Before you prepare the bed, you’ll want to think about supplementing nutrients.
Today I’m going to cover the organic soil amendments you can feel free to use even if you didn’t take a soil test first.
Most fertilizers should be brought in only after a soil test. I don’t have time for a soil test today because that takes a couple of weeks to get results back from the lab, so that means I can’t add many fertilizers.
I don’t add large amounts of specific nutrients to the soil just for good measure because that can cause major imbalances in the soil. I need to have a soil test to tell me what to do, and I need to learn to read my organic garden to confirm that the soil test makes sense.
There are 2 organic soil amendments and fertilizers you can use regardless of a soil test. You can use this in your organic potting soil, too. One is rock dust with a broad spectrum of nutrients, such as from glacial till. This stuff is amazing. I get so excited using it. Go here to learn more.
The other fertilizer is a very small amount of calcium carbonate (calcitic lime). It’s the only mineral organic soil amendment I add in tiny amounts without a soil test because it’s almost always a good thing. Just add 10 pounds per 1000 square feet. You can add more if a soil test tells you to. Without the test, just use that small amount. Don’t use dolomite.
Go here to learn more about that.
Of course in the Smiling Gardener Academy you see how to get a quality soil test done and you’ll discover all of the other best organic fertilizers I use based on that soil test.
We used to be able to use some plant-based fertilizers, but they’re mostly contaminated by genetically modified organisms now. The one we can still get is alfalfa, which is a nice broad-spectrum fertilizer, but it’s going to be genetically modified soon, too.
Good compost takes the place of alfalfa anyway, so I don’t worry about that as much any more. And I still love the rock dust and calcium carbonate.
Do you have any questions about organic soil amendments? Feel free to ask below.
Organic Soil Amendments Video Transcript
Next on my list before I start preparing my bed is to think about organic fertilizing.
If you are interested in growing the healthiest possible food and flowers and other plants you’re going to probably want to do some fertilizing to get things in the balance in the soil, and then in the long run we try to create a system that’s more self-sustaining where we don’t have to bring in too many external inputs.
But early on we want to fertilize and in order to do that we want to take a soil test. A good quality soil test so we know what to put in.
Obviously today I can’t do that because I only am doing this in one sort of afternoon here. So obviously today I can’t add much in the way of organic fertilizers because I don’t add hardly anything just for good measure.
In terms of specific nutrients, I don’t want to just go and add nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium because it could be the wrong thing and it could put things in the opposite direction that they’re supposed to go.
That’s why soil testing is so important.
But there are two that I will add without a soil test and the main one is rock dust and this particular brand here comes in a very nondescript bag. I actually paid fifty dollars for this fifty pound bag and that was too much.
I did that this spring because I was doing a lot of teaching with it and so I wanted to have it but normally I’d hope to pay twenty to forty dollars. Forty dollars max for a fifty pound bag.
And if I were doing a bigger property I would go to a quarry and try to find some rock dust from them and then you’d get it a hundred times cheaper but you’d have to do a little testing with that to see if it’s a good dust.
So that’s why, if you get something that’s a good brand, then you’re good.
So what rock dust is, sometimes it comes from volcanic sources but often it’s from a glacial source. So when the glaciers moved, they brought a bunch of different rocks together.
Then what a rock dust is, is it’s that stuff pulverized and I’ll show you a little bit of it here. Even if it’s not that windy, the wind often takes it away because it’s, it just looks like that.
So what that is, is it’s really a broad spectrum organic fertilizer. It’s not just nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium. It has dozens of nutrients in there that come from all these different rocks that have been ground up together and it really is my most, one of the best organic fertilizers and it’s something you can use anywhere without having a soil test.
So, I might put fifty pounds of this down on a thousand square feet. This bag is pretty expensive to do that. That’s why I normally wouldn’t pay that much.
And it’s just something I’ll do when I’m building an organic garden and then I usually don’t think about it too much anymore. It’s something I want to get in the soil right from the beginning.
