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Determining What The Soil Needs

Bob Cannard

Growing plants in small urban plots or pots presents different challenges than faced by the farmer in the field. These plots or pots are filled with soils not sharing the benefits of long-term evolution found in the field. Often the nature of these soil is rotten raw mixtures of sands and organic material from few sources and not thoroughly digested and developed.

Plants grown in these conditions are often soft with either stunted or rank growth. Roots often are not finding their needs and become long. It is very important to observe the roots under these conditions. If roots are long, stringy circling the outer sides of the container or bed, indicating a soil deficit. Something must be done if high quality growth is to be achieved.

To test a soil, plant some cabbage seeds in small pots, regularly inspecting roots by removing one of the seedlings from the pot. If the roots run to the edges of the pot and begin circling, a need is present.

To discover the need, begin feeding the potted cabbage seedings and continue to un pot and inspect the roots. Select different elements for food testing, perhaps crushed eggshell tea, herb teas, nitrogen rich protein tea such as cow or soy milk, single ingredient vegetable tea such as carrot peel broth, bacteria rich inoculant (cold process) teas, rock powder water, seashell powder tea, forest soil tea, sugars, starches. Select a record feed and observe root growth response.

When roots fill the pot rather than run around pot edges, the elements needed by the soil to help in its maturity have been isolated and could be used in the regular plant growing areas.

Two general types of roots are found on most plants. Long thin seekers indicate a general discontentment with where they are, and a need to go some distance to get something which is desired. Many branched feeding root masses indicate plants are happily finding their needs at where they are.

Soil systems are live and complex and answer today will perhaps need support tomorrow. Keep trying. Keep finding the need of now and evolve with your soils.

‘Not long ago, a friend introduced me to Bob Cannard, a farmer who has been silently toiling the soil for the last 20 years. Bob is well known in North California. His vegetables is not available in the market as he only supplies to Chez Panises, the most famous restaurant in Berkeley. He also taught organic farming in the University for nearly 20 years. Bob also started the first farmers market in North California, in order to let consumer purchase directly from the growers. In this way, farmers income can be increased and at the same time, the consumers are able to purchase the vegetables at the freshest vegetable at the cheapest price.’