I want to start this article by stating that I absolutely hate those that claim that “this is the best way” to do anything related to orchid growing. There are just too many variables in the needs of the plants, individuals’ growing conditions and their willingness/ability to dedicate time and effort to growing them, for a single methodology to be universally appropriate. That said, in the 45+ years I’ve been growing orchids, I have grown (and killed) a large number of different kinds, and have had my growing regimen evolve to the following parameters, and have found it to be excellent. I believe that if you are able to put these into practice, you too will have a similar experience, but I will not go so far as to guarantee it.
First, let me explain a bit about why our regimen is so fruitful, and review its components, which aim to mimic-, yet improve upon what the plants see in nature:
- Use a potting medium and container that allows frequent watering without suffocating the roots.
- Use a pure water source – collected rainwater, distilled, or reverse osmosis.
- Water frequently – the more, the better.
- Thoroughly flood the pot at every watering.
- Use K-Lite, (12-1-1-10Ca-3Mg) @ 25 ppm N (about 1/6 teaspoon/gallon) at every watering.
- Add KelpMax @ 1:250 (approximately 1 tablespoon/gallon) once per month.
- Add Inocucor Garden Solution @ 1:100 once per month (approximately 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon/gallon – I just use 3 tablespoons for simplicity).
The first four items combine to prove a moist, airy environment for the root system that remains clean of mineral buildup and plant wastes, much as tropical forest rainfall tends to be torrential, thoroughly flushing and aerating the detritus that collects around the roots of epiphytes.
K-Lite’s formula mimics the nutrient mix provided by host plant exudates and accumulated airborne particulates that are flushed down from the forest canopy whenever it rains in tropical rainforests. It is also a complete formula, containing important minor, and trace elements. The low dosing provides plenty of nutrition for these slow-growing plants, while avoiding root damage or the buildup of mineral residues and wastes.
KelpMax stimulates the plants into faster growth, but it also provides a wide array of vitamins and amino acids that fertilizers do not. In nature, these are usually provided by indigenous bacteria and fungi which, unfortunately, are typically not compatible with our pot-culture techniques.
The Inocucor product serves several purposes: the live microorganisms populate the potting media and the plants themselves, stimulating growth, absorbing and converting otherwise unavailable nutrients into usable compounds, and transferring them directly into the plants. They also “beef up” the plants’ natural defensive capabilities as well as predating pathogens directly, resulting in plants that are relatively unstressed by diseases.
I know there are folks out there who will feel that I am promoting this cultural approach because I sell the products, but trust me when I tell you that the converse is true; I sell the products because they work so well together. When I retired from my “real job”, I contemplated retiring from First Rays as well, but found out that if I discontinued retailing these products, they would disappear from the retail channel altogether, and I simply couldn’t let that happen.