Have you ever done a soil test? If not, or if it’s been awhile, it’s good to have the information to let you know exactly what your soil needs. Check with your local County Extension Office for more information. In Dekalb the number is (404) 298-4080; Gwinnett is (678) 377-4010.
This is the fourth and final part in our series on how organic active ingredients work. Organic products are more popular than ever and their active ingredients and the way they work may be different from the conventional products you may be used to. This month we’ll focus on Fertilizers. (Adapted from an article from Today Gardens Center)
Organic fertilizers come in three main forms: plant derived, animal derived, and minerals. You can buy all sorts of organic fertilizer mixes or mix your own.
Many organic products both feed the soil and the plant. Soluble chemical fertilizers contain mineral salts that the roots uptake quickly but they don’t provide food source for microorganisms and earthworms. So, over a period of time, if you use only chemical fertilizers, the soil will lose its organic matter and the microorganism that help build the soil. Except for time-release products, the chemical fertilizers give up all their nutrients at once so several feedings over the growing season may be necessary. The chemicals will leach through the soil and the plants will require more water. Organic fertilizers release nutrients over a slower, more consistent rate and are unlikely to burn the plant or be leached away by water.
When using any kind of fertilizer, make sure you are working organic matter (such as compost) into the soil as well. Organic matter helps soil hold water and air, makes nutrients in the soils more readily available, and helps to prevent diseases.
Plant derived fertilizers include composts, seaweed/kelp, dry molasses, ash, whey, alfalfa, corn gluten and cottonseed meal. Cover crops can also enrich the soil.
- Compost is beneficial mostly for adding organic matter to the soil and enhancing soil life and helping make nutrients available to plants. Composts are available commercially or can be homemade, and can be used along with other fertilizers. Making your own compost is an ideal way to recycle yard waste and make fertilizer simultaneously -- and you always know what ingredients went into the finished product. Compost also makes great tea for your plants (Flo-n-Brew). Watering with a compost tea is an easy way to get many of the benefits of compost.
- Seaweed/kelp is derived from sea plants and comes in liquid, powder, and pellet forms. It adds valuable micronutrients, growth hormones, and vitamins that help increase yields, reduce plant stress from drought, and increase frost tolerance. (Neptune’s Harvest Seaweed [Kelp], Espoma Kelp Meal)
- Dry Molasses is actually grain residue that has been sprayed with liquid molasses. It stimulates microbes in the soil. It can also repel fire ants.
- Wood ash provides potassium and can be used to increase root growth and improve a plants overall health. It also might help to repel snails and slugs.
- Whey is a by-product of the cheese manufacturing process (the leftovers from milk that has been curdled and strained). It contains phosphorous, potassium and simple organic compounds that are easy for plants to absorb and it can also be used as a slow-release form of nitrogen fertilizer. Whey's slight acidity can help neutralize the soil's natural alkalinity.
- Alfalfa meal is derived from alfalfa plants and is beneficial for adding nitrogen and potassium, as well as trace minerals and natural growth stimulants. Roses seem to love this fertilizer. You can work up to 5 cups of alfalfa meal per plant into the surface of the soil every ten weeks. Adding it to your compost pile can speed the decomposition process. (Happy Frog Rose Food)
- Corn gluten is derived from corn and contains 10 percent nitrogen fertilizer. This should be applied to growing plants only since it inhibits the growth of seeds. You can use it on lawns in early spring to green up the perennial and prevent annual weeds like crabgrass from sprouting. (Natural Guard Corn Gluten 9-0-0)
- Cottonseed meal is derived from the seed in cotton bolls and is very good at supplying nitrogen and potassium. (Espoma Cottonseed Meal, Natural Guard Cottonseed Meal)
- Soybean meal comes from soybeans and is high in nitrogen content and is used as a source of phosphorous. Like alfalfa meal, it is beneficial to nitrogen-loving plants, such as roses.
Animal derived fertilizers contain nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. The most common forms are manure, bone meal, blood meal, fish meal, fish emulsion, shellfish meal, worm castings and bat/seabird guano.
- Manure is generally is low in nutrient value except for a few such as chicken manure which is high in nitrogen; however, it does provide a lot of organic matter to a soil mix. Use only composted manure since fresh manure can damage new root growth.
- Bone meal comes from animal or fish bones and is high in phosphorous and calcium. It contains a smaller amount of nitrogen and lots of micronutrients. (Miracle Grow Bone Meal, Natural Guard Bone Meal)
- Blood meal is derived from the powdered blood of slaughtered animals. It is high in nitrogen and has many micronutrients. This is a great fertilizer for leafy plants such as lettuce. (Espoma Dried Blood, Natural Guard Blood Meal, Miracle Grow Blood Meal)
- Fish meal is high in nitrogen and phosphorus.
