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

EPM

Yamadori
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#21
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.
Do you rely on water for calcium or use lime in your soil mix? I use rainwater so have to find fertilizer with calcium and magnesium which aren't in things like miracle gro. The fertilizer you suggested at least has magnesium in it and looks good overall.

I've been using dyna gro foliage pro which like the fertilizer you suggested has hugh nitrate. They claim that high nitrate to ammonium results in shorter internodes. Not sure what types of plants that it true for or if it's just nonsense. Haven't had time to research it.

I've been wondering about the difference between nitrate, ammonia, and urea in terms of availability for the plant and also the impact on the microbiome in the pot.
 

JudyB

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#22
Do you rely on water for calcium or use lime in your soil mix? I use rainwater so have to find fertilizer with calcium and magnesium which aren't in things like miracle gro. The fertilizer you suggested at least has magnesium in it and looks good overall.

I've been using dyna gro foliage pro which like the fertilizer you suggested has hugh nitrate. They claim that high nitrate to ammonium results in shorter internodes. Not sure what types of plants that it true for or if it's just nonsense. Haven't had time to research it.

I've been wondering about the difference between nitrate, ammonia, and urea in terms of availability for the plant and also the impact on the microbiome in the pot.
I also use rainwater mostly, so I supplement with Cal Mag+. (I also use foliage pro..)
 

Anthony

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#23
@just.wing.it ,

as moss grows it produces, a peatmoss like material, which
decays to compost.

Remember peat moss holds 15 times it's weight in water.

We have moss able to grow to over an inch in height and
this is on a broken piece of porous brick. Nothing but
water needed and it keeps growing.

Once in a while one can cut away an inch of dead brown
stuff from underneath.
Started off as a 1" square now about 6 inches square, and
pieces have been harvested off.

Isn't this soil stuff simple, just work with Nature.
Good Day
Anthony

!*So a porous clay pot holds water and fertiliser, and your
compost does the same.
Hmm, NPK reserve.

Compost also supplies Ca and Mg and ............................
 

Anthony

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#24
@just.wing.it ,

here is something just started a few years ago.

Soil size change ---------- 3 mm inorganic.
Using the idea that a shallow pot retains more water.
Also finer inorganic particles, but the mix of inorganic
to organic by parts remains the same.

Example - Buddleja indica
Full Sun
Thirsty plant.
12 N less than 1 P or K and Ca, Mg, coming from Compost.
I believe the Miracle gro Lawn Fertiliser has Fe
Micro nutrients from compost.

I figure you will be hitting this stage as well.

When you reach 30 to 40 Bonsai. you will want the simplest
fertilising situation.
Otherwise Bonsai will be a pain.

Oak type leaf, reduction is excellent - Sub-Tropical.

Repotted yearly.
Also flowers continuously, and fruit after November to March
Good Day
Anthony

With time more and more of our trees will be going into a finer sized mix and
much shallower pots, to help emphasize the trunk.
So the soil will be called upon to hold more moisture / fertiliser.

i.oak.JPG
 

EPM

Yamadori
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#25
@just.wing.it ,

here is something just started a few years ago.

Soil size change ---------- 3 mm inorganic.
Using the idea that a shallow pot retains more water.
Also finer inorganic particles, but the mix of inorganic
to organic by parts remains the same.

Example - Buddleja indica
Full Sun
Thirsty plant.
12 N less than 1 P or K and Ca, Mg, coming from Compost.
I believe the Miracle gro Lawn Fertiliser has Fe
Micro nutrients from compost.

I figure you will be hitting this stage as well.

When you reach 30 to 40 Bonsai. you will want the simplest
fertilising situation.
Otherwise Bonsai will be a pain.

Oak type leaf, reduction is excellent - Sub-Tropical.

Repotted yearly.
Also flowers continuously, and fruit after November to March
Good Day
Anthony

With time more and more of our trees will be going into a finer sized mix and
much shallower pots, to help emphasize the trunk.
So the soil will be called upon to hold more moisture / fertiliser.

@just.wing.it ,

here is something just started a few years ago.

Soil size change ---------- 3 mm inorganic.
Using the idea that a shallow pot retains more water.
Also finer inorganic particles, but the mix of inorganic
to organic by parts remains the same.

