Safefertilizer’s Weblog


Why Isn’t Earth Day Every Day?

Haven’t we reached the point where it can be “normal,” instead of “trendy,” to be “green?”  If you live a healthy lifestyle that’s good for the planet, and good for you, why is it called “green?”  Should that be what we all strive for? Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have Earth Day, just like it doesn’t hurt to have Valentine’s Day or Mother’s Day.  However, the same argument that everyone makes about Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day is that they are holidays that should actually be celebrated, year-round.  I would argue that Earth Day fits well into that category.  Here’s why:

In a Time Before Plastics

There was a time when people had no choice but to be earth-friendly in the way they went about their daily business.  A time before plastics.  Plastic started out as a plant derivitave.  During the late 19th century, scientists used cellulose (a component of plant walls), nitric acid and alcohol to develop the first hard plastic.  Rayon fibers were originally synthesized from plant materials.  However, digesting plant fibers in harsh chemicals does not exactly preserve their “earth friendly, natural” state.  Natural rubbers from plants were discovered and used widelyprior to synthetic rubber.  Then came the “breakthrough.”

Bakelite, the first plastic to become widely available commercially, during the 1920s, and PVC, which came into use after World War I, opened the door to massive use of plastics.  Because it was relatively inexpensive to manufacture, using petroleum products, plastic started to replace many natural containers/substances.  Instead of cotton fabrics, people wore rayon or polyester.  Instead of silk stockings, they wore nylon.  Instead of cloth bags, they used plastic.  Instead of glass jars, they used plastic.  You get the point.  Remember that “Sugar in the morning, sugar in the evening” commercial?  Substitute plastic, and you understand where we are now.

How Convenient is Plastic if it is so Destructive?

I think something we’re trying to get back is the “long view.”  It is a pretty abrupt about-face from scientific progress, and developments for hundreds of years.  It is easy to see how we got here, really.  When your life depends entirely on getting food for your family, working a farm and staying alive, any new development to make life easier is positive.  As economies grew, prices rose, and industrialization pushed people off the farm and into the cities.  At that point, folks were dependent on others to grow or raise food, and get it to them in an edible format.  So, anything that made transport easier and less expensive was celebrated.  The grind continued.  Cheaper, easier, cheaper, easier, cheaper, easier.

STOP:  Why are the ice caps melting?!?

Backpedaling as Fast as we Can

So, turns out that plastics may be convenient in the here and now, but there might not be more heres and nows if something isn’t done to curb their over-use that results in clogged land fills, pollution from factories and melting ice-caps, which will potentially further reduce arable land mass.  How do we make sure people are interested in “going back to the land” and “being kind to the earth?”  Make it FUN!  Make it TRENDY!  Show celebrities doing it!  Cue the guilt trip! Cue the re-usable bags at Wal-Mart!  (Made of plastic, but since it won’t go away, might as well recycle it!)  Show the adorable Master Card commercial with the little guy helping his dad be more earth-friendly.

Less Fuss is Actually Fine

It is actually ok to be good to the earth, good to yourself, and good to your friends and family without getting so wound up about it.  I would argue that one way to accomplish this is for everyone to be a little more tolerant of people that are already doing this.  We’re not freak shows, we promise!  We may not be famous, we may not be rich, and we may not be vegan, but we’re doing what we can, and we’re happy doing it.  If we promise not to proselytize about what we’re doing, do you promise to let us do it in peace?  How about if we promise not to tease you if you decide that what we’re doing would work well for you?  Sounds good to me!

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Micronutrients in Natural Fertilizer

You’re probably used to looking for the “fertilizer analysis” on the package of fertilizer you purchase.  Normally, the package lists the N-P-K number, or the percentage of Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potassium containd in the fertilizer.  Those nutrients are called “Macro nutrients,” and they are some of the most important nutrients, needed in the highest quantities, by all plants.  There are, however, other nutrients that plants need.  If the plants don’t get these nutrients from the soil, you’ll know it because your plants will have problems.  Here is some information about these micro nutrients, what they do for the plant, how to recognize nutrient deficiencies and how to treat them.

Boron

Boron is part of flowering, fruit and seed formation, metabolism (breaking down stored sugars), and water movement.  If your plant is deficient in Boron, it will grow slowly, and the terminal bud at the top of the plant or end of a branch could die.  Add organic matter like compost or a natural fertilizer to add Boron to the soil.

