Fertilizer schedule for potted figs.

keepitlow(6)April 7, 2010

I bought some

10-10-10 fertilizer

Fish emulsion fertilizer

Ironite mineral supplement.

For container figs what do you recommend I use?

My figs have little 2 inch leaves on them. Should I start fertilizing them now? And how often?


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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

When you take an average of the ratio of nutrients plants actually use, you'll find only minor variance from the ratio 10:1.5:7. When the 3:1:2 ratio fertilizers are adjusted for actual P and K content because P is reported as P2O5 and K is reported as K20, you see that they fit this ratio almost perfectly. We usually furnish nutrients based on a fraction of N, so 1:1:1 ratio fertilizers furnish much more P and K than is necessary in relation to N. This unnecessarily raised the EC/TDS levels of the soil solution and makes it unnecessarily difficult for plants to absorb water and the nutrients dissolved in water. This isn't to say you can't grow healthy plants in 1:1:1 ratios like 10-10-10, 12-12-12, 20-20-20, but 3:1:2 ratios like 24-8-16, 12-4-8, and 9-3-6 (excellent for figs) are better choices and provide a wider margin for error.

I don't use fish emulsion because it's availability (to the plant) is erratic and unreliable. The nutrients in fish emulsion are locked in organic molecules and require the activity of soil biotic populations, which fluctuate widely in conventional container culture, to reduce them to elemental form before plants can utilize them.


    Bookmark   April 7, 2010 at 10:13AM
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bonsaist(Z6/ Bethlehem, Pa)

I agree with Al that a ratio of 3:1:2 works best on figs. I have been using slow release with 18-6-12 ratio. My trees responded well to it and grew well and had good production.
With slow release you don't have to feed more than once, I use the 5 months feed, and I apply it only once in the growing season..


    Bookmark   April 7, 2010 at 3:24PM
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But where do I get 24-8-16, 12-4-8, and 9-3-6?

They only have 10-10-10 and 19-19-19. They also have some crazy stuff like a 0-0-60.

I figured the 10-10-10 was not that high power as the 19, so it should not hurt the figs from burn. Or do the higher numbers don't matter that much when it comes to burning the plant?

    Bookmark   April 7, 2010 at 7:33PM
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bonsaist(Z6/ Bethlehem, Pa)

You looking for the ratio not necessarily higher number.

Here is a link that might be useful: Slow release fertilizer bags 18-6-12

    Bookmark   April 7, 2010 at 8:28PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Who are 'they'? ;o) Any big box store will have several brands of 3:1:2 ratio fertilizers at this time of year. Soluble granules of 24-8-16 is available from MG, Schultz, Peters, probably others, and MG 12-4-8 is widely available in liquid form (yellow quart jug). Dyna-Gro's Foliage0Pro 9-3-6 is especially good for figs because there is less of an acid reaction because about 60% of the N is provided in nitrate form, but you'll probably only find the 9-3-6 at a hydroponics shop or online. I use it for almost ALL my containerized plantings, including houseplants and veggies.

The ratio of the ingredients to each other is more important than the actual numbers. IOW 24-8-16 and 12-4-8 are the same RATIO, but 12-4-8 is only half as concentrated as 24-8-16. If you read the instructions, you'll see that the directions will call for mixing twice as much 12-4-8 as 24-8-16 into a gallon of water to come up with a 'recommended dosage'.

Slow release fertilizers in the 1:1:1 ratio are simply equal parts by weight of the 3 primary macro-nutrients (NPK). 10-10-10 and 5-5-5 are both 1:1:1 RATIOS, with the 10-10-10 being twice as 'concentrated' as the 5-5-5; so again, the recommended application rate of the 5:5:5 would simply be twice that of the 10-10-10. When applied at recommended rates, you would be applying the same amounts of NPK, so the chances they would cause plasmolysis (burn) are equal.


    Bookmark   April 7, 2010 at 9:59PM
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If you use a SLOW RELEASE fertilizer (such as Osmocote) for your container grown fig trees, you WILL NOT have a problem with EC/TDS (Electric Conductivity and Total Dissolved Solids). Also, you will never see a situation where a slow release fertilizer (applied as per directions), will EVER "make it unnecessarily difficult for plants to absorb water and the nutrients dissolved in water." That simply WILL NOT happen because of the design of the product. If you are concerned about the nutrient ratio of your fertilizer, use the type that Bass suggested.


    Bookmark   April 7, 2010 at 10:07PM
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Hi Keepitlow,
as you read these post you will find most have there own ways with there trees and all probably good im sure.
Here is what i have been doing for a number of years and you can do a search for Dieseler to view some threads with pictures of my trees. Im not saying what i do is better nor worse than what others do it just what i have been doing a number of years.
I have always used miracle grow mixed with water at half strength weekly, during the heat of the summer twice weekly as i have to water my containers at that point every other day because they drain quickly and they sit on cement not grass for added heat to soil. The other times i water during the week i use rain water if available otherwise i have to use the house water. Toward end of August i start cutting back . It is my intention to get a rain barrel or 2 so i dont have to use the house water during times of need.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2010 at 11:40PM
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Thanks for all the feedback. I didn't know fertilizers were so complex. Sounds like you have to be a chemist to figure it all out.

Yes, Lowes has Osmocote. The local CO-OP was the place that had the 10-10-10 and other ones I mentioned.

On the 'Fruit and Orchards' forum a guy likes to use urine as fertilizer. Anyone try that on figs?

I do have another option - Plantone. I was going to stop using it cause it keeps going in price, but could afford it to use on figs. What do you think of Plantone?

    Bookmark   April 8, 2010 at 8:53AM
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i have never used urine on my plants and never will even if it had its benefits for that use.
Plantone i have never used i have always used Mg long as i can purchase that product along with dolomitic lime once or twice a year.
Im sure others have opinions or have used plantone and will chime in.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2010 at 9:28AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Bass actually suggested a 3:1:2 ratio fertilizer, which is EXACTLY what I suggested.

"If you use a SLOW RELEASE fertilizer (such as Osmocote) for your container grown fig trees, you WILL NOT have a problem with EC/TDS (Electric Conductivity and Total Dissolved Solids)."

