Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Fertilizer and Soil Amendment Essentials To Give Your Garden Production Power!

Seasoned and novice gardeners alike know how important it is to feed your plants in order to garner great production later and eventually a wonderful harvest.  However, no matter how seasoned or new you are to the game of gardening, there is always something new to learn.  Great plants begin with good soil and good feeding.  If you want to grow great veggies, then there are a few steps that must be taken to ensure that your plants will bear the veggies you so anticipate.  So today we are going to go over some of my favorite fertilizers, plant foods and soil amendments that will give your garden the boost it needs to give you the veggies you want.

My Favorite Fertilizers

I try to keep my garden as natural and organic as possible.  Where ever I can, I use products that are labeled organic.  Chemical fertilizers do nothing for the soil and they do nothing for you in the end.  They damage the water table and their runoff can be harmful to wildlife.  So my favorite brand of fertilizer is Espoma.  All of their offerings are organic and natural with a base of chicken manure that is desiccated and safe for your plants.  That means it has been aged and composted and you can feel safe giving your plants a liberal feeding of these wonderful fertilizers.  Some of my favorites that I use depending on the application are these:

Garden tone, which is a good all purpose garden food and I apply it approximately every two weeks.  I top dress all my beds by just tossing handfuls of it on my plants then watering in well.  

I use tomato tone, obviously on my tomatoes, applying every two weeks.  However it is good for most garden veggies and I have been known to use either this or the Garden Tone depending on what I have on hand.  The Tomato Tone is very good on all nightshade plants such as tomatoes, eggplant, peppers and potatoes.  I have never been disappointed with my results  I also will use this when doing an initial planting  Placing a large pinch of this in the hole along, with a pinch of Epsom Salt and a tablespoon of Rock Phosphate, before putting the plant start in the ground.  My results are great from year to year and I attribute that partially to the use of these fertilizers.


These two are nice extras that I like to have on hand for other plants and trees that I keep.  The Plant Tone is an all purpose fertilizer that is great for everything from herbs to flowers to house plants.  This will keep your plants healthy and green and the flowering plants will be happy you fed them with this.  

The Citrus Tone, obviously is great for citrus shrubs and trees.  I have Meyer Lemon, Turkish Lime, Kumquats and Tangerine shrubs that I use this on and they love it.  It has the proper balance of nutrients that the citrus plants require to give you a great fruit production.

            My Favorite Soil Amendments


 The next three are, in my opinion, essential to have on hand.  I consider them both medicine and vitamin.  The first is the Rock Phosphate.  I once listened to a presentation by a master gardener in Texas who recommended that you use rock phosphate when planting and that is was helpful to proper cellular structure, limb development and overall strengthening of the plant.  He also said that it would boost the speed and size at which the plant would grow.  I can attest to this fact.  Rock Phosphate helps your plants grow strong and large helping to give you a bountiful harvest.  I have been using it for a number of years in my garden.  Rock Phosphate is only used only when you plant and never as a top dressing application where it will do no good.  Place a tablespoon in the hole before you seat your plant and water in well.  It will not benefit your planting unless you put it in the ground.  Top dressing will not do anything for you.  

Next on the list is Bone meal, a great top dressing to have on hand for when you need a phosphorus boost or if your soil is deficient in phosphorus. Mixing some in before you plant will help along the way.  Only apply Bone meal as needed.  

Blood meal is a wonderful soil amendment for when you see a nitrogen deficiency in your garden.  This can be seen if you have sickly or yellowing plants which can be an indication that you have a nitrogen deficiency.  Top dressing and mixing in some blood meal can be a helpful remedy and give your plants the boost they need to start growing again.  I will warn you however, if you have dogs that have access to your garden, they find the smell of both the blood meal and bone meal irresistible so they may dig up your plants looking for a bone or dead animal that is not there.


Soil acidifier is something I use once a season on my blueberries, Azaleas and other acid loving plants like my blackberries and raspberries.  They only need an initial boost in the early spring to get them going.  This is also used on my Hydrangeas when I want to make them that beautiful blue color.  Did you know that Hydrangeas are blue because of acid content of the soil?  If you want them pink, leave them alone, but if you want them blue, give them a good dose of acidifier and you will have the big blue blooms you desire.  

Last on this list is Garden lime, necessary for every gardener to have on hand.  Lime is the exact opposite of the Acidifier.  Lime neutralizes acidic soil levels and provides garden soil with calcium, which is necessary for good plant development.  Lime also is helpful with breaking down compost and injecting the soil with good microbes and bacteria to get decomposition going.  Lime should only be used as a neutralizer if you have found your garden soil to be too acidic for vegetable gardening.  Never randomly toss lime in your garden without first knowing that you need it.


