Fertilizer is essential to growth

As a conscientious grower, you are doing everything you can to get your seedlings off to a good start.

As a conscientious grower, you are doing everything you can to get your seedlings off to a good start.

You have used strong potting soil, prepared the beds with compost and fertilizer and have sown the best seed you could get your gloves on. Good so far, but may I recommend that every time you water seedlings in pots that you use a diluted mixture of fish fertilizer and water? The nitrogen encourages good leaf development.

By the way, I learned from a neighbour to water seedlings from the bottom of the tray instead of sprinkling over the top because capillary action brings water up to the seeds and they don’t have to be watered every day.

Once your seedlings have a few leaves you can also use a foliar spray (also referred to as compost tea) to really fire them up. Foliar spray is like watering from above, but the idea is to only wet the leaves, not the soil. The leaves absorb nutrients directly from the spray, getting an immediate boost as well as protection from disease. When we had the drought last summer my garden never noticed it, even though I only watered for half an hour twice a week with soaker hoses. I attribute this to foliar spraying once a week.

For a few decades now I’ve been foliar spraying all my crops, even tomatoes, once a week and I like the results. When I had an allotment garden, my crops were just as good as the best gardens on site. Except for club-root and the blight when my tomatoes weren’t protected, I don’t recall any crops sustaining diseases and perhaps this is due in part to the weekly foliar sprays from these fermentations.

You can ferment almost anything for a spray — compost, plants grown specifically for it like comfrey, weeds – I’ve even used morning glory, roots and all, as well as manure and coffee grounds. Take a bucket or garbage can with a lid. Put a shovelful or two of compost or an amount of vegetation equal to one-third of the container into a pillowcase or burlap bag. Tie it shut and place it in your container. Fill the container with water, put the lid on and let it sit for one week. Longer won’t hurt. You might want to do this outside so your family doesn’t disown you. After the week is up, stir it up, pour some out into a watering can and add enough water to dilute it to the colour of weak tea.

Then just spray this on everything in your garden but the cat until you’ve used up all the tea. I’ve found that a regular-sized garbage can makes enough tea for my 1,000 square foot garden plus a 20-foot length of espaliered fruit trees and a small flower patch. This year I’m going to add a half teaspoon of mild dish soap per gallon when I spray the brassicas since I’ve read that this helps the tea stick to the leaves. For now my seedlings don’t require much spray, so a bucket will suffice.

I love foliar sprays, but unless I have a desire for solitude I keep them outside. When I bring out the bucket David usually finds a reason to visit the Country Grocer. On proof reading the above David suggests I should try adding old provincial Throne speeches. They have enough compostable end product to do the job 10 times over!


For your calendar:

1. Saturday, April 9, 9:30 a.m., sharp: Dinter Nursery perennial exchange. Also between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. will be a master gardener clinic.

2. Saturday, April 23, 3 p.m.: The next meeting of the Lake Bloomers will be at Lindahl Farm to see their new lambs and check out their bee hives. Their farm is at 6456 Cowichan Lake Rd., next to the Stone Soup.

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