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The ‘Secret Sauce’

Apr 10, 2009 -

Contributed by Bill Bird, Sacramento gardener & blogger (http://sacramentogardening.blogspot.com).

I’ll admit it. I love getting compliments about my tomato starter plants. I love getting questions such as “how did you do that?” It’s a lot of fun to not only learn from other people, but also share that knowledge with others.

Done correctly, growing vegetable or tomato plants from seed can be a very rewarding experience. Like anything, it does take work and some dedication, but when the payoff is a vine-ripened tomato in the summer, it’s worth it.

The first time I tried growing tomato plants from seed came in 2005—and I’ll admit it—I had a great deal of “beginner’s luck.” I’m still not sure what I did, but fate smiled upon me that year when I produced the most absolutely gorgeous starter plants I’ve ever seen. Farmer Fred Hoffman even went so far as to proclaim them as “nursery quality stuff,” and I’ll admit, I was pretty darn proud of my accomplishment.

But, upon trying that same feat next year, I struck out. Similar disappointments followed. For whatever reason, I simply could not produce the same kind of plants that I had produced in my very first year of growing tomato plants from seed.

Until now, that is.

I’m not really sure, again, what I’m doing right this year but I’ve been rewarded with starter plants that are of “nursery quality” once again. Could it be the new-fangled fertlizer mix I’m using? The mix I call the “secret sauce?”

It’s not really a secret. In fact—it’s pictured to your immediate left. No it’s not the kegerator. The kegerator is what produces the “secret sauce” for me (and the wife that is Venus). Nope—the REAL “secret sauce” is what’s ON the kegerator. That is a bottle of Omega 666—the good stuff—purchased from Peaceful Valley Farm & Garden Supply in the Nevada County hamlet of Nevada City.

I aquired this stuff completely by accident. I had intended to stop off at Eisley Nursery in Auburn, when Fred Hoffman inquired if I could buy him a bottle of Omega 666 at Peaceful Valley. And then he warned me it “wasn’t cheap.”

I had never heard of the stuff, but since I was going to be in the neighborhood anyway, I’d go ahead and buy it. The wife was in the market for blue and red potatoes anyway, and since Peaceful Valley stocked both varieties she was looking for, I figured I’d kill two birds with one potato…..ah…..stone.

Fred was right. The stuff isn’t cheap. A one gallon bottle will set you back a cool $40—not including tax. But—at the same time—this “all organic” product intrigued me. I’d done some research before visiting Peaceful Valley, and growers just RAVED about this stuff.

I’m not one of those “all organic” growers by the way. In my book it’s “whatever works.” Products with the name “Ortho” stenciled on them do not scare me, nor do I think they “poison the environment.” I’m always willing to try something new, so I decided to give Omega 666 a tryout in the garden.

This was one of those good calls. Combined with another powdered ingredient called “Maxicrop,” all sorts of vegetables starting popping out of raised planter beds. That included potatoes, several varieties of radish seed, peas, baby bok choi, lettuce, spinach, you name it.

At that point, I decided to use a weak solution of Omega 666 on the tomato and pepper seedlings growing in a spare bedroom. I had used fish emulsion fertlizer with limited success some years earlier, so why not Omega 666?

Given a choice—what would I use? Fish Emulsion Fertilizer or Omega 666? That’s a tough call. The economical (see = CHEAP) side of me loves the $3 price for a bottle of Fish Emulsion Fertilizer. Then again, Omega 666 doesn’t leave the spare bedroom smelling like DEAD FISH either. So, I think I’ll choose the non-smelly, expensive stuff.

If this success keeps up, I will again produce tomato plant starters that are of “nursery quality.” The plants that you see here were started from seed the weekend following the Super Bowl. I started twice-weekly feedings of Omega 666 in mid-March, soon after the seedlings were transplanted from peat moss pellets into regular starter cups.

I now have starter plants so lush and large that they’re hitting the tops of my grow lights. Better yet—they have the kind of strong and healthy stems that indoor growers pray for, but rarely see.

I don’t often endorse products on this blog. And I certainly don’t accept any payments. I’d be dragged before a Senate Rules Firing Squad for doing such a thing. But I will reccommend products that I think are useful. And—for me—this “not-so-secret-sauce” packs a punch that my garden really does like.


Categories: Soil Inoculants


Luke Says:
Apr 10th, 2009 at 9:23 am

That stuff is indeed effective and just so folks know we offer a quart size for $14.99. It’s highly concentrated so it will actually end up lasting you an entire season in a small to average size garden…

markfenton Says:
Apr 15th, 2009 at 2:17 pm

We’ve been asked many times if indeed we are going to be phasing out our Omega 6-6-6 and other Omega products…

We will be phasing out our Omega 6-6-6 and Omega 1-5-5 and Omega 0-0-10 fairly soon.  It is certainly not our choice since we have been very happy with these products and they sell very well.  However the manufacturer has decided that he will no longer make these products.  The organic market is just a small percentage of his overall business and he has decided that it is not worth the time and hassle to deal with the the various organic certifying organizations and their requests for information.  He also does not wish to reveal to them his proprietary methods of production which they will probably require in the future.  For any Omega product that is still out there CCOF will not allow its growers to use the products after MAY 1 since the manufacturer will no longer provide the info necessary for it to be OMRI or WSDA listed even though he will stipulate that it is NOP compliant.

The manufacturer feels that the main benefits provided by the Omega products are not in the NPK that it provides (since it is diluted down to 1-2 quarts per acre)  but in its microbiological activity.  He will still be making an Omega product that will provide the microbiological benefits but it will not list an NPK value on the label.  We are currently evaluating that product to decide if we will carry it when its available.

We are also continuing to research a substitute for the Omega 6-6-6 and 1-5-5.  So far there doesn’t seem to be any organic alternative that has the high NPK that the Omega provided.  It is difficult for manufacturers to achieve anything much higher than 3% N without boosting the Nitrogen (usually derived from a fish source or sometimes an enzymatically digested soy product)) with a synthetic source of Nitrogen such as urea.

I know in your blog about Omega you were saying that you hadn’t had very good results with your vegy starts from using a cheap fish emulsion.  If you run out of Omega you might want to give our hydrolyzed liquid fish product (see the link to our website below) a try.  The fact that it is enzymatically digested at low temps and pH make It much more biologically active and therefore more effective than traditional fish emulsion.  And although it has some fish odor it’s not nearly as strong or lingering a smell as the fish emulsion you were avoiding.  It in combination with maxicrop makes a great fertilizer.

Mark

http://www.groworganic.com/item_F1335_PVFS_Liquid_Fish_422_Gallon.html

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