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Question on adding nutrients

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Post  amcon2 on 6/15/2017, 11:12 pm

Hello all! Wondering if anyone can help me out.  I have added the balance of whatever homemade compost I had made to my garden beds. It turned out to be less in volume than I had hoped for). It will be quite a while before any additional compost will be ready.  I usually add coffee grounds and egg shells around my plants as well as epsom salt around my predominantly tomato and pepper garden.

This year aside from adding the above, I plan to add blood meal and Epsoma Organic Tomato-tone(tomato and vegetable food.) It may be a stupid question but is there such a thing as adding too many amendments? Can it all be added to the beds around the same time? When is the best time to add them? before the plants flower? while fruits are on the vine? or doesn't it matter? How frequently would you repeat during the growing season. Weekly or less frequently?

I would not want to sacrifice fruit production for the sake of full foliage. Many years ago before I tried sfg , I overfertilized with non organic fertilizer and had tall tomato plants with lush green foliage but little fruit production.
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Post  countrynaturals on 6/15/2017, 11:21 pm

I just watched a presentation about growing tomatoes and the presenter said to add rock dust and worm castings to the soil before planting. He also stressed caution with nitrogen-rich fertilizers (manure based for example) because of what you said about too many leaves and not enough fruit. I am NOT a successful tomato-grower, but I am going to try those 2 amendments and see if it helps. (I am old school dirt sfg, not MM.)
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Post  BeetlesPerSqFt on 6/16/2017, 8:10 am

Amendments are best when you have a soil test (or soil-less medium test for MM - Mel's Mix) indicating that you actually need them. If your bed levels are low (I'm assuming you have 6" ANSFG raised beds), I think you would be better off purchasing some composts to mix in, rather than trying to just replace the missing quantity of nutrients (if I'm understanding your thinking correctly.)  Besides nutrients, the compost also provides an environment for microbes that help your plant, and provides space for your plant's roots to be.

Since the Tomato-Tone already has nitrogen - and is designed to have the right balance of nitrogen for growing tomatoes - I would advise against also adding the blood meal. Too much nitrogen if often what leads to lush foliage but poor fruiting.

Since the directions I'm seeing online for Tomato-Tone say to apply "twice a month during the growing season" (after the plants are established), weekly application would be too frequent. But MM is designed to work without adding fertilizer, so even less frequent than 2x/month should be fine if you're growing ANSFG-style.
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Post  countrynaturals on 6/16/2017, 2:21 pm

I watched 2 seminars this week about soil and they both agree. Here's the takeaway:

1) Feed the soil, not the plants.

2) First year add rock dust, worm castings, & biochar.

3) Following years, no biochar needed, but rock dust and worm castings okay.
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Post  countrynaturals on 6/16/2017, 6:46 pm

@countrynaturals wrote:I watched 2 seminars this week about soil and they both agree. Here's the takeaway:

1) Feed the soil, not the plants.

2) First year add rock dust, worm castings, & biochar.

3) Following years, no biochar needed, but rock dust and worm castings okay.
YIKES! This stuff is EXPENSIVE! Roughly $50 each for the biochar and worm castings. At least the rock dust is only $10. Anybody have experience with this stuff? Shocked
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Post  RoOsTeR on 6/16/2017, 8:39 pm

@BeetlesPerSqFt wrote:Amendments are best when you have a soil test (or soil-less medium test for MM - Mel's Mix) indicating that you actually need them. If your bed levels are low (I'm assuming you have 6" ANSFG raised beds), I think you would be better off purchasing some composts to mix in, rather than trying to just replace the missing quantity of nutrients (if I'm understanding your thinking correctly.)  Besides nutrients, the compost also provides an environment for microbes that help your plant, and provides space for your plant's roots to be.

Since the Tomato-Tone already has nitrogen - and is designed to have the right balance of nitrogen for growing tomatoes - I would advise against also adding the blood meal. Too much nitrogen if often what leads to lush foliage but poor fruiting.

Since the directions I'm seeing online for Tomato-Tone say to apply "twice a month during the growing season" (after the plants are established), weekly application would be too frequent. But MM is designed to work without adding fertilizer, so even less frequent than 2x/month should be fine if you're growing ANSFG-style.
THIS!

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Post  Turan on 6/16/2017, 11:15 pm

@RoOsTeR wrote:
@BeetlesPerSqFt wrote:Amendments are best when you have a soil test (or soil-less medium test for MM - Mel's Mix) indicating that you actually need them. If your bed levels are low (I'm assuming you have 6" ANSFG raised beds), I think you would be better off purchasing some composts to mix in, rather than trying to just replace the missing quantity of nutrients (if I'm understanding your thinking correctly.)  Besides nutrients, the compost also provides an environment for microbes that help your plant, and provides space for your plant's roots to be.

Since the Tomato-Tone already has nitrogen - and is designed to have the right balance of nitrogen for growing tomatoes - I would advise against also adding the blood meal. Too much nitrogen if often what leads to lush foliage but poor fruiting.

