Grow deep roots, reduce salt, and reduce watering

strawchicago 5a IL(zone 5a)December 12, 2012

Ibuzzell posted excellent info. that's at the bottom of another long thread, so I'll repost it again here.

Posted by lbuzzell z10 CA (My Page) on Sat, Dec 8, 12 at 18:09 Jeri and Kim - we put in a graywater system this year and are very pleased with it! It's very simple and a handyman did it. The water from our laundry sink goes into a pipe outside that then goes into a hose that we move around the yard. There's a handle that can shut off the graywater and send it into the sewer as usual, too. And of course we now use special laundry soap (Oasis is a good brand)- and much less of it - for the clothes, which seem to get just as clean as ever. We have lots of fruit trees plus roses so the graywater is a necessity. And we grow everything with "toughlove" witholding water in the spring after the rain to force roots to follow the water downwards. Linda"

**** I love what Linda wrote, and she's in hot zone 10 California! When I was in Michigan, a mechanical engineer routed his laundry water plus dishwasher's into his veges and roses garden. He grew the yummiest veges, and the best hybrid teas, loaded with blooms. That was before 16 states banned phosphate-laden dishwasher soap (they clean dishes best!).

I have regrets using Lily Miller Acid fertilizer 10-5-4 with both chemical nitrogen and chicken manure. I did some research as to how long chicken manure lasts? It's up to one year, so it should be used only once, but I used it 3 times. I had not watered my rhododrendrons and azaleas for 12 years until I used Lily Miller . I am annoyed that I had to water my acid-plants many times this year since they get droopy in hot summer.

I don't like sulfur from my experiments ... iron is what turns plants green, not sulfur. Sulfur killed earthworms. Alfalfa hay has more nitrogen than alfalfa meal, and grass clippings highest in nitrogen. No aphids here with organic slow-released nitrogen compared with chemical nitrogen 15 years ago.

My goal is reduced watering through low-salt organic sources. I'll limit horse manure to once a year, I'm cautious about salt-build-up. One site stated that too much nitrogen discourages root growth and plants need water more. For salt content in chemical fertilizer, it's highest with nitrogen, next is potassium, and last is phosphorus.

I'll experiment with low-salt phosphorus and potassium SOLUBLE fertilizer to see if I can grow bigger roots for winter survival and drought-resistance. I figured out why alfalfa meal made glue with my clay: alfalfa is high in calcium, and calcium binds with phosphorus to form apatite, a crystal rock.

For organic sources with no salt: grass clippings releases nitrogen within 1 month, NPK 4/0.5/2 Alfalfa hay NPK 2.4/0.5/2 with 40% release of nitrogen in 1 month and Alfalfa meal NPK 2/1/2 with instant release. Leaves vary with fruit trees higher in nitrogen, and oak leaves NPK 0.8/0.3/0.2 That's better than horse manure NPK of 0.4/0.3/0.3

My Mom in Michigan had slightly acidic soil high in phosphorus (needed for blooms and root growth). Her plants were short but deep rooted. She never watered her garden, but had tons of blooms. She applied cow manure once a year in spring time ... grew the sweetest veges ... they tasted better than store-bought.

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sandandsun(9a FL)


Some things for consideration.

"No aphids here with organic slow-released nitrogen compared with chemical nitrogen 15 years ago."
I can tell you from experience as someone who doesn't use any commercial "chemical" fertilizer on the roses that any observed reduction in the aphid population is completely unrelated to chemical fertilizer. They arrive here like a plague whenever the weather is cool and the roses are putting on tender new growth (like now). Tender growth is aphid nectar - pretty much literally.

" manure NPK of 0.4/0.3/0.3"
I don't know your source for this NPK analysis, but composted cow manure is generally agreed to be .5/.5/.5 and I'm pretty sure that horse manure is generally stronger. Even with composting variables, the way most folks here are acquiring and applying horse manure (relatively fresh), I think (note that word) that the analysis would be higher, if not much higher. So that the fresher the horse manure, the more caution required. This is true with any manure. The search term would be "hot." Fresher = hotter, and the hotter the more dangerous.

I also have some concerns about your conclusion about sulfur and earthworms. It's too broad and sweeping without stated assumptions about concentrations and forms - sulfites, sulfates, sulf....
Some occur organically or naturally, if you prefer, and influence the pH of soils. Rain water is a top tier beneficial example.

Patience with conclusions is as valuable as patience with plant growth or being patient with ourselves as gardeners. Great gardeners are always learning, albeit slowly. What's that ancient proverb? - "the oxen are slow, but the earth is patient."

    Bookmark   December 12, 2012 at 12:22PM
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strawchicago 5a IL(zone 5a)

Thank you, Chris, for the info. regarding aphids ... I always wonder if aphids is location-related, just like Japanese Beetle is location-related. No Japanese Beetles in my last house, but JB here. No aphids here, but tons in my last house.

DISCLAIMER: I report on MY GARDEN only, I don't speak for others. IN MY GARDEN ONLY: I put Hollytone (acid fertilizer) in the planting hole, and also slow-released sulfur in another planting hole. Six months later I dug up the roses, zero earthworms in both holes. But the hole with loose composted organic matter have tons of earthworms when I dug the rose up.

NPK of horse manure varies with feed, how composted?, and amount of bedding included (saw dust, straw, or wood chips). Another source quoted NPK of horse manure as 0.44/0.17/0.35 compared to cow at 0.29/0.07/0.1. I do experiments in my garden, and I report them. I don't make conclusions for people.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2012 at 12:43PM
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strawchicago 5a IL(zone 5a)

No place is the same as others, one cannot expect manure to fit the exact ratios. EHow gave different quotes, of 0.25/0.15/0.25 for cow manure and 0.7/0.3/0.6 for horse manure. It's insane to expect manures to fit in the EXACT radios for different environments.

