"The tragic reality is that very few sustainable systems are designed or applied by those who hold power, and the reason for this is obvious and simple: to let people arrange their own food, energy and shelter is to lose economic and political control over them. We should cease to look to power structures, hierarchical systems, or governments to help us, and devise ways to help ourselves." - Bill Mollison

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Secrets of the Soil

To continue any longer as blind consumers of life, without learning to
be visionary restorers of life, will likely insure an end to both
opportunities—sooner than most of us would like to look at. Yet to
fully look, in search of what is true, must surely be the first step.

—Donald A. Weaver

We did a simple soil test this past summer and I was truly surprised that the results reflected such a neutral pH balance as I had always considered our soil to be slightly on the acidic side due to all of the coniferous vegetation that surrounds our gardens. Apparently the truth of the matter is that while evergreen trees and bushes seem to prefer growing in a more acidic type of soil they do not in themselves contribute as much acidity to the soil as I originally thought and what little they do bring is possibly being neutralized by earthworms and microbes.

Lots of little needles in our garden's soil, mostly from fir trees.

In a healthy ground, earthworms eat their way through the decomposing soil depositing their castings as they go. According to what I have read this material is neutralized by secretions of calcium carbonate from glands near the earthworm's gizzard (similar to gizzards in birds) as it passes through their system helping to render it more neutral as the pH in acidic soils is raised and the pH in alkaline soils is reduced. Fortunately for us, our soil is absolutely loaded with worms so we must be doing something right. Here is an interesting excerpt from a rather unusual book on biodynamic agriculture I just read called "Secrets of the Soil" that relates to the function of earthworms in regards to soil fertility and it' s effect on garden plants.

"You would think, wouldn't you, that a carrot is a carrot - that one is about as good as another as far as nourishment is concerned? But it isn't; one carrot may look and taste like another and yet be lacking in the particular mineral element which our system requires and which carrots are supposed to contain." - Modern Miracle Men

In speaking of worms and their function in the soil as it relates to how they help plants assimilate needed nutrients one of the things I have been studying of late is the importance of minerals or the lack thereof in soil and its effect on the health of our plants, animals, and in turn us. Minerals come from rocks that are broken down over time and many of these minerals are severely lacking in today's foods due to industrial era farming techniques that rely heavily on chemicals to help produce the foods most of the population consumes. This has been an issue for many years as can be seen in this document titled Modern Miracle Men - Senate Document #264 written way back in the mid 1930's.

More recent studies suggest that the loss of nutrition in today's fruits and vegetables has continued to increase by alarming rates as illustrated in this chart that gives a glimpse into the lack on nutrient density in modern day food.

From the above study - "But nutritionists have also begun to understand that the form in which humans consume these nutrients is often more important than the quantity they consume.That is, getting vitamin C or iron or lycopene from a pill doesn’t yield the same benefits to our bodies and health as consuming the same amount of vitamin C or iron or lycopene in the form of a carrot or serving of spinach or sun-dried tomato."

These are some of our favorite Nung Ta tomatoes grown in 2009, hopefully high in lycopene.

Vapor from the sea; rain, snow, and ice on the summits; glaciers and
rivers—these form a wheel that grinds the mountains thin and sharp, sculptures deeply the flanks, and furrows them into ridge and canyon, and crushes the rocks into soils on which the forests and the meadows and gardens and fruitful vine and tree and grain are growing.
—John Muir

Something we will be focused on during the coming years is that of continuing to provide our own gardens with enough naturally collected mineral supplements in the form of rock dust, sea & egg shells, ash, manure, "clean" beach sand, and decayed plant matter in order to retain the health and fertility of our soil. Included in this will be the growing of such plants as burdock, endive, dandelion, scorzonera, salsify, or any deep rooted and useful plant that will help to "mine" or draw up minerals from below so they can be assimilated by other shallow rooted veggies. 1/20/11 update - This year we also hope to add comfrey to our gardens. (Thanks for the advice MikeH).

