- Was the soil test conducted by a reputable company?
- Did you take soil samples from across the garden beds, so you have a random mix of soil?
- Is there anything else growing in the beds and how are they doing?
I would also do a leaf sap test from the tree and see what the results show.
I am intending to have 4 beds so 4 experiments can be conducted.
Each 4 spaces will have 2 control and the other 2 will have amendment added. There will be a physical barrier between the 4 growing ares. All beds will be right next to each other so the growing area should be the same.The crop will be rocket (leaf plant) and radish ( root plant). At this stage I am seeing if certain amendment do make a marked difference to the end produce, if need be I will repeat the experiment.
I am in the process of starting some tests on various soil amendments and would like
some feed back on the process before I start.
I will be making up movable raised beds 1m x 1m x 15cm and filling them with the same type of
soil purchased from the hardware store. This soil will be spread on existing ground.
This brand and type of soil will always used for all tests.
Fresh soil will be used for each new test.
The bed will be divided into 4 equal spaces. 2 will be control and two will be where the soil amendments will be added.
I will be growing one leaf (rocket) and 1 root (radish) plants, needs to be fast growing and will be directly sown into the soil.
Have I missed anything or does something need to be included?
My understanding is that once you get the minerals in the soil balanced, the PH should rebalance to around 6.4.
Also keep in mind that the PH around the rhizosphere of the plant can be quite different from the rest of the soil.
If you want to adjust the PH for certain plants and trees I would be adding amendments to make the soil either more alkaline or acidic
but remember that could in turn throw out the soil balance of the minerals as some may become unavailable.
I would do tests before I did this to the whole crop and see if it performs as expected.
I only use the PH of the soil to get a reading before I start the remineralisation process.
Looking to start doing soil tests with recommendations on how to improve the soil to produce nutrient dense foods
for small time farmers and market gardeners.
I have done a couple of courses and know the fundamentals but need to know more about how the calculation are been done.
At present I am working my way through Ideal Soil by Michael Astera which does a good job of explaining the how and why.
I have spoken to a couple of agronomist and they seem to make it some sort of black art,
which I don't buy as I think if you have the soil test results you will be able to identify what the soil needs in minerals.
Another issue is that most of the soil tests, are been conducted by company agronomists who are in turn selling their own product.
I believe you could use simple base minerals to achieve the desired result and which could be cheaper in the end.
I am also discovering that its also down to the person doing the report, because they are influenced by different authors and in turn
follow their methodologies.
Am I missing some thing and over simplifying the whole process?
So any advice or recommendations on getting the above information would be greatly appreciated.
Brian Rodgers wrote:
I have a refractometer for my aquaculture systems. I'll try it on veggies and fruit. Can you explain how the sugar content of food is a measure of its nutritional value?
My wife has been wanting to get a microscope for educational purposes to interact with our granddaughter. This seems a perfect time to combine our efforts and look at our soil. Thank you. Do you have a link for further reading?
Hi Brian, My understanding of how the refractometer works for Brix is that the thicker the liquid the higher the reading.
In turn the higher the reading the higher the nutrient level.
I would not worry that much on how it works, as you have one at hand give it a try.
Go online and download a Brix chart which is a list of fruit and vegetable and their ratings.
Then take a fruit or vegetable which is on the list and squeeze a drop or two of juice on to the
refractometer. Then read the measurement and compare it to the chart.
But before you do the Brix test, you need to do the taste test. Take a bite of the fruit or vegetable and give it you rating.
This will vary from on the low side TASTELESS to high WOW it's flavorsome.
I am going to let you into a closely guarded secret. Our mouth has an inbuilt Brix Meter ;-)
You will see with out fail flavorsome produce will always have a high Brix reading.
All produce I grow goes through the Brix test. That said I am not growing to the required high level yet
but will endeavor to keep improving.
Getting a microscope will open a whole new world to you and can become quite addictive if you are that way inclined.
I have only had a microscope for a couple on months and it has changed my approach to growing.
I am pretty surprised the way this post has evolved.
All I was trying to say, was that in my opinion if fruit and vegetables get the minerals and foods they require
via the microbes (soil food web) in the soil. The end product will be more nutrient dense and in turn, will benefit
the persons who consume it.
We should be focusing on educating the farmers and growers to aim for a better product.
In turn, the ones that grow better food should be paid more for their produce.
Quality over quantity.
(Dan Kittredge’s organisation is working on a handheld monitor which can be pointed at a
fruit-vegetable and will give you an instant reading (Brix).
