We want soil that is dark and crumbly with a very healthy soil life population and luxurious amounts of minerals. Soil like this will support our animals’ health and our future farm business. We have a long way to go to get this soil, so to start off, we’re adding some minerals.
You can see our soil test results at this post. We’ve done 3 soil tests over the past couple of years, and they all pretty much say the same thing. We need a lot more organic matter and calcium, a little more potassium, and a lot more of almost all of the micronutrients (boron, zinc, copper, etc.) Because our soil is sandy, with a very low cation exchange capacity (CEC), we are adding small amounts of fertilizer each time. A low CEC means our soil doesn’t have much room for holding nutrients, and if we add more than we need, the soil gets unbalanced very easily. So, we’re taking it slow.
The cool thing is, we’ve found fertilizers that are therapeutic for our soil! I say “therapeutic” because these fertilizers do more than just supply nutrients – they also help soil life! They come pelletized with humates and microbe food and compost. Our soil needs all the help it can get in the microbe and organic matter department, so we’re happy to have found these.
The carbonized lime came from Fertilizer Brokerage. It’s calcitic limestone pelletized with carbohydrates (food for microbes) and humates. Humates are organic matter that has decomposed all the way, basically soft coal. It’s very dark and has an extremely high CEC, exactly what our soil needs! We spread about 150 pounds per acre, a tiny amount. We’ll probably spread at least that much again this fall, depending on what the new soil test says. In sandy soil, calcium leaches easily, and calcium is very important for soil quality and animal health, so we’ll probably add carbonized lime every year.
To supply micronutrients, we bought a fertilizer called O-charger from Midwestern Bio Ag. It’s borate, copper sulfate, manganese sulfate, and zinc sulfate pelletized with compost. Our soil needs the compost of course, but the purpose of pelletizing it with lots of compost is to get a more even spread of tiny amounts of these micronutrients. We spread 200 pounds per acre of O-charger. Our soil is very low in boron, and boron is critical for getting calcium into plants. Gary Zimmer of Midwestern Bio Ag says he rarely spreads calcium without spreading boron too, so the O-charger should work well with the carbonized lime.
We also broadcasted Sea 90 in our two fields with the lowest amounts of sodium. I’ve read that you want sodium to be at least 40 pounds per acre. Sea 90 is a good quality sea salt that contains nearly every element listed on the periodic table. I actually look for opportunities to spread a product like Sea 90 because it’s a good way to get all the elements necessary for life into the soil.
Our West field is short on potassium, so we spread granular Potassium sulfate there. Potassium sulfate is 50% potash, which is 41% potassium, so we spread 200 pounds of potassium sulfate per acre. I know this field is extra hungry for potassium because we dumped a pile of low-quality aged horse manure (lots of potassium and not much else) in this field and the grass went nuts around the pile. It’s still a deep, healthy green and much thicker and taller than the rest of the field. We can’t wait for all of our grass to look this good! Now we’ll wait for a nice warm rain to soak the fertilizers into the soil and watch for results.