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EARTH-KIND

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Jerry Parsons:I'm Jerry Parsons, Horticulturist with the Texas Agriculture Extension Service and I want you to join me the next few minutes when we learn about some of the beautiful plants such as we have here. We're going to learn how to grow productive plants with very few inputs such as pesticides and environmental concerns such as water, or choosing the right plant, growing it in the right fashion, so that you can get more for less. Join me.When you start gardening and growing flowers, or vegetables, or whatever, you start with a baby plant. Believe it or not, how you handle these plants, how you handle them in their infancies so to speak, determines how much yield or how production you can expect.Of course in a flowerbed or in a garden we are talking about going ahead and working the soil up, adding organic materials, same stuff you do every year. Of course we recommend that you use about 2 pounds per 100 square feet of the EARTH-KIND recommended Slow Release types of fertilizer so that it will give you a good feeding of the plant throughout the year. But a lot of times the feeding that they receive at this time of the year, when you first put them into this cold soil, on flowers and vegetables, determines how beautiful or how productive they will be. A lot of things on a cold soil are unavailable to plant. One of the main things that will determine how much they will yield or flower is phosphorous. It is the second number that is listed on the fertilizer analysis PTO4 so to speak. The best thing to do in cold soils is to make sure it's available by adding some. Phosphorous is sold in the nurseries as Super phosphate as you see here. You can also use the starter solution, which is a liquid solution, which you are basically phosphorous that you can pour over the plant.There's a new product, a new EARTH-KIND product that you might want to consider called Colloidal Phosphorous. Actually, it's more organically approved than super phosphate, and actually all of this comes from the same product. Super phosphate is rock phosphate that has been treated with sulfuric acid and this is basically a chip of rock phosphate. You never want to use rock sulphate because it is so slow to break down and become available to the plants in the soil. This Colloidal Phosphate won't burn the plant, which means when you put it out, you can put a plant straight into it and it won't burn. Now on the same token, there's not as much phosphorous in the Colloidal rock phosphate as there is in super phosphate.So basically what you need to do is get a transplant of a recommended vegetable variety for your area, and again the EARTH-KIND tabloid is being distributed by your local participating nurseries have that listing there. Then what you need to do once you have worked the soil up and made a raised bed 36 inches apart, is split it right down the middle just like your getting ready to plant. Now how deep your going to split it depends on what type of phosphorous you're going to use. If your going to use Super phosphate then you are going to need to put this Super phosphate several inches below the plant that you are going to plant. So you would split open a deeper furrow. You want to use this at the rate of 1/2 a pound per forty linear feet. Measure that and sprinkle it in. Then what you want to do is cover this with a little soil, about an inch or two of soil and then plant your seed or plant right in that area.Now if you are using Colloidal phosphates, then basically all you have to do is you have to use it quite a bit more. You use five pounds for forty linear feet of Colloidal Phosphate. So you have to put it in there kind of strong. But in the same token, when you are getting ready to plant your tomato plant or whatever, you can plant it straight in the Colloidal Phosphate. Now, if your having trouble with iron chlorosis or yellowing of plants, you might want to add Copperas two to three inches beneath the soil, banded beneath the plants you are going to plant. So they can feed on the iron too. If you make sure your plant has phosphorous available early and iron available early, you can double and triple production throughout the season and give your plants a chance. Give them some starter solution in the form of Super phosphate or Colloidal Phosphate.You know, once you've worked so hard to find the right variety of tomatoes that are recommended in our EARTH-KIND publication, and went to all the trouble of making sure it has phosphorous, under the plant as you plant it, and added that expensive fertilizer that your going to add to it, whether it's manure, commercial fertilizer, and gone through all of the back-breaking trouble of working the garden up and working these beds up so that they're high and dry incase we get into a rainy season. The first thing that's going to happen if you're an experienced gardener, is that two days-maybe even two hours after you have put this transplant in the ground, is you're going to have more water and rain and wind, and maybe a little cold weather than you can understand and that your plant certainly needs. You say, 'well they're tough, they can take it.' They can take it, but again they live through it, but they don't like it. It's been shown that a fifteen mile an hour wind, on these young tomato plants or pepper plants or whatever will decrease production over a