Its HollyTone Time!

espoma

Remember, Fraleighs recommends an application of HollyTone fertilizer twice annually to maintain and enhance your gardens and landscapes. Halloween and April Fool’s Day are the approximate dates we set to help folks to remember to feed their plants. HollyTone is a great organic low-analysis (4-3-4) acidifying fertilizer well suited to our alkaline soil types. The HollyTone formulation also contains beneficial organisms — helper microbes — that complement and enhance healthy root systems. Perennials, shrubs, ornamental grasses, evergreens, and trees can all benefit from a twice-annual application. Stop by today — our staff would be glad to help you calculate how much you need, explain the simple application process, or arrange for our crews to make the application for you.

Beginning in 2012, Espoma tweaked the formulation of HollyTone. The product is now an even better soil acidifier with 5% instead of 2% Sulfur. That’s great for most of us contending with high soil pH. Most ornamental plants prefer a neutral-to-moderately-acidic soil, and HollyTone is now an even better way to mildly acidify gardens. Likewise, their new production method is providing a more ‘crumbly’ texture to their fertilizer, and this means less dust and hence a little less of HollyTone’s characteristic organic ‘aroma’.

Click here to learn more about the product.

Feed your Soil, Not your Plants (Part 2)

Mycorrhizae: Our Favorite ‘Fungus-Among-Us’

Following is part 2 of Feed Your Soil: Mycorrhizae.

(Read Part 1: The Benefits of Worm Castings)

In the drought-stressed summers that have become the new normal in Michigan, it is more and more essential to promote strong root growth early on for new transplants. This allows plants to reach deeper into the soil to obtain needed moisture during times of inadequate rainfall, along with the nutrients present there. Mycorrhizae aids in strong root development to help plants better withstand periods of drought.

What are mycorrhizae?

For those of you lucky enough to experience slinging compost or mulch onto your garden, you may have noticed white powdery patches as you forked or shoveled through the material. This is an indicator that mycorrhizae is present.

For healthy soils that contain it, mycorrhizae is the fungus among us, and one of hundreds of beneficial microorganisms that help plants absorb needed nutrients and fend off diseases.

How do mycorrhizae benefit plants?

Mycorrhizae are one of nature’s many miracles. Once you understand how it works, you will be amazed at how clever Mother Nature can be.

Essentially, it is the symbiotic relationship that exists between this useful fungus and its host plant that is so beneficial. Mycorrhizae attach to the plant’s root structure and feed off the sugars the plant produces and actually extends the plant’s roots deep into the soil to pull up nutrients that the plant can absorb. As the plant grows more vigorously, it produces more sugar for the fungus to thrive.

As you may or may not know, healthy roots are key to promoting healthy, vigorous growth and strong immunity to disease in plants. So, you can see how this relationship soon “blossoms”—each one helping the other to become stronger and more robust.

How do I get mycorrhizae into my soil?

Like most fungi, mycorrhizae propogates by producing spores. When applying fertilizers containing mycorrhizae to new plantings, remember to work the ingredients into the base of the planting hole. This encourages the plant’s roots to reach deeper to access these nutrients.

Fraleighs recommends . . .

Fraleighs recommends and sells the following organic fertilizers that contain myccorhizal spores:

Dr. Earth Products
  • Starter (N-P-K Analysis: 2-4-2 | Mycorrhizae: 233,174 propagules/lb of 8 species)
    Helps new transplants become established more quickly.
  • Life All-Purpose (N-P-K Analysis: 5-5-5 | Mycorrhizae: 233,174 propagules/lb of 8 species)
    Formulated for use as an all-purpose fertilizer, providing balanced and fast nutrition for all plants.
  • Organic 7 All-Purpose (N-P-K Analysis: 4-4-4 | Mycorrhizae: 233,174 propagules/lb of 8 species)
    Same as above with 7 strains  of beneficial soil microbes added.
  • Rose and Flower (N-P-K Analysis: 5-7-2 | Mycorrhizae: 233,174 propagules/lb of 8 species)
    Formulated for new transplants.
  • Bud & Bloom (N-P-K Analysis: 4-10-7 | Mycorrhizae: 233,174 propagules/lb of 8 species)
    Formulated for established plants. Provides an extra boost of phosphorus to promote flowering.
  • Metabolic Transformer (N-P-K Analysis: N/A | Mycorrhizae: 2,331,740 propagules/lb of 8 species)
    For use in problem areas such as where diseased plants have been removed.
Espoma Products
  • Biotone Starter (N-P-K Analysis: 4-3-3 | Mycorrhizae: 1,341 CFUs/g of unspecified mycorrhizal strains) Formulated for new transplants.
  • Holly-tone (N-P-K Analysis: 4-3-4 | Mycorrhizae: 895 CFUs/g
    of 7 species)
    An all-purpose organic fertilizer that neutralizes the pH of our native alkaline soils with additional acidity. This is beneficial since most plants prefer the pH to be more in the middle range. Fraleighs recommends two applications per year: April Fools Day and Halloween.
  • Plant-tone (N-P-K Analysis: 5-3-3 | Mycorrhizae: 895 CFUs/g
    of 7 mycorrhizal species)
    Same as the Holly-tone, but without the additional acidifying agents.

How do I get mycorrhizae to thrive in my soil?