- Fish emulsion is derived from the fermented remains of fish. This liquid product can have a fishy smell, but it's a great complete fertilizer (5-2-2) and adds trace elements to the soil. When mixed with water, it's gentle yet effective for stimulating the growth of young seedlings.
- Shellfish meal is made from crushed bones or shell from crab or other shellfish. It’s a great source of calcium, magnesium, phosphorous and many trace minerals. It also contains chitin which helps to control soil organisms or harmful pest nematodes. (Neptune’s Harvest Crab Shell)
- Worm castings (also known as vermicompost and worm manure) are rich in nitrogen, phosphate, trace minerals and growth enhancers (humic acid). You can use as much as you want without any danger of burning your plants. It increases the microbial life in the root zone, increases retention of water and reduces diseases such as root rot. (Appalachian Mountain Crawlers 100% Earthworm Castings)
- Bat/seabird guano comes from the poop of bats and seabirds. Guano comes in powdered or pellet form and is high in nitrogen. Bat guano provides only about 2 percent phosphorous and no potassium, but seabird guano contains 10 to 12 percent phosphorous, plus 2 percent potassium. The concentrated nitrogen in these products can burn roots if they're not used carefully. (Espoma Bat Guano)
Minerals for organic fertilizers include green sand, lava sand, mine rock phosphate, sulfate of potash and limestone.
- Greensand comes from sandy rock or sediment containing a high percentage of the mineral glauconite. It is used as a fertilizer and soil conditioner. It helps to loosen heavy clay, improves drought tolerance and increases root growth. (Espoma Greensand)
- Lava sand works with organic matter to improve soil. It can help loosen the soil and make soil nutrients more available to plant roots.
- Rock phosphate boosts the soil's phosphorus level while serving as a great source of calcium and essential trace elements. It is a slow-release fertilizer that provides the phosphorus that plants need for healthy root development and flowering and fruiting. (Espoma Rock Phosphate)
- Sulfate of potash provides an excellent source of potassium that feeds plants quick. Potassium is important in developing plant vigor and disease resistance. Potash can be used on flowers, vegetables, trees & shrubs. (Espoma Potash)
- Limestone is a mined product that has various nutrients. It helps when adjusting the pH of excessively acidic soils. (Espoma Garden Lime)
Organic fertilizers we carry or can order for you include:
Natural Guard Products: Rose Food, Plant Food, Evergreen & Holly Food, Tomato & Vegetable Food, Organic Plant Food 6-2-4, Organic Lawn Food 9-0-4, Organic Garden & Landscape Plant Food 5-1-5, Soil Activator, Compost Maker, Top Dressing,
Espoma Products: Garden Gypsum, Soil Perfector, Soil Acidifier-Sulphur, Tree-Tone, Tomato-Tone, Rose-Tone, Plant-Tone, Citrus-Tone, , Flower-Tone, Garden Tone,, Holly-Tone, Lawn Food, Palm Tone, Bulb-Tone, Bone Meal, Bio-Tone Starter Plus
FoxFarm Products: Happy Frog Potting Soil, Ocean Forest Potting Soil, Light Warrior Seed Starter, Happy Frog Acid Loving, All Purpose, Fruit & Flower, Japanese Maple, Jump Start, Rose Food, Tomato & Vegetable, Marine Cuisine Fertilizer, Beastie Bloomz, Cha Ching, Open Sesame, Big Bloom Plant Food, Grow Big Plant Food, Tiger Bloom
Neptune’s Harvest Products: All Natural Organic Liquid Fish Plant Food, Fish/Seaweed Blend Plant Food,
Miracle Grow Organic Choice: All Purpose Plant Food, Blood Meal, Bone Meal, MultiBloom, Mega Green
Other: Alaska Fish Fertilizer, Alaska Mor Bloom Fertilizer
Fruit (such as grapes, oranges, raisins): Woodpeckers, Northern Mockingbird, Brown Thrasher, Gray Catbird, Bluebird, Cedar Waxwing, American Robin, Eastern Towhee, Chickadees, Blue Jay, House Finch, Cardinals, Tufted Titmouse
Peanut butter: Nuthatches, Chickadees, Woodpeckers, Blue Jay
Mealworms: Bluebird, Gray Catbird, Chickadees, Northern Mockingbird, Nuthatches, American Robin, Tufted Titmouse, Wrens
Suet: Woodpeckers, Chickadees, Carolina Wren, Nuthatches, Tufted Titmouse, American Robins, Red Winged Blackbirds, Brown Thrasher, Gray Catbird, Northern Mockingbird, Blue Jay
BATS! In the spirit of Halloween – and the fact that we've had quite a few customers ask us about bats – here’s a quick primer on where to put those bat boxes.
We know that bats can be invaluable for mosquito control – eating hundreds of them in just one hour! They’ll also eat moths and beetles.
Adding the right bat house to you garden provides a habitat that might attract them.
