Dig In: Soil analysis good to do

If you are growing your own fruits and vegetables the best investment you can make in your health is a soil analysis.

Buckwheat cover crop after winter

Buckwheat cover crop after winter

If you are growing your own fruits and vegetables the best investment you can make in your health is a soil analysis.

Adding minerals in amounts specific to your garden’s needs will make a tremendous difference in the nutrient content of the food it produces. Solid research, backed by experience, teaches that one should balance the minerals in the soil before doing anything else.

Our climate has historically produced soils bereft of ingredients required by life-sustaining vegetables, which may explain why local indigenous populations depended on sea fauna and flora and land animals for sustenance. Trees may thrive in weak soil, but life-sustaining vegetables need a richer diet to provide us with the nutrients our bodies rely on. Even while we carefully follow organic methods by adding compost and manures, the minerals in our soil steadily disappear. If you garden just for the exercise and fresh air this should not be a problem, but if you actually eat your crop you should check on your soil quality.

There’s a test that measures the level of nutrients in plants called a “Brix” test. This test consistently rates produce grown in re-mineralized soils as higher than any grown without re-mineralization. This makes sense if we think about our own makeup — we need small but steady additions of minerals in our diets. Plants and animals aren’t going to contain them if they aren’t present in the soil, and even if the parent rocks our soils come from contained all the minerals humans require, many of these minerals get washed out. Probably we, too, should be eating seaweed.

Last spring I had my soil analyzed by Integrity Sales in Saanich for under $100, amended my soil accordingly and had bumper crops of delicious vegetables. This year, being a bit obsessive, I plan on getting my soil tested again. If you would like your own soil examined, contact me and I will help you get started. You can reach me at my email: mary_lowther@yahoo.ca

I’ll get the soil tested again in about five years to see if I’m on the right track. In the meantime I’m adding clay to my compost heap because it makes a stable humus that will remain in the garden for years. Cover crops that protect the soil in winter will also keep nutrients from washing out. Leaves spread on the soil will help too, but I’ve found that this mat of leaves provides a refuge for hordes of slugs. Cover crop also adds nitrogen that I dig in come spring time, and the roots aerate the soil when they rot.

Please contact mary_lowther@yahoo.ca with questions and suggestions since I need all the help I can get.