In the past two blog posts I’ve gone over the methods with which to figure out not only what is needed by your soil to attain the ideal ratios between its minerals, but also how to apply that information to real life and find fertilizers you can actually buy in a store. So that’s great – say you follow all those recommendations and get your soil balanced (it usually takes a couple years to balance out, though, by the way).
The problem lies in that the elements on the worksheet are only the top 16 that are known to be critical to plant growth. We used to think there were only 3: the N, P, K that you’ll be familiar with on the labels of fertilizer bags. But there are dozens more – at least 32 have been identified to have some important factor in plant development. And what about those elements that are nearly immeasurable? How can we really know just how complex a plant really is? Maybe we will some day, but in the mean time I’ll play it safe and just make sure that my plants have everything they need to make me the best possible, tastiest, most nutrient dense veggies to keep my family (and maybe some day, my customers) healthy.
I’ll choose to err just a little bit on the side of generosity. Just like the people who water with diluted seawater every once in a while (excellent trace nutrients), those who spray with seaweed emulsion every so often, and those who sprinkle rock dust around everything “just in case.” I’ve practiced the first two for 3 years… you can add me to the latter category now too.
Those are packages I’m sure the postal gal was not very pleased with me for ordering; 35 pounds of granite dust, 10 pounds of sea salt, 35 pounds of biochar, and basalt dust from Rock Dust Local. This amazing store is well worth a look – it’s like a candy store for gardeners! With free shipping! I want to order All The Things! (Seriously, I wonder how many vegetables I’ll have to actually produce in order to pay back what I’ve spent in coddling the soil underneath them).
These rock dusts here are not part of my soil remineralization worksheet (well, except the sea salt). These are extras, added simply for their high and multitudinous mineral compositions and, in the case of the biochar, their ability to foster hosts of beneficial micro-organisms and hold onto all those minerals, reducing nutrient leaching.
This one wheelbarrow of stuff was going to be really hard to spread around the garden, though; it’s 5000 square feet and I’d never get it evenly distributed. And it’s worth noting that before being incorporated to the soil, biochar must first be innoculated – that is, soaked in beneficial composting microbes & nutrients for a couple weeks – lest it suck up available nutrients from the soil around it when it’s first distributed.
So I’d have to mix it all with compost. Ugh. Not a huge job, but dusty. And I didn’t have any compost… yet.
But I did have chickens. And a chicken coop full of pre-compost. Easy as pie, I just split the bags open and dumped them sort of haphazardly over the floor of the run. The chickens, nonplussed, didn’t seem to mind scratching it aside to look for worms. They did a marvelous job mixing it evenly into the compost while adding their own contributions, too.
A couple months later I simply shoveled out loads of deep, supermineralized, superfertile compost.
I then mixed that with the basic fertilizers recommended by my worksheet. I ended up with maybe 8 wheelbarrowloads of super-rich fertilizer/compost soil amendment. This was much easier to spread evenly than it would have been with just the straight concentrated fertilizers and rock dusts, and way less dusty too.
The chickens are back at work mixing it deep into the soil for me as they work over the garden for the winter. Really, they’re worth so much more than just eggs.