When anyone tells you "this is the only/best way" to do something when it comes to orchids, take it with a HUGE grain of salt! What works for one tells you nothing about whether it will work for you, because there are simply too many opportunities for the multitude of cultural parameters to be different.
Having said that, after over 45 years of growing orchids, my culture has evolved to include a combination of things that appears to work very well for many, so I want to share that, and explain a bit about why that regimen is so fruitful. First,
let's 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 pure water.
- Water frequently - the more, the better.
- Thoroughy 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. It is also a complete formula, containing important macro-, 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 nutrients, vitamins and amino acids that fertilizers do not. In nature, those are provided by indigenous bacteria and fungi which, unfortunately, are typically not compatible with our domesticated 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.