In the first update on Mary’s garden, we reviewed a soil prescription and saw the broadcasting of the custom soil amendment blend in the fall of 2016. Mary is a veteran gardener from Minnesota and has been accustomed to good results. In the season prior to amending the soil in her new garden, she simply could not get anything to grow and was concerned that she had lost her touch. Of course, she had not. Her soil was quite deficient in eight of the eleven minerals necessary for plant growth, health, and reproduction.
Overall, Mary’s garden did much better than usual in 2017 with nice yields. Cucumbers, basil, beets, and potatoes did very well as did cabbage and broccoli. She also had a thriving patch of carrots.
However, after returning from a ten-day trip, fungus had infected the carrots and caterpillars had devoured the cabbage, cauliflower, kale, and broccoli. Peppers did moderately well, Cow Pea Coat and Jacket beans did very well while two other bean varieties succumbed to fungus. Mary had enough tomatoes to eat fresh but fungus prevented the canning she had planned for. Melons were mediocre.
There is no reason for alarm. These results, both good and bad, can happen in the first growing season after amending. They are also partly due to excessive rain just as Mary’s summer produce was ripening. The original mineral deficiencies and imbalances were quite substantial and correcting them resulted in some obvious improvement. However, this is a process that takes several growing seasons to see the full result of mineral balance.
The soil microbes have just begun their work in consuming and digesting insoluble minerals. The more they digest, the more they reproduce and die. This ongoing biological process of digesting, reproducing, and dying ensures that a steady supply of nutrients are returned to the soil in a form that is available to plant roots. With an abundant supply of minerals added to the soil for the microbes to feed on, biological activity increases and so does the availability of nutrient minerals.
As this process continues, so do improvements in plant quality, vigor, disease and pest resistance, yield, and nutritional value. Improvements will continue each growing season, as the minerals become increasingly plant available.
We will be taking a soil sample soon to see if we achieved ideal balance. Plants readily take up Sulfur and Boron, and Boron is also subject to some leaching. These two minerals will likely require a minor adjustment annually. Because Mary made the investment of bringing the soil into ideal balance, she will not need to add the other minerals in these quantities again.
Mary has done much more than balance the soil for optimum fertility and nutrient content of her food, she has done her part in reducing the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere. By providing optimum levels of Sulfur she has kept Carbon in the soil and out of the atmosphere. Without an adequate level of Sulfur, instead of Carbon being incorporated into the soil as stable humus, it will off-gas as Carbon dioxide. It’s the same with Nitrogen. As the organic matter applied to soil breaks down, it produces ammonia Nitrogen. Without the presence of adequate Sulfur, much of that Nitrogen created will be lost to the atmosphere as ammonia gas rather than utilized by crops. Keep in mind this is FREE Nitrogen from the atmosphere that we are losing! It is amino acid Nitrogen necessary for protein development, provided by Nitrogen fixation resulting from the microbial symbiosis that takes place around the roots.
We will continue to keep you updated on the progress by sharing the results of the soil test and the soil Rx showing any adjustments needed. Additionally, we will perform Brix tests on next year’s crops to monitor the increasing nutritional value of optimally amended soil.