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Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Soil and Fertilizers for DIY Gardening in Malaysia

1. Burnt soil and potting mix

I am a quick results-oriented and cost-conscious gardener. But you can also call me lazy and stingy! I use two basic types of soil for gardening, a must-have in my garden and they are the burnt soil and organic potting mix.

Why the burnt soil?
Burnt soil is cheap in Malaysia. It cost about RM 2.00 or less (used to be RM 1.50 only) for a bag of 5.3kg. It is made from mainly clay soil burnt over a slow fire for a few days. As a result, this sterilized soil is porous and friable which leads to good drainage and aeration.

Further reading about burnt soil in Malaysia, visit the following links:
1. Gardening on tropical clay soil - Dr. Francis Ng
2. Burnt soil composition - Dr. Francis Ng

Why organic potting mix?
This is a pre-mix soil suitable for garden use, blended according to the correct proportions by experts, so I don't have to crack my head learning the 'secret recipe'. It is sold as black soil or "tanah hitam" in Malaysia.

Soil Mixing the DIY way:
So when I prepare the soil medium for planting, I will mix the burnt soil and potting mix according to different formulas e.g. 2:1, 1:2, 1:1 or even 0:1 depending on the requirements of the particular plant I am potting. I also add in some fertilizers, compost and sometimes vermiculite. If I am germinating some seeds, I'll use only potting mix.

What types of fertilizers should I use for my home garden in the city?
Like Julie Andrew's song in The Sound of Music, "When we learn we begin with ABC, when we sing we begin with Do-Re-Me". Hence when we fertilize, we begin with N-P-K!

I am always experimenting with various types and brands of fertilizers for my home garden in Malaysia. Some examples of fertilizers I have tried are listed below.

Meanwhile do join me at My Nice Garden Chat, a facebook group set for like-minded friends to discuss about gardening topics. The link is here.

1. Japanese Humus - Baja Serbajadi No. 27

This is the Timed Released Japanese Humus fertilizer in granular form also known as Baja Serbajadi No. 27. This fertilizer has a ratio of N8+P8+K8+MGO3. I am told that we can use it on all kinds of plants and it is also suitable as a flowering and fruiting inducer. I like it so much that I even use it on my sensitive money plants (ZZ plant, jade plant) and adeniums. Only problem - Japanese Humus Fertilizer is quite expensive as compared to the other fertilizers.

Japanese Humus is one of my favourite general purpose or multi-purpose fertilizer.

2. Chicken organic fertilizer - Baja Serbajadi no. 10
Long ago, we used natural manure which is animal dung to fertilize our plants. Those days, people used to collect cow dung from the fields as fertilizer for their plants. My grandma was one of them. Now there are many commercially prepared and formulated fertilizers that we can buy off the shelf.

Nursery owners and plant sellers recommend the sheep or chicken organic fertilizer in granular form. For example, the Baja Serbajadi No. 10 Chicken Organic Fertilizer (pictured above) has N5-P3-K2 for nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium content. It is a general purpose fertilizer. It is cheap and easy to apply, hence suited for the novice gardener. Just sprinkle some on the soil or bury into the soil. I use this fertilizer during potting, repotting and periodic fertilizing. I know I won't t kill my plants from over-fertilizing. Only problem is that it attracts snails and other garden pests.

3. Growing Inducer

Inorganic Fertilizers like this green granular fertilizer which is a water soluble fertilizer, the Garden Well Baja Serbaguna Growing Inducer No. 45 from with N15-P15-K15, a balanced fertilizer. It is better to dilute it by dissolving a tablespoon in a standard sized watering can (7.5L?)

According to historical records during my early inexperienced days, I had made the mistake of over-applying the fertilizer granules directly on my plants which caused instant burn-out on my plants and quick death on certain patches of my lawn :(


4. Urea

This Baja Serbajadi UREA 46% N granular fertilizer (nitrogen fertilizer) is food to nutrient deficient plants but must be used with caution. It can be used for "all types of plants including grass".  It should be used in diluted amounts for fast growth and vegetative development. It works like magic but be forewarned when using on grass, do not apply the granules directly onto your lawn. I had made such a mistake and killed big portions of my lawn by sprinkling the granules directly on it.

5. Serbajadi Organic Plus No. 41

I have also tried this Serbajadi Organic Plus 41(Ultimate Plant Food for Flowering); a 3-in-1 organic fertilizer - with ratios N4:P16:K16:2MgO+TE. This fertilizer incorporates the benefits of organic matter, inorganic NPK as well as essential microbes. It also contains no animal waste, so I guess this will minimise the problem of eggs hatching into snails and slugs.


6. Liquid organic fertilizer 

I bought this concentrated black liquid organic fertilizer from a flower kiosk at the Jaya Jusco hypermarket. I dilute it by adding 10ml to 1.5 L (large size mineral water bottle) of water. Seller says it is made from compost but I don't know what is it's formula or the NPK ratio. It looks like some homemade organic fertilizer.  This is easy to apply every fortnightly.

7. HB-101 Plant Vitalizer - a foliar spray

I use this 100% organic liquid plant fertilizer HB-101, purchased at the Jaya Jusco supermarket as a general purpose foliar spray. This method is useful on orchids and during raining days, as those fertilizers that are applied on the soil will be quickly washed away and wasted.

Note: The views expressed in good faith and my own for the purpose of providing information. I am not paid any money for this post. The reason I am writing this post is in answer to queries from my readers. Now I can just quote this link in my replies. It will save me a lot of time.

This post which was first published on Jan 2013 has been updated on 2 July 2013.