So I just love rock dust I use it all the time.
Now, there’s one more that I will use only a tiny little bit of. And that is, I’ve put it in this little jar here.
That’s calcitic lime and it looks very similar to rock dust because this particular one has been ground up, it’s white. You know, calcium, white. It’s a limestone.
And, I’ll use a very, very, very tiny amount of this, maybe five pounds per thousand square feet which is miniscule. The reason I’ll do that, it kind of just gets that calcium energy into the soil.
I may use a lot more of it if I did a soil test that told me that I needed it but without a soil test I don’t want to use much but I will use a little just because it’s very rare that a soil won’t benefit from this tiny amount of calcium just to get some energy going.
Calcium is so important in the soil. So that’s calcitic lime, not dolomite lime. Calcitic lime.
So those are the two that use without a soil test. Now in the Smiling Gardener Academy I get into the soil testing in detail, how to take it, how to interpret it all that and then into all the organic fertilizers that I would use based on a soil test if it told me I needed them.
And I guess I haven’t talked much about what the Smiling Gardener Academy is. So what I did this year is I put together an exclusive membership website I called it the Smiling Gardener academy.
And it’s for, it’s really is for people who are excited to learn about how to really make their soil amazing and how to, you know I go into soil I go into the soil food web, composting, microbial inoculants, all this soil testing stuff, design and I get into food plants and how to plant them and how to plant a tree and all kinds of stuff like that.
Like really detailed – people who really want to really make an amazing vegetable garden, so it’s not for everyone. It’s people who are excited by this stuff like I am, really passionate about learning about it and willing to put in a little bit of work up front.
It’s not a lot of work, just a little bit of work to really take your organic garden to the next level. And so what it is, is this year, this whole garden here I started from scratch. I put in this garden and I tried to pull on everything I’ve been learning for the last fifteen years about gardening.
And just every little thing I can think of to make the garden really great, to make the soil really great and it’s worked out really well this year.
So what I did is I’ve filmed over 250 videos so far. That’s kind of what I could get done in this one year. Just these short videos talking about all this stuff, and really just the A-Z from beginning to end about how to put in an amazing organic garden.
And, if you join the Academy you get access to a new module every month of 35 videos or so, sometimes a little more and accompanying text with it.
And we go into a topic in detail, like one month we might do composting, like really learning how to make compost. Another time we might do soil testing. And what you get to learn is how to make an amazing vegetable garden like I have going here.
I had a really good year, it’s going to get better every year because it takes a few years when you’re starting from scratch to really build up your soil and do well, but I was really impressed with how it worked out this year.
So if you want to learn about food gardening or even if you’re more interested in ornamental gardens or flowers, it’s all the same kind of process. And so, so ya that’s a little bit on what it’s about. I’ll talk a little more about it next time.
What I wanted to go into today is rock dust and calcitic lime. You could use those two.
Now the other thing is, we used to use more plant based organic fertilizers like from canola and cotton seed. A lot of seed meals. What else did we use? We used corn gluten, soy, a lot of these things that are now being genetically modified and we really don’t want to bring genetically modified stuff into our organic gardens.
So we can’t use that any more in my opinion. I’m pretty strict about the GMO thing.
We can still use one really good one is alfalfa. Another broad spectrum organic fertilizer basically. But it’s been approved for genetic modification, too.
So, I still want to support the people who are doing it organically but there’s going to be, alfalfa is a grass that’s wind pollinated so there’s going to be contamination I’m sure. It’s going to start happening. So that’s going to be something we can’t use either.
So I just wanted to mention that as well, that we can’t use those as much anymore so that’s why the rock dust is making a lot of sense, plus some of the biostimulants that I’ve talked about before.
But those are the ones for the soil improvement. Rock dust and calcitic lime that I get really excited about using still. And then a lot of other ones after I’ve done a soil test.
So hopefully that’s been really helpful for you for how to see how to start making your soil able to support really abundant, healthy plant growth.