gabriola garden

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Organic Additives to Ensure a Record Harvest

The snows have melted, a current of warm air has invaded British Columbia, and if I look closely at our garden, I can see Sara’s spring bulbs starting to come up through the fertile soil.

The crocuses and the daffodils are the first to break through; can hyacinths and tulips be far behind? Sara is worried that another cold spell will harm her little ones, but the weekend forecast is for warm temperatures and sunshine.

Sunshine is a rare commodity on the West Coast of Canada in the winter, even though it is an essential element in photosynthesis. Lately we’ve had many snowfalls, windstorms, and torrential rainfalls, with very little of the golden yellow elixir that gives life to plants.

Eloise writes that Hamilton, New Zealand is experiencing daytime highs in the mid-twenties Celsius (ah, the joys of summer) range, and even at night it rarely goes below 18º or 19º C.

“The rainfall slowed down, but most days it’s still overcast Down Under. Although the sun has shown its face once in a while, to remind us of what summer should be like.”

“John is worrying that the corn isn’t getting enough growth spurting sunshine, but our sweet corn crop is of a decent height, the stalks are almost up to my shoulders.”

“We are determined to stick to 100% organic ingredients in our watering-nutrient mix. The market is very good for organic product these days, and ethically we can’t cheat and add a synthetic additive, here and there. A neighbour of ours does exactly that, and we always chide him for it.”

“Lately, our attention has been focused on three purely organic supplements: Emerald Shaman, Colossal Bud Blast, and Grandma Enggy’s Seaweed Extract.”

Emerald Shaman uses all natural fermented ingredients to enhance not only the growth of your plants, but also their resistance to pests and diseases. It is a time honoured tradition in the Orient to use fermented plant food to increase yield and vigour.”

“In addition to water-soluble organic Nitrogen, it has natural source Phosphates and Potassium, both easily able to dissolve in water. It is applied at the rate of one full tablespoon per 90 Litres of water, so we scoop five and a half tablespoons into our 500 L Watering Tank.”

“As soon as we started using this stuff, we started to see the results. Our vegetables seemed to be extra energized with their stalks and leaves more robust than usual.”

“Emerald Shaman can be used directly for your root watering, as well as a foliar spray. When using it as a spray, be sure to use it very early in the morning or definitely after sunset. The bioactives in this product are adversely effected by direct sunshine in droplets of water. The droplets act as tiny prisms, magnifying the effects of the sun and may destroy the active ingredients, as well as burn your leaves as a result.”

Advanced Nutrients recommends using several different foliar sprays, alternating them by applying on consecutive days. In addition to Emerald Shaman, another one of their great products that was initially formulated as a foliar spray is Colossal Bud Blast.”

“These sprays are to be diluted in pH balanced water, with no other ingredients mixed into the solution. Scorpion Juice is another organic foliar spray that John uses all the time on our sweet corn and vegetables. It imparts induced systemic resistance to many pests and pathogens.”

“Colossal Bud Blast can be used both during the vegetative stage as well as the bloom period. It helps increase the girth and growth of your flowers and fruit by helping your plants absorb organic nutrients and hormones better.”

“This magic product contains biostimulants from a natural source, as well as naturally occurring chelators and surfactants, such as humic acid. As you know, humic acid takes its name from humus, the rich, black, organic layer of earth that universally grows the best vegetables and flowers.”

“Although it was formulated as a foliar spray, it can also be applied to the root system with great benefit. “

“Over 50% of Colossal Bud Blast is made up of a base-tea concentrate, derived from high phosphate bat guano, krill extract, seaweed meal, and alfalfa meal—all time-proven ingredients in organic horticulture.”

“The rest is made up of complex amino acids as well as the aforementioned humic acid. This intricately engineered mix stimulates our vegetables into producing the best possible flowers and fruit, in terms of quality, size, and weight.”

“You should see our tomatoes! They’re already the size of our best store-bought organic produce, and we still have weeks to go before harvest. Our neighbours come and visit and never leave without jotting down the url of the Advanced Nutrients website, they are so impressed!”