Imagine walking around a farmers market and instantly knowing the nutrient value of the produce
I wonder which farmer will sell more?)
I am not knocking the farmers, overall big supermarkets – chains are paying them the bare minimum to grow food.
I am also not negating all the other issues about healthy eating and getting access to healthy food in general
but I will say that is the choices people are making, sometimes through necessity and other through lack of
What I have learned about soil and my approach to managing it so far.
Following is my opinion of what I have observed. I am no expert and have on formal training in this area.
It is a little daunting as I have an audience of very knowledgeable people (AKA Soil guru Dr. Bryant RedHawk etc)
I also know that a lot of what follows is common knowledge to a fair percentage on this board.
So lets begin..
First of all, one needs to understand that the soil microbes (Soil Food Web) are breaking down organic matter and minerals which in turn are made available for the trees and plants.
They have a symbiotic relationship with the trees and plants by providing each other with what each other needs to live and grow.
Unfortunately, most growers as in home gardeners to farmers do not understand the relationship and believe you need to feed the plants instead
of trying to manage the soil food web.
That said there are certain foods that can be taken up directly by plants.
My KISS Soil Rules - Observation, look at the trees and plants, look for any signs they may be in need of something to keep them at optimal health.
- Keep soil disturbance to a minimum.
- Water, keep the ground slightly moist at all times.
- Feed regularly ( Compost Tea, Seaweed and Fish extract)
- Mulch, keep the soil covered at all times.
- Check compost tea is at optimal microbial life (Microscope)
- Check the microbe count of the soil monthly (Microscope)
- Collect seed of your strongest plants, to be used the following year.
- When removing plants cut the stem at ground level. Let it rot and do not disturb the roots rhizosphere.
- Have patience, nature is in no hurry.
The main building blocks are -
Rock Minerals and Trace Elements (There are two camps when it comes to minerals. One as in Elaine Ingham who believes that all the minerals are present in the soil and needs to be mined by the soil microbes to make them available to the plants when needed, the other camp says, find out what's lacking (soil test) and provide the missing minerals and trace elements to the soil. I personally start by providing a balanced mineral mix to the soil. If it's not needed it won’t be used by the plants. Plants won’t request it from the microbes.
Sea Water (I live on the coast so it's easy to get - You can dissolve pure sea salt in water)
Well Balanced Organic Fertiliser (Personal preference in the form of pellets)
Fine wood chips (Give some structure to the soil and provide some fungal food)
Compost – (Worm Castings) I am of the opinion that worm castings provide a better overall end product and are easier to produce.
(I am totally committed to this and I am in the process of setting up a large worm farm so I can have access to high-quality worm castings for compost and teas.
After examining soils and composts under a microscope, I am of the opinion that most composts and soil mixes are basically just lifeless dirt.
Compost Tea made from high-quality worm castings (Feed the soil microbes)
Activated BioChar (Mixup some worm castings in water and drench the biochar. (Provide a home for the microbes)
Cover Crops - Get some biomass into the soil
Mulch (Cover the soil to keep it cool or warm and provide food for the microbes when it breaks down)
I am leaning towards using Alfalfa – Lucerne mulch, as it seems to be a way of increasing the protozoa population in the soil.
Microscope(Optional if you want to examine Soil, Compost. Compost Tea)
I believe the work you do up front will be of ongoing benefit in the future.
Don’t get overwhelmed with the task ahead. Just do one bed-area at a time.
- Check the soil type of the beds-area you are working.
- Loosen up the soil to about a spade length. This is hopefully the last time you will disturb the soil to this extent.
- Mix into the depth of about six inches, the Fine Woodchips, Activated BioChar, Compost, and Organic fertiliser.
- Broadcast the Rock Mineral and Trace elements over the soil.
- Give the area a good watering.
- Drench with sea water Mix 10 to 1
Next day - Drench the soil with a compost tea mix. (Ensure this is fresh, 24 to 48 hours old.
- If you are planting a cover crop, broadcast the seeds thickly over the ground.
- Cover with mulch.
- Let cover crop grow to just before they seed. Cut the stem at ground level, leave to rot down.
- Now ready to be planted out
Ongoing Soil Maintenance
Is basically my KISS Soil Rules
I know this so-called system may evolve as I learn and experience more over time.
I would like to thank the following people who I have learned stacks from and are totally committed to the same cause.
