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January Gardening Tips, Part #1.

Jan 08, 2020

Today we are going to discuss some aspects of our gardening endeavors. This won't require a whole lot of physical work but will require some thought to guide your actions later on.  One of the greatest obstacles to a successful garden is the people that are doing the gardening and this is derived from faulty ideas built on myths that no one understands the origins of. Well, I guess we can have some ideas on where they came from and that is from the chemical modeling of farming, and adapting those chemical farming ideas to our gardening.  I have labeled this as part #1, as it will take several parts to discuss the various ideas that you need to get your head around. This part will deal mostly with Nitrogen management. What will be discussed can have a slight variation based on the Carbon Pathway followed, as in the C-3, C-4, and CAM types of plants, but the variation isn't much and the ideas apply just the same, for purposes of this discussion.


When working with humans, animals, and such the nitrogen part isn't that big of a deal to consider, rather than to make sure you don't have a buildup and that we don't consume certain types of nitrogen as in nitrates for example. As humans, we can handle almost anything, but not to an excess. When working with plants, the focal point in the nutrient department appears to be Nitrogen. This is not to say that all of the other minerals are not vital, it is just that Nitrogen is the focal element. All others circle around it. However, the companion of Nitrogen, as in a marriage type of companionship with plants is Carbon. If you were to compare all of to a "nuclear" family, then the Nitrogen and Carbon would be the parents, and all of the others, ie; Calcium, Boron, Magnesium and on and on would be the children of that relationship. Sometimes we focus on one of the children, sometimes a parent. So with that, let's take Pavlov's dog, Nitrogen or aka; Nitro, for a walk


In a generalized sense, Nitrogen is what makes the stuff above the ground grow. Of all of the inputs to your growing experience will be Nitrogen. This expense can come in the form of direct financial outlays or in the form of decreased yields. Usually, it comes from both directions. I don't know if you can say that it is an either-or type of thing, but rather a sliding scale of sorts. As you better manage your nitrogen, your other fertilizer costs will decrease and your production or quality of the production yields will increase. Since this nitrogen input is an ongoing, annual "event", this is critical. With many other nutrients, you will find that many times they will carry over for next year's crop or even for several years.  Since this will change from year to year, and nitrogen is an annual deal, it then becomes a slight challenge to do a balancing act. But with some effort, good balancing can be had and the rewards are great, well worth the effort involved.


When it comes to nitrogen, we look at it as being the one to balance the scales of all of the other nutrients in the plant growing process. When you get too much nitrogen, it will cause the plant to stress the plant and this leads to the ability of pathogens, insects, and diseases to make their mark. The next concern is to understand when the best time to apply the nitrogen. Usually, this comes at a time when the nitrogen is applied too early in the growth cycle. What happens here is that the nitrogen load causes the folar growth to take place faster than root development is taking place. So the photosynthate, (think photosynthesis here), so the foliage is fed and the roots aren't fed enough.  The bottom line here is that root growth and vegetative growth do not really take place at the same time or at least at the same rate at the same time. Plus the nutrients need for the one are not the same as the other.  In order for the best growth conditions to take place, the root system needs to be developed before the foliage growth goes hyperspeed. I will cover the root system in more detail in a successive discussion.


Here is what happens, the roots do not produce sugar and contain no chlorophyll. This has to come from the foliage of the plant. If the roots are not developed, then both of those cannot be used by the root system. Since the root system is not developed, then the roots cannot collect and pass the other nutrients up into the foliage part of the plant. In simple terms, when the roots system is shorted on sugar, the growth of the roots can't take place.  So in time, the plant's nutrient load becomes diluted. The result of this event is a plant that is nutrient deficient. Many times people will say that our crops are not as nutritious as they used to be. This is really only a half-truth. While the successive cropping of a plot of land will drive down the available nutrient load, many times efforts are in play to restore that nutrient load, at least in part.  But the bigger evil comes from bad management practices in growing the plant. What happens here is we induce a state or condition of selective starvation. As a case in point, what happens when people go on these fancy diets that omit certain types of foods? Yes, they lose weight. As long as they are on the program they keep losing weight.  Once they go back to a balanced diet, the weight comes roaring back. The soil is the same way, as we practice selective starvation, the yield goes down, the quality of the plant goes down, and on and on. Once you restore a balance then the soil once again becomes productive, ie; yields increase and plant quality improves.


