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eOrchids

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Hey Everyone,
Im just curious. I have been watering my orchids with distilled water for quite some time & I occasionally mix it with Schultz Orchid Food. My question is that "Is their better orchid food I could feed my orchids with?" (There's nothing wrong with the current orchid food I'm using; my plants are doing great! I'm just wondering.)

Also Marco and I have been discussing and neither of us knows what urea is.
What is urea and how does it affect an orchid? Thanks.
 

kentuckiense

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eOrchids said:
Hey Everyone,
Im just curious. I have been watering my orchids with distilled water for quite some time & I occasionally mix it with Schultz Orchid Food. My question is that "Is their better orchid food I could feed my orchids with?" (There's nothing wrong with the current orchid food I'm using; my plants are doing great! I'm just wondering.)

Also Marco and I have been discussing and neither of us knows what urea is.
What is urea and how does it affect an orchid? Thanks.
Well, if it works for you then I wouldn't attempt to fix it!

As for urea, it is an organic source of Nitrogen. Essentially, it's one of the major waste products of protein(amino acid) metabolism by us mammals(and some others). Some people say orchids prefer to get nitrogen from inorganic sources, but that's all I know on the subject.
 
G

gore42

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First of all, although people (and fertilizer companies) commonly refer to fertilizer as plant "food", I think it's a poor analogy that can be misleading. I think it makes more sense to think of Light, Air and Water as plant food, and fertilizer more like vitamin suppliments that help the plants make use of their food. But that's beside the point, I suppose.

Generally speaking, I don't think it matters very much what fertilizer you use, although I do prefer one with a supply of micronutrients and one with added calcium and magnesium. Most fertilizers these days have micronutrients, so that's not a big concern. 20-20-20 is fine. MSU formula seems to be fine. I stay away from "Bloom formulas" because they add so much acidity and most of it goes unused.

- Matt
 

SlipperFan

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eOrchids said:
Hey Everyone,
Im just curious. I have been watering my orchids with distilled water for quite some time & I occasionally mix it with Schultz Orchid Food. My question is that "Is their better orchid food I could feed my orchids with?" (There's nothing wrong with the current orchid food I'm using; my plants are doing great! I'm just wondering.)

Also Marco and I have been discussing and neither of us knows what urea is.
What is urea and how does it affect an orchid? Thanks.
Interesting that you are having good luck with Schultz. Maybe they've reformulated it. In the past, whenever someone would bring a plant into the greenhouse that wouldn't bloom and we'd ask them what fertilizer they'd used, they'd invariably say "Schultz." We used to compare it with the ingredients in the MSU formula, and note that certain micronutrients were missing, e.g., boron.
 

Rick

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eOrchids said:
Hey Everyone,
Im just curious. I have been watering my orchids with distilled water for quite some time & I occasionally mix it with Schultz Orchid Food. My question is that "Is their better orchid food I could feed my orchids with?" (There's nothing wrong with the current orchid food I'm using; my plants are doing great! I'm just wondering.)

Also Marco and I have been discussing and neither of us knows what urea is.
What is urea and how does it affect an orchid? Thanks.
How long is "quite some time". I started out with Shultz too, but not in conjuncton with distilled (I used well water). I used this combo for maybe a year. Some plants did just fine, others not so great, but the problem could just have well have been the high salts of my well water. I know some people who never fertilize, but have fairly yucky pond or well water to water with. One of the best growers I know uses Jack's. I use MSU for RO water.

Honestly, its all over the board when it comes to fertilization.

Urea is an "organic" source of nitrogen as described in Kentuckiesnse' post. It is very difficult for plants to uptake this source of nitrogen directly without a bacterial or bluegreen algae intermediary. So its not often usefull to orchids. Much better for food crops with lots of soil bacteria present.
 

eOrchids

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Rick said:
How long is "quite some time". I started out with Shultz too, but not in conjuncton with distilled (I used well water). I used this combo for maybe a year. Some plants did just fine, others not so great, but the problem could just have well have been the high salts of my well water. I know some people who never fertilize, but have fairly yucky pond or well water to water with. One of the best growers I know uses Jack's. I use MSU for RO water.

Honestly, its all over the board when it comes to fertilization.

