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MM lab analysis April 2015

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MM lab analysis April 2015

Post  boffer on 4/26/2015, 4:23 pm

(for comparison, see lab results from August 2011.)

I didn't spend as much money on seeds this year as I anticipated, so I thought I'd spend it on  lab tests facilitated by my Conservation District.  

TEST 1

This is a traditional soil test.  The sample was taken from the soil where I've grown nothing but corn for the last 6 years.  I've amended the native soil with a minimum of 5 way compost each year.  

Two years ago, I noticed a paling of the lower leaves late in the growing season, which I interpreted as nitrogen being depleted.  For last year's season, when I renewed the compost, I added bloodmeal.  The plants stayed greener throughout the growing season, but I didn't notice a change in harvest quality or quantity.  I decided to try it one more time, and  I added bloodmeal again when I prepped the boxes for this season.  This is the sample that I submitted.

Analysis Report for corn boxes:


Summary of the report by the Conservation District representative:
A quick look sample #3 shows that you have a very high organic matter at 25.0%.  This is well above the normal range for our local soils.   The Phosphorus (P) is at 84 ppm.  That is in the range that I like to see it.  We want it above 20 ppm but below 30 ppm.  The Potassium (K) is at 501 ppm.  That is a high level.  The K should be between 150 ppm and 200 ppm.  The Calcium is low and Magnesium is medium.  The prefect Calcium to Magnesium ratio is 7 to 1.  Your Ca to Mg ratio is 7.7 to 1.  This is very good.  Your Calcium is reflected in a higher soil pH.  With a soil pH at 6.5 the soil is right in the middle of the good range.   Plants like it best with a soil pH between 6.0 and 7.0.  The Cation Exchange Capacity is in the upper end of the range..  This means it has a very good ability to hold on to cations.  The Nitrate nitrogen is at 258 ppm.  Nitrate is water soluble so it is always low this time of the year.  258 is off the charts high.  This is much more nitrate than is needed to raise a crop.  Do not apply any additional nitrogen.  The Sulfur is also high at 76 ppm.  I want it to be between 12 and 20 ppm.  

You are not lacking in any soil nutrients.  In fact with most of the elements you have excess nutrients.  This area will grow whatever is planted on it and at this time about all you can do is attempt to farm some of these nutrients out of the ground.

Looks like I won't be adding bloodmeal next season.

TEST 2

This  sample is from the new MM I made for this season.  It is a basic test for greenhouse growing mediums.  Secondary minerals were not measured.  

Analysis Report for new MM, 2015 season:



No summary was provided by the Conservation District.

The results are comparable to those I received in 2011, with two exceptions.  The nitrogen is even lower than the marginal amount measured in the 2011 tests, and sodium is higher than optimal.  

I'm not sure what to make of the low nitrogen.  Most everything I'm currently growing is looking and behaving in what I consider a normal, healthy manner.

I suppose the high sodium is from using more than 20% manures in my compost.  It should easily flush away in my good draining TTs.

TEST 3

This sample came from my carrot box.  This is the 8th year in a row that I've grown nothing but carrots in this box.  I've always had a good carrot harvest.  The sample was taken after amending with 7 way compost for this season.  Some squares in the box were already planted, and growth so far is normal.

Analysis Report for MM in carrot box, 2015 season:



No summary was provided by the Conservation District.

I now have multiple deep boxes to choose from, so I'll move my carrots to a different box next year.  






The numbers are interesting, but the bottom line is whether or not I'm satisfied with my harvests.  With the exception of problems caused by leaf miners and cool, wet summers, I've always been happy with my harvests grown in MM, and will continue to amend with just 5+ compost sources.

I've tried a few controlled experiments on a small scale with the addition of azomite, fish emulsion, blood meal, or bone meal on different plants.  Other than a slight greening of the plants, I've seen no other benefits.

I'm not concluding that those amendments are without value.  However, I have re-inforced my own decision that amending with compost is the best gardening method for me because messing around with additives is too much work for this lazy gardener.  

To be fair, my experiments were probably poorly conducted because I added the additives at planting time, and that was that.  I paid no attention to, nor do I have any interest in mastering the use of them, to include:


  • What to add
  • When to add
  • How much to add
  • How often to add

Plus, sufficient advance planning to set up control plants.  

Too much work! I'm happy to leave that stuff to row gardeners.
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Re: MM lab analysis April 2015

Post  CapeCoddess on 4/26/2015, 5:28 pm

Very interesting... Shocked ...yet strange. I agree, if it ain'broke, why fix it.
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Re: MM lab analysis April 2015

Post  Mikesgardn on 4/26/2015, 9:04 pm

Thanks for the post.  I agree with your sentiment that amending with compost is fine for us lazy gardeners.
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Re: MM lab analysis April 2015

Post  boffer on 4/26/2015, 10:34 pm

After reading the ANSFG book, people have different reasons for trying SFG.  For me, the idea of growing in compost turned on the proverbial  light bulb.    After all, humans have been growing plants in compost for thousands of years.  

In contrast, the use of chemical fertilizers dates back to the mid-twentieth century; call it 75 years.  From what I can tell, they still don't have all the bugs worked out.

In my opinion, once a person finds reliable sources for quality compost, the hard work is over and done for good.
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Re: MM lab analysis April 2015

Post  camprn on 4/26/2015, 10:54 pm

Great post! Thanks for sharing!

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Re: MM lab analysis April 2015

Post  sanderson on 4/27/2015, 3:54 am

Yes, Boffer. Thank you for sharing.

Did I read somewhere that chemical fertilizers (compared to compost) are hard on worms and the micro-organisms in the growing medium, whether dirt or Mel's Mix? I think I did but didn't bookmark it. Anyway, worms seem to thrive in compost so I will stay with Mel's Mix.

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Re: MM lab analysis April 2015

Post  Kelejan on 4/27/2015, 9:10 am

I should imagine it would be interesting to do a comparison on the effect on worms, compost v chemical fertilizers.

Anyone out there with an analytical mind?

Must ask Bentley of www.redwormcomposting.com; he likes getting people to do experiments.  I am in the middle of doing a 2-worm bin test to see how many worms are produced over a period of time.  So far I have two worms that started out at 3/4 and 1 inch long, are now about 3 inches and 4 inches long and reached puberty but not yet produced eggs.
Hoping for eggs next time I check and then baby worms.
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