There's a little secret about growing a healthy garden that you may not know yet, but it has the potential to enliven your plants almost immediately. It's called foliar feeding, and it's when you apply various organic fertilizers in liquid form directly to leaves via a spray bottle or those backpack sprayers that you usually only see the chemical guys wear (yes, organic gardeners use them too).
I know this sounds counterintuitive, especially if you've been conscientiously watering just the roots and not the leaves (especially of tomato plants) so that you don't encourage disease. However, foliar sprays can improve deficiencies such as magnesium, deliver other trace minerals and natural hormones, and bathe a plant in beneficial bacteria and fungi that help fight off disease. They are absorbed on the leaves most quickly because of something called stoma, which are openings that let in CO2 and let out water and oxygen. Studies show that nutrients delivered via foliar feeding are evident in all parts of the plant within mere hours, and the positive impact of these nutrients is visible on the plants within less than a week. That means sickly plants might be bright green and healthy looking again before you know it.
Foliar feeding can be used for improving mineral deficiencies, fertilizing, and building resistance to disease. As general advice when foliar feeding, let tap water stand for a few hours before using to remove chlorine, spray early in the morning or in the evening when temperatures are ideally 72 degrees or lower, and spray both the tops and bottoms of leaves. Oh, and younger plants and older plants like different pH levels, but that's starting to get very picky, isn't it? Don't worry about that just yet--we can talk about that when you come visit us at the Farmer D Organics store on Briarcliff Road in Atlanta or when you tap in to our blog or Facebook page.
Here are some additional tips:
1. To improve mineral deficiencies--Add a tablespoon of Epsom salts to a spray bottle of water and spray with a fine mist on tomato plant leaves to deliver needed magnesium.
2. To fertilize--Use sea-based fertilizers such as fish emulsion or liquid kelp to deliver numerous trace elements. Dilute it significantly, spray with a fine mist, and be sure not to over-apply as it can burn leaves.
3. To ward off disease--Use compost tea, made from compost or worm castings placed in a bucket of water which is then properly aerated for three days to increase microbes. Directions to do this at home are available on the Internet, or you can purchase brewed compost tea at Farmer D Organics on Briarcliff Road. You cannot over-apply compost tea (although please be sure to dilute it), and it's best to apply with a coarse spray. Any excess will drip off leaves and nourish the soil.
Ideally, you should apply a foliar spray every two to three weeks. You will most likely see a dramatic improvement in your plants and will, frankly, be hooked on this addition to your garden maintenance. If, however, foliar feeding is yet another thing for which you simply do not have time, consider signing up for the Farmer D Organics Backyard Cultivators program and your plants will receive the appropriate foliar spray for their needs on a regular basis.