DISCLAIMER: IN MY GARDEN ONLY. I only speak for myself and not for others. Fifteen years ago, in my last house 1/2 hour away, the soil was high nitrogen ... I never fertillize my lawn, but I was foolish to use bloodmeal NPK of 12-0-0 on my roses, with tons of aphids. If you google, "aphids and nitrogen", there are many research that back it up, be it nitrogen in the soil, or excess nitrogen from organic sources.

In this present house, the soil is low in nitrogen, we have to fertilize the lawn 3 times a year. I use low nitrogen alfalfa meal 2-1-2 on my roses, zero aphids. I get high-nitrogen grass-clippings from my neighbors, but I use them elsewhere.

Here is a link that might be useful: EHow values of cow manure and horse manure

    Bookmark   December 12, 2012 at 1:55PM
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Higher nitrogen causes increased, sappy, "water growth" which is the preferred residence for aphids. The more nitrogen (from whatever source), the more sappy, soft, new growth. The more food available, the more aphids you'll see. Push less sappy new growth and you'll feed fewer aphids. Like any insect or animal, increase the food and you increase the critter. Kim

    Bookmark   December 12, 2012 at 7:49PM
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sandandsun(9a FL)

I can't seem to find the thread where you wrote that you preferred "straw" and I said I preferred any version of sandandsun.
Anyway, Happy Holidays.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2012 at 8:05PM
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strawchicago 5a IL(zone 5a)

Happy Holidays, to Chris and Kim. I appreciate Kim's experience and logic. My neighbor ordered a big pile of dirt mixed with mushroom compost (horse manure & brown bedding). I tested the pH of his dirt, it's slightly less blue in red cabbage juice than mine (pH 7.7). At first he got the darkest green lawn in the neighborhood. But his lawn looked worst when there's hot weather and no rain, thanks to the salt content.

Mike_Rivers, a retired chemist, mentioned that horse manure is 1/4 the salt of other manures, with chicken manure the highest (per University of Colorado's data). I thought I could turn my azaleas and rhododrendrons dark-green by using acid fertilizer Lilly Miller 10-5-4 with chicken manure, but I killed 2 rhodos by using it 3 times: 10+10+10 equals 30 in Nitrogen, that's much higher than the 0.7 nitrogen per horse manure application. Sulfur is useless in turning my acid-plants dark green, it's the chelated iron that does the job. I tested Espoma garden sulfur on my acid plants, and they are still yellow.

For salt content, most damaging is urea and ammonium nitrate, around 80% salt index, it's like dumping a cup of salt on your rose bush. The lowest in nitrogen is anhydrous ammonia at 47%, but I don't see listed anywhere. Phosphorus: superphosphate is lowest in salt, at 7.8, and triple superphosphate at 10. For potassium, monopotassium phosphate (52% P and 35% K), has lowest salt at 8.4, and potassium chloride, use to de-ice in cold zone is a killer with 116.2%.

For organic sources, grass clippings, alfalfa, leaves are lowest, then blood meal, then horse manure, cow manure, and highest salt is chicken manure (also highest in nitrogen).

Here is a link that might be useful: University of Illinois data on salt index

    Bookmark   December 13, 2012 at 10:03AM
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anntn6b(z6b TN)

A non-chemistry note on growing rose roots deep: If you don't have deep top soil, the rose isn't going to send its roots deep. Roses' roots will go where the better soil is, and when they spread out, they go where the soil is better.

    Bookmark   December 15, 2012 at 3:12PM
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Roots, water, electricity, gophers and people all follow the path of least resistance. Wherever the water flows, roots follow. I can't count how many potted plants I've had 'glued to the ground' by danged tree roots having grown UP through the drainage holes in the pot bottoms. There was regular water draining out of the pots and the roots followed it right up into the better potting soil. Plant roots are tremendously opportunistic! Kim

    Bookmark   December 15, 2012 at 3:28PM
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Strawberry, per:
" I thought I could turn my azaleas and rhododrendrons dark-green by using acid fertilizer Lilly Miller 10-5-4 with chicken manure, but I killed 2 rhodos by using it 3 times...I tested Espoma garden sulfur on my acid plants, and they are still yellow."

I've killed every azalea I've tried to grow (about 6), with every combo (or lack of combo) of acid amender I could. Gardenias - I LOVE them, all ended up with yellow and then falling off leaves. I tried everything. I give up. Fortunately Camelias are growing for me, and I do use whatever acid fertilizer I find on sale. Ultragreen 10-5-4 worked well for me over the last year. But outside of Camelias, I stay away anything acid loving - clearly my soil is not appropriate.

Last year I had almost zip for aphids. Coincidence or not that I heavily mulched everywhere with a deeper than normal (2-3") fresh manure/hay combo late February, and then fertilized with Vigoro 12-6-10 in early March and May (this year I'll do same but probably add August as well) - LOVED the Vigoro - roses exploded, and I'll purchase it again. Can't control the weather, but manure and fertilizer in my nutrient missing sand is greatly appreciated by the roses.

I don't state "for my garden only" because I presume everyone knows that anyone's advice works for their environment, and we all have to be smart enough to be knowledgable about our own environments. I do try to mention when I state things that work for me, that I garden in sand, because I do believe sand is an entirely different beast than any other type of ground. I love working in sand. Like a return to childhood, with a huge sandbox with bloodstickers everywhere.

    Bookmark   December 15, 2012 at 6:43PM
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