Gardening is two parts dreaming and three parts doing, says expert horticulturist Donna Balzer.
Feb. 26, 2016 | Donna Balzer
Mineralize your soil to grow better foodA sneak peek into this year's Home & Garden Show
If you could grow healthy lettuce with the same protein value as steak, would you? After all, according to Steve Solomon, author of The Intelligent Gardener, it's possible to grow lettuce with 20 per cent protein simply by mineralizing your soil.
Solomon mocks garden writers, myself included. He says, in a long and thorough way, most of us do not replace the minerals in the soil at the same ratio we take them out when we harvest plants.
So I decided to test my soil recently, and I got some bad news.
My problem is I am afraid to pollute the soil with excess fertilizers, so I add only natural ingredients like compost and worm castings. Solomon, who used to be an organic farmer, says compost is not enough. The soil system is broken and compost alone will not put our humpty dumpty soil together again. Solomon also points out that fixing soil is not as simple as adding commercial fertilizers, because many have only three main ingredients – nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium – and plants need more, in a predetermined ratio, or the result is chaos.
That was the situation I faced after my overly cautious efforts to minimize fertilizer in my greenhouse led to an entire kale crop vanquished by cabbageworms. My soil test confirmed I had been starving my plants and not balancing my minerals – and the stressed plants were attacked and demolished by opportunistic pests.
I don't want a bug outbreak this devastating again, so I will continue adding compost and worm castings. But I will also start adding complete organic fertilizer (COF) to replace the minerals withdrawn from the soil every time I pick a leaf or pull a potato.
Solomon's book has also inspired a new Mineralize Calgary study group, currently working on a Calgary-specific COF recipe.
Gardeners don't have to become vegetarians, but if you mineralize your soil and start growing steak-comparable high-protein greens in your garden, you will save a lot of money eating less meat. You will discourage pests, build softer soil and grow healthier plants.
Want more information? I will be presenting at this year's Home and Garden Show in Calgary, speaking about how to "Change Your World One Cabbage at a Time" Feb. 26 and 28. Handouts at these CREB®Now-sponsored presentations will include a Calgary-adapted COF formula for gardeners to trial.
And just in case you didn't hear about it, I'll also be addressing the cauliflower crisis because the two plants are kissing cousins – or, as Mark Twain advised, "cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education."
Donna Balzer is an enthusiastic gardener and entertaining speaker. Sign up for her blog feeds at www.gardenguru.net or follow her on Twitter @NoGuffGardener.