Success with foliar sprays

Foliar fertilisers can be used successfully on flowers, shrubs, vegetables, as well as on lawn.

If your garden has depleted soil conditions, and you are thinking of changing from conventional to organic soil management, it is a good idea to use foliar fertilisation during the conversion period to help your plants adjust. Plants that are accustomed to synthetic fertilisation programmes sometimes show signs of deficiencies when changing to a natural or organic soil management programme. To help the plants to overcome this period of stress, foliar fertiliser is an excellent choice.
What to use

Foliar feeding instantly supplies plants with nutrients via their leaves’ pores. It is used to achieve maximum performance, for example when preparing roses for competitions, or after transplanting seedlings to help them overcome the temporary stress situation. Foliar fertilising can also be used as a first measure on plants exhibiting deficiencies, just until the dry organic fertiliser applied to the soil becomes available to the roots. Foliar fertiliser can be used on all plants, including flowers, shrubs, vegetables and lawn. To start with, spray every week, changing to every two weeks after about three months – it all depends on how the plants respond to your treatment. When spraying the plants, also spray the soil around the plants to stimulate biological activity.

You have a choice: you can make your own foliar fertiliser by brewing up compost, manures, weeds in water, or fermented sprays, or you can buy commercially available ones. Preparing home-made liquid growth fertiliser is not difficult. The difficulty, however, may lie in obtaining fresh manure.

To make your own foliar fertiliser, follow these guidelines:

Manure fertiliser

Fill 2/3 of a l0-litre container with any kind of fresh manure (chicken, cow, horse, pig, goat). Top up with water (preferably rainwater) and allow to stand for 2-3 days, or until the water is dark brown. Then strain the mixture through a stocking or cotton cloth, and throw the residue on the compost heap. Keep the strained liquid in a closed container in a shady place, and just take the amount required. As a foliar spray, dilute 1:20 (one part liquid to twenty parts water).

Compost tea

This is prepared from matured compost to stimulate growth. Put one part compost to five parts rainwater into a container. If you like, you can add seaweed solution (5g/litre) to strengthen your spray. Place the container in a sunny location for five days, stirring once daily. Strain through a cotton cloth or nylon stocking – there is no need to dilute.

Weeds fertiliser

This is a foliar fertiliser made from weeds as a growth stimulant. Half fill a container with weeds, such as chickweed or dandelion. Top up with rainwater. Allow to stand in the sun for 5-7 days. Strain and spray undiluted. If you prefer, there are products on the market which you just dilute according to the instructions given on the product. When preparing foliar sprays, follow the instructions carefully, as they can burn leaves if used in full strength. Set your sprayer to emit as fine a spray as possible. Never use a sprayer that has been used to apply herbicides or other chemicals. It is almost impossible to remove any residue from the tank, hose and nozzle.

Products containing ingredients from the sea, such as kelp or seaweed and fish emulsion are the best. Fish emulsion is a concentrated by-product from the fish industry, which supplies major and micro-nutrients and is used as a general growth promoter. The fish emulsion does have an odour for about 24 hours. Kelp products provide plants with minerals and are an excellent source of plant hormones, which stimulate plant and root growth. It also strengthens the plant tissue, which means increased resistance to pests and diseases, as well as to frost and drought.

The best times to spray are early mornings and early evenings, as it will allow the pores to absorb the nutrients before the sun dries them up. Cloudy days are good, but choose a day when no rain is forecast. If you observe lunar cycles, the best time to spray is during and after the full moon. Spray until the liquid is dripping off the leaves, remembering to spray the underside of the leaves as well. You can set your sprinkler system to foliar spray your plants. In this instance, kelp extract is a better product to use, as fish emulsion can clog the sprinklers.

Good idea!

Soak your seeds in seaweed extract diluted at 1 part concentration to 25 parts of water to increase seed germination.

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