Since the directions I'm seeing online for Tomato-Tone say to apply "twice a month during the growing season" (after the plants are established), weekly application would be too frequent. But MM is designed to work without adding fertilizer, so even less frequent than 2x/month should be fine if you're growing ANSFG-style.
THIS!
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Post  amcon2 on 6/17/2017, 12:51 am

Thanks for the suggestions. So I think I will add the tomato tone (since I already bought it) but not too liberally, and skip the blood meal so it's not overkill. I have not had my soil-less medium tested but I think I will have it done now. When we first made the beds a few years ago, I had not yet read the ANSFG book and had my husband build the beds about 1 1/2 feet tall, mostly because  I could no longer bend down to plant anymore. I did fill the beds with 1/3 compost, peat moss and vermiculite as I later read in Mel's book.  I have 2 seven feet long beds and 2 other smaller so it took a lot to fill them. Shocked 

I have not amended the soil since then, other than adding additional compost, as I made it, but that has been in limited quantities.
Since I have planted mostly tomatoes in other years and especially this year, I thought I would need to add nutrients to the beds since they are heavy feeders. The bed levels are a bit lower than when I started, so I think I will just get some additional compost to add to my own.

Making a note on the rock dust (which I had never heard of) and worm castings which I read more and more about as especially beneficial to a good garden.
 thanks to all.
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Post  BeetlesPerSqFt on 6/17/2017, 8:38 am

I admit I have 8" beds, rather than 6", but more so that I don't obsess about making sure my MM is all the way to the top of the bed all the time rather than issues with bending. They require a lot of compost to keep topped off, so I can only imagine an equal compression rate on deeper beds must be hard for you to keep up with!

You may want to consider replacing your deep beds with table-top or elevated beds, once the wood on the deep beds starts to give out. I don't know how long that will be for you. They wood seems to last a different amount of time for different people. There are many threads on here about table-top/elevated beds once you hit that point.

So far I've been purchasing compost until I can find a composting method that's compatible with my time and resources. If your homemade compost that you've been adding is mostly from vegetables/lawn/food, consider buying animal/manure-based compost(s) to help balance things back out. I think the consensus on a different thread was that worm-castings (worm-manure!) were potent and it worked fine to use less of that compost and more of others. Mentally, I go for a roughly 2/3 veg, 1/3 animal compost blend, over time. But that's something I made up as a compilation of reading too much -- I don't have anything specific science to support it.

Amendments can absolutely provide spectacular improvements in growth BUT when they do it probably means they are providing something that is low or missing. They don't 'work' when everything is already fine, so different people can seemingly get different results when using them. Guessing risks wasting money, or adding too much of something -- sometimes even at the same time as adding the right thing since many amendments are providing more than a single element. I've pulled enough rocks out of the OSFG section of my garden that I can't imagine adding any to any of my beds old or new, even if they are powdered. Here's another view on rock dust that I think is worth considering:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wf2t8HxJ7T4

Let us know about how the test goes! Make sure that you are getting the right test done; some tests are designed specifically for dirt and won't give accurate results for something like MM.
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Post  countrynaturals on 6/17/2017, 12:40 pm

@BeetlesPerSqFt wrote:I admit I have 8" beds, rather than 6", but more so that I don't obsess about making sure my MM is all the way to the top of the bed all the time rather than issues with bending. They require a lot of compost to keep topped off, so I can only imagine an equal compression rate on deeper beds must be hard for you to keep up with!

You may want to consider replacing your deep beds with table-top or elevated beds, once the wood on the deep beds starts to give out. I don't know how long that will be for you. They wood seems to last a different amount of time for different people. There are many threads on here about table-top/elevated beds once you hit that point.

So far I've been purchasing compost until I can find a composting method that's compatible with my time and resources. If your homemade compost that you've been adding is mostly from vegetables/lawn/food, consider buying animal/manure-based compost(s) to help balance things back out. I think the consensus on a different thread was that worm-castings (worm-manure!) were potent and it worked fine to use less of that compost and more of others. Mentally, I go for a roughly 2/3 veg, 1/3 animal compost blend, over time. But that's something I made up as a compilation of reading too much -- I don't have anything specific science to support it.

Amendments can absolutely provide spectacular improvements in growth BUT when they do it probably means they are providing something that is low or missing. They don't 'work' when everything is already fine, so different people can seemingly get different results when using them. Guessing risks wasting money, or adding too much of something -- sometimes even at the same time as adding the right thing since many amendments are providing more than a single element. I've pulled enough rocks out of the OSFG section of my garden that I can't imagine adding any to any of my beds old or new, even if they are powdered. Here's another view on rock dust that I think is worth considering:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wf2t8HxJ7T4

Let us know about how the test goes! Make sure that you are getting the right test done; some tests are designed specifically for dirt and won't give accurate results for something like MM.
thanks Beetles. I think I'll stick with wood chips, compost, horse manure, and leaf mulch and see what happens. If something fails to thrive I'll re-evaluate. geek
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Post  sanderson on 6/18/2017, 10:13 pm

Amcon, Using just the Espoma Tomato-tone should be fine. For worm castings, you can add a few worms to each bed and make it for free!

If you have your Mix tested, make sure it is a "soil-less" test, that is, no dirt.

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Post  amcon2 on 6/19/2017, 9:30 pm

Thanks for the advice sanderson.  I'm going to see if I can have my soil-less medium tested this week. Thanks for the heads-up to be sure the test is for "soil-less." I'm interested to see what it shows. I'll share results when I get it done.
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