long period of the time. So we're going to give you a technique, an EARTH-KIND technique by the way, that you can protect these young transplants and never ever have to spray them with insecticide to keep bugs off of them or whatever. You never have to worry about birds getting them or whatever, it sounds like a miracle.Most people use cages around a tomato plant, whether they use concrete reinforcement cages or some of the cages you can buy at your local nursery. In the past several years, the Extension Service has been recommending that on these cages, what you do is cover them with plastic. The instant you put these transplants into the ground, you immediately put a cage over them and you cover them with some kind of protective device. Plastic was the first thing that was recommended. So we recommended that you simply put that on there and put plastic over it. Put plastic over the top of the cage. So of course you have to anchor it down because of course when you put plastic over it, it becomes box tight. So low and behold it blows over. Of course when it gets hot during the day, above seventy-five degrees, you come and open the top. When it gets cold on a cold night, you come and close it. If it gets extremely hot, you raise it from the bottom and open the top. That's the way you handle plastic. Now the problem with this is lots of people forget -- it may get too hot in there. The concept worked as far as keeping the bugs out, and protecting the young transplants, but it was harder to handle. The answer is a new EARTH-KIND product called Grow-Web. It's a spun cloth that looks like a web ? that's why it's called Grow-Web. It allows enough light through that it doesn't stunt the growth of the plant. It doesn't get too hot to where the plant won't set fruit, or that type of thing. But, it still breaks the wind and it keeps out all insects. The neat thing about this Grow-Web product is once you plant your plant, you can put your cage on already wrapped with this product. You can cover the top and seal the top to completely seal the cage and you never have to unseal it, until the day that you pick your first tomato from this cage. As you can see, we are uncovering this one now, the tomato quality is wonderful. They are vine ripe tomatoes; there is no bird damage on them at all. Also, these have never been sprayed with insecticides or whatever. That's the way to grow and protect young plants. Now remember, that if it gets below thirty-two degrees - if it gets extremely cold for a long period of time, you're going to have to put some artificial heat in there. Such as light bulbs, Christmas lights, or whatever and it'll make your garden look really pretty in the springtime. But in the same token it will give you a little frost protection. Basically it will be ten degrees warmer. The neat thing about this product is that it can also be used for a fall crop in July just like it can be used for a spring crop. Now you say, 'hey that's a good idea for my tomato plant, what about other crops? What about crops like beans?This is a bluebonnet, which theoretically is a bean. I have trouble with bugs getting on my beans, and I have trouble with birds eating the seed out of the ground when I'm trying to plant them. Basically what you do with this is you simply drape it over. Act like it's sort of a row cover. There the plants are, with no way for any insect to contaminate them and they will stay a little bit warmer and grow a little bit faster, without any pesticide use at all. So the use of this Grow-Web is a real breakthrough. But of course you might have to take it back to cut out the weeds because the weeds will grow under here just like the plants, and then just immediately put it back. You can keep bugs from contaminating them and also, more importantly, you can keep bugs that are carrying virus diseases from contaminating your garden crops. So try some of these protective coverings. It's a sure EARTH-KIND way to grow. How you fertilize your lawn, shrubs, flowers, and vegetable garden is extremely important. Not only how you fertilize, but also what you fertilize with. This year on the EARTH-KIND program we are recommending the use of the slow-release fertilizer. The reason why we are recommending it is because does exactly what it says, it releases the nitrogen, which is the first number in the fertilizer analysis. It releases the nitrogen in a ten-week period, rather than rapidly releasing it within a two or three-week period, such as other fertilizers do. Which is more economical for your plants to uptake the nutrients. So we recommend slow-release fertilizer. Now, another reason is because it is EARTH-KIND, and the reason why we encourage each and every one of you to do it is because one of the most alarming situations on water pollution is the situation where we get into the Nitrate solution of Nitrogen pollution of water from the fertilizers that we apply. So if you use slow-release fertilizer so that the plants can take it up a little at a time, as we grow through, then we won't have that washing out of the soil into the groundwater and we won't be drinking it. Now, a lot of people say, 'how do I know that I am getting ready to use a slow-release fertilizer?' Well, you can kind of look at it, if you look in this glass, you can see the little balls in there and so some of those are sulfur or plastic coated and they gradually release over a period of time. That is an indication, but most of us don't