Anybody got some words of wisdom about fertilizer? I had a conversation with a person who covers his dahlia gardens with tarps for the winter. . In the area where he used chicken feather meal for slow release nitrogen, his soil test said he still had adequate nitrogen in there. We are all used to hearing that the nitrogen all washed away in the winter and the combination of a tarp and the inherent slow release chicken feathers worked for him. The other "hot" advice is to add a small handful of alfalfa pellets(rabbit feed) into every hole when you plant the tubers. This trick purportedly works very well and has been verified by over 30 years of growing dahlias by the experienced dahlia grower. I may try it.
I've been using the alfalfa pellets (Or alfalfa meal if I can't find the pellets) when planting out dahlias for years. Never any problem with it. I swear by alfalfa meal with a little blood meal added for more nitrogen.
Name: Steve San Diego Commercial cut flower grower
I've used alfalfa pellets in the past and thought they were comparable to using a green cover crop. However, I don't know of any advantage to using pellets if you are able to grow a cover crop. I used pellets here because they were cheaper to buy than to pay for the water to irrigate an equivalent cover crop (we usually don't get enough rain in the winter to support a cover crop). If you try it, get the small pellets and check that it is 100% alfalfa.
I started to get a little leary about using alfalfa when farmers started growing "Roundup Ready" alfalfa. The owner of the farm store where I bought my pellets couldn't guarantee the pellets were made from alfalfa that hadn't been sprayed with Roundup.
I have not used alfalfa pellets. Instead, I tend to use Dr Earth products. The “I AM ORGANIC GARDENING” YouTube channel owner does a really good job with his research and he put together a VERY informative video on the use of alfalfa as a fertilizer vs as animal feed. He references cover crops also. Check out his video to learn everything you could possibly want to know about alfalfa. Such as, which form of alfalfa is best for plant fertilizer and why? (alfalfa meal) And is there another product equally effective and less costly than pellets? (yes, used coffee grounds are a bit better than alfalfa pellets).
SteveM wrote: I started to get a little leary about using alfalfa when farmers started growing "Roundup Ready" alfalfa. The owner of the farm store where I bought my pellets couldn't guarantee the pellets were made from alfalfa that hadn't been sprayed with Roundup.
Serve, I read your note again. I had no idea alfalfa was sprayed with Round Up. If some alfalfa has been bred to be Round Up resistant, I wonder if they would be considered GMO?
“Early to bed, early to rise, plant like hell...and fertilize!” P Allen Smith
I think we better do some test plantings with our alfalfa pellets...which doesn't mean that they will all be consistently clean. But it could be a warning if the first test is affected. Or maybe look for Organic Pellets. I'll be back on Vashon today and I can check out the usual places I shopped for garden supplements. Organic is a big deal on the Island.
Name: Steve San Diego Commercial cut flower grower
Even if Roundup Ready alfalfa was used in the pellets, I don't know if the glyphosate would persist and harm the dahlias. I don't know enough to say for sure either way. I also don't use Rounup Ready products partly because of my distrust of GMOs in general. I used to use alfalfa as a mulch on my dahlias and it worked great (loosly packed). I worked it into the soil at the end of the seasom and the worms loved it.
Anymore, I think it is a good idea to run the bean/pea test on any growing medium unless you know where it came from. I lost 500+ tomato plants to herbicide poisoning in 2013. I used horse bedding material from a high-end stable to incorporate into my field 2 years ealier. The herbicide had persisted from the horse feed, through the horse, and in the field for over 2 years. I am now extra paranoid when adding anything to my field without testing it first.
I am not an advocate of Round up but chemically it works to kill plants if it is sprayed on green leaves and and has no residual effect in soil. The broadleaf killing chemicals used on grass and hay can remain in compost for as long as three years and are very bad for dahlias. Last year the organic potting soil sold by a firm here had herbicide in it as they used grass hay that had been sprayed to make the compost.
The time I got "herbicided" using straw we had used for duck bedding as compost on the dahlia bed. I thought it would be terrific...lots of good duck poop that had composted in a deep straw litter over the winter. I had never heard of the problem at that point. I felt like such a failure when those plants grew so distorted and short!
I used alfalfa pellets a LOT before glyphosate and gmo'd alfalfa. I would love to use alfalfa pellets again but am afraid of glyphosate, as more recent studies prove that it can remain in the soil indefinitely, if you read anything outside of bayer/monsanto propaganda on the "harmlessness".
