Anyone ever try Daniel's Plant Food?

Danville, IN

The latest issue of Fine Gardening magazine is really full of great articles and information. One article in the Healthy Garden section (p. 70) discusses "A Plant Food Worth Trying", Daniel's Plant Food. It's got a testimonial and sounds very good, organic and all that. I'd appreciate any feedback if any DG'er has experience with this fertilizer, indoor or out. I'm always on the lookout for a reliable, safe, effective, and preferably organic fertilizer.

Bay City, MI(Zone 6a)

Does your preference for an 'organic' fertilizer arise out of a personal ideology, or from a belief that an organic fertilizer somehow has an advantage over soluble fertilizers when it comes to results? If it's an ideology thing, I'll keep moving along, but if you're results driven, we should talk.


Danville, IN

Hey Al: I waver, but try to stay as "green" and organic as possible. What got my interest was the testimonial from Scot Endres, "a discerning consumer as well as co-owner of Tanglewood Gardens in Minneapolis, Minesota." According to the article he "has spent years searching for an organic plant food that he can use guilt-free and that trrly performs. Scott had heard a lot about Daniels Plant Food, a fertilizer derived primarily from various types of pressed seeds. Skeptical, he decided to test the product at his own greenhouses in Minnesota, where the results blew him away. His plants appeared healthier, sturdier, and more lush than before. The true bonus is that this organic product actually works better than chemical fertilizers. Because Daniels uses seed extracts plants fertilized with the plant food are getting complete nutrition, not just a few essential minerals."

My main goal is to try to keep down or even eliminate salt buildup on pots. Since many organic fertilizers don't use salts in their makeup, doesn't that give them an advantage over chemical fertilizers?

Looking forward to your opinion(s).

Bay City, MI(Zone 6a)

First, let me say that when it comes to my gardens and beds, I adhere to the idea that you should feed the soil and let the soil feed the plants. I use almost nothing in the way of synthetic fertilizers in my gardens. Through practical experience, I learned to abandon that idea when it comes to container culture. I don't bind myself to any particular ideology, and I'm results oriented, which is the basis for my choices.

If your "main goal is to try to keep down or even eliminate salt buildup on pots", you need to be looking to the soil and your watering habits as the key to your goal - not to your fertilizer choice. I'm going to assume you meant you want to keep the level of soluble salts in the soil solution low. Correct me if I should not have made that assumption, but what I'll offer applies even if you were to be taken literally.

Organic fertilizers are comprised of more complex chemical substances that take longer to break down into elemental forms plants can use than soluble chemical fertilizers. Organic fertilizers usually have a lower salt index than soluble fertilizers, so larger amounts can be applied at one time without causing injury to plant roots, but salts do accumulate. Even though you may choose an organic fertilizer with a low salt index, you can still have serious salt issues.

Gardener's often are unaware that organic derived fertilizers are slow-release, that they depend on populations of soil biota to break them down into elemental form before they can be assimilated by plants. Micro-organism populations in containers are by nature boom/bust, so during periods of low populations or culturally suppressed activity, growers often overcompensate by adding more fertilizer, which leads to excessive salt build-up in media. The elements may be physically present in soils, but locked tightly in hydrocarbon chains and inaccessible to plants, so delivery of organic forms of fertilizers in container culture are erratic and the timing unreliable.

Let me return to the idea that if you want to keep soil solution salt levels low you should be looking at your soil and watering habits. I have found that, by far, the most effective and productive arrangement for me is a well-aerated and structurally sound soil that allows me to water profusely without the specter of root rot raising its head, and the use of a synthetic fertilizer program, using a fertilizer that supplies ALL the essential nutrients in a favorable NPK ratio and in a favorable ratio to each other. It doesn't get any more fool-proof than that, as far as I'm concerned.

This set-up allows you to fertilize frequently at low doses. Each time you water profusely, so at least 10-15% of the total volume of water applied exits the drain hole, you are flushing accumulating salts from tap water and fertilizer solutions from the soil.

Easiest for plants to absorb is water with no solutes in it, deionized or distilled water. We know that if we only used distilled water, that nutritional deficiencies would soon develop, so supplying nutrients often at the adequacy range keeps the level of TDS and EC (the salt level) at the lowest it can be and still prevent deficiencies. This is the ideal fertility range and guarantees that plants have the opportunity to grow as close to their genetic potential as possible, Technically, anytime fertilizer is supplied in excess or whenever there are deficiencies, it guarantees that plants cannot grow as close to their genetic potential as possible, within the limitations of other cultural factors. What I'm saying here is if you are results oriented, your best shot lies with a fertilizer you can rely on to deliver nutrients when you apply it and at a known rate. You cannot achieve that with an organic fertilizer in container culture.

I'm, not saying you can't have happy healthy plants using organic fertilizers if you work at it and learn how to do it, but it will be much easier and the forgiveness factor much greater if you decide on the highly aerated soil and synthetic fertilizer combination.

If you're still set on your original course, I'll bow out of the conversation now, but if I've piqued your interest, I'll try to answer any questions and suggest additional reading if you would like.


Lula, GA(Zone 7b)

Bumping this up hoping to get a reply as I was about to ask the same thing.
Hoosier - did you try it?

Interesting info from Al; good reading and good to know.

Danville, IN

Sorry, I haven't been checking this thread (or any else) for a while with all the landscaping jobs I'm busy with this summer! I haven't been able to find a source for this fertilizer. I go to the website and they list one near here, but the phone number is a dud. I can't find it anywhere for sale! The website won't take direct orders either.

If anyone knows how to proceed, please let me know. I would like to try it.


Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

Have you tried looking up that garden center in the phone book? Maybe their number changed and Daniels hasn't updated their website.

But if you're really trying to be organic, I wouldn't buy it. They describe it as "organically based" which means it's not really organic. Organically based means there is something organic in there, but also non-organic ingredients. So if you're trying to be an organic purist, then you should avoid things like this and look for things that say organic and have the OMRI seal on them. Personally I don't like companies that try to sneak around like that and make you think their stuff is organic when it's not.

Danville, IN

Good point. I've about given up on finding it anyway! (They're not in the phone book either. Maybe it's out of business!)

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