Let's look at the corn plant for example. Remember that corn follows the C-4 Carbon Pathway. Anyway, When a corn plant emerges from the soil, it is referred to as spiking. So at times, you will notice this term, so this if an FYI type of note. Anyway, when the plant hits the 5-week point after spiking, (emerging), the corn plant will have a survey of the available nutrient load available to it.  Usually, the corn plant will be about knee-high at this point if the growing conditions are favorable. This stage is called the 6th. leaf stage. At this point, the determination of the corn plant will have determined the number of rows that will be set on the cob. The cob hasn't even made its observable entrance at this point. The genetics of the corn plant will have a preprogrammed set of rows to be on the cob. But depending on the available nutrient load, it will drop rows of corn kernels that will show up on the cob. It will always be an even number and the rows will be dropped in 2's. So an optimal number of rows, then a dumb down to match available nutrition. Interesting the plant has an amazing ability to project out what the likely nutrient load will likely be available throughout the growing process.  It then makes adjustments based on that assessment.  So at this point, one would hope the root system is developed to the point it needs to be. It doesn't matter if the soil is nutrient loaded or nutrient deficit, the plant makes the determination based on what is available for uptake. If the root system is poor then it limits what can be taken up, so the plant sees it as a nutrient deficit and cuts back the production to match the root system abilities at that given time. One can take steps to rehabilitate the plant, and even though the cost is great, it can happen. But with one exception, that being the number of rows won't change to match the extra nutrition.


Then at the 9-week point from spiking emergence,  the corn should tassel at 10 weeks, the length of the cob or ear will have been determined. So between the 5-week and 9-week points, rehabilitation can help in the length of the ear, but the rows won't change.  So the plant will allow for some changes, but some changes will not change. So by the time, the corn plant growth is at the halfway point or slightly beyond, depending on the days to maturity of the seed, the only real thing left is the development of what is there and ie; the fat lady singing. Comically speaking, she is up on stage at the 10-week point, just that the singing hasn't started.


The next aspect to this is the idea of Nitrogen's contribution to microbial growth.  The microbes require nitrogen to grow and develop. If the Nitrogen is applied to early, then we have the hyper foliage growth mentioned earlier, plus the nitrogen load is too much at the beginning of the microbe's development and will have been depleted by the time when they really need it. They need Nitrogen to develop proteins for growth. These microbes also need Carbon in order to develop the energy to grow.  So here we introduce Carbon to be paired with the Nitrogen. A proper balance of these two is an important factor to determine Nitrogen application usage. Here we start to see some real-life associations of Carbon and soil health. As we build the Humus in the soil, we trap Caron Dioxide. If you till the soil too much and or have too much Nitrogen, you oxidize the Carbon and it gets released back into the atmosphere, thus losing a necessary nutrient contribution to the plant health. Humus is the mature organic aspect of the soil. It is the portion of the soil that has passed into the mature compost. Usually, there are little or no signs of plant or animal material. It will be dark brown or black and have that so-called "freshly plowed aroma".  As a sign of the quality of the humus in the soil is the aroma when you plow it up or even dig holes in the soil. If that aroma is not there, then you have poorly developed humus or are in a state of used-up soil humus. That is bad. Original Humus can last for centuries in the soil if the soil is not abused. I think it would be best to do a whole discussion on soil humus in order to do justice to the subject. But for now, just know that having and keeping and even developing humus is very important.


