Fertilizers, Amendments, Foliar Feeds, etc forum: General Fertilizer Discussion 2019-2020

 
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ImageCCvacation
Jan 10, 2019 2:41 PM CST
Name: CC
PA
This thread is for discussing fertilizing tactics.

Last year's thread can be found here: https:/cubits.org/dahlias/thread/view/87067/


Here are some 'ground rules' for fertilizing dahlias in our Growing Dahlia FAQ... Please review and correct, if needed. Thanks!

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-Use a little balanced fertilizer every week, or use a time-release formula.
-Make sure the pH is around 6.2-6.5 so the plant can absorb the nutrients.
-Ensure there is ample water several times a week, and that it can drain freely from the soil.

"Like all plants, dahlias need sunlight, water and fertilizer. When somebody says they have difficulty in growing a plant each of those three ingredients must be correct. Assuming you get the tubers to sprout and get above the soil level, make sure they stay well watered(dahlias need more water than most plants), make sure they are in full sunlight(they hate full shade or even half shade) and that they have some fertilizer.

Just about any fertilizer will work, a little bit at a time. Too much is bad, too little is probably not likely if you fertilize them every couple of weeks with no more than a level tablespoon sprinkled at the base of the plant. If you are organic, you would use manure or bat guano, or blood meal, or leaf mold, or very rich compost before you plant and hope that there are enough nutrients for the plants for the entire season. If you (don't have too many), you can use Osmocote time release fertilizer and give them about 4 tablespoons per plant when you plant them and maybe one more tablespoon on August 1st. Once the plants are full sized(most reach 4 feet) stop fertilizing as they have enough to last the rest of the season.

Notice I did not say the formula for the fertilizer. That is much less important than the small doses of regular feeding. And you could use Miracle Grow once a week too, just make sure it is a weak solution. Fertilizer is plant food and just like human food you do not eat one meal each month but you eat every day. Plants too need small meals on a regular basis."
- teddahlia on Tue, Feb 18, 2014

"Pay no attention to the myth that dahlias do not need nitrogen. All plants need nitrogen and without nitrogen dahlias grow very poorly. The myth goes back to when people were over fertilizing dahlias in the Fall and too much nitrogen in the Fall does affect tuber storage but does not affect the quality of the blooms. In my fertilizer recommendation above, you will note that the fertilizer is drastically reduced in early Fall. Any fertilizer that you use must have nitrogen. As I said just about any formula will do as long as there is some of all three nutrients. They are abbreviated as NPK and the first number is nitrogen the second phosphorus and the third potassium. Having all three gives the plants a balanced diet. Osmocote is always formulated with enough nitrogen and all the major elements and as a bonus it includes the minor elements needed for plant growth."
-teddahlia

One of the most important things about fertilizing is to make sure the pH is as close to 6.2-6.5 as possible, which allows your dahlia plants to take up all that fertilizer you're throwing at them.
CC
Imageteddahlia
Jan 10, 2019 2:48 PM CST
Name: Ted
Oregon
We enjoy breeding new dahlias!
I still remember the organic grower from Washington saying that he adds just a little bit of organic material to his raised beds once per week. The material that was his favorite was coffee grounds and it has enough fertilizer in it to make things grow very well. A little bit might be a couple of tablespoons or a bit more per plant. One could use alfalfa pellets or alfalfa hay too but it would be added less often as it has more fertilizer in it. And manure teas could be the once a week dose also.
“Flowers are like friends; They bring color to your world.” – Unknown
Imagehonnat
Jan 10, 2019 3:29 PM CST
St. Paul, MN
I'm finally taking the step of adding some elemental sulphur to lower my ph this year. It tested at 7.5 last spring. My sulphur is OMRI certified for organic growing. Already ordered and arrived. As soon as the ground thaws, it is going in. It will likely not fully take affect till 2020 season but we'll see.

Last season, I used Feathermeal as it is an organic source of nitrogen. I am planning to use it again. It breaks down slow so it has a slow release affect. That'll be it for what goes in the ground. I have plenty of P and K so am avoiding "balanced" fertilizer for a while.
I will also spray with fish emulsion every week or two in June and July.
ImageIslander
Jan 10, 2019 3:45 PM CST
Name: Noni Morrison
Vashon Island, Washington
growing and selling organic cutflow
I imagine my "Insect patrol" ducks would love it if I sprinkled alfalfa pellets over the garden every week or two Rolling on the floor laughing I do dig in alfalfa meal with blood meal and llime before planting. I know I should lime it earlier but it somehow doesn''t work out that way.
Imagehonnat
Jan 10, 2019 3:55 PM CST
St. Paul, MN
A neighbor told me last year that he saw a fox laying on my plot right after I spread the feather meal. Sort of hard to believe given my Urban location but I think there is some Fox nearby and they must have been attracted to the smell of poultry
Imageteddahlia
Jan 10, 2019 4:08 PM CST
Name: Ted
Oregon
We enjoy breeding new dahlias!
"I know I should lime it earlier" The key is that if you lime it every year the lime takes many months to work and you are depending on the lime you spread last year.
“Flowers are like friends; They bring color to your world.” – Unknown
ImageIslander
Jan 10, 2019 5:57 PM CST
Name: Noni Morrison
Vashon Island, Washington
growing and selling organic cutflow
so no problem then to do it at planting time as long as I do it each year? I thought it tended to wash out of the soil with the winter rains?
Imageteddahlia
Jan 10, 2019 8:18 PM CST
Name: Ted
Oregon
We enjoy breeding new dahlias!
Lime is ground limestone and it is not in a liquid state that would wash away. It has two residual effects (1) it is not all dissolved right a way and some will be active the next year (2) what does dissolve will chemically react with the soil and the resulting chemicals have a more alkaline pH. I have read that some people think the old fashioned, super cheap lime is better than the "prilled" lime as it is not ground to such a fine powder and lasts multiple years in the soil. At the farm store, they only sell the prilled lime so I have no way of testing this theory out.

