farm ingredients also include soil & sand. Purchased ingredients include perlite, greensand, lime, soft-rock phosphate, and peat moss.
You might be interested in this 2010 blog post on our experiments trying to move away from purchased potting mix. The ATTRA publication on potting mixes linked in there is really useful.
We really don’t like most off-farm sources of nutrients, as they tend to involve feedlot blood meal or other sources we’re not interested in.
Very good to know! Thanks for the specific references. Time for me to get reading.
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CoMo Homestead is Annette and Charlie's story of urban homesteading in Columbia, Missouri.
We’re living a more healthy and self-sufficient lifestyle by growing as much of our own food as possible.
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