The rainy season is finally here and it is already replenishing much needed water to our thirsty environment. Our work is also a bit lighter as our need for irrigating is supplemented by frequent rainfall. This continuous flow of water also comes with some challenges. Excessive leaching of nutrients is a key contributor to rising cost of production at this time of year.
The loss of essential nutrients directly affects plant health and its natural ability to resist pests and diseases. This heavy mobilizing of nutrients away from the root zone could also lead to increased soil acidiy and reduce plant available phosporus. Furthermore Aluminium and Managanesse toxicity could further compromise crop productivity.
The problem is not necessarily the rain but rather how well we manage these natural variables. Providing that rainfall frequency remains around average, there are cerain preventative approaches that we could consider to for better nutrient management.
Choose the right type of fertilizer
Synthetic fertilizers are usually in a form that is readily absorbed by plants, consequently this also leads to rapid leaching away from the root zone, into our water ways. To achieve maximum yield farmers may often repeat fertilizer applications following prolonged rainfall.
Slow release fertilizers take the form of granules or as compost. These granules work similar to their synthetic counterparts, however they differ based on their rate of solubility over time. Similarly compost acts as a nutrient bank, slowly liquidating its valuable assets throughout the crop cycle.
Additionally compost conditions your soil’s physical structure and allows water to move freely while minimizing loss of topsoil.
There are also soluble fertilizers in either organic or synthetic forms.
These two types of fertilizer share some similarity as they both replenish essential plant nutrients. Additionally however compost tea also inncoculates benefical microorganisms and plant growth regulating substances (PGR’s) which aid in pathogen reduction, nutrient absorbtion and boosting plant’s defence mechanisms against pests and diseases.
We recommend our compost tea to be diluted using a 1:1 ratio with dechlorinated water and applied weekly. Also for top-dressing we recommend our vermicompost to be applied once every 2- 3 weeks.
Home gardening tips and tricks are in no short supply these days. Whether you are doing a simple google search for ‘how to grow vegetables successfully’ or you visit the garden shop for a packet of seeds and you end up leaving with a variety of stuff (soil mix, soil treatment, plant booster and fertilizer) and so much advice that you wish you had a notebook! Then you are ready to plant but the odour of the soil treatment causes you to ponder on that advice your friend gave you the other day “…you are what you eat”. We must understand that agro-shops are businesses and increased sales is good business for them. The main challenge, however, is the variety of inputs you need to achieve a healthy growing plant. It is very difficult to find any product out there that would supply an all-in-one effect to your garden.
Vermicompost, however, seems to be just perfect for the home gardener. Vermicompost is essentially recycled organic waste, derived through the actions of earthworms and beneficial microbes. Through this symbiotic relationship between these organisms, essential plant nutrients, plant growth regulating compounds and beneficial microorganisms are returned to your soil. Vermicompost also has the ability to inhibit the effect of certain soil-borne pathogens that are commonly associated with root rot and dieback. Vermicompost when used as a foliar drench, supplies soluble nutrients and help retard certain pests and diseases that often affect plant foliage. As a home gardener you have total control over the quality of your vermicompost and how you dispose of your organic waste, therefore your trips to the garden-shop may be fewer and more specific. If you are considering growing your food organically then vermicomposting is one of your best options. It is important to note that compost richness is dependent on what you put in.
If you are not religiously organic but still want to use vermicompost, then your nutrient application rates should be reduced. Vermicompost is also an excellent source of organic matter for your soil. Organic matter improves water and nutrient retention, soil structure and porosity. It is also a rich source of food for soil microbes. Vermicompost can be easily incorporated into your potting mixtures or even your garden beds. It is highly effective at low concentrations, thereby allowing it to be very ‘elastic’ economically speaking.
In the cover photo, we have on display a few commonly consumed crops that we have grown using vermicompost and vermicompost tea. These plants responded very positively and what is most notable is that the only additional agro-input used was Epsom salt for improved magnesium and sulphur.