I do know my old friend Bill Mishler went to the headquarters of the lime manufacturer and bought an entire pick up load of regular lime in bulk. He spread it over his 10,000 square foot dahlia patch and the next year, the dahlias did not grow well because he put down too much and the soil was too alkaline. He went from too acid to too alkaline in one year. It got better the next year and things began to grow properly. The old saw of "Too much of a good thing...." applies here.

And in a previous post, I pointed out that if you lime your soil, you do not need to add any magnesium as lime has lots of it and of course dolomite lime has almost too much magnesium in it.
“Flowers are like friends; They bring color to your world.” – Unknown
ImageIslander
Jan 11, 2019 12:04 AM CST
Name: Noni Morrison
Vashon Island, Washington
growing and selling organic cutflow
Local wisdom has it that dolomite lime is the wrong kind for our Island soils...I do like the prilled lime much more for spready in what always seems to be a windy day, particularly because I do it by hand or mix it in wiht my alfalfa meal, blood meal magic sauce...
Imagesylviap
Jan 11, 2019 11:26 AM CST
Name: Sylvia
West Sacramento, CA Zone 9b
Does anyone have a recommendation where to send soil for analysis? One area of my garden did so poorly last year I want to have the soil checked. Thanks in advance.
Imageteddahlia
Jan 11, 2019 11:47 AM CST
Name: Ted
Oregon
We enjoy breeding new dahlias!
http://www.al-labs-west.com/
We use this one to test the trial garden in Canby. They have a Modesto office.
“Flowers are like friends; They bring color to your world.” – Unknown
Imagesylviap
Jan 11, 2019 1:15 PM CST
Name: Sylvia
West Sacramento, CA Zone 9b
Thanks! Modesto is only about 100 miles south of here.
Imageteddahlia
Jan 24, 2019 2:18 PM CST
Name: Ted
Oregon
We enjoy breeding new dahlias!
I am going to spread lime on my gardens on the first dry, sunny day. That could be a few days away or a few weeks away. I have been reading about dolomite versus regular lime and have decided to use the three bags of dolomite and match them with 3 bags of regular. Too much magnesium is nearly as bad as too little. I doubt that it makes much difference and the last time I put down any dolomite was 6 years ago.

I have read about the Ruth Stout method of gardening where she dumped about 12 inches of old hay on the ground and never tilled the ground at all. Sounds so tempting but with farmers using herbicides in their hay fields, it is not a viable plan anymore.
“Flowers are like friends; They bring color to your world.” – Unknown
Imageblown_dry
Jan 24, 2019 2:24 PM CST
Name: Amanda
CA Redwood Coast - Zone 9b
DahliaAddict.com
David Solomon said that the Ruth Stout method does not work well for folks on the PNW coast anyway. It just breeds oodles of pests that are not killed by our meager freezes in winter and prevents the ground from being warmed by our meager sun in the spring.
ImageIslander
Jan 24, 2019 4:11 PM CST
Name: Noni Morrison
Vashon Island, Washington
growing and selling organic cutflow
We really need a better method for the west coast...especially for all us dahlia growers that don't get into it until we are getting a bit decrepit, and for the ones who don;t use tractors to cultivate with. Like you said before Ted, there is alfalfa...,I have not checked the price delivered to the Island but that always costs extra. I use weed barrier in my paths but that does not help replenish the soil. I am trying to do NO TILL...I do have maple leaves in the autumn but no time to gather them when the garden is at its height, and sometimes the leaves have mildew which I HAVE NOT had on my dahlias...I do use a liquid organic supplement in my watering system, but that doesn;t really help rebuild the soil like straw or leaves would. Cover crops don't seem to work here because by the time I can sow them after digging there is lvery short hours of daylight for them to grow in...and "No till" means i can't plow them in..Just not sure what to do besides adding alfalfa meal, blood meal, etc when I plant. How do other arthritic gardeners do this?
Imageteddahlia
Jan 24, 2019 5:36 PM CST
Name: Ted
Oregon
We enjoy breeding new dahlias!
For soil texture, local truck farmers used aged saw dust. Huge piles of it used to be near the fields and the older stuff was darker. It was not that they were organic gardeners, but rather wanted to grow things like radishes in clay soil. They used inorganic fertilizer. But the idea of having decomposing layer of saw dust is still a good one. One thing about saw dust is that it is not contaminated by herbicides.

