Alfalfa meal or pellets is one of the green manure crops and contains small amounts of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium which feed the plant. However, the biggest benefit of alfalfa is from the work it does in the soil. Alfalfa contains the hormone, Triacontanol, a plant growth regulator. Alfalfa meal can be top dressed and watered in. But quicker benefits are had when alfalfa is brewed into a tea. The primary boost comes from the millions of microbes in the fermented meal that activate the soil organisms that then convert nutrients into forms available to plants. Roses love it. Only apply alfalfa to the surface. If placed in the root zone, the rapid decomposition of alfalfa will generate heat which can damage the roots.
1. Made from alfalfa(If placed in the root zone, the rapid decomposition of alfalfa will generate heat which can damage roots.)
2. Slow acting all purpose fertilizer
3. An alternative to blood meal as a source of nitrogen, balanced with phophorus and potassium.
4. An excellent soil conditioner because of it's protein and carbohydrates that encourage microbial action in soil.
5. Ranges of N 2.0-2.5%, P .5-1.0%, K 1%
6. Has an excellent carbon to nitrogen ratio which helps speeds availability in the soil to plants.
7. Roses react to alfalfa meal especially well, also flowering shrubs
8. Application to plants are: half a cup per plant for new plantings; 1/2 to 1 cup to a depth of 4-6 inches deep around each plant; vegetables and flower beds need 2 to 5 pounds to 100 square feet.
9. Is used as a compost starter
The heat generated by alfalfa meal comes from bacteriological action.
Working in the wastewater treatment field, (sewage). I deal extensively with the action of bacteria. I am wondering how much of the oxygen in the soil a heavy dose of alfalfa meal would cause the soil bacteria to consume, (the growth hormone, Triacontonal appears to be a key here). Reduced soil oxygen levels and the heat generated by that rush of bacterial action as it breaks down complex nutrients to a form plants can use might not be good for the soil ecology. At deeper soil levels below six inches, the use of alfalfa meal may encourage anerobic decomposition, this would be very bad.
I would approach this with the same caution as if I were using a new gun powder while reloading bullets. Too much could be disasterous.
From Daves Garden:
Alfalfa provides many nutritional benefits not only for plant use, but for soil organisms as well. One very important ingredient is tricontanol, a powerful plant growth regulator.
Orchid and rose growers make an alfalfa tea and spray it directly on as a foliar fertilizer. Alfalfa is very high in vitamins, plus N-P-K-Ca, Mg, and other valuable minerals. It also includes sugars, starches, proteins, fiber and 16 amino acids. Approximate analysis is 3-1-2.
Sprinkle lightly over garden and water, or use about a handful (depending on the size) around each rose, tree, or shrub. Alfalfa meal and hay used for mulch contain vitamin A, folic acid, trace minerals and the growth hormone “tricontanol.” Use at 25 pounds per 1,000 square feet or 400-800 pounds per acre.
Alfalfa helps plants create larger flowers and increases the tolerance to cold. Make alfalfa tea by soaking 1 cup of alfalfa meal per 5 gallon of water.
Good for all flowering plants. Research has shown that using more is not better. At recommended rates alfalfa worked wonders on roses but it could be overused causing adverse effects.
From: Canadian Iris Society
Alfalfa and Irises - Mixing Alfalfa and Iris
by Dorothy E. Guild
A surprise had come with our regional newsletter when a member wrote that on the advice of a rose grower friend he had used alfalfa pellets on his iris with good results. It was noted that it can be used either as a side dressing or a tea to spray on the foliage. Very shortly I was off to the store to buy a bag of alfalfa pellets.
The usual commercial fertilizer mix had been spread in early April. In May the pellets went on as a side dressing for the one, two and three year old seedlings while a thin layer as a top dressing went on all seed rows. As the seedlings erupted through it they were carefully monitored so as not to be smothered. Another application of commercial fertilizer went on after bloom. Three weeks later an "alfalfa tea" was applied with a sprinkling can down the rows. I felt that in my opinion that the iris growth was much better from the alfalfa applications. Intrigued, I had written of this to another iris friend. Shortly thereafter he read in a garden catalogue of alfalfa use by rose growers. Included in the article was a specific analysis reporting the nutrients available in alfalfa. In 1990 he made up three beds to take transplanted iris. He chose to try an experiment by applying alfalfa to just one of them. By late fall he saw that vigor (side fan development, plant color and growth which are very important to a commercial grower and hybridizer) had exceeded that of those not getting the alfalfa treatment.
Weatherwise here, it had looked to be a sad year for iris culture. In the past two years leaf spot had suddenly exploded and with June so cold and wet, I had expected another year of the same. It did not happen though! Like my friend, I could not help observing how well the iris had done... seeming to exceed the performance of previous years. We will continue this experiment for three to five years and report back further results. The question is: Were our improved iris conditions attributable to the use of alfalfa? Can alfalfa pellets be a "magic carpet" for better iris culture?...