This is an extremely broad statement and you certainly CAN have issues with CRFs applied at recommended rates as release is controlled primarily by temperature and the EC/TDS is affected by everything soluble in the soil, so you need to look at the whole picture, not just whether or not you applied the product according to directions.

Whenever you have too much of ANY soluble in the soil in relation to the others, it assuredly makes it 'unnecessarily difficult' for plants to absorb water and the nutrients dissolved in water. 1:1:1 ratio fertilizers supply MUCH more P than plants can ever use, in relationship to N. What this means is plants will use all the N in the soil long before the P is deficient. You'll need to fertilize again or your plant will experience a N deficiency. The second dose of fertilizer contributes to the supply of P already in the soil, greatly increasing the P supply AND the EC/TDS level, thus unnecessarily makes it more difficult for plants to absorb water AND the nutrients dissolved in water, because the lower the level of solubles in the soil solution the more effective osmotic transfer is. (FWIW, the extra P is particularly effective at blocking uptake [antagonistic deficiency] of both Fe and Mn, as well.) E.g., distilled water moves much more freely through membranes into cells with a higher level of solutes than water unnecessarily laden with nutrients plants cannot/will not use.

Just announcing something is true or wishing real hard doesn't make it so. Saying no harm will come of using ANY particular type of fertilizer because of its design is like imagining that no harm will ever come to drivers because automobiles are designed to be safe.

FWIW, I think it's not a good idea to use urine on your containerized plants. It's high in soluble salts and offers the same kind of problems that applying fertilizers with skewed ratios does. If urine is lacking several nutrients, you'll end up having to fertilize anyway. When you fertilize, you'll be adding too much of what is already in the soil solution. It would be extremely difficult for anyone to make a case for the benefits of using urine on container plants w/o going through extraordinary effort (including soil solution or tissue analysis). It just doesn't make sense.


    Bookmark   April 8, 2010 at 11:08AM
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organic_aer1(NJ 6)


We must think about the medications people that and are taking and end up in the urine. It has been proven that with some meds more of the chemical (salts) are found in the urine than in ones body. What % (unknown) of these meds could be taken up by the plant, or alter the microbes in the soil.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2010 at 11:29AM
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I don't want to get into another peeing contest with anyone. But, I KNOW what I am talking about and must speak up. We chemists know a bit about the development and use of chemicals. The whole "theory" (concept) of optimum nutrient ratios for a designed fig tree fertilizer is based on inferred and extrapolated data across different plant species and makes broad assumptions that use a brush as wide as a freight train. It is a fact of science that extrapolated and inferred data often is not very reliable. Sometimes that kind of data turns out to be pure Baloney.

I am a retired and very experienced chemist (34 years) who fully understands not only the "chemical" and "physical" properties of the different fertilizers....but, also know how to actually perform the analysis of those nutrient elements. I fully understand the meaning and implications of that data and manufacturing specifications. I understand osmosis, TDS, TVDS, ASH, EC, anions, cations, pH, Total Nitrogen, Organic Nitrogen, Inorganic Nitrogen, Basic Nitrogen, Nitrate Nitrogen, Nitrite Nitrogen, Kjeldahl Nitrogen, chelating agents, trace metals, valence state of metals, etc, and their individual differences within fertilizers and their potential effects on plants. I stand firmly by what I have stated above.....a slow release fertilizer such as Osmocote simply WILL NOT CAUSE ANY PROBLEMS with the normal water uptake of a fig plant. The theory that it can cause a water uptake problem for the OP's fig tree is laughable and flies in the face of sound CHEMISTRY......

Bass's success is due to the PHYSICAL properties of his "slow release" fertilizer and also to its CHEMICAL properties. His good report had ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with the "nutrient ratios" of the slow release fertilizer. He could have obtained similar results with other slow release products which had a different chemical analysis.

In answer to keepitlow's question:

I grow and fertilize hundreds of fig trees. Most of mine are grown in the ground and that is why I didn't initially respond to your question. My in ground trees are fertilized with either 8-8-8 or 13-13-13 fertilizer with excellent results. This same type of fertilizer is applied to countless other fig trees that are growing in Louisiana......a State with a long tradition of growing figs on a large scale. This is the type of fertilizer that the REAL FIG EXPERTS at LSU recommend for "in ground" fig trees. This practice has been used for many years......WITHOUT ANY PROBLEMS. The trees that I have in containers (currently about 150 trees) are fertilized using both Miracle Grow and Osmocote.....again without any problems.

For what its worth, I am one fignut chemist who does not buy into the nutrient ratio theory discussed earlier. My recommendation to you would be for you to follow Martin's good advice. As I've stated before in other threads, I consider him to be an EXPERT on the growing of figs in containers in a cooler climate. Take a look at his pictures and you will see excellent DOCUMENTED results. Using the SLOW RELEASE fertilizer that Bass has suggested will do no harm to your fig plant. However, it is NO BETTER than other slow release fertilizers for use on your fig tree. I would caution using any fertilizer late into the season as any late applied fertilizer could encourage vigorous growth late into the growing season causing your tree to be less hardy and prepared for the winter cold temperatures than it otherwise would be.


    Bookmark   April 9, 2010 at 3:46AM
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Dan, you said you were hesitant in replying cause I posted about container figs. Would plants in-ground vs container generally require different fertilizers?

    Bookmark   April 9, 2010 at 8:52AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

That was actually several paragraphs of bluster and telling us how much you know, with nothing concrete except your own personal and very unscientific assertions.

Besides, I wasn't talking about fertilizer TYPES, I was talking about RATIOS. Try dealing directly with what I said, instead of trying to discredit me by essentially saying you THINK someone else might disagree with me. If you're so knowledgeable, then use that knowledge to refute what I said with something that makes sense, instead of vague opinion.

The FACTS are painfully simple: As the level of EC/TDS increases, water movement across membranes becomes more difficult, so ANYTHING extra in the soil solution that the plant cannot or will not use UNNECESSARILY inhibits water/nutrient uptake.

