Restoring Soil Fertility To Your Garden
Many gardeners, including those who had very good yields in the past, now complain that the yields are on the decline. All this is happening despite the use of chemical fertilizers which have been used for years. There are a few lucky gardeners who get good yields with chemical dumping years after year. But in the end, the cycle of poisoning inevitably slows yields.
Soil never provides an unlimited supply of the nutrients to growing plants. Moreover, just adding nitrogen, potassium and phosphate alone rarely gives the desired result and in many cases actually gives the opposite effect. Soil has to be enriched with the nutrients that it is deficient in. Many who have done this have seen good results. Soil sampling then is necessary to test for the nutrients that may be deficient. A gardener with a smaller garden may be able to do a complete soil test. But those with large gardens may find it difficult to do soil tests for the entire garden. All they can do is choose parts of the garden and then do tests for nutritional deficiencies. After testing the soil, the next thing to do is to allocate a budget for the natural fertilizers to be used for the next three years.
Analyzing The Soil – The Albrecht Method
There are various soil management programs available, each one claiming supremacy over the others. The Albrecht Method of soil management is one such soil management program and clearly stands ahead of the rest of the programs. The tests employed assess the levels of nutrients in the soil which in turn reflects the ability of the soil to provide nutrients to the growing plants both in good quality and quantity.
Unlike the other soil testing programs, the Albrecht method measures the levels of various nutrients in the soil and their ability to provide the best yields. If the yield is good, it indicates that the nutrients supplied are adequate and optimal. The Albrecht method involves measuring the levels of these nutrients in the soil, interprets them and provides advice regarding optimal levels of natural fertilizers and nutrients.
Also unlike other soil testing methods, the Albrecht method quotes higher levels of trace elements like zinc, manganese and copper. Though others may say, that the levels quoted are in excess, they are in fact deficient. This method also quotes the requirements both in terms of minimum and maximum quantities.
It is said that adding a particular element to the soil makes some other element unavailable which is already present in the soil. The newly added element can exert its effect only after some other element is displaced from the soil environment. The element that gets displaced can be tested with a soil balancing test. Soil balancing is essential in improving the soil productivity. Much about soil balancing can be learnt from the book “Hands on Agronomy” written by Neal Kinsey and Charles Walters
All soils are short of some nutrients. An element may be deficient and some other may be in excess. For good productivity, the element that is deficient has to be added and excess has to be removed. Again, the Albrecht method stresses that when an element that is deficient is added to the soil, it displaces the element that is present in excess. The newly added element exerts its maximum effects after the element which is in excess is removed. So the primary aim in soil balancing is to remove the element that is in excess by supplying the element that is deficient.
An excess of nutrients can be just as detrimental as deficiencies to the quality of soil. Correcting the deficiencies of nutrients with natural fertilizers will sometimes correct the excess of nutrients. Though this step does not completely restore the fertility of soil completely, this is always a good first step.
Most chemical fertilizer programs are concerned with feeding the plant directly. The Albrecht model of soil building suggests indirect feeding of the plants. It suggests the best thing to do is to feed the soil first and then feed the plant indirectly from the nutrients made available to the soil. It considers soil as the ‘plant’s stomach’ and that all the nutrients meant for the plants should go initially to the soil only. If the soil is properly enriched with nutrients from natural fertilizers, it will provide the ideal environment of the various biological processes to take place in the soil which completely decompose the soil residues and provide nutrients to the growing plants optimally in terms of both quality and quantity.
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