Once your soil is inoculated with mycorrhizal spores, over time, mycorrhizae develop into larger and larger colonies. These colonies form a structure, much like a coral reef. The more intact these colonies remain, the more effective they are in benefiting your garden’s plants. So, the more you can avoid disturbing the soil through rototilling or churning up the soil mass, the better.

This is why many gardeners promote adding amendments through “top dressing.” This method consists of  layering soil amendments on top of established garden beds, rather than mixing them into the soil. This method minimizes soil disturbance.

Soil amendments that will add beneficial organic matter include shredded bark, wood chips, shredded leaves, or compost. These amendments provide the organic matter that helps to build healthy soil by creating the optimal environment for thriving mycorrhizal colonies as well as the many other microorganisms beneficial to plants.

As you garden your plots, consider the relationship you have with your land and soil. Continue to nurture it by feeding your soil, and both plants and soil will blossom together.

Feed your Soil, Not your Plants (Part 1)

Perhaps you’ve heard this phrase and pondered about what, exactly, this means.

Most fertilizers contain simply nitrogen, phosphorus, and potash (N-P-K) which are all nutrients that plants need in various proportions. However, plants also require other micronutrients besides these three ingredients. Healthy soils contain not only micronutrients, but also thriving colonies of microorganisms that live in soils rich in organic matter.

These microorganisms benefit plant growth, help prevent plant diseases, and in some cases, deter certain pests. So, in addition to N-P-K, you want to amend your soils with nutrients and organic materials that support these colonies.

Here are two examples of soil amendments that we have available that will feed your soil and benefit your garden, provided in two parts.

Part 1. The Benefits of Worm Castings

What are worm castings?

Simply put, worm castings is worm poop.

What are the benefits of worm castings?

  • Earthworm castings have over 60 micronutrients and trace minerals provided in a form that plants can absorb due to the presence of humic acid that serves as a binding agent.
  • Castings regulate soil pH.
  • Castings prevent plant diseases by extracting toxins, and harmful fungi and bacteria from the soil.
  • Castings repel insect pests that feed on plant juices, such as white flies, aphids, and spider mites due to the high level of chitinase that is present. Chitinase is an enzyme that dissolves insect exoskeletons. These insects have various detection mechanisms to determine the level of chitinase in the soil.
  • Due to the high humus content, castings help to retain moisture in the soil, making this a good addition to potting mixes used for container gardening.

How do I use worm castings in the garden?

Worm castings in seed beds

Worm castings do not burn your plants like some commercial fertilizers will. Worm castings applied directly to the seed bed will benefit new seedlings by providing a rich source of nutrients as they germinate and in the early stages of growth.

Prepare your seed row by making a shallow trench. Sprinkle the worm castings into the row, then the seeds and cover lightly with surrounding soil.

Worm castings with transplants

Throw a handful of worm castings into the planting hole when transplanting seedlings. For larger plants, toss a couple handfuls into the planting hole, as you would compost.

Worm castings as a top dressing

Sprinkle worm castings around the base of the plant and drip line of established plants.

Worm tea

Apply worm tea as a foliar spray to help prevent plant diseases, deter insects, and provide nutrients that plants will absorb through the leaves.

To make worm tea:

  • Fill a strainer bag such as a paint strainer or pair of old nylons with worm castings.
  • Dunk the strainer bag in a 5 gallon bucket filled with rainwater or tap water that has been allowed to stand for 24 hours to remove any chlorine that may be present.
  • Add a tablespoon or two of unsulphured molasses to promote microbial growth.
  • Allow to stand for 48 hours. If possible, activate an aquarium pump in the bucket to oxygenate the liquid.
  • Use a tea strainer to fill a pump sprayer, then apply to plants as a foliar spray.

Read Part 2: Mycorrhizae, the beneficial fungus among us.

It’s HollyTone Time!

Remember, Fraleighs recommends an application of HollyTone fertilizer twice annually to maintain and enhance your gardens and landscapes. Halloween and April Fool’s Day are the approximate dates we set to help folks to remember to feed their plants. HollyTone is a great organic low-analysis (4-3-4) acidifying fertilizer well suited to our alkaline soil types. The HollyTone formulation also contains beneficial organisms — helper microbes — that complement and enhance healthy root systems. Perennials, shrubs, ornamental grasses, evergreens, and trees can all benefit from a twice-annual application. Stop by today — our staff would be glad to help you calculate how much you need, explain the simple application process, or arrange for our crews to make the application for you.

Click here to learn more about the product.

 

“Gardening Solutions”

Yep, that’s the way our industry is now supposed to couch chemicals such as fertilizers, repellents, and pesticides. Wow, that is a lot of spin! We at Fraleighs work hard to make only the most reasonable ‘solutions’ available to our customers. Some are tried and true (i.e. Espoma’s HollyTone), others are new to our line-up, but come with some great pedigrees. Stop by to see what is on our shelves, but here is a list of some of our ‘solutions, with links to help explain why they’ve made our cut:

Dr. Earth Fertilizers — Organic Pro-biotic Fertilizers:

All Purpose Life 5-5-5

Rose & Flower Fertilizer 5-7-2

Rhododendron & Azalea FErtilizer 4-5-4

Starter Fertilizer 2-4-2

Fruit Tree Fertilizer 7-4-2

Monty’s Joy Juice fertilizer — our favorite 8-16-8 foliar feed

I Must Garden Animal Repellent — a pleasant smelling, easy to use granular formulation

Captain Jack’s Deadbug Brew — organic bacterial-based Spinosad insecticide

IMG_3720