An example of s skewed ratio is the very popular formula 10-52-10. This fertilizer supplies about 31X more P than ANY plant could hope to use, yet it is marketed everywhere as a 'bloom booster' fertilizer, which is ridiculous. I explained how fertilizers like this get out of control. There would be large amounts of P in the soil when N is depleted, so you're left with a choice of a N deficiency or adding still more P to the soil. Adding more fertilizer to satisfy the plant's need for N only increases the amount of P in the soil, so the pH rises and the plant struggles on two fronts - High levels of EC/TDS AND an antagonistic deficiency of (most often) Fe and Mn.

I never said you cannot grow healthy plants using 1:1:1 ratio fertilizers like the popular 20-20-20 soluble or 14-14-14 controlled release. only that 3-1-2 fertilizers are a better choice.

If you look at ANY greenhouse or nursery operation, you'll see that they almost NEVER use 1:1:1 ratios. They rely on a fertilizer closer to 3:1:2 for normal growth and in the case of bedding plants where stocky plants with blooms are desirable, a 2:1:2 ratio.

Plants use nutrients in a relatively narrow range of nutrients. IOW, there is little variance between the ratio of nutrients used by redwoods vs figs vs petunias vs tomatoes. This is a chart showing high/low usage of nutrients

I gave Nitrogen, because it's the largest nutrient component, the value of 100. Other nutrients are listed as a weight percentage of N.
N 100
P 13-19 (16) 1/6
K 45-80 (62) 3/5
S 6-9 (8) 1/12
Mg 5-15 (10) 1/10
Ca 5-15 (10) 1/10
Fe 0.7
Mn 0.4
B(oron) 0.2
Zn 0.06
Cu 0.03
Cl 0.03
M(olybden) 0.003
To read the chart: P - plants use 13-19 parts of P or an average of about 16 parts for every 100 parts of N, or 6 times more N than P. Plants use about 45-80 parts of K or an average of about 62 parts for every 100 parts of N, or about 3/5 as much K as N, and so on.

It's funny that at first Dan suggested that you follow the advice of Bass until he realized his mistake - that Bass agreed the 3:1:2 ratio I suggested made more sense. NOW, he agrees with Martin, but Martin's post was vague as to what ratio of MG fertilizer he uses. It could be that he used MG All-Purpose, which is 24-8-16, a 3:1:2 ratio fertilizer as I suggested and is in accord with what I said. But perhaps he uses MG 20-20-20. How in the world can anyone agree with another when they don't know what they are using.

Keep-it-low - Fertilizer applications for in-ground plants are best applied based on soil analysis. This is for the very reason I talked about above - so you don't over-apply some elements and unnecessarily raise the level of the soil solutions EC/TDS unnecessarily high. It also guards against introducing enough of any one element to cause an antagonistic deficiency of another. Examples are too much Ca causing a Mg deficiency, or too much P causing an Fe or Mn deficiency. The converse also holds as true. I also talked about these things above.

From this, you can see that if you aren't using a soil test to base your applications on and are taking a 'shotgun approach', it's less likely you'll create problems with high levels of any 1 nutrient if you apply fertilizers in a ratio as close as possible to what plants use. The exception might be if you find there is already a lot of N in the soil, then a 1:1:1 ratio fertilizer MIGHT be a better choice.


    Bookmark   April 9, 2010 at 9:54AM
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Here is a picture of what i use, now im ignorant as to the label of ingredients actually mean but my container plants have always seem to like it so i have always used it. I buy the big box cause i use it on my flowers also. Actually many years ago i started useing it on my flowers first so then about 7 or 8 years back i started useing it on my fig plants also. I use half strength that is instead of 1 full tablespoon per gallon of water i use a half of one and mix in a used gallon milk jug.I dont pre-water the plants first with regular water and then use this, i use the fertilizer by itself once a week to water until it drains out the bottom of container, my bigger containers probably 30 gallon size take more than a gallon of it to drain out.
The numbers on the box say 24-8-16 here is picture.

Also please im not saying this is the best or better than any other stuff i never have tried anything else when it comes to fertilizer, its just what seems to work for me.
Hope this makes more sense than my last post.
Here is picture.
Best Health

    Bookmark   April 9, 2010 at 11:24AM
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Sorry i meant to put up the other picture i taken not the above so i could show the numbers.
If everything on the box was explained to me i probably would forget by the time supper is ready today. ; )
But i enjoy most posts about the break down of ingredients it just cant remember diddly squat later on . ; )

    Bookmark   April 9, 2010 at 11:35AM
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"Dan, you said you were hesitant in replying cause I posted about container figs. Would plants in-ground vs container generally require different fertilizers?"

Personally I would NEVER use a fertilizer like regular 8-8-8 for a container grown fig. A better choice is either a Miracle Grow type product or a slow release fertilizer. I would not hesitate to follow Martin's recommendations for your container figs. He has an established and DOCUMENTED record of growing them very successfully in containers in his climate. I (and many thousands of other people in La.) have an established and DOCUMENTED record of growing them very successfully in the ground using both 8-8-8 and 13-13-13. I and many thousands like me have no reason to seek a "correct nutrient ratio" fertilizer that will correct a PERCEIVED problem........as we have no problem....only EXCELLENT proven results.


That swooshing noise that you heard when you read my post was the sound of what I've written going right over your head. Here is what I wrote and added to in my later post. Read carefully and you will see that I have not changed any position nor tried to correct any mistake.......

"If you use a SLOW RELEASE fertilizer (such as Osmocote) for your container grown fig trees, you WILL NOT have a problem with EC/TDS (Electric Conductivity and Total Dissolved Solids). Also, you will never see a situation where a slow release fertilizer (applied as per directions), will EVER "make it unnecessarily difficult for plants to absorb water and the nutrients dissolved in water." That simply WILL NOT happen because of the design of the product."

I do not know how I could have made it any clearer. It is not about "nutrient ratios" .........it is more about SLOW RELEASE doing a better job for containerized figs.


    Bookmark   April 9, 2010 at 1:33PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Oh brother. Lolol

Thanks for posting what you use, Martin. First Dan agreed with Bass's choice of fertilizer until I pointed out that Bass and I were in accord on the 3:1:2 RATIO. Then, he decided it might suit his position better if he agreed with Martin. Lo and behold, Martin is using the SAME thing I suggested originally, a 3:1:2 RATIO (24-8-16 is a 3:1:2 ratio) that is as rapidly available as it gets (not slow release).

