Thursday, April 19, 2012

Improving our soil

This is the third year that SEEDS Farm has been producing happy diversified vegetables, eggs, and meat.  It's also only the third year that the soil has been out of conventional farming techniques that robbed it of much of it's nutrition, organic matter, and proper structure.  That means that the soil still needs a lot of improvement!  Last year there were A LOT of harmful insects and weeds in the field, this is one indicator that the soil needs improvement.  Healthy soil will be full of beneficial insects and not as weedy... and boy, would we LOVE to have more good bugs and less weeds!  Also, healthier soil will, in turn, produce healthier plants that are more nutrient dense.  So, we have established that improving our soil quality is a high priority at SEEDS Farm.  Improving soil is a long and committed process and we're in it for the long haul.

The first step to improving the soil is to get a soil test!  We are actively working with a local company that only takes soil tests and assists farmers in developing a plan for improving their soil quality, Midwestern BioAg.  Steve is the representative that we have been working with and he's been fantastic so far!  Midwestern BioAg's mission is to educate the farmer about soil quality, not just take a test and tell them what to do.  Learning how to decipher a soil test has been a fun and challenging experience.  We're definitely moving in the right direction.

A few main steps that we will forever take now are to add compost, add manure, and cover crop!  About a month ago we rototilled the field, broadcast oats by hand (thank you many interns!), and then covered them up by running a cultivator through the field.  The oats are now a few inches high and next week we will till them in, let the field rest for a few days, and then spread 3-5 tons of composted manure blended with a fertilizer mix and some other necessary soil ammendments to 3 acres of land.  Whew!  Improving the soil is a lot of work but well worth it!

Monica rototilling the field to prep for planting our spring cover crop

Monica, Dayna, and Greg checking out the soil

All of the St. Olaf interns and Carleon Mentees helping spread oats by hand!

Each year we will continue to actively improve our soil and watch the birds, bees, worms, and more happy bugs flock to the field.  We will continue to educate ourselves about the importance of soil health and the steps needed to improve the soil, we hope to be stewards of the land and be available to assist others who too decide that soil health is a top priority.


  1. If anybody wants to improve their soil and make it more productive, then they should must needs to do soil testing of their soil. Because, soil testing process will help to know that what should needs to our land for getting effective production from it.

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  2. thanks for your thoughts everyone - it all helps... we are leaning towards a dark splashback (not quite black) more charcoalish with a bit of sparkle... probably put that in first the look at what wall colour but I will definitely look at all of your suggestions, so thanks again

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  4. Surface texture, permeability of soil, depth of soil to bedrock, slope, erosion hazard, surface runoff, shrink-swell of the soil, water table, flood hazards are the soil factors. Before gardening test your soil. Dig a small hole in the soil,Fill the hole with water,Insert the tester into the mud, Hold it for 60 seconds,. A pH of 7 indicates neutral soil, A pH above 7 indicates alkaline soil, A pH below 7 indicates acidic soil. Take several measurements in different spots of garden
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