Copper

Copper is present in every part of the plant and is a catalyst for activity with enzymes.  If your soil is deficient in copper, the tips of plants will die back.  Muck soils are most likely to exhibit copper deficiencies. You can add copper sulfate to add copper.  You need to be EXTREMELY careful if you add copper to your soil.  It is better to add organic matter or a natural fertilizer.

Manganese

Plants need manganese for photosynthesis, enzyme catalyst, iron intake and vitamin uptake.  If the soil has a dearth of Manganese, the leaves of the plants will look mottled in between the veins.  Eventually, the leaves will turn white and fall off.  The more acid the soil, the more available the manganese is to plants.

Zinc

Zinc plays a part in protein and starch synthesis, as well as seed development.  It is a mobile nutrient, so lower leaves of the plant will show the effects first.  An excess of phosphorous will cause zinc to become unavailable.

Iron

Iron is sometimes unavailable to plants in soils that are alkaline (have a high pH).  Some plants can literally remove all of the iron from the soil.  Blueberries are heavy iron consumers.  Adding compost to the soil is one way to ensure that iron is available to all plants.  Adding seaweed fertilizer to the compost pile or to the soil will also make iron more available to plants.

If your plants look unhealthy, try adding a natural fertilizer with macro and micro nutrients to the soil, or work in organic matter.  Your plants will thank you!

Calcium

If your plants don’t get enough calcium, you will see it in the stems and roots of growing plants.  Blossom end rot in tomatoes and peppers is a symptom of calcium deficiency.  You can increase calcium in the soil by adding lime.



This is Ridiculous!

gmosjustsaynoIt don’t matter which side of the political fence you are on, conventional, commercial agriculture is going to be, or already is, a scourge on world population.  Even with industrial agriculture’s claim that its chemicals and genetically modified seeds are feeding many more people all over the world, we all know that isn’t true.  If that were true, why are there so many hungry people in every nation?  Not just on continents like Africa and Asia, but also right here in the United States?  Big Agriculture isn’t about feeding people, it’s about making money, period.  There are other, much scarier things going on than lobbying for miracle gro use in the White House vegetable garden.  We’ll cover those another time.

Enter the Lobbyists

I read this article this morning.  I almost threw up a little in my mouth.  I found it from some of my twitter followers.  (You can learn so much on twitter.  If you’re not already on it, I suggest joining.  It is also a huge time suck-but don’t say I didn’t warn you.)  Apparently, the chemical companies are lobbying Michelle Obama to use more chemicals in her garden.  Because, what she wants to feed her two little girls, to teach them to love home-grown produce, is a poison covered cherry tomato picked straight off the vine.

There are a lot of young women between the ages of 25 and 35 years old who are having infertility problems.  Let’s just say that I am, in no way, a doctor.  I do, however, have a master’s in horticulture, and have spent countless hours reading about the effects of pesticides on DNA replication.  Has anyone looked into why these young women are experiencing such problems reproducing?  Does anyone think part of it might have something do do with eating pesticide laden food for years on end?  Food covered with poison that kills insects chiefly by disrupting the activity of their nervous systems?  Maybe I sound alarmist and part of a hippie, granola-eating fringe, but I’m really not.  And, I’m part of that age group having problems.  I haven’t tried to have a child yet, but I hope I’m more successful than some of my friends.  One thing’s for certain:  I won’t be spraying a bunch of chemicals in my garden while I’m trying.

The Tradgedy of the Short Term View

One of the worst things about Big Agriculture is that its synthetically produced fertilizers are NOT sustainable.  They use incredible amounts of petrolium to produce, they are short-acting, and they wash away into rivers, lakes and the ocean, wrecking havoc on marine life.  However, Big Ag loves these chemicals, because they do not make the soil better, they make plants grow fast.  Because farmers have to buy these chemicals year after year, they keep Big Ag in business.  And that is all Big Ag cares about.  Don’t be fooled by any touchy-feely advertisements.  They are doing everything they can to make sure that we are dependent upon them to eat, forever.  However, the joke will be on them if something catastrophic happens and then they can’t feed themselves. Unfortunately, that’s not going to do us any good.



Info for New Vegetable Gardeners!

tomatoThis year, there is a ton of interest in vegetable gardening!  There is even a vegetable garden on the White House lawn for the first time in decades.  Something we care about a lot is making sure that all of the new gardeners joining our ranks hit the ground running and get a good start to their vegetable experience.  There is nothing to kill the enthusiasm more than failure!  We’d like to help you prevent that.  With that in mind, here are some tips for new vegetable gardeners.