The Survival Of Civilization may depend on all of us making sure this happens with the soil on this planet. Below is an interesting video on how the Thomson family is using rock dust to create healthy, abundant, nutrient dense crops in the harsh landscapes of Scotland.

Yes, "Often the simplest things."


Leigh said...

Very interesting post. I admit to envying all your earthworms. I've found very few in our garden, but last summer was the first year for that location so I am confident things will only improve.

The comparison chart was amazing. I've heard there are oranges out there with absolutely no vitamin C in them whatsoever. Now someone needs to start comparing GMO crops as well.

Lilac Cottage Homestead said...

That was a very good and interesting video. There might be something to it.
I have tons and tons of earth worms in my garden. And every year it gets more. I started out with very bad clay soil, but over the years I have covered the bad areas of the garden with lots of grass clipping and lots of dry leaves and work them in, in the spring. And every year the soil gets better. Every year we have more worms. So I think it would be good to try the rock dust in the garden this year.


edi said...

Don't need to compare with GMO to know it's wrong eh Leigh? That secrets of the soil book is some far out stuff in there...specially the tower of power chapter. But lots of it checks out pretty good all these years later. Nice to read the Kent Whealey stuff about the good times before he got stitched up. As for the Seer rockdust it will remineralize your soil ...IN ABOUT A 100 YEARS!! The particle size of the stuff they sell u is too big. If it was really dust great but its not its grit. But it still works to some extent just not as quick as say seaweed.Peace

The Gingerbread House said...

Glad to see you up and running again.
Interesting post, I'm trying to help my soil this year by composting waste from the house..The soil is better than when we started 10 years ago, wish we knew more then. This year we are being encouraged..Ginny

Buttons said...

Mr. H. A very informative blog I did not know that about the carrots but I had my suspicions. There is way to many chemicals killing our natural soils. I think your vegetables are probably full of the nutrients we need because of the soil. A great thing in this world (natural).

Malay-Kadazan girl said...

This post remind me I need to work on more improving my clay soil with green waste and natural fertiliser in order to make it more workable, healty and having more earthworm in it. It makes me wonder too that does the commercial or GMO crops do have or not nutrient as they suppose to be?

Lorena said...

Curious about your soil, some of mine is in the pines too, this year I'm trying gardening in raised beds made from old horse troughs with holes for drainage. It's funny, my Cattle dog will eat organic carrots but he won't eat non organic carrots. I'll have to try the rock dust.

Silke said...

Such an interesting post. We are constantly amending the soil in our veggie patch and it's becoming much more like "good" soil. When we first started, it was pure sand with plenty of shells in it. Now, we even have a healthy population of earth worms. I love checking in here... Hope you are all doing well!! : ) Silke

Kevin Kossowan said...

Great post. Organics for me used to be about what's not on the plants. It's increasingly becoming about what's not in the plants.

I'll be on the search for mineral supplement of some kind this spring. Eliot Coleman convince me.

sylvie in Rappahannock said...

Earthworms have gizzards? really? who knew? I obviously have lot to learn about them. Thanks for all the links and the - as always - extremely inspiring photos.

kelli said...

great post!

Mrs. Mac said...

very informative .. thanks for posting this in the winter .. to ponder.

elizabeth said...

I've never heard of NUNG TA? Where do you buy the seed? I live in SW Montana so if it grows well for you, I might have a chance at being successful with it. I finally have a polytunnel up so hopefully will get some tomatoes this summer. Why is this one of your favorite varities? Any other favorites?

Jeannette said...

I've just been reading John Jeavons How to Grow More Vegetables. I'm so excited to try some of his practices. He also discusses improving the soil and drawing nutrients up uses certain crops. He's also discusses how important it is to repair the soil as his method is biointensive.

Dani said...

Very thought provoking post - thank you.

Can see I need to supplement my sandy and clay so more than I thought I would have to. But totally agree that chemicals are a complete no-no!

Steve & Paula said...

I have been giving our chickens wood ash to bathe in their winter, spreading it around in the coop and in there winter lounging area.

