Is NPK really just NPK??? Your Thoughts and Experience Please...

just.wing.it

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#1
In honor of my new friend @Bananaman, who made a salient point yesterday regarding fertilizer, I wanted to bring the question to the rest of the Nutters.

Here it is in a (B)Nutshell, is there any good reason or benefit to switching up your fertilizer periodically?

NPK is NPK, right???

So why would one choose to use Blue Juice one week and Chocolate Fish Milk the next?

The useable nutrients are still the same 3 chemicals, right???

My only thought besides what Bananaman said, about giving the owner a warm fuzzy feeling inside was, MICRONUTRIENTS in the natural fish product could differ from those in chemical ferts...and may be beneficial.

I don't consider it a waste of money, because if you're using it all, then you're using it all...by switching back and forth, you double the length of time it takes to use all of either....its not wasting, unless you're truly wasting it.

I know I might not like eating the same thing for every meal, but do my trees give a damn?

Thoughts please...
Thanks!
 
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#2
That's an interesting discussion topic.

Is there a good reason to switch periodically? Yes. Of course there is! Some fertilizers have different concentrations of nitrite, urea and ammonia. Every plant favors a certain type of nitrogen source to others.
When you're not sure about what to use, it's good to switch sometimes to see if there's something beneficial.
That, and some fertilizers are bound with acids, buffering molecules and/or trace elements. I like to feed a balanced diet of everything, so that there's a good and viable ecosystem in the soil.
I use rain water and tap water, based on the environment (did it rain or not, right now we're at week 3 of the dry spell). So I'll need some more acidic nutrients; bound with preferably with acids.

Trace elements / micro nutrients are one of the most underestimated nutrients, since they play giant parts on photosynthesis, plant health and immune system, as well as a host-symbiont response and host-pathogen response.

K and is usually only bioavailable in one form, so for those it shouldn't matter much. Phosphorus knows some different forms, and a plant or mycorrhizae could possibly benefit by some, and be inhibited by other forms.

Here's a valuable resource with every nutrient and it's main functions and pathways briefly explained on pages 25-29:
http://brochure.duchefa-biochemie.com/Duchefa_catalogus_2010_2012/
 

just.wing.it

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#3
That's an interesting discussion topic.

Is there a good reason to switch periodically? Yes. Of course there is! Some fertilizers have different concentrations of nitrite, urea and ammonia. Every plant favors a certain type of nitrogen source to others.
When you're not sure about what to use, it's good to switch sometimes to see if there's something beneficial.
That, and some fertilizers are bound with acids, buffering molecules and/or trace elements. I like to feed a balanced diet of everything, so that there's a good and viable ecosystem in the soil.
I use rain water and tap water, based on the environment (did it rain or not, right now we're at week 3 of the dry spell). So I'll need some more acidic nutrients; bound with preferably with acids.

Trace elements / micro nutrients are one of the most underestimated nutrients, since they play giant parts on photosynthesis, plant health and immune system, as well as a host-symbiont response and host-pathogen response.

K and is usually only bioavailable in one form, so for those it shouldn't matter much. Phosphorus knows some different forms, and a plant or mycorrhizae could possibly benefit by some, and be inhibited by other forms.

Here's a valuable resource with every nutrient and it's main functions and pathways briefly explained on pages 25-29:
http://brochure.duchefa-biochemie.com/Duchefa_catalogus_2010_2012/
Mmm, yeah....that's what I remember now...about the urea and ammonia potentials...indeed!
Thanks so much for that WGW!
 

Anthony

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#4
Using compost is supposed to encourage microbes and other
beneficial reactions for roots/plant.
The compost we use is similar to Rabbit manure.
Compost is supposed to in the Northern zone take 4 years
to deplete.

Simple Miracle Gro lawn fertiliser at 1/3 strength into
moist soil.
Keeps the trees Lush and slow, healthy. in growth.

Since we grow our " Bonsai for Beauty not produce or
lumber. "
12 N works under our sun, in the dry months - once weekly.

Reports also say 1 or 2 K and 1 or 2 P [ not K20 and P203/4 ]
is more than enough for potted trees.

Been doing this for years.
No insect or fungal etc. Problems.
K.I.S.S.
Good Day
Anthony
 
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#5
In gardening many of the “experts” tell you not to use the blue stuff. Their reasoning is that it is good for the plant but bad for the soil. I don’t know why, but that is their tag line. Since I am using 100% inorganic soil in most of my bonsai and it will get changed every few years, I see no reason not to use it. I also water with manure compost-tea every so often if I have any left after watering my flowers, but that is a rare occasion.
 

JudyB

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#6
I use three differing things, but don't really have a regimen for it, sort of use them concurrently. Solid in teabags, so when it rains I still get fertilization (or when I need to use the auto watering) liquid for when I do the watering, and every week additional Cal-Mag, and humic acid at times. When it gets super hot, I add pro-tekt as well.

I do use the idea of your OP for feeding my dogs, finding two good dog foods and using both is helpful as a single one may not have all the nutrient that the combined have. I read about this in the Whole Dog Journal years ago, and it's a simple idea that makes total sense. If it makes sense for dogs, I suppose the same could be said for trees too.
 

Anthony

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#7
@Silentrunning,

a word of caution, though we use a good deal of information
from Rodale on organic farming.
A deep search revealed that compost tea was meant as some
type of fungal/insecticide, not a fertiliser.