Urea is an "organic" source of nitrogen as described in Kentuckiesnse' post. It is very difficult for plants to uptake this source of nitrogen directly without a bacterial or bluegreen algae intermediary. So its not often usefull to orchids. Much better for food crops with lots of soil bacteria present.
I have been using Schultz Orchid Food for 2 years now and I switched over to distilled water back in July from regular faucet water.
 

gonewild

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eOrchids said:
Hey Everyone,
Im just curious. I have been watering my orchids with distilled water for quite some time & I occasionally mix it with Schultz Orchid Food. My question is that "Is their better orchid food I could feed my orchids with?" (There's nothing wrong with the current orchid food I'm using; my plants are doing great! I'm just wondering.)

Also Marco and I have been discussing and neither of us knows what urea is.
What is urea and how does it affect an orchid? Thanks.
This subject is deep!

If you are happy with the growth of your plants there is no reason to change fertilizers. If you want to improve on what you have there is every reason to change.

Plants need a constant supply of many different nutrients (elements) to grow at their best. They don't "eat food" just once per month. They need a constant supply of nutrients to grow at their best. Natural soils have the ability to hold nutrients like a "food bank". Plants send out roots to make withdraws from this food bank. If the bank is full the plant takes what it needs at that moment. If the bank is empty the plant does the best it can with what it can get, but never grows as well as when the bank is full.

The ability of your potting soil (mix) to hold nutrients will dictate how often you should fertilize. Most orchid mixes have very low nutrient holding capacity. So logic and plant science tell you you need to fertilize often. Commercial nurseries go to great expense to add nutrients to their irrigation water every time a plant gets water. They don't do this because they have extra money to spend. They do it because it has been prooven plants growing in artificial (non soil) mixes respond favorably to a constant supply of nutrients. There is no doubt about this.

The ratios and balance of elements play a huge factor in plant growth. It is not enough just to have plenty, there must be balance between the elements. A high level of one may mean you need a low level of another or vice versa. This relationship is where fertilizer manufacturers get the valid chance to make claims they have the best formula.

Fertilizer brands and formulas can be very confusing. For the most part all the brands use the same materials to make their product. They simply add a little more or less of some elements and say theirs is the best. And one is about as good as the next. EXCEPT for those that contain Urea. Urea is not intended to be used on delicate plants. Urea is the cheapest source of Nitrogen available to fertilizer makers. I would avoid using any fertilizer containing Urea on orchids. Urea is intended to be applied directly to the soil and quickly covered or watered in. The Nitrogen in Urea quickly turns to an Ammonia gas when it is in contact with air and escapes to the atmosphere becoming unavailable for the plant. Urea can give off ammonia gas even when it comes into contact with foliage. Once mixed with water Urea is somewhat stabilized and this is why fertilizer makers can get away with using it in a "ornamental plant food". Leave the container open and urea becomes a wet glob and begins to release Ammonia. Urea in a "plant food" is a big flag that the manufacturer cut corners.

MSU fertilizer formulas are the result of specific university trials done with orchids to determine which elements an orchid needs to grow at optimum rates. Their trials determined all the important elements orchids need and at what ratio they are needed in. For this reason alone this formula is likely the best choice for the home grower.

With a constant supply of nutrients your plants will grow at their best, often much faster and better than in their natural habitat.

Here are a couple Paph. Rachael Ann Booths, 5 months from flask. 3 inch pots with 6.5 LS. These seedlings have been watered with fertilizer solution everyday form day one.


Here is a Phrag. besseae hybrid 5 months from flask also watered everyday with "fertilizer".


Certainly orchids will grow without much fertilizing. But certainly fertilizer everyday does not hurt them.
 

eOrchids

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gonewild said:
This subject is deep!

If you are happy with the growth of your plants there is no reason to change fertilizers. If you want to improve on what you have there is every reason to change.

Plants need a constant supply of many different nutrients (elements) to grow at their best. They don't "eat food" just once per month. They need a constant supply of nutrients to grow at their best. Natural soils have the ability to hold nutrients like a "food bank". Plants send out roots to make withdraws from this food bank. If the bank is full the plant takes what it needs at that moment. If the bank is empty the plant does the best it can with what it can get, but never grows as well as when the bank is full.

The ability of your potting soil (mix) to hold nutrients will dictate how often you should fertilize. Most orchid mixes have very low nutrient holding capacity. So logic and plant science tell you you need to fertilize often. Commercial nurseries go to great expense to add nutrients to their irrigation water every time a plant gets water. They don't do this because they have extra money to spend. They do it because it has been prooven plants growing in artificial (non soil) mixes respond favorably to a constant supply of nutrients. There is no doubt about this.

