One of the most anticipated times of year for gardeners is Spring, with the attendant planting season. Everything is new and fresh; a chance to start over and improve on last year’s garden. A big subject and one that causes no end of concern, worry and frustration to gardeners is what to do with the soil to prepare it for planting. If you have been reading our articles over the past several years, you know we advocate building the health and vitality of the soil in a natural, biologically safe manner. Soil becomes healthier, more productive, disease, weed and pest resistant. It results in an upward spiral where the garden gets better year after year.
Here is a unique recipe for a Spring garden elixir that is easy to mix, completely non-toxic and hugely beneficial to jump-starting your garden’s soil in getting it ready for planting. It comes courtesy of Crop Services International, who has over 35 years experience in helping growers accomplish their goals. They provide a Non-Toxic/Biological/Sustainable approach to growing food, from a full scale commercial farm to the home gardener. We are currently studying “The Non-Toxic Farming Handbook” that they wrote to educate ourselves more on improving our knowledge and approach.
This recipe is based on a 20′ x 50′ garden, or 1000 sq. ft. Make the adjustments for your garden size.
Spring Garden Soil Elixir
2 to 4 weeks before your local planting date, apply the lime to the soil evenly with a spreader. Then spread the compost evenly on top of the lime.
Mix together in a 5 gallon bucket-
- 20-24 oz liquid fish fertilizer
- 1/2 cup molasses
- 1 16 oz bottle of cola – NOT DIET!
- 2 12 oz cans of beer (!)
- 1/2 cup of Borax powder
- 1 qt cranberry juice – make sure to get 100% cranberry juice, not a dilution
- Mix well with a stirrer and thin with enough water to enable mixture to be sprayed with a tank type or hose-end sprayer.
- It must be noted that the sprayer cannot have been used to spray any chemical treatments like herbicides, pesticides, etc. as this will put those chemicals onto your soil, killing the microbial life in the soil and feeding the chemicals to the plants, where you wind up eating them!
- Apply the mix evenly over lime and compost base with sprayer. If needed, go back over with second application to use up all of the batch, just make sure to apply evenly.
- Broad-fork or lightly rototill garden soil. If using a rototiller, don’t go more than 4 inches deep at the maximum. Most of the biological growth happens at the 2-3 inch mark and the soil is turned over an inch or so beyond what the tines reach. Tilling deeper only destroys microbial life in the soil, setting you back in your efforts to create and build biologically active soil.
Buy a 50 lb bag of high calcium lime (calcitic limestone or calcium carbonate) from your local garden center. It needs to be high calcium lime with as low magnesium as possible. 5% or less is great, up to 10% is acceptable, but nothing over 10%. A higher magnesium percentage causes a release of nitrogen in your soil, greatly decreasing its fertility. It also overloads both the chemical and biological processes of soil. Do not buy Dolomite lime, as it has too much magnesium. High calcium lime is best for soils at a pH of 7 or below. For soils with a pH of 7 or higher, use gypsum (calcium sulfate).
When purchasing the fish fertilizer, if you can find one that also has kelp or seaweed, even better. If you want the absolute best fish emulsion possible, brew your own! Read the “Best Homemade Fish Emulsion” for the recipe and instructions.
Blackstrap molasses is best for its increased mineral content. Unsulphured is preferred, but not absolutely necessary. One of the best sources of inexpensive molasses is a feed store that supplies horses, as it can be bought by the gallon for much less than at a supermarket.
100 lbs of rich, well-rotted, seasoned compost to add to garden soil. This can be purchased or from your own compost pile.
Do not buy diet cola, as the Aspartame/NutriSweet used as the sweetener acts as a chelating agent, meaning it ties up the minerals and nutrients in the soil making them unavailable to the plants. (It also does the same thing in your body!) The cola has Phosphorus to add to the mix along with sugars.
The beer adds B vitamins- no, not vitamin Beer!
The Borax powder adds Boron, one of the most important elements in the biochemical sequence of plant growth.
Once you have applied the elixir and broad-forked or lightly tilled the soil, get your garden planning and seedlings ready. We have another planting elixir to use just after planting the seeds and transplanting the seedlings into the garden that we’ll share with you: in a gallon milk jug mix – 1/2 cup of fish emulsion, 1 tsp sugar (preferably raw or brown) and 1/2 cup of cola, fill with water and shake well. Apply over seeds and transplants. Each gallon will treat approximately a 50 foot row.
This is a great start towards sustainable, biological agriculture in your own garden. Remember, though, it is just a start; a good step in the right direction. To continue to make progress in knowledge and in soil health, you need to find out where you are starting from. Do more reading, ask questions and get a complete soil analysis, not just the NPK and pH soil tests that are widely offered. Spend the $50 or so and find out exactly where your garden soil is at, and then you will be able to make sound decisions on where you want and need to go. Then you won’t be guessing and shooting in the dark, trying to do what is right but not really knowing if you are making positive progress.