Dan, not one of your offerings have ever gone over my head. I'm quite capable of seeing through them and taking measure of what you do and don't know. I explained things in great detail and all I heard in reply are vagaries, obfuscation, and accusations that I'm incapable of understanding you. I understand you well.

Dan said plainly, "I would not hesitate to follow Martin's recommendations for your container figs. He has an established and DOCUMENTED record of growing them very successfully in containers in his climate." But Al had already said, "... 3:1:2 ratios like 24-8-16 (what Martin and I both use - Bass also uses a 3:1:2 ratio), 12-4-8, and 9-3-6 (excellent for figs) are better choices and provide a wider margin for error." I'm glad to see we are in agreement and Dan would not hesitate to follow my instructions. That should actually end any argument, unless Dan can change what he said.

He did say: "It is not about "nutrient ratios" .........it is more about SLOW RELEASE doing a better job for containerized figs." I think the statement is brash and the number of variables far to great to make such a sweeping statement. There is no question that I can offer very convincing commentary that entirely dispels that notion.

Go ahead - make your case, because I do not agree. Why did you say that?


    Bookmark   April 9, 2010 at 2:24PM
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Swoosh again......


    Bookmark   April 9, 2010 at 2:49PM
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Hey Martin,

This is my first container fig growing season and I am devising a fertilizing and watering plan. Presently, I fertilize (with a liquid 3:1:2 ratio) once per week and now water every three days. I wrote 'now' because I think I was under watering which may have caused the leaf yellowing that I am no experiencing on my Alma OR may be it is the daily 50 degree to 80 degree temperature changes.

You wrote that fertilize at half strength once per week at the start and end of the growing season. During the summer, you fertilize twice weekly and you said that you water every other day. Do you water every third day at the start and end of the season? And how many 1 or 2 gallon pots do you water with that one gallon jug of fertilizer? Also, do you use a CRF or just the liquid?

I am curious to know of other experiences with a CRF vs. liquid fertilizing and if there is a notable difference in productivity, taste, etc.


    Bookmark   April 10, 2010 at 11:04AM
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Hi JD,
leaf yellowing can be from under watering, last several seasons i noticed this on two particular plants as they seemed to need water almost daily it was my martins unknown and my italian unknown and the leaves would turn yellow starting from the upper part of the tree and working downwards, mind you they were big container trees for an idea. It happened several times always the upper third would start to yellow if i did not satify its thirst. I was just lazy i suppose and did not check them for water as i figured the other big containers were fine so i passed on them. Both trees i got rid for another reason though.

You ask me
You wrote that fertilize at half strength once per week at the start and end of the growing season.

I wrote i cut back in August and what i should have further stated was i cut back on fertilizer and water because end of August here in most years the nights are cooler and they do not lose as much water.

You ask me
Do you water every third day at the start and end of the season? And how many 1 or 2 gallon pots do you water with that one gallon jug of fertilizer?

Thats a hard question because the weather at start of season is funny.
JD, what i have learned to do as my grandmother did with her regular house plants was learn to get a feel of the Weight of the pot, the 1 gallon pots i lift and can tell if its to light, the bigger ones i grab by the rim and tilt it and can tell. To get a idea over time - water till the water drains out and get a feel for the weight of pot when its just been watered, then let it dry out some and do the same after doing this a bunch of times with different size pots you just can tell its hard to explain that though but it works well for me .
I never really counted how many 1 gallon pots i could water with the gallon jug of fertilizer but its several im sure.
JD what is CRF ?

    Bookmark   April 10, 2010 at 6:11PM
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Thanks Martin.

CRF = Controlled-Release Fertilizer


    Bookmark   April 10, 2010 at 8:57PM
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sprouts_honor(5, southern shore of Erie)

Id like to emphasize what Al wrote "Examples are too much Ca causing a Mg deficiency, or too much P causing an Fe or Mn deficiency."

IÂm taking a horticulture class at the Cleveland Botanical Garden. In todayÂs lab we discussed fertilizers and soil. Our instructor spent quite a bit of time on the point made above. Too much of one nutrient can prevent the uptake of another nutrient. He also emphasized the time of year and what youÂre trying to achieve when selecting fertilizer. For example, you donÂt want to use a heavy nitrogen fertilizer on your lawn in late summer/fall because excessive blade growth could lead to snow mold. We didnÂt discuss figs. However, it had me thinking that I would want to use a fertilizer higher in phosphorus and nitrogen on my one-leaf cutting and something with more potassium on my mature trees with brebas.

Correcting a nutrient imbalance is much easier to do in containers than plants grown in ground. Either repot or flush with water. Our instructor said the most difficult part is identifying the deficiency.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2010 at 11:41PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Thanks, Jennifer. You're learning well!

I would just point out that having more P (or even N) present in the soil or soil solution than the plant can use in relation to the other elements cannot benefit the plant in any way.

I don't know if your instructor used a picture of a barrel with different length slats to illustrate Liebig's Law of the Minimum? Some of us are familiar with Liebig's Law, but it's a good thing to keep in mind as we approach our nutritional supplementation program: There are 6 factors that affect plant growth and yield; they are: air, water, light, temperature, soil or media, nutrients. Liebig's Law of Limiting Factors states the most deficient factor limits plant growth and increasing the supply of non-limiting factors will not increase plant growth. Only by increasing the most deficient factor will the plant growth increase. There is also an optimum combination of the factors, and increasing them individually or in various combinations can lead to toxicity for the plant and/or other growth-related problems (such as the antagonistic deficiencies you/I referenced).

Anyone who thinks having more of any one element in the soil than necessary, or that concentrations in excess of what the plant will use in proportion to the other essential elements can create a growth advantage or is an optimal nutritional supplementation plan, will have to disprove Liebig's Law.


    Bookmark   April 11, 2010 at 1:09AM
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On the organic forum they poo-poo Miracle Grow. Is there something bad about it for food?

    Bookmark   April 11, 2010 at 9:57PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

On the organic forum many posters feel that everyone should be self-limiting in their ideology and adhere to an organic only approach for nutritional supplementation of plants growing in gardens and containers alike. Their 'problem' with Mracle-Gro isn't based on the ability to achieve excellent results, it's based on a distaste for either the company manufacturing the fertilizer or some other ideological issue.