Our very own – Dr. Bryant RedHawk Dan Kittredge – www.bionutrient.org
Graeme Sait - www.nutri-tech.com.au
My biggest challenge now is to produce fruit and vegetable at the highest BRIX level and ensure we are growing nutrient dense food for better health.
This is made up of two parts. This is Human Health and following will be Managing the Soil.
Following is my opinion of what I have observed. I am no expert and have on formal training in this area.
My motivation is to grow and teach others, how to grow nutrient dense food.
I believe we are experiencing a human health crisis and it’s not being discussed to the level it should be.
We are eating and feeding our children fruit and vegetables with basically no nutritional value.
And simply put it’s tasteless. Humans have an in build way of knowing if something is good.
It’s your nose and tongue. If it smells good it will taste good as well and it will have a high nutrient level.
(This only applies to raw fruit and vegetables, I know cakes and lollies always smell and taste good 😉).
When last did you bite into a juicy sweet peach or tasted a flavorsome celery stick or tomato?
The result is, we have a couple of generations of people who are allergic to all sorts of things – nuts, bread, milk to name a few.
An obese population who are eating food with no nutrient value so they have to overeat to try and get enough fuel to drive the body’s engine.
Seven out of ten kids are having to go to the orthodontist because their mouths are too small to accommodate their teeth.
When I was growing up in the sixties allergies of certain foods and going to an orthodontist was relatively rare.
Now don’t kid yourself, thinking that because you are eating organic fruit and vegetables you are OK.
Organics is a step up because they do not use toxic chemicals but be assured most of the produce
is as low in nutrient value as the rest.
What's more, you are been charged an arm and a leg for the privilege of buying their produce.
You can do a simple test to find out how nutrient dense the fruit and vegetable are – Do a Brix test.
Buy a refractometer ($25-$50) and do the test, you will find the majority of what you are eating is
POOR (No real nourishment to feed your body)
Obviously the above is for first world countries, for the parts of the continent where growing food is a problem
I believe some sort of permaculture setup would go a long way to fixing the problem.
Now to frighten you a little more –
My question to you is “ What is going to happen to the generations to come?”
OK, enough doom and gloom the good news is, that this can be reversed by managing and working the SOIL.
I looked through your posts and found this below. Can I bug you to recommend the make and model. As I known very little about microscopes I don't want to buy the wrong model.
2500X magnification capability. The step up model is one with EPI-Fluorescence for the light source, these are costly though, you can add this light source separately later on.
The average person will spend around 350.00 for the scope, slides, cover slips, stains and specialty tools for slide making.
The scope I usually recommend as a good starting point is around 250.00, it is designed Veterinary/Clinical use and has a good illumination module with iris.
I would like to learn how to identify the microbial life in the soil/compost/compost tea.
My understanding is, you have to try and get the right mix of microrganisms to get the correct results.
Example – make more fungal compost/compost tea and see what type of compost tea is being produced etc.
I know I will need a microscope to analysis soil/compost/compost tea but needs the steps and how to identify the different microrganisms.
I know of Elaine Ingham’s courses but they are too pricey for me.
Where else can I find the information to help me on my journey of discovery?
I need more info on the hows and whys of soil connectivity tests.
My understanding, that by taking a reading using an EC meter and recording the reading.
One can determine the minerals available in the soil and monitor the nutrient availability throughout the growing season.
I have not determined what the ideal reading should be, but have read that at planting - 200 millisiemens and 600 to 800 millisiemens when the plant is in a growing phase.
The process is to have a reading before planting (Is it worth planting the crop at all?) and then monitoring throughout the growing phase.
By taking regular readings one can see if there are any nutrient deficiencies that need to be addressed as this does not show up in the leaves till it may be too late.
I know that if you feed your crop regular, this should not happen but for a little effort and hardly any cost it may be well worth it.
Using simple and cheap electronics for the tea brewer, add a permanent paddle stirrer and automate the time it runs and for how long. Say for five minutes every half an hour or whatever you want. This would be completely automated and would possibly speed up the brewing process. I like the idea of automation. This can be used for a 20-liter bucket or scaled up to any size container.
My understanding is that the benefit of the vortex in water only last for a very short period but is very beneficial so why not add the vortex process to the end of the watering system? Example - water pours into a 20-liter bucket, run paddle stirrer for the required time to create a vortex then water immediately so the benefit of the vortex is not lost.
Could also use this same system for home personal water consumption?
Is vermicomposting the way to go for home gardens and small urban farms?
Composting requires quite a lot of work to get it right (Turn the pile, watching the temperature etc.)
and can take up quite a bit of space.
