Getting Schooled by Solomon

Last year I failed miserably at growing peppers. The peppers did not thrive and I didn’t know why. I used a potting soil mix I put together. Several months in I decided to try to add fertilizer. Seemingly instantly the plants turned a corner and flourished. Ohhhh yeah, soil needs minerals in it to help plants grow.

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But wait a second, we’ve had a crazy productive garden (our primary veggie garden) since we shipped in that triple mix four years ago. That triple mix must be filled with some serious minerals. Will it run out? Do I need fertilizer? We need to go to soil science class.

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Not wanting to dump crazy chemicals on our garden I researched organic fertilizers and came across Steve Solomon’s Complete Organic Fertilizer¬†(COF), a fertilizer made from organic soil amendments like soft rock phosphate and seed meal. Nice! After more research I bumped into something I could relate to: his relatively recent book The Intelligent Gardener. In his book Steve tells us about how he has evolved his fertilizer skills from a one-size-fits-all fertilizer (COF) to recommending soil tests and building a custom fertilizer to balance your soil. Word eventually gets out to all the worms and microbes of the world that your soil is crazy rich. You soil becomes a¬†thriving living ecosystem and an optimum environment for your plants which end up producing increasingly nutrient dense food. Yes!

Okay, so what about all these weird organic amendments like bloodmeal and bonemeal (WTF!)? Steve gives us the deets of the common organic amendments showing how they contribute minerals to the soil. He explains how those minerals and how they’re balanced affect your plants. He provides recommendations of amendments to bring your garden into balance by suggesting to get a soil test from Logan Labs and running through some numbers on provided worksheets.

So of course we did this. Like good students we collected soil from the garden, put it in a large zip lock bag and shipped it to Logan Labs. Results came in a couple of weeks later. I ran the numbers through Steve’s worksheets to find that I had too much Calcium contributing to a high pH and not enough Phosphorus. In fact, we were pretty low on most minerals like Zinc and Copper. In this situation our soil does not have enough of what it needs for a microbe party.

This is when it got hard. We live in Toronto an finding all of the organic amendments that would bring the soil in to balance locally was pretty much impossible. In the book Steve suggests Black Lake Organic. So I called them up and they suggested I use their soil prescription service which conveniently takes Logan Labs reports and delivers a custom soil amendment mix for your garden.

So thats where we’re at . We’ve ordered our custom soil amendment mix which should arrive within the next week or so. Pretty sure this year will be a monster garden.

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