Friday, February 15, 2013

This Year's Theme- Soil Building

Nitrogen should be 40-80 ppm
The theme of Songbird Gardens last year was "Observation". While I did a little planting, I spent most of the year observing, watching the movement of the sun and the shade it created, the look and feel of the soil, pests and beneficials. I did it all without much intervention. Nature did it's thing and I just watched.

This year's theme is "Soil Building". My heart sunk when I got my soil test back a few weeks ago. I did a soil test last year, but I didn't know that they only test nitrogen levels if you request an "apple tree" test. Otherwise, they do not give you nitrogen results. I don't know why, but if you are getting a soil test, request the test for apple trees.

So I went the whole year without knowing that the nitrogen levels in my soil are completely depleted. I thought the struggle of my plants had to do with the drought, but now I can see that the low nitrogen content of my soil probably had more to do with their struggle than anything else. You can see from the photo above, my nitrogen levels are a whopping 2 ppm. Ideal levels are 40-80 ppm. See what I mean? Depleted.

I will probably write different posts about how to correct each of the issues I'm dealing with. You can see my phosphorus and potassium levels are too high, calcium and magnesium are slightly low. Most of these imbalances will be corrected with the consistent addition of compost and rabbit manure. But the nitrogen needs immediate attention.

So what's the plan? Well, I could go the chemical fertilizer route adding something like 46-0-0 to immediately boost the N content. Of course that's not going to happen. Nitron Industries sells a product called Feather Meal (yes, it is exactly what it sounds like) that is pure nitrogen content of 14-0-0 (if you don't know, these numbers indicate nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium levels). I will be using their suggested application for heavy application: 25 lbs per 1,000 square feet or 1/2 cu per plant. Additionally, I will be planting legumes in every nook and cranny I can find over the course of the growing season. Legumes, if you don't know, are nitrogen fixing. This means they can convert nitrogen in the air to nitrogen in the soil. Isn't that amazing?!

My total soil building plan is this:
  • Feather Meal- 25 lbs per 1,000 square feet, before each seasonal crop goes in. (so I'll apply before spring planting, again before summer planting, and again before fall crops.)
  • Epsom Salts- My magnesium levels are low, too. Magnesium is necessary for calcium absorption. Epsom salts (a.k.a. Magnesium Sulfate) will be added at a rate of 2.3 lbs/100 square feet before each seasonal crop, along with the feather meal. 
  • Rabbit Poo- Instead of buying mass produced compost, I'm adding rabbit manure from my grandpa's many rabbits. This kind of manure is mild and shouldn't burn any of my crops. I am making compost this year, but it won't be ready in time for spring planting.
  • Working in mulch- As I prepare my beds for planting, I am working all the mulch form last year and the many inches of leaves I added in the fall. I'll write a post soon about exactly how I'm doing that.
Do you have a soil building plan in place?

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1 comment:

  1. Tiff, my question is, where does a person find the "ideal level" of the nutrients listed on the soil test. You state that NO3-N should be 40 give or take but I was told to add 4 lb urea/1000sq ft with my numbers reading 365 ppm and 730 lb/ac. What's the deal?


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