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Old February 24, 2012   #1
NewGardener
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Default Adding Potassium for Tomato Plant Soil

I have a tomato project that I am starting for my Botany class and had heard about how putting banana peels in soil would help the plants grow... I originally thought about chopping up peices of the peel and putting it in around the soil to help the decomposition process; however, upon further research I've read that its best to use the peels in a compost.

I'm trying to find a easier way of adding nutrient/potash to my soil without needing to make a compost being that my plants are already potted. So, I came up with an idea of the possibility of using coconut water (vita coco) as my added nutrient which has high levels of potassium in it.

Can too much potassium hurt? How often would you suggest adding it and how much? And what are your views opinions of doing this? Will putting peices of banana peel in around my soil be enough to effect my plants? I'm new to this and was just trying to come up with a creative variable for my tomato plants, but suggestions are welcome!
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Old February 24, 2012   #2
Petronius_II
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Sooner or later, I'm going to try an experiment with taking some banana peels; putting them in the blender with a fair amount of water; blending it down to the thinnest, drippiest consistency I can get; maybe letting the resulting slurry ferment naturally for awhile, maybe not, haven't made up my mind on this step; diluting it some more with yet more water; adding that to various plants in smallish doses, a little at a time, especially while they're fruiting.

I have absolutely no idea if this is a good approach to using banana peels or not. I just think it's an experiment worth trying.
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Old February 24, 2012   #3
RayR
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I just chop up the banana peels and mix them into the compost pile. A variety of inputs is going to give you a better end product rich in nutrients with a more diverse population of beneficial bacteria and fungi. I think just having rotting banana peels alone isn't going to be as good.

The Coconut water idea is interesting, it is rich in potassium and other minerals plus sugars. it might be similar to using molasses.
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Old February 24, 2012   #4
fortyonenorth
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I'm going to go out on a limb here but, why don't you use fertilizer - say, Potassium sulfate or chloride? There are obviously other ferts available, but these are relatively pure sources, if that's what you're looking for. You wouldn't need much. If you don't want to buy it, I would bet you could convince your local garden center to donate some for your experiment.

I don't have any hard facts on the banana peel idea, but just because there is potassium in a peel doesn't mean it will break down and become easily available to the plant during a short period of time.
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Old February 25, 2012   #5
RayR
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From the Bananas Wiki:
NPK of "Banana Peel: 0-3-42. Has a high percentage of Potash and no Nitrogen. An average store bought banana has a dried peel weight of about 8 grams, so the net amount of potash per peel is about 3 1/3 grams."

That's a lot of Potassium in a peel, but alone a pretty unbalanced fertilizer for Tomatoes. That's probably why composting them is a better idea.
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Old February 25, 2012   #6
Petronius_II
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The main rationale for "hot composting" as in a compost pile is to achieve a good healthy balance of beneficial microorganisms. When you start with a nice moist piece of organic matter like a banana peel, and leave it out in the open air to decompose, every kind of microorganism under the sun can and will settle on it and set up housekeeping, and some of them are bound to be microorganisms you don't want in your garden soil.

But hey, it's a microorganism-eat-microorganism world, and for some reason the really nasty microorganisms like fusarium and verticillium don't tend to survive the composting process very easily. The "hot composting" process tends to leave an end product that is chock full of nice friendly bacteria, the kind you want in your garden soil.

Having said that much, there is also "cold composting," which happens all along the bottom layer of a layer of mulch that you lay around your plants. Like Ruth Stout with her spoiled hay mulch.

Cold composting can also be achieved by burying fresh organic matter. In alkaline soil, a thin layer of coffee grounds buried about 3 to 5 inches deep will decompose very quickly, lower the pH a teensy bit (hence not necessarily recommended for acid soil,) and also attract earthworms from all over, which is exactly what happened several years ago when I buried coffee grounds in one bed and planted cucumbers on top of them. I checked the soil after harvesting, and there were earthworm tunnels all over.