If I were younger, I saw an ad on craigslist for aged chicken manure that was mixed with sawdust. $15.00 per yard and only $5.00 per yard for 50 yards or more . Of course , 50 yards is half of a large semi truck trailer.
“Flowers are like friends; They bring color to your world.” – Unknown
ImageIslander
Jan 24, 2019 10:33 PM CST
Name: Noni Morrison
Vashon Island, Washington
growing and selling organic cutflow
I would take 50 years of that..as long as the sawdust came from off Island and was not contaminated by fall out from Asarco...lead, arsenic and mercury. Our soils already have that in abundance...of course the ferry fare added to the load would really bring the price up. But then we probably pay that ferry fare to any of the landscape supply people.
Imageblown_dry
Jan 25, 2019 9:36 PM CST
Name: Amanda
CA Redwood Coast - Zone 9b
DahliaAddict.com
If your soil is not low in organic matter it may not need much building. I do recommend David Solomon's book, Vegetable Gardening West of the Cascades. I think it gives a more clear-eyed, climate-specific view of compost and organic matter than I had been used to reading in all my organic gardening books.
Imageteddahlia
Feb 12, 2019 1:24 PM CST
Name: Ted
Oregon
We enjoy breeding new dahlias!
Long conversation with an organic dahlia show grower. Went through a litany of different fertilizers and amendments. Agreed on several points:
Mushroom compost no longer reliably free of herbicides and too risky at the present time.
Alfalfa still one of the best.
Manure teas are controversial but anecdotal evidence is positive. Theory is that continuous feedings with nutrients in very small doses is better than most methods of fertilizing.
Chicken manure is still good and chicken feather meal may also be excellent.
The best organic fertilizer and amendment is used coffee grounds from a local Starbucks. He gets about 5 gallons per day most of the time and buys his wife a coffee each visit. It contains lots of the most difficult fertilizer for organic growers: nitrogen. He is the one who adds a small amount to his raised beds once per week in the growing season.


“Flowers are like friends; They bring color to your world.” – Unknown
Imageteddahlia
Feb 13, 2019 11:11 AM CST
Name: Ted
Oregon
We enjoy breeding new dahlias!
Dahlia Club Meeting last night and since the program was on fertilizing, I am posting in this thread.
The program was conducted by our own PNWGAL. It could be described as an infomercial for the soil test lab that we use called A & L Labs. Linda had several of their reports and handouts and yes they are very good testing company but since these soil testing labs are all over the USA, it is not the only good one. 2 cups of soil yields a very detailed reports that is invaluable for planning your fertilizer program.
Organic material: It was pointed out by a Master Gardener club member that the soil scientist at our university says that gardens can have too much organic material. He has seen soil tests(usually people do soil tests because things are not growing as well as they would like) where the organic material AND some of the nutrients included in them were off the charts. For example, manures are organic material but have high levels of phosphorus and too much over the years is not good. So our tree hugging, vegan, strictly organic growers in Portland have added so much of the good stuff to their gardens that they no longer have the best growing conditions.
pH is a perennial topic because of our acid soil here in the PNW. It was pointed out that the soil test company not only does a pH test but also does a test to determine how much lime is needed for your specific soil. Linda pointed out that cheap pH meters are inaccurate and the actual pH of the soil was so much different from the actual pH that it was remarkable.(meter 6.2 actual 5.4) My son the chemist makes this educated comment on that: he says that cheap pH meters are designed to be accurate only for the middle part of their range. So, if you are testing something close to the 7.0 neutral point , the meter would be very accurate. But if you were testing something that was very acid or very basic, the meter gets more and more inaccurate. Soil here it is usually about 6.1 in pH and when it "goes bad" it gets down to the 5.4 level we had in the trial garden. The meter reads reads 6.2 when it was really 5.4.

These little cheap meters are not worthless however. I have noticed that although the actual pH number is bogus, that it still tells you if one thing is more acid than another.So if you test many areas in your garden you can identify those areas that need more lime or less lime. If you recycle potting soil in you flower pots, the meter will tell you which pots need some lime. Potting soil is mostly acidic peat moss. After you water your flower pot for a year, the lime they added to it is washed out.

Lots of discussion on phosphorus build up from too much "balanced" fertilizer and manures(very high in phosphorus).

The discussion did not get to actual fertilizer recommendations beyond the fact that Linda likes chicken feather meal to provide nitrogen.
“Flowers are like friends; They bring color to your world.” – Unknown

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