The "Secret Sauce"

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

I'll admit it. I love getting compliments about my tomato starter plants. I love getting questions such as "how did you do that?" It's a lot of fun to not only learn from other people, but also share that knowledge with others.

Done correctly, growing vegetable or tomato plants from seed can be a very rewarding experience. Like anything, it does take work and some dedication, but when the payoff is a vine-ripened tomato in the summer, it's worth it.

The first time I tried growing tomato plants from seed came in 2005 -- and I'll admit it -- I had a great deal of "beginner's luck." I'm still not sure what I did, but fate smiled upon me that year when I produced the most absolutely gorgeous starter plants I've ever seen. Farmer Fred Hoffman even went so far as to proclaim them as "nursery quality stuff," and I'll admit, I was pretty darn proud of my accomplishment.

But, upon trying that same feat next year, I struck out. Similar disappointments followed. For whatever reason, I simply could not produce the same kind of plants that I had produced in my very first year of growing tomato plants from seed.

Until now, that is.

I'm not really sure, again, what I'm doing right this year but I've been rewarded with starter plants that are of "nursery quality" once again. Could it be the new-fangled fertlizer mix I'm using? The mix I call the "secret sauce?"

It's not really a secret. In fact -- it's pictured to your immediate left. No it's not the kegerator. The kegerator is what produces the "secret sauce" for me (and the wife that is Venus). Nope -- the REAL "secret sauce" is what's ON the kegerator. That is a bottle of Omega 666 -- the good stuff -- purchased from Peaceful Valley Farm & Garden Supply in the Nevada County hamlet of Nevada City.

I aquired this stuff completely by accident. I had intended to stop off at Eisley Nursery in Auburn, when Fred Hoffman inquired if I could buy him a bottle of Omega 666 at Peaceful Valley. And then he warned me it "wasn't cheap."

I had never heard of the stuff, but since I was going to be in the neighborhood anyway, I'd go ahead and buy it. The wife was in the market for blue and red potatoes anyway, and since Peaceful Valley stocked both varieties she was looking for, I figured I'd kill two birds with one potato.....ah.....stone.

Fred was right. The stuff isn't cheap. A one gallon bottle will set you back a cool $40 -- not including tax. But -- at the same time -- this "all organic" product intrigued me. I'd done some research before visiting Peaceful Valley, and growers just RAVED about this stuff.

I'm not one of those "all organic" growers by the way. In my book it's "whatever works." Products with the name "Ortho" stenciled on them do not scare me, nor do I think they "poison the environment." I'm always willing to try something new, so I decided to give Omega 666 a tryout in the garden.

This was one of those good calls. Combined with another powdered ingredient called "Maxicrop," all sorts of vegetables starting popping out of raised planter beds. That included potatoes, several varieties of radish seed, peas, baby bok choi, lettuce, spinach, you name it.

At that point, I decided to use a weak solution of Omega 666 on the tomato and pepper seedlings growing in a spare bedroom. I had used fish emulsion fertlizer with limited success some years earlier, so why not Omega 666?

Given a choice -- what would I use? Fish Emulsion Fertilizer or Omega 666? That's a tough call. The economical (see = CHEAP) side of me loves the $3 price for a bottle of Fish Emulsion Fertilizer. Then again, Omega 666 doesn't leave the spare bedroom smelling like DEAD FISH either. So, I think I'll choose the non-smelly, expensive stuff.

If this success keeps up, I will again produce tomato plant starters that are of "nursery quality." The plants that you see here were started from seed the weekend following the Super Bowl. I started twice-weekly feedings of Omega 666 in mid-March, soon after the seedlings were transplanted from peat moss pellets into regular starter cups.

I now have starter plants so lush and large that they're hitting the tops of my grow lights. Better yet -- they have the kind of strong and healthy stems that indoor growers pray for, but rarely see.

I don't often endorse products on this blog. And I certainly don't accept any payments. I'd be dragged before a Senate Rules Firing Squad for doing such a thing. But I will reccommend products that I think are useful. And -- for me -- this "not-so-secret-sauce" packs a punch that my garden really does like.

7 comments:

Carri-The Queen Bee said...

I have used this stuff as well. It's awesome. But the last I heard they weren't going to be carrying it anymore because it was no longer certified as being organic- have you heard anything about that? I keep meaning to call them to see.

Garry said...

CtQB-

its still listed on their website!

http://www.groworganic.com/item_F1812_Omega_666_Gallon.html

garry

Autumn said...

Hi there,

Great post! This is Autumn from Peaceful Valley and I thought I'd clear up the future fate of Omega 6-6-6... Although this product is NOP compliant (complies with the rules & regs of the National Organic Program), its manufacturer has since decided to stop answering organic certifier requests for further information (certifying agencies are requesting information that would jeopardize trade secrets). For farmers who are certified organic, effective May 1, 2009, this product will no longer be allowed by CCOF because it is not OMRI or WSDA listed.

We are working quickly to find a comparable organic product for our customers - gardeners and farmers alike! In the meantime, we still have a limited supply of Omega products on our shelves :-)

As a side note, may I repost your blog post on our blog: intheloop.groworganic.com? I think other customers would enjoy the product comparison!

Thanks,
Autumn

Bill Bird said...

Autumn,

Not a problem. I'd be happy for the re-posting. The Sacramento Bee did an eye-popping story on this outfit last December gang. It's not like we paid $40 for a bottle of repackaged Miracle Gro -- but it's pretty clear that the firm that makes Omega 666 was importing ammonium sulfate (same stuff in Miracle Grow) from Illinois. A California investigator found two boxcar shipments of the stuff in Salinas. This firm manufactures a lot of different stuff, and nobody is quite sure how much sulfate was getting used in each product, but it's pretty clear that organic rules were not only bent -- but blown apart with a box of TNT. I still like the stuff though. It's got something in it.

Carri-The Queen Bee said...

Thanks for clearing things up Autumn! Yeah, I'd still probably buy the stuff even though it doesn't fall under the "certified organic" umbrella. I just wish the stuff was cheaper! I had bought the quart size and treated it like it was liquid gold. This year I went the Organic Miracle Grow route. Dont judge me! I'm a state worker- I had to make budget cuts somewhere!

Keith said...

And to think I almost rushed out and bought up all of the Omega 666! Actually, with your success I was going to purchase a trial, and apparently final, bottle of this magic elixer. Now that I know more about it I think I will pass. But keep in mind my leggy plants suffered considerably this season while enduring a completely new growing system -- and they look nothing like your beauties. So, maybe there is something to the happy medium you seem to have found here.

Joe the Farmer said...

Are you aware of other more "affordable" varieties of plant food with the same or similar ratio of ingredients? Very pricey, but after seeing your tomaters I am tempted...