And we are also saving every egg shell. I will be adding powdered shell, on top of hot manure in the bottom of every tire that we plant squash in this summer.


Anonymous said...

What an interesting video! I will have to do some research on the rock dust.
We have a lot of worms in the soil, both in the garden and in the greenhouse. Sometimes I am worried that I will hurt them by tilling the soil. :)

sunflower said...

Excellent post!
When I took over my plot two years ago there were a very few, small, sickly yellow coloured worms.....now we find thousands of big fat pinky ones!
I watched your 'listen to the whispers' link, parts 1,2 and 3. Absolutely terrifying!
I will watch parts 4 and 5 later when I feel able....for now I need to go find some comfort with my clean soil, hens and bees! and the knowledge that to some degree at least, I am protecting my children from that evil.

Mr. H. said...

Leigh - Soon you will no doubt have lots and lots of worms and will be surprised at what a difference they make. Yes, that chart truly reflected the sad state of nutrition in our raw foods and is one of the main reasons why we grow our own. While I have never tested any of our veggies I am confident they are much, much healthier than anything that comes off the super market shelves...organic or not.

Lilac Cottage Homestead - How exciting to see such a fine improvement in your garden soil. It sounds like all of your hard work has really payed off.

Edi - Yes, the book definitely had some very strange ideas in it but I did come away with a lot of thoughts on worms and remineralisation of the soil. The tower of power and chats with elementals was a bit much for me though...wow.:) Kent Whealy and how SSE was started was interesting too. One of these days I will have to take a better look at the SSE and see what it's all about but $40 just to see the big catalogue has kept me away so far.

Ginny - Composted kitchen scraps is a wonderful way to improve your soil...a little bit at a time and eventually it makes a big difference. Oh, I think I can smell that pear and apple cobbler from here...mmm.

Buttons - It's actually quite frightening to read about how lacking in nutrition today's vegetables really are. If we keep heading in this direction pretty soon there will not be much difference between a store boughten carrot and a Mcdonald's Happy Meal.

Malay-Kadazan - All I know is that it is good that you and I garden and grow our own foods so that we will not have to eat GMO foods. Keep working on that soil, the worms will thank you for it.:)

Lorena - You know I ready a study on animals and GMO foods once that revealed if given a choice the animals always pick the organic produce over anything that is GMO or non-organic and full of pesticides. Your dogs can no doubt sense the chemicals in the non-organic carrots....and we both know how smart cattle dogs are, there's no fooling them.:) I like your idea of using an old horse troughs to garden in.

Silke - Amending ones soil does take a little time but it does make a big difference in the end doesn't it. I heard that it is supposed to be very sunny in your neck of the woods, enjoy that sunshine...starting to snow out here again.

Kevin - We have also been thinking more and more about the nutrition of our own vegetables via the soil they grow in as we continue to try an improve our soil. We have rocks around here that are very crumbly and I will be beating them into a powder for our soil this summer, it will be interesting to see how this effects the growth of our crops.

Sylvie - They have gizzards similar chickens and also use little rock particles to grind up leaves and other decaying material before it can be digested...fascinating little creatures.

Kellie - Thanks, the quality, nutrient wise, of our produce is something that should concern all of us.

Mrs. Mac - With all this snow winter is indeed a good time to do some thinking about our gardens and the health of the foods we eat. Looks like we are in for a few more inches of the white stuff, they said 4-8 "...we shall see.

Elizabeth - Nung Ta is a variety that a couple that live in Canada sent us years ago and does well in our colder climate...tastes great too. We have found that most tomatoes that are listed as producing in 80 days or less do well for us. Would you like to try some of our Nung Ta seed?

Mr. H. said...

Jeannette - That is a great book and his advice on replenishing intensively planted soils is very important. I will have to re-read that book as it has been a long time.

Dani - Yes, the worst thing that we can do is to spray chemicals all over the foods we eat. You see farmers in the fields with gas masks on dumping chemicals on their crops and then those same crops end up on the store shelves and we are supposed to eat them...it's insane.

