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Optimizing Culture

This is a discussion on Optimizing Culture within the General Orchid Culture forums, part of the Orchid Culture category; ...

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  1. #1
    raybark's Avatar
    raybark is online now Senior Member
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    Default Optimizing Culture

    Those of you who have known me for a while are aware of my interest in constantly experimenting with stuff to improve my orchid growing, and to try to figure out why things work or don't.


    After all of the discussions we have had here and at other forums, and after about 40 years of experimenting, about 5-6 years ago or so, my orchid-care regimen evolved to the following:



    1. Use a potting medium and container that allows frequent watering without suffocating the roots.
    2. Use as pure of a water source as possible – collected rainwater, distilled, or reverse osmosis being best. Here in coastal NC, my tap water is pretty good, as-is.
    3. Water frequently – the more, the better.
    4. Thoroughly flood the pot at every watering.
    5. Use K-Lite, (12-1-1-10Ca-3Mg) @ 25 ppm N (about 1/6 teaspoon/gallon) at every watering. The mixing ratio will change, depending upon your frequency of watering.
    6. Add KelpMax @ 1:250 (approximately 1 tablespoon/gallon) once per month.
    7. Add Inocucor Garden Solution @ 1:100 once per month (approximately 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon/gallon – I just use 3 tablespoons for simplicity).



    Since doing that in my greenhouse back in Pennsylvania, I started seeing much faster growth, healthier plants with no rot issues, with better flowering and far more branching of growths than I've ever seen. About a year and a half ago, my plants were relocated and relegated to winter windowsills and summer on the deck, but I am continuing to see similar performance.


    Others who follow that regimen are getting similar results, but you know me, I "have to" see if I can deduce some logical reason for that, tying it back to plants in nature. Here's what I've come up with so far:


    The first four items combine to prove a moist, airy environment for the root system that remains clean of mineral buildup and plant wastes, much as tropical forest rainfall tends to be torrential, thoroughly flushing and aerating the detritus that collects around the roots of epiphytes and "semi-terrestrials" like paphs and phrags.


    K-Lite’s formula mimics the nutrient mix provided by host plant exudates and accumulated airborne particulates that are flushed down from the forest canopy whenever it rains in tropical rainforests. It is also a complete formula, containing important minor, and trace elements. The low dosing provides plenty of nutrition for these slow-growing plants, while avoiding root damage or the buildup of mineral residues and wastes.


    KelpMax certainly stimulates the plants into faster growth, but maybe equally importantly, it also provides a wide array of vitamins, amino acids and growth regulators that fertilizers do not. In nature, these are provided by indigenous bacteria and fungi which, unfortunately, are typically not compatible with our pot-culture techniques.


    The Inocucor product serves several purposes: the live microorganisms populate the potting media and the plants themselves, stimulating growth, absorbing and converting otherwise unavailable nutrients into usable compounds, and transferring them directly into the plants, supplementing the low application of fertilizer. Their metabolic byproducts also include sugars, proteins and amino acids that would naturally come from native microflora and -fauna in the wild. They also “beef up” the plants’ natural defensive capabilities as well as predating pathogens directly, resulting in plants that are relatively unstressed by diseases.

  2. #2
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    Great advice. Question about KelpMax use. When you use it once a month, do you add it to your normal fertilizer solution, or do you use it on its own?

  3. #3
    Azizan is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by CattyRobb View Post
    Great advice. Question about KelpMax use. When you use it once a month, do you add it to your normal fertilizer solution, or do you use it on its own?
    I have the same question in my mind. But generally I think it is used on its own.

    ---------- Post Merged at 07:41 AM ----------

    I have a few questions. What are the genera involved in your optimization process? 12-1-1 I assumed is for N-P-K? Did you ever used higher P fertilizer for blooming? You are fortumate that you can use tap water directly. I can never used my tap water directly here because it killed roots. I just started to use Seasol, it did stimulate growth but it doesn't help much the pesky grower. Did you have this occasion as well while using KelpMax? And the question came back to the plant itself, did you used KelpMax on high quality/awarded or pesky/slow growing plants?

