Thursday, March 21, 2013

Time to Build Up your Soil

Since late February we've been having momentary days of Spring-like weather and that has gotten my green thumb itching. I have moved to a new garden plot and my current focus is enriching my soil and preparing my beds for planting.

Most of last winter has been spent pouring over seed catalogs and doing late night research on organic gardening.  While fact-finding online I have discovered the benefits of rock dust and BioChar.  Rock dust is a by-product of rock quarries, it is rock dust!  There are many names for this product: rock flour, granite dust, rock powder, all are from rocks and provide minerals and trace minerals.

These next three items are soil amendments that also supply minerals and trace elements to the soil:

AZOMITE is an acronym for A to Z Of Minerals Including Trace Elements.It is a hard rock formation that formed from the dust of a volcano that erupted and estimated 30 million years ago.  It is mined in Utah.

Glacial Rock Dust is made from a wide variety of rocks that are collected and pulverized by the expansion/contraction action of the glacier. As the glacier recedes, it leaves behind deposits of "glacial moraine". These deposits are mined, dried, and screened for agricultural and horticultural re-mineralization.

BioChar is a product made from burning biological 'stuff' and making a fine-grained, highly porous charcoal that helps soils retain nutrients and water.  It contains carbon and trace minerals as well.

Every year I add as many good things as I can to my soil, compost, well rotted manure, earthworm castings, leaves, fertile mulches, straw, organic fertilizers but never any rock or glacial additives and this year I went for the gusto.  I added rock phosphate, greensand, perlite and Azomite to my beds this year and am looking to add some BioChar and compost as well a bit later on the the season.  After re-mineralizing my soil, I am confident that I will get the best results from my crops this year.  I plan not to add any fertlizer this year at all in my new beds.

My advice to you:  try some, maybe add a cup or rock dust to one tomato plant or add a cup of BioChar to another and compare!

Here are some links to places to find some of the products mentioned above:
(Disclaimer:  I have purchased items from all these vendors and have no preferences, plus I have not been paid to promote or endorse them.)

Walt's Organic-located in Ballard, great knowledgeable folks work there.
Issaquah Grange-they have lots of great stuff there, including chicks now.
De Youngs-located in Woodinville.  They have organic and non-organic items.
Kis Organics-located in Redmond, the only source of BioChar in the greater Seattle area that I have found.

-Gia, Volunteer Co-ordinator at MCGA and Master Gardener