Monday, May 15, 2006

Alfalfa Tea for Roses

The rose growers on the GardenWeb forums are very excited about alfalfa tea. I have been putting alfalfa pellets around my roses for the past couple of years, but evidently the tea works faster and there seems to be an added benefit in the fact that it is fermented. Why alfalfa? It contains triacontanol, which is a growth stimulant, and it is said to produce higher yields. I keep hearing about increased basal breakouts. What is that? New growth from the bud union. Hmm, wonder if it helps own-root roses....?

I have read lots of interesting stories about alfalfa tea...mainly regarding its smell. I make my own wine and beer, so I am familiar with the smell of fermentation. No problem I say. However the description of the brew, "It makes my nose hairs stand on end", "It looks and smells like vomit. Is that normal?"..."No, that doesn't sound like it smells bad enough. ;~) You're looking for week old vomit from a vegetarian wino who has a dead fish in his pocket." Yikes!! Seems that wearing a gas mask, rain slicker and gum boots is a good idea.

Despite the scary storis I started a batch a good distance from the house.

The recipe calls for:
10-12 cups of alfalfa pellets in a 32 gallon garbage can (with lid)
Add water, stir, steep 4 to 5 days in the sun
It is ready to use when it has a yeasty (or vomit, etc) smell and foam on the surface.
Use about 1 gallon per large rose bush.
Recommendations for frequency of use varies from every week or 2 to twice during the growing season.

When at the bottom there will be sludge left. Simply fill again with water, let ferment and use again. After that just throw the sludge in the compost pile or bury somewhere.

Just before adding to the roses you may want to add to the barrel epsom salts (1 cup), chelated iron (1/2 c), fish emulsion (1-2 c), seaweed (1 c), chelated iron (1 c), or any liquid fertilizer. Just be careful to keep the nutrients balanced so that you are not adding too much nitrogen, etc.

So I made my alfafa brew, but we had cold weather and I think that the yeast were killed. It foamed but it didn't smell. However I have added it to the plants that were not moved this spring. Then I added it to those that had been moved and had been in the ground about 3 weeks. The bareroots I am waiting until they show signs of aggressive growth. Evidently they need to wait about 2 weeks after planting. However the soil has been cold so I don't think they are settled in very well yet, so they will have to wait another week. Besides I hope to have the proper stinky stuff to offer them then.


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