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the 3LB’s Molasses Manual - a growers guide to soil sweeteners Originally posted on Cannabis World.[[Recreation of 3LB's (three_little_birds) the 3LB’s Molasses Manual - a growers guide to soil sweeteners]] This is the second in our series of threads on organic gardening techniques and tools started with the Guano Guide / Manure Manual. That particular guide was designed to be a fairly comprehensive look at the uses of poop in gardening. While we tried to keep that topic (and our puns) tasteful - there’s no avoiding the fact it’s not exactly an appetizing subject (unless you happen to be a plant!) Like manure, this subject is another one of those “magical” organic goodies that contributes to plant health in more than one way. It’s also like manure in that it’s a waste or by-product, but when we think about it, this topic really is the “other end of the stick”! Now it’s time to move on to a much much sweeter topic . . . Molasses . . . like the boy’s on South Park are sometimes known for saying - “That’s what I call a sticky situation!” . . . Sweet Organic Goodness - Magical Molasses There are a number of different nutrient and fertilizer companies selling a variety of additives billed as carbohydrate booster products for plants. Usually retailing for tens of dollars per gallon if not tens of dollars per liter, these products usually claim to work as a carbohydrate source for plants. A variety of benefits are supposed to be unlocked by the use of these products, including the relief of plant stresses and increases in the rate of nutrient uptake. On the surface it sounds real good, and while these kinds of products almost always base their claims in enough science to sound good, reality doesn’t always live up to the hype. The 3LB are pretty well known for our distrust of nutrient companies like Advanced Nutrients who produce large lines of products (usually with large accompanying price tags) claiming to be a series of “magic bullets” - unlocking the keys to growing success for new and experienced growers alike. One member of the three_little_birds grower’s and breeder’s collective decided to sample one of these products a while back, intending to give the product a fair trial and then report on the results to the community at Cannabis World. Imagine, if you will, Tweetie bird flying off to the local hydroponics store, purchasing a bottle of the wonder product - “Super Plant Carb!” (not it’s real name) - and then dragging it back to the bird’s nest. With a sense of expectation our lil’ bird opens the lid, hoping to take a peek and a whiff of this new (and expensive) goodie for our wonderful plants. She is greeted with a familiar sweet smell that it takes a moment to place. Then the realization hits her. . . Molasses! The “Super Plant Carb!” smells just like Blackstrap Molasses. At the thought that she’s just paid something like $15 for a liter of molasses, our Tweetie bird scowls. Surely she tells herself there must be more to this product than just molasses. So she dips a wing into the sweet juice ever so slightly, and brings it up to have a taste. Much the same way a sneaky Sylvester cat is exposed by a little yellow bird saying - “I thought I saw a puddy tat . . . I did I did see a puddy tat . . . and he’s standing right there!” - our Tweetie bird had discovered the essence of this product. It was indeed nothing more than Blackstrap Molasses, a quick taste had conformed for our Tweetie bird that she had wasted her time and effort lugging home a very expensive bottle of plant food additive. Molasses is something we already use for gardening at the Bird’s Nest. In fact sweeteners like molasses have long been a part of the arsenal of common products used by organic gardeners to bring greater health to their soils and plants. So please listen to the little yellow bird when she chirps, because our Tweetie bird knows her stuff. The fertilizer companies are like the bumbling Sylvester in many ways, but rather than picturing themselves stuffed with a little bird, they see themselves growing fat with huge profits from the wallets of unsuspecting consumers. Let us assure you it’s not the vision of yellow feathers floating in front of their stuffed mouths that led these executives in their attempt to “pounce” on the plant growing public. And the repackaging of molasses as plant food or plant additive is not just limited to the companies selling their products in hydroponic stores. Folks shopping at places like Wal-Mart are just as likely to be taken in by this tactic. In this particular case the offending party is Schultz® Garden Safe All Purpose Liquid Plant Food 3-1-5. This is a relatively inexpensive product that seems appealing to a variety of organic gardeners. Here’s Shultz own description of their product. “Garden Safe Liquid Plant Foods are made from plants in a patented technology that provides plants with essential nutrients for beautiful flowers and foliage and no offensive smell. Plus they improve soils by enhancing natural microbial activity. Great for all vegetables, herbs, flowers, trees, shrubs and houseplants including roses, tomatoes, fruits, and lawns. Derived