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Micronutrients and veg gardening

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  • Micronutrients and veg gardening

    So my wife and I are starting a vegetable garden this spring. Starting small, with the basics (like tomatoes, squash, bell peppers, carrots, etc). One thing I am curious about is fortifying the soil to make sure that the micronutrients aren't depleted. How does one go about replenishing things like selenium in the soil?

    I just don't see organic fertilizers, compost, etc, as doing a sufficient job of replenishing micronutrients. Any ideas?


  • #2
    Egg shells?

    They have a lot of minerals. Not sure about the exact amounts, probably depends on what the hens ate.


    • #3
      what makes you think organic wont replace micronutrients? what you are talking about are minerals. organic methods such as composting leaves and plants will put minerals back in the soil.


      • #4
        Composting absolutely will replenish micronutrients, far more effectively than other methods.

        Any plant matter, egg shells, coffee grounds, in they go. Grass clippings, deciduous leaves, boom. Look for earthworms and drop those babies into the garden to do their magic. Mulch with biodegradable materials (grass, leaves) to retain water and add more organic material to the soil. There's a strange and wonderful alchemy that occurs when your garden is full of compost and free of harsh pesticides and fertilizers. Worms, bacteria, the long and ghostlike mycelium of mushrooms, all cook up a brew that your plants will thrive in, and the produce you pick will be full of goodies. Don't over-think it.


        • #5
          Where do the minerals et al come from? I mean, if I am using coffee grounds, the majority of minerals has likely been depleted from them from the steeping process. Minerals don't (as far as I'm aware) spontaneously combust get created. The eggshells may have some, but that would come from the chicken who gets it from the food that is likely mass produced (even if organically) which has less minerals in it. Circle of death...

          Or maybe I'm just completely wrong about it.

          I mean, I add trace mineral drops to our water. These minerals come are dug up out of the earth. Hence I know where they come from. But with gardening, well, has me confused.

          I'm not trying to be confrontational, just understand the process of replenishing the soil.



          • #6
            Coffee grounds will not lose everything in them just because they were steeped. All organic matter from leaves to egg shells will have minerals in them. Worms will eat and excrete this organic material, this process will unbind some of those minerals. Having multiple types of plant material will allow the worms and microorganisms access to their own chemistry set. It will allow them to create nutrition for living plants that can't be replicated in any lab. You can buy mineral supplements for your soil in the form of lime and rock phosphate. If you have access to Seaweed, add to the compost pile, rinse excess salt off first. Algae from lakes. I also use the water and algae from my turtle tank.
            I hope this helped.


            • #7
              One thing I have learned from years of gardening is that we make it too hard on ourselves. The best thing you can do for your garden is to leave it alone, mostly. Maintain a thick layer of straw on it, put some compost on it and let it all stew undisturbed just as it would in nature and your soil will be beautiful. The less you disturb it, the better for the soil. Right now, you should have your soil tested and do amend it if it needs something, but after that, feed it with compost and straw and leave it alone.

              Also, you should accept that no matter what you do, some things are going to die. Every year, we get a bumper crop from one type of plant and at least one other just totally fails or doesn't do anything worth mentioning. Last year, it was crucifers that were a total waste of space, but our tomatoes were amazing while everyone else' tomatoes died off.

              Don't over think this. You will drive yourself crazy trying to follow some method exactly and your wallet will be a lot thinner. For instance, you could buy a compost starter to put in your compost pile in order to get it going right, or you could put a shovel full of dirt on it occasionally. There is nothing in the compost starter that isn't in a shovel full of healthy soil. I have never once bought a compost starter and neither do I worry about how much brown or green matter I put in it or in what order it goes in, I just put in yard waste when I have it and kitchen waste when the bucket gets full. I only turn it over once a year when I add leaves to the pile. My compost is beautiful when it is done. Do a search on how to compost and you will get lots of articles telling you precisely how much and what kind of material to put into it and that you should turn it over often and what temperature it needs to be and.... It doesn't have to be difficult. Just do it.

              I have even stopped working hard to start a garden. Instead of double digging, in the fall I lay down a layer of card board, put a couple of inches of compost on it, then put a thick layer of straw on top of that. By spring the grass is dead and the soil is rich and loose and ready for planting.

              I recommend reading The One Straw Revolution which is a sort of Paleo guide to food production written well before the organic movement began or the paleo diet was even thought of. I picked up another book called something like Gardening for the Aging, the Indigent and the Lazy written back in the 50s or 60s which has been a great influence on me. I will get the exact title and author if you are interested (it is at home).


              • #8
                Not sure about the exact amounts, probably depends on what the hens ate.


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Primal Pamme View Post
                  ...lots of neat stuff was here...
                  Thank you, that was a great post! If you could get the exact title of the gardening for people like me book, that would be terrific!



                  • #10
                    I was totally off on the title. It is Gardening Without Work: for the Aging, the Busy, and the Indolent by Ruth Stout. It is a great read even if you are not a gardener.


                    • #11
                      Deep rooted weeds (over here the prime example being comfrey) pull up minerals from below the normal level our crops reach - so cutting and composting these replenishes the soil. So does human urine
                      Perennial crops develop greater root systems so theoretically should be more nutritious than annual veg.
                      Seaweed is a good mineral mulch, some people use "rock dust" but I'm not convinced.
                      Planting legumes means nitrogen is fixed from the air (there are other kinds of nitrogen fixers too) by bacteria in root nodules.
                      Finally the mycorrhiza of fungi can transport nutrients amazing distances (see the work of Paul Stamets if interested).


                      • #12
                        The problem of depleted minerals in soil is mostly confined to areas of heavy agriculture. If the land your garden will be planted in has been residential for a long time, it should be fine. If it was commercial farmland, it may be depleted.

                        That said, if this is your first year of gardening, go light on adding an fertilizer, if any. You will know right away if your soil is poor by the way your plants sprout, grow, and look. For instance, if you plant corn and it is stunted or has purplish leaves, that can indicate a lack of nitrogen and phosphorous. It's easy to find info on-line pertaining to this.

                        You probably have a cooperative extension service in your area, they usually provide free soli sample kits you can use to see specific deficiencies in the soil.

                        Most commercial garden fertilizers contain only N-P-K (nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium), which is usually enough to provide suitable crops, but some places also have fertilizer with NPK, plus sulfur and other organic compounds such as blood meal, feathers, bone meal, fish, etc... Those are the ones I use.

                        You can really build your soil up nicely over a few years. Buy some redworms, or find your own to put in the garden. Recycle every scrap of vegetation you can into the soil, don't use any pesticides or weedkillers, and plant some cover crops in late summer that are known to boost nitrogen, like buckwheat or field peas.

                        In choosing vegetables, I'd like to give a shout-out to the purple foods...potatoes, carrots, lettuce, cabbage, etc... These have way more antioxidants than the standard colors of these veggies and are considered more healthful in general and can't usually be bought in stores. Have fun!