Fertilizer from the sea

August 6, 2008 lawanda Newspaper Columns

      Remember the story of Squanto teaching the pilgrims how to fertilize their crops by planting a fish head under each hill of corn?  It turns out that Squanto really knew what he was talking about.

      Fish and seaweed from our lakes, rivers and oceans make excellent fertilizers for annuals, perennials, vegetables and even potted plants.  This time of year, you don’t want to hit your perennials with a whopping dose of standard fertilizer that will cause the plants to put on quick new growth that won’t be hardened off by winter.  But a little pick-me-up from a bottle of fish emulsion won’t hurt.  Annuals that need a little perking up or vegetables that aren’t producing as abundantly as you’d like them to will also benefit. 

      Fish emulsion, liquid seaweed, fish meal and kelp meal can be purchased at most garden centers.  The meals are mixed in with soil, usually before planting.  The liquids are diluted with water and either sprayed on the leaves as a foliar feed or used to water the plants.  Take note though:  this stuff really stinks!  Even worse than dead fish!

      There are benefits to both methods of application.  Foliar feeding makes the nutrients immediately available to the plants, but watering with diluted liquid products stimulates soil bacteria which in turn increases fertility through humus formation, aeration and moisture retention.

      Fish and kelp products provide small amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, the NPK you find on fertilizer labels.  More importantly though, they provide up to 60 trace elements that are necessary for healthy plant growth, along with growth promoting hormones and enzymes. 

      It isn’t fully understood how these elements work to help plants, but it is believed that they improve the plant’s growing conditions so they are better able to withstand pests and diseases.  Even the awful smell of the fish emulsion helps by confusing plant pests for a day or two and allowing the plant to become strong enough to withstand them or to progress to a stage in growth where it is no longer attractive to the pests. 

      The growth hormones in liquid seaweed are called cytokinins.  They increase the efficiency of photosynthesis and the synthesis of protein.  Plants produce these hormones themselves in their roots, but when under stress for any reason, they stop producing them, making themselves more vulnerable to pests and disease.  Providing them through an application of liquid seaweed is like giving plants a dose of vitamins.

      You may have free access to your own fish or seaweed fertilizer.  When you clean out your aquarium, use the old water to water your plants.  Spread the algae from your pond between rows of vegetables or add it to your compost bin.  If you are a fisherman, take a lesson from Squanto and bury those fish scraps in the garden.

Organic gardening

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Powered by http://wordpress.org/ and http://www.hqpremiumthemes.com/