  4. #4
    raybark's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CattyRobb View Post
    Great advice. Question about KelpMax use. When you use it once a month, do you add it to your normal fertilizer solution, or do you use it on its own?
    Quote Originally Posted by Azizan View Post
    I have the same question in my mind. But generally I think it is used on its own.
    Oh good. I was hoping this would spark some discussion.

    All three products may be used independently or mixed together in any combination.

    When I had a greenhouse in Pennsylvania, I metered a small amount of fertilizer (25 ppm N) into the RO water supply as I irrigated the plants, so that was a constant. Once a month, I put KelpMax in a hose-end sprayer, so everyone got that and fertilizer. Two weeks later, I used Inocucor in the sprayer, so everything got that mixture. Two weeks later, back to the KelpMax, and so on. Now that I am a windowsill/outdoor grower with a much smaller collection, I mix fertilizer in a 2-gallon watering can most of the time, and add both KelpMax and Inocucor to it at the same time, once a month.

    Quote Originally Posted by Azizan View Post
    I have a few questions. What are the genera involved in your optimization process? 12-1-1 I assumed is for N-P-K? Did you ever used higher P fertilizer for blooming? You are fortumate that you can use tap water directly. I can never used my tap water directly here because it killed roots. I just started to use Seasol, it did stimulate growth but it doesn't help much the pesky grower. Did you have this occasion as well while using KelpMax? And the question came back to the plant itself, did you used KelpMax on high quality/awarded or pesky/slow growing plants?
    Everything - all genera, species and hybrids get the same treatment, whether awarded clones or runts. That ranges from pleuothallids to vandas, with paphs, phrags, cattleyas, oncids, encyclias, zygos, maxillarias, phals, tolumnias - you name it - in between. The only dendrobium I grew was a D. speciosum v. hillii, and it thrived, as well.

    As an example of slow-growers, I acquired a bare-root Paph. stonei since moving - one old growth and a new one on the way. It is growing semi-hydroponically and getting the same treatment, but admittedly, I have not been as good about keeping up with it as I use to be. Nonetheless, the new growth is maturing nicely (I'm hope for a spike this year), and has two new growths emerging from its base.

    I have used the K-Lite (12% N, 1% each P & K, 10% Ca and 3% Mg, plus a wide array of minors) exclusively since late 2011, as it is intended to mimic what the plants see in the wild (which does not include boosted phosphorus). P "boosting" blooming is a myth.

    Let me add an observation here: Orchid growers are second only to pot growers in our search for the "magic ingredient" to make out plants grow better, and having had a career in the chemical industry, that is my natural bent. However, while I do feel that this "chemical triad" seems to fit that bill quit well, I cannot overstate the importance of the first four parameters in this regimen. A plant must absorb and process about 200 liters of water and only about 10 grams of fertilizer nutrients to gain around a kilogram of mass, so being able to deliver that adequately without causing damage to the roots is essential.

  5. #5
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    Following this discussion. Thanks Ray!

    cheers,
    BD

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    You mentioned your greenhouse in PA...I just built one in the Lehigh Valley (eastern PA) and was wondering what temperature range you kept the greenhouse in.
    I also just took an orchid course at DukeFarms in Hillsborough NJ and the instructor also strongly advised flooding the pots when watering (twice) and never using sphagnum moss.

  7. #7
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    Ray I'm also curious as to how often you're watering. Some I'm watering nearly every day, some every two days, some every three. How does that compare to your own watering scenario at the 25ppm rate of fertilization? I usually pour water with fert twice (or soak), then I pour plain distilled over the mix to flush it out some. I do that with every feeding right now. I think I figured before that my liquid MSU type fert worked out at 25ppm at one fifth of a scoop. I've just been using a fourth or so, as it's hard to eyeball a fifth in a scoop lol. I'll skip a feed here and there with the ones I'm watering more frequently. I dilute my solution to half strength for sensitive stuff and my Coccinea hybrids which seem pretty intolerant of salts.

