Understanding Organics

In 1989, I started Windy Meadow Nursery with the idea that the plants I produced would perform better in the landscape than my competitors, if I developed a superior growing medium. Armed with fifteen years of experience in horticulture, I experimented with combining various animal manures, organics, and chemical fertilizers in the greenhouse soil. That year I noticed some tip burn on the leaves of Asiatic Lilies that I started breeding as a hobby in 1986. The super phosphate I was using is commonly contaminated with the impurity fluoride and was causing the tip burn.

The next year, I switched to bone meal as the phosphorus source and started conducting exhaustive trials using every kind of organic fertilizer source I could find. I trailed everything from mink manure from the farm I worked at through high school, to rock dust that promised magical results with metaphysical explanations. The organic nutrient formula we use today was worked out over eight years. Each batch of soil used in the nursery was chemically analyzed and altered depending how the many crops we produce performed. Our actual production became the trials we used to arrive at the mix we use today for the 800 varieties of plants we grow every year.

Intrepid Coco-Coir® Premium Potting Soil has been registered for use in organic Agriculture by the Washington State Department of Agriculture since 1999 and is the first Coconut based potting soil to be sold in the United States. In 1989, I also pioneered the use of introducing pure cultures of biological soil inoculants into greenhouse soils. In 1999 Intrepid Coco-Coir became the first Potting soil sold to retail gardeners in the United Stated with active cultures of biological fungicides and other known beneficial microbes. The soil is predictably and naturally disease suppressive and plays a major roll in our integrated pest management program. The addition of these biological agents greatly enhances the availability nitrogen and phosphorus in an organic mix. In fact, we have eliminated the use of phosphoric acid in the feed water for up to three years. We have greatly restricted phosphorous from leaching into the ground water and have saved a lot of money by not purchasing phosphoric acid.

Over the years we have grown over two thousand varieties of plants in the same soil with outstanding results. Many nurseries use several different mixes for the various crops they produce adding to storage cost and many times becoming a logistical nightmare keeping track of which soil gets used for each crop. Intrepid Coco-Coir® is very easy and forgiving to grow in with minimal extraneous inputs.

As more growers are exploring alternative and sustainable methods of producing crops, their first inclination is to source the least expensive options available. Many bagged, organic soils on the market today rely on one source of fertilizer for the nutrient charge. Some list poultry litter, steer manure, or worm castings or composts derived from them as the main ingredient. These inexpensive bulky fillers give an initial quick release of ammonium nitrogen, resulting in a flush of growth that needs to be checked with plant growth regulators if quality is to be maintained in the commercial greenhouse. This lush growth is soon checked when, after a few weeks of production, the manure in these mixes causes a nitrogen draw to occur. The sawdust or straw in the manure begins to be broken down by the bacteria that were introduced into the mix by the manure. Without heavy inputs of fertilizer, the plants growing in these mixes start a steady state of decline due to nitrogen starvation. When a contest ensues for nitrogen between the plant and the millions of bacteria in the pot, the million bacteria always win. The shelf life of these plants is measured in days when they receive daily applications of clear water in the retail setting.

The grower is faced with having to change the liquid feed program for month old plants while having another weaker feed for newly transplanted material. These confused growers either over fertilize everything and produce an extremely overgrown crop, or the usual case is that the plants are grossly underfed and get shipped looking more sickly and malnourished with each passing day.

I created the Water Insoluble Nutrition advantage (WIN advantage) as an integrated approach to fertility management. I have found the best way to insure the steady and prolonged growth of plants in an organic and biologically active soil is by using multiple fertilizer sources to supply each essential nutrient needed by actively growing plants. The WIN advantage derives all essential nutrients from sustainable and organic fertilizer sources with different rates of solubility and availability. A natural, balanced and controlled supply of nutrients are made available to the plant based on the nutrient cycling that the soil microbes effect.

When temperature and moisture levels are optimum for plant growth, the corresponding activity of the microbes in the rhizosphere increase nutrient cycling and availability. When either temperature, or moisture level decline, nutrient availability also declines. The opposite can be true for cold temperatures. The costly effects of nutrients leaching from the container during extended periods of cold rain in the field are greatly restricted.  The water insoluble nature of the high-grade organic components are retained in the immediate root zone, available for the plants to use when favorable growing conditions return.

The retailer enjoys increased sale-ability and shelf life. The consumer is treated with an otherwise unexpected successful gardening experience because of the superior garden performance.

  • Immediately available nitrogen is supplied by an O.M.R.I. certified compost, and blood meal, while fishmeal and feather meal supplies very slowly available nitrogen.
  • Phosphorous comes from fishmeal and finely pulverized bone meal that has been fractured with sonic sound waves to the consistency of cake flour. Rates of phosphorus availability in a biological system are a function of particle size. Even though we never use phosphoric acid in the liquid feed program we get superior root development and flower production.
  • Potassium comes from wood ash, kelp meal and the coconut pith. The pith from the seed of Coconut Palms has very high concentrations of plant nutrients especially potassium. Since the potassium is part of the pith it is available to the plant over a long period of time.
  • Calcium is supplied by carbonate lime, dolomite lime, wood ash, fishmeal, and bone meal.
  • Magnesium is supplied by dolomite lime and olivine flour. Olivine is a locally sourced mineral that is comprised of magnesium iron silicate.
  • Iron is supplied in a slow release form by Olivine, while blood meal supplies the more soluble form of iron.
  • Silicon is supplied when the high level of biological activity present in the soil weathers the Olivine. Silicon an essential nutrient for some plants, most notably cucurbits. Recent studies indicate that silicon has also been shown to increase the brix index of hothouse grown vegetables. Brix is the measurement in percent of total dissolved solids or carbohydrates in the cytoplasm.  In the case of vegetables higher brix measurements are used to indicate when a vegetable has reached it’s peak nutritional value for harvesting. Plants in the Cucumber family require silicon in their diet to facilitate suberization or stiffening of the plants cell walls. Cucumbers growing without adequate supplies of silicon are much more susceptible to becoming infected with powdery mildew. Recent studies indicate that many plants grown in soil-less substrates benefit from the addition of silicon the nutritional program. In ornamentals, a higher brix index means that ample reserves of carbohydrates are available within the plant, allowing it to support itself with strong thick stems that develop many of its latent buds forming lateral branches from the base and main scaffold of the plant. The quality of the plant is greatly enhanced by the increased number of flowers the plant can produce. A change in the plants physiology triggers the latent buds to be expressed when the natural cytokinin supplied by the kelp meal is utilized.
  • The micronutrients are also supplied by the coconut pith, kelp meal, and wood ash.

While conducting market research, I learned that the average gardener, while very concerned with putting three meals on the table every day, doesn’t think twice about feeding the flowers.

I developed Intrepid Coco-Coir® Premium Potting Soil with this customer demographic in mind.  Our soil contains water insoluble forms of organic and sustainable nutrients that will never leach away from the root system and affords the home gardener a very successful gardening experience.