I subscribe to the 'feed the soil not the plant' concept almost entirely in gardens and beds, but those of us who are results oriented and who have tried and left the organic approach behind for our containerized plants will attest to the fact that it's much easier to keep plants growing with excellent vitality and at closer to their potential genetic vigor using soluble fertilizers like Miracle-Gro, Peter's, Schultz, Dyna-Gro, etc., in containers than it is using organic soil amendments as a nutritional source.


    Bookmark   April 11, 2010 at 10:34PM
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Do you think there is anything unhealthy with using Miracle Grow on food?

Have read that our modern food lacks the nutrition of old time fruits and veg. Wonder if this is from the use of all these chemical fertilizers or maybe something else?

    Bookmark   April 12, 2010 at 9:11AM
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Most modern foods such as vegetables have the seed you buy in store genetically altered for purpose of disease and bug resistance amongst other things as well. Heirloom seeds that have not had this done are reportedly better tasting a debate for sure amongst folks. Same thing with cattle , chickens etc free range or pen kept all there short lived life, shot up with steriods or not , which one do i eat ?
you type
Do you think there is anything unhealthy with using Miracle Grow on food?
Too much of anything is bad in my opinion , there is much debate on fertilizers and growing organic with no fertilizers.
I cant answer your question with expertise so i wont but one surely has choices on what they eat.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2010 at 9:23AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

No matter how plants get their nutrition, whether from soluble fertilizers or organic soil amendments, the building blocks they use for growth and to help maintain metabolic processes are salts. When you use soluble fertilizers, at the time nutrients are taken up by the plant they are in exactly the same form as the nutrients that come from organic sources.

The argument goes on and on about the taste and quality of foods grown using an 'organic' approach vs an approach that utilizes soluble nutrient sources. There are dozens of threads on the Organic and Soil Forums that go back and forth and get nowhere. I have no wish to influence your decision about what is right for you, but I will say that I have absolutely no problems with using soluble fertilizers for container culture. The vegetables I grow in containers do not taste any different than those I grow in the ground; nor is there any perceptible quality difference.

Again, from the perspective of results, I've found no comparison between using a highly aerated soil with a 2/3 mineral component (the gritty mix - even the 5:1:1 mix) and soluble fertilizers vs an 'all organic' approach. Practicing the former, you should see it's much more forgiving and will find it much simpler to achieve excellent results. Your call though. I have no dog in that fight. ;o)


    Bookmark   April 12, 2010 at 9:41AM
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Some of Al's nutrient ratio THEORY flies in the face of a real science (physical chemistry). IMO it contains some real Baaaaaloney. P-Chem is subject that most people do not understand. None the less, it is applicable to horticulture. More later........when I have more time to comment. Right now my fig trees need some attention.


    Bookmark   April 13, 2010 at 11:17AM
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I usually only lurk here, but I have to speak up. I came to this forum several years ago because I was failing at keep my fig trees healthy in pots. Al took me under his wing, like he does for almost anyone who asks, and directed me to his posts that taught me all about things like soils, fertilizers, pruning roots, and all the other things I didn't understand I had to know about growing trees in poits. If I had a special question I couldn't find the answer for, I emailed it to him and he always took the time to make sure I understood the answer. There is nobody on GW that I know of who has helped more people learn about plants and how to grow them than Al, and I'm really getting tired of listening to someone continually try to run him down. I learned more in a few months of following Al's posts than I learned in 20 years of trying what I read in books or on my own. When Al says something, I listen, because I've never, ever known him to steer anyone wrong and I've learned so much from him. If some other people would do a little more listening they might learn something too.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2010 at 3:29PM
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Al claims to base his nutrient ratio theory on good science. However, I am a chemist (scientist) who finds major faults with his inferred data/conclusions/reasoning and some of the claims made in this thread. Bass's good results and Martin's good results on container grown figs are based on the "TYPE" (or physical aspects) of fertilizer that they used (slow release and soluble) and NOT ON THE NUTRIENT RATIO (chemical property) of the fertilizer. IMO the initial lecture that the OP received on "nutrient ratios" in the second post to this thread is Baloney and I will respond to this later. It is BOTH the "physical" and chemical properties that determine whether or not a particular fertilizer will be problematic. Nutrient ratios is the dog that AL chose to put into this discussion. A very good answer could have been given without that interjection which confuses some people and makes them think they are using a bad fertilizer. Proven field results should always top theory whenever there are conflicting opinions. Theory should not automatically demand acceptance and conformance. I believe in questioning the theory before questioning the field data and results.


    Bookmark   April 13, 2010 at 5:04PM
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I'm inclined to speak up at this point, myself. Although I'm not a regular in the Fig section, I am a long time member of GW, and an avid student of Al's teachings.

Not only does Al practically have collegiate tenure as a Professor of Container Horticulture here at GardenWeb, he's also the most intelligent, logical, helpful, and patient person you'll ever come across in these forums, and he's been able to back up everything he states with solid facts... and with hard evidence that you can plainly see when he shows his own gardening and container successes.

I'm more inclined to listen to Al than I am to any other person offering advice, mainly because of the long list of success stories and thank you's that follow him around the various forums here at GW.

I've learned more from Al in the short time I've known him than I've learned over the course of my gardening "career" by reading books and listening to most people talk in fallacies and riddles.

I, myself, use MiracleGro All Purpose 3:1:2 liquid plant food for all my container grown bulbs and plants. I feed a weak solution on a fairly constant basis, which best mimics Mother Nature, yet takes into consideration that container growing and garden growing are two decidedly different worlds and require different methods.

I'm not sold on CRFs... mainly because they are temperature sensitive, and there are no guarantees that a consistent amount of the right nutrients are being made available to the plants.

I find it beyond wearying to read posts that insult Al's intelligence, and in so doing, insult the intelligence of everyone that Al's good advice has helped. Al does not work in THEORY... he works and advises in fact, which is just a tad bit different.

The few people that HAVE found it necessary to insult Al's intelligence usually do so out of jealousy, or egotism... whichever the case may be... but they usually neglect to follow up their insults with actual fact based information and explanations that people here can use.