from completely natural ingredients, Garden Safe All Purpose Liquid Plant Food feeds plants and invigorates soil microbial activity. Made from sugar beet roots! No offensive manure or fish odors.” That sure sounds good, and the three_little_birds will even go as far as to say we agree 100% with all the claims made in that little blurb of ad copy. But here’s the problem, Shultz isn’t exactly telling the public that the bottle of “fertilizer” they are buying is nothing more than a waste product derived from the production of sugar. In fact, Schultz® Garden Safe 3-1-5 Liquid Plant Food is really and truly nothing more than a form molasses derived from sugar beet processing that is usually used as an animal feed sweetener. If you don’t believe a band of birds, go ahead and look for yourself at the fine print on a Garden Safe bottle where it says - “Contains 3.0% Water Soluble Nitrogen, 1.0% Available Phosphate, 5.0% Soluble Potash - derived from molasses.” The only problem we see, is that animal feed additives shouldn’t be retailing for $7.95 a quart, and that’s the price Shultz is charging for it’s Garden Safe product. While we don’t find that quite as offensive as Advanced Nutrients selling their “CarboLoad” product for $14.00 a liter, we still know that it’s terribly overpriced for sugar processing wastes. So, just as our band of birds gave the scoop on poop in our Guano Guide, we’re now about to give folks the sweet truth about molasses. Molasses is a syrupy, thick juice created by the processing of either sugar beets or the sugar cane plant. Depending on the definition used, Sweet Sorghum also qualifies as a molasses, although technically it’s a thickened syrup more akin to Maple Syrup than to molasses. The grade and type of molasses depends on the maturity of the sugar cane or beet and the method of extraction. The different molasses’ have names like: first molasses, second molasses, unsulphured molasses, sulphured molasses, and blackstrap molasses. For gardeners the sweet syrup can work as a carbohydrate source to feed and stimulate microorganisms. And, because molasses (average NPK 1-0-5) contains potash, sulfur, and many trace minerals, it can serve as a nutritious soil amendment. Molasses is also an excellent chelating agent. Several grades and types of molasses are produced by sugar cane processing. First the plants are harvested and stripped of their leaves, and then the sugar cane is usually crushed or mashed to extract it’s sugary juice. Sugar manufacturing begins by boiling cane juice until it reaches the proper consistency, it is then processed to extract sugar. This first boiling and processing produces what is called first molasses, this has the highest sugar content of the molasses because relatively little sugar has been extracted from the juice. Green (unripe) sugar cane that has been treated with sulphur fumes during sugar extraction produces sulphured molasses. The juice of sun-ripened cane which has been clarified and concentrated produces unsulphured molasses. Another boiling and sugar extraction produces second molasses which has a slight bitter tinge to its taste. Further rounds of processing and boiling yield dark colored blackstrap molasses, which is the most nutritionally valuable of the various types of molasses. It is commonly used as a sweetner in the manufacture of cattle and other animal feeds, and is even sold as a human health supplement. Any kind of molasses will work to provide benefit for soil and growing plants, but blackstrap molasses is the best choice because it contains the greatest concentration of sulfur, iron and micronutrients from the original cane material. Dry molasses is something different still. It’s not exactly just dried molasses either, it’s molasses sprayed on grain residue which acts as a “carrier”. Molasses production is a bit different when it comes to the sugar beet. You might say “bird’s know beets” because one of our flock grew up near Canada’s “sugar beet capitol” in Alberta. Their family worked side by side with migrant workers tending the beet fields. The work consisted of weeding and thinning by hand, culling the thinner and weaker plants to leave behind the best beets. After the growing season and several hard frosts - which increase the sugar content - the beets are harvested by machines, piled on trucks and delivered to their destination. At harvest time, a huge pile of beets will begin to build up outside of the sugar factory that will eventually dwarf the factory itself in size. Gradually throughout the winter the pile will diminish as the whole beets are ground into a mash and then cooked. The cooking serves to reduce and clarify the beet mash, releasing huge columns of stinky (but harmless) beet steam into the air. Sometimes, if the air is cold enough, the steam will fall to the ground around the factory as snow! As we’ve already learned, in the of sugar cane the consecutive rounds of sugar manufacturing produce first molasses and second molasses. With the humble sugar beet, the intermediate syrups get names like high green and low green, it’s only the syrup left after the final stage of sugar extraction that is called molasses. After final processing, the