Friday, February 28, 2020

Planning To Plant? Give Your Soil A Meal First.

A collection of plants, pots and tools in preparation for planting.
In recent weeks, we’ve published blogs with an eye to helping you prepare for spring planting. There was one on the types of soil to use and one about soil pH. Last year about this time I did one on soil amendments. This time around, I thought I’d throw out the Single Ingredient Meals option. We have been working on expanding our line of these particular soil amendments as they are an excellent choice for someone who wants an effective amendment without having to fuss over the various nutrient options. These meals are also naturally sourced and slow to break down, giving your plants long-lasting, healthy and environmentally friendly benefits. In fact, most are OMRI listed or certified organic from another entity. Meals can also  be mixed with other meals and fertilizers to fit your unique needs and desires. With Single Ingredient Meals, you cannot make a wrong choice – they are all great for your plants. Let’s run through what we have to offer:

Purple alfalfa flowers on a green stalk.
Alfalfa flower
Alfalfa Meal: Alfalfa is just an all-round great addition to your garden. This perennial flowering plant is in the legume family and is stuffed with vitamins, amino acids and minerals. It is also a nitrogen-fixer and contains triacontanol, a hormone that stimulates root growth. It even helps with decomposition to keep that good organic material and all those nutrients in the soil and accessible to your plants. Alfalfa Meal also works well as a tea, which can then be applied as foliar feed. Roses love alfalfa, but it works equally well for other flowers as well as herbs, shrubs and trees. We carry Alfalfa Meal in a 40 lb. bag and in smaller boxes.  For more on the greatness of alfalfa, check out this article.

Green spinach leaves next to a bowl of pink salt.Blood Meal: This fertilizer is a by-product of meat packing and is usually sourced from cow blood. It is very high in nitrogen, which encourages leaf growth. It can also raise the acid level and lower the pH in soil. This meal is particularly effective when used for nitrogen-loving plants such as corn, broccoli, spinach, and other leafy greens. A side benefit of Blood Meal is that has some repellent properties when dry; deer and rabbits don’t like it. This article has some informative do’s and don’ts when using Blood Meal.

Three brown bulbs with white buds emerging.Bone Meal: This is another by-product of the meat industry and, like Blood Meal, it generally comes from cows. Bones are dense in calcium and phosphorous to keep vertebrates strong and healthy. Plants need these same minerals to grow vigorous and robust cells and roots and to photosynthesis efficiently. Use Bone Meal early in the growing cycle to get those plants going. It is particularly good to use when planting bulbs, flowering annuals, perennials and ornamentals. Bone Meal can be dangerous to dogs if they consume it, this article has more on that and other guidelines for usage.

A pile of beige and orange-ish crabs
Crab Meal: Also sourced from a food industry, Crab Meal (and other shellfish fertilizers) is made from the left-over shells after the meat has been removed. These Crustacean shells are high in nitrogen, but also contain plenty of calcium, phosphorous and magnesium. While all of these ingredients are excellent for your plants, it is the chitin in Crab Meal that sets it apart. Chitin increases plants' cell wall strength and encourages populations of beneficial soil microorganisms. These microorganisms release enzymes that help control pest nematodes in the soil. Slugs and snails don’t like it either. Crab Meal can be applied anywhere in the garden, but is especially helpful in vegetable gardens/flower beds and when used as a compost amendment to stimulate decomposition and nutrient availability. Here is a short, but helpful, article on shellfish fertilizers.

Bright pick roses over a white picket fence.
Fish Bone Meal: This fertilizer, a byproduct of the fishing industry, is a comfortable alternative for many people made uncomfortable by the slaughterhouse source of traditional mammal bone meals. Fish Bone Meal is high in phosphorous and calcium and will give you plants that can absorb water and nutrients more easily. Great for all plants, but particularly for flowering plants, bulbs and new garden beds. You will see the results in bigger, brighter blooms and more vibrant vegetables. Here is a video on the subject.

An assortment of fresh vegetables in a greyish-brown basket.
Kelp Meal: This first-rate fertilizer is made from Ascophyllum nodosum seaweed found in the waters of the North Atlantic. As it floats around, the kelp plant is able to filter the nutrient-rich ocean water to harness a multitude of micro and macro-nutrients. This allows kelp to grow at an amazing rate and, once dried and milled, Kelp Meal can do the same for your plants. Kelp Meal contains upwards of 60 minerals or elements, 12 vitamins and 21 amino acids. All plants love kelp, so feel free to use on any type of plant at any point in the growing season. We carry Kelp Meal from Down to Earth, Maxicrop and Soil Mender in a variety of sizes and prices, so you should easily find one that works for you. For more on Kelp Meal, read this article.

Neem tree
Neem Seed Meal: This soil additive is yet another beneficial product from the venerable tree. Neem Seed Meal is what remains after the oils are extracted and it is packed with macro and micro-nutrients that your plants will love. All those nutrients will help build a healthy microbial system and strong roots. This fertilizer also improves soil texture and increases organic matter in the soil. As if that weren’t enough, Neem Seed Meal also has a secret weapon – pest control. Just as Azadirachtin from the tree serves as a potent insecticide and repellent, the meal does much the same thing. The  target pests here are soil-dwelling and include grubs, root knot nematodes and root aphids. Use Neem Seed Meal on anything you grow; but it has a strong odor, so you probably won’t want to use it on indoor plants. We offer this remarkable plant product in the meal form and in the cake form. Here’s more on pesticides from the Neem tree pesticides.

A white dog lying on a bright green lawn.Corn Gluten Meal:  This is another fertilizer with a secret weapon – more on that in a minute. As a fertilizer, Corn Gluten Meal offers a non-burning, slow-release dose of nitrogen that will get the green going in your plants. This is especially true of turf, grasses, shrubs, trees and vegetable greens. This fertilizer should only be used on established lawns and plants (those that are rooted with true leaves), but use it as soon as the plants are ready in the spring to give them a strong start. And now to the secret weapon: When used in higher amounts than the fertilizer rate, Corn Gluten (in both granular and liquid forms) is an excellent pre-emergent to combat weeds. If you use it for this purpose, be careful to not apply in anywhere that you have just planted seeds or transplants.We carry a variety of Corn Gluten products. For more on this seemingly magical growth promoter and inhibitor in one, check out our blog on the subject.

A cartoon of a bagged product being added to a flower pot-which makes the flowers grow.

Here’s to happy planting!

Submitted by Pam

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