“The third miracle product that I’m very excited about using is Grandma Enggy’s Seaweed Extract. It almost acts as a multi-vitamin for our sweet corn and other vegetables. We’re surrounded by the Pacific Ocean, so it only stands to reason that we should derive one of our favourite plant nutrients from the sea itself.”

“The hydrolysed kelp in Seaweed Extract not only contains the most important B Vitamins (thiamine, riboflavin, B12), but also Vitamin C (ascorbic acid), Vitamin E (tocopherol), two Vitamin A precursors, and Vitamin K. It also has folic acid, panthothenic acid, and folinic acid.”

“The Advanced Nutrients technical guys explained to John that the Vitamin E found in seaweed is very useful in horticulture, because it has a complete set of isomers, similar to the form of the Vitamin found in seed oil, such as linseed oil and wheat germ.”

“As an extra bonus, Grandma Enggy’s Seaweed Extract features natural antibiotics that help all our plants become resistant to aphids, mites, mildew, and other forms of parasitic fungi.”

“I’ve already sung the praises of Grandma Enggy’s other great products, notably Humic Acid and Fulvic Acid, so I won’t continue to bend your cyber ear. Suffice it to say that these supplements, coupled with our base 100% organic nutrients of Iguana Juice, Grow and Bloom, are well on their way of ensuring a bumper crop this year of sweet corn, tomatoes, cucumbers, hot peppers, two kinds of onions, carrots, and potatoes.”

“John and I are forever grateful to you and Sara for helping to turn us into expert gardeners through our use of these Advanced Nutrients products.”

posted by Tim at 10:01 PM | 0 comments

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Yellow leaf tips lead to Reduced Feeding

The good news is that electricity has been restored to most homes on the island, including ours.

Another five to ten centimetres of snow fell on Gabriola this morning, then the snow turned to rain and it became slush. Rubber boots are the de rigueur wear around here these days.

The kids loved fooling around in the snow so now they’re sad that it’s all melting. Sara is happy that her spring bulbs are getting enough to drink under ground and I mutter silent curses as I wind my way around the slushy roads.

There’s nothing more miserable than wet snow on your face and huge puddles of slush underfoot. My coat was soaked through by the time I ended up walking the dog.

Down Under, Eloise writes, worrywart John has something else to worry about. They’ve discovered yellow tips on the leaves of their sweet corn plants. John immediately said “I told you so,” to Eloise.

She tried to reassure him that it had nothing to do with them putting less water into their 500 Litre mixing tank in order to account for all the rain watering that their corn was getting. Instead of a medium feeding regimen, their corn is telling them that it requires light feeding.

So they adjusted the Nutrient Calculator accordingly and remixed the tank according to the new guidelines. John insisted on filling the tank up to the brim with water, in spite of Eloise’s warnings that this will result in over-watering their corn and the other vegetables.

“John is still worried. He’s out in the field every day with his NPK Soil Test Kit, which includes 25 sachet reagents of Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium, three 100 mL bottles of extraction solution, and five plastic test tubes in which to mix the soil samples and the measuring agents.”

“He’s got laminated colour charts—three of them—a test tube holder, a small brush, three pipettes, one measuring spoon, and a soil test hand book. He’s better prepared for his soil tests than he was for our wedding, LOL!”

“Whenever his mind starts to worry, he hurries out into the corn field and measures the pH, the NPK, the EC, and God knows what, in order to make sure that our first sweet corn harvest is successful. Even though I find it annoying at times, I must say I admire his tenacity.”

“I’m afraid that these yellow tips will drive him over the edge. He tried to call Advanced Nutrients the other day. I did a quick calculation in my mind and realized that it was three in the morning in British Columbia.”

“You don’t expect those Canadian blokes to answer the phone at 3 am, do you?” I asked John. He got embarrassed and rushed off to do yet another test.”

