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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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Balancing magnesium and calcium is the most crucial part of healthy soil. TCEC, total cation exchange capacity, is the most important measure from a soil test to balance soil. Adding organic matter means nothing if key elemental relationships are not balanced...it's like the author of this article really doesn't know how to balance soil or what the target of healthy soil is...because it's not organic matter percentage that's going to make nutrient dense food. I suggest Steve Solomons "The Intelligent Gardner" as an intro to soil health.
Dhoolahan, Woodinville, WA
Posted: 9/7/2015 11:19:14 PM
One way to tell if soil has a high clay component is to rub a clump of the soil against something metal. If there is a lot of clay, the clump will look shiny.
Kari, Georgetown, ON
Posted: 3/21/2015 6:30:00 AM
I have a Ph meter that I use for wine making. How do I create a soil sample that I can use my Ph meter? Always there is a recommendation to test Ph but no "home" method.
Geno, Aurora, CO
Posted: 12/9/2014 12:30:25 PM
I found the article disappointing. I would disagree that the practice of regularly adding quality organic matter may eliminate the need for additional fertilizers. This is vague advice and could be quite harmful. Not all compost is created equal and you don't need high organic matter to grow healthy crops. Lastly the DIY soil tests are not accurate at all in my experience and a waste of money. "Super soil" has a connotation associated with container plants, where all the mineral/nutrient content is included in the media and nothing but water is needed for the life of your crop. I agree that soil is the most important variable in growing healthy plants.
Tad, Redmond, WA
Posted: 9/25/2014 12:04:09 PM

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