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Old 07-11-2012, 07:59 PM
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Worm tea and s/h

Is worm tea necessary when growing orchids in s/h? I've read online that orchids can't absorb the nutrients in a fertilizer without them being broken down first. In organic mix, the nutrients have a chance of breaking down, but in leca, to the best of my knowledge it can't, since it is inorganic. Is this true? Do I need worm tea to successfully grow my orchids in s/h?
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Old 07-11-2012, 10:48 PM
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Just use a balanced water-soluble fertilizer (examples: Better Gro orchid food, Miracle Gro orchid food, Michigan State University (MSU) fertilizer.)
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Old 07-12-2012, 12:17 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mbamg4lif3 View Post
Is worm tea necessary when growing orchids in s/h? I've read online that orchids can't absorb the nutrients in a fertilizer without them being broken down first. In organic mix, the nutrients have a chance of breaking down, but in leca, to the best of my knowledge it can't, since it is inorganic. Is this true? Do I need worm tea to successfully grow my orchids in s/h?
I think you are talking about N from Urea. You can get non-urea-based fertilizer. I think Dyna-gro is one of them, and some of BetterGro stuff is urea free, too.
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Old 07-12-2012, 04:50 AM
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I agree with the last 2 posters
Worm tea isn't a fertilizer at all. look at is as fertilizer is dinner and worm tea would be desert, it won't hurt them but it won't give them what they really need. Pre made retail worm tea may have some stuff added to make it a more balanced deal but its not there unless added so you can use it along with balanced fert and micro nutrients if you really want to use worm tea in your plants diets.
Hopethat helps.
And in s/h with ferts make sure your still flushing your pots for fert build up, just as you would for other media's used.
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Old 07-12-2012, 08:51 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by orchids4me View Post
I agree with the last 2 posters
Worm tea isn't a fertilizer at all. look at is as fertilizer is dinner and worm tea would be desert, it won't hurt them but it won't give them what they really need. Pre made retail worm tea may have some stuff added to make it a more balanced deal but its not there unless added so you can use it along with balanced fert and micro nutrients if you really want to use worm tea in your plants diets.
Hopethat helps.
And in s/h with ferts make sure your still flushing your pots for fert build up, just as you would for other media's used.
I know it's not fertilizer; even after I put all my orchids in s/h I need to be on top of fertilizing even more than I am now. I read online though that worm tea helps plants absorb fertilizer. I wasn't sure if it was that was true or not....if its a "desert" for orchids then that's good because it's expensive lol. My orchids can live without it just fine until I finally go ahead and buy some. Thanks for the response
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Old 07-12-2012, 10:24 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by orchids4me View Post
I agree with the last 2 posters
Worm tea isn't a fertilizer at all. look at is as fertilizer is dinner and worm tea would be desert....
Technically...fertilizer is more like a vitamin than a meal. It helps to support the over-all good health of the plant and it fills in what might be missing.

As for the worm tea...some are virtually useless and it's hard to know for sure which might be good and which is not much more than colored water. Currently there are no regulated standards for worm teas so you can't be sure what you're getting from one product to the next. Go w/the balanced fertilizer...pick one up designed for orchids and you'll have a nice balance of N sources as well as the other macro and micro nutrients needed by the orchids.
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Old 07-12-2012, 12:00 PM
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I would add here that urea-based vs. non-urea based fertilizers is a subject of much confusion. In my occupation, I consider forms of nitrogen all the time, as a lot of my work relates to agriculture.

In non-hydroponic settings (bark, sphagnum, etc.), there would certainly be bacteria present in the medium. Different forms of nitrogen including ammoniacal N, nitrate N, nitrite N (rare; intermediary in oxidation of other forms of N), urea N and other forms of organic N (for example, proteins in bark or other organic matter), all are transformed into forms that plants can use by microbial processes. Nitrate N and ammoniacal N are considered the most commonly plant available. But, urea N can also be plant-available, and is rapidly converted to the other plant-available forms by microbial processes. Urea is virtually non-toxic. By comparison, nitrate N is toxic to animals (see methemoglobinemia), though this is not a concern unless your cat or dog drinks the stuff, or it gets into a pond, etc.

