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There's lots to learn here by reading as a guest. However, if you become a member (it's free, ad free and spam-free) you'll have access to our large vermiculite databases, our seed exchange spreadsheets, Mel's Mix calculator, and many more members' pictures in the Gallery. Enjoy.

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Fertilizing my SFG vegetable garden

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Furbalsmom
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Post  harmerd 6/16/2011, 11:02 am

I would appreciate any suggestions for fertilizing my SFG vegetable garden. I used fish emulsion on the seedlings indoor and they seemed to do very well. Is fish emulsion fertilizer a good fertilizer for outdoor plants. I have tomatoes, eggplants, cucumbers, lettuce and peppers.

Will the smell of the fish emulsion end up in the veggie?
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Post  MarcyG 6/16/2011, 11:28 am

That's all I use is the fish emulsion. the fishy smell is gone within a couple of hours.
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Post  scooter 6/16/2011, 11:34 am

I use fish emulsion on my "greens" like lettuce, collards, kale, etc, and Tomato Tone on my tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers. So far everything is going wonderfully aside from the occasional bug.
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Post  chocolatepop 6/16/2011, 9:21 pm

I also use fish emulsion and or side dress with some compost. I too use tomato tone or whatever "organic" or "natural" fertilizer.
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Post  boffer 6/16/2011, 9:46 pm

Do you guys fertilize because you need to, or because it makes you feel good?

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Post  chocolatepop 6/16/2011, 10:07 pm

I do honestly notice a difference Boff, mainly because of all the rain.
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Post  dizzygardener 6/17/2011, 9:11 am

boffer wrote:Do you guys fertilize because you need to, or because it makes you feel good?


My thoughts exactly! You all shouldn't NEED to fertilize all the time if your Mel's Mix is right.

I fertilize cause I like to not because I need to, and yes, I use fish emulsion. I also have a sugar based fertilizer, but I mostly use that for the seedlings indoors.
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Post  scooter 6/17/2011, 9:47 am

I would say needed to. Tomatoes were turning purple, and plants weren't doing so great, so I got a soil test kit and the nutrient results were way low across the board. (I did post this asking for advice but nobody replied). So I fertilized - fish emulsion here, tomato tone there... and now, for the most part, everything is doing great.

But please enlighten this noob - how do I know if my mel's mix is right? I used 5 composts. In equal amounts. Mixed. 1/3 compost to 1/3 fluffed peat to 1/3 coarse vermiculite.
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Post  Furbalsmom 6/17/2011, 10:32 am

Scooter, most often purple leaves on tomatoes are due to cool weather or soil. Sometimes the plants can't absorb the nutrients that are in your Mel's Mix if the soil is too cool.

Very sorry you got not response earlier, Fertilizing my SFG vegetable garden 601593 because usually someone tries to help when questions are asked.

If your plants responded to the fertilizers, wonderful! The end result we all want is great veggies.

If you were able to prepare your Mel's Mix with 1/3 vermiculite, 1/3 fluffed peat moss and 1/3 blended compost from 5 types and still had poor nutrition, perhaps some of your composts had too many fillers such as more peat moss and I have even seen some compost bags where sand was listed as an ingredient.

Did you get a chance to read HOW STRONG IS YOUR BACKBONE with lots of good information on composts

Hope things stay better for you and your garden flourishes!
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Post  sfg4uKim 6/17/2011, 10:40 am

Thanks Furbs, I was just going to ask the same thing. MANY "composts" are LOADED with peat moss which can really throw off your mix. It seems you need to contact each manufacturer to get 1) an ingredients list 2) the proportions of each ingredient.

I can't wait until I get my composting operation going at home. But one step at a time. Needed to move my SFGs (done with the old method) and start over after being away from the house for 4 growing seasons AND having renovation work done when we got back. LOL the only reason I even had a SFG this year was because I teach from the house and needed to show my "students" what one looked like. Smile


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Post  scooter 6/17/2011, 11:12 am

Furbalsmom wrote:
Did you get a chance to read HOW STRONG IS YOUR BACKBONE with lots of good information on composts

Hope things stay better for you and your garden flourishes!

Thanks! and same to you! Smile

I have read that post... and I hope I have not given anyone the impression that I doubt the rule of MM. I was new, I knew no better about bagged composts (or horse manure...@!#%). If I had to bet on it, I would say the problem lies in too much peat and/or wood. I don't think I got any sand. I did avoid composts that made it clear that it contained peat (I think one place had a Scotts "Compost & Peat" mix that was $5 per cu ft and made no indication about how much peat or what the compost was... but I could go on all day about Scotts)

Next year if I end up needing to buy bagged compost I will do a little more research.

As for the fertilizing, maybe it helped, maybe it was unnecessary, but it has not been expensive and it gives me an excuse to spend more time in the garden Smile
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Post  Lavender Debs 6/17/2011, 11:38 am

scooter wrote:snip... Tomatoes were turning purple, and plants weren't doing so great, so I got a soil test kit and the nutrient results were way low across the board. (I did post this asking for advice but nobody replied). ..snip...But please enlighten this noob - how do I know if my mel's mix is right? I used 5 composts. In equal amounts. Mixed. 1/3 compost to 1/3 fluffed peat to 1/3 coarse vermiculite.


About no one answering you.... I am SO sorry you were left hanging on that. Balance and purple leaves has been asked and answered so many times this spring, it just took one of us to wish for a new subject and click on. All of us want to help, but when something is asked again and again it is easy to feel as if we have already answered that. Thanks FBmom for directing this question to a thread title.