Example - Buddleja indica
Full Sun
Thirsty plant.
12 N less than 1 P or K and Ca, Mg, coming from Compost.
I believe the Miracle gro Lawn Fertiliser has Fe
Micro nutrients from compost.

I figure you will be hitting this stage as well.

When you reach 30 to 40 Bonsai. you will want the simplest
fertilising situation.
Otherwise Bonsai will be a pain.

Oak type leaf, reduction is excellent - Sub-Tropical.

Repotted yearly.
Also flowers continuously, and fruit after November to March
Good Day
Anthony

With time more and more of our trees will be going into a finer sized mix and
much shallower pots, to help emphasize the trunk.
So the soil will be called upon to hold more moisture / fertiliser.

View attachment 200196
Do you screen your compost? Can you refresh me on how you make your compost?

I like the idea of using some organic matter for all of the reasons you have previously stated but the problem I struggle with is that if you(or me or whoever) are using a larger mostly impermeable inorganic substrate, that eventually the compost (if smaller than the inorganic) will just "pack" into the spaces between the inorganic substrate at the bottom of the pot leaving you with the same situation you would have had if you were using organic by itself. The one variable I didn't mention is the speed of root colonization. If roots colonize the finer material (relative to the inorganic), before it can settle and "pack" at the bottom, than maybe it will be stabilized in the pot and not be a problem from a drainage perspective.

Another consideration is the pore size between mostly spherical particles of some uniform size, say 3 mm in your case. I haven't ran through the math but it seems to me that if your organic particle were at least as large as the pore space between the inorganic substrate, it would be stable and not settle to the bottom, unless it breaks down. You would, however, have to be concerned about air filled porosity though, regardless of settling, if you were essentially filling all of the gaps between the inorganic with organic.

I don't want to highjack this thread and turn into yet another soil discussion so if you feel like it PM me so we can discuss. You seem to have success with your approach that's why I ask you these questions.
 

Anthony

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#27
@EPM ,

compost is screened - [ ] mesh size.
Aged for a year is a 1/2 55 US gal. black barrel, kept moist so
weed seeds can germinate and die.

Just moist, so nothing is washed away.
compost is re-screened - [ ] mesh size for use.

Inorganic is 5 mm and though irregular in shape, closer to rounded.

Mixed at 7 to 9 parts inorganic and 3 to 1 part organic [ by little garden spade ]

When first watered in the pot, there is a very little organic material
washed out, you have to look for it.

Mature compost is supposed to produce glues [ listed as natural acrylics ]
so it probably does not move,, sticks to whatever is around it.
Not clogging and the mix remains mixed.

As compost ages, it glues itself into a similar size with regards to
the inorganic - 5 mm spheres.

As spheres, the material is now inorganic, but still has the ability to hold
water and fertiliser.
You would have to test in your climate for how long this takes.
On my side { Tropics ] it is one to two years.

All we have done here is mimic what happens in nature, as
leaf mold decays and enters a stony soil.

********
Please note - peat moss has to further decay to become
compost, a friend on your side says it takes 6 months indoors.
This might be where the clogging happens ---------- no glues.

*********************

What may have happened as it is with word of mouth education [ rote ],
someone mixed up peat moss/ bark with compost.

My compost information comes from an article in Rodale,
back in the 80's, from Estonia - I believe a zone 4.
So this may not be dismiss-able as -------- Tropical only.
The idea was ---- no ploughing needed.

Have repeated the idea above with glass marbles 12 mm,
hand rolled fired porous clay spheres 8 mm, 16 mm hydroponic
pebbles and 3 mm glass spheres.
With compost.
Same results, save some of the marbles did chemically decay
and release alkali's which messed with the acid loving trees.

As usual test ideas on expendable cuttings.

Please note we also used glazed porous pottery, porous pottery
and stoneware or porcelain.
Hope this helps.
Good Day
Anthony

Fukien tea - 1 year later - due for repot
fukien tea.jpg

enlarged view of soil mix -

soil.jpg
 

EPM

Yamadori
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#28
@EPM ,

compost is screened - [ ] mesh size.
Aged for a year is a 1/2 55 US gal. black barrel, kept moist so
weed seeds can germinate and die.

Just moist, so nothing is washed away.
compost is re-screened - [ ] mesh size for use.

Inorganic is 5 mm and though irregular in shape, closer to rounded.