leftover sugar beet mash is dried then combined with the thick black colored molasses to serve as fodder for cattle. Sugar beet molasses is also used to sweeten feed for horses, sheep, chickens, etc. Sugar beet molasses is only considered useful as an animal feed additive because it has fairly high concentrations of many salts including calcium, potassium, oxalate, and chloride. Despite the fact that it’s not suitable for human consumption and some consider it to be an industrial waste or industrial by-product, molasses produced from sugar beets makes a wonderful plant fertilizer. While humans may reject beet molasses due to the various “extras” the sugar beet brings to the table, to our plant’s it’s a different story. Sugar beet molasses is usually fairly chemical free as well, at least in our experience. Although farmers generally fertilize their fields in the spring using the various arrays of available fertilizers, weed chemicals (herbicides) are not used for this crop due to the beet plant’s relatively delicate nature. There is at least one other type of “molasses” we are aware of, and that would be sorghum molasses. It’s made from a plant known as sweet sorghum or sorghum cane in treatments somewhat similar to sugar beets and/or sugar cane processing. If our understanding is correct, sorghum molasses is more correctly called a thickened syrup rather than a by-product of sugar production. So in our eyes sorghum molasses is probably more like Maple Syrup than a true molasses. In the distant past sorghum syrup was a common locally produced sweetener in many areas, but today it is fairly rare speciality product that could get fairly pricey compared to Molasses. Because sorghum molasses is the final product of sweet sorghum processing, and blackstrap and sugar beet molasses are simply waste by-products of sugar manufacturing, it’s pretty easy to understand the difference in expense between the products. The word from the birds is - there isn’t any apparent advantage to justify the extra expense of using sorghum molasses as a substitute for blackstrap or sugar beet molasses in the garden. So if you find sorghum molasses, instead of using it in your garden, you’ll probably want to use it as an alternate sweetener on some biscuits. That’s a quick bird’s eye look at the differences between the various types and grades of molasses and how they are produced. Now it’s time to get a peek at the why’s and how’s of using molasses in gardening. Why Molasses? The reason nutrient manufacturer’s have “discovered” molasses is the simple fact that it’s a great source of carbohydrates to stimulate the growth of beneficial microorganisms. “Carbohydrate” is really just a fancy word for sugar, and molasses is the best sugar for horticultural use. Folks who have read some of our prior essays know that we are big fans of promoting and nourishing soil life, and that we attribute a good portion of our growing success to the attention we pay to building a thriving “micro-herd” to work in concert with plant roots to digest and assimilate nutrients. We really do buy into the old organic gardening adage - “Feed the soil not the plant.” Molasses is a good, quick source of energy for the various forms of microbes and soil life in a compost pile or good living soil. As we said earlier, molasses is a carbon source that feeds the beneficial microbes that create greater natural soil fertility. But, if giving a sugar boost was the only goal, there would be lot’s of alternatives. We could even go with the old Milly Blunt story of using Coke on plants as a child, after all Coke would be a great source of sugar to feed microbes and it also contains phosphoric acid to provide phosphorus for strengthening roots and encouraging blooming. In our eyes though, the primary thing that makes molasses the best sugar for agricultural use is it’s trace minerals. In addition to sugars, molasses contains significant amounts of potash, sulfur, and a variety of micronutrients. Because molasses is derived from plants, and because the manufacturing processes that create it remove mostly sugars, the majority of the mineral nutrients that were contained in the original sugar cane or sugar beet are still present in molasses. This is a critical factor because a balanced supply of mineral nutrients is essential for those “beneficial beasties” to survive and thrive. That’s one of the secrets we’ve discovered to really successful organic gardening, the micronutrients found in organic amendments like molasses, kelp, and alfalfa were all derived from other plant sources and are quickly and easily available to our soil and plants. This is especially important for the soil “micro-herd” of critters who depend on tiny amounts of those trace minerals as catalysts to make the enzymes that create biochemical transformations. That last sentence was our fancy way of saying - it’s actually the critters in “live soil” that break down organic fertilizers and “feed” it to our plants. One final benefit molasses can provide to your garden is it’s ability to work as a chelating agent. That’s a scientific way of saying that molasses is one of those “magical” substances that can convert some chemical