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Building Super Soil

(Continued from page 1)

Testing the Soil

To get a good grip on your soil’s fertility, test the soil. Once existing nutrient levels and soil pH are determined, it’s easy to research what’s needed to appropriately adjust them. Soil tests are available from both independent laboratories (found online) and your county’s cooperative extension agency.

Most soil tests come with instructions for acquiring a representative soil sample. Retesting soil every few years is recommended. Soil testing is necessary to determine nutrient deficiencies or excesses, plus it provides an exact soil pH measurement and may reveal important information like organic matter content or the presence of heavy metals. (Consider these uncommon soil tests.)

An important note: The practice of regularly adding quality organic matter to the soil may eventually eliminate the need for any additional fertilizers. To generate peak fertility, create a healthy, balanced soil with great structure and plenty of active soil life.

Summing Up Soil

It can be said that an urban farm lives and dies by the health of its soil. Best management practices go a long way when it comes to soil maintenance, so remain constantly mindful of the objectives discussed above: Build good soil structure by regularly adding organic matter, habitually testing the soil, promoting beneficial soil life, handling soil preparation with care and making use of soil-enhancing cover crops. Soil preservation is not necessarily the most glamorous job on the farm, but it comes with huge rewards. Ultimately, the result of proper soil maintenance is a thriving city farm.

About the Author: Jessica Walliser is the author of Good Bug Bad Bug: Who’s Who, What They Do and How to Manage Them Organically. Jessica lives and gardens with her husband and son, two dogs, six chickens, two fish, and millions of good bugs on 2 acres just outside the city.

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Give us your opinion on Building Super Soil.
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Both Eliot Coleman and Joel Salatin discuss ways to build soil. Salatin (of Polyface Farms) talks about "grass farming," a way of rotating animals across a field to build the soil, hence quality of grass. That can be adapted even to backyards. Coleman (several books on organic farming) talks about farming practices that build soil over 7 years or so, to produce highly nutritious, disease-resistant crops with minimum weed problems.
Terry, Plymouth, VT
Posted: 1/10/2014 2:16:07 PM
I've always wondered how accurate those DIY soil testing kits are.
Dante, Hyde Park, MA
Posted: 6/8/2013 12:50:49 PM
I had to go back and check to see if there was a page missing. I didn't see any discussion of how to determine what sort of amendments are proper for building soil and in what circumstances. The article seemed incomplete to me. Maybe I didn't get all of it, but it looks like I did.
Sidney, Colorado Springs, CO
Posted: 8/28/2012 9:37:57 PM

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