Mixed at 7 to 9 parts inorganic and 3 to 1 part organic [ by little garden spade ]

When first watered in the pot, there is a very little organic material
washed out, you have to look for it.

Mature compost is supposed to produce glues [ listed as natural acrylics ]
so it probably does not move,, sticks to whatever is around it.
Not clogging and the mix remains mixed.

As compost ages, it glues itself into a similar size with regards to
the inorganic - 5 mm spheres.

As spheres, the material is now inorganic, but still has the ability to hold
water and fertiliser.
You would have to test in your climate for how long this takes.
On my side { Tropics ] it is one to two years.

All we have done here is mimic what happens in nature, as
leaf mold decays and enters a stony soil.

********
Please note - peat moss has to further decay to become
compost, a friend on your side says it takes 6 months indoors.
This might be where the clogging happens ---------- no glues.

*********************

What may have happened as it is with word of mouth education [ rote ],
someone mixed up peat moss/ bark with compost.

My compost information comes from an article in Rodale,
back in the 80's, from Estonia - I believe a zone 4.
So this may not be dismiss-able as -------- Tropical only.
The idea was ---- no ploughing needed.

Have repeated the idea above with glass marbles 12 mm,
hand rolled fired porous clay spheres 8 mm, 16 mm hydroponic
pebbles and 3 mm glass spheres.
With compost.
Same results, save some of the marbles did chemically decay
and release alkali's which messed with the acid loving trees.

As usual test ideas on expendable cuttings.

Please note we also used glazed porous pottery, porous pottery
and stoneware or porcelain.
Hope this helps.
Good Day
Anthony

Fukien tea - 1 year later - due for repot
View attachment 200242

enlarged view of soil mix -

View attachment 200243
What material do you start the composting process with? How often do you turn it, or stir it, to provide aeration?

I don't doubt the part about "glue" in compost. Particularly in the presence of roots. Roots secrete exudates and I've seen resources on the web (can't recall where at the moment) that discussed how plants will secrete these exudates to try to make the soil to their liking by encouraging certain microbes/fungi. In this way, with the help of microbes/fungi they can transform even a nasty heavy clay soil into something they can grow in.

For instance, read about glomalin on wikipedia. It states: "Glomalin eluded detection until 1996 because, “It requires an unusual effort to dislodge glomalin for study: a bath in citrate combined with heating at 250 F (121 C) for at least an hour.... No other soil glue found to date required anything as drastic as this.” - Sara Wright" and "Glomalin-related soil proteins (GRSPs), along with humic acid, are a significant component of soil organic matter and act to bind mineral particles together, improving soil quality."

The "glue" sounds pretty robust.

I guess the trick is getting this to happen in the small pot. Sounds like maybe you've figured it out. Interesting stuff.
 
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#29
How about adding organic compounds like sugars, starches, and even oils?
I have used sugars to help cuttings and rootless plants recover. With some succes.
It's usually the soil micobiome that benefits first.

In the lab, we do nothing without sugars.

Tissue culture protocols state that pines benefit a lot from 20g/L sucrose for example.
A high sugar content could(!) benefit trees in winter storage. Sugared water has a freezing point of -3°C instead of the 0°C for regular water. Less ice is less damage.
 

Anthony

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#30
@Wires_Guy_wires ,

tropics here - no real winter.

@EPM ,

we do the lazy man's compost heap.
Base materials is Leucaena l. leaves [ 2.6 N 1.2 P 0.9 plus miicros ]
Rabbit manure is 2.4 N 1.4 P 0.6 K plus micro.

Then add all the stuff in the yard to a 10 x 10 x 3 feet high heap.

Leave alone for year.
Then roll back and harvest what you need.

Doing research into fritting glazes using an ash base. Came across
information on weeds and the micro-nutients they store.
So all the weeds in the yard go there.
Yard has Avocado, Bamboo, Mango, Citrus, Seagrape, Croton and
so on, yard is about 12,000 square feet.

The Leucaena comes from another property on the east coast.
The trees there were used to regenerate, clay soil land a developer
had wrecked and the trees were used to re-colonise the land.
Now they are old enough for lumber and lots of leaves/ weed trees.
Another 10 x 10 x 3 foot area also on 12,000 sq.feet.

Further readings and practice, gave this -

Trunk development and 6 branches [ apologies chopmeister ] - ground growing
Branchlet refinement -- over sized plastic bonsai pots from Dallas Bonsai.

