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Why alfalfa tea works better than alfalfa?

Posted by Strawberryhill 5a IL (My Page) on
Fri, Aug 23, 13 at 13:41

Both U. of Mass. and University of Kentucky documented chlorosis (yellowing) of plants with alfalfa pellets. I had the same problem putting alfalfa meal on top of my heavy clay, it gunk up and block oxygen from above, and roses became yellowish.

I posted the nutritional profile of alfalfa in the English Roses Forum under "Why alfalfa tea is better than alfalfa pellets?" Alfalfa is high in calcium, protein and sugar.

I called my feed store to ask for prices. They sell gypsum (calcium sulfate) to break up clay 40 lbs. for $6.99. They sell alfalfa pellets 50 lbs. for $17.99

I asked my feed store if the pellets are small-size for rabbits, or large size for horses. The guy told me "don't feed that to rabbits, because it's high in sugar." I asked, "Did they put sugar in there?". He said, "No, it's 100% alfalfa, but alfalfa is naturally high in sugar."

In my microbiology class, we fed sugar to yeast ... they go beserk. Fungi thrive with added sugar. I tested alfalfa meal pH in red-cabbage juice, and it's slightly more pink than MiracleGro potting soil (green bag, at pH 6.5). In soil chemistry, fungi thrives in neutral and slightly acidic MOIST medium.

That explains why when I topped my pots with alfalfa meal and had the WORST black spots on Comte de Chambord and my mini-roses. Crimson Glory also broke out in mildew when it was in a pot, topped with alfalfa meal.

Now they are in the ground, 100% clean despite our humid weather ... no alfalfa meal on top, just my alkaline clay (pH 7.7). Alfalfa meal is quite sticky, and stays wet longer than soil, best for fungal growth.

Few years ago I put horse manure in the garage, no fungal growth whatsoever, that stuff is very alkaline (dark blue in red-cabbage juice) ... the stable in late fall put lime to deodorize, plus that year they used dry recycled wood chips (has mold-retardant). Then I mixed peat moss and afalfa meal into the horse manure, put them in the garage, and got whitish fungal growth on top.

Horse manure varies. This year they use straw and wood shavings, which retains moisture longer. I saw a bunch of mushrooms in the manure/bedding pile, and tested its pH: slightly pink, or acidic in red-cabbage juice. Mulched 7 of my roses with that: They broke out in diseases: rust for the 1st time, rampant black spots.

My other roses NOT mulched with the new horse manure are still clean. What I learned from microbiology class holds true: Keep the surface dry and alkaline, to discourage fungal germination.

Here is a link that might be useful: Why alfalfa tea works better than alfafa?

This post was edited by Strawberryhill on Sun, Sep 1, 13 at 22:23

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Why alfalfa tea works better than alfalfa?

Gypsum can help break up clay soils only if the problem is high sodium.

Stressed plants are more likely to be diseased than vigorous plants.

Container-grown plants are more likely to be stressed, and diseased, than the same kind grown in the ground.

This post was edited by jean001a on Sun, Aug 25, 13 at 1:37

RE: Why alfalfa tea works better than alfalfa?

Hi Jean: There are vast difference in climate and soil, so I don't make any generalization. In my garden only, container plants are quite healthy. Last year I had 24+ roses in container, plant them in the ground before frost hit. This year I bought 16 more roses, and now have 10 in container (two are Double-delight, are still clean despite its black spot reputation).

Below is floribunda Summer Samba, bought from Roses Unlimited end of June. It's fertilized with soluble gypsum and molasses, it's healthier than the many pots last year fertilized with alfalfa meal. I pinched off 5 fat buds to encourage root-growth, per RU's instruction.

This post was edited by Strawberryhill on Sun, Sep 1, 13 at 22:25

RE: Why alfalfa tea works better than alfalfa?

