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Valley Oak Tool Newsletter: Soil Testing and Rocket Stoves

Posted by David Grau on


   Inyenyeri is a pretty amazing non-profit organization which is providing very low cost super efficient home cook-stoves and locally produced fuel pellets. The impact in cleaner indoor air, less charcoal burning, and breaking the cycle of energy poverty is something to behold.

Check out their website:

                                                    Weekly Gardening Tip : Soil Testing                          


     Yes, you should get a test, at least once. Find a lab in your part of the country, and print out their instructions. Here is a link to instructions for collecting your soil sample from Peaceful Valley Farm and Garden Supply:
     I don’t know which lab they use. Back when I was farming, I used A&L Western Labs, and that may be the company they use. You can also check with your state agricultural extension office. I would recommend the more complete soil test, which through Peaceful Valley costs about $50.
     A complete test, with recommendations and the graph is going to tell you about soil pH, major nutrients (N,P,K) and micronutrients. The cation exchange capacity and the levels of sulfur and magnesium can be important, both for soil texture issues (as in, how to loosen a tight clay soil with gypsum), and for improving the taste and nutritional value of your crop.
Sure, adding compost is great, but you might need some rock phosphate, or some limestone (for acid soils) or some gypsum (for alkaline soils) Perhaps your boron is too low, or too high. You can only know this from a professional soil test.
     A separate question, is what kind of soil to use for starting seeds in flats. Don’t just get a potting mix without nutrients. The plants will run out of nutrients and turn yellow. But if this happens, don’t do something stupid like adding some bat guano. I did this once and burned up 72 tomato starts in a seedling tray.
     You are growing food for your health, among other reasons. Nutrient dense foods are the result of planting in balanced soil. Not deficient, and not excessive soil nutrients.
More to come next week…..
David Grau
Owner & Operator
Valley Oak Tool Co.
Book Review: The Hoophouse and Greenhouse Grower's Handbook
by Andrew Mefferd
     We are seeing more and more vegetable production in hoophouses, including in climates where it might not seem necessary. I know two farmers here in the Chico area who are growing quite a bit of their lettuce and other vegetables in hoophouses. If you read Andrew Mefford’s new book, you will understand why.
     Andrew is growing vegetables in inland Maine, certainly a challenging climate, where season extension makes perfect sense. But he clearly explains the case for greenhouse and hoophouse production in almost any climate. There is a lot more to raising crops in structures that just erecting a building. This book lays out the details (with great color photos).
     Take advantage of Andrew’s seven years experience working for Johnny’s Seeds, as well as his own learning through trial and error. Anyone considering hoophouse or greenhouse production should get this book.
Book Review by David Grau
Owner & Operator
Valley Oak Tool Co.
Purchase Book
Magazine Review: Growing For Market

It is worth mentioning that in addition to farming, Andrew Mefford is not only the author of this week's reviewed book, but also the editor of Growing For Market,a magazine every small vegetable or flower farmer should be reading! You will find first rate highly relevant articles and resources that will more than pay for the cost of the subscription. Crop productionmarketingCSAs, issues with organic certification, farm record keeping,
it's all there!
Check it out:

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Happy Gardening!

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