  8. #8
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    o
    Quote Originally Posted by Mike H View Post
    You mentioned your greenhouse in PA...I just built one in the Lehigh Valley (eastern PA) and was wondering what temperature range you kept the greenhouse in.
    I also just took an orchid course at DukeFarms in Hillsborough NJ and the instructor also strongly advised flooding the pots when watering (twice) and never using sphagnum moss.
    I moved to NC from Doylestown.

    My greenhouse had propane heat, and was set to a minimum of 60oF, based upon a thermostat in the middle of the space about head high. That gave me warmer and cooler regions. I do NOT recommend day/night thermostats; set a minimum and let the sun do the heating on sunny days, and not on cloudy days. Warming the structure artificially on gray days can lead to leggy growth.

    In the summer, I had automated vents (wax motors) that opened at 65oF in the front and rear. If that didn't cool enough, a power exhaust fan came on at 80oF.

    ---------- Post Merged at 05:31 PM ----------

    Quote Originally Posted by CattyRobb View Post
    Ray I'm also curious as to how often you're watering. Some I'm watering nearly every day, some every two days, some every three. How does that compare to your own watering scenario at the 25ppm rate of fertilization? I usually pour water with fert twice (or soak), then I pour plain distilled over the mix to flush it out some. I do that with every feeding right now. I think I figured before that my liquid MSU type fert worked out at 25ppm at one fifth of a scoop. I've just been using a fourth or so, as it's hard to eyeball a fifth in a scoop lol. I'll skip a feed here and there with the ones I'm watering more frequently. I dilute my solution to half strength for sensitive stuff and my Coccinea hybrids which seem pretty intolerant of salts.
    In my greenhouse, I watered every day-, to every 3 days. Now that I'm watering more like once a week, I shoot for about 50-60 ppm N.

    Do yourself a favor, and make up a liquid concentrate. It's much easier to deal with.

    For example, K-Lite requires 1.45 g/gal for 50 ppm N. I mix up 2 gallons (256 ounces) of concentrate at a time, so mix approximately 256 x 1.45 = 371 g of powder in the two gallons. That way, I can take one ounce of that solution and mix it in a gallon of water, and I'm good to go. In reality, I mix 3/4 lb of powder for convenience, giving me about 45 ppm N when I use an ounce a gallon.

    At these concentrations, if you're doing a thorough flush with the fertilizer solution, you don't need to worry about individual plants, and you certainly don't want to follow up feeding with a plain water flush.

  9. #9
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    I see. I saw somewhere that nutrients hit the plant in force in nature when the rain starts, as it washes everything down. Also that orchids take up nutrients quickly in the beginning. Then, as the rains continue, they're washed pretty clean. Also something about doing that because the roots react worst to the salt when they get dry? They seem happy, but I'll chill on the flushing. It will certainly save me a lot of time and effort. I have some plants that I'm not repotting till the fall that came in in great fresh media, but it was pretty salty. There was also some leaf tip damage for sure. I'm surprised they didn't fare worse, honestly, from the look of all the salt residue. I'm finally getting all of it out. I've done a couple of plain flushes too with no feeding before. Was worried about the Coccinea hybrids especially. (50%) Read somewhere to cut your fert in half when feeding Cattleya Coccinea.

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    Isn't it great if one treatment fits all? My super slowest grower is Vandaenopsis Thai Cherry, like only half a leaf per year and no new roots since I got it. But I did realize that all of my Ascocentrum (now Vanda) hybrids are very difficult to produce new root and the Vandaenopsis Thai Cherry is the worst among them. I don't think that I will ever find those products here, even if there is, it probably will be so $$$.

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