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Molasses - Sweet & Super

 

Molasses was one sweet treat we were never without when I was growing up. We put it on bread with butter for a snack. It was great on hot cornbread and really flavored up beans if stirred in the pot when they were very hot. My grandpa would eat molasses over cottage cheese every morning for breakfast, and he stayed healthy to his death at a very old age.

Back then I would never have guessed that molasses would have any value in growing plants or use in insect control. My friend who grows organic cotton up in the high plains uses molasses and a nitrogen-fixing microbe as his only fertilizer. (Nitrogen fixing means the nitrogen is made available to plants as nutrients.) I asked him what the molasses did, and he said it made the microbes work better.

I had to find out for myself, so I did a test. I used two containers of equal size with equal amounts of potting soil and the same number of rye grass seeds. One container was given only tap water; the other was given equal water with two tablespoons of molasses per gallon stirred in. After 8 weeks, the molasses watered plants were almost twice the size of the plants in the other container.

I was amazed, but I didn't understand how molasses could make that much difference. We had the compost in the potting soil tested and found that it contained some of the same free-nitrogen-fixing microbes that the cotton grower used. (He used an Agri-Gro product containing the microbes.) One of these nitrogen-fixing microbes is Azotobacter, a microbe that can fix nitrogen straight from the air without living on the root of a legume as long as it has a source of energy such as sugar or molasses. Both are rich in carbohydrates, a good source of energy. In lab tests, Dr. Louis M. Thompson discovered that if given sugar weekly, the Azotobacter could fix from the air the equivalent of a thousand pounds of nitrogen per acre in ten weeks.

We recommend that molasses, 1 to 3 tablespoons, be added to each gallon of liquid fertilizer mix. It definitely makes a difference. It is also used as a binder in all of our dry fertilizer formulas.

Every gardener has his or her own favorite fertilizer recipe. Both Howard Garrett and John Dromgoole have popular recipes that contain molasses and other organic materials. You can experiment with your favorites and come up with your own best recipe.

I always foliar feed my fruit trees early each spring with fish emulsion and seaweed. Now I add molasses to the mix. The strangest thing I noticed when using molasses with the mix was that the fire ants would move out from under the trees. I also got reports from Houston that fire ants would move away from the lawns after an application of dry fertilizer that contained molasses.

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 because of the drip pipe that kept the soil soft and gave them a good supply of water. 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 out four feet in each direction. We were able to graft the vines without a single ant bothering us. With this success at moving the ants, I decided to spray the whole orchard and get rid of those pests. I learned, however, if the ants have no convenient place to move, they just stay where they are. I began wondering if the energy-rich molasses stimulate a soil microbe that the ants don't like. This was the beginning of development of Garden-Ville Fire Ant Control.

A friend of mine up in dairy country uses a hydro cyclone to separate the liquids from the solids in cow manure. He noticed when spraying the liquids on hay fields that the fire ants tended to disappear. Tests of our compost have shown it to contain insect pathogens. The manure liquids and the compost tea both had some results as ant killers. The two together worked a little better. We knew that dormant oil sprays killed some insects, and that citrus peel extracts were used to kill insects, so we decided to mix orange oil with molasses and liquid cow manure. After months of research, we finally found the correct blend that not only killed ants, but any insects. It even smelled okay and would not burn the leaves of plants. It quickly degraded into a good energy-rich soil conditioner.

Needless to say, we offered our product to the market as Garden-Ville Fire Ant Control. We have many happy customers. You can even make your own if you don't want to buy ours. More information is included in the article on fire ant control.

 

The Garden-Ville Method - Lessons in Nature

 

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last updated:  March 6, 2004