Posts tagged ‘fertilizer’

Man-Eating Plants

You may have thought that you were in charge, but your garden wants to eat you.

Seriously, the human body provides an excellent source of nutrients to your plants that you may not have considered:

Hair: chemical (dye/perm) free hair provides an excellent source of slow release nitrogen to your soil.
Finger/toenails:  Put your clippings in the garden.  They’re a source of calcium.
Blood: an excellent source of nitrogen.  If you use a menstrual cup, or have a nasty blood spill to clean up, empty it out in the garden. Of course, blood meal works too.
Bones: bones are very high in calcium and phosphorous, which is essential for healthy root and fruit development.  If you don’t want your plants to eye your limbs hungrily, I recommend bone meal.

Urine: is a convenient nitrogen-packed liquid fertilizer.  It’s safe to pee directly on most mature plants, but it’s easier and safer if you just pee in your watering can and dilute it.  The smell of your territorial markings will also help deter animals that want to steal your food.
Feces: Human waste is sold as “malorganite”  in garden stores.  General knowledge tells us that we should never use manure from animals that aren’t vegetarian, but no one told the guys who make this shit.  What you should never use is waste from animals that eat chemicals that they can’t pronounce, and are passing things like fluoride and lead through their bodies.  Did you hear about the lead contamination in the Michelle Obama’s organic Whitehouse garden?  From malorganite being used on the lawn.   It’s a great way to poison yourself twice: the lead that passes through your system can be absorbed by your plants so that you can eat it again.  yum!  That being said, vegitarians can make excellent use of composting toilets for an eco-friendly way to flush, to recycle those waste nutrients.

July 9, 2009 at 8:43 pm Leave a comment

Hot Season Lettuce

R asked me the other day whether it was too late to plant lettuce. The short answer is yes, it will bolt in the heat. Bolted lettuce is terrible. The long answer is, you can get around that. Here’s some tricks:

1. Give it lots of water. Lettuce is mostly comprised of water, so water frequently to keep it in shape. By frequently I mean daily, at least.

2. Give it nitrogen. Lettuce likes fertilizer. You can apply a balanced composted manure, or for a bigger nitrogen kick, apply fish meal or blood meal. Interplanting lettuce with soybeans is good too, so you can enjoy edamame and nitrogen fixing from a plant that will be roughly the same height. Another surprising nitrogen source is hair. Finely chopping up the (un-dyed/permed) hair from your comb and pets and mixing it into the soil is a good way of adding nitrogen. On another note, your soil loves toenails, but the wonders of human soil additives are best saved for another post.

3. Eat your sprouts. Make sure you are thinning your lettuce crop as it grows, so that the plants have room to grow. Lettuce can’t bolt before it’s mature, so eat salad every day. With leaf lettuce, you can also harvest single leaves from the plant, so that it continues to produce new leaves without having a chance to reach its bolting stage. This reminds me of another tip:

4. Plant leaf lettuces, not head lettuces. Head lettuces are harder to grow, even in the appropriate season. Plus, there are more fun varieties. Check the seed packets for varieties that say they’re resistant to heat or bolting.

4. Shade it. Keep it out of full sun, because lettuce isn’t a fan of summer weather. If you’ve ever moved a plant into natural sunlight without adjusting it first, you’ve probably seen that plants can get a sunburn (whitening of the leaves). Lettuce is the Irishman of the veggie patch: it sunburns easily, and then it’s cranky. Either plant it in part shade, install a shade cloth, or plant tall things to shade it.

5. Use containers. A soil-less potting mix retains water better than earth, so container planting can be a good solution if you’re more neglectful. Just remember to plant it in clay, not plastic, so that the roots stay cool.