  • Start with the soil.  You will have many times more healthy vegetables-in terms of quantity and quality-if you start by building up the soil.  There are a number of ways to do this.  You can order a load of compost from a local soil company.  For instance, in Wilmington, NC, you can order compost, or compost/topsoil blend from a place called Seaside Mulch.  You can also fertilize with a natural fertilizer like proto-gro, which is full of trace elements and nutrients that many soils lack.  Your vegetables are only as nutritious as the soil in which they grow, so make your soil healthy!
  • Plant your vegetables in full sun.  Some vegetables will grow in a bit of shade, in the hot south.  Most vegetables need at least ten hours of full sun a day, and you will be disappointed with the results if they don’t get it.
  • To feed your family sustainably, grow open-pollinated vegetable varieties.  This is especially important these days, because many of the seeds you can get at the store are hybrids that will not produce reliable seeds from year to year.  Look for seeds that are NOT labeled as F1 hybrids in your local garden center.
  • Plant flowers and vegetables together.  Flowers attract the bees that pollinate the vegetable plants so that you’ll have vegetables.
  • Provide plenty of water.  If you live in an area that is prone to drought, set up rain barrels under the gutters to catch the runoff from your roof, and use that to water.
  • Invest in a good vegetable gardening book.  One of the best books out there is the  A-Z Guide to Growing Organic Food by Storey Press.  It tells you when to plant seeds, when to transplant, which plants grow together well, what to do about pests, and good varieties to grow.
  • When planting fine seeds like lettuce or dill, cover with a thin layer of lightweight potting mix instead of regular garden soil.  This will hold water well and be easier for young plants to push up through.
  • Don’t be tempted to bite off more than you can chew.  Start with a few vegetable beds and gradually expand.  For people with little time or space, the book Square Foot Gardening or the All New Square Foot Gardening are excellent books about gardening in small spaces, on a couple of hours a week.

There is almost nothing as fun as watching your own veggies sprout from seed and grow into delicious ingredients for meals.  The most important part about getting started with vegetable gardening is, well, getting started.  Scratch a bit of soil, plant some seeds, water and watch them grow!



The “Green” Fog
June 20, 2008, 12:16 am
Filed under: Natural Gardening News

The “Green” Fog

There is an almost overwhelming, indecipherable amount of advertising, promotion, and product-hawking of so-called “green” products.  On Sunday, June 15, 2008, The New York Times ran an article, still available online here about all of the environmental/green “noise” blanketing planet earth.  They do not describe the greenness as a fog, but that is how it appears to me. 

 

The Paradox of Choice

If you read about taste tests and grocery store sample programs, most notably in the book The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz, you will find that more information and more choices do not necessarily make us happier, but in fact, make it harder for us to make decisions.  The availability of too much information does not make it easier to decide, but rather paralyzes us with indecision, and give us feelings of helplessness.

 

“Green” Information Overload

The article in The New York Times describes such a phenomena happening with “Green” products, information, warnings, etc.  Sometime, a couple of years ago, “Green” became less of a way to identify something good for the environment and was stolen by marketing executives, advertising companies, and focus group facilitators.  Suddenly, everything is “Green,”  everything is somehow “natural” and healthy.  (Even if it isn’t.  That’s called “Spin.”) As a result, two things are happening:

 

1) Consumers are on overload, and are tuning out

2) Products and practices that are better for the environment are getting lost in the debate

 

Finding the Golden, er, “Green” Mean

The Golden Mean is the ideal center, the place where all is in balance.  With such a wealth of information available, selecting the right, environmentally friendly choice that you can live with is more important than ever.  There is a lot of misrepresentation about the good and the bad, in regards to environmentally friendly products.  In order to make the best choice, find the most reputable sources possible, and the experts in the field.  Read contextual information about the products you might choose, and then decide.  When possible, go with the natural, recyclable and less-damaging item, as far as you can understand.  Not throwing away is always better than throwing away.

 

How Natural Fertilizer Fits In

Well, this is, after all, a blog about natural fertilizer and natural gardening.  On our main page Natural Fertilizer Reviews we provide reviews for natural fertilizer and seaweed fertilizer products.  We also provide researched and cited articles and book reviews about the latest in natural and organic gardening.  We provide products, but we also provide information to help you make the choice that is best for you.  Check it out!  Let us help you navigate through the “Green Fog.”  At lease in the area of lawn and garden fertilizer.



