Foliar Fertilization

joe.jr317June 23, 2011

Okay, so I was reading up on BER and foliar feeding. Not because I am having a problem, but because a friend of mine (a woman of the young age of about 80, but I'm not about to ask) said it works better than feeding in the ground. I figured that was BS, but didn't want to call her on it. I do respect my elders. In fact, I was under the impression that foliar feeding is practically useless and a waste of money. However, I did want to see scientific evidence one way or another. Okay, I wanted to see scientific evidence that I was right, but anyway. . . I don't think I am. I'm fairly certain she was wrong about it being better, but I think I definitely underestimated the effectiveness of foliar fertilization.

I found articles online that support foliar fertilization from Purdue and the USDA. I'm only posting one from Purdue

, though. You can google "foliar fertilization USDA" or insert whatever group you wish in place of USDA to get scholarly articles. There was also an interesting article on foliar feeding in wikipedia. I try to avoid using it as a source, though. I just use it as a spring board.

So, have any of you had success with foliar feeding? I mean, noticeable success?

Could it be more effective to foliar feed large plants like Brandywine tomatoes with micronutrients to make sure the entire plant gets them?

Since calcium deficiency is mostly a delivery issue and rarely has to do with a lack of it in the nutrient solution - rendering the purchase of CalMag as a reservoir supplement essentially a waste of money - would it be most effective to deliver that calcium via foliar feeding to prevent BER?

If so, how much should be applied and at what concentration?

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TheMasterGardener1(5B)

No. Your nutrient line needs to have the all the micro and macro nutrients, including the secondary macro Ca. If you use a Ca+Mg product you wont even have to know what BER is.

Here is an example: 3-part(macro/micro) Additional Ca/Mg my be needed!

Cleaner (H2o2)

poultry manure (used as foliar spray it helps build up plants immune system. When using only synthetic nutrients plants cell walls become thin allowing pests/deseases to take over. I use the best of both worlds.)

Hope this helps.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2011 at 12:37PM
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joe.jr317

Hopefully, we get more responses regarding foliar feeding, but let me address your opinion on cal-mag products. . .

Despite recent opinions, I'm not stroking my ego here. However, I have to point out that you are mistaken in stating that using a cal-mag product "you won't even have to know what BER is." It's a verifiable, already proven fact that BER occurs under certain conditions no matter how much calcium is in your medium/soil. BER occurs in Indiana soil despite the fact that we have more calcium in our soil than just about any place on the planet. BER is a transport issue in most cases. Not a nutrient solution deficiency issue. If you put cal mag in your solution with high water temps and low oxygen, the plant will still not transport the calcium sufficiently. If your EC is too high, again, the plant will not take up the calcium sufficiently. If you try to compensate by lowering your EC too much, your fruits will split and BER won't be your problem. Fungus will be. (That's a GREAT reason to use an EC meter despite, again, recent opinions on this forum.) Calcium is immobile. So, if the plant isn't able to take up calcium, it will not be able to pull from other parts of the plant, either. That's the whole point of the thread. Can we compensate for reduced transportation in adverse weather conditions by foliar feeding?

There are tricks that many of us use to attempt prevention of transportation issues, such as filling half gallon or gallon milk jugs with water and freezing them so that we can add them to hot rez's. Unfortunately, that is very temporary. Some people have the option of burying the rez in the soil to reduce temps. Not an option if your garden is on concrete, which mine is. I use the ice method and keep my water recirculating. I've also eliminated BER almost entirely. But, it takes some diligence if your hot weather is constant and long lasting. Prior to this, I used cal mag with unsatisfactory results due to reading too much marketing and forum posts based on said marketing rather than consulting scholarly sources. I've learned my lesson on just listening to anecdotal evidence and marketing material, but anecdotal evidence sure is a good starting point when there is enough of it. Hell, I wouldn't have looked into foliar feeding more deeply if it weren't for the anecdotal evidence of a wise woman, for example.

