Is Sugar Water Good For Plants

Is sugar water good for plants? This is a very interesting question and one that leads to all kinds of fun facts about plants.

Even more interesting is how this myth plays out on the internet. In most cases, popular gardening sites promote the myth, but in this case they tell you NOT to use sugar water for plants, except in special cases. They then give a variety of reasons why sugar water is bad for plants, but these explanations are mostly wrong. They are creating new myths with their explanations!

Many of these writers ignore basic plant biology or are unaware of the correct facts. I’m going to try and sort this thing out for you.

Is Sugar Water Good For Plants
Is Sugar Water Good For Plants

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DIY Cal-Mag Fertilizer (Calcium Acetate) – Does It Work?

I recently did a post about Cal-Mag where I described the value of getting the calcium level right. As part of that work I found recipes for making Cal-Mag fertilizer at home using eggshells, vinegar and Epsom salts. I’d like to use this post to have a closer look at these methods to figure out if they work, and if gardeners should be using them.

DIY Calcium Acetate Fertilizer - Does It Work?
DIY Cal-Mag Fertilizer (Calcium Acetate) – Does It Work?

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The Organic Farming Myth by R. I. Throckmorton

I was searching for earthworm myths and stumbled upon this essay on the organic farming myth. It was published in the 1950’s or early 1960’s and the author was fighting back against myths being spread about synthetic fertilizer by the pro-organic movement. The contents really resonated with me because I have been battling the same myths for years. In fact some of the comments like “There is no evidence that mineral fertilizers, when applied at recommended rates, are injurious to soils, or that crops produced by the use of such materials are harmful to man or beast,” are identical to what I tell people in this blog and in my lectures. Ok, I don’t use the word “beast” but I think I will start using it.

It is amazing that after all this time, most gardeners still believe these myths.

I have included the complete article, without alterations, and thank Ecological Agriculture Projects, McGill University for posting it.

This article is old but the story has not changed. A 2009 review tells the same story.

The Organic Farming Myth by R. I. Throckmorton
The Organic Farming Myth by R. I. Throckmorton

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Cal-Mag for Plants – What Is It and Do You Need It?

Cal-Mag stands for Calcium and Magnesium, two of the macronutrients that are rarely discussed when we talk about plant fertilizer, but they are critical for plants. You can buy Cal-Mag fertilizer to add to your regular fertilizer, or you can buy fertilizer that contains calcium and magnesium. Which option is better and do you need either one?

If calcium and magnesium are so important to plants why are they not included in all fertilizer? It is more complicated than you think.

Cal-Mag for Plants - What Is It and Do You Need It?
Cal-Mag for Plants – What Is It and Do You Need It?

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10 Fertilizer Myths That Will Save You Money

Fertilizers are very misunderstood by gardeners and for good reasons. Most books and videos repeat myths about fertilizers and manufacturers create even more myths in order to sell products you don’t need. Even experts, like plant societies, provide the wrong information about fertilizer.

I have assembled 10 of the biggest fertilizer myths in this post and once you understand them better you will save money.

10 Fertilizer Myths That Will Save You Money
10 Fertilizer Myths That Will Save You Money

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Vermicompost Leachate – Will it Harm Plants?

One of the most hotly debated questions in vermicomposting is this, is vermicompost leachate good or bad for plants? Some say it is great for plants and use it all of the time. Others warn that it should not be used because it contains phytotoxins (plant poisons) and pathogens.

What I find most interesting about this debate is that both sides claim to be correct and yet neither side takes the time to do a search for some scientific evidence to support their position. I guess I approach things differently and the science in this case is easy to find – one Google Scholar search will do it.

Let’s look at the facts surrounding vermicompost leachate.

Vermicompost Leachate - Will it Harm Plants?
Vermicompost Leachate – Will it Harm Plants? Credit: J&J Acres and Deep Green Permaculture

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Herbicide Contaminated Compost, Straw and Organic Fertilizer

Over the last 20 years there have been a number of news reports about herbicide contaminated manure, compost, straw and organic fertilizer. This is a real problem for gardeners because such products will harm and even kill your plants. The danger is real!

  • How can this happen?
  • How common is this problem?
  • Should you be concerned?

I’ll answer all of these questions in this post. Every gardener should read it

Herbicide Contaminated Compost, Straw and Organic Fertilizer
Herbicide Contaminated Compost, Straw and Organic Fertilizer

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What is the Best NPK Ratio for Growing Plants?

Gardeners have been using fertilizer for many years and everyone recommends a particular ratio for each plant type. The rose society suggests, “6-12-6 is considered a Balanced Rose Food, as it supplies the basic ingredients in proportions beneficial to roses on a continual basis.” For tomatoes Burpee recommends, “such as 10-10-10, or where the middle number (phosphorus) is larger than the first number (nitrogen), such as 2-3-1″. Which is it, a 10-10-10 or a 2-3-1? I guess they don’t really know?

If you look at fertilizer supplies at your local nursery you will find numerous products labeled as rose fertilizer and each one has a different ratio. The same for tomato fertilizer – each manufacturer has their onw formula. Fertilizer for house plants or orchids is just as bad.

Here is a fundamental question:

Do different plants need different fertilizer formulations?

Almost everything you have read certainly suggests this is true, but does the science support this? Or is it more correct to say that most plants use exactly the same ratio of nutrients? After all, the biochemistry of all terrestrial plants is very similar.

In this post I will try to answer the question, what is the best NPK fertilizer ratio for plants?

What is the Best NPK Ratio for Growing Plants?
What is the Best NPK Ratio for Growing Plants?, source: SGS

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Weed Tea, Fertilizer Tea – No Matter the Name, It Stinks

I read about weed tea many years ago and I made some. It stunk so bad that I never made it again.

With all the interest in natural gardening it is making a comeback and the internet is full of gardening advice that says fertilizer tea made from weeds is great for plants. Let’s have a look at the science behind this gardening practice. Is it worth making weed tea fertilizer? What kind of nutrients does it really provide? Are there better ways to use your weeds?

Just to be clear – I am talking about the weeds you pull from the garden – not the kind you smoke!

Weed Tea, Fertilizer Tea, No Matter the Name It Stinks
Weed Tea, Fertilizer Tea, No Matter the Name It Stinks, source: permaculture news 

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Feeding Plants From the Kitchen – Which Products Actually Work?

What do you give plants to drink besides water and plant food? This question was asked on Facebook and I was surprised at the number of household kitchen products that are given to plants. What did not surprise me was that not a single person provided any evidence that any of them actually worked.

A very common expression people use to justify their actions is, “my plants love it”.

I hate that phrase. Plants do not show love – they don’t even say thank you. If you give something to a healthy plant you have no way of knowing if it is harming the plant or doing some good, unless you see huge changes in the plant, and even then the changes could be due to any number of other causes.

In this post I discuss 13 items people feed to plants.

Feeding Plants From the Kitchen - Which Products Actually Work?
Feeding Plants From the Kitchen – Which Products Actually Work?, source: Kitchn

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Will Gypsum Improve Clay Soil?

People struggle with clay soil and try all kinds of quick fixes including gypsum which is regularly touted as as a clay buster, but does it really work? Will gypsum make clay soil easier to dig? Will it improve drainage? Should you add it to your soil?

Maybe!

There are good reasons for using gypsum but you have to know when and when not to use it. Most gardeners should not use it. Don’t listen to marketing hype about this product – much of it is wrong.

Will Gypsum Improve Clay Soil?
Will Gypsum Improve Clay Soil? Source: Stuff

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