misc Better production using science

I am not a Master Gardener. I do not have a degree in anything related to agriculture. The following may be an abuse of electrons. But it may prove useful.

For the past three years, I have been trying to learn the science behind growing plants. Not that there is anything wrong with "stick them in something, feed them well and enjoy what they produce." If anything, that is the basis.

What I have learned is that there are a host of factors that determine just how good produce from plants will be. And while it doesn't take any special knowledge to be able to enjoy a bountiful harvest, I have become convinced that one can increase the amount they reap from what they sow without relying on chemistry or synthetic methods.

It is hard to control some things - the amount of rain and the temps come to mind. Just the same, there is another very important, perhaps the most important one that we can cannot control - the phenological calendar. It's a 3000 year old principle that says when plants and animals experience X number of Growing Degree Days, they will do certain things - bloom, emerge, sprout, set fruit, ripen. Know what plants will do and when gives a guideline toward how to treat them.

To simplify, trying to teach a two-year-old child quantum mathematics is an exercise in futility. Likewise, getting a three week old plant to set fruit.

But... if one knows it takes ~1300 GDD for a tomato or a pepper plant to start developing fruit and one knows what nuits contribute to a higher production of flowers, it becomes much easier to, at the the least, enhance the chances of more blossoms developing. Fertilizing the plant with a bit of Bone Meal, or something else high in phosphorous will lead toward more blossoms. This is not a "state secret" - all kinds of sites offer a bloom formula. It's knowing when to add it and it is not once a plant starts blooming. It's when the plant has accumulated 800-900 GDD days, which will give the plant enough time to absorb it (assuming a slow release - depending on the exact fert, it might be better to make it 700-800 GDD).

Likewise, it's not a secret that potash can make a significant difference in the size of the fruits. Nothing new here - even in my life I knew farmers who used this (and other methods such as trimming off all other blooms and unneeded foliage) to produce the largest tomato, pepper or pumpkin for the county fair - and that was 40 years ago!) But since the fruit will be setting at about 1300-1500 GDD, the potash needs to be added a couple of weeks before that.

So this is my posit. I plan on using these guidelines this summer, in the hope to maximize my production per square foot. I'm already way over the boundaries of sensible gardening - my tomato plants are only two feet apart with two feet between rows. Plus, between each tomato plant (and pepper and basil) is a head of Romaine Lettuce. Once the potatoes sprout, (two feet between rows, a foot between each seed potato, I'll stick another head of lettuce. Use Bone Meal or Triple Phosphate to side dress them. Keep track of the harvest and either eat well or eat crow!

There are lots of factors that determine a plants growth, soil ph, sunlight, water are 3 essential things you have to have for your fertilization method to even start to work. The biggest thing that most gardeners in my region miss is the importance of trace minerals in the growth of plants. Don't over analyze, plants will require different things depending on the stress's that they are under, and it can change pretty quick. Maybe you should check out Biodynamics, there is some interesting things there.