So, people have successfully tried the GMO pellets without killing their dahlias? I also now wonder if effects would be cumulative, in terms of damage. I'll seek out organic or none at all without adequate testing.
Ii know several people who used horse bedding or manure with toxic effects to all of their plants; dahlias, vegetables, etc. I'd opt for non gmo alfalfa if I could get it in my area. I think something like 95% of all U.S. grown alfalfa is gmo now.
I have top-dressed around the dahlias with dried eelgrass when that used to be plentiful (over-harvested and now there is NONE on our shorelines); the effect on soil and dahlias was miraculous! it greatly improved the tilth of my heavy clay wetland soil for several years after very small applications. I'm thinking of trying kelp meal this year; my tomatoes love the kelp meal; and calcium.
What sources of calcium to people like to use? I have used crushed eggshells to some good effect, but am looking for other suggestions. I've generally found that what tomatoes like, dahlias like.
I'm not sure the process of making pellets but generally alfalfa never goes to seed when making the baled version. Once it's that mature it loses much of it's nutrients and quickly becomes stemy and unpalatable to livestock. It's an aggressive plant and quickly out competes other plants/weeds in an established field.
I just planted out all my seedlings with alfalfa pellets, one good handful went into each hole and was mixed with the other supplements. I am wondering if I should wait a week to make sure the seedlings aren't growing distorted before I plant out the rest.- Do you think that damage would show up that soon on seedlings that have 2 to 3 sets of leaves now? I really want to not worry about this!
Name: Steve San Diego Commercial cut flower grower
Noni, I think the chances of damage from pellets woulde be almost zero. I would be somewhat concerned if Roundup Ready alfalfa was used as a mulch, where it touched the dahlia leaves, but even then I think the chances would be slim.
On the other hand, Roundup is not supposed to vaporize, but I think it must. I have sprayed weeds and let the soil stand for a month before I planted tomatoes. The Roundup should have dissipated by then, but there was the "distinctive" roundup damage to the tomatoes planted in that spot. The damage didn't show up until the tomatoes had been growing for about a month, so this indicates to me that the Roundup vaporized when the soil heated up and the fumes entered the tomatoes through the leaves. This year I used Roundup on the weeds under the benches in my greenhouse. A month later I planted my tomatoes. Again, after about a month one flat closest to where I sprayed is showing some Roundup damage. Roundup damage on tomatoes is very distinctive - there is no other herbicide or virus that looks similar. This is antidotal but it has me convinced. Luckily, dahlias are not as sensitive to Roundup as tomatoes.
I bought a bag of 14-14-16 Haifa controlled release fertilizer that we use on the container plants. I also use it on the pot tubers too as they need to have a little bit of fertilizer in order to grow nice roots . I learned that trick from Walter Jack of New Zealand who used to sell some pot tubers to USA customers. He and his wife visited the USA and Margaret got to judge with Kit Jack, his wife at dahlia show. They bred dahlias and used Oreti as their prefix.
I also bought another bag of Plantex 20-20-20 greenhouse fertilizer that we use in the water in the green house for all flowers. Dahlias love it too. I bought an extra roll of 2,000 plant tags and Margaret picked the color and it could be called lavender.
We visited a couple of plant nurseries and here is my picture of "Where's Margaret?".
This nursery sells fully blooming dahlias in 2 gallon pots for $25.00. They had quite a few different ones. Kelvin Floodlight was blooming well. It used to be the top selling dahlia of all. The stock for these container plants is obviously excellent. I believe that the Dutch growers sell cuttings done by micropropagation and they make sure it has no virus or any disease in that process. The greenhouse growers in the USA grow them to full size in their greenhouses. I suppose that would be a good way to get some clean stock of some Dutch varieties.
I bought alfalfa pellets for the horses yesterday, and noticed that the company which makes them (Haystack Farm and Feed, of Culver, Oregon) advertises that their alfalfa is non-GMO. Says so right on the bags!
I think I will go check what my alfalfa pellets bag says...I did look far enough to see that they did not say "Organic" . I did go ahead and plant more seedlings out yesterday with the pellets I have...then it started raining then hailing on them. I sure hope no seedlings were killed in the hail invasion! I had just set out all my Twilight Girl seedlings!
So, the weather isn't freezing at night any more but I wasn't factoring in hail storms on my planting decision! (Hail storms are not that common in the PNW, except, apparently when one plants out their tender seedlings...