What would I do if I grew figs in containers and needed a little fertilizer help? I'd go with the advice of the guy with the best track record and the ability to back up what he states with facts... I'd give Al's advice a go!

    Bookmark   April 13, 2010 at 5:17PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Howdy, folks!

I like to include a bit of Osmocote in my potting mix, and then fertigate with Foliage Pro 9-3-6 throughout the growing season. I tend to fertilize lightly, choosing to err on the side of caution.

Most "problems" with fertilizers, in my opinion, are due to misapplication. I have read that the average home-owner dumps an incredible amount of fertilizer down the drain and into the environment.


    Bookmark   April 13, 2010 at 6:00PM
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Maybe quite a few members have bought into the notion that by not having the right nutrient ratio in your fertilizer, for your container plants that you might "make it unnecessarily difficult for plants to absorb water and the nutrients dissolved in water." Those are very scary words to newbies seeking advice. As I've stated above.....that scenario simply WILL NOT happen when using a slow release fertilizer because of the "physical" design of the product. Again, is it not just about the chemical analysis of the fertilizer and definitely not about its "nutrient ratios". Slow release and soluble fertilizers should work just fine for container grown figs. Temperatue affects ALL types of fertilizer, not just the slow release versions.

IMO Al is simply wrong in his assertion and no matter how many votes of confidence he gets or how helpful he has been to others in the past, that will not change this fact. I will try to explain it later with an analogy using H2O and maybe carbon as an example. Although water has an oxygen to hydrogen ratio of 9:1 by mass........

I still would go with all of Martin's or Herman2's very practical recommendations for growing container figs in a northern climate....which includes good practices that go beyond particular fertilizer recommendations.


    Bookmark   April 13, 2010 at 6:32PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Sigh - if nutrient ratios were unimportant, analysis of fertigation solutions and tissue culture would be totally unnecessary. Anyone who cares to read the well-explained facts that carefully explain what I said can find them upthread.

If nutrient ratios make no difference, then we should be able to choose our fertilizer at random and have all of them work equally well on all plants, yet we know that is not the case. Even complete fertilizers are available in ratios so skewed as to be entirely inappropriate for plants in containers.

As already stated, you CAN use fertilizers with nutrient ratios that would never be considered ideal because plants tend to take what they need and leave the rest, but it's the excess 'rest' in the soil solution that is a problem.

Perhaps Dan would like to explain how he might use the popular 30-10-10 on figs and ensure they get adequate K without over-supplying N; or how he would use 10-52-10 and make sure the plants get enough N and K w/o over-supplying P. FWIW, as soon as he says over-supplying these nutrients is not a problem, I'll explain exactly why they are.

I actually HAVE taken hundreds of fresh growers from GW under my wing and helped them get past their problems without confusing them. What I'm sharing with this forum regarding fertilizers isn't something I just made up because it sounds good, people like Dr Carl Whitcomb (wrote the bible on plant production in containers), Dr Alex Shigo, Kozlowski and Pallardy with multiple texts on woody plant physiology, all agree that their ARE optimum ratios of nutrient availability and anything in excess of those ratios is a negative.

Dr Whitcomb, makes 11 key points in the preface to his opening chapter on Nutrition in Plant Production in Containers II. Point 1 is in regard to the small soil volume, so we'll skip it.

2) "When other factors that can limit growth are not limiting, it is the combination and interaction of 12 nutrient elements that are responsible for energy production and growth in plants." This clearly illustrates that how elements are combined, their ratio to each other, is essential to optimal growth.

3) "The more precisely the 12 essential nutrient elements are synchronized relative to plant needs, the more rapid growth occurs." Again, clearly stating that ratios are critically important to most rapid growth.

4) "Excess of ANY nutrient, especially Nitrogen, is as undesirable as a deficiency." Again, this agrees completely with what I set forth above. These contextual points are found on the first page (212) of chapter 9 of Dr Whitcomb's text, referenced above.

If that isn't sufficient support, Dr Whitcomb goes on to say in point 5 of 11

5) "When Temperature, growth medium, moisture, drainage, and oxygen to the roots and all other factors are optimum or at least reasonable, all, or nearly all plants grow best with the same proportions of nutrients. Plants grow at different rates, but the rate of uptake and utilization of the 12 essential nutrients is the same." This clearly agrees with what I said about all plants using very close to the same ratio of nutrients. I provided a chart showing those ratios and explained how to read it above.

This isn't just some crackpot, offering an off the wall opinion that flies in the face of settled science. This is a PhD whose text is on the desk of practically every nurseryman and greenhouseman in the country. If what Dr Whitcomb offers isn't sufficient, I can offer another half dozen texts referencing plant production and fertility that also support the facts.

Finally, it's not as though I'm just referencing a text w/o a very thorough understanding of what I'm talking about. I've been growing trees and performing procedures on trees Dan has never even heard of for more than 20 years. You can see I stick very close to the subject and rely on my wits and knowledge instead of obfuscation, bluster, and personal effrontery - essentially, hiding behind smoke & mirrors.

If Dan cares to reply, there is no need to use examples intentionally designed to obfuscate, like the statement "I will try to explain it later with an analogy using H2O and maybe carbon as an example." (Very vague) "Although water has an oxygen to hydrogen ratio of 9:1 by mass" This is ridiculous, and has nothing whatever to do with the discussion. (More obfuscation)

FWIW - I've been at GW for years, helping people to learn, and I post in that spirit. Occasionally, I run into people whose agenda leans heavily toward ax grinding, which I've been trying to be patient with for months. It's wearying. Finally though, others are starting to take notice and take exception.

Thank you to Jodi, Louise, and Josh for the kind comments. I hope others can see that I don't really pull theory out of ...... the air. ;o)

Oh yes - there's still that nagging little thing called Liebig's Law that will have to be refuted if ratios aren't important.


    Bookmark   April 13, 2010 at 9:26PM
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Pray tell, Dan, when do you think you might be back with those explanations you've offered... twice now? I just hope we won't find them overly complicated and therefore, quite useless to simple household application. Don't make us wait too long... some of us are already grandparents and don't have until eternity...

Al, I'm only telling it like it is. I've never known you to offer anything other than solid advice... and every time, you have facts and easy to understand explanations... NOT borne of theory... that we can all use!

