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

Remineralization revisited

Garden minerals"I was wondering if you could clarify your comment about being on the fence about ratios vs. absolute quantities. Based on your earlier mineralization posts, I'm supposing that you're on board with balancing ratios and on the fence about the absolute quantities. Frankly, I love testing my garden soils, but I'm an environmental scientist and a data nerd :-) I tried Solomon's remineralization techniques this year but didn't notice any stellar gains in plant performance. My TCEC is rather low (5-6) so I'm applying bentonite clay and biochar to help boost nutrient retention. I'll give it a few more years. To me, the soil test is a crucial step towards establishing healthy, balanced soils."
--- Mike Gaughan

As you rightly remember, I also followed Solomon's remineralization lead this spring, and (although I haven't posted here yet about the results), I was disappointed.  Part of my disappointment came because the applied minerals burned the plants I had growing at the time (there's no true fallow season in our garden), which may be due to the way I added micronutrients in chemical form.  I'm okay with a short-term decline, though, if I see long-term improvements...but I didn't.  In fact, not only was there no flavor improvement, there actually seemed to be a decrease in growth (although that's likely due to the cool and overcast summer we had).  As John commented on the same post you reacted to, I might get better results from more natural nutrient sources, like seaweed.

strawberriesOn the other hand, I'm not 100% sold on nutrient balancing being important.  The concept makes intuitive sense, especially if you look at the way ions are pumped into cells.  But I haven't delved deeply enough into the scientific literature to discover whether there are any solid studies supporting Solomon's hypotheses.

In the meantime, I'll probably test my soil again this fall to see how the numbers look post-remineralization.  And hopefully next summer will be a more regular season, so I'll get a better idea of how the garden is doing.  Until then, I'm not ready to recommend for or against remineralization, so I remain dubious.

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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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Dear Anna: as a would-be homesteader and blogger, I was wondering what your normal day on the homestead looks like in terms of time spent in the garden versus online blogging or documenting your experiences? I'm sure it varies according to the season, but I am still curious as to what a typical day looks like for you and Mark. Thanks! Karen CleanKarma. org

Comment by Karen Sun Sep 29 20:29:12 2013

You probably are faced with two problems in determining if your attention to minerals is worthwhile: [a] the small effects of mineral improvements may be masked, as you mention, by other more important factors like weather, and [b] your metric to determine improvement may be too insensitive. Taste probably has little to do with mineral content and yields from relatively small plots may show a wide "probabilistic variance," losing the effect as noise in the data.

If the effects are indeed small, one has to wonder if the extra time, effort & expense of dealing with the situation is worthwhile if you're not a commercial farmer trying to optimize input vs yield.

Comment by doc Mon Sep 30 07:52:20 2013

Hi Anna and Mark and all,

One of the more interesting things I have read/listened to is a series of 'old' consultants talking about what works. I can't remember if it was John Frank's or Bob Pike's site.

But both of the consultants were asked what measurement they looked at first when growth was below standard. (They had been called in because things WEREN'T growing!)

Both said conductivity!! That got my attention.

I am an engineer. So I have designed and built several conductivity measuring prototypes.

From what I see this measurement may be useful. You can certainly see things you cannot see any other way. And the signals are big and clear.

A recent rainstorm raised the soil conductivity in my test garden by 7 times.

I suspect that much of the soil conductivity is NOT due to salt type conduction, but due to soil fungi and microbes. I haven't figured out a good way to prove this?

Anyways, I continue to measure and learn.

1/4 teaspoon of pro-start in a 4 inch plant increases conductivity by over 10 times. Over time it goes down and eventually you can see symptoms on the plant.

So after you see it go down a bunch, you apply some more 'stuff' to fix the problem, etc.

So this measurement looks hopeful. Maybe.

Lots of fun.


Comment by john Mon Sep 30 09:59:03 2013
Anna, I’ve been chewing on thoughts of remineralization since you put up these posts. I’ve concluded that I’m ready to abandon Solomon’s approach simply because the sulfate powders he prescribes are highly soluble and can readily leach out of the root zone in a few good rainfalls, not to mention the potential adverse effects on soil biology. His technique appears to be predicated on the hope that the TCEC of the soil will instantly trap the added nutrients and prevent them from leaching. I just don’t see that happening. It just rains too much here in Connecticut and my soils have too little TCEC. I’m switching to rock powders such as Azomite or granite dust, or, ideally, free basalt dust from a quarry a few miles from my house. These dusts contain key micronutrients that can be readily solubilized as needed by the soil fauna. Whatever minerals are not taken up by the soil fauna will remain in the soil in rock form and won’t leach much. I like the thought of applying rock dust because it mimics natural remineralization that would occur via glaciation, landslides, or wind transport. I’ll continue to test my soil with Logan Labs to track remineralization and keep an eye out for gross imbalances, primarily regarding calcium. Thanks for the thought-inspiring posts!
Comment by Mike Gaughan Thu Oct 3 10:14:22 2013

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