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The Value of Fish Emulsion

Clematis2May09wtmk  I grow a lot of flowers as well as veggies in my garden. Some flowers, like clematis (shown left) and nasturtiums do great with little or no care. If you over feed a clematis or nasturtium with too much nitrogen, you get lots of green foliage and few flowers.

But other flowers (like my roses) love to be fed. They bloom best when I shower them with love. But I honestly don’t have much time to love them these days!

So, how do I give roses the food they need when I don’t have the time to be feeding them every other week? And if I do feed my roses, how to I keep from over-feeding the other nearby flowers like clematis and the nasturtiums?

Well, some gardeners resort to slow release fertilizers. They throw the slow release pellets under each rose bush and it slowly breaks down to feed the roots. Others feed their garden with a foliar spray of Miracle Gro and hope for the best.[Ugh!]

Now, I understand the lure of using a fancy Miracle Gro sprayer on the end of your hose. You just attach it and the water mixes in and you lazily walk around the garden spraying away like those pretty gardener women in the Miracle Gro commercial. I get it. But don’t do it!  Miracle Gro is salty and synthetic. It is NOT the best choice for oh so many reasons.

The way I get my garden to look like the one in the Miracle Gro commercial is to use Fish Emulsion. I  water with it using a siphon mixer attachment. First, I attach the siphon to my water spigot. Then I attach my hose to the siphon. I measure out the fish emulsion into a bucket, fill the remainder with water and stick the siphon hose into the bucket. The fish emulsion in the bucket is siphoned into the garden hose at the correct rate and you just water the garden! (Or you can use a spray attachment at the end and give your plants a foliar feed. I prefer to just water the plants.)

Yes, it stinks! You can buy a deodorized fish emulsion, but it still has an odor — just a bit less. Trust me, you will not feel like one of those pretty gardener women when you are done watering your garden with stinky fish goo. However, when you use fish emulsion, you get THIS…


And this…



And you get this with a natural product. No synthetics.

Fish emulsion has the main N-P-K of regular fertilizer, but in very small amounts. (You are less likely to over-feed and get too much foliage.) It also has lots of micro-nutrients that the flowers LOVE. Fish emulsion also releases these nutrients in a slower, more natural way than the synthetics. You don’t shock your plants. It’s all good — except for the stinky part.

I use fish emulsion about once a month in April, May, June & July. That’s about it. Just don’t do your yard the day of a big outdoor BBQ party. The smell lingers for about 24 hours.

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About the Author:

Theresa Loe is the founder of Living Homegrown® and the Canning Academy® and is the Co-Executive Producer & Canning Expert on the national PBS gardening series, Growing A Greener World®. Theresa homesteads on just 1/10th of an acre in Los Angeles with her husband, two teenage boys and several disorderly but totally adorable chickens. Learn more about Living Homegrown here and about the Canning Academy here.