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Thread: What's a good fertilizer?

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  1. #1
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    Question What's a good fertilizer?

    Hey all...

    I need a recommendation for a good all-around fertilizer for my orchids. The one I've been using was highly recommended by the high-end nursery I live close to, but upon looking at the label, I now see that 95% of the nitrogen in it comes from Urea, and I have read that Urea is bad for orchids.

    Also, I have recently discovered that some of my orchids need calcium, and this "professional formula" contains none.

    Could anyone direct me to a more well-rounded fertilizer for orchids? They seem to like the high-nitrogen, but I'd prefer it didn't come from Urea (although I don't quite understand the chemistry behind this), and I'd like it to have some other useful stuff like calcium and perhaps seaweed extract...unless seaweed extract is something I need to buy separately.

    Thanks, friends!

  2. #2
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    Jenn I use Michigan State University Fertilizer for well water. Well water can be quite high in Calcium (hard water with lots of mineral content), so if your on muncipal water supply Michigan State University came up with a separate formula for this and R/O water also. I am afraid I don't need to use a calcium supplement to feed my orchids, so I will let others chime in on this who do. In regards to a seaweed extract as you seem to already know others here use it and love the stuff as do their orchids. I use a leading brand of fish extract (Not cooked as fish emulsion is) with seaweed extract included for some of my orchids. The stuff has that fishy smell, though not as strong as emulsion does. I know you can get just the seaweed extract online. The fish fertilizer with seaweed extract is very high in lots of trace elements, though not high in NPK. I know of a good source for the Michigan State University (TYPE) fertilizer in Pennsylvania....................which I've used for years now. PM me if you need more information. AL

  3. #3
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    Hi my favourite fertiliser is Murate of Potash suitalbe for most plants and soil will add depth of colour to your flowers but use sparingly, Epsom salts (magnesium sulphate ) calcium Nitrate & occassionaly seaweed emulsion ( as conditioner only not fertiliser ) onnce a month a hormone treatment 1ml. per ltr. i find best to rotate to get balanced feeding . i have friend who does Not use chemical feeding the receipe is a mixture of weeds from your garden all types ,comfrey , aloe vera . garlic chives ( all in my garden & his ) chop inti small parts or put through mincer hehe. use enough to make , add hand full of cow or chook pellets to 10 ltres water . later use 1 cup of mixture to 5 ltrs water may need to strain if usuing pressure spray kills bugs while feeding naturally worth try ? can treat your whole garden cheers Richard

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    I use Dynamite, which is like Osmacote(sp), a tsp for most plants and I then supplement with a fish/seaweed combo.I was hesitant about using Dynamite but a nursery suggested it, tried it with a few plants first and seemed to work, with a big collection of plants it made things easier and even use it on my vandas, tied up in little balls and hung on the wire above the plant. I think the trick is to find what works for you, good luck.

  5. #5
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    I personally use Dyna-Gro 7-9-5 which seems to be a decent fertilizer, however I would recommend the MSU fertilizer as it is the standard. I also occasionally fert with just epsom salts dissolved in water and every so often with Pro-Tekt, another Dyna-Gro fertilizer that contains silica which is supposed to help the plant retain water and low temperature.

    Now, the reason you do not want Urea based fertilizers is because the Nitrogen that is in Urea is not biologically available to orchids. The way urea fertilizers work is that you water plants, typically in the ground, when the urea hits the ground and the surrounding root zone, bacteria get to work on breaking that urea down into it's elemental parts. It is from this that the Nitrogen can be derived and then used by the plant. Orchids are by and large Epiphytic and as such we grown them in bark or a myriad of other non-soil containing mixes. This eliminates the environment that the bacteria live in that break down the Urea. No bacteria means very little Nitrogen for the plant. So as an orchid grower, you want a source of Nitrogen that doesn't require additional breaking down in order for your plant to use it.

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    Thanks for the great explanation about urea. a guy came to our society last week and was asking me what fertilizer i used. He said that what i was using had urea, and suggested Gyna Grow.There is an all purpose orchid product. I am thinking of trying it.

