The folks at Future Harvest Development, a Canadian company, were kind enough to send me samples of their one-step fertilizers Easy Grow + and Easy Bloom +. The Easy Grow and Easy Bloom fertilizer lines are one-step, all-inclusive fertilizers that are pH stable and contain all the micro- and macronutrients plants need to thrive. The Easy Grow + and Easy Bloom + fertilizers contain all the same great micro- and macronutrients as the Easy Grow and Easy Bloom, but also have beneficial microorganisms added; hence the “+”. These added beneficial microorganisms reside in the soil or medium and help keep the plant’s roots happy and healthy.
I decided to use the Easy Grow + and Easy Bloom + in an outdoor grow test and photo document the growth. Now for my official disclaimer: this test was conducted outdoors, which means I could not possibly control all of the variables, including rain (which we will discuss later). In other words, this was not a highly scientific test, but was rather a test conducted out of pure curiosity to see how Future Harvest Development’s one-part fertilizers would perform.
I filled 16 three gallon planting containers (Future Harvest Development’s three gallon plant life plastic containers) with basic, store bought, pre-packaged potting soil. Two varieties of pepper plants were used for the test: red rocket cayenne peppers and anaheim peppers. I planted eight red rocket cayenne pepper plants and eight anaheim pepper plants for a total of 16 test subjects. The 16 planting containers were separated into four groups of four. Each group of four had two red rocket pepper plants and two anaheim pepper plants. Each group of four was to be fertilized differently.
The control group included two red rocket cayenne pepper plants and two anaheim pepper plants. This group received only plain water and did not receive any fertilizer. The idea was that the control group would show us if the fertilizer was indeed making a difference in the way the plants developed.
The light application group consisted of two red rocket cayenne pepper plants and two anaheim pepper plants. This group received one teaspoon of Easy Grow + per gallon of water with each feeding. Please note: one teaspoon per gallon is half of the recommended standard application dose. In other words, this group received half of the manufacturer’s recommended dose.
The standard application group consisted of two red rocket cayenne pepper plants and two anaheim pepper plants. This group received two teaspoons of Easy Grow + per gallon of water with each feeding. This is the manufacturer’s recommended dose for standard applications.
The aggressive application group consisted of two red rocket cayenne pepper plants and two anaheim pepper plants. This group received one tablespoon of Easy Grow + per gallon of water with each feeding.
I live in a hardiness zone where the last average frost date is June 15th (not exactly the ideal place to grow hot peppers, but I have had decent luck with them in previous years). The peppers were started from seed by a local nursery and delivered to me in early June. I kept them in their original containers (seedling cells) and housed them in a small cold frame until June 17th. On June 17th, I transplanted each pepper plant into a three gallon container for the test.
My idea, when I started this grow test, was to feed the plants with fertilizer (excluding the control group) twice a week. However, due to an extremely rainy month of June, I was not able to feed that often because I didn’t feel comfortable adding more moisture to the soil. In fact, throughout the month of June and into early July, the planting containers never had a chance to dry out. They were essentially water logged and I was concerned about losing the plants to root rot.
As many experienced gardeners know, if a growing medium never has a chance to dry out, it loses its ability to hold oxygen. When a plant’s roots no longer have access to oxygen, pathogens, such as root rot, can take hold. I decided to still feed the plants the fertilizer regimen once a week, regardless of the rain and the soaked containers, so I could continue with the test, even if it was not ideal conditions.
There were no noticeable changes after week one, except that one of the cayenne peppers in the control group started to turn yellow. This could have been due to transplant shock, lack of nutrients, or pathogens which established in the over-saturated soil. All of the other plants seemed to have taken the transplant well and looked poised for growth.
After week two there was a noticeable difference between the plants that received the Easy Grow + fertilizer and those that did not. In general, the control group (the group receiving no fertilizer) had pale coloring compared with the other plants. The control group also generally had weaker structural integrity when compared with the groups receiving the fertilizer.
The cayenne pepper plants in the control group had far fewer flower sites (which will most likely equate to fewer peppers) and were shorter in stature. The cayenne peppers in the “light” and “standard” feeding groups had already developed some peppers. Although the cayenne peppers in the “aggressive” feeding group had no established peppers, they had more flower sites and were taller and bigger compared with the cayenne peppers in all the other groups.
The anaheim peppers in the control group were slightly paler than the other anaheim peppers. They were also slightly shorter in stature. The “light” and “standard” groups of anaheims had the very beginnings of flower development. The “aggressive” group of anaheim peppers had more branches, bushier tops and had yet to develop flowers.
After finally getting some sunshine, the plants seemed to be taking off. After week three of the test (three feedings of fertilizer), there was a dramatic difference between the plants receiving fertilizer and those that were not.
The cayenne peppers of the control group were yellowing fast and were obviously not getting everything they needed from the basic potting soil. The cayenne peppers in the “light” group were producing both peppers and new flowers. The cayenne pepper plants in the “standard group” were developing nicely and even had some peppers approaching full size. The cayenne pepper plants in the “aggressive” group were by far the tallest, bushiest, and had the most flower/pepper sites of all the cayenne peppers in the experiment.
The anaheim peppers in the control group were doing better than expected, but were still shorter and weaker than the anaheim peppers that were receiving fertilizer. The anaheim peppers in the “light” and “standard” groups looked very similar to each other in terms of height and pepper/flower sites. The “aggressive” group of anaheim peppers was the tallest and stoutest, but did not necessarily have as many flower/pepper sites as the “light” or “standard” groups. I’m predicting that will change over the course of the next few weeks.
I mentioned previously that all of the planting containers have not had a chance to properly dry out, which brings fresh oxygen to the roots. I believe one of the reasons the plants being fertilized have fared well in the overly wet conditions is because of the added beneficial microorganisms contained in the Easy Grow + and Easy Bloom +. Beneficial microorganisms are synonymous with healthy roots. Not only do they increase the root’s ability to uptake nutrients and water, but they can also protect the root zone from pathogens.
Due to the flower and pepper development on most of the plants, I will now stop using Easy Grow + and will switch to Easy Bloom +. The dosage of fertilizer for each group will remain the same and, for now, I will stick with the once a week feeding schedule. I’m very excited to see how the pepper plants will continue to develop under the different regimens and how the control group will compare to the others in pepper production. Stay tuned to see my results with the Easy Bloom + fertilizer in an upcoming issue.
To learn more about Future Harvest products call 866.491.0255 or visit FutureHarvest.com.
Eric Hopper resides in Michigan’s beautiful Upper Peninsula where he enjoys gardening and pursuing sustainability. He is a Garden & Greenhouse senior editor and can be contacted at Ehop@GardenAndGreenhouse.net.