Steve Solomon's
Comments About Fertigation

Steve Solomon started the Territorial Seed Company in 1979. He sold the company and now lives in Tasmania, where he continues to be an avid gardener. Click Here to go to Steve Solomon's web page.

As I mentioned on the home page of this web site, my idea for the Planet Whizbang irrigation bucket came from reading about Steve Solomon's fertigation bucket in his book, Gardening When It Counts: Growing Food in Hard Times (buy yourself a copy and you'll be glad you did). The excerpts below are from the book...

"The Results Can Be Remarkble"
(my title)
"The fertigation bucket economically and effectively places moisture and nutrition below a growing plant .... Fertigation is especially useful for big plants: tomatoes, melons, cucumbers, squash. It can make all the difference for Brussels sprouts or big cabbages, for broccoli or a thriving pepper bush. The results can be remarkable.

It is important when fertigating that the water sinks right in, making a surface wet spot no larger than the little plate under a teacup. This way the moisture penetrates straight down into the subsoil. The speed the water comes out of the bucket determines how widely the moisture spreads. Exactly how large the drainhole should be depends on the soil type; sandy soil usually accepts moisture rapidly, and the water naturally goes deep and not wide. Clay soils are slower to take in moisture, and it spreads out much more broadly when applied from a single drip source. If the soil has 20 percent clay or more, then five gallons (20 liters) will be about right, given every three weeks. But if the soil has little clay, it has far less ability to hold moisture. In that case, perhaps half as much water, say 2-1/2 gallons (10 liters), given every ten days would work better.

Fertigation can be a wise practice even when the plants are otherwise getting enough water. If the soil needs no more moisture, you can make the fertilizer solution a bit stronger and give less volume because it will thin itself out with the moisture already present in the earth.

The traditional fertigation solution is manure or compost tea. Fill a barrel (these days it will probably be a garbage can) with water, dump in a bucketful or two of fresh manure or compost, and allow it to brew for a week. Stir the brew every few days. When it's ready, dip out buckets of fertigation concentrate. Periodically refill the barrel with fresh water and add more manure or compost. You'll determine how much you need to dilute this tea according to your results in using it. When the barrel starts getting too full of solids, empty it out, spread the solids on the garden or toss them into the compost heap, and start a new batch. A variation: Put armloads of comfrey leaves in the brew instead of manure. Other forms of organic matter containing a fair amount of proteins that you could toss into the brew include alfalfa (lucerne), seedmeal, or a quart or two (liter or two) of tankage, meatmeal, or even highly potent bloodmeal (this would really put up the nitorogen content). Urine would also work excellently.

These days, someone makes a product for doing everything, and fertigation is no exception. Organic gardeners will see an excellent (and rather costly) result using fish emulsion fertilizer, diluted as suggested, which is usually about one part concentrate to 100 parts water. Soluble chemical fertilizers are also highly effective if they contain trace elements as well as NPK. As long as those chemicals do not replace regular additions of organic matter, their use will not damage soil life because they are applied in a highly dilute form."


You can read much more about Steve Solomon's gardening wisdom (including how he uses fertigation buckets) and get a link to a free copy of one of his books at This Link.