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FloridaGardener's Blog
Apr 22

Written by: host
4/22/2009 7:21 PM

Natural Soil EnrichmentFirst I want to tell you about what I am using to feed my tomato plants, then I will show you the results!

On the left is a box of Seabird Guano, which as names go, is rather redundant -- according to Wikipedia the word guano ('wanu') originated from the Quichua language of the Incas' and means "the droppings of sea birds".

The most famous guano was that used by the Inca. The guano would collect on the rainless islands and coast of Peru where atmospheric conditions insured a minimal loss of nutrients and basically fossilized the bird poo. Guano consists of ammonia, uric, phosphoric, oxalic, and carbonic acids, as well as some earth salts and impurities. Guano also has a high concentration of nitrates.

For this very valuable material the Inca would guard and regulate this treasured soil enricher. Access to the guano deposits were restricted to chosen caretakers. Disrupting the rookeries could result in punishment by death.

According to BBC Home: Guano is a soil builder, lawn treatment, fungicide (when fed to plants through the leaves), nematocide (decomposing microbes help control nematodes), and as composting activator (nutrients and microbes speed up decomposition).

Next is SUPERthrive. This product has been around for many years and a Google search will reveal as many people praising the product as there are folks calling it "snake oil". According to Wikipedia,  "SUPERthrive is a WARF testing lab certified non-toxic liquid concentrated growth enhancer product for plants, which has been available since 1940. It contains '.09% Vitamin B1, .048% 1-Napthyl acetic acid', with a total of dissolved solids of approximately 25%, which, according to some labeling, may include some 50 compounds of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen normally produced by plants under ideal conditions and time."

Does SUPERthrive really work? Well, the SUPERthrive label is an absolute crazy quilt of amazing claims, but, you have got to think that if the product has been around for as many years as it has there must be something to its claims other than slick marketing, after all, ponzi schemes do not last as long! I guess that the final proof is in how it works for you. Try it for yourself and see what you think of it. I must say that one whiff of the contents (which smell strongly of being packed with B Vitamins) tells me that there must be something good at work here. It smells so bad that it must be good for your plants!

Now on to Maxicrop... Maxicrop is a "Soluble Seaweed Powder 1-0-4 listed by the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) for use in organic production". It is made from "the finest Norwegian seaweed" (Ascophyllum Nodosum). According to Wikipedia,  Ascophyllum Nodosum "is harvested for use in alginates, fertilisers and for the manufacture of seaweed meal for animal and human consumption. It has long been used as an organic and mainstream fertilizer for many varieties of crops due to its combination of both macronutrient, (eg. N, P, K, Ca, Mg, S) and micronutrients (eg. Mn, Cu, Fe, Zn, etc). It also host to cytokinins, auxin-like, gibberellins, betaines, mannitol, organic acids, polysaccharides, amino acids, and proteins which are all very beneficial and widely used in agriculture".

Azomite rock powder is a pink mineral ore mined from the pink hills southeast of Nephi, Utah. Azomite is recommended for adding micro nutrients and minerals back to the soil and as a foliar fertilizer. The Peak Minerals website claims that "Once you've tasted a vegetable grown with AZOMITE® you're spoiled for life." Well, I guess I will soon be the judge of that claim!

The final product I am using is Thuricide. Thuricide is a concentrated liquid insecticide for the control of chewing and leaf eating insects composed of Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) -- a naturally occurring, soil borne organism popular for its ability to control certain insect pests in a natural, environmentally friendly manner. After mixing the concentrate with water and spraying it on the plants you wish to protect, the Bt spores are ingested by the insect larvae, they grow and reproduce in the guts of the insects while producing crystalline toxins. The crystalline toxins paralyze the digestive tract of the larvae causing it to cease eating and starve to death from 12 hours to 5 days after ingestion of the Bt. Time to death depends on the amount of Bt ingested, the size and variety of the larvae and variety of Bt used for control.

There are different strains or varieties of Bt available that have been selected for the control of specific insects. Bt variety kurstaki (BTK) controls the European corn borer, tomato hornworms, fruit worms, cabbageworm, cabbage looper, spring and fall cankerworm, spruce budworm, and other caterpillar-like larvae. While not a fertilizer, Thuricide is very effective in preventing defoliation and damage of food and crop plants by caterpillars.

Green TomatoesSo, to the left is a picture of my healthy and happy tomato plants. Now remember, these plants are being grown in 2.5 cubic ft bags of garden soil, not directly in the ground. This is a form of "no till" gardening quite popular in limited space gardens in Europe and the UK.

For those nay sayers who claim that you cannot possibly grow tomatoes or much of anything else with this technique, well, here is the proof of what is possible! These plant are very robust, healthy, loaded with fruit and practically insect free.

I am growing hot peppers and have just sprouted and will be growing bush beans using the same technique. More about that can be tracked back here.

While it is probably a bit late in Florida's growing season to attempt growing tomatoes other than the cherry type now, I think that you should be able to use this technique for numerous other herbs and vegetables that thrive during Florida's torrid Summer growing season. You can find a list of those plants here.

So give growing in bags a try -- I would love to hear about your experiences with the technique!

Copyright ©2009 Paul J. Erdek, FloridaGardener.com

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