May 29, 2009 at 10:56 am 3 comments

You asked Google, I answer:

I’ve noticed a lot of people are arriving here at Living Lime on search terms with some variation of “buttercrunch lettuce” and “lime” (as in ground limestone for the garden). Hopefully I can help you find what you’re looking for:

1. Leaf Lettuces:
– are delicious, but have to be planted in cool weather, and give them frequent, short watering (most other plants want infrequent deep watering). If leaf lettuces bolt (suddenly grow tall and flower), you may as well just let them seed and try again, because they’ll be bitter.

– How to harvest? pick it. Early in the morning is the best time, whenever the leaves are big enough to eat.

– If you plant the seeds close together, then you can thin the lettuce patch by eating it. This will help you grow more in less space. Even better is if you mix a bunch of leaf lettuce seeds together in one spot, so you get a tasty salad mix.

– companion planting: beans, kohlrabi carrots, alliums(onion family), radishes. Avoid celery, cabbage, cress, parsley.

2. Horticultural lime:
– is excellent for raising the Ph of your soil for alkaline loving plants. But unless a soil test has told you your soil is too acidic, you probably don’t need it for this use. Your plants like soil that’s full of organic matter, even if it makes the soil more acidic. I wouldn’t recommend applying lime unless you’ve done a soil test, because you don’t want to be mucking about with your soil’s pH if it’s already perfect. It can damage plants and drinking water supplies.

– is often used for adding calcium to the soil, which is particularly useful for preventing blossom end rot in peppers, tomatoes, and eggplants (the fruit gets sunken dark patches of rot on the bottom). More likely, your peppers just need more consistent water conditions, as peppers have difficulty taking up nutrients if they go through periods of drought. Bone meal delivers calcium but is also high in phosphorous (= strong roots), so I’d rather use that than lime. I’ve also read that that you can put a Tums tablet in the bottom of the hole when you plant, as the calcium is more available in that form, and it only goes where you need it.

Blossom End Rot:

-lime is best applied in the fall, because it needs time to break down. Adding it in the spring isn’t really going to help with calcium levels for your new plantings.

-If you’re going to use lime, Don’t ever apply lime mixed with a chemical fertilizer. Even with natural fertilizers, it’s best applied at a different time, because nitrogen + lime = ammonia + negated nutritional benefit to your plants. Also, don’t apply lime two years in a row, or you’re just asking for trouble.

-If you’re sure you want to apply lime, use a face mask. Trust me, you don’t want it in your lungs.

May 25, 2009 at 12:25 pm Leave a comment

Rabbit Poo!

Today I made friends with a woman who breeds rabbits for use as pets. Because I came to take her poo.
What would I want to do with several bins of rabbit poo? Because you can’t run a closed loop system (self sustaining) garden without animals to help you fertilize, and rabbit manure is the greatest fertilizer made in this part of the world (next to worm castings, but I’d need a LOT of worms). Plus, it’s the only manure that doesn’t need to be composted first. And the roll-y pellets don’t smell. Here’s how rabbit manure stacks up against other standard manures:

Rabbit manure: Nitrogen(N): 2.4 Phosphorus(P):1.4 Potassium(K): 0.6
Most concentrated of animal manures in fresh form. No composting needed.

Cow manure (dairy): N:0.6 P:0.2 K:0.5
Often contains weed seeds, should be hot composted.

Steer manure: N:0.7 P:0.3 K:0.4
Often contains weed seeds, should be hot composted if fresh.

Chicken manure: N:1.1 P:0.8 K:0.5
Breaks down quickest of all manures, but it will probably burn your plants (and it reeks) so it should definately be composted.

Until I get out of the city, I’m very lucky to have a new rabbit breeding friend!

and finally, because I had never heard of Peruvian sea bird manure until today:
Peruvian Seabird Guano (pelletized): N:12 P:12 K:2.5
“Legendary fertilizer of the Incas. Use in soil as a long lasting fertilizer, or make into tea (1 tsp pellets to 1 gallon water).”

There’s lots to learn about fertilizer here.

May 9, 2009 at 8:45 pm 1 comment


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