Summary of some of my experiments this past year.
Here is a summary of some of the feeding and fertilizing experiments I’ve done in the last year: I have few bugs so I made artificial food. I compared the nutritional values of different foods. I Googled: wheat germ nutritional analysis and found a good site at: http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/breakfast-cereals/1562/2 Some of the foods I’ve compared: Wheat germ is cheap, easy to make into a paste, has a good amount of protein. Egg whites and whey proteins are greatly lacking compared to wheat germ. I also tried dried baby shrimp (Tetra brand) (actually amphipods.) They have more protein than wheat germ and almost no carbohydrates or fat, but they are more expensive. I also looked up the analyses of feeder insects for reptiles and amphibians, but nothing stood out to indicate that one was significantly better than another, for a plant, so I stuck with wheat germ and shrimp. I have dampened the ground food solids with DI water and also with Maxicrop liquid seaweed at about the recommended concentration (about 5 drops per 6 tsp (scaled down)) and had no adverse effects. I have added a small amount of ground kelp meal to the mix as well as ground alfalfa meal with no ill effects. I've used homemade kelp extracts for years to feed other plants with good results. Other than the growth stimulants it is reported to have, it has little else the VFTs can use. Alfalfa has one important thing to offer, a well known, very potent growth stimulant called triacontanol (also known as myricyl alcohol) contained in the waxy coating on the leaves. It is extremely powerful. It works in low ppm quantities. More is not better, too much stunts plant growth. I've never found anything saying how much is in the leaf coatings so I err on the low side and just add a pinch to the wheat germ/shrimp. Liquid seaweed, made from kelp, can be high in K, Na, Cl, I, and other elements. Unfortunately, it's very hard to find an elemental analysis for either that will show the Na and Cl levels. Therefore I only add a pinch of this also. In general, VFTs do fine on a vegetarian diet as long as the protein level is good. In tests with other plants (typical garden flowers grown in glass vases to observe the roots), I found that my humate extracts would give unbelievable root growth compared to other plants grown on the same low nutrient substrate and given water or other extracts. I can water some plants with the straight concentrate, but the VFTs can't handle even a diluted solution. I hesitate to use these on the VFTs because I have no way of knowing how concentrated anything is in my final product. I already know if applied to the roots, it may kill the plant. (Apparently, not only can salt-type fertilizers hurt the plants, so can dissolved organics.) Other people use them for foliar feeding and I would too if not for the expense of buying professionally made solutions. I do believe VFTs could handle foliar feeding or addition of humates to the trap food. I like using my liquid extracts from kelp and alfalfa and humus because it leaves no solid residue stuck in the trap when it’s done digesting. It can be done without dangerous solvents, but it can get smelly anyway. The big problem is that there is no easy way to know the concentration of anything in the solution without specialized equipment. In general though I can make extracts containing mainly organic compounds. The pH of my products is below 7 and the electrical conductivity (a measure of dissolved solids) is generally between 0.1 and 0.7. If anyone is interested I can post a list of links to the various sites I used to find the nutritional data. ======================================================= Here is some info about the general effects of plant hormones. I may try to experiment with these one day, but my experience is limited. Has anyone tried anything like this to increase leaf or root growth? This info is from "Growth Substances in Plants", p 96 (I no longer have the link) Plant organs and compounds affecting their growth and development: FORMATION OF NEW ROOTS: Auxins a and b beta indole acetic acid (heteroauxin) potassium indole-acetate betaindole butyric acid beta indole propionic acid alpha naphthalene acetic acid phenyl acetic acid coumarin vanillic acid sulfanilamide methylene blue ELONGATION (NOT FORMATION OF NEW ROOTS): Vitamin B1 (Thiamin) vitamin B2 (riboflavin) vitamin B6 Nicotinic acid Thiourea GENERAL TOP GROWTH: Auxins a and b biotin vitamin B2 (riboflavin) vitamin C (ascorbic acid) thiourea beta indole acetic acid beta indole butyric acid beta indole propionic acid alpha naphthalene acetic acid naphthalene acetamide indole acetamide LEAF GROWTH: Adenine alanine arginine uric acid other amino acids and purines --------- In case anyone is wondering if applying a rooting hormone to the roots or to the water to grow more roots on an already established plant, I've asked about this kind of thing before for use on other plants. The consensus was that the rooting hormone would only work when new roots needed to grow. It was people's opinions that adding it to already developed roots would have no effect. ======================================================= This is the lighting I’ve experimented with: As for light, I've used light from 500 footcandles (fc) up to 5500 fc. I generally use 300 watt compact fluorescent bulbs with a color temperature of about 4700K. They use 65 watts of electricity. A 300 watt CFL with a color temperature of 6500K ($35 at Menards) uses 85 watts of electricity and they run a bit hotter. Bulbs with a higher color temperature also seem to have a lower lumen rating. I guess more electricity and lower light output is the price you pay for the higher color temp. I use them in well designed focusing reflectors to concentrate the light. You can get light intensities above 3000 fc. with little heat, and they are economical. Above about 3000 fc it seems that the plants lose some of the green intensity even when exposed to this light level for a couple months. They appear to be getting bleached out from the intensity even though it is nowhere near full sunlight which is 10,000 fc. I would think a couple months would be long enough to get used to light and temperature levels but I saw no indication that they were getting any greener. Maybe they just didn't have to. I didn't try adding any specific elements required for chlorophyll production. I was using a little liquid seaweed in the food and it contains a large number of elements so I doubt they were deficient. At times I've also used 400 watt metal halide high intensity discharge (HID) lamp with a color temp of 7200K. When put into a small reflector like the fluorescents (all my reflectors have fans for cooling) the intensity can be 6000 fc within 6 inches of the open end of the reflector, but even when placed far from the plants, the heat gets focused like the light so plant temperature is a big concern. HID bulbs generate a lot of heat and trying to filter the heat out of the light beam is not easy. The simplest and most effective heat filter I've used is a deep (9'') column of water which the high intensity light is beamed through. Temperatures near the plants would be about 20*F above room temp or in the mid 90‘s. Without the heat filter, the temp would be near 130*F under the same conditions. This much water is heavy, needs good support, and needs to be in a container with a flat glass bottom if the light is going to come straight down through it. You definitely don't want to tip it over. You can improve on the red/IR absorption of the water by adding some copper sulfate (CuSo4*5H2O). I haven't tried this yet because it has been easier and cheaper to use the compact fluorescent bulbs. The higher the color temperature, the more blue light is in the spectrum and blue is better for vegetative growth and chlorophyll production. I don't want my plants to flower so I avoid the redder, low color temp lights. -------------- I give the plants about 18 hrs of light a day during the growing season but I have a friend who has lights on 24/7. I've never seen anything recommending that they have a rest period. So if anyone knows about this I’d like to know. ============================================================= Insects in the soil: When I get bugs living in the soil I've successfully used 2 kinds of insecticides designed for application to the soil. Both may need multiple applications as eggs are generally not affected by the insecticide so they need to be replenished at about 2 week intervals in case any existing eggs have hatched. I use these to keep gnats from breeding in the soil, but I've used them to kill other kinds of soil pests infesting other plants too. 1. Disulfoton: Stinks very bad, not nice to use indoors. Soil in the pots has to be completely soaked in the solution. I've used it several times with good results. Mine is old, I don’t know if it is still available. I think this is a systemic insecticide absorbed by the plants to kill bugs eating the plant. 2. Triazicide I used this diluted to 1/4 recommended strength, also a soil soak. Seemed to work also but may not have been strong enough. I don't recall if this is also a systemic insecticide too. ================== I welcome any comments, questions and discussion. Leilani