Lastly, these three items, shown above, I would never dream of being without in my garden.  Epsom salts are essential, in my opinion to growing healthy tomatoes as well as peppers and eggplant.  Epsom Salts are nothing more than Magnesium.  It gives your tomato a calcium boost and the proper nutrients to avoid dreaded blossom end rot as well as blossom drop, giving you a higher yield and in the end a bigger harvest.  

SuperThrive is something I have been using for literally YEARS!  It is the wonder drug of my potting shed.  A product that is all natural, full of vitamins and minerals and I have seen it bring back plants that were seemingly dead.  I kid you not, this stuff really is miraculous and I have seen it work first hand.  SuperThrive is amazing.  I will hand water by mixing a capful with a gallon of water and just keep on doing that.  About once a month everything gets a boost with SuperThrive.  I also use it when I receive new bare root plants or purchase berry canes or grape vines and soak them in a bucket with a larger dose of this mixture.  You can use it as often as you like and you can mix it up in a spray bottle and spray your plants with it so they get the benefit of absorbing it through their leaves.  You can find SuperThrive in most larger garden centers and you can order it online as well.  Don't let the price put you off.  I have a quart sized bottle I paid a pretty penny for, but that was three years ago and I have yet to use an entire cup of it in that time.  

Lastly is Fish Emulsion, my favorite brand is Alaska but any brand will do.  Warning, this stuff is stinky!  I mean really stinky and it will make your garden stinky too, but in the best way possible.  Mix this up in a sprayer with water and spray your plants use it in the water and give them a nitrogen boost.  Directly spraying will actually act as a natural pest repellent because so many insects hate the way it smells and tastes and it is a lovely deterrent.  I love fish emulsion for the deep green it gives to my plants because it is high in nitrogen.  Water in with this about once a month and spray with it if desired about every two weeks.  

I hope this gives you a bit more in depth information about what I like to use in my garden on a regular basis.  This does not include things I use for pest control.  That will be another blog altogether!

I hope you enjoyed this, I hope you learned something and I hope you are encouraged to go plant something!  Happy Planting!

You can see a companion video about this topic on my YouTube channel 

Monday, June 9, 2014

Volunteers in the Garden! Perfectly Natural!

Welcome to my newest blog!  Noreen's Garden is our latest addition to the Noreen's Kitchen family of channels and blogs.  Soon we will have our gardening channel up on YouTube and be putting up gardening videos every Tuesday for you to enjoy!  I have so much I have wanted to share with all of you and now I have a nice tidy place to do that.  Combined with the YouTube channel it should be a lot of fun.

So this Year it seemed almost impossible to get the garden going and growing!  Planting season was put off by unseasonal cold weather as well as a killer virus that had both my husband and I down for nearly a month.  We swear that it sounded like a Tuberculosis ward in our house for a couple of weeks. Thankfully neither of our girls succumbed to the sickness and it was just the two of us soldiering through it.  Three to four weeks is a long time to feel like crap!  So the garden went without getting tilled and mulched and a lot of things for a long time.

We finally got into the yard, got the trash to the dump, got the boxed mulched over, got the assessment done and decided to scale down a bit this year.  It is our hope to transform part of our garden into a chicken coop for next year and have a small back yard flock to give us eggs and eat bugs!  One can dream.  I am a big believer that all things in good time but I am a very impatient person!  So I wait!  

So, even with the delay, the garden is back on track somewhat.  I go out every day and try and battle the war of the morning glory.  NEVER, I repeat, NEVER plant them on purpose!  You will live to regret it.  Ask me how I know!  Tomatoes are in, we have my favorite Lemon Boy and some Romas a Sweet 100 cherry, a grape and a couple new varieties, a German Queen heirloom and one called Bounty which claims to be disease resistant.  We shall see.  We have Black Beauty eggplants, King Arthur Bell Peppers, Orange Flame and Yellow Bell Peppers and Jalapenos.   These are all safely tucked into their boxes and thriving in their deep layer of composted tree mulch.  Hopefully we can look forward to a bountiful harvest.

The most exciting sight of all, though is to find volunteers in the garden.  Leftovers from last year or even from the pile of newspapers and mulch where I dump the cages from our squirrels.  A few sunflowers have popped up along with what appears to be a pumpkin plant and a couple of random tomato plants that have decided to come up for air.  Last year we planted tomatoes that were taken over by morning glory, at some point I just let them go and the morning glory won.  Now we are still fighting the good fight, but the tomatoes are winning!  

We also are looking forward to an amazing bounty from our raspberry patch that seems to have formed over the winter.  A couple of years ago we got a raspberry cane off the clearance rack at the home improvement center, put it in the ground and frankly did not expect much.  Well it has been two years and now it has set so many suckers we should be in raspberries for a good long time and I couldn't be happier!

Volunteers are one of the best parts of my garden.  I always welcome them and they always surprise me it's like free lunch that was given to me by Mother Nature!  So go take a look, maybe you have some volunteers of your own.  Consider them a blessing and be kind to them.  Foster them, feed them and receive their bounty thankfully!