tear the bag open at the nursery, so what we do is depend on the label of the bag. To make sure you aren't getting fooled into buying a less than EARTH-KIND product, you need to look at not only the front of the label, but also the back. For instance we have several products here, three fertilizer bags here, and all of them indicate on the front that they contain slow release fertilizer. For instance this one is slow-release, this one has sulfur coated urea, which indicates it is a slow-release formulation and that one down there indicates that it is a long lasting fertilizer and is well as containing sulfur coated urea plastic on it. All those indicate that they are long lasting and basically slow release. But, one of these bags is not as EARTH-KIND as the other, because they are fooling us on the front. The way to really tell is to look at the back. The back has a legal document on it to indicate how true slow-releasing fertilizer is in it. What we really want you to purchase this year to really get in the EARTH-KIND program is to make sure that whatever product you have has 1/2 of this first number in slow release formation. So let me show you the back of the package and show exactly what we're talking about as far as the label is concerned. Well if we turn these bags around now, and look at the back, this guaranteed analysis is the law. So if we start down there with the first one which is 21-7-14, and as we said it needs half that number to really be EARTH-KIND, and low and behold on there it says 10.5 of sulfur coated urea, which is the slow-release formulation. This 19-5-9 product, it should be half of 19 of nitrogen, and it's 9.5. Yet this product here, that we could probably buy cheaper, and the one that looked like it was slow-release, if we read carefully here, we see that it is only 5.8% of sulfur coated urea, less than 1/3 of the 21% nitrogen. So this is not as EARTH-KIND of a product as these other two would be. This is very important for you to consider when you are buying these products. Now people will say, 'I think I'm just going to get the cheapest product.' I want you to keep this in mind. That's your drinking water. So it's better to do it right, do it EARTH-KIND, maybe pay a little more for these slow-release fertilizers, but better than contaminating our environment. Now these impatients need to be in the shade no sun at all, but they sure are spectacular. Then of course you have to have some that do well in the sun that require full sun. You definitely need to pick the one that does the best in the right condition.Now the EARTH-KIND publications being distributed by the local nurseries, does have that information in it if you are interested in growing some flowering annuals. A concept that you may be interested in doing if you really want more 'bang for your buck' so to speak is to choose what we refer to as a per-annual. A perannual is basically a perennial being used as an annual, and when you take the toughness of the perennial that comes back year after year, but yet you stabilize it and kind of make it more uniform as far as plant growth is concerned. You'll have a plant that will really endure. A good example of this is Lantana. Now Lantana has been utilized in the landscape for a long time and was actually made in Texas, but this is one called New Gold Lantana, that actually does not produce a seed, so it continues to bloom all through the summer. Of course it has to be in the full sun, and it does an extremely good job at having continuous bloom. It's drought tolerant, heat tolerant and those types of things. However the one that has been deemed by the EARTH-KIND promotion as the first EARTH-KIND perannual that we are going to be talking about is a spectacular perannual called Firebush. It is a spectacular thing that you can transplant every year and will perennial over in South Texas sometimes. But if you plant it year after year, it will be very uniform in it's height. The older it gets, the hotter it gets, the drier it gets, the prettier Firebush gets. It is a natural Hummingbird attraction, butterfly attraction, and like I said it's spectacular. The only problem with it is, is that it must be in a full sun attraction, if you expect maximum bloom. So you might want to try some of these perannuals, Firebush especially is one that we are recommending this year and plant it in the full sun condition, and hope that it gets so hot and so dry that this desert plant will show you what it can do. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, Parsons to compost. Probably the way I'll end up, that's about the best funeral I can afford. It may not be a bad way to go. We need to recycle everything, we need to be EARTH-KIND conscious, so to speak, and a compost pile is a good way to do it. You say, 'I don't want that big ol' thing in my backyard.' Another problem with this is turning this thing. You have turn it with a fork or a shovel about every 3-4 weeks, unless you've got a good strong spouse, that may be a problem. The answer to the whole thing is first of all, is don't have such a big compost pile and secondly, have an easy way to turn it. The answer may be a smaller pile. Maybe the answer to this big composting pile problem is simply a very small composting pile. I've got the Mr. Compost of the U.S. here with me. Malcolm Beck of San Antonio, and this is a fairly small composting bin that you've set. Which is about what $35?Malcom Beck:It's about $34.95.