About what can you do.... You have already done the best thing; get a soil test kit. FBmom is right. It may have just been too cool, a common purple tomato leaf problem. Cool weather makes purple leaves because roots will not take up available Phosphorus in your soil. Without phosphorus the calcium in your soil is not available to the plant.

It is NOT a good idea to add more Phosphorus (rock phosphate is the organic source) until the weather warms up (naturally or artificially). Too much Phosphorus can make the nitrogen (N) and Potash (K) as well as trace elements unavailable (all things in balance).

Blossom End Rot could be your next question. If Phosphorus (P) is unavailable to the point that your leaves are turning purple, calcium will be one of the micro elements that your plant cannot absorb. Lack of calcium seems to be the main reason tomatoes are afflicted with blossom end rot (BER). Two common ways to starve your plant of calcium are 1. Not enough calcium in the mix (seems to be a common problem with MM). This is easily fixed by adding surface calcium to the soil/mix at the base of your plant. Some sprinkle on powdered milk, some sprinkle epsom salts on the soil, some (like me) grind up a calcium tab or two and sprinkle that on the soil. I have even read of a gardener who sets all her egg shells into a container to dry. Then, once she has enough, she grinds them to a powder in her food processor and uses that to add calcium and other trace minerals to her organic garden. Most of these calcium tricks can be added to water before watering your tomatoes. (not sure about the milk) edit: The 2nd way to starve the plant of calcium is keeping it cold so that it cannot absorbe the Phosphorus (P) (purple leaves) that allows the plant to absorb calcium.

I have read some gardeners who say we should just expect the first tier of tomatoes to have BER. They have probably experienced that warm soil is required for the plant to take up the Phosphorus that makes the calcium available to the plant.

Are you still with me? Warm soil or mix will make nice green leaves. If you want to add some calcium, you can add it when the leaves are green instead of purple. As sad as it can be, you might want to wait and see if your soil is low on calcium by watching for signs of BER. Too much calcium can reduce the availability of Potash (K) which helps your tomato resist disease and increases the size of the fruit; AND Magnesium which will lower your yield and cause Chlorosis (inability to produce chlorophyll which feeds your plant) on the lower leaves.

Night time temperatures are generally the problem. If it is lower than about 55 degrees at night you may want to cover the whole plant (not just the ground) with a clear plastic cover or, if your plants are small enough, a milk jug. Leave the plant covered unless daytime temps get into the 70's, because it will be at least 10 degrees warmer under the cover than in the air. Look at some of Boffer’s pictures. he has the ultimate system to heat up spring plants.

Good gardening to you
Deborah....who had no idea that PNW gardening life could be useful to the rest of the gardening world. Scary.
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Post  dizzygardener 6/17/2011, 5:38 pm

Deborah, that is a phenomenal post! Thanks!
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Post  shannon1 6/18/2011, 4:15 am

dizzygardener wrote:Deborah, that is a phenomenal post! Thanks!
Yep, so much good info. Now I am wondering if I should have given my toms the epsom salt I gave them yesterday. Embarassed It did make me feel better now we will see if it makes them feel better Fertilizing my SFG vegetable garden 811519
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Post  BackyardBirdGardner 6/18/2011, 11:59 pm

That was a great post, no doubt. I always heard the epsom salt goes in after the blossoms appear because the blossoms don't form, in earnest, until temps warm up enough anyway. I have absolutely nothing to back up this claim...just one of those old things "I've heard" somewhere.

As for fertilizing per OP's question, I think a fabulous thing to do is water with compost tea. I haven't seen it suggested yet. Placing a chunk of compost in a sock and dropping it in a bucket of water for a few hours to a day will do wonders after watering with the mucky liquid.

But, a couple of people are right when they say we don't "need" to fertilize if our mix is right. Sometimes we just can't let go of old "traditional" methods no matter how hard we try. That said, though, there's nothing wrong in my opinion with fertilizing to boost plants, either. I will fertilize my tomatoes until they start flowering to build them as big a foundation as I can.

I know I don't need fertilizer, but that doesn't mean I don't want even better. One of the main reasons I like MM is because if I don't feel like adding fertilizer (which 90% of the time I don't) I know without a doubt I don't have to just to make my plants grow. They do fine without anything....but they do better with a little boost every now and again. I would never suggest violating one of Mel's fundamentals. I don't think this violates anything at all. Extra credit is extra credit......not required, but can certainly help.
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Post  shannon1 6/19/2011, 1:36 am

Fertilizing my SFG vegetable garden 68739 With all the watering I have had to do this year I know I have washed alot of nutrients out of my MM so I have added back more worm castings and given the plants a little organic fertilizer when they were needing it. The MM is perfect when it is not diluted by so much watering. I may have been carried away for fear of the plants drying out Embarassed .
I have been square foot gardening for over 2 decades and if I had not worn out my copy of the org. book I would never even known about the new method. I'm so glad I did. Mel's Mix is Fertilizing my SFG vegetable garden 5571 so much better. I am buying more ingredients a little at a time, the only way my tight budget will allow. Then I can fill another box. This one will be a 4x8 TT. This time of year in the intense heat of our region some of my plants have become stressed even with shade in the afternoon. I think manure tea is a great shot in the arm for them. I was wondering if any of you have use tea as a foliar fertilizer.
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