May 6 – 19, 2019
“Even if you’re on the right track you’ll get run over if you just sit there.” –Will Rogers
Mount Washington — I just got off the phone with Bill McKibben, a k a William ‘Soil Doc’ McKibben, an Ohio-based specialist in balancing soil fertility and crop yield management. He is also an author published by Acres USA*. As our conversation drew to a close, I told Bill that the concepts he communicated to me about soil and soil tests would lead me to a lifetime of inquiry. Can I challenge the popular view that a soil analysis is useful if it simply prescribes amounts of N-P-K (nitrogen-phosphorous-potassium), lime and a few other amendments a garden might need? I concluded that it is preferable to be overwhelmed with questions than to squelch curiosity. Bill concurred, quoting Will Rogers.
McKibben described three interconnected aspects of soil: biological, physical and chemical. In my quest to identify a laboratory to conduct my tests, I decided on two labs. Logan Laboratories is recommended by Northeast Organic Farming Association and the Bionutrient Food Association. It is through Logan’s lab director Susan Shaner that I was introduced to McKibben. Before speaking with McKibben, I was exploring the website of Woods End Laboritories. Woods End and its founder, soil scientist/researcher Will Brinton, Ph.D., have been part of my gardener’s lexicon since my formative years working alongside biodynamic growers. Brinton’s signature diagram shows the physical, chemical and biological overlapping to create soil health. His Solvita Soil Health Suite of tests is available from coast to coast, including at Logan Labs.
Even though my garden is healthy and productive, I periodically pursue various methods of soil testing. McKibben stressed that regular soil analysis is a preventive strategy. Ten years ago, a biodynamic soil scientist made a chromatogram of my soil that was very affirmative of my practices. Two years ago, NOFA performed a Soil Carbon Analysis that was also affirmative and came with recommendations for improvement. A few days ago, I shipped two small boxes with 2 cups of soil each to Woods End in Maine and Logan in Ohio, respectively.
Please refer to the “Resources” and “Opportunities to participate” sections!
*The Art of Balancing Soil Nutrients, A practical guide to interpreting soil tests, Bill McKibben, 2012 https://www.acresusa.com/collections/soils/products/the-art-of-balancing-soil-nutrients
Logan Labs – http://loganlabs.com/
Woods End Laboratories – https://woodsend.com/soil-health-test/# and https://solvita.com/
YouTube videos – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCFlSHXX_4LA-Q1rqKYmQLwg
UMass Soil and Plant Nutrient Extension Laboratory – http://soiltest.umass.edu
NOFA – https://www.nofamass.org/soil-technical-assistance-program and Bionutrient Food Association –http://bionutrient.org/site/soil-test
Chromatograms: Portraying Soilsand Compost: Color, Form, and Patternhttps://www.natureinstitute.org/pub/ic/ic34/compost.pdfand https://www.biodynamics.com/2018-biodynamic-conference/event/introduction-round-filter-chromatography-and-soil-food-web-qualitative-assessment-tools-soil-and# and https://www.soilfoodweb.com/
Family friendly cartoon video: Life in the Soil – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qas9tPQKd8w