Chemical Fertilizer Side Effects & The Importance of Humus

Salt is a commonly accessible form that is simple to dissolve in water and may be used as a plant food or a prepared chemical fertilizer. They are proportioned in a way that is balanced to ensure that the plant receives all of the vital ingredients. For instance, the first number (10) on a bag of commercial plant food with the notation 10-6-4 indicates the percentage of nitrogen; the second number (6) indicates the percentage of phosphorus that is accessible; and the third number (4) indicates the percentage of potassium that is water-soluble (also known as potash). It’s possible that the remaining 80% of the fertilizer combination contains filler material and trace components to ensure that the plant food continues to function properly.

There is a wide variety of nutrient-rich manure and compost available on the market today. Because roots are composed of phosphates and potassium, a lawn fertilizer that is heavy in nitrogen, for instance, is not as suited for dahlias and other bulbs or plants with a lot of bulk in the root system.

Reduce the amount of chemical fertilizers you use. Any plant may be harmed by receiving an excessive amount of stimulation. When fertilizing young plants in particular, extreme caution is required since there is a high risk that the material will be lost if more of it is applied than the plants are able to take up.

When water-holding and soil-conditioning humus is added to soil, chemical components are kept in solution for a longer period of time. Humus also improves soil structure. Additionally, the presence of a number of chemical components that are only made accessible in small amounts over time in the humus itself contributes to the provision of a nutritionally sound diet for the plant.

Humus From the Garden Center

Peat moss, which is sphagnum moss that has been partially decomposed, is an excellent source of humus that is nearly generally accessible and is suitable for use in smaller gardens. It has a low nitrogen content and a high acidity level, and it is often marketed in bales. It has a dark color, a fibrous texture, a crumbly consistency, and it is quite light. Although it is particularly beneficial for acid-loving plants like rhododendrons and azaleas, it is also beneficial for other types of plants.

Sedge peat is a kind of peat that is found in marshes and is created when grasses, sedges, and reeds are buried for thousands of years while submerged in water. The kind of peat that is often referred to as “Michigan peat” is sedge peat, and it has a hue that is typically rather dark.

Other materials that can be used to produce humus include leaf mold, which is formed when leaves break down and accumulate on the ground of a forest or wood lot; seaweeds; spent hops; decomposed sawdust; decomposed wood ships; ground sugar cane residue (bagasse); ground corn cobs; decomposed animal manures and compost; and ground sugar cane residue. Every garden has to have a spot designated for the compost heap. It is constructed by alternating layers of vegetable waste from the garden and the kitchen with layers of soil, old sods, and manure, if these materials can be obtained.

There is no need that compost heaps be constructed in bins or that they be very elaborate. In point of fact, it is better for the decomposition process if the pile is begun below ground level and then progressively increased as waste is gathered. This is because it allows air to circulate underneath the pile. Instead of being spherical, it should be maintained flat or have a little hollowed out top, in order to allow moisture to accumulate in the middle. Maintaining an appropriate level of moisture inside the pile is necessary for effective decomposition.

When allowed to decompose appropriately, animal manures result in the production of high-quality humus and nutrients. Composting should be done for at least a year in order to ensure complete decomposition of the materials before they can be used to amend the soil surrounding a plant.

Since around 2008, Mother Earth News has been publishing articles on “killer compost,” which is mostly composed of composted cow dung and includes traces of the persistent herbicide Milestone ™. This herbicide is most often used for controlling broad-leaf “weeds” by spraying it in pastures. The herbicide is ingested by the cows when it is present on the plants that they graze, then it is expelled from the cows and remains in the composted dung for a number of years. If you apply this compost to gardens, it will drastically impede the development of almost anything that you have growing in your garden. Make sure the compost you use in your garden does not include any traces of this herbicide. If it does, your garden might become a barren wasteland for a number of years until the chemical decomposes. Aminopyralid is the component of Milestone that is responsible for its effects. Additionally, it is offered under the names that are mentioned to the right.

Cow dung is an excellent source of nutrients for plants. Because it is both moist and heavy, it is an excellent manure for loams that range from light to medium in texture. Horse dung is a dry manure that warms up the ground and is great for heavy, cold, clay-like soils; there is, as a general rule, a fairly substantial amount of litter in it, and this also contributes to the warming benefits of horse manure. Horse manure may be applied directly to the land. The greatest sources are from stalls that make use of peat or straw as bedding for their animals. If wood shavings were used instead of compost, the garden would benefit less from the manure since wood shavings take a very long time to decompose when they are mixed in the soil. However, this kind of manure is suitable for use as liquid manure or for surface mulching.

