All growing is local

There are a lot of different soil types, climates, latitudes, rainfall levels, histories of usages. It pays to investigate your own situation.

Know the basics

There are some basic principles that apply to everyone who wants to grow nutrient-dense food

  • Use only life-affirming methods. Abandon the use of toxic chemicals and poisons. Cause life to flourish.
  • Use your powers of observation. This may require getting down on hands and knees. Or standing back and squinting. Or not listening to the story in your head. A small stool to sit on quietly in the garden is one of our favorite tools.
  • Do what works and be cautious. And observe, observe, observe.
  • Find out everything you can about your own situation.
Know your location

Be curious! As you understand more about your own place, you become more a part of it.

  • What are the limiting factors? Extreme temperatures? Lack or overabundance of water? Fertility? Shade? Drainage? Bugs? Gophers? Wind? Occasional hailstorms or troops of monkeys?
  • What are the biggest advantages? Close to the kitchen? Wide open possibilities? Balmy summer nights?
  • How does your growing style fit into the larger community? Will/do you grow mostly for yourself? Or do you share/sell surplus? Do/can you have special crops others don’t grow?
  • What was the land like in your great-grandparent’s day? What native plants? What native waterways? Was it forest? Was it wetter then? How many people did it support?
  • What is the underlying geology of your area? How was the soil built? By wind? By flooding? By truck? How old is the rock beneath your soil?
  • How much rainfall do you get in a year? Over 40″? Under 40″?
  • If you irrigate, what’s in your irrigation water? If you are using tap water, your water company may be required to publish a yearly analysis of the water they deliver. Is it full of calcium carbonate (hard)? How much sodium?
  • What has the land been used for in the last 100 years? Do you have long-term neighbors who remember?
Know your soil

Dig a hole as deep as you can, just to see what is down there. Is the soil the same all the way down? Are there rocks? Is the soil on top imported (this happens frequently in suburban housing developments)? Do you run into an impermeable layer of clay or rock?

It is a good idea to know your soil type. Instructions for determining soil type are in this document:
There are some very handy resources on line to help you understand your soil and its classification. In the United States the USDA maintains a database of information on most soils that includes both its suitability for building on and its potential as agricultural land.

Know your soil – Take a soil test and analyze the results

When we investigated our soil we found it was best suited for grazing due to the low fertility and slope. But it was also worn out from overgrazing, with an erosion gully passing through the garden. We took several soil tests over the years, and applied amendments and compost. That helped, but it always seemed like it could do better.

Then we heard about balancing the mineral content of the soil. We got the soil test and applied the recommended minerals. The results were nothing short of amazing. Our veggies tasted great! Bugs were less of a problem. Our health improved and even our hair grew.

After the first rains of the autumn, grass grows only under the oak tree, not in the open or under nearby pines

A unique growing situation in the western Sierra Mountains near Courtright Reservoir, California

The plants growing under the hoops enjoy warmer nights, cooler days and less afternoon wind.

This old road sprouts goldfields flowers while the surrounding area is mainly grassy. Compaction has created poor soil conditions for grass and good conditions for wildflowers.

next… Preparing For a Soil Test