Especially since the NPK for most compost is 1 or less than 1
as NPK goes. This includes manure as compost.
Tested the compost tea idea, about 2 years ago, as fertiliser.
Lost branches on trees as the year went by.

What the compost can do in the mix is hold fertiliser in
itself and negates the use of fish fertiliser, as an organic
source for microbes etc.
Good Day
Anthony
 

just.wing.it

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#8
I hammer my trees hard with fertilizer, no doubt.
With that said, its full inorganic substrate and I water twice a day.

@JudyB
I also switch my dogs food up, and he gets Dinovite as well...I started him on Dinovite when he had a rash show up under his rear leg. I always heard Dinovite helps skin/hair/fur related issues. He was clear in a week.
His coat is softer now, and he doesn't shed a much as before. Good stuff!
I'll keep him on it for life.
They make it also for cats and horses.
 
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#9
@Silentrunning,

a word of caution, though we use a good deal of information
from Rodale on organic farming.
A deep search revealed that compost tea was meant as some
type of fungal/insecticide, not a fertiliser.

Especially since the NPK for most compost is 1 or less than 1
as NPK goes. This includes manure as compost.
Tested the compost tea idea, about 2 years ago, as fertiliser.
Lost branches on trees as the year went by.

What the compost can do in the mix is hold fertiliser in
itself and negates the use of fish fertiliser, as an organic
source for microbes etc.
Good Day
Anthony
And this my friends is why I like this site. The amount of useful knowledge is unbelievable. Thanks Anthony.
 
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#10
The mode of action of said compost tea, is that it contains a lot of composting bacteria and fungi, and yeasts, and even archea (the archetype of life, to some).
All of those microbes need to compete for resources and try to defend themselves and their community with antibiotics. Remember penicillin? It's nothing more than a bread mold that has learned how to defend itself millions of years ago.
However, the effects can be devastating as well: the antibiotics these composters secrete, could potentially harm the beneficial ones.
Biological warfare is fun, but always be precautious. Fermenting bacteria found in coffee beans and fermented olives are notorious fungi-killers. They could potentially kill the mycorrhizae that are keeping a tree alive. It might be useful to let compost aerate before making tea, just to kill off some populations of fermenters that shouldn't access the soil of a pot.

That biological warfare, those mycorrhizae, and every microbe in the soil, prefers organic nutrients. That's what they've been eating since the dawn of.. well.. Themselves.
In the lab we try to mimic those circumstances, and we suck at it. That's why only 0.0000001% of all microbes can be grown in a petridish. That number might sound exaggerated, but it could as well be a thousandfold too low.
Trying to keep a community, and keeping that community alive, is key for a trees survival. One more reason to switch nutrient sources now and then.

The more I learn about microbiology, the more I have to acknowledge, that there's nearly a 50 years of work to be done to understand them as much as we do plants and animals. And I'm saying that with the current speed of science at the time in the back of my head.
 
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#12
@Leo in N E Illinois had some interesting info about low P fertilizer that i’ll take into consideration next time I am due for a purchase. I think it is not as simple as NPK because there are micros, but as long as you are getting micros, you wouldn’t need to go out of your way to switch it up, but switch if you got em, I suppose.
 
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#13
I go 1/5 strength 20/20/20 every morning. I’ll go the same with fish fert seaweed extract if Canadian Tire ever gets in more of the sprayers I need. My reasoning for doing it everyday is that is how trees live in the wild. Worms, animals microbes are all fertilizing the ground slowly, but steadily.
 
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#16
Strictly speaking from my point of view, and this is my fertilizer and its micros all in one fertilizer. Is it probably pretty easy to me to make a statement like why use all different kinds of fertilizer when this one has everything I need. I guess if your stuck with whats available to you then I guess you have to mix it up.

happy growing...
 

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#17
Also notice that this fertilizer is 2 percent nitrate nitrogen. Very expensive and mostly not available in most commercial fertilizer. Nitrate is immediately available to the plant. Absolutely no need to break down for uptake.
 

just.wing.it

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#18
Strictly speaking from my point of view, and this is my fertilizer and its micros all in one fertilizer. Is it probably pretty easy to me to make a statement like why use all different kinds of fertilizer when this one has everything I need. I guess if your stuck with whats available to you then I guess you have to mix it up.

happy growing...
Does look like some good stuff....
What brand is that?
 
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#19
Does look like some good stuff....
What brand is that?
Hi JWI,
I guess you don’t need me to tell you this, but you would need organic matter in your bonsai soil, for any kind of ferts to bind to first.
FWIW, I use those little green balls of chemical fert I both my Bonsai soil and my growing out pots. Why, because I like to feed my trees for at least 12-15 months, then repot and the cycle starts again. Great growth, and the NPK of organic fert is 1/4 to 1/2 the strength of chemical ferts.
Charles
 

just.wing.it

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#20
Hi JWI,
I guess you don’t need me to tell you this, but you would need organic matter in your bonsai soil, for any kind of ferts to bind to first.
FWIW, I use those little green balls of chemical fert I both my Bonsai soil and my growing out pots. Why, because I like to feed my trees for at least 12-15 months, then repot and the cycle starts again. Great growth, and the NPK of organic fert is 1/4 to 1/2 the strength of chemical ferts.
Charles
Thats why I'm not too concerned with over-fertilizing. The trees are watered with fertilizer in the morning and then watered regular in the late afternoon, early evening...although most of my trees have either sphagnum moss on top, which works its way down over time, or live moss, which has some dirt attached usually, which washes down over time...

I actually have some green balls sprinkled throughout as well...