I can see why 2 University Extensions reported yellowing of plants in pots fertilized with pellets. See below discussion in the Soil Forum regarding alfalfa pellets:

•Posted by gardengal48 PNW zone 8 (My Page) on
Wed, Mar 25, 09 at 9:56

Yes, you can use too much, or too much in the wrong place :-) Alfalfa decomposes very rapidly (often recommended to kick-start cold compost piles) and that decompostion generates heat. Avoid applying raw alfalfa (meal or pellets) to the root zone as it can burn roots. Don't add alfalfa to planting holes - keep it as a surface application.
---------------------------------------------------------------------- ---------

• Posted by pennymca 7bAL (My Page) on
Wed, Mar 25, 09 at 14:09

Yes, gardengal is correct..I just found out the hard way on a particular clematis. Four of five thrived with the fifth, a different variety, getting burned maybe beyond repair.
Sometimes. I. am. overzealous."

***** From Straw: alfalfa meal is great when there's tons of rain ... lots of new growth and buds. Below is Crimson Glory rose as a band, instant flowering with alfalfa tea, but the root growth wasn't as good as fertilizing with soluble gypsum and sulfate of potash.

 photo crimsonband.jpg

This post was edited by Strawberryhill on Mon, Sep 2, 13 at 10:00

RE: Why alfalfa tea works better than alfalfa?

After researching, I find that alfalfa meal decomposes fast and gives off quick heat, more so than alfalfa pellets. I cooked a geranium to death by planting in a clay mixed with alfalfa meal. I did the same with 2 rhododendrons in hot and dry summer.

Years ago we detached our lawn in late fall and stored bags of grass clippings in the garage .. the entire garage was heat up, despite 40 degrees outside.

NPK of alfalfa pellets is 2-1-2 ($17.99 for 50 lbs. bag), NPK of soy bean meal is 7-2-1 ($20 for 50 lbs. bag), and NPK of crack corn is 1.65 / 0.65 / 0.4 ($2.69 for 10 lbs. bag) at feed store. NPK of alfalfa hay is 2.45 - 0.5 - 2.1, sold for $8 per bale at the feed store.

Corn is alkaline, has anti-fungal property. Soybean meal is also alkaline. Alfalfa meal is slightly acidic and naturally high in sugar, great for fungal germination. See below discussion "Afalfa Meal Heating Up Soil" in Organic Gardening Forum:

•Posted by mprevost 7 (My Page) on Sun, Jan 13, 08

Throughout that time I've used only bagged composted chicken manure, alfalfa meal, soybean meal, and various mulches (leaves, grass clippings) to fertilize my soil.

I have not seen this heating up occur without significant concentrations of alfalfa meal. Without a lot of alfalfa meal, it does not heat up. But if you put a lot of alfalfa meal under mulch or in a hole, it gets REAL hot in a couple of days. Like as hot as a very hot compost pile. 150 deg F or so. "

**** From Straw: I haven't tested soy bean meal, so I won't recommend that. I tested cracked corn (grinded smaller with NutriMill flour grinder) ... awesome result, shiny leaves & many buds. Birds like to eat that stuff. The growth can't compare to alfalfa meal, but I'm aiming for buds and health in hot summer, and not top growth.

Alfalfa hay is $8 per bale, best to mix that in with dirt, since the hay is hard to decompose, plus matting-up, blocking water. Some info. from the lawn forum:

•Posted by lee_in_iowa 4 to 5 on the lin (My Page) on
Thu, Apr 14, 11 at 11:35

Boy, I can't recommend the soybean meal. Never again! I tilled it into the top 4-6 inches of my raised beds one year and it grew me a bumper crop of cutworms and armyworms. It attracted pests I had never had before.
For myself, I like to ask for bales of alfalfa hay."

Here is a link that might be useful: Reference link on Organic Fertilizers

This post was edited by Strawberryhill on Mon, Sep 2, 13 at 10:02

RE: Why alfalfa tea works better than alfalfa?

The feed store informed me that a bale of alfalfa hay is $8. Harmonyp in Rose forum noted that alfalfa hay doesn't decompose well on top ... it mats up. I notice the same with grass clippings matting on top. I might have to rake the hay into the soil .. too much hassle. I stick with bagged compost.

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