Fertiliser in ground - Blaucorm pellets 12 N.........
Fertiliser in pot -- 1/3 strength Miracle Gro - lawn fertiliser/
Maybe able to go to 1/ 6 strength as oil seed cakes provide 5 / 6 N 2 / 4 P 1 / 2 K ......
Will test.

The idea is to spend more time [ after getting the plant healthy ] on the
Design.

Nothing else is really needed.
You just have to factor in for your climate [ humidity / air temperature ].
Also know that many high density branch bonsai from Japan are cultivars.
To get similar results you need cultivars -------- not soil or fertiliser.
K.I.S.S
Good Day
Anthony
 
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#31
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!
Correct me if I'm wrong, doesn't synthetic fertilizer defeat purpose of organic fertilizer in that it kills the good microbes and fungi through the salt deposits? If so. I would not alternate weekly. Instead use synthetic at developmental stage then organics. Or just use organics whole time.
 

coh

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#32
Correct me if I'm wrong, doesn't synthetic fertilizer defeat purpose of organic fertilizer in that it kills the good microbes and fungi through the salt deposits?
I don't know about that. Before I started using organic ferts, I still found tons of myco in my pots during repotting. Maybe if you use way too high of a concentration.

The argument I heard recently from RN was that chemical ferts like miracle grow don't kill soil microbes, they just don't do much if anything to encourage their proliferation...whereas organics do. Supposedly ;)
 
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#33
I was thought, and i see/reed it manny times. Chemical/synthatic fertilizers are less controlled, fast releasing nutrians. Salt will kill. Really interesting. I stick too abrakas. Is there somebody fertilizing with co2, or c?
I stick to my regime, fish mix in spring. abrakas in summer. and 0-10-10 with abrakas in fall.
 

Anthony

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#34
The idea is microbes eat oxides, and as long as the
concentration is not too strong, they are unaffected
by the artificial solution.

Additionally, the microbes also die and become food.

Roots take in oxides by osmosis.

The problem, is as I understand it, there was a use of
too much K and P.
Hence the drop to 1 or 2 - K or P and the 12 to 6 N.

You can read in greater detail at -------- Garden Myths.

This why we are able to use Miracle Gro Lawn Fertiliser
at 1/3 strength [ possibly 1/6 ] in moist soil.

Or you can go totally inorganic in the soil mix, and use
fermented oil seed cake and fish emulsion.
The organic will rebuild from the composted seed cake
and organic fish.
I am not sure how tea bags and oil seed cake work,
BUT roots do rot and die - compost. Insect poop ...........
Good Day
Anthony
 
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#35
A lot of bacteria know how to handle chemical nutrients.
So do fungi.

The problems occur with the amounts some people use; too much will kill a tree, not just the microbes.
There's also the issue with high P in most nutrient mixtures. In nature, phosphorus is scarce, and bound with soil particles. It takes energy to release those. In nutrients and pots this is not the case. High P concentrations in our soil can cause microbes to die, phosphate is a preservative to some extent. Our local kebabs are full of it, and kebab has almost been banned by our version of the FDA because of their phosphate content.

Organic nutrients contain fibers and organic compounds (carbohydrates) that act as 'sugar source' for microbes when broken down. But the other elements that release from it, are the same as chemical/inorganic nutrients. Snacking versus balanced meals. Juggle those two and you'll have a happy soil.
 
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#36
Growth is limited by... The first element to become limiting for growth. As you do not know in exactly which ratio your plant uses the different elements, you never know which one is most limiting. Plants do build up stores of elements needed for growth. So they continue for a while even though certain elements are lacking in your fertilizer. It does mean that you can end up with depleted stores if you always use one type of fertilizer. This naturally for the elements that are available least to the plants, relatively speaking. So yes. Swithing between brands / types can help in keeping your plants happy. And indeed , it is not the macro elements but the micro elements / trace elements that are the tricky ones.
 
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#38
Most cultivated plants have been researched for composition or nutrient response by now, and we know exactly which nutrients they need. Vitamins are less known, but also less needed. Plants make their own.

Tobacco was the first, based on it's contents Murashige and Skoog (two researchers) made the first universal plant growth medium. I still use their research on a daily basis, since we work with their formula at 1x, 0.5x and 0.25x strength. There's some interesting reads about that research and how it solidified the foundation of modern tissue culture.
Their methods, or parts of it, are still used to discover ideal ratios of nutrients.

