MICHAEL SPENCER: Move to eliminate all fertilizer for 2 months needs rethinking

Several things are on my mind this week, from crazy politics to newsletters to reader email. So, let’s dig in.

Where’s the science?

Sometimes, things that just seem to “make sense” are actually quite senseless, and that’s where we start this week.

Case in point is the move to further limit the use of fertilizers for ornamental plantings. That’s why the Collier Commission wants to eliminate all fertilizers in August and September. The thinking here seems reasonable at first blush. After all, don’t we want our waterways to be clean?

I believe there is no relationship between ornamental fertilizer use and polluted waterways. Read that again. I’ll wait.

Yes, there are some obvious exceptions: Don’t fertilize the slopes of lakes, because rain or irrigation will wash the fertilizer into the water. But more widely, what is the evidence that ornamental fertilizers run horizontally into rivers and bays? None.

I have written several times and with much more detail on this subject both on my blog and here: Go to www.naplesnews.com/staff/michael-spencer and search for “fertilizer,” or go to my website: www.msadesign.com.

Direct research on this is quite limited. One study of newly planted St. Augustine grass showed no significant lateral movement of nitrogen. Further, the University of Florida has issued a paper that outlines why reducing fertilizer during the growing period is actually counter-productive. The research is called “Urban Water Quality and Fertilizer Ordinances: Avoiding Unintended Consequences,” written by Dr. George Hochmuth. Find this paper by using Google, or directly at the UF website (edis.ifas.ufl.edu). Be sure to bookmark the UFL site. It is a primary source for original research.

In summary, the paper explains that denying plant material food during the active growing period actually increases runoff potential. This is because the plants are weaker, with weaker roots, and are therefore less able to hold and control soil and water. And now you know why those advertisements you have been seeing that require us to buy fertilizers that are 0.0.X strengths are based in nothing more than voodoo. Not science.

Where are my plants?

Last week I started an experimental project to help the do-it-yourselfer locate plant material. The idea is this: if you are a grower, email me information about your company and I will list it on my website (this list will start in a few weeks). This is to be very simply growers who are willing to do small-volume business at near wholesale prices.

Buyers should know retail establishments charge more for materials for a very good reason: There is considerable time and money spent in supporting and informing you, the buyer, and this is the primary reason that wholesalers don’t want to serve the general public. Every grower will have unique policies, of course.

With this in mind, I am hoping this effort will allow small growers to find new customers, and will let those customers find the material they need. If you are a grower, please email me at ms@msadesign.com with the word “grower” in the subject.

Farewell the newsletter!

The MSA Newsletter is, alas, no more. Why? Because to provide great content requires more time than I have. My time is split between writing a book and working with my design clients. At some point it could be back, especially after the book is complete; I do enjoy writing the newsletter. For now, anything interesting goes on the website.

Shade house progress

In just a few weeks, the shade cloth over my vegetable garden has shown some effect. Naturally, the day after we put it up, we received 3.6 inches of rain here at Peach and Plenty, but the shade survived the wind just fine. I am seeing arugula sprouting nicely, and tomatoes are still producing more than we can eat.

The beach

A note to my readers: Go to the beach. The water is seriously excellent now, with temperatures about 85 degrees and with clarity very high. Much of the time, too, the water’s surface is quite smooth, making “noodling” quite enjoyable. And this has created a major problem for Suzie and me.

In winter, my daily routine includes a mid-morning stop at Starbucks on Goodlette-Frank Road at Pine Ridge Road, where I interact with my Starbucks homies and solve the problems of the world. In summer, Suzie and I head for the beach every day: 90 minutes is all that is required, start to finish, including an hour in the water, talking away with our beach homies.

But you can see the conflict: Starbucks? Beach? Or both?

Do you have design problems you would like to discuss? Michael Spencer will respond by email (ms@msadesign.com). To receive his weekly e-newsletter, send him an email:

subscribe@msadesign.com.

© 2011 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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