Paula - Your plants are going to be very happy with you and hopefully provide you with big, nutritious, delicious, foods. Our chickens are enjoying there ashes too but what they really want is for all this snow to go away so they can run free again.:)

Vrtlarica - I think about our worms everytime I till too. Fortunately the reproduce very, very quickly in a good environment. Glad to here you are also blessed with lots of worms.

Sunflower - It sounds like you have done a good job on improving your soil. I'm glad you liked the videos, it really makes you think doesn't it...pretty scary stuff.

kitsapFG said...

One (just one!) of the reasons we are serious about growing our own vegetables and as much fruit as possible - is the nutrient depletion of factory farmed produce. There is indeed a difference in the actual available nutrition and density of nutrition from food grown in healthy well mineralized living soil - from that which is grown largely due to teh application of fossil fuel based chemical fertilizers. The produce in the super market may look beautiful but it is often not much better than a waxwork version of that item.

I use rock powders on my garden beds to remineralize them. I do this about every 3rd or 4th year. It is not something that needs to be done annually but I have found that periodic applications ensure my soil has a good availability of a broad spectrum of minerals. The compost and organic matter added covers the other nutrient spectrum. I try to use a great diversity of organic matter and composts though in order to ensure that micro nutrients are bioavailable. Too heavy a reliance on only one type of organic input can result in the ommision and eventual depletion of certain nutrients and micro nutrients. I add ground rock phosphate and green sand to my beds at an application rate of 6lbs per 100 square feet of growing area. For a new bed that has not been amended previously I use a heavier application of 10 lbs per 100 square feet. I remineralized all of my beds last February and should be good until 2012 or 2013 before I do another application. I blogged about it here
I also always add my egg shells (crunched up first) to the compost. It is a great source of calcium for the soil.

Great post! Attention to soil health is the difference between okay gardening and really great food production gardening.

elizabeth said...

Yes! I would love to try your Nung Ta seed.

Diane@Peaceful Acres Farm said...

I've been trying to wrap my mind around all of this for the past couple years. Science isn't my strength, but using a refractometer to measure brix is a starting place for me. Have you all got one? As the brix levels go up you will know that your trace minerals are on spot. I was delighted that my winter greens measured 14/15 which is very good. I bet yours are much higher since you've been working at this longer than I have.

Ferris Jay said...

That was a fascinating post - thank you. Great links too and I loved the video of the Thomson's Scottish Smallholding.

We're really lucky in Leitrim that we have a lot of worms, even though the soil has a lot of clay and out beds were made recently (in 2009) and on re-landscaped soil and mushroom compost.

It amazes me when I 'open' a lump of clay and see an earthworm (or, not so delightful, a slug)inside and I wonder just how they got through the seemingly hard clay with their soft bodies.

I must go have another look at those links you gave.

It will be interesting to see how your methods of mineral supplementation work out. Will you be able to 'taste' the difference?

Mr. H. said...

Laura - Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts on this. I will never understand why anyone would choose to use chemicals on their fields or foods. I have relatives that use to grow potatoes for a living and between the defoliants and other chemicals they used they were also exposed to all of the other neighboring farmers sprays. Every one of them has serious and unusual health issues that are so obviously related to this chemicalized farming. My cousins husband works for a chemical company in another part of the country and has cancer from being exposed to so much of this stuff. It is definitely a sorry state of affairs based on greed and lack of knowledge...or just plain denial.

Thank you for the information on how you apply your minerals. I remember that post as I was considering using some of the alfalfa pellets you discussed...which of course I did not get around to doing yet.:)

Diane - A whatchamacallit? I had to look that brix measuring refractometer up as I had never heard of it before...a very interesting device. I would be very curious to see how our veggies measured.

Ferris Jay - Because we mostly grow storage type carrots they are not super sweet tasting so it would be interesting to see if the addition of extra minerals makes a difference or not. The worms really are amazing aren't they. I will have to post a video one of these days of the ones that come out all over our lawn at night during the summer months...it's pretty incredible how many there are.

