As I have mentioned before, one of the most common finds at estate sales is gardening chemicals. Just today, for instance, we picked up a big bag of E.B. Stones’ Sure Start. You can frequently pick up different fertilizers really cheaply. Often times when you come around to using this fertilizer, you will find them with numerous lumps that have hardened because the bag wasn’t securely sealed. These lumps are dangerous to use because they concentrate too much fertilizer in a small soil area and “burned” plants can result. If you save one of the plant nursery trays that are in a fine grid, you can use it to screen off those lumps. Then if you put those lumps on pavement, you can give them a good stomping to reduce them to a granular form. Sweep up the remains and you have perfectly good fertilizer.
We also keep a good supply of these small grid trays to shade new plantings. It seems that the new planting of irises always occurs during the hottest weather of the year.
By the way, I have heard that plants growers are shifting over to rectangular trays. So you might hop to it in your quest for an old square one that you can use as a sifter.
Stan, The Lumpless Man
Nursery flat used to sift fertilizer clumps
I know you may not be willing to admit it, but I know there is a chance that you have Jobe’s fertilizer spikes. I can understand your reluctance to fess up considering the presentations that have been given by the perennial club. In June you heard a program on composting in which the use of chemical fertilizers was discouraged. Not too long ago, Pam Bone told you the uselessness of driving fertilizer spikes around trees because so little area of the root zone was affected. So, what are you doing to do with these things other than let the box continue to collect dust amongst your garden supplies? Well, let me tell you:
First of all, do you have the spikes for “beautiful evergreens” (16-4-4) or for “lush fruit & nut trees” (10-15-15)? This obviously will determine where fertilizer will be applied.
Second, do you have a hammer? If so, this is what you should do. Lay out a spike on a hard surface and beat it with the hammer. Your sidewalk out front may be a good place. You may gather a curious crowd of neighbors, who will immediately scurry off to seek out their own dusty box of fertilizer spikes. Now, you will find that bits and pieces of fertilizer will fly about and wearing googles is advised. It adds interest to the spectacle too.
Finally, apply the broken-up fertilizer bit to your plants. Now, here’s what I do with our citrus trees. I break the spikes into 4 pieces. I gather them into a bucket and walk amongst the trees and toss the chunks around the drip line of the trees so that whole ground area is evenly covered. I then take my hammer and bash them down into the soil. I time the application so that the soil is moist and soft, but not so moist that walking about compresses the soil. There is a pretty good layer of bark covering the ground, but I just smack the chucks down through it. I have to admit that I find this procedure rather enjoyable.
If you are applying the fertilizer to plants around your yard or potted plants, you will want to break up the spikes into much smaller pieces as I have shown in the photo. I used the chisel, but that isn’t necessary. LaVille has found it to be affective to shove small chunks down the sides of pots. You will have to decide how small the chunks should be and how much to apply, but then that’s the challenge, right?
So, what are you going to do with the mess of powdered fertilizer dust left on your sidewalk? Sweep it up and scatter it around your garden. On second thought, perhaps your front sidewalk is not the ideal hammering area as you wouldn’t want any fertilizer to end up in the gutter and on to our rivers and streams. You should probably do your spike bashing in the back yard. That way no one will think you are too cheap to buy a proper fertilizer.
But Stan, you say, why did you buy fertilizer spikes? Estate sales—I cannot resist a bargain. You would be surprised to see how many estate sales have dusty old boxes of unopened fertilizer spikes. Don’t let that happen at your estate sale.
Stan, The Hammer Man