FAQ #2 - How are they used (pt 2)
This is also known as activated charcoal. It is a filtering agent but it also is a collector of various nutrients in the soil. Once collected, the soil microbes can come to the charcoal to retrieve the nutrients as needed. Think of it as a storage house. I use activated charcoal when I know I have a problem with soil chemistry (chemical spill).
A few inexpensive kitty litter products are made from zeolite. You can also get it delivered by the truckload direct from the mines. Zeolite looks like other clay kitty litter products, but since the zeolite has been “fired” by a volcano, it will not dissolve or even soften in water. It is a natural ceramic with many pores to absorb chemicals - much like the way activated carbon absorbs chemicals. In kitty litter the zeolite absorbs the liquid and odors. In the soil, it holds nutrients as well as holding chemicals. I use zeolite if I know I have a problem with the soil chemistry.
The vinegar in my garage is 20% acidity. Most household vinegars are 5%. As a homeowner I used it to kill weeds. As a professional caregiver, you are not allowed to use vinegar because it does not carry the proper labeling to tell how to use it safely. Why am I even talking about it? Because the subject will come up sooner or later. Vinegar at the 20% strength can cause blindness for several months if splashed into your eyes. This aspect is virtually never mentioned on the label. Use appropriate care when handling or transferring vinegar. As I write this, a brand of vinegar called BurnOut is reported to be on the market and properly labeled for weed control.
Orange oil is a powerful organic solvent. It can dissolve the wax from a candle - and it can also dissolve the outer waxy covering from an insect. Insects die quickly once there is a break in their outer coverings. Again, I do not believe there is a properly labeled orange oil product on the market for professionals, so it is a homeowner concern. I am presenting it here simply for completeness. The solvent effect seems to help the vinegar to work faster and better on weeds and it works all by itself (highly diluted in water) on insects. A foliar spray of 1 gallon of strong vinegar and 2 ounces of orange oil will desiccate most plants completely in a few minutes. Some grasses take a day or two, and some plants and grasses do not respond to the spray at all. I believe that orange oil may be an ingredient in the BurnOut product.
This is sold under the common name, greensand, nearly everywhere. In calcium type soils after heavy rains, the iron in the soil is changed from available to unavailable. Glauconite seems to unlock the key holding iron and keeping it away from the plants. This product works better than Ironite, lasts a very long time, and costs less. Again, this product may only work in highly alkaline soils.
I have this product as an experiment. So far it is failing the experiment. Many farmers use tons of lava sand and get improved yields from tomatoes and peppers, but the serious scientists do not understand why. The advertised explanation is “paramagnetic” qualities of the lava. I believe that explanation is baloney. If it has any effect at all (which my own experiments do not show), it might be due to the microscopic pores on the material which serve as protected homes for bacteria and molds (my personal theory). I don’t see a need to have this unless the client has heard about it and insists on applying. If it works for you, be sure to write to the forum and tell us about it.
These items carry a disease that is fatal to mosquitoes and to fungus gnats. I am not certain whether the labeling allows professional use, but you can certainly let your customers know about them.
Notice that a common organic material is not listed here, peat moss. Peat moss is the rotted product of ferns sitting for thousands of years underwater in the frozen tundra. Every last bit of nutrient has been either leached out or digested by microbes over that length of time. At best peat moss is an absorbent material that may hold nutrients like humus does. But it has no nutritive value by itself.
Another missing material is manure. I’m convinced that manure is one of three primary reasons why more people are not using organic gardening methods and materials. Manure stinks. The application of manure causes embarrassment to the homeowner for at least a week. Not only that but manure is full of weed seeds and pathogens. The only use for manure is as an ingredient in new compost. After the manure has matured for several months in the compost, then it is no longer manure and can be used safely and enthusiastically.
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San Antonio, TX