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Cottonseed meal serves as excellent organic fertilizer

Cottonseed meal serves as excellent organic fertilizer

Posted: Tuesday, September 23, 2008 9:14 pm
By: Jimmy Williams

 It has been in with a relative few gardeners for years. The organic growers among us, with their crusades against anything that smacked of “chemicals,” have been around for a long time. Now Al Gore and his Goreable warming binge have led a resurgence and reiteration into green, this time enhanced with such claptrap as “carbon footprints” and “reverse ecology.” Leaving the latter to those able to understand it, let us do some reiterating of our own: Organic fertilizers have been around since the first mammoth pooped and the caveman discovered that big glob of lush grass in the vicinity. Even with his walnut-sized brain, Thag was able to put the puzzle together and apply the miracle elixir to his staghorn fern. The resulting leafage went mighty well as a salad with roast haunch of mammoth. Since that time, organic fertilizers have consisted of everything from bat guano (the richest) to dried kelp, blood and bone meal, and on down to my own all-round favorite, chicken manure. I say all-round, because chick poop is a fine fertilizer for nearly everything you grow, and is obtainable in the bulk from local commercial chicken growing operations. It is generally available mixed with rice hulls that are used for litter in the big chicken houses. On the other hand, there are other organics that are more specialized in nature, enhancing growth on this or that class of plants. Cottonseed meal is among the resurging organic fertilizers. It has been available all along, but was more noticed years ago when cotton was more widely grown in this area. Now, with cotton limited to a few farms in the southern part of our county, cottonseed meal has faded from recollection as a fertilizer. That is a shame, because it is excellent, particularly for acid loving things such as azaleas and rhododendrons. Cottonseed meal, the resulting by-product of crushing operations that produce cottonseed oil, is high in nutrients for an organic. (Most organics are relatively low in nutrition, but there are other advantages from them.) It contains 6-7 percent nitrogen, 1-2 percent phosphorus, and one percent potassium. Thus, the numbers 7-2-1. These seem low, when you can buy a bag of lawn fertilizer that contains 20-3-6, or something like that, or even ammonium nitrate with 33 percent nitrogen. That is not the whole story, however. Organic fertilizers such as cottonseed meal and manures feed the soil, rather than the plant, building the soil to better and better condition over extended use. “Artificial” fertilizers (they’re not artificial, they’re real), on the other hand, can wear out soil over a long period of time. Witness the worn out, gullied land yet extant in some areas here from the misuse, via extended cotton crops for years, before the Civil War. Cottonseed meal will not burn any plant, even if overused. A hard shot of ammonium nitrate, however, can literally burn up a lawn if it is slightly wetted by rain after application and not thoroughly watered in. Cottonseed meal is recommended for annual and perennial flowers, shrubs (and especially azaleas), vegetables, roses and trees. The latter will benefit from cottonseed meal added to the backfill when planting is done. With the reborn interest in organics, merchandizers are getting on the bandwagon and promoting their particular products. In the present case, there is an organization known as the National Cottonseed Products Association which has the aim of bringing cottonseed meal use back into popularity. The association is seeing to it that cottonseed meal is again widely offered by garden centers, farm stores and other outlets. It is working, and I can report that cottonseed meal is available here at such businesses. For any other than very small application, a 30-pound bag is the minimum to get you going. ————— From Poor Willie’s Almanack — Get greening. Published in The Messenger 9..23.08

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