Discuss humus, microorganisms, micronutrients, etc

Lynnwood, WA(Zone 7a)

First, as gardeners, we try to understand NPK, then we start learning about micronutrients, composting and vermiculture, and mycorzhial (sp) fungi, microorganisms, compost tea, biochar, bokashi and more. My head is spinning with the possibilities and potential before me. I have an aerator for worm casting tea, and EM1 and Bokashi and cowboy charcoal for biochar. Of course I have composting going on and seaweed and fish fertilizer and boxes and bottles of organic products and so on. Attending to everything well is beyond my abilities, time wise. Prioritizing seasonally is my challenge. How do you mentally organize?

Glenwood Springs, CO(Zone 5b)


I have the highest certification in wastewater treatment and I have found that wastewater treatment is very similar to what goes on in our soil.

If you provide the proper soil + organic matter, air, drainage, N-P-K, micronutrients (greensand is good), the base level microorganisms will be happy and productive breaking down raw nutrients and complex organic matter.

There is a limit in population & speed at which micro organisms can naturally break down raw materials in the soil. In wastewater treatment we greatly accelerate this process by introducing oxygen, watching N-P-K & managing microorganism populations.

One of the keys in this whole scheme is nitrogen. Nitrogen can be washed out of the soil, it can be emmited as gas and is generally very transitory. Deriving nitrogen from slow release sources is what you must look towards. A slow, even supply of nitrogen from the decay of organic matter in the presence of oxygen is best in maintaing a healthy stable population of bacteria which forms the basis of soil ecology.

Here is the link for an excellent article on seasonal nutrient balancing;

I found this article to be a great help!


Lynnwood, WA(Zone 7a)

Thanks it is most helpful to me to frame my thinking in terms of nature's ways. I appreciate someone else doing the science and putting that information in practical form. The more I read the more complex it can seem but in practice what I am doing is trying to mimic nature on my little plot.

Always looking for a KISS-keep it simple sweetheart

Phoenix, AZ

Too much for me. I just compost everything. I don't use anything chemical if I can help it, including pesticides.

Charlotte, NC(Zone 7b)

I've never figured out whether a plant takes up what it needs when it needs it, or has to take up what's there whether it needs it or not.

I do know that if you give seedlings too much fertilizer they don't do well.

I garden closer to what meisgreen said. Compost, with added organic fertilizers used in accordance with package directions. No pesticides. If I want my food drenched in pesticides I might as well buy it from the store and skip all the hard work :)

patti47 asked:

How do you mentally organize?

Patti, my hubby sometimes asks me what I have planned for the garden. I always give him the same answer: "I'm making it up as I go along!"

Admittedly this isn't very helpful, but I tend to garden by instinct. I watch the weather forcasts. I smell the air. I feel the earth. When it feels "right" I plant, or fertilizer, or water, or whatever my instincts tells me to do that day.

For instance: I usually sow broccoli around the end of July, but the temperature had been in the 90's for weeks and looked as though it was going to stay there for many weeks more. My instincts told me that sowing seed this summer would be useless because the broccoli would quickly bolt. I did not plant a 2010 fall garden.

I wish I had a crystal ball, because then I could "mentally organize" my gardening chores, and life would be so much easier :)

Phoenix, AZ

Honeybee, I'm a seat-of-the-pants gardener, too. Would be starting toms soon if I wasn't planning on moving soon (I hope). But the weather is fickle - we've been in the 60's & 70's since Thanksgiving. Days before Thanksgiving we had freakish cold weather that took down so many plants. Now, because of this beautiful weather, everything is coming back again and here we are forcasted for 3 nights of freeze and a high only in the 40's at New Years. Wow. I'm going to have to cover everything that popped up and I didn't want to cover anything this year. Yuck.

Lynnwood, WA(Zone 7a)

Meis and Honey you both make me laugh cuz I too, by nature, am a very "by the seat of the pants" kind of gardener. I do, and believe in doing, whatever strikes my fancy. Like if I have a task like moving a bag of ferilizer out of my truck I might instead, for the next hour, be found weeding somewhere along the way. Gardening is a pure pleasure when you just follow your heart around. That's how it feels to me anyway. I forget about time and enjoy myself. And I hum as I go.
And still, in the back of my mind I do have thoughts about what I might best tackle next. There are things on my "list", ya know? I constantly break my little assignments about what I do "next" but I'm definitely working on my list.

Phoenix, AZ

Not good for long term planning, tho. And because I don't own the house I live in I just haven't put much effort into putting anything really permanent in except a fig and some roses. One day, I'll plan. I'm sure I'll will. lol

Lynnwood, WA(Zone 7a)

I think a vision is something a little different from a plan. I'll bet you have a vision even where you are not the owner. I'm not an owner either. I garden my sister's yard, by her grace. She doesn't want to. I have no idea how long this will last. But in the meantime, I want to grow to the max. This winter that "growing" isn't visible-it's all in the soil. If it turns out that my beautiful living soil becomes someone's beautiful lawn some day, so be it. Meanwhile, I am feeding those billiions of creatures and no matter what the future holds, that's a good thing.

