The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Adding micronutrients to the soil

Comfrey is a dynamic accumulator.The big chemical companies are now considering adding micronutrients into their chemical fertilizer mixes along with nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus.  As usual, I don't think that's the best option.  Instead, I like the idea of building up the soil by adding naturally occurring micronutrients through compost, manure, and mulch.

A related option, favored by permaculturalists, is to use dynamic accumulators to add micronutrients back into their topsoil.  These plants are able to latch onto micronutrients in the soil, either by sending roots deep into the subsoil where the micronutrients are plentiful, or by simply having a greater affinity to micronutrients.  Either way, the dynamic accumulators end up with high levels of certain micronutrients in their leaves.  We can cut these leaves off and use them as mulch or
compost around micronutrient deficient plants, refreshing the micronutrient content of the soil.
Comfrey growing around the base of my nectarine
Comfrey is everyone's favorite dynamic accumulator since it concentrates silicon, nitrogen, magnesium, calcium, potassium, and iron.  In my young forest garden, I've planted comfrey around my nectarine tree.  As the comfrey gets to be a foot tall or so, I whack it all down and let it rot back into the soil, feeding my tree.

This post is part of our Micronutrient lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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Long before I heard the term "dynamic accumulator" I knew certain plants were valuable for pulling up deep minerals depleted in topsoil. I planted alfalfa in a worn out field. Its roots go down up to seventeen feet deep. My source, Robert Rodale of Organic gardening, also recommended Kudzu for its deep root system. You might want to start a little patch of it.
Comment by Errol Thu Jun 4 12:29:21 2009

I remember you talking about alfalfa like that years ago. It's nice to have so many options out there as dynamic accumulators, though, especially perennials!

I don't think I'm ready to commit to a kudzu battle in my own yard, but I've often wondered if there's an effective way to harvest the stuff growing along the side of the road. If gardeners figured out that they could easily harvest that source of plant micronutrients, I'll bet we'd get our infestation under control lickety split! Maybe I need to set Mark on inventing some kind of gadget for the harvest....

Comment by anna Thu Jun 4 13:06:02 2009
Rodale advised it made good hay. I'm sure it would make great mulch. And the fresh shoots are good to eat.
Comment by Errol Thu Jun 4 17:23:05 2009

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