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fish under the plant

Posted by anewgarden 7 Brooklyn NY (My Page) on
Sat, Feb 14, 09 at 21:25

Has anyone tried putting a whole fish under their tomato plants? It was something my grandparents did, I think. Last year was my first year trying tomatoes and I used big cheap fish buried way under plant in containers. My plants did well, no BER nor other problems, at all, but did not yield as much fruit as I had hoped. But now that I am reading the forum I see that I did so many other things wrong-that the fish might have saved the plants from all the damage I did. I put too many plants in one pot, fussed over them too much, over watered at times, didn't mulch at all.

I'd like to know if the fish might be as good a source of calcium as one could get. Should I do it again? Did I possibly have low yields due TO the fish?
I'd also like to know--why do some of you use Epsom salts--doesn't salting in the earth kill everything? Like the Romans did to Cartage?

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: fish under the plant

Interesting question. I was wandering whether I should consider this since a friend just lost 20,000 trout at his hatchery due to manure runoff from fields. I think I'll pass for different reasons: extra labor, smell, attraction to skunks, raccoons and cats, etc.

To get to the answer you probably should do a nutrient analysis on the fish. You definatately will have fertilizer value but how much is the question. Also, some nutrients in organic form such as calcium in the bones are very slowly degraded and therefore may not be depended on for this years growth. So in a sense you might have low yields because you didn't properly supplement the fish diet.

It's true that all chemical fertilizers that I'm aware of are salts and salt injury is a concern. In field conditions usually any nutrient should be limited to ~180 lb./acre for that reason but home gardeners and greenhouse growers are the biggest violators. Epsom salt(magnesium sulfate) should be used in moderation not just because of soil salt buildup of the nutrient but because excess levels in relation to calcium or potassium can also lead to imbalance problems. Its all a balancing act. Sort of like when the romans sent the calvery to attack from the flank while the foot soldiers and artillery divisions attacked from the front. I have no idea of the relationship but I did watch "Gladiator".

RE: fish under the plant

Cynthia Sandberg recommends
dig a nice 13" to 16" deep hole to accommodate all the additions
plant to be almost completely submerged into the hole
place 6" fish head along with a couple of aspirin tablets and three or four crushed egg shells into the hole this
is followed by heaping handful of bone meal next add two handfuls of Sustane (trademarked name) all-purpose slow release organic fertilizer. Use the 4-6-4 type and then large tablespoon of pure worm castings add several inches of amended organic matter then trim plant and position it in the hole so that 2 to 3 brances of leaves sticks out of the hole. Continue adding organic matter around the plant and gently tramp soil to firm up the plant. Then water plant with 2 to 3 inches of water over a 10 to 15 min period.

Here is a link that might be useful: Tomato Secrets

RE: fish under the plant

A salt is just a chemical held together by ionic bonds. The fact that it is a salt has nothing to do with harmful affects on plants regardless of how organic fanatics try to describe mineral fertilizers as soil poison.

"Salt" = sodium chloride. The sodium screws up the plant's cell physiology,... and the plant doesn't need much chloride. Epsoms salt = magnesium sulfate. The plant needs a good deal of both and not until you get into concentrations high enough to affect direction of water movement from soil to plant is the plant harmed (its like how hard candy will suck the water out of your mouth if you let it sit in one spot too long. You can water plants with 2Tbs/gal epsome salts no problem. If you used table salt at the same concetration it would really screw up the plant.

Even organic fertilizers are converted to chemical salts (same as inorganic fertilizers) before the plant takes them in. They are just more dilute because they have to be converted by microbes first (and start out at a lower concentration to.) Soil microbes can also use inorganic (mineral) fertilizer salts, but they also need a carbon source/organic matter to grow. Farmers who relied on mineral fertilizers for years and years did not add organic material to the soil so the soil went bad and the mineral fertilizers were blamed rather than the lack of organic matter.

RE: fish under the plant

I'm an avid fisherman and when Spring arrives I start freezing my fish cleanings for tomato food.
In planting my tomatoes I dig a 2' hole 2' deep putting the dirt in a wheel barrow. I add 40% peat to the dirt and mix well. Then I add some mixed dirt to the hole followed by about a dozen fish cleanings. Put a couple of inches of fill on top of the fish then plant your tomatoto, trimming off all the foliage except the last 2 stems and the growing point. I cut the bottom out of a 5 gallon bucket and isert it over the plant pushing it into the soil a few inches. The bucket protects the plant from wind, birds, rabits, and also makes for an exelent watering point. I add a 2' X 2' X 7' high concrete wire cage over the bucket and the plants grow 2-3' out the top and I end up tying up branches that grow out the sides to far to keep them from breaking down.
It's a little work but I have a steady stream of drive bys that can't believe their eyes.

So by all means use fish for fertilizer!

Happy gardening!

RE: fish under the plant

Thanks! I will keep using the fish!

RE: fish under the plant

My primary garden is at the shoreline of Lake Tomahawk in
east central Ohio. We have shad in the lake, when small they are food for all the other kinds of fish, but then they grow to 8 to 10 inches long and become somewhat of a nuisance.

The last couple of years they have picked my dock and breakwater to spawn. This happens in very early spring and catching them with a net would not be at all difficult.

I plan on 32 tomato plants at that garden and 32 8" shad would fit easily into a white wastebasket plastic bag and
then into my freezer for storage till planting time.

A plan is coming together!

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