How to really grow plants
It’s a paradox. In order to grow healthy plants, the soil must itself be healthy. But in order to have a really healthy soil, healthy plants are a must. Which comes first, the soil or the plants? Where do we start?
We start by maximizing photosynthesis. Photosynthesis is the reaction that takes the energy from sunlight and converts it into a live growing plant. When photosynthesis is maximized, life is maximized.
In order to maximize photosynthesis we need to optimize these things (in order).
- Water – Every crop needs to have enough water every day. The amount needed will vary depending on the weather and the growth stage of the plant.
- CO2 – The earth inhales CO2 in the evening and exhales it in the morning. CO2 levels can be 50% or more higher than the atmospheric average near the soil. Where does all this CO2 in the Earth come from? It comes from soil microbial metabolism which is fed by healthy plants. And where does all this CO2 go? It’s used by the growing plants.
- Sunlight is essential.
- Minerals must be available in the plant, therefore they must be available in the soil or else be supplied by foliar feeding.
So what can we affect most easily? We can add biology to the soil in the hopes that it alone will be enough to grow really healthy plants. The trouble is, soil biology depends on soil minerals in order to build microbe bodies. If the soil minerals aren’t present, or aren’t present in the right amounts, or if the soil is too dense or too loose, the conditions won’t be right for the biology. Some soils, particularly the ones not found in the agricultural region bottom lands, are just not suited to growing crops without help. So our efforts could be at best, inefficient, and at worst, futile. We could have spent a season, or years even, just spinning our wheels.
We spun our wheels for years. Finally we mineralized our soil. It was relatively easy to do and it made all the difference.
Remineralization starts with a soil test. We recommend getting the standard Mehlich 3 test from Logan Labs (you can use this form to submit it, or else have us submit it for you). This test will show you the type and amount of minerals that are present in your soil. We are aiming for a state where the minerals are plentiful and balanced, since this balance helps to make the minerals available to the plant.
Once you have your soil test report (or we receive it for you), the next step is to calculate how much to add of the various available soil amendments in order to balance your minerals. It takes a lot of math to do these calculations and it’s easy to make math or transcription errors. So we wrote OrganiCalc, which does those calculations for you. You can subscribe and enter your soil test results yourself, or we’ll do it for you.
This is not the end of the story, because soil biology is necessary to unlock the minerals and get them into the plant, however it is a good beginning. We recommend this always as a good first step, like building a good foundation.