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  • Writer's pictureJere Folgert

What is Chelated fertilizer?

Updated: Jan 16

Imagine having a picky eater who only wants to eat food wrapped in shiny, colorful paper. Chelation in fertilizers is kind of like that, but instead of picky eaters, it's about making nutrients more appealing to plants!

Here's the deal: plants need tiny bits of nutrients, like iron and zinc, to grow healthy and strong. But sometimes, these nutrients get all shy and hide in the soil, refusing to be absorbed by plant roots. That's where chelation comes in!

Think of chelation as a fancy wrapping service for nutrients. Special molecules called chelators (like the "shiny paper") grab onto the nutrients and form a cozy little complex, like a tiny gift box. This makes the nutrients more soluble, meaning they dissolve more easily in water, and more importantly, more available for plants to absorb through their roots.

It's like the chelator whispers to the plant, "Hey, look at this awesome nutrient I brought you! It's all dressed up and ready to be used." And the plant, happy with the delicious treat, slurps it right up! So, chelated fertilizers are like little helpers that give plants the nutrients they need to thrive, even if those nutrients were previously playing hide-and-seek in the soil. Pretty neat, right?

What is Chelated fertilizer?

Chelated fertilizer is a special type of fertilizer that contains micronutrients bound to organic molecules called chelators or ligands. These chelators protect the micronutrients from becoming unavailable to plants due to interactions with soil particles or other chemicals. As a result, chelated fertilizers offer several advantages over traditional fertilizers:

Increased nutrient availability: Chelation prevents micronutrients from reacting with soil components, making them more readily available for plant uptake. This can be especially beneficial in soils with high pH or those containing high levels of elements like calcium and magnesium, which can bind to micronutrients and make them unavailable.

Improved nutrient uptake: Chelators surround micronutrients, making them easier for plants to absorb through their roots. This can lead to faster growth, improved plant health, and increased yield.

Reduced leaching: Chelated fertilizers are less susceptible to leaching than traditional fertilizers. This means that more of the fertilizer stays in the root zone where plants can access it, and less is lost to the environment.

Greater flexibility: Chelated fertilizers can be applied as foliar sprays, soil drenches, or fertigation (injection into irrigation systems). This allows for greater flexibility in application methods and timing. Commonly chelated micronutrients include:

  • Iron (Fe)

  • Copper (Cu)

  • Zinc (Zn)

  • Manganese (Mn)

  • Boron (B)

  • Molybdenum (Mo)

Chelated fertilizers are often used in situations where plants are experiencing micronutrient deficiencies, such as:

  • Alkaline soils (pH above 7)

  • Sandy soils

  • High rainfall areas

  • Container-grown plants

  • Plants with high nutrient requirements

Garlic's Golden Ticket: Unleashing Growth with Chelated Fertilizers

Hardneck garlic, a prized possession for home gardeners and gourmet chefs, thrives on rich soil and meticulous care. But even the most attentive gardeners can face frustratingly unpredictable yields. So, what if there was a secret weapon waiting in the aisles? Enter chelated fertilizers, your key to unlocking bumper crops of vibrant, flavorful hardneck garlic.

What are Chelated Fertilizers and Why Use Them on Garlic?

Unlike their basic counterparts, chelated fertilizers hold micronutrients – like iron, zinc, and manganese – in a protective embrace by attaching them to organic molecules called chelators. This shield prevents nutrients from getting locked away in the soil, ensuring they're readily available for garlic plants to absorb.

For hardneck garlic, this targeted delivery is especially crucial. These hearty bulbs are picky eaters, particularly susceptible to micronutrient deficiencies in certain soils. Chelated fertilizers ensure they get the exact nutrients they need for optimal growth, leading to:

1. Boosted Yields: Studies have shown that chelated fertilizers can increase garlic bulb size and overall yield by as much as 20-30% compared to conventional fertilizers. That translates to more cloves per head and more garlic goodness on your plate!

2. Stronger Plants: With proper nutrient balance, your garlic plants become sturdier and better equipped to fight off diseases and pests. This means less stress, stronger bulbs, and ultimately, happier harvests.

3. Improved Flavor: Proper micronutrient uptake can enhance the taste and aroma of your garlic. Expect fuller, bolder flavors that will wow your palate and impress your culinary creations.

Cost Considerations: Is it Worth the Splurge?

Chelated fertilizers tend to be pricier than conventional options. However, consider it an investment in your garlic's future. The potential for increased yields, healthier plants, and superior flavor can quickly offset the initial cost. Additionally, since you're dealing with concentrated formulas, a little goes a long way.

Tips for Using Chelated Fertilizers with Hardneck Garlic:

  • Soil Test First: Understand your soil's existing nutrient levels to avoid over-fertilizing. A simple soil test will guide you towards choosing the right chelated fertilizer blend.

  • Follow the Label: Precise application rates are crucial. Overdoing it can harm your plants, so stick to the manufacturer's instructions.

  • Timing is Key: Apply chelated fertilizers during key growth stages – at planting, mid-season, and during bulb development.

  • Liquid or Foliar Application?: While soil drenching is common, foliar sprays can be particularly effective for micronutrient delivery. Choose based on your preference and soil conditions.

With careful planning and a dash of chelated magic, your hardneck garlic journey can be paved with success. So, ditch the unpredictability and watch your bulbs flourish with this potent nutritional boost. Remember, happy garlic plants mean happy gardeners and mouthwatering dishes to come!

Bonus Tip: Share your chelated fertilizer experiences and garlic victories in the comments below! Let's create a community of garlic-growing enthusiasts, thriving on the power of chelation.

Now go forth and conquer your garlic patch!

It's important to note that chelated fertilizers are often more expensive than traditional fertilizers. They are most beneficial when there is a clear need for improved micronutrient availability. Here are some resources where you can learn more about chelated fertilizers:

What Was I Made For. Garlic Seed Pack

GroEat Farm, LLC is a small, sustainable family farm located in Bozeman, Montana.  We’re located in the beautiful Hyalite foothills, below the Gallatin Mountain Range.  The hardneck varieties that grow at our farm (Ophioscorodon) flourish here, due to the combination of the cold winters, temperate summers, moist spring, and the dynamic alluvial soils, washed down from the Gallatin Range (comprised of Archean metamorphics, Paleozoic and Mesozoic sedimentary rocks, and Eocene volcanics).  Not only are the GroEat Hardneck garlic healthy and beautiful, the flavor’s are robust and delicate.

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