Actually saltpeter has a long history, but hasn't always been used for gardening. However, although it is an old substance at heart it doesn't mean that it can't be a force for good in the modern garden. It can be used as a germination powder, to improve your fruit tree yield, and as a liquid feed and fertilizer. Let's meet the very versatile substance that is saltpeter.
Using Saltpeter for Gardening
No doubt you've heard of saltpeter but aren't quite sure what it is, what saltpeter can be used for in the garden, or indeed where you can buy it.
What is Saltpeter?
To answer the question of what use Saltpeter has in the garden, we first have to look at what saltpeter is.
Saltpeter is also known as saltpetre, and by it's chemical name, potassium nitrate. Saltpeter comes from treating sodium nitrate with potassium chloride. It used to be obtained from decomposing material, but now is a much more chemical affair. It is a source of Nitrogen and Potash and is usually sold in white powder form.
How Can You Use Saltpeter in Your Garden?
Used in the garden, Saltpeter can be used as a powder, or more commonly mixed to form a liquid feed. Using Saltpeter as a fertilizer for tomatoes and egg plants though, may need nothing more than your regular compost and a top dressing of Saltpeter in it's powdered form.
If your fruit and vegetable crop is suffering from a potassium deficiency (brown leaves and leaf curling), then they may well benefit from the introduction of Saltpeter too.
Saltpeter is particularly suitable for cane fruit (such as raspberries), soft fruit (such as strawberries), peppers (including hot chilies), and for growing tomatoes. Saltpeter is most widely used as a garden fertilizer, but can also be used to help seed germination, and as a nutrient in hydroponic gardening for high tech plant growing.
Improve Your Fruit Yield with Saltpeter
Saltpeter can be used in the garden, as a way to get more fruit to stay on your tree. The high levels of potassium and nitrogen help the plants tremendously, to get the fruit to stay on the tree without dropping. Saltpeter is often used on orange, lemon, and lime trees, as it can add nitrogen rapidly, if there's a deficiency, which is a common problem with citrus plants.
When the tree flowers, spray the tree with 1 teaspoon of Saltpeter, to 1 quart of water (1 liter), directly to the leaves.
Use Saltpeter to Germinate Pepper Seeds
If you have problems with pepper and chili seeds being slow to germinate, Saltpetre is particularly effective used as a germination powder. It doesn't just work on pepper and chili seeds either, any seed with a relatively hard shell can benefit from a saltpeter germination solution.
To hasten the germination of pepper seeds, try soaking them for around four hours in a Saltpeter solution (1 teaspoon Saltpeter to 1 quart of water). Soaking it in the solution, softens the outside shell of the seed, which makes it easier for the seedling to emerge. Using this method, you should achieve germination results in around 7-10 days.
Where To Buy Saltpeter: What Stores Sell Saltpeter?
So, now we've answered the question of, what is Saltpeter used for in gardening, you probably want to know where you can buy Saltpeter from.
As Saltpeter can be used in the manufacture of explosives, it is not surprising that buying Saltpeter from stores isn't as easy as it used to be. However, some garden centers do still stock it, and if they do, it will be found with the fertilizers. If your local garden center can't help in your purchase of Saltpeter though, it can be found in online garden stores in small enough quantities to be a valuable resource to the gardener.
If you have any Saltpeter left, after germinating your pepper seeds, and increasing your fruit tree yield, you could try making your own incense sticks. Simply soak lavender stems in a Saltpeter solution, dry them out, and the stems can then be burned like incense - the perfect way to end a tiring day of gardening.
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