This has led to over 40 universal formulations, specific up to the nanogram sometimes.

Scots pine for instance, desires 0.5 strength MS salts (ms= murashige & skoog) for optimal growth. One could easily calculate how much of every nutrient is in there and make their own. I bet that's the case with 90% of bonsai suited plant species.

Interesting stuff! It's very much worth it to do some reading about those guys. Especially since I can relate how it feels to have 350+ clones and 350+ different nutrient compositions and having to work through all of them; the handy work, the analysis, the data processing. And then, after months, just filling in a file to have a factory produce the mixture by the barrel in minutes.
 
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#39
40 universal formulations
hm.. if it is universal, why do you need more than one?

desires 0.5 strength MS salts (ms= murashige & skoog) for optimal growth
Would this be at every moment of it's development? So from seedling to mature tree? In spring, summer and winter?

Basically, what I am saying.. Even though you may know what long-term, optimal balance between the fractions of nutrients should be, you do not know what the plant at any given moment needs, and you do not know what is available -Soil composition, PH, termperature all affect this-. So even if you did know exactly what the plant would like to have available, just adding that to your soild does not mean it is available.
 

EPM

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#40
Most cultivated plants have been researched for composition or nutrient response by now, and we know exactly which nutrients they need. Vitamins are less known, but also less needed. Plants make their own.

Tobacco was the first, based on it's contents Murashige and Skoog (two researchers) made the first universal plant growth medium. I still use their research on a daily basis, since we work with their formula at 1x, 0.5x and 0.25x strength. There's some interesting reads about that research and how it solidified the foundation of modern tissue culture.
Their methods, or parts of it, are still used to discover ideal ratios of nutrients.

This has led to over 40 universal formulations, specific up to the nanogram sometimes.

Scots pine for instance, desires 0.5 strength MS salts (ms= murashige & skoog) for optimal growth. One could easily calculate how much of every nutrient is in there and make their own. I bet that's the case with 90% of bonsai suited plant species.

Interesting stuff! It's very much worth it to do some reading about those guys. Especially since I can relate how it feels to have 350+ clones and 350+ different nutrient compositions and having to work through all of them; the handy work, the analysis, the data processing. And then, after months, just filling in a file to have a factory produce the mixture by the barrel in minutes.
Thanks for this informative post. What is the NPK ratio of the base MS formulation? Do you know of any commercial formulations that use the macros in the MS proportions?

I've been trying to learn more about fertilization and micronutrients this year since I had some various oak species and a Japanese beech develop mild chlorosis. I had a few Japanese black pine seedlings show some chlorosis symptoms. I've since tried to switch to rain water which has helped but for the oak trees has not entirely resolved. I've tried other things as well. Since then I've read that high phosphorus can interfere with absorption of certain micronutrients (can't recall the source offhand) so I've been trying to reduce that. Soil media could also be having an impact here. The mixture I used for oaks is high in pumice which can have a high pH depending on the mine it comes from, or so I've read.

This leads me back to my original reasons in making the post.

1) most fertilizers geared towards bonsai and most organic fertilizers have a high phosphorus content. Is this amount of phosphorus actually required by plants? If not why do fertilizer producers formulate them as such?

2) I've pointed this out earlier in this thread but thought I should bring it up again. A lot of people use miracle gro and similar fertilizers but those fertilizers don't have magnesium or calcium in them. If one is also using a mostly inorganic soil media and rain water for water needs your plants won't get those nutrients. I know a lot of people use tap water which can fulfill this need but unless you have your water supply tested you have no clue what your plants are getting. Miracle gro is recommended all the time to beginners who don't realize this so I'm trying to help them avoid problems.

3) the jbp seedlings mentioned above that showed the chlorosis were growing in entirely inorganic media(akadama, pumice, lava or 100% pumice or 100% DE). This was a little experiment of mine. Other JBP growing in a mixture of calcined clay, lava, expanded slate, decomposed granite, and pine bark did not have any issues. This was not a controlled experiment and not all seedlings in the media mentioned showed problems but for me showed that the buffering capacity and/or micronutrients in organic media can be helpful if your fertilization is off in some way.

It's all very interesting and unfortunately I don't have the time to fully explore it.