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Can we talk about fertlizer some more?

This is a discussion on Can we talk about fertlizer some more? within the General Orchid Culture forums, part of the Orchid Culture category; Wait a minute. How did you guys know what I said before I posted my ...

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  1. #21
    Aerides is offline Senior Member
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    Wait a minute. How did you guys know what I said before I posted my message? Is this live chat?

  2. #22
    Aerides is offline Senior Member
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    Red face

    I'm an idiot. I didn't go to the second page of the posts on the topic and have just repeated myself.

    Thanks for your patience.

    John

  3. #23
    Aerides is offline Senior Member
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    Anyway, unless you really like messing with mixing and measuring and things (which a lot of people do; the futzing makes them feel involved in their hobby), don't get too wrapped up over this calcium stuff.
    Yuck. I hate mixing and measuring. But.... There are all these fertilizers out there that are not the same. And lots of different water types. And on top of that these weird plants that like different drinks. And then that chemistry class that I blew off in High School. (darn it!).

    I admire your knowledge lja. If there was a Fertilizer 101 Class that I could take, I'd be first in line. I've been bitten by the fertilizer bug. Plus I admit it does make me feel involved with my hobby when I'm stuck here at the office with nothing interesting to do. I can play with minutiae !

  4. #24
    Heather is offline Banned
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    lol, John! me too!
    Both on the fertilizer 101 class, blowing off chem, and playing at work! Thanks for making me smile in the midst of all this science!

  5. #25
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    Is the extra calcium bleeding out onto the leaf surface? I have never had hard water stains on my plants before, since our tap water is very soft. Too much calcium now?
    John, here's what's going on (and I promise this'll be my last "sciencey" post. Really!) (Okay, maybe not...)

    So, anyway:

    Tap water contains a lot of dissolved carbon dioxide. Matter of fact, if you take a container of distilled water and let it sit out for a few hours, it'll go from being pH 7 to being pH 5.6. The carbon dioxide in the air gets dissolved in the water and forms carbonic acid, H2CO3.

    You're using an 8% solution of calcium nitrate, Ca(NO3)2. When you mix that with water that has all of that carbon dioxide dissolved in it, this is what happens:

    Ca(NO3)2 + H2CO3 --> CaCO3 + 2H+ + 2NO3-

    Calcium carbonate (the CaCO3) forms from the dissociation of calcium nitrate, and the stuff precipitates out of solution as the water (including the leftover hydrogen ions and nitrate ions) evaporates. That calcium carbonate forming is what's making the powdery residue and hard water stains on your plants.

    Obviously, using less calcium will decrease how much of that you get, but if you supplement with any calcium at all, some of it's going to precipitate out as carbonate. There's no getting around that.

    I would definitely go with the 4% formula instead of the 8; just know that, even then, that's way far more calcium than your plants are ever going to need or take up.

    So anyway, that's the scoop on calcium.

    Here, we fertilize with seaweed, and the calcicolous plants get a small handful "top dressing" of crushed oyster shell every once in a while to keep them happy. It works just fine; the plants seem very pleased, and the leaves don't get any of those nasty hard water stains.

    (And, by the way, I used to be a "futzer" myself, always messing with stuff, adding this, measuring that, especially when I was doing reef tanks. So I totally understand the urge!)

  6. #26
    Aerides is offline Senior Member
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    Heather - yeah - ain't it nice? I just moved all my orchid notebooks to the office, finally realizing that I would read a lot more there than at home when I have TV to distract me.... as well as the actual plants to "play with."

    lja, thank you again for pursuing this with me. I understand a little more now. And I'm beginning to wonder if, after all, Persistence wasn't right when he said that fertilizer was overrated. I fertilized my orchids with standard Peters 20-20-20 for years before I started finding out about pH and TDS and they did just fine. Then I got my HID system and decided to try to maximize efficiency. And truth be told, I've screwed up a lot of plants trying to get everything "just right." Ironic, isn't it?

    I might get better results if I traded in that "Fertilizer 101" class for "Zen and the Art of Orchid Growing."

    John

  7. #27
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    I might get better results if I traded in that "Fertilizer 101" class for "Zen and the Art of Orchid Growing."
    Yep! lol!

    The science is good, and it's important, but there are so many variables to consider--variations in growing conditions--that, even if we could pin something like calcium intake down totally pat, the other things that come into play will inevitably always change the results.

    So use the science to give some general guidelines and "how-to's", but use the Zen for the actual orchid growing. The folks who do that are the ones who seem to grow the best plants.

    And I'm very glad we pursued this too. Makes me feel like I got to know you a little bit!

  8. #28
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    lol! Zen of orchid growing! I'll take that over chemistry any day!

    This was a really interesting discussion! thanks everyone!

  9. #29
    Aerides is offline Senior Member
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    I'm enjoying getting to know you all too. The responsiveness has been incredible, and much appreciated.

    I think one helpful concept for me is "critical mass", which seems to apply to individual plants, as well as orchid culture in general. For example, I've always wondered why there were separate rules for professional growers and hobby growers. I thought, "isn't it just a matter of growing great plants, whoever you are? Same plants, same culture !

    Well, yes and no. Am I now on the right track in thinking that when you have THAT many plants to grow on, as well as the resources to maximize every aspect of growing under practically ideal conditions, culture becomes a whole new proposition ? That trying to duplicate these in the home or even hobbyist greenhouse is at best pointless, and at worst, actually detrimental?

    [Here, Galeandra, the good orchid fairy of the north, says, "That 's RIGHT ! But you wouldn't have believed me - you had to find it out for YOUR SELF ! Now click your heels together three times and go back to Kansas."]

    John

  10. #30
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    Lol!

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