Elizabeth said...

Ah, rock dust. That is what has been delaying my planting. I can't find any locally and I want to use it in my square foot garden!
Speaking of worms, I took the kids on a field trip last Sat. to a local farm and they learned all about worm boxes and worm tea. I am going to post about it soon.
Peace & Raw Veggie Health,

Ohiofarmgirl said...

oh great. now i have to go and pound rocks into powder!?!? ha! just kiddin. we are always working on our soil. sometimes i dig holes and put organic material into them just for the worms. worms = friends. "hey you chickens! get away from my worms!"

Ms. Adventuress said...

Oh, this is amazing. Wonderful! What an interesting read on your own soil, as I would have thought similarly and never guessed otherwise. Interesting, indeed.

(The plastic made in the USA out of plant materials is quite the thing...quite the thing, indeed. Progress, I'd say, in the right direction. :o)

Mr. H. said...

Elizabeth - How fun for your children to learn about worms in that manner, I look forward to your post. Hope you find some rock dust for your garden.

Ohiofarmgirl - You can bet I'll be out there this spring swinging a sledge hammer and singing my favorite Tennessee Ernie Ford song.:)

Ms. Adventeress - That plastic is definitely progress in the right direction.

Sense of Home said...

That is very interesting, I thought one of my gardens, where I grow blueberries, would be acidic because of all the pine needles there. I guess I will have to find ways to add acid to the soil since blueberry bushes like acidic soil.


LynnS said...

Great post, Mike!! I can't wait until tomorrow morning when I can view the videos (the best access time for me). When I moved here in 1987, I was stunned that the soil had no worms -- I would dig and look and dig and look again -- no worms! Just seeing the lack of a worm population told me there was serious soil work ahead. Now, almost 24 years later, the worms are everywhere and I love how they work the soil, contributing their castings. I also have a worm bin because those castings are so wonderful for garden veggies. Can't ever have enough!!

It's great to know that your soil has tested out so nicely. Congrats on growing your soil to a nice perfection!

Chemicals used in farms and orchards are here too, although most of the Virginia orchards are located in the limestone zones and our place isn't limestone. Still, there is a higher cancer rate in families with orchards, and higher birth defects. They are either stupid or blind because they continue spraying and using the chemicals. Here, at least, any farmer using a pesticide must have State licensure after taking a bunch of classes. (Classes on toxic applications seems to fly in the face of common sense, huh?)

I will look up the "rock powders" info you provided and learn more. I have used greensand and pulverized shells, etc, but I'm unsure if these are considered "rock powders". Anything to boost nutrients in the soil is a win-win!!

Heiko said...

How do you powder rocks? Large hammer and just keep pounding them? Maybe I should get some of my convicts... sorry helpers to the task. I wonder if part of the effect is also heat retention of the top soil. The sun warms rocks up during the day, which they give off during the night. Well known phenomenon in many of the world's vineyards.

MikeH said...

Included in this will be the growing of such plants as burdock, endive, dandelion, scorzonera, salsify, or any deep rooted and useful plant that will help to "mine" or draw up minerals from below so they can be assimilated by other shallow rooted veggies.

No comfrey??????? In fact, when I searched the blog for comfrey, it doesn't seem to come up anywhere here although that could be a google gremlin at work. I have a single raised bed dedicated to growing Bocking 14 Comfrey and we've decided we're going to do a hugelkultur bed dedicated to B14 Comfrey.


Mr. H. said...

Brenda - We also have a small blueberry patch full of pine needles that has not been doing that well. This year I added sulfur to the soil and they seem to be doing better...we shall see. Yours may be fine and doing great...I hope, but boy have I struggled with our patch over the past few years. Blueberries are a tough one for us. We did end up with almost a gallon of berries though so I guess I can't complain too much.