“Aside from the yellow tips, our corn plants seem full of vigour, healthy and happy. According to the corn growing guidebook, all parts of the plants are growing according to plan. The tassels and the ears are starting to form and pretty soon the silks will be fertilized by the pollen from the tassels.”

“It’s amazing how bushy all of our vegetables have grown. Neighbours come and admire our garden and immediately want to order some of the Advanced Nutrients products that we use to nourish our plants.”

“I wouldn’t be surprised if their New Zealand sales of Iguana Juice Grow and Bloom, as well as Grandma Enggy’s Humic Acid, Fulvic Acid, and Seaweed Extract would have doubled since we started showing off our garden to fellow growers.”

“One reason that John is so upset about the yellow tips is that he’s afraid that our neighbours will laugh at us. I reassured him that yellow tips were just a way that plants communicate their needs, no cause for alarm. I don’t think John is convinced of that yet.”

“Now that John has filled up our tank with water, our EC readings have returned to normal (according to the Nutrient Calculator). I will try to make sure that John doesn’t over-water our crop by urging him to water less frequently.”

“This will cause the plants to receive the required amount of nutrients more slowly, but eventually they should get the suggested PPM or EC or TDS for the week. Unless we cut back watering to such an extent that all they get is rainwater, with a few diluted nutrients.”

“In week 2 of our bloom cycle, the ingredients in our nutrient mix have been reduced by switching from Medium to Light Feeding. According to the Nutrient Calculator, instead of feeding our plants 1341.5 mL of Iguana Juice Bloom, now we only feed them 1224 mL. Instead of 950 mL each of Humic Acid and Fulvic Acid, now we only feed 700 mL.”

Voodoo Juice has gone down from 2300 mL to 2100. Piranha and Tarantula were 200 grams each, now we only feed 150 grams. Carbo Load Powder has slightly gone down, from 115 g to 105, Seaweed Extract much more significantly, from 1900 mL to 1750.”

“SensiZym has also gone from 1900 mL to 1750, as has Organic B been reduced by the exact same amount.”

“Since Iguana Juice is a fish-based fertilizer, we’ve had a family of raccoons visiting one night trying to dig up the non-existent fish. It’s lucky that we don’t have bears in these parts. Our deer fence stops deer most of the time, but I doubt that it would be any good to keep bears out. And if they smell the fish, they could become troublesome.”

“We still can’t figure out how the raccoons came through the fence, but John promised to inspect the entire perimeter to detect any breeches. We opened the gate and chased them out by banging a garbage can lid and yelling loudly.”

“I was doing a veritable Maori war chant by the time they took off and exited our property. Can’t have intrusive critters disrupting our attempt to become accomplished horticulturalists!”

“Take care and watch out for those masked bandits, Eloise.”

posted by Tim at 7:36 PM | 0 comments

Friday, January 12, 2007

Worrywart John and the Watering Tank

Well, our garden is under snow cover once again, and the temperatures have dropped considerably. We’ve had another major wind storm and our power got knocked out. Half of Gabriola is dark.

We’re not exactly freezing in the dark, since I bought a second-hand generator last summer and it works fine. The two drawbacks are that it is quite polluting (runs on diesel oil) and it makes a hell of a racket.

The main source of heat in our home is a propane stove in the living room, supplemented by base board heaters in the bedrooms. Even the propane stove needs electricity to work, since the thermostat turns it on and off and electric sparks ignite the propane.

I was quite concerned about Eloise and John Down Under, since I read about extensive wildfires in Australia. In fact, 52 firefighters from British Columbia flew down there to help the exhausted Aussies in putting out the fires.

So I sent an e-mail and here is the reply: “Don’t worry about us and wildfires. If anything, we should be worried about floods, we’ve had so much rain. I’m worried that our corn is getting much more than the inch per week of water it needs.”

“So we’ve cut back on the watering and have made our nutrient mix with less water in the past two weeks. This means that our base nutrients, Iguana Juice Grow and Bloom, as well as our supplements, such as Humic and Fulvic Acid, Seaweed Extract, and the root colonizers Piranha, Tarantula, and Voodoo Juice are more concentrated in the watering tank, accounting for a higher EC and PPM reading.”

