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

Holistic soil test analysis

Soil sampleThe report from a typical soil test will tell you to add a certain amount of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium to your soil in order to achieve a certain yield, and might also tell you to add lime or sulfur to change your pH.  This type of soil analysis assumes that soil is like a checking account --- you put nutrients in and your plants take the same amount out.  Large-scale farmers will add chemical fertilizers or --- if the fields are certified organic --- mineral supplements and compost to supply the required amount of each primary nutrient.

Holistic gardeners understand that soil is more complex, and that the physical environment and microorganisms work together to make nutrients more or less available.  You can compare this view of soil to a mutual fund, with the combination of individual stocks and bonds determining how much money is available at any given time.  If you're a real holistic gardener, you'll take the analogy one step further and try to create soil where you're living on the interest, not the capital.

Which is all a long way of saying --- this lunchtime series isn't going to show you the traditional way of interpreting your soil test results.  I'm assuming that you'll be adding half an inch to an inch of high quality compost to your garden before each planting as a matter of course, so I won't mention nitrogen at all.  Instead, I'll walk you through the less well known but even more important fields on your soil test report so that you can create a Soil test formwell-rounded soil that will require fewer inputs every year.

If you don't have a soil test for your own garden handy, this week's lunchtime series will be a lot less fun.  Check out this post about where to send your soil tests and be aware that fall is a great time to sample since testing labs are less busy.  I got my results via email less than a week after putting our soil samples in the mail.

Our chicken waterer is part of a holistic approach to healthy chickens.

This post is part of our Holistic Soil Test Analysis 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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