Lynn - My oh my wouldn't the grandson love it if we started a little worm bed of our own...you know I might have to do that, he would love it and we could use the castings. Where do you keep the worm bin...I'll have to pick your brain about this some more later.

Honestly, I'm reading this great book called "1491" and have come to the conclusion that all the ills of man are based on greed. truly, it is all about wealth and power and our species unrelenting drive to obtain it regardless of the cost to each other, the environment, or the next generation. I'm very disenchanted with all of this right now...:( That said, we will continue to do our part to not take part in all of this...leastwise as much as is "humanly" possible.

Heiko - We happen to have some very friable rocks in our area that I can fairly easily beat into submission with a sledge hammer and turn into powder. I'm going to try this as it would be the most inexpensive (free) way to add minerals to our soil. Obviously I have no way of knowing the quality of the minerals in these rocks but am sure they have some and some is better than none.:)

I like your thoughts on the sun warming the rocky soil too...I will have to read up on that some more. In the past we have used dark red bricks around some of our pepper plants to try and heat them up...I'll have to think about doing that again.

MikeH - Comfrey is a real sore spot with me.:) I traded rhubarb with someone back in 2007 and they were supposed to dig up and give us comfrey but never followed through with it. Last year I tried to order comfrey through a catalogue and they were out but didn't let us know until it was too late if I remember correctly. This year I am still searching for some as we really would love to grow it. I have not heard anything but good reports about the plant. I think I know where to get some though and have my fingers crossed that it works out. So with any luck we will be growing comfrey this year..I hope.

Also, I would love to here more about how your hugelkultur bed turns out, I might have to try something like this myself. We always have an abundance of rotting logs and branches around here. Speaking of hugelkultur, have you ever seen this permaculture video on how Sepp Holzer grows his food in Austria? If not, you might enjoy it.

Anne said...

Earthworms are good for agricultural practices... but keep in mind that several large ecosystems in North America developed without them, and in many areas native worms are losing out.

Most of these earthworms are in fact invasive species.

They are in fact causing noticeable damage in many areas by completely altering the soil composition, which effects what thrives there.. often clearing the way for other invasive plants.

If ever you get bored.. look up the giant Palouse worm. A special native to Idaho & Washington.

Yes.. tilling will hurt them.
The "small sickly yellow worms".. were a different species. While soil content does effect the coloring of some worms, they do come in various colors (black, blue, gray, red, brown, yellow, etc.) which helps narrow down what species.

While I love what they can do for a garden... just remember where you live and how they can effect the surroundings.

Heiko said...

I have a source of wild comfrey near us. I collected some seeds last year, but accidentally left them out in the rain before I got around using them. Might send you some of them when they are around again. Extremely tasty too! (Even if some paranoid Americans tell you they are bad for you...)

LynnS said...

Rock powder is I suppose pulverized rock and depending on the rock, it can be easy as finger pinching or hard enough to give a day's worth of work to Heiko's convicts. lol

I got to view the video and had a hard time listening to the content because I was so fixed on that wonderful Scottish brogue. Music to my ears....I digress....I did rewatch it and then checked at Wiki here and found a few things:

It seems to be from the Scottish perspective that the composition is basalt and volcanic rock. Is that true elsewhere? I have started reading through the pdf online book but haven't gotten far with it yet.

The most awesome rock I've ever come upon in my travels across America is found in the Palo Duro Canyon in northern Texas. The rock is a combination of red rock and gypsum so the upper portion of the rock is literally crystalized gypsum that you can pulverize with your bare hands. (Had to get myself a few rocks for my collection!)

We have 2 worm bins and one stays inside year round. It has chambers and I use basic kitchen scraps chopped up for their food. I love my worms but my granddaughter is still squeemish and won't touch any. She'll watch them though, especially outside. Yes, you need to get some worms going! Put Junior in charge of them.

If you want Comfrey, I'll send you a start this Spring.

MikeH said...

This year I am still searching for some as we really would love to grow it.