nutrients into a form that’s easily available for critters and plants. Chelated minerals can be absorbed directly and remain available and stable in the soil. Rather than spend a lot of time and effort explaining the relationships between chelates and micronutrients, we are going to quote one of our favorite sources for explaining soil for scientific laymen. “Micronutrients occur, in cells as well as in soil, as part of large, complex organic molecules in chelated form. The word chelate (pronounced “KEE-late”) comes from the Greek word for “claw,” which indicates how a single nutrient ion is held in the center of the larger molecule. The finely balanced interactions between micronutrients are complex and not fully understood. We do know that balance is crucial; any micronutrient, when present in excessive amounts, will become a poison, and certain poisonous elements, such as chlorine are also essential micronutrients. For this reason natural, organic sources of micronutrients are the best means of supplying them to the soil; they are present in balanced quantities and not liable to be over applied through error or ignorance. When used in naturally chelated form, excess micronutrients will be locked up and prevented from disrupting soil balance.” Excerpted from “The Soul of Soil” by Grace Gershuny and Joe Smillie That’s not advertising hype either, no product being sold there. That’s just the words of a pair of authors who have spent their lives studying, building, and nurturing soils. Molasses’ ability to act as a chelate explains it’s presence in organic stimulant products like Earth Juice Catalyst. Chelates are known for their ability to unlock the potential of fertilizers, and some smart biological farmers we know are using chelating agents (like Humic Acid) to allow them to make dramatic cuts in normal levels of fertilizer application. One way to observe this reaction at work would be to mix up a solution of one part molasses to nine parts water and then soak an object which is coated with iron rust (like a simple nail for instance) in that solution for two weeks. The chelating action of the molasses will remove the mineral elements of the rust and hold them in that “claw shaped” molecule that Grace and Joe just described. As we’ve commented on elsewhere, it’s not always possible to find good information about the fertilizer benefits of some products that aren’t necessarily produced as plant food. But we’ve also found that by taking a careful look at nutritional information provided for products like molasses that can be consumed by humans, we can get a pretty decent look at the nutrition we can expect a plant to get as well. There are many brand’s of molasses available, so please do not look at our use of a particular brand as an endorsement, our choice of Brer Rabbit molasses as an example is simply due to our familiarity with the product, one of our Grandmother’s preferred this brand. Brer Rabbit Blackstrap Molasses Nutritional Information and Nutrition Facts: Serving Size: 1Tbsp. (21g). Servings per Container: About 24. Amount Per Serving: Calories - 60; Percentage Daily Values; Fat - 0g, 0%; Sodium - 65mg. 3%; Potassium - 800 mg. 23%; Total Carbohydrates - 13g, 4%; Sugars - 12g, Protein - 1g, Calcium - 2%; Iron 10%; Magnesium 15%; Not a significant source of calories from fat, sat. fat, cholesterol, fiber, Vitamin A, and Vitamin C. The How’s of Molasses Undoubtedly some folks are to the point where they are ready for our flock to “cut to the chase.” All the background about molasses making and the various kinds of molasses is good, and knowing how molasses works as a fertilizer is great too, but by now many of you may be thinking - isn’t it about time to learn how to actually use this wonder product?! So this section of the “Molasses Manual” is for our birdie buds who are ready, waiting, and wanting to get going with bringing the sticky goodness of molasses into their garden. Molasses is a fairly versatile product, it can serve as a plant food as well as a an additive to improve a fertilizer mix or tea. Dry molasses can be used as an ingredient in a fertilizer mix, and liquid molasses can be used alone or as a component in both sprays and soil drenches. Your personal preferences and growing style will help to decide how to best use this natural sweetener for it’s greatest effect in your garden. We will try and address the use of dry molasses first, although we will openly admit this is an area where we have little actual experience with gardening use. We’ve certainly mixed dry molasses into animal feed before, so we’re not totally unfamiliar with it’s use. Folks may remember from our earlier description of the various kinds of molasses that dry molasse s is actually a ground grain waste “carrier” which has been coated with molasses. This gives dry molasses a semi-granular texture that can be mixed into a feed mix (for animals) or a soil mix (for our favorite herbs). Dry molasses has a consistency that was described by one bird as similar to mouse droppings or rat turds, (folks had to know we’d fit a manure reference in here somehow). The best use we can envision for dry molasses in the herb garden is to include