“John is very concerned about this, since he doesn’t want to burn the tips of our plants with too much Nitrogen, or the other macronutrients. I keep reassuring him that the extra rain will dilute the nutrient mix by the time the roots have a chance to absorb it, but he’s still worried.”

“I should add that John is a worrywart. He worries constantly and there is nothing I can do about it. He worries about the possible major catastrophes that can strike our home and garden, but he also worries about trivial things, such as the rise in the cost of postage stamps—thank goodness for e-mail—and whether the cranberry scones I made for breakfast will disturb his digestion.”

“He also worries about how there are fewer honeybees this year than last. I keep telling him that corn is a monoecious plant, which means that each stalk has both male and female flowers in different locations.”

“As you know, the tassel is the male flower and it’s at the top of the plant. The female flower is located at the junction of leaves and the stem. It is made up of a collection of hairs, known as silks, and enclosed in the husks of what will become the ears of corn.”

“Corn is wind pollinated—it doesn’t rely on insects to transfer the pollen from the tassels to the silks. Had I known all this in such great detail before planting, I would have planted our corn in blocks, rather than rows, since the chances of adequate pollination are greatly increased by doing that.”

“If the pollination is haphazard and not complete, some of the ears will only be partially filled out with kernels, which makes them unmarketable.”

“The sweet corn hybrid that we’ve planted takes about 70 days from seed to harvest. We’re roughly in the middle of the cycle right now, so we’re switching from the vegetative regimen of nutrients, to the flowering stage at the moment.”

“During the flowering stage, Iguana Juice Bloom becomes the predominant source of nutrients for our vegetables. The extras are exactly the same list as during the vegetative stage, but the weekly amounts increase by a large percentage, across the board.”

“Wheras we only put it 375 mL of Grandma Enggy’s Humic Acid into our new 500 Litre pre-mix tank before, now we’re supposed to put 800 mL. As I’ve mentioned before, we’ve cut back on the amount of water in the tank, but the quantities of the mixed ingredients are as if the tank was full.”

“If we did have 500 Litres of water in the tank, the EC reading for week 1 of flowering would be exactly EC 1 or 700 PPM, according to the Bluelab Truncheon CF/EC/PPM meter that is made right here in New Zealand.”

“However, since I urged John to cut back on the water, due to the extra amount of precipitation in these parts, the EC reading went up, which is causing John no end of worry.”

“I keep trying to tell him that it’s okay, that the extra rain will dilute the nutrient mix before it is sucked up by our plants, but he doesn’t listen.”

“I told him to phone the Advanced Nutrients technical support line, and he did. He was told that the EC or PPM numbers are meant to be guidelines only, and that our plants will tell us when we’re feeding them too little, or too much.”

“If our leaf tips turn yellow, they’re getting too much Nitrogen. So let’s say we start off with a Medium Feeding regimen during the flowering stage. Yellow leaf tips mean that we should cut back to light feeding.”

“If the leaves are okay with Medium Feeding, we might be able to increase the amount of food, thus stimulating growth. In this case, we would go to a Heavy Feeding regimen.”

“In corn horticulture, side dressing with fertilizer is recommended. We can simulate this procedure by watering beside the corn stalks rather than right on top of the plants. This will allow for the rain to dilute the nutrients before they are absorbed by the roots.”

“Because of all this rain, our weeds have sprung up like jackrabbits, so I am forever going between the rows of corn with a tiller taking out the weeds and making sure that our corn is safe from the extra pest hazards caused by the proximity of weeds.”

“Another vital ingredient in our watering mix at this time is Carbo Load (Powder) which is designed to boost the sugars that a plant needs during flowering in order to replenish the energy that the reproductive functions deplete.”

“I worry about you and Sara and the kids during your wind storms and power outages. Please let us know that you’re cozy and warm and safe from harm. Love, Eloise.”

posted by Tim at 12:34 PM | 0 comments