The chambers within the house should be about ¾” wide with some variation in size to reflect the need of different size bats. Rough sides on the panels enable the bats to cling. Larger boxes provide more room for the bats to move around and seek out the best spots during the day. The box should be made from an untreated wood.
For the best results in attracting bats, mount the boxes 20-30 feet off the ground. If you’re putting it on a 4x4 post, use a least a 12’ post. Of course, many people attach it to the side of the house or a garage. It’s very important that the box gets at least 6 hours of full sun per day. Bats like warm temperatures. The houses may attract more if the surrounding habitat is open – a large yard or field. It also helps to have water (streams or lakes) close by. The houses should be cleaned out once a year – winter is usually best.
Bird of the Month: Northern Flicker
Northern Flickers are a medium-sized member of the Woodpecker family and a year-round resident in Georgia.
They are brown and black with a black ‘necklace’ and a speckled breast. Males have a black mustache. The undersides of the wings and tail are yellow and they have a white rump patch.
Flickers typically feed on the ground using their slightly curved bill rather than at feeders. Insects (particularly ants) make up the majority of their diet but they will eat seeds, nuts, berries, and fruit.
Both the male and female help to build their nest typically in holes in trees. The entrance holes can be 2 to 4” in diameter and the cavity up to 16” deep with a bed of wood chips.
The Northern Flicker has one brood a year and the clutch is made up of 6-8 pure glossy white eggs. Incubation time is 11-12 days and they fledge in 25-28 days. The babies are fed by regurgitation.
Their calls can be loud and piercing. You can also hear a constant knocking as they beat on trees or other objects.
Audubon Field Trips
Check out the upcoming field trips from the Atlanta Audubon Society (get in touch with them for more information at 678-973-2437).
* There are some very close by in October!
*Saturday October 19 Clyde Shepherd Nature Preserve – 8:00AM
Birding Focus: We will be looking for migrating and resident birds.
*Saturday October 19 Stone Mountain Park Songbird Trail – 8:00AM
Birding Focus: The Songbird Habitat is an excellent spot for Indigo Buntings, Yellow-breasted Chats, Sparrows, Blue Grosbeaks, and others. During migration many of the wood warblers and other migrants will be here, too.
Sunday October 20 Noonday Creek Trail – 8:00AM
Birding Focus: We'll be looking for wetland and woodland residents and fall migrants.
Tuesday October 22 Dawson Forest Wildlife Management Area – 8:00AM
Birding Focus: We will look for fall migrants and residents. Habitats in Dawson Forest include old fields, wetlands, freshwater ponds, and mixed pine/hardwood forests.
Wednesday October 23 Murphey Candler Park – 8:30AM
Birding Focus: Three main habitats (lake, wetlands, mixed woods) provide good species diversity. We'll look for residents and fall migrants. The site is also reliable for turtles.
Saturday October 26 EL Huie Land Application Facility and Newman Wetlands Center – 8:00AM
Birding Focus: Migrating and resident waterfowl, raptors, and woodland birds.
Saturday October 26 Panola Mountain Banding Station – 8:00AM
Birding Focus: Come visit one of the banding stations that are partially supported by AAS. This trip offers several opportunities. You will have the opportunity to see birds up close. It is also an opportunity to improve your ID skills, especially of sparrows in the winter. Finally, it is an opportunity to learn more about banding. The focus of the study site is wetland and grassland species. There is also the opportunity to see resident species in the forest and ponds near the banding site.
Sunday October 27 Leone Hall Price Park – 8:00AM
Birding Focus: We'll be looking for residents and fall migrants. Habitats: meadow, wooded and creek edge paths.
Wednesday October 30 Heritage Park – 8:30AM
Birding Focus: We will look for late migrants and resident birds of the wetlands and woodlands. Heritage Park is a 105-acre nature preserve. The park's 1.7-mile walking trail has an elevated boardwalk over wetlands, travels through forests along Nickajack Creek, passes the ruins of Concord Woolen Mills, and is near the historic Concord Covered Bridge. Heritage Park is a soft surface walking trail, essentially flat with a short hilly area by the ruins. This is a good site for novice or beginning birders; families and children are welcome on this walk.
Saturday November 2 Piedmont Park – 8:00AM
Birding Focus: Migratory, permanent & winter residents. Excellent for beginning birders or those desiring gentle terrain.
*Saturday November 2 Stone Mountain Park Songbird Trail – 8:00AM
Birding Focus: We will be looking for winter residents.
Sunday November 3 Noonday Creek Trail – 8:00AM
Birding Focus: We'll be looking for wetland and woodland residents and fall migrants.
Hope to see you soon,
Linda, Brittany, Jessica, Jeremy, Stephen & Greyson
The Garden Enthusiast - Backyard Nature Station
2316 D Main Street
Tucker, GA 30084
Hours: Monday - Saturday 10am - 6PM
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