it in some sort of modified “super-soil” recipe, like Vic High originally popularized for the cannabis community. As we admitted, the use of dry molasses in soil mixes isn’t something we have personal experience with, at least not yet. We are planning some experiments to see how a bit of dry molasses will work in a soil mix. We believe that moderate use should help stimulate micro-organisms and also help in chelating micronutrients and holding them available for our herbs. The plan is to begin testing with one cup of dried molasses added per 10 gallons of soil mix and then let our observations guide the efforts from there. Another option for molasses use in the garden is it’s use alone as a fertilizer. The Schultz Garden Safe Liquid Plant Food is a perfect example of the direct application of molasses as a plant food. Garden Safe products are available from a variety of sources, including Wal-Mart. Although we consider them overpriced for a sugar beet by-product, Garden Safe products are fairly cost effective, especially compared to fertilizers obtained from a hydroponics or garden store, and they can serve as a good introduction to molasses for the urban herb gardener. Here are the basic instructions a gardener would find on the side of a bottle of this sugar beet by-product - Mix Garden Safe Liquid All Purpose Plant Food in water. Water plants thoroughly with solution once every 7-14 days in spring and summer, every 14-30 days in fall and winter. Indoors, use 1/2 teaspoon per quart (1 teaspoon per gallon); outdoors, 1 teaspoon per quart (4 teaspoons per gallon). 32 fluid ounces (946ml). Contains 3.0% Water Soluble Nitrogen, 1.0% Available Phosphate, 5.0% Soluble Potash derived from molasses. In our own experience with Garden Safe Liquid fertilizers, we’ve used a pretty close equivalent to the outdoor rate on indoor herbs with some good success. Our best application rate for Garden Safe 3-1-5 ended up being around 1 Tablespoon per gallon ( 1 Tablespoon = 3 teaspoons). Used alone it’s really not a favorite for continuos use, since we don’t see Garden Safe 3-1-5 as a balanced fertilizer. It doesn’t have enough phosphorous to sustain good root growth and flower formation in the long term. It’s best use would probably be in an outdoor soil grow where there are potential pest issues. Animal by-products like blood meal and bone meal are notorious for attracting varmints, so Garden Safe sugar beet molasses fertilizers could provide an excellent “plant based” source of Nitrogen and Potassium for a soil that’s already been heavily amended with a good slow release source of phosphorous, our choice would be soft rock phosphate. Blackstrap molasses could also be used in a similar fashion, as a stand alone liquid fertilizer for the biological farmer who needs to avoid potential varmint problems caused by animal based products. But, we really believe there is a better overall use for molasses in the organic farmer’s arsenal of fertilizers. Our suggestion for the best available use, would be to make use of the various molasses products as a part making organic teas for watering and foliar feeding. Since many of the folks reading this are familiar with our Guano Guide, it will come as no surprise to our audience that molasses is a product we find very useful as an ingredient in Guano and Manure teas. Most bat and seabird guanos are fairly close to being complete fertilizers, with the main exception being that they are usually short in Potassium. Molasses is turns out is a great source of that necessary Potassium. As we learned earlier, molasses also acts as a chelating agent and will help to make micronutrients in the Guano more easily available for our favorite herbs. A good example of a guano tea recipe at the Bird’s Nest is really as simple as the following: 1 Gallon of water 1 TBSP of guano (for a flowering mix we’d use Jamaican or Indonesian Bat Guano - for a more general use fertilizer we would choose Peruvian Seabird Guano.) 1 tsp blackstrap or sugar beet molasses We mix the ingredients directly into the water and allow the tea mix to brew for 24 hours. It’s best to use an aquarium pump to aerate the tea, but an occasional shaking can suffice if necessary and still produce a quality tea. We will give you one hint from hard personal experience, make sure if you use the shake method that you hold the lid on securely, nobody appreciate having a crap milkshake spread over the room. Some folks prefer to use a lady’s nylon or stocking to hold the guano and keep it from making things messy, but we figure the organic matter the manure can contribute to the soil is a good thing. Using this method we feel like we are getting the benefits of a manure tea and a guano top-dressing all together in the same application. If you prefer to use the stocking method, feel free to feed the”tea bag”leftovers to your worm or compost bin, even after a good brewing there’s lots of organic goodness left in that crap! We also use molasses to sweeten and enrich Alfalfa meal teas. Our standard recipe for this use is: 4 gallons of water 1 cup of fine ground alfalfa meal 1 TBSP blackstrap or sugar beet molasses After a 24 hour brew, this 100% plant-based fertilizer