Microbes, Molasses, and Peonies

photo painting of one of my peony blossoms

In the latest gardening research, everything hinges upon microbes. Even outside the gardening world, microbes are being discovered as essential to life itself.  Eating oil, chemicals, producing energy in the form of algae,  aiding digestion and producing vitamins like B-12 and K-2, microbes have Houdini-like attributes, accomplishing astounding feats. It seems logical that they would do astounding things for gardening too. My favorite book on microbes in the garden is Teaming with Microbes: The Organic Gardener’s Guide to the Soil Food Web, Revised Edition

I like the fact that life isn’t quite as sterile and reductionist as modernity seems to imply but is instead exploding, hidden, complex, and undiscovered. Over half of all living protoplasm is microbial and much of it is still simply unknown. Nature doesn’t seems to hand over secrets quite so willingly as old-school agricultural scientists like to think.

A few weeks ago, I sprayed my four peonies with a compost tea from T and J Enterprises. Then I got busy with other garden work thinking I would fertilize them later. They never seem to grow well until alfalfa meal or other fertilizer is given to them. But to my surprise, they look healthy with dark green leaves. This tea is brewed with a simple aerator in a one gallon bucket for 6-24 hours. It has a wonderful effect on plants. In telephone conversations with Mr. Giannou from T and J, I found out that the microbe powder I use has microbe food in it – molasses, which causes them to multiply wildly while being aerated. It reminds me of making bread using  a yeast sponge left on the counter overnight. Maybe I should add some molasses to this too!

Yesterday I received an email newsletter from Howard Garrett from DirtDoctor.com about how a molasses tea, made by adding 1/4 – 1/2 cup of liquid molasses per gallon of water, makes nut grass disappear. I don’t have nut grass (although today I saw something that looked suspiciously like it), but I was reminded of Mr. Giannou’s assertion that compost tea balances out the soil so that weeds, which are there to accumulate deficient minerals, no longer appear. My garden will certainly put this to the test. Mr. Giannou also described how slugs no longer appear with regular use of T and J’s compost tea. Since I have plenty of slugs, I resisted using my slug bait, and instead watered my slug infested radishes with compost tea. And the damage did stop – quite amazing! The experiment will continue with my lettuce next.

T and J compost tea also prevents frost damage according to Mr. Giannou and his website.  Our temperatures didn’t go low enough, just teetering on the gnawing precipice, for a good test this year. He also explained how the tea also functions as an insect repellent. But advertising this fact would incur penalties or expensive permits from the USDA. Only the corporations get to promote their insidious toxic wares with this system.  Our conversation was filled with breakthrough information with a long list of microbial attributes.

Since the Dirt Doctor reminded me of molasses again, and I happen to have a fifty pound bag of just this I picked up at the farm store for less than ten dollars, I decided to look up a few more particulars about molasses. I found that it is about 2% calcium, 15% magnesium ( a pretty crucial mineral), 10% iron, 23% potassium ( a specific for tomatoes), and contains sugars (also known as carbohydrates) and micronutrients.  Its analysis is 1-0-5.  Heavens! What have I been missing? This profile complements perfectly the bat guanos, which are low in potassium and my Miracle Grow Organic Choice Bone Meal which is 6-9-0. I’ve been adding kelp or greensand, but both are rather expensive and not readily available. This is more ammunition for combating the dreaded tomato blight – by providing a nutrient that tomatoes  really need. But first, molasses is the premier food for microbes; and it is the microbes which feed the plant. And, as Mr. Giannou made sure to mention, feed those microbes, but, of course you must put them there first.

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