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All Past Questions and Answers Library   |   July 2009

This month's questions concern:

Hydrolyzed Fish Fertilizer vs. Liquid Fertilizer
Roses Not Growing
Turnips Bolting
Plants Take High Heat

Please scroll down to read the answers.

Question #1:  Hydrolyzed Fish Fertilizer vs Liquid Fertilizer

Question:  Hello, In your article on Hydrolyzed Fish vs Liquid Fertilizer you say that 4-2-2 fish product does as much as a 20-20-20. Do you know of any scientific data that supports this statement?

 Gary Garcia, Slatersville, RI, USA


ANSWER:  Hi Gary! This is a very good question because a lot of people don't know how wonderful hydrolyzed fish fertilizers are.

There is a lot of data that supports it as well as my personal tests and observations using the different products for the last 20 or more years.

I have been an organic grower of herbs for years, as well as a professional landscaper, and hydrolyzed fish, especially when it's combined with a seaweed / kelp product, is the most outstanding combination you can give plants.

The chemical 20-20-20, while it gives a good supply of balanced nutrients, can't compare to the micronutirents, vitamins, amino acids, enzymes, growth hormones, and soil conditioning elements that a hydrolyzed fish fertilizer provides.

When combined with seaweed it gives the plants protection against drought, heat, and cold and because the nitrogen and other nutrients are chelated, so they are readily available for the plants to take up quickly, so they begin helping the plant almost immediately.

Here is a bit more data for you. (Other studies are available if you want to look them up on the internet)

According to a report from the University of Washington, a "hydrolyzed fish fertilizer can create excellent plant growth and product yield, and is made from an aquatic renewable raw material source rather than the non-renewable petrochemical products being used so extensively."

The report continues that hydrolyzed fish fertilizer:

1. Provides the macro nutrients required for healthy growth.
2. Provides the micro nutrients required for healthy growth.
3. Is easy to apply on the soil or directly on the foliage.
4. Improves yields and the quality of agricultural crops.
5. Reduces the overall cost of fertilizer, based on yield.
6. Use hydrolyzed fish as a pH stabilizer for pesticide sprayer solutions.

Hope this answers your question. Have a great day!

Question #2:  Roses Not Growing

Question:  I bought 2 already rooted roses a year ago, 'Just Joey' and 'Alexander', and planted them last spring. This year they have only had one or two flowers and no new growth so far. I have watered and fertilized them the same as the other roses which are doing well. Should I just wait or is there anything I could be doing to encourage new growth?

 Elizabeth Xamena, Palma de Mallorca, Spain


ANSWER:  Hi Elizabeth! Well, it could be a couple of things.

1. It sounds like you added plants to an already established rose bed. If that's the case they could be suffering from Rose Replant Disease.

Any soils that have had roses grown in them for 10 or more years need to have the top soil replaced. So if you want to replant an old rose bed that has had roses growing in it for years, or replace old roses with new ones, be careful, because the soil is very likely to be "rose-sick".

The causes of rose sickness are somewhat complicated and are still not fully understood, but what happens is when new roses are planted in the same soil that other roses thrived in for years, they will do poorly and may even die.

The best thing to do when planting new roses is to dig in plenty of new organic matter and mix it with soil from other parts of your yard where roses have not grown recently. Take the soil from the old rose bed and spread it in other areas of your yard or garden. Don't worry, the old soil is perfectly safe to use in other areas, it just can't grow roses again for a while.

Lastly give the soil where you will plant your new roses a good dressing of kelp and hydrolyzed fish fertilizers to help reduce the effect of replant disease.

2. Now, if the soil you planted your new roses in has never had roses growing there, then I would very carefully dig up the roses and check on the health of the roots.

The symptoms you are describing indicate that the roots just are not doing well enough to provide the plants with the energy to grow and flower.

If you dig them up and the rose roots are doing very poorly, then I would return them to the grower you bought them from. When you buy already rooted roses in containers you can't see what the roots look like, and you can buy a poor quality plant without knowing it.

It doesn't sound like you are doing anything wrong at all, so check for the above 2 things I mentioned.

You might also find this article helpful:
How to Buy The Best Bare-Root Trees, Shrubs and Roses

Question #3:  Turnips Bolting

Question:  The white turnips which were planted in May have all grown green leaves with yellow flowers. What have I done wrong? Are the very small turnips at the stem edible? Looking forward to hearing from you.

 Bridget Spencer, Brighouse, West Yorkshire, England


ANSWER:  Bridget! The good news is you haven't done anything wrong. It sounds like you might have gotten some warm weather and your turnips bolted (went to seed).

Both turnips and rutabagas are cool-weather vegetables and are commonly grown as fall crops. Turnips can also be planted in early spring, but they tend to bolt, or produce seeds, and turn woody during hot weather.

White turnips are good to eat out of the garden from September until the end of March, when they will start to bolt.

If I were you, I would try growing them again when the weather is going to be cooler. Depending on the variety, turnips typically need six to eight weeks of cool weather to grow to maturity.

So the best time to plant is in midsummer for harvesting in midfall. That said, there are some turnip varieties that withstand "some" warm weather and can be planted in very early spring.

If you do try again keep in mind that turnip roots taste best when they are about 2 inches (5 cm) in diameter and are good for cooking straight from the garden. Turnips are also grown for their nutritious leaves.

I hope you try again because turnips are quick and easy to grow as long as the weather cooperates with you!

Question #4:  Plants Take High Heat

Question:  Can the following plants survive the high temperatures in my garden? If so, where is the best situation for them, and do they require any special attention after planting? They are: Phoenix canariensis, Dracaena, and Callistemon. I await the answer, spade poised and at the ready! Regards.

 Bob Smith, Carcassonne, Aude Region, Southern France


ANSWER:  Bob! Gosh I hope I got this answered fast enough for you, if not, I am holding up your planting!

Since your summer temperatures can reach upwards of 104°F (40°C) let's take a look at each plant one at a time:

1. Dracaena: Many dracaena originate from equatorial Africa and Asia. They like and need warm-temperate to subtropical conditions in full sun. They can take some partial shade and like well-drained soil. Other than that they are really tough plants and can take a lot of abuse and still look good.

2. Phoenix canariensis (Canary island date palm): These palm trees are native to the Canary Islands and they can take a lot of heat. Make sure you plant them in an area that is large enough to accommodate their size.

3. Callistemon (Bottlebrush): These plants are from Australia and again can take high heat. They attract a lot of birds, hummingbirds, and butterflies. They like full sun, regular water and tend to prefer well-drained soil, but some will tolerate poor drainage.

Keep in mind that even though all the plants mentioned above will do well in a warm climate like yours, none of them like cold weather. They will tolerate cold only down to about 30°F (-1.2°C), so you should be just fine since your area tends to rarely get colder than 41°F (5°C).

If you do get a cold snap most of these plants will bounce back in time.

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