It's a really aggressive plant. Both seeds and roots. If you want to deal with the seed problem, there is a sterile variety called Bocking 14 which you can only propagate by division. Richters sells the plant and I believe that they have the phytosanitary certificate necessary for shipping plant material to the US. Even though B14 is sterile, you still have to watch where you plant it. That's why I have an area dedicated to it. If you move it, every little broken root piece that you leave in the soil will produce a plant much like horseradish does. I suspect that a systemic poison would kill the roots but they can run 8 feet deep so perhaps not.

Growing & Using Comfrey for Gardeners is a brief but thorough overview of comfrey based on some old but well researched and document material by Lawrence D Hills which, as far as I can tell by searching google scholar, has not been duplicated, discredited or surpassed.

Also, I would love to here more about how your hugelkultur bed turns out

There'll be a picasa album as we go. Yeh, Holzer's quite the individual. Quite the ground-breaker in more ways than one.

Hill notes in his book that there seem to be many strains(my word, not his) of comfrey that are virtually indistinguishable from each other. If that's the case, wild Italian comfrey might be OK to eat while <strike>American</strike> other comfrey might not. I think I've stumbled across peer-reviewed research that addresses the issue of ingesting comfrey.


6512 and growing said...

I feel like any gardening success I've had is due to creating good soil.

Loving your pictures!

Ohiofarmgirl said...

hey Mr H! I've been over at Ginny's.. how can you never had grits!?! Its polenta for breakfast.

We finally got some comfrey - there is a company in canada that will ship you some. Ours is well controlled and we need the deep roots. And its good for chickens. See themodernhomestead.org for more info if you are interested.

MikeH said...

Honestly, I'm reading this great book called "1491" and have come to the conclusion that all the ills of man are based on greed. truly, it is all about wealth and power and our species unrelenting drive to obtain it regardless of the cost to each other, the environment, or the next generation.

I haven't read the book but this lecture by Toby Hemenway provides an anthropological history of how the emergence of agriculture marks the beginning of the process to where we are now.

Kelly said...

Great post! I (and my family) take plant derived trace minerals daily, and I also add them to my garden. Our health has improved quite a bit since adding these minerals to our routine. I have also seen brix values rise in local garden trials using mineral foliar sprays- it is very interesting stuff!! The other important factor when adding minerals is to one way or another add humic and/or fulvic acids whenever possible.

Mr. H. said...

Anne - I have always wanted to see one of those giant Palouse earthworms...up to 3' long they say, pretty amazing and not too far from where we live. We only have little red worms and really large night-crawlers in our gardens. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this as I did not realize how many different types of worms there were...I will have to read up on them some more.

Heiko - Thanks for the offer. Don't feel too bad about leaving your seeds out in the rain, I did that with a whole container of flower seed this past summer...made me so darn mad.

Lynn - Thanks for the link, it was very interesting to see the what the typical composition of rockdust was. We have places around here with very friable rock and I am considering trying to use that as a natural source. I talked to Micki about the worm bin and think we will give it a go this spring...Hunter will be so excited. I'll get back to you on the comfrey...I might be able to get some locally..maybe.

MikeH - Thanks so much for all of the wonderful information. I can't believe that it can grow 8' deep, no wonder it is such a good source of nutrients for the soil and other plants..incredible. I will definitely check into the edibility of this plant before ingesting it. We are going to watch the Toby Hemenway lecture this morning, it sounds like a very interesting discussion...I have a feeling that I will agree with his thoughts on agriculture in comparison to the hunter gatherer/permaculture system...we shall see.

6512 and growing - I couldn't agree more.:)

OhioFarmgirl - You shouldn't expect too much from me as I'm from Northern Idaho, we don't even have a cell phone. Hmm, not sure that I have ever eaten polenta either.:) This is why I started this blog, so that I could see what the rest of the world was up to...grits and all. Thanks for the information on comfrey.

Kelly - The whole plant derived mineral supplementation is what we hope to achieve or continue to achieve via our plants. I truly must give more consideration to foliar sprays, I have always disregarded it but am starting to see that there is something to it and hope to experiment with that aspect of feeding our plants this summer. I'm not familiar with the use of humic and/or fulvic acids and will have to look into that some more.