In a semi-hydroponic setting, such as that which Mbamg4lif3 asked about, it could potentially be important which form of nitrogen is used if there are few microbial processes active (that could happen if you had a *NEW* hydroponic setting, but even a s/h that has been running a while will have microbial processes active, and these nitrogen transformations will occur).

I am not growing using s/h, I grow in bark, but I use an orchid fertilizer with considerable urea content (Miracle Gro). I get tremendous results with that. If you really want a comparable non-urea formulation, but which contains nitrate-N, try the Better Gro orchid food; also widely available and inexpensive.

I am not really sure what the benefits of worm tea might be. Since many of the worm tea recipes talk about active microbes as a benefit, the stuff is not sterile, I would be worried about soil-borne plant pathogens getting passed on in the tea.

I am also skeptical about Superthrive since you can't tell from the label what it contains.
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Old 07-12-2012, 01:02 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Catt Mandu View Post

Since many of the worm tea recipes talk about active microbes as a benefit, the stuff is not sterile, I would be worried about soil-borne plant pathogens getting passed on in the tea.

Amen! And, can you say salmonella? Worm tea can potentially be harboring a whole host of microbes we don't want to be handling or possibly breathing in when we spray the plants.

I think the worm tea sounds great to many people because of the advantages of worm castings in soil based applications. I know that's the reason I tried in a few years back. Worm castings are great for potted plants and for amending the soil in landscape beds. The worm tea...there simply isn't sufficient evidence to support many of the claims. I fell into the worm tea trap...used it for a solid year+ and I saw nothing that impressed me. As a matter of fact, I saw nothing. Give me a good balanced fertilizer that I know what I'm getting and what I'm paying for.
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Old 07-12-2012, 09:29 PM
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I really wonder about the importance of microorganisms populations in our typical potting media.

Certainly they are more prevalent in organic materials than in inert ones, but is it really THAT much of a difference? Compared to soil and "wild" environments in which there is no regular replacement of medium, I suspect not. Especially when one considers the various disinfecting chemicals we use, that are bound to keep such populations at bay.

Heck, sphagnum is used as a sterile dressing in some cultures!
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Old 07-12-2012, 09:52 PM
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I really wonder about the importance of microorganisms populations in our typical potting media.

Certainly they are more prevalent in organic materials than in inert ones, but is it really THAT much of a difference? Compared to soil and "wild" environments in which there is no regular replacement of medium, I suspect not. Especially when one considers the various disinfecting chemicals we use, that are bound to keep such populations at bay.

Heck, sphagnum is used as a sterile dressing in some cultures!

Hi Ray

It would certainly be easy to test, if you either do flask culture of any kind in your own operation, or can convince a biology teacher at a local school to help you out.

Take any one of your plants, or maybe take one recently re-potted and another that has been in a pot for a while (just for comparison). Run a small amount of sterile water through the pot and collect in a sterile container. Then, culture the water in a Petri dish with agar (or flask, etc. with similar growing medium). I think you will find a pretty healthy bacterial population.

If you have potting media that break down over time, the agents that are breaking them down are bacteria, fungi, etc. The microbes in your orchid pot will likely be different from those in a typical soil (for example, I would expect more aerobic microbes in the orchid pot, more anaerobic microbes in the soil).

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Old 07-13-2012, 07:59 AM
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I have no argument with the presence of a healthy population of bacteria. My statement was intended to express that I doubt that it plays a significant role in the culture of the plants, except of course for the need to periodically replace the media components that they decompose. "At bay" was a comment that the use of disinfectants and other chemicals will suppress some of the bacterial and fungal populations, not eliminate them entirely.

