Feeding the Microbes in Your Soil
Written by Ralph (Jack) Shoultz
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by Jack Shoultz-Chairman, Good Earth R.O.S.E. Committee (www.OrganicRoseCare.org
) Responsible, Organic, Simple, Earth-Friendly Rose Care.
The soil in your garden can probably not be put in one classification as there may be a myriad of types throughout. The one thing that doesn’t vary is the fact that the more biological activity in your soil the more nutrients are broken down to the level that they can be utilized by your roses. Your soil may be full of nutrients, but if the activity in your soil is poor the nutrients may not be released. Your roses benefit when the organisms in the soil have plenty to eat. They will multiply rapidly when the right conditions exist. Feeding your soil the proper ingredients is actually the first step in improving the activity in the soil, and by feeding organics you eliminate or at least reduce the salt and/or acid that is contained in many chemical fertilizers.
When I began, I mixed my own concoction using blood meal, alfalfa meal, cottonseed meal, epsom salts, kelp and many other products. Over the years I have varied the ingredients, but always tried to compose a complete diet of what I thought they needed. Now it is easier to find blended fertilizers as many new companies have seen the renewed interest in easier access to organic fertilizers. Also some of the established companies have developed an organic line and added it to their distribution. So, instead of going out and buying 50 lb bags of several different ingredients, I have been able to find what I feel are the best to achieve what my soil conditions require. There are three products, among many, that I use. It is easy and fills all the needs for growing great roses.
Starting at pruning time, which is January and/or February here, I apply John & Bob’s Soil Optimizer. John Valentino and Robert Truxell introduced their Soil Optimizer in 2003. Those that have used it have noticed marked improvement in not only their roses, but over time, the actual condition of their soil. I have found that I no longer need to use Epsom Salts or Iron. The components in this product fully supply these and many other important elements for the soil, including calcium. John & Bob’s is not a fertilizer, but when added to the soil enhances the ability of the soil to release nutrients. When I asked John how he would define what his product does he said, “The most dramatic benefits of organic matter are not from an immediate physical change to the soil structure, but rather that the organic matter decomposes down to its final form of organic compounds and these organic compounds are food for all kinds of soil micro-organisms, chiefly fungi. It is life in the soil that can improve everything about soil; water percolation, moisture retention, soil structure, and a plant’s ability to uptake and efficiently utilize nutrients and micro-nutrients. It chelates (collects) the 16 nutrients plants need and makes those nutrients available for bacteria to feed on, which promotes the life web that is the key to healthy soil.”
As the biological activity in your soil grows so does the amount of nutrients available. The amazing thing about this is that the amount of the Soil Optimizer needed to start this is only two tablespoons twice a year. And after a year or two you can even reduce that by half. For more information go to their website at www.johnandbobs.com
Biosol, a pelletized fertilizer distributed for the home and garden use is my best discovery and I have seen amazing results from its use. The formulation is a result of the fermentation of cottonseed and soybean meal mixed with a sul-po-mag combination. Because it is a small pellet form it is like a time release and will break down over time, but one advantage of this is that when the Biosol is put in a band around the bush and dug in, it will act as a place where moisture is retained. This also helps the micro-organisms in the soil have enough moisture to become more active which increase the numbers and therefore the amount of nutrients available for the roses to feed on. Biosol is a 7-2-3 and although they recommend twice a year, I use 2 cups every 2 months and 4 cups per plant in August which carries the plants over the rest of the year. You can tell what kind of activity your soil has by how fast the fertilizer is broken down. Biosol is a great indicator as it is a great food source for your soil.
Dr. Earth Rose and Flower Fertilizer is the third component of my regiment. I have used this product the longest of the three products I mention here. Started in 1992 by Milo Shammus, the Dr. Earth line of products are the organic side of Kelloggs. Milo was the first to introduce the pro-biotic aspect which incorporates humus and mycorrhizae.
Dr. Earth organic fertilizer provides:
•FAST growth results PLUS long-term plant and soil health.
•Gardening available to the typical home gardener that eliminate the environmental and safety risks often associated with chemical fertilizers.
•Quick release of the beneficial soil microbes, present both in your soil and in the product.
•Steady growth, the way nature intended it.
The organic material is broken down, humus is created. Humus increases the soils ability to absorb and retain water, which reduces fertilizer loss. Humus helps to build a friable, workable and productive soil that is home to an abundance of macro and microorganisms. Dr. Earth, unlike most organic fertilizers and soils, actually contains various species of beneficial microbes in the product. Increasing biological activity and building up existing bacterial populations in the soil make your plants and garden resistant to diseases, frost and insects while adding maximum growth and health potential. I feed two cups per plant every two months.
Dr. Earth and Milo have a large number of products for all your gardening needs. Additional information may be found on their website at www.drearth.com
By using these three products together, I have had astounding initial growth after pruning and an above average production of basil breaks. I have also noticed that the soils that are more friable have shown the best results which promotes the contention that the better your soils the more nutrients are available to your plants. My “Rose Care Calendar” is on our website at www.organicrosecare.org
These are not the only organic products that are out there and there are new products coming out all the time. You may know of some in your area that do the same as what I use and we would be interested in hearing what is working for you. Just make a conscious effort to do a little research into the company, their dedication to producing a quality product, their philosophy, the ingredients of their products, the process of production and you will probably decide that organic rose care works for you also.