is ready for application. Alfalfa is a great organic plant food, with many benefits above and beyond just the N–P-K it can contribute to a soil mix or tea. We do plan to cover Alfalfa and it’s many uses in greater detail soon in yet another thread. We prefer to mix our alfalfa meal directly into the tea, but many gardeners use the stocking”tea bag”method with great effectiveness, both work well, it’s really just a matter of personal preference. The alfalfa tea recipe we described can be used as a soil drench, and also as a foliar feed. And foliar feeding is the final use of molasses we’d like to detail. Foliar feeding, for the unfamiliar, is simply the art of using fine mist sprays as a way to get nutrients directly to the plant through the minute pores a plant”breathes”through. It is by far the quickest and most effective way to correct nutrient deficiencies, and can be an important part of any gardener’s toolbox. Molasses is a great ingredient in foliar feeding recipes because of it’s ability to chelate nutrients and bring them to the “table” in a form that can be directly absorbed and used by the plant. This really improves the effectiveness of foliar feeds when using them as a plant tonic. In fact it improves them enough that we usually can dilute our teas or mix them more “lean” - with less fertilizer - than we might use without the added molasses. Of course it is possible to use molasses as a foliar feed alone, without any added guano or alfalfa. It’s primary use would be to treat plants who are deficient in Potassium, although molasses also provides significant boosts in other essential minerals such as Sulfur, Iron and Magnesium. Organic farming guides suggest application rates of between one pint and one quart per acre depending on the target plant. For growing a fast growing annual plant like cannabis, we’d suggest a recipe of 1 teaspoon molasses per gallon of water. In all honesty, we’d probably suggest a foliar feeding with kelp concentrate as a better solution for an apparent Potassium shortage. Kelp is one of our favorite foliar feeds because it is a complete source of micronutrients in addition to being a great source of Potassium. Kelp has a variety of other characteristics that we love, and we plan that it will be the topic of it’s own detailed thread at a future date. But, for growers that cannot find kelp, or who might have problems with the potential odors a kelp foliar feeding can create, molasses can provide an excellent alternative treatment for Potassium deficient plants at an affordable price. That looks at most of the beneficial uses of Molasses for the modern organic or biological farmer. Just when you think that’s all there could be from our beaks on the topic of molasses, that molasses and it’s sweet sticky goodness surely have been covered in their entirety, the birds chirp in to say, there is one more specialized use for molasses in the garden. Magical molasses can also help in the control of Fire Ants, and perhaps some other garden pests. Molasses For Organic Pest Control One final benefit of molasses is it’s ability to be used in the control of a couple of common pests encountered in gardening. The most commonly known use of molasses is it’s ability to help control Fire Ants, but we’ve also found an internet reference to the ability of molasses to control white cabbage moths in the UK, so molasses could be an effective pest deterrent in more ways that we are aware. As we said before, there are several references we’ve run across refering to the ability of molasses to control Fire Ants. Since we’re not intimately familiar with this particular use of molasses, and rather than simply re-write and re-word another’s work, we thought we’d defer to the experts. So for this section of the current version of the Molasses Manual, we will simply post a reference article we found that covers topic in better detail than we currently can ourselves. Molasses Makes Fire Ants Move Out By Pat Ploegsma, reprinted from Native Plant Society of Texas News Summer 1999 Have you ever started planting in your raised beds and found fire ant highrises? Are you tired of being covered with welts after gardening? Put down that blowtorch and check out these excellent organic and non-toxic solutions. Malcolm Beck1, organic farmer extraordinaire and owner of Garden-Ville Inc., did some experiments that showed that molasses is a good addition to organic fertilizer (more on fertilizer in the next issue). When using molasses in the fertilizer spray for his fruit trees he noticed that the fire ants moved out from under the trees. “I got an opportunity to see if molasses really moved fire ants. In my vineyard, I had a 500 foot row of root stock vines cut back to a stump that needed grafting. The fire ants had made themselves at home along that row. The mounds averaged three feet apart. There was no way a person could work there without being eaten alive! I dissolved 4 tablespoons of molasses in each gallon of water and sprayed along the drip pipe. By the next day the fire ants had moved four feet in each direction. We were able to graft the vines without a single ant bothering us.” This gave him the idea for developing an