I am not comparing composting to vermicompost all I am saying is that for a smaller area it might be the way to go.
Vermicomposting once set up, kind of works on its own but has to be done correctly –
Wrong Way - Throw all your food scrapes in the bin, where it basically just rots as the worms are completely overwhelmed and most probably will die. If they do survive the end product normally is not what we are striving for.
What are we striving for? - A fungal dominated compost.
Right Way – Control the amount of the so-called foods going into the bin – don’t overwhelm the worms at the start. Once the system is up and running, it simple, keep feeding and harvesting.
Breakdown of what the worm food is made up of –
35% foodscapes – nitrogen
60% carbon type material (Dry leaves, fine wood chips, cardboard etc.)
5% compost or soil from an area where microbes are already present such as under a tree or shrub. This does not have to be on your property.
You can also add amendments that may be needed by your soil – Minerals, biochar etc.
Keep moist but not wet.
I prefer the flow through type system. Where you feed the bin from the top and the completed solids and liquid are harvested at the bottom. This can be scaled up to any size depending on your needs.
The end product, the vermicast – worm castings then can be mixed up to make a tea for a foliar spray or a soil drench. I also use as an inoculant for my seeds and mix in when planting out the seedlings.
Just my opinion - What are your thoughts on the subject?
My understanding of Brix is that it’s the measurement of light refracting through any dissolved solids. Brix is the sum of all the sucrose, fructose, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, proteins and hormones of fruit, vegetable or even leaves.
There is a common misconception that Brix measures only sugars.
A Brix reading is a guide to see what the dissolved solids are and is represented as a number. The higher the number, the higher the level of nutrients. A Brix chart shows the range from low to high of fruits and vegetables. Obviously, the higher the better. It can also be used on the leaves of a plant to see how it is faring during the growing period before harvesting.
But there is a simpler way to do a test, just use your senses of sight, smell, and taste.
The produce looks pleasing - healthy, it has a nice aroma, then take a bite and if it tastes amazing.
Guaranteed you will have a high Brix reading and it will be nutrient dense.
The simple reason why the population is not eating more fruit and vegetables is that it's tasteless.
I have started looking after a family member’s garden as I opened my mouth, stating the garden was screaming out “ I need a good feed”. The plants were showing the usual signs of yellowing leaves etc.
Now to the compacted soil. On closer inspection of the soil, I tried to push a fork into the ground and found that it went in an inch and no further. I would have liked to at least open the soil to allow air and water in but it was not possible it was that hard.
I have spread a good mineral mix, organic fertiliser, organic compost and a 3 inches layer of wood chips. Gave it a thorough watering and finished off with a dose of kelp and fish emulsion.
Question – Is there anything else that can be done to get this soil back to some sort of normality?
It would be interesting to do an experiment using open soil, containers and hydroponics.
The same plant type all started at the same time and once they are fully grown to do a Brix reading on the leaves and fruit.
I know this is not very scientific but should give an indication of what has been produced in the leaves and fruit.
By the way if anyone is interesting in finding out more about Brix and how to improve the soil go over to
bionutrient.org Dan Kitteridge is very passionate about the subject and what he says makes a lot of sense.
In my opinion.
My ultimate goal is to start growing nutrient dense food consistently.
I have been giving this a lot of thought lately as I am on the quest to grow nutrient dense food by enriching the soil.
Staring with soil, let's say you have very good soil. It has the correct amount of minerals, organic matter, and a thriving soil food web. (This is what all growers should be aiming for)
The crop grown in this soil will produce highly nutrient dense food. In this soil, the symbiotic relationship is working so-called perfectly. The plants are providing food for the soil life and the soil life is providing the minerals needed by the plants. Ongoing you will need to test the soil and maintain the balance. The soil life will look after itself as it will have what is needed to thrive.
Now to my questions –
If you are growing in pots or containers the above scenario is finite as resources will run out. Constantly need to top up. I am not sure what is happening with the soil life as their living area is also finite?
I’d like to compare a Brix reading of the produce grown in containers and in open soil. I would think, at the start, they would be similar but as time goes on the crops in containers would deteriorate even if it’s feed?
Now to hydroponics No soil, No soil life? All feeding is chemical. Here, in theory, should always be in balance if nutrients and minerals are been monitored regularly. Again I’d like to compare a Brix reading of hydroponics and healthy soil.
How nutrient dense is the produce grown in hydroponics?
Thanks for taking the time to read and comment