    Bookmark   April 14, 2010 at 4:17AM
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Thanks for all the feedback.Lots of stuff to sift through here.

Seems like there are 2 schools of thought with this discussion...Al's and Dan's

I'd like to see Al and Dan post your best container fig photos here and lets see how your fert theories hold up in real life.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2010 at 10:05AM
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jojosplants(9/ Tucson, Az.)

I have been reading this thread , with plans of getting a Fig.

And as far as I can see, Al is the only one offering solid advice! And when he does, he explains why it works and how.
And he so kindly does over and over, because Many come here to learn from him!!. My self included because so many friends are happy with their results. They never twisted my arm or talked me into it. It was just seeing them so happy and seeing their results!

Dan~ Your the only one here I see confusing people!

All you've done is boast and about your years of expierence! Being a chemist doesn't mean you know what you are doing, and DOESN'T give you the right to come here and say Al is wrong!

My dad had a garage, and hired a mechanic, 20 yrs. exp. well this guy blew up a car, and it cost my dad $10,000 to redo.. My husband redid the engine.. he's a self taught mechanic, back yard so to say...American cars, dad worked on BMW's.. So saying your a Chemist, with X amount of years, just doesn't go with me.. And saying it in such a rude way doesn't go over to good either.

All you've done is make a fool of yourself, and people like me wont give what you write any thought.

It gets really old seeing threads like this.

Als not blowing smoke and were not buying into anything!

It seems your the one doing that and upset because we wont take what you say.

Most of us here don't have the $$ to just jump and do something because it's suggested.. We are here to learn from Al because we have seen results.

Louise~ What nice things you had to say! And true. I'm glad you've learned well from Al, because now it's my turn under the wing. ;)

Jodi~ and Josh too!
You are two of the ones i've referd to as having such beautiful plants!

Then there's Mike, who's done so well with all sorts of trees! My husband ran out and got us four this year, all due to friends sharing their wonderful results! My husband does NOT garden, I do... So when he wanted to try new things this year, you know Al is doing something right.

Thanks Al for all you do!! Of coarse it took the fun out of sneaking a new plant home if hubby wants to shop too...;) LOL!


    Bookmark   April 14, 2010 at 11:01AM
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I will post tomorrow..Sorry I didn't see this thread earlier..

There was a lot to read..Nite everyone..


    Bookmark   April 18, 2010 at 10:21PM
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jojosplants, feel free to express your opinion about my posts. I will never report anyone for openly expressing themselves on this forum like some forum members often do. Some get offended by other's free speech....and get people like Cecil booted off the forum. Some of us were GIVEN the free speech right to say what we want.......others of us FOUGHT and died for that right that we all enjoy, and still others of us served our country in uniform to PROTECT those rights. Funny how those who were GIVEN that right often want to take it away from others. They do not value free speech as much as those of us who have actually fought for and/or defended that right. Semper fi.

Sorry if you disagree with science facts. Real science has nothing to do with FEELINGS or EMOTION and is definitely not a POPULARITY contest. It has to do with verifiable FACTS that anyone can reproduce for themselves. Most horticulturists today practice their trade more in an "Arts and Craft" like manner than as a real science. They believe that their way is the only way. I routinely use science to improve and develop new fig propagation methods and in the growing of my trees....not everyone does that. I have posted some of my findings that should be helpful to others. Funny how some people get a bee under their bonnet whenever I post anything that is not in their particular Fig Bible or in agreement with their past postings.

IMLO, Al has misspoken at the beginning of this thread. Words have meaning and their context is very important. Putting up a Straw Man argument will not deter me from proving what I stated at the very beginning of this thread:

[If you use a SLOW RELEASE fertilizer (such as Osmocote) for your container grown fig trees, you WILL NOT have a problem with EC/TDS (Electric Conductivity and Total Dissolved Solids). Also, you will never see a situation where a slow release fertilizer (applied as per directions), will EVER "make it unnecessarily difficult for plants to absorb water and the nutrients dissolved in water." That simply WILL NOT happen because of the physical design of the product.]

Me stating that I am an experienced chemist is not boasting. It is a fact and is why I fully understand chemicals better than most people.....even Al. I understand both the PHYSICAL and CHEMICAL properties of matter. As a chemist I KNOW the significance and meaning of chemical testing and specifications. Chemist know how to both develop and interpret chemical data. Chemist know that data comes in several forms.....directly measured data, inferred data, and extrapolated data. Not all data is equally good or reliable......more about that later. I report my fig growing results not to boast or to brag.....but to let others know that I know a bit about what I am talking about and that I do not operate in a vacuum. I simply do not see ANY of the ill effects that are postulated by Al. I and many others get EXCELLENT results that cannot be denied or impugned by anyone's THEORY or beliefs. To say one will have a EC or TDS issue when using a slow release fertilizer is pure BALONEY!!! Only someone who does not understand both the "physical" and chemical properties of this type fertilizer would ever say something like that.......it is more than just the "chemical" nutrient ratio that dictates what will occur during its usage.

Jodki, and others demanding a quick explanation from me. As, I've stated several times.....I will respond when I get a chance. Remember it has been several months since Al has promised to post his fig rooting method.......you know...the one that is THEORETICALLY much superior to the all others including the one's that I use. He whips out some pages from his horticulture Bible in seconds. Other pages take a long time to come forth. Why does it take so long to whip out his FIG propagation method that he BOASTS is much superior?? Seems like those FIG propagation pages would already be available in his Bible. IMO, he just can't back up his boastful THEORETICAL claims. No one who practices good science should have a problem with others challenging their work or boastful claims. I sure don't.

Those who choose to read (with an open mind) what I will later post in this thread should see just where the facts lie. Sometimes I feel like Galileo who dared to disagree with the conventional wisdom of the leaders of his time. He dared to disagree with the Pope's Bible and was locked up for years by the Inquisition because he stated a scientific FACT..... that THE EARTH REVOLVED AROUND THE SUN. Everyone during his time was taught and KNEW that the earth was the center of the universe.....according to their particular Bible and the religious dogma of those times. He was taunted, ridiculed, laughed at, and locked up in prison for practicing good science. Today we all know who was right. Science always prevails in the end and he who laughs last laughs the hardest.