Dorothy Guild resides in Spokane, Washington. This article/item originally appeared in the CIS Newsletter April 1994 issue.
In mid-spring of 1991, upon information received earlier from an iris correspondent I began using alfalfa pellets as a side dressing in my iris beds. I had been informed that definite results were apparent within a few weeks. Through the years I have tried whenever possible to use organic methods of cultivation in my iris beds as well as my vegetable gardens. Though I have always used commercial fertilizers on my beds along with gypsum, I have also used compost as well. Therefore the idea of alfalfa pellets was highly appealing.
Following bloom season I used the pellets on new seedlings and before long their value was evident. I had healthier seedlings than ever before. Their color was a rich, dark green. In 1990 I redid three large iris beds in my back yard. (all the same size) At the time I added sand to loosen the clay and each one received the same amount of commercial fertilizer 12-12-12 mix, gypsum, and compost. This spring I did not fertilize the beds. In mid June, following the bloom season I decided to experiment on these beds since each had previously been reconstructed with equal amendments at the same time. I coated one bed heavily with alfalfa pellets and left the other two beds without alfalfa pellets or any other fertilizers. By summers end there was a very noticeable difference in the color, growth and development of the bed receiving the alfalfa pellets. The growth side rhizomes appeared on the irises in the treated beds two to three weeks before they did in the untreated beds. My seedlings which had been treated shortly after being transplanted also had tremendous side growth with some having as many as 6-8 side fans by fall. In my beds I coated the ground heavily with the pellets and applied them on a wet soil so that they would begin to draw moisture and disintegrate. I doubt that you can use them too heavily on iris. They do not burn. An interesting side observation is that I had practically no leaf spot this year. While it was a dry summer, by August we began to have good rains. I will not claim that the pellets themselves reduced the problem of leaf spot but it was nil this year except in the untreated beds.
Excited by what I was experiencing from using alfalfa pellets I began to research their composition. What do alfalfa pellets contain that would be of value in iris beds? The following information from Nitron Industries Inc., Fayetteville, Arkansas might help us to understand. Alfalfa has many qualities in the nutrition area, not only for plant use, but for soil organisms as well. One very important ingredient is Triacontanol, a powerful plant growth regulator. Orchid and rose growers make an alfalfa tea and spray it directly on as a foliar nutrient. Other benefits of alfalfa: very high in vitamin A plus Thiamine, Riboflavin, Pantothenic Acid, Niacin, Pyridoxine, Choline, Proline, Bentaine, Folic Acid, plus N-P-K-Ca, Mg and other valuable minerals, also included are the sugars and starches, proteins, fibre, plus co-enzymes and 16 amino acids. How could your soil not respond to such a delicious meal? We recommend a handful per plant or sprinkle lightly down the row.
Alfalfa meal or pellets are excellent to add to your compost pile. Make a tea and spray the liquid as a foliar feed while adding the remaining wet alfalfa to the soil. Fifty pounds of alfalfa meal or pellets will feed 1,000-2,000 square feet. Alfalfa Tea; Fill a five gallon bucket with water, add two pounds of alfalfa pellets/meal. Let sit overnight. The result will be a thick tea. Use as explained above. If you have not tried using alfalfa pellets why not try them this year? We believe that you will like the results.
Terry Varner resides in Marietta, Ohio and this article originally appeared in The Medianite Volume 33 #2 1992. This article/item also appeared in the CIS Newsletter April 1994 issue. It has been edited slightly.
More on Alfalfa - Some Comments...
by Terry Aitken
We replant our iris back into the same ground every year and we are careful to add humus each year, as a reconditioner and Nemacur (a soil insecticide) to control nematodes. The most cost effective product that we have found is alfalfa pellets which we apply at about one ton per acre (or one 50 lb bag per 100 feet of row). It is applied in late August as our shipping season winds down and about two weeks before transplant begins. The fields are stripped and a tractor grinds everything in, both alfalfa and Nemacur, in one step. Presto we are ready to plant back! We first saw alfalfa used by Elmer Price, a fine iris grower in Tacoma, Washington. I think that he used a higher concentration than we do and his results were impressive. George Shoop used the "tea method" and also got good results. We have been pellet spreaders for about seven years. We particularly like the idea that the alfalfa usage helps the plants to get re-established before the ground cools for the winter.
Terry Aitken is a hybridizer and iris grower in Vancouver, Washington. This article/item originally appeared in the CIS Newsletter July 1994 issue.
The use of alfalfa pellets sure sounds like something extremely interesting and beneficial to try on our own garden irises. If you try this, we would really like to hear of your experiences and/or results. Write the Canadian Iris Society via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know.