Pig dung, in general, is similar to cow manure in that it is a rich and potent manure that may be unpleasant to deal with until it has sufficiently decomposed. It is particularly beneficial when applied on light land. When free of litter, manures from sheep, poultry, and pigeons resemble guano in consistency more than traditional excrement does. They should be stored in an area that is protected from the elements and kept dry. If they are to be maintained for an extended period of time, they will benefit greatly by having a very thin dusting of rock phosphate applied to the daily buildup of dust. Utilize a half pound to three halves of a pound per square yard, and softly hoe it in before cropping or using it as a top dressing to plants. It makes an excellent top-dressing when combined with an equal volume of fine soil and stirred together.

In the spring, manure that has been composted and used on farms should be tilled into the soil. Only in the fall should you apply fresh manure to your garden. Layer it at a thickness of between 2 and 3 inches.

The commercial names of herbicides where aminopyralid is found:

  • Banish
  • Chaparral
  • CleanWave
  • Forefront
  • ForeFront HL
  • GrazonNext HL
  • Halcyon
  • Milestone
  • Opensight
  • Pasturall
  • Pharaoh
  • Pro-Banish
  • Runway
  • Synero
  • Upfront

Other Soil Additives

Green manures, also known as cover crops, are fast-growing plants that are seeded with the express purpose of turning into the soil when they are at the height of their lush and green development. This practice is known as “green manuring.” Green manure may be made from a variety of crops, including Italian rye grass, buckwheat, vetch, rye, soybeans, rape, and turnips. This plant debris is not chopped down and placed in a compost pile; rather, it is tilled straight into the soil. This method could be referred to as “direct composting” in certain circles.

The different bone meals are used as fertilizers for broad applications and have an impact that is more long-lasting than that of many others; the finer they are ground, the faster they function. They have a high phosphate content and even have a trace of nitrogen. Because it does not burn and can be applied to almost any plant without causing it harm, bone meal has earned the reputation of being the “safe” fertilizer. You may use it for roses, dahlias, and bulbs.

The ashes that are left behind after burning any sort of vegetative matter, including wood, assist to “sweeten” the soil by bringing its pH closer to the alkaline end of the scale. The fine dust in wood ashes also contains a proportion of potassium in a form that is most beneficial. Apply as a finishing layer around existing plants and on lawns either at the time of cropping or afterwards.

When it is available, dried blood or blood meal is acceptable to use on plants, particularly rhododendrons and water plants. It contains nitrogen. The recommended application rate is between 2 and 3 ounces for per square yard. It is also effective as a rabbit deterrent.

It takes cottonseed meal a long time to breakdown, making it an ideal fertilizer for plants that thrive in acidic environments.

Milorganite, which is produced from sewage sludge, is an excellent all-purpose fertilizer.

Soil Preparation

When putting up a flower bed, or doing any type of gardening for that matter, one of the first steps that must be taken is to carefully till the soil.

A spade, garden fork, or mechanical tiller may be used to turn the soil or do other types of conventional digging. The ground is turned to a depth of one spade (a spit means the depth of soil that can be conveniently moved in one spadeful). During this step of the process, any kind of soil conditioner, such humus or fertilizer, should first be put all over the ground, and then it should be worked into the soil. The clods should not be broken up, but rather left rough, if the ground is to remain in its current state during the winter months. It is necessary to unearth and remove all of the roots, plants with woody stems, and big stones.

Double digging requires much more labor, but the long-term benefits more than justify the additional work. A line is then laid across the plot to be excavated at a distance of two feet from the beginning of the line. The next step is to dig a trench that is one inch deep and two feet wide. The dirt from this trench is then transported to the other end of the space and placed close to the last strip that will be excavated. It is possible to line the bottom of the open trench with a layer of sand, stones, or other debris of a similar kind, as well as toss in some leaves, straw, manure, or other types of conditioning material. This is then spaded into the subsurface, which is the second layer of earth. Increase the amount of humus, leaf mold, or peat moss that you apply if the subsoil is sandy. The garden line is then moved another two feet, and the topsoil that was removed from the strip is combined with appropriate conditioning ingredients and used to fill the initial trench. This process is similar to standard digging. After that, the operation is repeated as many times as necessary until the dirt that was initially taken is utilized to fill in the final trench.

The practice of mulching is an important component of soil management for the homeowner who tends a garden. The majority of materials used for mulching do more than only assist prevent the development of weeds and preserve moisture; they also slowly decay and, in the end, provide humus to the soil.

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