This technique for cold composting is also a good way to distribute smallish quantities of bone meal. I wouldn't for a moment hesitate to add a little pureed banana peel to the soil. A few little bits of finely chopped or pureed citrus peel are pretty good also.

Last edited by Petronius_II; February 25, 2012 at 01:20 AM. Reason: basic proofreading and addendums
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Old February 28, 2012   #7
dice
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Molasses at a tablespoon per gallon of water, every two weeks, is another
fast potassium fix. Molasses is 5% potassium and breaks down quickly.

Use the darkest, thickest stuff you can find. Mix the tablespoon into
a quart of hot water, stir it up until it is evenly mixed, pour in a gallon
jug, then fill up the rest of the way with cool water. Ready to use.

edit: (Not suggesting the other alternatives will not work as
potassium sources, just that this one will. What are your sources
of other nutrients? Tomatoes need more than just potassium.)
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Last edited by dice; February 28, 2012 at 07:18 AM. Reason: etc
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Old February 29, 2012   #8
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Thanks for all your helpful suggestions!!! It's much appreciated!!

Right now, I have 30 plants altogether. We were required to pot them all separately into their own small individual potters and care for them in the campus greenhouse over the course of the semester. All 30 plants are being cared for exactly the same except for 15 plants in which we had to choose an experimental variable to add to it. It could have been light, humidity, nutrients,...etc. I chose banana peels because I had read that it can help the growth of the plant and it also seemed like an interesting experiemental variable to use. But upon further research I'm realizing that putting the peels in the soil of each of those experimental 15 plants may not be enough, and may not break down fast enough even if I cut them into smaller peices. So, I had the odd idea of using coconut water (which happens to be high in potassium amongst other vitamins) instead of burrying chopped up peels in my soil every two weeks.

**I would have chosen to make a compost except I dont have room in the small individual potters to add a lot of mixture. My inquiry now is if anyone would advise against subbing coconut water for the banana peels every two weeks? Or if it would be worth a try?
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Old February 29, 2012   #9
Petronius_II
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(Please let me apologize in advance if in the following writing it seems like I'm "talking down" to you. I don't know how old you are, or how much of this is old hat from your POV, but I do know that there may be others besides you and me who read this, so I'm keeping a rather broad audience in mind.)

Quote:
**I would have chosen to make a compost except I dont have room in the small individual potters to add a lot of mixture. My inquiry now is if anyone would advise against subbing coconut water for the banana peels every two weeks? Or if it would be worth a try?
In science, no experiment is a failure if it teaches you something. Contrariwise, every experiment is a failure that either (a) doesn't teach you anything, i.e. yields ambiguous data that fails to confirm or refute anything, or (b) teaches you the wrong thing, i.e. the design and implementation of the experiment produced misleading results.

BTW, in real-life working science, the idea(s) that are confirmed or refuted may not be related to the original working hypothesis. Roentgen wasn't looking to discover X-rays, it just sort of ... happened. Which is why I wrote "fails to confirm or refute anything" instead of "fails to c. or r. your hypothesis."

So... whatever is worth a try to you, is worth a try to you. If still in doubt, discussing with your teacher and fellow students can help you make up your mind.

The parameters are pretty simple: 15 specimens is a pretty small sample, so you're well advised to try to test one and only one input. For example: coconut water; banana peels pureed in a blender with X amount of water as I described; molasses as Dice described; any combination of these.

As long as you're not trying to test two different inputs at the same time with an experimental group that small, you'll be fine, i.e. no putting molasses on 8 plants and coconut water on 7, etc., the resulting data would be too ambiguous, could be misleading because irreproducible, etc.

...Or, if you do want to monkey around with a second input, the second input should go on the control group as well. For example, if I were in your shoes, I might be interested in adding some mycorrhizae bacteria to the experimental design, but if my main purpose is to test [coconut water, or whatever] as an input, I should add the mycorrhizae to the experimental group, but also add it to the control group. Each experimental group should employ one and only one variable.

When you have experimental results, I hope you'll come back here and post them on this thread.
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