Wendy said...

Great post. I have no doubts at all that your soil is teaming with earth worms - your plants and harvests are just gorgeous.

I really need to make a better effort to build my soil. Sometimes I feel like I just take and take from it - and there is little to offer as it is. Perhaps this will be my gardening New Year's resolution.

Mr. H. said...

Wendy - Sounds like an excellent resolution...I am working on a few similar ones myself.:)

Niki Jabbour said...

What a great post - so much important info! Thanks for sharing it.. plus, your photos are outstanding. Your garden looks like a piece of paradise..

Anonymous said...

Food for thought indeed. It's taken us four years to get a decent amount of organic matter and life into our soil. One thing which gave the soil a real boost was burning chicken carcasses in the woodburner and the added bonemeal with ash and manure has created more workable soil than just ash and manure alone.

Mr. H. said...

Niki - Thank you.:)

Contadina - I'm glad that you shared the information on chicken carcasses as we have been adding burnt bone to our gardens and are excited to see what the results might be.

Ms. Adventuress said...

I somehow missed the video at the bottom before...and I'm so glad I came back and saw it. It truly is the simplest things, I think, too. Right now I'm learning just how important nutrient dense food is and the slight differences and big differences it can make in your body, which can never be fully attained with pills, I don't think. Of course, some supps are very helpful, but the real deal should be in there, too.

(The Tree of Life really is a simple solution, too. :o)

meemsnyc said...

I have to get our soil checked too. Worms are the best aren't they? We are lucky to have lots of earthworms in our soil too.

Veggie PAK said...

What a great post! So much valuable information! When you talk about rock dust, is that the same as rock phosphate?

Mr. H. said...

Ms. Adventuress - Yes, there are so many simple solutions but alas the human race seems bent on creating difficult ones.

Meemsnyc - So glad to hear that your soil is full of worms...a very good sign of soil fertility.:)

Veggie Pak - Thanks, when I say rock dust, to me that means any crushed rock and does include things like rock phosphate, green sand, and so forth. We will be adding crushed, powdered rock obtained from a hillside close to where we live. It is a very soft rock so we should have good luck crushing it into a powder ourselves. Obviously I have know way of knowing its true mineral content...we shall see what happens. It is full of quartz, mica, and other materials.

Ohiofarmgirl said...

hey Mr. H! you know at some point you're going to have to do another post so we can all say our hellos without having to scroll allllll the way to the bottom!

its pouring down snow here - we are getting that storm you had a few days ago. no one is happy least of all ME! please send news of your happy homestead.

Mr. H. said...

OK, OK, I'm going to write a post on saving seeds and then one on all the new chickens we got this afternoon...that crazy wife of mine.:)

Lori said...

Hi Mr. H
I would be happy to send you some comfrey roots. While many growers in our area (west coast of Canada) find it a nuisance, I think it is a gold mine. We have clumps all through our orchard and cut it down a couple times a year to use as mulch around our tomatoes and to make a comfrey tea that all our fruiting plants seem to love. The bees are crazy for it too.

I love your blog and what you are doing in your garden. Thank you for the inspiration!

Mr. H. said...

Lori - Thank you so much for the offer but we have decided to purchase our comfrey through Horizon Herbs
as there are some other herbs they sell that I would like to grow. It is great to hear so many good things from you about this plant and I am very excited to get ours started. I was trying to fugure out where to plant it, perhaps I should do the same as you and introduce it in our little orchard. Thanks.:)

Sheryl at Providence Acres Farm said...

I grow comfrey as a green manure. I also grow burdock all over the place, and not on purpose. You have me thinking about the burdock now. I could use it as a green manure too.

Mr. H. said...

Sheryl - We received our Russian comfrey roots in the email yesterday so I am very excited to grow them this year. I still have a lot of reading to do on them though to see how best to use them..

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