I am reading Steve Solomon's book The Intelligent Gardener. However, I have two problems with it. First and foremost, I apparently got the wrong test for his method. I got a modified Morgan extractable. And I don't want to buy ANOTHER soil test. Can anyone here help me use his methods with this test?
Secondly, he seems (as most authors do) to assume that his methods are THE only methods. I agree with him as to the problem; lack of soil mineral balance. I agree with him as to the desired end; a well balanced soil. And his "ideal" soil target seems about right.
However, I don't like the means he uses to get from here to there; importing lots of expensive and somewhat dubious materials every year, and getting lots of complicated soil tests done. And of course, he is using standard vegetable growing.
Could I use the Eliot Coleman method instead? Eliot Coleman puts lime (if necessary) phosphate rock (if necessary) greensand (if necessary) and kelp into his compost piles, and them applies the compost to his land. He (and others) say that if the soil is properly balanced, there will be no pests and diseases, so I would know when I had got to the right point.
Besides, it seems to me that my land only needs some kelp, organic matter, and nitrogen. What do you think? Or was this test useless because of the high lime in my soil?
Here are the results. I live in Denver, CO.
Soil pH (1:1, H2O) 7.8
Modified Morgan extractable, ppm
Phosphorus (P) 71.7
Potassium (K) 1011
Calcium (Ca) 6641
Magnesium (Mg) 448
Sulfur (S) 63.7
Manganese (Mn) 10.3
Zinc (Zn) 7.6
Copper (Cu) 1.0
Iron (Fe) 3.1
Aluminum (Al) 9
Lead (Pb) 2.9
Cation Exch. Capacity, meq/100g 39.5
Exch. Acidity, meq/100g 0.0
Base Saturation, %
Calcium Base Saturation 84
Magnesium Base Saturation 9
Potassium Base Saturation 7
Scoop Density, g/cc 1.07
values for phosphorus and potassium are above optimum. Only a source of nitrogen is necessary this year.
Avoid overfertilization. In addition to threatening water quality, excessive nutrient applications can compromise plant health and
contribute to insect and disease problems.
See Reference "Fertilizing Guidelines" (below) for information regarding fertizer use in home gardens, lawns and landscapes.
The lead level in this soil is LOW. For more information about lead levels in soil, see our Soil Lead Fact Sheet.
When pH is greater than 6.8, Cation Exchange Capacity (CEC) tends to be overestimated.
Your soil looks great. I think that typical maintainence applications of well finished compost are all you really need. Boron, copper and zinc are all a little on the low side, but nothing to really worry about. If you arent philosophically into mineral fertilizers, then I would not do anything about those minor deficiencies. Or you could add a little borax, copper sulfate, and zinc sulfate to your compost piles. Your choice, no worries.
The wrong soil test only impacts your cations, which are ca, mg, k. I wouldnt worry about it.
I like Steve Solomon's philosophy and technique a lot. I like Elliot Coleman too. Different strokes for different folks. Solomon is a bit caustic in his writing style, so its easy to get agitated towards him personally.
Solomon's point, which I agree with, is that if your soil is really out of mineral balance, then compost is not going to fix the problem. In your case, your soil is pretty darn good, so no need to rebalance the mineral levels. Proceed with basic maintainence, in the form of compost, and you should do great. The focus now should be on making really good compost. Easier said than done, but well worth the effort.
I agree with Adam. Nature will help to gradually balance your minerals. Lupine and natural bird poo add phosphorus, legumes add nitrogen, fungi mine rocks, etc to eventually add nutrients over thousands of years. Eliot Coleman and Steve Solomon both devise methods to improve the soil within your lifetime, which is crucial to you. Solomon doesn't say to add lots of minerals every year. He says to get it balanced first. He is really a vegetable guy not a fruit, flower, herb and vegetable guy, which makes it harder to let diversity bring your soil or keep your soil within mineral balance. After it's balanced, he uses lighter methods to keep it in balance. He always lists organic methods of balancing soils like adding oyster shells, limestone, kelp, azomite, etc. You are doing the right thing. Over time your soil will become more balanced. He doesn't say to test every year. The most important test is before you do anything to your soil he says. Then just maintain it.
Sorry, I can't really add any knowledge here. I rather have some questions. Our soil is fill from building sites and a little topsoil. So all the soil for the veggie garden is heavily altered, we added cow manure, lawn clippings, woody material, blood and bone, mushroom compost, gypsum. Each time I plant something so far I add something and the something is completely unscientific. Most of the stuff grows really great, but I am afraid of mineral imbalances. I want to extend the garden doing sheet mulching. Were should I start with soil testing? Isn't it easier to learn the weeds and look what they say about the soil than doing expensive tests? Every bed in our garden is different testing would either be mixing everything together and get inexact results or paying a lot of money. I ordered a book about the topic, unfortunately it is in German: Zeigerpflanzen: Umgang mit Unkräutern in der Ackerlandschaft, Friedrich Boas. Anyway would the plants show the same in Australia as they do in Germany?
I am unfamiliar with that particular book on 'hand gardening' I would expect being german it would have many well developed, thought through, and explained techniques. But I'd expect the indicator species of Germany and Australia to be about as different as the come.
Australia (being austrailia and all) may be radically different but at least in my region which is climatically similar (oh, and colonized), I would suggest the tactics and morphologies (or perhaps platos 'essence') of plants which inhabit similar niches may be worth considering. I know 'soul of the soil' has a good table of them for North America, and there must be a source for good localized ones too (anyone?). It seems like with blood bone and gypsum and your well on your way to properly supplying your soil. While I think indicator species is tip top knowledge and would absolutely love to learn as much as possible about it, a good soil test is still most likely to be invaluable if you want to tweak the availabilities of one key nutrient or another (if you even have too and then probably only when rotating to a new crop or guild.)
Regarding healthy soils being more resistant to pest pressure, in my experience this is true. Where I have seen problems have always been in sizable (more, sometimes far more, than 15 foot blocks) monocultures.
No help crunching your numbers yet. Sorry guys, I must have slept through that part.
Edited for spelling
Freakin' hippies and Squares, since 1986
Location: cool climate, Blue Mountains, Australia
posted 4 years ago
If you look at plants in a materialistic way you would think that a plant might indicate the same lack or abundance in the soil no matter on which continent it grows. However, the clues farmers might have taken over the time what must be done might be different, because the soils are so different. Or the plant shows a deficiency which never occurs in Germany.
I am not generally against a soil test, the only problem I have is very different soils in different locations, and I think most gardeners do have that issue. If you mix everything together then it won't tell you a thing.