The ratios and balance of elements play a huge factor in plant growth. It is not enough just to have plenty, there must be balance between the elements. A high level of one may mean you need a low level of another or vice versa. This relationship is where fertilizer manufacturers get the valid chance to make claims they have the best formula.

Fertilizer brands and formulas can be very confusing. For the most part all the brands use the same materials to make their product. They simply add a little more or less of some elements and say theirs is the best. And one is about as good as the next. EXCEPT for those that contain Urea. Urea is not intended to be used on delicate plants. Urea is the cheapest source of Nitrogen available to fertilizer makers. I would avoid using any fertilizer containing Urea on orchids. Urea is intended to be applied directly to the soil and quickly covered or watered in. The Nitrogen in Urea quickly turns to an Ammonia gas when it is in contact with air and escapes to the atmosphere becoming unavailable for the plant. Urea can give off ammonia gas even when it comes into contact with foliage. Once mixed with water Urea is somewhat stabilized and this is why fertilizer makers can get away with using it in a "ornamental plant food". Leave the container open and urea becomes a wet glob and begins to release Ammonia. Urea in a "plant food" is a big flag that the manufacturer cut corners.

MSU fertilizer formulas are the result of specific university trials done with orchids to determine which elements an orchid needs to grow at optimum rates. Their trials determined all the important elements orchids need and at what ratio they are needed in. For this reason alone this formula is likely the best choice for the home grower.

With a constant supply of nutrients your plants will grow at their best, often much faster and better than in their natural habitat.

Here are a couple Paph. Rachael Ann Booths, 5 months from flask. 3 inch pots with 6.5 LS. These seedlings have been watered with fertilizer solution everyday form day one.


Here is a Phrag. besseae hybrid 5 months from flask also watered everyday with "fertilizer".


Certainly orchids will grow without much fertilizing. But certainly fertilizer everyday does not hurt them.
Thanks for the thorough explanation, GoneWild!

Anyway I just found that the current fertilizer, Schultz Orchid "Food" has 13.4% Urea Nitrogen!!! (I think I'll switch over to MSU Orchid Fertilizer.)
 

Heather

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Personally, since I switched to MSU, I've been very happy. I started with one of those "Grow More" foods, then switched to Dyna Grow, but MSU really seems to make my plants happier so no going back for me.
 

NYEric

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Since I grow my Phrags in trays of circulating R.O. water I avoid using fertilizer to keep the water in the trays pure. Once every two weeks I take a tray at a time and put in a fertilizer tray [ a bloom formula, some protekt w/ silicon for the roots, and some superthrive] for 4 days. Then I wash out the fertilizer and put back in R.O. tray. This allows me time to clean out the R.O. tray and pump filters and refresh the R.O. water. I am going to try to add a VERY dilute fertilizer [MSU - Go Wolverines!] in the R.O. trays because Glen Decker [Piping Rock] recommends you give plants nutrition every time you feed them. Since I'm constantly feeding them it hopefully wont hurt them.
 
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wallyworld

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I wanted to use MSU fertilizer but in my area, there is no local distrubutor of it and I don't want to order it through the mail because I would need alot since I have over 150 orchids. What I have been using is Peters Excel 15-5-15. It has approximently the same ingredients including Mg and Ca. I haven't had any problems with it so far and for a 25 lb bag it was just alittle over $20.00.
 
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gore42

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Whoah... you must do some heavy fertilizing :) I have around 1000 orchids, and use less than 2 pounds a year! Granted, lots of them are seedlings. I don't fertilize very heavily, but I do give them fertilizer with almost every watering.

- Matt
 

littlefrog

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I could get you a bag of MSU magic for about that, but the shipping wouldn't be pretty. I don't know what it costs to ship 25 pounds cheapest way, but it is probably almost as much as the product.

This is why you shouldn't buy it in liquid form, why pay to ship water?

But, fertilizer is fertilizer. I think the MSU stuff is better than most others, but even a bad fertilizer regularly applied will be far better than the perfect fertilizer that sits on the shelf.
 
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Inverness

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Matt - When MSU fertilizer is diluted to the label rate of 125ppm of N, two pounds of fertilizer would take 240 gallons of water. You must be employing some very conservative watering techniques on 1000 plants for a year.

Ken B.
 

NYEric

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I think some math work needs to be done here. If you give your plants 1 Teaspoon per gallon per week that's 52 teaspoons per year. 25 Lbs of plant food between 150 plants = 0.17 Lbs per plant. 0.17/52=0.033 Lbs or .52 oz/gallon. Are you giving your plants that much fertilizer?! Are you making a salt factory?!
 

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