  7. #7
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    Studies by Texas A&M University have shown that orchids utilize nitrogen derived from nitrate better than ammonical nitrogen. Nitrogen from urea is not available to the plants at all until it's broken down by bacteria in the soil. Since orchids don't grow in soil, urea nitrogen is mostly unavailable to the plant. Very few fertilizers have 100% nitrate nitrogen. I like to find fertilizers that get at least half of their nitrogen from nitrate. Don't use a Bloom or Bloom Booster fertilizer as your main fertilizer. Here are some suggestions:

    Orchid Focus Grow (100% nitrate nitrogen but no micro-nutrients. Use a fertilizer with micro-nutrients once a month with Orchid Focus)
    Norman's Optimal Orchid Nutrients (More than 50% nitrate nitrogen and all the micro-nutrients)
    Dyna-Gro Grow 7-9-5 (More than 50% nitrate nitrogen and all the micro-nutrients)
    MSU fertilizers are very good because they contain more calcium and magnesium and less phosphorus but I don't know which brand has the right kind of nitrogen.
    If you want to buy from a local big box store or nursery, Better-Gro Orchid fertilizer gets half it's nitrogen from nitrate.

    (This year I alternated each week between Orchid Focus and Norman's. But I'm always experimenting with new fertilizers)

    I use two supplements on my orchids;
    Maxicrop Liquid seaweed or other brand of seaweed extract (You can mix it with your fertilizer. It's a growth simulator so I only use it from April through Sept.. Not in winter)
    Magical (Magnesium/calcium supplement once or twice a month. If you decide to try this, use it by itself, don't mix it with your fertilizer.)
    Last edited by tucker85; October 11th, 2012 at 09:11 AM.

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    Tucker, I didn't know you could use seaweed extract on orchids! I use it on the garden, but am wondering if you use it on orchids, say phals, growing in bark etc? Also, I note you only use it in Spring through Summer. How much do you use please? Thank you.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bumblebee View Post
    Tucker, I didn't know you could use seaweed extract on orchids! I use it on the garden, but am wondering if you use it on orchids, say phals, growing in bark etc? Also, I note you only use it in Spring through Summer. How much do you use please? Thank you.
    I'm not Tucker, nor do I play him on TV, but "how much" depends upon which particular brand of seaweed extract you have. Puppies2 mentioned KelpMax, and that should be used at about a tablespoon per gallon, with fertilizer.

    I will add that the manufacturer recommends not using it more often than every 2- to 3 weeks. The product is loaded with auxins, which causes the plants to initiate new root tips. As they grow, they naturally emit cytokinins that cause the plants to grow. The response to the auxin increases for 3- to 5 days after exposure, then fades away. The cytokinin response follows a similar curve, and the whole, overlapping-2 curve thing takes about 2-3 weeks.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by raybark View Post
    I will add that the manufacturer recommends not using it more often than every 2- to 3 weeks. The product is loaded with auxins, which causes the plants to initiate new root tips. As they grow, they naturally emit cytokinins that cause the plants to grow. The response to the auxin increases for 3- to 5 days after exposure, then fades away. The cytokinin response follows a similar curve, and the whole, overlapping-2 curve thing takes about 2-3 weeks.
    Well that's good to know!! I was adding a small amount of fish fertilizer every time I watered. The vandaceous orchids didn't seem to like it very much. The roots started getting discolored and began looking a bit shriveled, so I stopped using the fish fert on the vandas. Actually, I sort of stopped using it altogether because I was so annoyed at how my Vanda roots were looking. And, of course, my Vanda vases stank like a fishing boat that had been sitting in the sun.....

    I have seen the fish fert "perk up" some plants, though...some of my species phals seemed to respond to it really well. My Phal mariae in particular REALLY took off after months of non-action after it received the fish stuff. But then the whole Vanda thing happened and I got sick of it. Perhaps now that I know the chemistry behind how it's supposed to work I can do a better job of using it!

    I also noticed when I went to my local home improvement center recently that they had a different brand of orchid fertilizer in stock called "Better Gro." There was one for general fertilization (higher in nitrogen) and one for bloom production (higher in phosphorous), but both boasted "NO UREA!!!" so I thought they would be better than the stuff I had been using previously.

    I have noticed that my species phals seem to have significantly better top growth with this new fertilizer; many were doing nothing for quite a while but then started putting out new leaves when I switched to the Better Gro formula. I had initially planned to try the MSU stuff, but I never got around to it because I happened to come across the Better Gro first and I was itchin' for a switchin,' so I just went ahead and bought it. It seems to be working better than my old fertilizer, so that's good news.

    I will make sure not to dose my plants too frequently with the fish emulsion. And that's a bonus, because it means I don't have to smell it nearly as much either!

    Thanks for the info, Ray!!!

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