09 July 2010

High Nutrition Gardening: How I got started

OK, I've explained why I got started in high nutrition gardening. But how do I get my gardens started?

Here's the drill:

I double-dig the garden bed and put in large amounts of amendments and then spend the spring, summer, and autumn foliar feeding and creating “cow poop soup” to use as a nutrient drench, both weekly.

Double digging means I dug a hole about two feet deep, and then put in my amendments, alfalfa meal, composted manure, blood meal, bone meal, kelp meal, rock dusts, and whatever else came to my attention in my research.

I used a container that was about a gallon liquid measure to measure the major amendments (one container of alfalfa and one of manure) then
I put in about a 15 ounce bean can of the mix of other amendments. I added some shovels full of soil and mixed it as best I could, then did it again until the hole was full.

(I saved the leftover soil in a heap to use later for potatoes.) I then cover the bed with a thick layer of compost.

The double digging is very labour intensive but only needs to be done once -- it frees up the soil so that the roots can move down into it very easily, and it ensured that when they get there, they'll find welcoming soil. In subsequent years, I put down the amendments and dig them in to the top few inches of soil, then cover them with compost. (Of course, I also never walk on the beds. If you walk on the beds, it will need to be done more often as the soil compacts.)

I wrote about "cow poop soup" here. These days I also add a little boron and some molasses.

I use Peaceful Valley Brix Mix and Neptune's foliar spray liquid to spray the leaves of the plants one evening per week whenever it's cool enough. The first year, that's all I used, but now I am also experimenting with adding other things like vitamin C powder and hydrogen peroxide.

(They are especially receptive in cool humid weather. When it's over 80 or very dry, the stomata of the leaves close to reduce moisture loss and they can't absorb the nutrients. ) There's a lot out there on the web about why foliar feeding is so amazing and how and why it works -- it was verified at MSU 50 years ago. I won't try to explain any more than I have because the science confuses me. But it works!

In the days after a nutrient drench and a foliar feed (I usually so them on successive days, most often the weekend) we are rewarded with massive growth and once the season starts, we see quite a bit of new fruit setting for several days after a feed.

So far our Brix readings have been mixed. The total brix percentage hasn’t been wonderful, but the extreme fuzziness of the readings suggests a well nourished plant with a good mix of nutrients -- the low-ish readings may simply be due to one thing that the plant is missing for superb health. Now I can experiment using feedback that won’t require waiting to taste the produce. With my new refractometer, I am able to branch out into experimenting with more single nutrient experiments. (Silica, calcium, magnesium, oxygen, etc)

I can use them in the nutrient drench or in the foliar spray and see how the plant responds. If they like it (the brix increases) I can keep using it and add it to next years soil food. If not, the soil is probably providing plenty.

At the moment, I am still trying to assemble a list of single nutrients the soil could be deficient in and the best sources for those. I have a lead on a book that explains how to use weeds in your garden to diagnose the soil's condition. Once I find a copy, I will be better able to decide where to start with single nutrients.


  1. Could you post more about the things you use for foliar feeding? I was curious and googled them. I think I found the Brix Mix, but not the Neptune's one.

    I noticed that the Brix Mix has malt as an ingredient. I am curious if there are any concerns about that leaving gluten residue in your garden that could get onto food that you eat.

  2. I use Brix Mix Powder: http://www.groworganic.com/item_F235_Brix_Mix_Powder_3_Lb.html

    Brix Mix liquid: http://www.groworganic.com/item_F240_Brix_Mix_Liquid_Quart.html

    And Neptune's Harvest Organic Fish/Seaweed Blend Fertilizer: http://www.organicgardengrower.com/neptunes-harvest-organic-fertilizer

    I also have been adding Trader Joe's vitamin C powder and dime store hydrogen peroxide.

    I wouldn't be too worried about the malt on thing like squash and tomato leaves. We are able to use it on our greens, but that might depend on the level of sensitivity...though we find that it washes off very easily even next day. (Mostly it's all been absorbed by morning.)

    As to being left in the soil, we grew wheat last year (just before we found out about Rod's celiac), and we still find seed heads in the soil, so I'm not too worried about malt. ;)

  3. Oh, and the Neptune's Harvest is available at DTHG, on Ashley and Liberty, and they have the seaweed version, which might suite you better. ;)

  4. One other point, Valerie, by the time the plant has digested the malt, it is hopefully broken down into its basic components........ it wouldn't be safe to eat anything if I were to be concerned at that level, however the point you make about residue in the garden is a valid one, however I'll wager there are lots of bugs out there who really LOVE malt.....


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