Another thing on BER: Not all varieties of tomatoes are the same and suffer the same. For example, San Marzano Romas will develop BER a lot faster than Brandywines, in my experience. Cherries, I have never had BER on cherry tomatoes, so I'm guessing they are less affected. Vining plants get BER more than bush plants. I assume it's due to the continued vegetative growth which means more calcium goes to leaves than filling fruit, but I don't know for certain.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2011 at 1:12PM
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TheMasterGardener1(5B)

Why would you have problems with ph in a properly maintianed system?

Again, Controlled enviroment hydropoinics wont have any problems that would cause plants not to be able to uptake (Ca). You just have to ballance ph and ppm.

Growing wont be so confusing if your set up is perfect.

Are you growing outside hydroponics?

Not sure why this has not had any responses.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2011 at 1:55AM
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joe.jr317

Yes, I do grow outside. I definitely should have mentioned that as you are right, it makes a very big difference. Particularly with BER. You don't have near the control you have indoors. Outside you have wind, sun, rain, and varying temps to contend with. I know there are several people on here that also grow outdoors and therefore have to deal with the variables outdoor growing inevitably presents.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2011 at 9:28AM
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TheMasterGardener1(5B)

If you dont already, maybe you should get a water chiller, they work wonders.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2011 at 10:20PM
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joe.jr317

I definitely agree that a chiller is a very good option. Many people simply can't afford them or have trouble justifying the expense. I've been seriously debating with myself over the expenditure (and wondering how I'll sell it on my non-gardening wife). As of now, the ice works fine for me (which makes the sell on my wife even harder). I have extra space in my freezer since the space of last year's harvest has yet to be replaced by this year's. But, again, not everyone has this as an option, either. I'm mainly just trying to explore the potential of using Cal-Mag as a foliar spray and wondering if others have found it effective.

By the way, an update on that. . . I have been using it as a foliar spray for the last 3 weeks (about 2 days before I started the thread). I am only using it on half the plants. None have BER, but the tomatoes and cucumbers sprayed have significantly greener/lusher foliage. Also, the tomatoes that aren't getting it are showing signs of calcium/magnesium deficiencies in the leaves. The edges are "burnt" and the lower leaves are showing some obvious mag deficiency. Just for kicks, I have been spraying half the petunias that have obvious iron deficiency. I'm using Cal-Mag Plus, by the way. It has just a little iron. The half I have sprayed are completely devoid of chlorosis. The other half are showing very distinct signs of iron deficiency, which is normal in many petunia species in Indiana where the soil pH is high. I'm also using the stuff on peppers, but I am seeing no significant difference between the ones I am spraying and the ones I am not. I'll try to get some pics posted so you see what I mean concerning the differences. I am using GH dry bloom solution for nutrients.

When you mentioned poultry spray, you didn't mention a concentration. What process do you use to mix it and at what concentration? Do you aerate it? Do you let a bag sit in water for a certain amount of time? Do you sterilize it first? I've read and heard of many different methods. Some say manure sprays are a really bad idea due to the salmonella (chicken) and ecoli (mostly from cow manure). I have read that the salmonella in particular can penetrate the skin of fruits and therefore washing is not effective in removal of it, but I don't think I read that in any scientific study. It was on CNN.com during an outbreak and I can't remember the article or their source. It may be a bs claim. However, I do know that food poisoning is the reason there are very strict rules on the use of manure as a fertilizer for organic certification. Below is a link to the Organic Trade Association, but the same rule is repeated in every cert program I've seen, so far.

Here is a link that might be useful: OTA info on manure guidelines

    Bookmark   July 11, 2011 at 7:33PM
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TheMasterGardener1(5B)

About the Manure, it is a product that is composted chicken manure that is sterile. It has directions for foliar feeding on it. Also using sea kelp products will do the same. I should have said that is was a composted product.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2011 at 12:54AM
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