Jerry Parsons:Okay, it's small enough that you can put in some discreetly out of the way place.Malcom Beck:Hidden some place.

Jerry Parsons:Hidden some place. Then when people put their organic material in here, they can compost it and have an EARTH-KIND procedure right there in their own backyard. Now even as small as this thing is, you would still have problems turning it. But I think ya'll have a suggestion on how to solve that problem too. What is that?Malcom Beck:A compost-probing tool, we call it a compost-turning probe.

Jerry Parsons:Okay, now this thing has wings on it so to speak, and it goes up when you stick it in the ground and pulls down when you pull it out it gets stuff from the bottom. This thing only costs about $13-$14 and it's better than back surgery. Give us a few pulls in there. That pulls it from the bottom right?Malcom Beck:Yes.

Jerry Parsons:Now how often would you have to turn it?Malcom Beck:You should at least turn it once every third day. You've got this thing leaning there by it, every time you walk by, it doesn't hurt to punch it in and turn it a little bit. Just make sure you do it all the way around so you get it all turned.

Jerry Parsons:What do you recommend that people use in a compost pile?Malcom Beck:Just use everything organic. Use your grass clippings, your leaves that you rake up, small twigs and put some kitchen scraps in it. You need quite a bit of grass and leaves to go with the kitchen scraps. If you get it too wet with too many kitchen scraps and it will start smelling if you don't turn it a lot. You can compost just about anything you have around the house that's organic.

Jerry Parsons:Okay. What's the main mistake that people make on this?

Malcolm Beck:Most home gardeners want to keep it too wet Jerry. You need moisture and you can tell, it should have a little bit of moisture about like a drained out sponge. This one right here is just a little bit wet because of the rain.

Jerry Parsons:Okay. What should this look like when it's finished?

Malcolm Beck:This here is compost that is about 5-6 months old. It's a pretty, black, buyable product. It has no smell except for an earthy smell. It's rich in a lot of nutrients.

Jerry Parsons:Generally most people don't consider compost materials to be a complete fertilizer. They can be fortified to where they have more nutrients in them?

Malcolm Beck:Compost is mainly a salt and this one has a lot of fertilizers in it, but you can fortify it with extras.

Malcolm Beck:One of the main things we have around here is iron chlorosis where the plants turn yellow. Of course keeping mulch and compost on them helps, but if you wanted to add some iron products, you could add Copperas Iron Sulphate at about the rate of a cup per bushel, maybe a little less and put it in the beginning because as the compost is decomposing the microorganisms are chelating this copper so that the iron sulfate in it turns it into a form that won't tie up in our alkaline soil and the plant can get it.

Jerry Parsons:Suppose you wanted to be higher in nitrogen.

Malcolm Beck:If you want it to be higher in nitrogen, you could add something like blood meal or cottonseed meal.

Jerry Parsons:At the rates of say a bushel?

Malcolm Beck:You put in 3 cups per bushel.

Jerry Parsons:What about phosphorous?

Malcolm Beck:If you want phosphorous you could add bone meal or you could add rock phosphate ? either one. But bone meal is more readily attainable.

Jerry Parsons:So you could actually make an organic fertilizer, if you refer to it as that, just by the use of some of these products like bone meal and blood meal and iron sulphate.

Malcolm Beck:You can make the ratio that you want. You can bring the iron content up, you can bring the nitrogen up, the phosphorous up, and if you want to bring the potassium up, you can put granite.

Jerry Parsons:Then utilize it back on your landscape rather than filling up the landfills. A true EARTH-KIND concept.That about concludes our EARTH-KIND television special. We hope you have learned some techniques that will allow you to grow better, with less inputs and definitely more environmental safety and precaution. I want you to try some of these. Like I said I do hope you try some of these, I think you will like it better. It's better and easier. It's simply using tried and proven techniques based on some scientific knowledge that we know will work, not any hocus-pocus or anything magic, it's just good, sound horticultural practices. For instance, I'm laying here in a field of cereal rice, Ebon Rye, which of course is planted in the fall and which will help control nematodes as well as helps improve your soil condition. So there a lot of good EARTH-KIND techniques to be had, all we have to do is together find them and implement them in your home landscape. This has been Jerry Parsons with the Texas Agricultural Extension Service.

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