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Kitchen Gardening

Measuring the Miracle in Miracle Plant Foods

This gardening season I tested the marketing claims made by three different companies in side-by-side trials.

  • This season I tested three different products and their marketing claims in my container garden.
    Photo/Illustration: Jodi Torpey
  • The eggplants fed with Natural Start (on the right) and Miracle-Gro are nearly the same size, with the same number of leaves and flowers at the end of July.
    Photo/Illustration: Jodi Torpey
  • By the end of July the eggplant treated with HB-101 plant vitalizer is taller and fuller with more blossoms than the other two eggplants.
    Photo/Illustration: Jodi Torpey
  • The plant fed with HB-101 started to set fruit earlier than the other two eggplants.
    Photo/Illustration: Jodi Torpey

Every season I get free samples of garden products to use and evaluate in my vegetable garden. This year I was able to try three different plant fertilizers, foods or vitalizers in a growing trial to see if they lived up to their marketing claims.

The three products included the new Natural Start Tomato Vegetable & Herb Food from Greenview, HB-101 All-Purpose Plant Vitalizer from Flora USA, Inc., and Miracle-Gro from Scotts Products.

I used the three products in my container garden with three white eggplants I started from seed. I planted all three containers the week of June 6. Two containers are identical in size and are placed side-by-side. The third container is smaller and placed in a different part of the garden, but all receive about the same amount of sun, water and care. I followed the printed instructions for applying each product.

At the end of July I was surprised to see one plant was significantly ahead of the others. The HB-101 plant vitalizer sample resulted in a taller, fuller plant that flowered and set fruit sooner than the plants fed with the other products.

Product Details

Natural Start Tomato Vegetable & Herb Food is a 10-7-7 blend of natural, organic and inorganic nutrients and beneficial microbes that increase soil fertility. The marketing materials say to “expect exceptional gardening results.” I incorporated Natural Start into the soil at transplanting and side dressed the plant at 6 weeks.

HB-101 is an organic, all-purpose plant vitalizer derived from extracts of cedar, pine, cypress and plantain grass that increases the population of microbes in the soil. The marketing materials promise a “miracle inside” for “healthier, bigger, and stronger plants with more flowers and fruit set.” I diluted the concentrated liquid according to the instructions, used it as a foliar spray and watered with it weekly.

Miracle-Gro is a water-soluble, synthetic fertilizer. The marketing materials say the all-purpose plant food “grows bigger, more beautiful plants (versus unfed plants).” I mixed the plant food into water and fed the eggplant every 14 days.

Plant Results

At the end of July I decided to evaluate the first 6 weeks of the growing season:

The plants fed with Natural Start and Miracle-Gro were nearly the same height, grew about the same number of leaves, and had the same number of eggplant blossoms.

The plant fed with HB-101 was taller and fuller. This plant has twice as many eggplant blossoms as the other plants, and the blossoms are starting to set fruit.

While it’s difficult to evaluate subjective marketing claims, like exceptional or miraculous results, it’s easier to compare plant size and performance. In my small garden trial, HB-101 did grow a plant that is healthier, bigger, and stronger with more flowers and fruit set.

I’ll continue my growing experiment through the end of the season to keep track of the number of eggplants I harvest from each plant.

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