Watering Tools for Natural Gardeners
June 18, 2008, 10:57 pm
Filed under: Natural Gardening Tools

For success in your natural gardening venture, you need to have the right tools.  The basic place to start is by examining your watering tools.  You may be thinking “Of course I need a hose and a sprinkler.  I already know that.”  First of all, you do not need a sprinkler.  Sprinklers are a super way to waste water.  Second, you do need a hose, but what kind?  Third, in order to deliver water most efficiently, and beneficially to plants, you need a watering wand with a breaker on the end.  The breaker breaks up the solid stream of water from the hose, turning the stream into something like raindrops, reducing the chance for runoff of the water you hope will reach your plant roots.  A breaker also does not spray water in forceful streams like a water “gun.” 

 

For everyday watering, I prefer a passive breaker, such as the one pictured, rather than an attachment with different settings. To reach plants far back in flower beds, you need a watering wand to attach between the breaker and the hose. 

 

The newest trend in watering wands is a “touch and flow wand,” however, I like the plain old metal pipe with a breaker attached, pictured.  Anything that requires me to squeeze a handle while watering for an hour or two at a time is not something that works long-term for me. The want allows me to reach the roots of the plant without bending over or sending a harsh, damaging spray.  Sometimes the most simple tool is the best.

 

So, why a wand and hose instead of a sprinkler? 

For diverse plantings with mulch in between, a wand makes sense.  You put the water exactly where it needs to go—near the plant—instead of watering yards of mulch.  You use less water when you hand water.  You also spend less time watering because you can water deeply, stimulating roots to grow deeper and lessen the frequency of waterings. 



The Tomato Scare is Scarier Than You Thought
June 18, 2008, 1:10 am
Filed under: Natural Gardening News

A recent outbreak of food poisoning caused by salmonella bacteria lurking on fresh tomatoes served at an as-yet-unnamed chain of restaurants in the United States is just one major food-borne illness to cause symptoms in more than a handful of people at one time.   The tomato-salmonella outbreak was frightening to many.  Lots of people are now avoiding fresh tomatoes, just as they did during the Spinach Scare of 2006.  They might switch to eating more fresh tomatillos, or eggplants, just as spinach eaters switched to arugula.  Changing food types is not the answer to preventing future food scares or outbreaks of bacterial illnesses related to improper food handling.  The tomatoes did not cause the problem.  People caused the problem.  The only way to ensure that the food supply stays safe is to pay attention to how food is grown, harvested, cleaned, shipped, stored and sold.

 

Bacteria is Everywhere

Every time you eat a fresh fruit or vegetable—or any food that has not been cooked at very high temperatures—you take a risk that you could consume something harmful.  Washing helps remove pesticides, dirt and some harmful surface-dwelling residues on food, but it cannot kill bacteria.  A small amount of bacteria might cause an upset stomach, while a potent or large amount of bacteria can cause serious illness.  However, if you eat raw food, you will always risk eating something that could make you ill.

 

There is no possible way to rid every surface of everything of harmful bacteria.  With the advent of anti-bacterial everything—soap, shampoo, counter wipes, makeup brushes and more, we run the risk of creating super-bacteria that are resistant to anything and everything we use to stop them.  Living among bacteria helps our immune systems grow strong and build antibodies to fight off bacterial infections.  Being exposed to too little bacteria can potentially be as harmful as too much.

 

We’re Surprised That Outbreaks of Food-Related Illness Do Not Happen More Often

Commercially produced food including plant materials and animal products is awash in chemicals, fecal matter, dust, insects and more.  If you really think about what you are eating, you will never want to eat.  (Upton Sinclair, anyone?)  Non-organically grown meat products are filled with hormones and raised by feeding animals dubious food products—sometimes food products made from other animals.  Cereals and other processed grain products have insect parts in every box.  It is impossible not to.  (Extra protein!).  Organically grown crops could be fertilized with manure that has not been thoroughly composted to kill e.coli and other harmful bacteria.  There are many links in the food supply chain where food can be exposed to potentially harmful conditions.

 

Grow Your Own for Peace of Mind

The only way to truly know what is in or on what you put in your mouth is to grow your own.  You can be fairly certain that your lettuce is safe and your tomatoes can be eaten off the vine if you are the one controlling what inputs are used to grow the produce.  It is impractical to grow everything you eat—and impossible if you enjoy foods that do not grow where you live.  However, it can make a difference in the overall quality of your food, and can give you peace of mind.  To avoid bacteria related food-borne illnesses when growing your own vegetables, try natural fertilizer products to give your plant a boost, without introduction of toxic chemicals and harmful bacteria.