Fish Head under Fall Crop....Update

vgkg(Z-7)September 26, 2001

Well, I noticed my first indication of a small change. The collards over the fish heads are definately a deeper darker green color compared to the collards without fish heads. There's no sign that either batch is larger, more productive, or healthier than the other. All look the same except for the shade of green color.

So far only the collards show any difference, the kale & turnips are identical to the controls (don't know why?).

Also, the cabbages, brocolli, and Brussels Sprouts show no difference from their controls vs the fish heads (yet). I'd expect these latter ones to show a difference later during maturity (larger heads?). In all fairness, all of these plants (controls & fish heads) were amended (as usual) with my homemade compost too. Updates to continue.

I linked the original "fish head thread" for those interested in background info on experiment.


Here is a link that might be useful: Original Fish Head Post

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John_D(USDA 8b WA)

Have you gotten yellowjackets yet? I always have wasps moving in any animal matter I bury beneath plants.

    Bookmark   September 27, 2001 at 7:36AM
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Hi John, no yellow jackets in the garden "ground" but I do have one nest in an out of the way corner of my yard. I was planning on destroying it last month before noticing that these bees were foraging all over the "greens" in my garden looking for catapillers. Now I'm living in harmony with them and avoiding the nest area on the other side of the yard. The fish heads are buried at least 6" deep under the crops. I don't like YJs but in this case they're helping me with the "loopers" on all my fall crops. I just won't use the lawn mower near them for the time being ;o) vgkg

    Bookmark   September 27, 2001 at 8:11AM
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John_D(USDA 8b WA)

Yes, even yellowjackets have their place in the well-tempered garden! Glad to hear you can live with them!

    Bookmark   September 28, 2001 at 8:00AM
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Hello. I just had to respond. My great grandfather buried fishheads in his garden for many years. When he became unable to care for himself, my parents bought his cottage, I was in maybe first grade. I spent many, many hours excavating bones, just like dinosaur!! I'm not sure if the heads improved the soil, but they entertained me for hours on end.


    Bookmark   October 3, 2001 at 10:43AM
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Hi Jeanne, thank's for the feedback. It'll be interesting to see if bones remain once I till up those areas next spring. My main concern is the remains of fishhooks, of which there were several still hidden within some fish heads (line snapped). I would have used my metal detector to sort those heads out but a friend of mine had borrowed it during planting time :o( vgkg

    Bookmark   October 3, 2001 at 1:05PM
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colleen_mi(5b/6a SE Mich)

Let's see..."planting" fish heads, digging up fish skulls, prospecting for hooks with a metal detector, dancing around the yellow jackets...

I'm beginning to wish you had a web cam going so we could really be entertained by this experiment. ;-)

    Bookmark   October 3, 2001 at 5:09PM
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The fun is just begining Colleen! Seems the collards are the only ones affected so far, but only the color. Nothing yet with the turips or kale. The later ones to mature like the cabbages, broc & brussles will be more interesting. I think I'll use my metal detector this spring ;o) vgkg

    Bookmark   October 3, 2001 at 9:54PM
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Latest Update: The turnips grown over fish heads have resulted in smaller turnips. It's a pretty destinct growth between the two area of turnips. The turnips without fish heads for fertilizer are much larger in size than the turnips with FHs. Both sets of turnips were amended with compost as are all the plant types in this experiment. The leaf growth of both sets of turnips are equal, just the roots show differences in size. Makes me glad I didn't place fishheads under my carrots.

So far there's no difference whatsoever in the broccoli, cabbages, and Brussels sprouts growing with and with out fish heads. All are equal in growth & production so far and all were amended with the usual compost at planting time. Been harvesting the broccoli but have yet to harvest cabbage or Brussels sprouts. Update soon. vgkg

    Bookmark   November 4, 2001 at 10:18PM
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Vgkg, are you sure the leaf growth of both sets of turnips are equal? My hypothesis would have been that the extra N from the fish heads would encourage leaf growth, and since my hypothesis can't possibly be wrong, your observations must be wrong :-)! Strange -- I wonder what the explanation might be?