Semper Fi

    Bookmark   April 19, 2010 at 2:22AM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

I have a Marine buddy who doesn't know squat about plants.

He who laughs last often laughs alone.


    Bookmark   April 19, 2010 at 9:15AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

If Al advised someone that it would be wise to leap that chasm in a single bound, Dan would suggest that it is better to do it in two.

The more he talks, the more he reveals that all he has to offer is the off topic verbiage he believes makes himself look smart, but most of it is entirely inapplicable to the topic or wrong. BTW - I point very clearly to, and explain thoroughly why he is wrong. We're talking about a Fertilizer Schedule for Potted Figs, in case he hasn't noticed.

Vitriolic lashing out at anyone who disagrees with him and lots of bluster is his strong suit, while he offers no substance in his posts - nothing to refute anything I said other than "It works for me". He even suggested that his anecdotal offerings should carry more weight than settled science because he is something of a maverick pioneer. There is no question that he is more often than not at odds with settled science, but I'll put my money on the science.

Continual arguing and trying to belittle those that disagree with what he says is destroying any credibility he might have enjoyed, and all the off-topic obfuscatory rhetoric isn't helping either. It was actual pretty quiet and lighthearted around here for the last week or so while he was largely absent.

Try to stay focused on the topic, Dan - and we can have a real conversation. As far as who knows what about the plant sciences ....... well, you probably wouldn't want that to go to a vote just yet. ;o)


    Bookmark   April 19, 2010 at 9:58AM
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giants_2007(10 PSL FL Sal)

I just don't get it. Dan you are referencing Martin and Bass good results They both have stated using a 3-1-2 fertilizer Al also has stated a 1-1-1 can give you good results but may not be the optimum and goes on to explain in depth the reason and published studies done with equipment that is not at our disposal. Al is sharing his knowledge with research and reading and yrs. of experience and classes taken to help us and save us the research time and head banging. Pot and ground culture are 2 different animals with ground growing being more forgiving in mistakes made with fertilization, watering and so on
I am not as educated as some here, but can easily understand the explanations given I also grow some plants in ground Veggies and have my soil sent off to be tested, from those results I follow the recommendations given by UF AG Dept. With all the pots I have I cannot afford and it is not realistic to send for sampling of each pot soil mix. To those growing in ground I would get a few soil samples from different parts of property and send off to be tested from there you can make a determination of what you are lacking or what you need to add
I just don't get the argument you have already agreed with good results of the 3-1-2 Ratio and Al has stated 1-1-1 is not a kill all and can get good results
I would also like to add to those growing in pots and using commercial potting mixes you can get a handle on what you are starting with as far as nutrients they are usually pretty low IMO with slow release as not to burn more sensitive species and tender roots
I just don't see a point to carrying on. Baaaaloney is not on the menu What is being quoted are researched facts and not conjecture.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2010 at 10:32AM
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possum_trot(6 IN)

JD - You can buy a little device called a water meter. It is a little meter on a probe and when you insert the probe into the soil it tells you how much moisture is in the soil. They cost less than $10 and I have used them for many years. They can be purchased at hardware stores, plant supply places, and I'm sure you could find one on line. I also use the weight of the pot, but for large pots the meter is fast and easy for me.

As far as all this bickering is concerned - I think that it is awful that someone would get kicked off of this forum! I have learned a lot from reading Al's posts but Dan has also been very helpful to me, quickly answering my emails and providing information. I am pretty new to this forum, so I don't really know where this hostility started, but I find the viciousness of the attacks disturbing and I think that it is really sad that now others are being drawn in to defend their mentors. Maybe you guys just enjoy a good debate, and a lot of it is pretty funny to read, but it was just a simple question about fertilizer...!

I also like to add a little liquid seaweed to my fertilizer solution (usually MG).


    Bookmark   April 19, 2010 at 1:16PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

I apologize for my part in that, Susan. It's wearisome to have to defend myself and what I say day after day against 1 person on all of GW.

When people make statements like the one Dan made: "If you use a SLOW RELEASE fertilizer (such as Osmocote) for your container grown fig trees, you WILL NOT have a problem with EC/TDS (Electric Conductivity and Total Dissolved Solids). Also, you will never see a situation where a slow release fertilizer (applied as per directions), will EVER "make it unnecessarily difficult for plants to absorb water and the nutrients dissolved in water." That simply WILL NOT happen because of the physical design of the product." it should be readily apparent that someone needs to take a closer look at fertility. Those statements are impossible to back, and any reasonable person will discount them as soon as they read them - not only because they are indefensible, but also because because they are so absolute.

Can Dan guarantee that I will not have a problem if I broadcast a recommended dose of CRF (btw - "slow release" encompasses a LOT of different fertilizer types and is not exclusive of fertilizers other than Osmocote and other CRFs, so that term in itself is very ambiguous - feather meal is a 'slow release' fertilizer) on top of my #1 size fig? NO, he cannot. You need to be just as careful about dosage when using CRFs as you do when using other fertilizers so the level of TDS/EC does not get excessively high and inhibit osmotic water movement. If there are residual solubles in the soil from past supplementation or that have been building in the soil from improper irrigation practices - a recommended dose of CRF absolutely CAN raise TDS/EC too high ..... especially so during periods of high ambient temperatures.

The physical design of the product does not offer protection against over-fertilization or high levels of EC/TDS. CRFs simply mete out a portion of the fertilizer based primarily on temperature, though moisture does need to be present for the fertilizer to go into solution and pass through prill walls. If you apply too much, it delivers too much. The fertilizer doesn't do our thinking for us.

Dan is very hard to pin down because he's a shape shifter. He says something that gets called into question, or argues a point, and pretty soon he's changing the subject and offering all kinds of information (obfuscation) that has nothing to do with the topic, while at the same time changing his position to something more tenable and acting as though that's been his position all along. Fortunately, most of us can see this with increasing clarity.


    Bookmark   April 19, 2010 at 2:27PM
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Now my plants can continue on without the grim reaper kncoking at their door..

Thank you to the one that has made me successful at growing anything, even a HUGE thanks from my buddy who is growing figs himself..You know who you are..:-)


    Bookmark   April 21, 2010 at 2:25PM
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