I say that based upon my own observations (current and historically), and some knowledge about nutrient absorption paths.

I have been growing orchids for 40 years, and being a scientist and engineer who loves to experiment, have probably used pretty much every type of potting medium (except the tire crumbs), fertilizer, and additive (not worm tea) that has ever been available. While I am a big proponent of the simplicity of semi-hydroponics, I currently have plants growing not only that way, using LECA as a substrate (and a few other natural materials for experiments), in straight bark, bark/charcoal/perlite mixes, CHC, sphagnum, EcoWeb, mounted on cork bark, cedar boards, maple limbs, EcoWeb, and sitting free in wooden slat baskets. Considering the wide range of "microenvironments" those set up, surely there must be some wide variations in the microorganism populations associated with individual plants. If their presence played a significant role, there would probably be noticeable differences, wouldn't there?

Add to that the impact of stuff like Physan, Zero-Tol and OxiDate, which knock down the populations of the microflora and fauna quite well. If they were significant contributors to the plants' growth, wouldn't the plants suffer after such treatments?

Concerning nutrient uptake, doing some research has really opened my eyes. I have long felt that foliar feeding was of little importance in orchids, due to the diminished number of leaf stomata and the waxy, moisture-retentive coatings on the leaves of some. I had also always heard that urea was not usable in its native form by plants, and that it must be broken down by our microorganism population before being absorbed by the plants. it turns out both of those concepts are both right and wrong!

Putting it very simplistically (for my own understanding), the polarity of the nutrient ions plays a huge role in uptake by the plants, with highly ionic one (nitrates and ammoniums) being preferentialy absorbed by the roots, while less-ionic ones (urea) are not. The converse it true in foliar absorption, with the less-ionic species passing through the plasmodesmata into- and between the cells, while to highly ionic ones are blocked.

Many of us use urea-free fertilizers, so the foliar aspect is likely insignificant. Others likely use formulas containing urea as well as nitrates and ammonium compounds, so there is probably some benefit to both foliar and root uptake, giving us no way to really know what's happening in the pot. I think that if one were to use a urea-only fertilizer, and manage to avoid all contact with the foliage when applying it, we would soon see some stunted growth, as the in-pot "critter contingent" would be insufficient to break it down adequately.

One closing thought: the culture of orchids is probably SO complex, and with so many subtleties, that we cannot possibly grasp them in their entirety. So each of us has to find the "right balance" of controllable stuff to make it work for ourselves. That also means that our own thoughts and assessments do nothing to belittle or negate those of others!
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Old 07-13-2012, 08:07 AM
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very good information,:-) thank you so mucho:-)
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Old 08-19-2012, 08:04 AM
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Ray, and all

would it not be true that only that solution -- fertilizer, worm tea, etc -- that actually touches the roots, and hence absorbed, is what feeds the plants?

How does the environment inside the pot make a difference, except humidity/air mix for the fertilizer to be utilized -- the orchids do not have root hairs to seek out food in the mix, or on the trees in the wild

Do they not only get what comes their way at the root level, and the rest is wasted???

What do you all think?

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aka POLKA
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Old 08-19-2012, 08:34 AM
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Hi Rex (Polka)!

Welcome to Orchidgeeks!

Yes, an orchid needs to actually come in contact with the nutrients to utilize them. That is particularly true with the roots, though some growers report benefits with foliar feeding.

The environment inside the pot matters because that environment determines if the roots will stay healthy (and continue to absorb nutrients), or possibly branch and grow into other areas in the pot.

Assuming we are mostly talking about epiphytes or other orchids that like a very porous medium to grow in, yes, there is always some loss of nutrients as they are flushed through the pots. That is why weak feedings at frequent intervals is recommended for many epiphytes that are in active growth (the saying goes "weakly, weekly", though it is not always that often). Recommendations would be a bit different for Paphiopedilums (slipper orchids) and others that can be sensitive to fertilizers.
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