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Old 09-14-2006, 10:24 AM   #20 (permalink)
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Location: Texas, Zone 8
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Name: Mike V.
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Default Re: what are you using for potting soil?

Heh. Fish emulsion only stinks if you don't like the smell of rotting fish. Okay - the Alaska stuff smells for a couple of days - it can be applied Friday evening and should be okay by Monday morning. I have had critter problems when using it tho - seems like coons, possums, rats and mice like to root around in soil that's been freshly watered with the stuff, so make sure you've effectively excluded them.

Nevertheless, the best "fertilizer" is the soil you use. Nothing beats good compost for nutrient value to a plant. Lava sand contains trace amounts of iron (the red stuff) and potash and also functions similar to powderized charcoal by giving bacteria a place to hold onto while it's processing nutrients in the soil. A little rock phosphate, a bit of New Jersey greensand (the Texas stuff is worthless), and mycorrhizal fungus to start. Fish meal doesn't smell once it's mixed with the soil, and there's also blood meal and bone meal. Heck, coffee grounds and eggshells are actually good fertilizers! And there's the good ol diluted molasses! Boosts nitrogen levels in the soil, adds trace minerals and carbon and in at least one test in a Hawaiian papaya plantation reduced pathogenic nematode infection significantly. Don't over-apply, of course. And, did I say compost? Not that bark-filled garbage that Lowe's sells - but classic home-made stuff comprised of a good balance of greens and browns. Of kitchen scraps, yard clippings, manure, leaves, etc all mixed up and cooked real good. After using that stuff, you'll wonder why you ever used peat... I've also planted inoculated clover in with some of my containers. Can't say the results were spectacular, but it does diversify the soil foodweb somewhat. May try sugarsnap peas this winter - at the very least I'll get a nice harvest. And there's vermicompost. My plants go gaga over that stuff. It's especially easy if you live close to a Charbucks... oops, Starbucks too - redworms love coffee grounds. The resulting vermicompost is fairly nuetral too, interestingly. You can apply it as a topdressing and water it in, or you can use it to make an aerated humus tea - I use some fresh vermicompost and a bit of molasses and strongly aerate it for 24 hours and both drench the soil and apply as a foliar spray. If it smells like rotten fish, discard it - it went anearobic. Should smell like an earthy wine.

As to pest control - I see more warnings on non-organic labels about possible leaf damage than on organic solutions. Regardless, aphids and mites can be washed off with a regular spraying of water - something I do for my taro. Simple boric-acid soaked grits works great as a bait for ants. Caterpillars respond well to hand-picking. Grasshoppers too if you get them early in the morning. Haven't had any borer problems, but organic soaps are no worse than non-organic soaps. I also encourage the likes of spiders, mantids and other predators too. They work for you full time all the time. I'm always seeing a jumping spider with an insect - their ambush tactics must be seen to be believed. In the warm season, paper wasps are great for caterpillar problems. Not that all caterpillars are a problem in my view - I like butterflies. Chickens, guinea fowl and peafowl are excellent for grasshopper and cricket control and even snake control (tho I love my snakes). I have tried liquid seaweed on mites, but can't say whether it was the liquid seaweed or the moisture that drove them off. Plants didn't complain either way tho. Very effective solutions are there. It's better to target the pest than to carpet-bomb - helps make sure beneficials aren't killed in the process.

The biggest roadblock to going organic is personal preconceptions, I think. Standing on the precipice of the unknown when you're already comfortable with what you're currently using. Once the change is made, however, it's life as usual...

Be well,

Originally Posted by sandy0225 View Post

And I would love to go organic in my greenhouse. Just give me the name of a fertilizer that won't run off the customers with the smell, that I can apply in a convenient way (and that I can actually afford-that would be a nice bonus!), a soil that drains properly for long term production, and some pesticides that actually kill more bugs than leaves.

My 2 cents worth!
Sandy @ Northern Tropics
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