organic fire ant killer that is 30% orange oil and 70% liquid compost made from manure and molasses. The orange oil softens and dissolves the ant’s exoskeleton, making them susceptible to attack by the microbes in the compost, while the molasses feeds the microbes and also smothers the ants. After the insects are dead, everything becomes energy-rich soil conditioner and will not harm any plant it touches. It can be used on any insect including mosquitoes and their larvae. Break a small hole in the crust in the center of the mound then quickly!!! pour the solution into the hole to flood the mound and then drench the ants on top. Large mounds may need a second application. Available at Garden-Ville Square in Stafford, it has a pleasant lemonade smell. According to Mark Bowen2, local landscaper and Houston habitat gardening expert, fire ants thrive on disturbed land and sunny grassy areas. “Organic matter provides a good habitat for fire ant predators such as beneficial nematodes, fungi, etc. Other conditions favoring fire ant predators include shading the ground with plantings, good soil construction practices and use of plants taller than turfgrasses.” He recommends pouring boiling soapy water over shallow mounds or using AscendTM. “Ascend is a fire ant bait which contains a fungal by-product called avermectin and a corn and soybean-based grit bait to attract fire ants. Ascend works slowly enough to get the queen or queens and it controls ants by sterilizing and/or killing them outright.” Malcolm Beck also did some experiments with Diatomaceous Earth - DE - (skeletal remains of algae which is ground into an abrasive dust) which confirmed that DE also kills fire ants. He mixes 4 oz. of DE into the top of the mound with lethal results. According to Beck, DE only works during dry weather on dry ant mounds. Pet food kept outdoors will stay ant free if placed on top of a tray with several inches of DE 1Beck, Malcolm. The Garden-Ville Method: Lessons in Nature. Third Edition. San Antonio, TX: Garden-Ville, Inc., 1998. 2Bowen, Mark, with Mary Bowen. Habitat Gardening for Houston and Southeast Texas. Houston, TX: River Bend Publishing Company, 1998. As we had also mentioned earlier, while researching the uses of molasses in gardening, we also came across a reference to it’s use in the control of white cabbage moths. Here’s what we found on that particular topic. “I came across this home remedy from the UK for white cabbage moths. Mix a tablespoon of molasses in 1 litre of warm water and let cool.. spray every week or every 2 weeks as required for white cabbage moth..they hate it..and I thinkit would be good soil conditioner as well if any drops on your soil.. It works for me...but gotta do it before white butterfly lays eggs...otherwise you might have to use the 2 finger method and squash grubs for your garden birds.. "nutNhoney" wrote in message news:firstname.lastname@example.org... > To the kind soul who posted the tip for spraying members of the cabbage > family with a molasses solution, thank you so much. Today, I noticed a > white moth hovering around my brussel sprouts. I quickly made up a > solution of molasses and rushed back to the garden to spray. The moth > did not land! It seemed to be repelled by the molasses. I sprayed the > broccoli too for good measure. I think I will spray again for the next > few days. If it keeps the cabbage caterpillars off, I will be so happy. > Thanks again!” So there you have it, not necessarily straight from our mouths, but simply one more potential use we’ve discovered for molasses, with at least one testimonial for it’s effectiveness. As we said before, the use of molasses as an foliar spray, in addition to it’s potential use as a pest deterrent, would also serve to provide some essential nutrients directly to our plants, and would especially serve as an effective boost of Potassium for plants diagnosed with a deficiency in K. Healthy plants are more resistant to the threat of pests or disease, so molasses really is a multi-purpose organic pest deterrent. Last Bird's Eye Look At Molasses You’ve heard a lot now about the sweet sticky goodness of Molasses in the garden, but have we mentioned yet that some folks even view Molasses as a health food? One of the 3LB’s had a grandmother who would take a swig of molasses twice every day as a part of her health regimen. We don’t add that as a random fact, but mention it because there’s an interesting little story attached . . . Grandma was driving down the road one day, oblivious to her surroundings, when she was struck with the remembrance that her morning molasses had been forgotten. Most folks wouldn’t have had a solution for this problem at hand, but we have to tell you that this is a lady who traveled with a small bottle of molasses in her purse! So Grandma grabbed the brown bottle of molasses from her purse, and proceeded to uncap it and take a gulp as she drove somewhat uncertainly down the road. Chance would have it, that as she performed this somewhat delicate action, she was observed by an officer of the law weaving down the road. Officer LEO observed Grammy directly as she lifted the small brown bottle to her lips. Of course in that