Charlotte, NC(Zone 7b)

patti47 -

If it turns out that my beautiful living soil becomes someone's beautiful lawn some day, so be it.

I've told my daughter that when her daddy and I are no longer here, this house will be hers. When I started removing the Burmuda grass, she said: "Hey, stop digging up my grass!" I gave her one of those looks, and told her that putting back a lawn, was much easier than taking one out! I also mumbled something about "Anyone putting in a Burmuda lawn aught to be shot!"

I like your "vision quest" Patti - may I borrow it?

meisgreen - good luck with your move. I hope the weather is more conducive to vegetable growing wherever you go.

Brady, TX(Zone 8a)

oh, honeybee, my sentiments exactly about [email protected]%#$&%*muda grasssss. Hate it!

Charlotte, NC(Zone 7b)

TX_gardener - I don't know if you followed the saga regarding the Burmuda grass I removed from my yard. My next door neighbor was always complaining that grass would not grow in her front yard - so I gave it to her! It looks so much better there! There are concrete barriers between the grass and my front yard (her and my driveways) - no way did I want that stuff creeping back into my space.

Unfortunately, my neighbor on the other side has some Burmuda grass that creeps into here. I think it originally crept from my yard into hers, and then back again! I have kept a two foot pathway along the fence so I can keep digging it out.

My "hate" for this grass is right up there with Kudzu!

Phoenix, AZ

Thanks, Honeybee, but its an in-city move and the best I can hope for are cooler microclimates during the summer and warmer ones for the winter LOL.

Bermuda grass - I can't BELIEVE that this stuff hasn't gone completely dormant this year. We're suppose to be in the 40's during the day and the 20's at night the next couple of days so maybe that will do the trick. A little weather sterilization.

Brady, TX(Zone 8a)

I doubt it -- bermuda can take anything anybody can dish out! I solarized a patch under 4 mil plastic for weeks (months?) -- not a dent. Can't believe people actually plant that stuff. I might prefer kudzu (guess I shouldn't say that out loud)...

Alexandria, IN(Zone 6a)

I find that since I retired and have had more time to devote to gardening, that things have evolved from making looser soil with better drainage to adding compost, horse manure, different fertilizers, MycoApply micoreehzae , charcoal, cover crops, and now reminerlization.


Lynnwood, WA(Zone 7a)

Thanks Indy-I just read every word of the first 10 pages of that article. I have to stop now but I intend to finish it. I'm hooked. What are you doing with this information, practically speaking?

Alexandria, IN(Zone 6a)

I have gotten some Azomite from Fedco Seeds...tooo lazy to drive 80 miles away to a dealer.


Glenwood Springs, CO(Zone 5b)


Thank you very much for the azomite website! I have been using greensand which is pretty pricey to ship. Come to find out there is a source for Azomite right here in the Roaring Fork Valley of Colorado. That blows my mind. There are lots of people who talk all this organic talk in the valley, but virtually no sources for any of the good organic soil building supplies.

Again, thanks! This will help immensely with the next soil building project.

BTW, I am a very organized gardener. With the scope of the projects I am working on, if I am not organized it could cost me a lot of cash.

Lynnwood, WA(Zone 7a)

Indy I thought about the information on minerals that you linked all day and was going to come back here and ask you about azomite. You were ahead of me. Thanks so much for your very helpful information. I got a response to my question about azomite in Beginner Vegetables and got the same link for suppliers.

Phoenix, AZ

Pew, are you a professional farmer/landscape designer? Yes, being unorganized can get expensive if it costs you your livelyhood. With me, it works well because its the way I roll with my hobby. And as I don't spend much money at all it works out well for me.

Glenwood Springs, CO(Zone 5b)


I have been transforming the lot that my house sits on into something that one might see in Sunset magazine, (I hope ;)). Something that is easy to take care of, looks really inviting, is peacefull at the end of the day and brings pleasure to others. All of this has taken time & money, they are inversely proportional.

I figure I have brought in nearly a million pounds of dirt over the past couple of years. It is good that I know how to operate excavation equipment otherwise everything I have been doing would cost to much. A mini trackhoe costs $285 for a day with delivery & pickup. Unless you know exactly what you want to accomplish you are pretty much wasting your money & time.

I am now at a point where I am making soil out of dirt. Pretty soon I will be able to get to the fun stuff and do some major planting! The azomite is one of those things that I needed for making soil out of my clay dirt. The soil recipe is roughly 28% strained clay, 42% coarse sand, 15% peat moss & 15% acidified cotton boll compost along with Dr. Earth #7 4-4-4 and azomite, (Instead of greensand which is $$$).

Take a look at the end of this discussion thread where I include pictures of the terraced garden bed that I created. Because I had put in the street landscaping first, I had to handle all 75,000 lbs. of material by hand. Not only did I get bursitis in my elbows, I burned a lot of vacation time. I think all the work will pay off when I plant this Spring! :) http://davesgarden.com/community/forums/t/1125790/

This message was edited Dec 29, 2010 5:15 PM

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