Another aspect is Sulfur. You might compare the mineral Sulfur to the most loyal and most responsible kid in the family. As the soil is developed, better managed, etc.,  the need for Sulfur increases. Sulfur helps to increase the utilization of Nitrogen in the plant's growth. Sulfur is important in that the soil microbes or organisms if you will, they contain 2 Sulfur-bearing amino acids, namely, Cysteine and Methionine. The Sulfur is important to overall plant health and since the number of organisms was likely elevated if the soil was properly nutrified, then if the decay of those organisms happen during the "grain-fill" period of the plant's growth cycle, then it can create that selective starvation deal mentioned earlier and in this case, a Sulfur deficient in the plant and the seed that the plant is producing. So with that idea, you can see how a plant can become nutritionally deficient along the way, even though the soil tests showed sufficient amounts of nutrients at the beginning of the growth cycle. Sulfur is very important to Nitrogen utilization, this is why I spent time in touching on this. But what is interesting is that in the past times, we saw a contribution of Sulfur from the air. The air contribution was from the burning of fossil fuels, namely coal. The Sulfur can dissipate into the air quite easily, and as a result, it was carried over wide areas and came down with rainfall. Thus providing plant growth with Sulfur. But now as certain people have freaked out over the burning of coal, coal use has slowed, and we now have to "supplement" for Sulfur in our plant growing efforts.


With all of these minerals, I just talk about the basic, generalized form of them. So when we talk about these minerals, you need to keep in mind that there are various forms of each one. For example, plants cannot use Elemental Sulfur. They can only use the Sulfate form of Sulfur. Years ago when I worked for an Agricultural Supply operation, the Sulfur deficiencies were just starting to show up in soil sample reports for this area. They used Elemental Sulfur in the formula called for to meet the Sulfur requirements. I didn't understand it at the time, but it was a complete waste to use that form. There would have been more useable Sulfur in a load of fertilizer if I would have just peed on a load of fertilizer than to mix in the elemental Sulfur. The pee source would have not contributed enough to even serve the need for one plant, but I use this for perspective. The elemental Sulfur cannot be used because of being in the dry form and because of the high salt content, the soil bacteria can't process it. So before any of the elemental forms can be used, it has to be dissolved in water and then dissipated throughout the soil if incorporated into the soil, if not it would pretty much just float away into the atmosphere. Then when it comes to the Nitrogen, since we are talking about the stuff as our main topic, the Ammonium form is the only one the plant can use, unless a process is undertaken to process it. By that time of processing has taken place the need for the low or high spikes doesn't match up with the need times.


I know someone is thinking, What about acid rain? The problem with acid rain is the overload of the wrong forms of the various elements, such as Nitrogen and Sulfur, just to name a few of the typical ones involved in acid rain. I have tried to introduce the idea of the Carbon Dioxide than everyone is freaked out about, and how to work with it within the soil management systems. This CO2 thing that the activists are freaked out about is nonsense. If a proper understanding is incorporated into the mindset, then you can see how nature has provided a mechanism to deal with it and do it properly. From my perspective, this CO2 thing is a Godsend.


As I look at this, we have a long discussion and I haven't even gotten to the points of where I was building up to. This is a broad spectrum and a very deep and extensive subject. But it is better to cover the basics before moving on, without that base understanding the other details don't make a lot of sense. So we will cover some more stuff on this subject in sequential discussions. One of the main reasons for this type of discussion is to help you see what is involved in the growth aspect of the plants used for essential oils. When you get some of these concepts, then the pathetic peeing matches and psychopathic propaganda that comes from some of these oils people won't have an effect on you. You will have a little bit of a better understanding of the whole picture. But the ideas here aren't only for the framework of the oils but for all things nutrition from plants and how it carries over to animals and even us weird forms of animal life forms.


The next installment will continue from this discussion and some other new ideas will be introduced. As always, thank you for your support and your friendship. I hope you find reading this stuff well worth your time.


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