    Bookmark   November 5, 2001 at 9:48AM
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Hi Alfie, yes that would have been my conclusion also. But oddly enough there's not much difference in top growth. To be perfectly honest, it looks like the no fishhead turnips are a tiny bit healthier on top (no yellowing at all) while the fishheaded turnips do have a few splotches of yellow here and there. Can't figure that one out? Could it be that turnips need next to nothing to grow well and that the FHs are too much to handle? Weird, but will keep an eye on them to see what turnsup ;o) vgkg

    Bookmark   November 5, 2001 at 12:46PM
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Ok, now that all the crops are mature and producing I have come to the conclusion that my fishheads did not make a significant different between the unheaded & headed crops. Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbbages, Kale, & Collards appeared just as healthy & productive with or without the fishheads. The Turnips without the heads were better formed and larger than the no heads turnips.
Take into account that all these plants were in a plot that was well amended with compost so that may be all that they really need to be good producers. Possibly the "bad" turnips had an overdose of Nitrogen from the heads but that's just speculation as all the "tops" appeared equal.
So goes this experiment........vgkg

    Bookmark   December 5, 2001 at 12:35PM
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byron(4a/5b NH)


Back when you were in knee pants, they used fish under corn only..

I think that there is a situation with your better than average amended soil.

But I think if you took a nutrient analysis
your cole crops will have more nutrients or higher levels.

Darker green leaves would mean more chlorophyll, etc..

    Bookmark   December 6, 2001 at 9:17PM
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Yes Byron, since corn is in the grass family it loves and needs that higher nitrogen from the fishheads more than most other crops. Seems I have to suppliment my corn with another source of nitrogen even when I use compost in order to get good sized plants/ears. I'd rather stay away from the chems if possible. The Native Americans had it right. Next time I get a boat load of fish I'll freeze the heads to use for spring corn planting and see how it works out compared to these other crops. Might even "head" down to my local fish market this spring to scarf up on their freebies. vgkg

    Bookmark   December 7, 2001 at 7:39AM
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Thanks for sharing your info...

    Bookmark   December 18, 2001 at 1:29PM
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Thanks for the updates. I have been following your thread and have enjoyed your insights.

I could just kick myself for not doing the same experiment with my lily bulbs. I buried fish (bluegill) this spring in soil that was not too great, to see if that would be helpful. This fall I moved the lilies to a new location (gave up on the site-too rocky) but the they did do well, and had large bulbs.
Unfortunately I didn't plant any other lilies without fish is the same location to use as a control!

I wonder if your fish decomposition acted the same as fresh compost and tied up the nitrogen? Hopefully your fish hooks will have disappeared like I've heard they are supposed to do in the fish's mouth!

thanks and keep posting!

    Bookmark   December 25, 2001 at 3:46PM
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byron(4a/5b NH)



My 2nd garden, me age 10 to 14, was fertilized with
"Trash" fish and left over parts,

I grew tomatoes, leaf and root crops, worked excellent.
I didn't do cole crops..

Since this winter is warm, why don't you get ahead of the game and plant some heads. Should be fairly well composted by plant out..

BTW according to my OG book, YJ's like young grasshoppers.

    Bookmark   December 26, 2001 at 12:34PM
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Ohiovalleygirl, thanks for your feedback. Actually, the fishheads are already high in Nitrogen (protein) to start with. From one of my first posts, it was the collards that showed a deeper green vs the controls so I interpreted that as high nitrogen present from the fish. As mentioned too I mulched everything with finished compost so that may be why all plants did well including the controls.

Byron, seems the warm spell is over for the time being. Too dang cold to do digging for me, ha. Besides, I have a cover crop planted where I plan to do my next fish experiment. In early spring I hope to place fish trash (from local seafood store) into a few tomato plant holes (vs controls), but my main objective will be to imitate the Native American method of burying the fish parts under the corn rows. Corn seems to be a major nitrogen sponge crop and usually I side dress my corn midseason for a N boost. I'll just use only one row of corn as a control since corn takes up the most space/pound of all my crops.

Luckily I do not have a grasshopper problem down here (knock on wood) so my YJs (yellow jackets) zero in on my cabbage loopers for lunch. I refrained from destoying a YJ nest this year and am curious to see if they remained in the ground come spring time. 3 months to go, ugh! vgkg

    Bookmark   December 26, 2001 at 1:04PM
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byron(4a/5b NH)

Once one YJ's are there, they have "Moved in"

Tough call, They do take care of some loopers and hoppers
but the other problems can be a pain.

Stick up a reminder marker..

"Don't get buzzed here"

    Bookmark   December 31, 2001 at 4:32PM
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Fortunately the YJ nest is in an old tree stump under a bush. Just need to remind myself not to take the lawn mower too close, hehe. vgkg

    Bookmark   January 2, 2002 at 2:52PM
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Yellow Jackets will kill ground insects that crawl, Wasps kill flying insects. A skunk will clean out both nests if the opportunity arraises.
In the dark of the night I place a wooden box over the nest. The box has one short side so the yellow jackets can move in and out. For some reason the darkness of the nest is calming for them. I run machinery and work around the gardens and we get along fine.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2003 at 5:30PM
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