day, beer didn’t come in an aluminum can, but instead was distributed in little brow bottles that looked quite similar to the molasses bottle Grandma had just swigged. We don’t need to tell you where the law enforcement officer’s mind went. Putting two and two together to equal an apparent and immediate danger to the community in an act of wanton disregard for the law, Officer LEO flipped his vehicle around in a 180 turn, flipped on his lights, and began to pursue Grandma. This was a lady we never were quite comfortable letting children ride with, but it was also a day and age before there were many laws allowing intervention to remove the license of an elderly person no longer competent to drive. So, we will just say it was a little while before Grandma noticed the red flashing lights in her rear view mirror. After all she’d been busy putting her molasses away in her purse and watching the road ahead of her, not looking back behind. It probably didn’t help that Grandmother’s first instinct was also to believe that the flashing lights behind her were really meant for someone else. It certainly didn’t occur to Grandma that all of her actions worked to confirm in Officer LEO’s mind that he was dealing with an intoxicated old crone with an apparent total disregard for the not only the law, but also other’s safety. And we probably don’t need to tell you that he wasn’t feeling particularly kind or generous when Grammy finally did pull to the road’s shoulder. As the officer finally approached her car, prepared for trouble from some kind of inebriated old crone, Grandmother came hobbling from her own vehicle a bit unsteadily due to her advanced arthritis. Fortunately we can report that the final ending was happy, without too much unnecessary drama. After verbally demanding the officer’s intent, and then producing the offending brown bottle for the officer’s inspection, grammy was supposedly heard to say, “Good lands officer, do you really think a woman of my standing in the community would EVER imbibe an alcoholic beverage while driving? Well I NEVER! . . . And didn’t your mother ever tell you that molasses is good for you?” Well folks, there you have it, the “Molasses Manual” by the three_little_birds. If your Mother’s or Grandmother’s didn’t tell you about the sticky goodness of molasses, you’ve heard all about it now from the three_little_birds. Like our Guano Guide was designed to be a fairly comprehensive look at manures, we hope this look at soil sweeteners gives folks a thorough look at the uses of molasses in their garden. Hopefully now everyone knows the how’s and why’s of the uses of this sweetener for the soil. It looks like the last thing to add is the where’s. If you are of the theory that your local hydro shop owner isn’t rich enough yet, then please by all means go and purchase an expensive carbo load product, but don’t complain that the three_little_birds didn’t warn you that it’s likely little more than Blackstrap Molasses. Hey, spending it there keeps the money recirculating in the economy and is preferable to burying it in a hole in the backyard. However, if you are a grower who wishes to be a little more frugal, there are certainly cheaper alternatives. We’ve been known to recommend the complete group of Earth Juice fertilizers as a convenient and effective line of liquid organic fertilizers for home herb gardeners. We’ve grown using all thier products including: Bloom, Grow, Meta-K, Microblast, and Catalyst (Xatalyst in Canada! ) Many other’s here at CW also report great success and satisfaction with their products. Well, if folks look at the ingredients in Catalyst, one of the first things they will see is molasses. There are some other goodies in there like kelp, oat bran, wheat malt, and yeast, but we’re thinking that molasses is the main magic in EJ Catalyst. Another choice for obtaining your garden’s molasses is Grandma’s source. It’s pretty likely you can find molasses on the shelf of your local grocery store. For folks living in an urban area this may very well be the best and most economical choice for molasses procurement. But if the folk reading this live anywhere near a rural area, then the best and cheapest source of all will be an farm supply or old fashioned animal feed shop. Your plants don’t care if your molasses comes out of a bottle designed for the kitchen cupboard, or a big plastic jug designed for the feedlot, but your pocketbook will feel the difference. Blackstrap molasses for farm animals is the best overall value for your garden, and it is the molasses option we most strongly endorse for your garden. Although we do our best to post accurate and complete information, we also know that our collective intelligence on a topic far outstrips our individual knowledge and experience, and therefore the collective knowledge and experience of the entire community here at CW is greater still. We also know there are always questions we haven’t anticipated. So we welcome your questions, we encourage comments, and we sincerely hope for useful additions. We even welcome criticism, as long as it’s constructive. We’d like to remind folks to be careful out there . . . happy harvests from the 3LB! Peace Lams