By Stephen and Cindy Scott, Terroir Seeds / Underwood Gardens
It’s the height of the gardening season and, with any luck, your garden is growing and thriving. When everything kicks into high gear like it is now, plants need a lot more nutrition and support to produce those luscious tomatoes, fruits and veggies that make a home garden so memorable. Here are three techniques that will help support and nourish your hard-working garden at this time of year, and one for getting a “second season” from your garden.
Fish emulsion feeds the soil and plants with biologically available nutrients while increasing soil and microbe health. All fish emulsions are good organic nitrogen sources, but they also supply phosphorus, potassium, amino acids, proteins and trace elements or micronutrients that are really needed to provide deep nutrition to your soil and plants.
One of the benefits of fish emulsion is that they provide a slower release of nutrients into the soil without over-feeding all at once. It is usually applied as a soil drench, but some gardeners swear by using it as a foliar fertilizer as well. For use as a soil drench, mix equal parts water and fish emulsion and apply 1/2 to 1 cup of the mixture to the roots of each plant once every other month during the growing season. To use as a foliar fertilizer, mix 1/4 cup to a gallon of water and spray on the leaves at the end of the day as the temperatures start to cool down. Apply twice a month.
You can buy fish emulsion at a reputable garden supply store, or you can make your own with a little time and patience. And here’s a tested and well-shared recipe for the Best Homemade Fish Emulsion.
Milk and Molasses
Milk and molasses are two techniques that not many gardeners know about. Flower growers have used molasses to feed the blooms for decades, in order to get stronger and longer lasting blossoms. Molasses supplies trace minerals along with bio-available sugars to feed the plant immediately.
Using milk in your garden may come as a surprise to most, but it has been used for thousands of years, and on closer inspection, really makes sense! The amino acids, proteins, enzymes and natural sugars that make milk nutritional for humans and animals are the same ingredients that nurture healthy communities of microbes, fungi and beneficials in your compost and garden soil. Not only is milk a soil and plant food, it is a highly effective fungicide and a soft-bodied insecticide! Soft-bodied insects (like grasshoppers) don’t have a pancreas to process the sugars, so they are driven off from milk when it is applied to leaves. The fungicidal properties have been researched and proven from Brazil to New Zealand and Canada, especially for melons and tomatoes.
To make a milk/molasses mixture, mix 2 cups of milk into 8 cups of water and stir in 1/4 cup of molasses for the first feeding, then 1 – 2 tablespoons for each application after that. Use as a soil drench, applying 1 cup to each plant on a weekly basis. This will really help feed your garden at the peak of its production.
It might seem a bit crazy to suggest thinking about planning and planting your fall and winter garden at the peak of the summer heat – but that is exactly what you should start! For most parts of the country, planting a second garden in August of cooler season greens and vegetables will give you another season of delicious veggies from your garden, after the first season has slowed down. Think kale, beets, carrots, Swiss chard, leeks, spinach, lettuces, garlic and onions. All of these are pretty easy and very familiar. Maché, radish, mustard greens, kohlrabi, parsley, radicchio, sorrel, turnips and cress are a little less common to most gardeners, yet are delicious and extremely nutritious. Give it a try this year and enjoy your “second season” gardening.