When tassels appear on the corn it’s a good time for the second application of organic fertilizer. (Mary Lowther photo)

Mary Lowther column: Your plants need to feed, too, as they produce your food

Growing plants require extra nutrients beyond what they begin with when sown or planted.

By Mary Lowther

Growing plants require extra nutrients beyond what they begin with when sown or planted. I have a good memory but the only thing is, it’s short, so I compensate by keeping an agenda book and writing down my garden’s fertilizing schedule. I also like to keep things simple, so I spray or root soak all my crops every two weeks with compost tea, stopping two weeks before harvest so the plants don’t end up tasting like the tea.

Plants like tomatoes, cucumbers and cruciferous plants (the cabbage family), get the ground soak treatment: I drilled a quarter inch hole at the lower edge of each of six small buckets and every two weeks I lay them alongside each plant. I pour into each bucket two quarts of diluted compost tea and when these are empty I move them to the next six plants.

Everything else gets sprayed with compost tea that has been diluted till it looks like weak tea, because if the fluid is too strong it can burn the leaves. Been there, done that. I do this in the early morning while the pores on the leaves are still open, before the sun blazes down on them.

Most of the crops also receive a side dressing of dry organic fertilizer mix every three weeks. I spread a thin layer on both sides of the row and, because my soaker hoses don’t water that far away from the plants, I hoe in the fertilizer and spray water over the soil by hand to encourage soil organisms to take the fertilizer down to the plant roots. Some heavy feeders like corn and tomatoes require a thicker layer of fertilizer, especially in sandy soil like mine.

Because some crops remove more nutrients from the soil than others, rotating the beds each year evens out the background soil nutrition, and sowing cover crops when no vegetables are occupying the space replenishes and retains nutrients.

I use Solomon’s fertilizer mix that gently augments the soil without burning the plants. This well-rounded mix contains minerals and nitrogen-rich seed meal that I’ve found to be the best fertilizer I’ve ever used. Soil life proliferates, insects buzz and when birds are tired of the neighbours’ yards, they deign to visit mine.

Solomon’s Complete Organic Fertilizer for Average Soil:

3–4 litres seed meal

1 cup agricultural lime

1 cup gypsum

½ cup potassium sulfate

2 T. ferrous sulfate

1 ½ T. manganese sulfate

2 tsp. zinc sulfate

1 tsp. copper sulfate

2 tsp. borax

1 cup kelp meal or azomite

Mix and store in a dry place.

Note: I also add ½ cup dolomite for my sandy soil, but soil with clay doesn’t do well with the magnesium in dolomite.

Please contact mary_lowther@yahoo.ca with questions and suggestions since I need all the help I can get.

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