Soil Science

Innovative Organics & First Amendment Soil

 

Our Intent


To educate and empower you with the most cutting edge thinking in Applied Soil Science & Engineering.  If we are doing our job, after interacting with us, you will know better how to design and make your own soils or request that we do so for you.  We are building bridges between people and plants, knowledge and time.  We hope that a stop by our website or shop will save you time, effort and direct your conceptual thinking in the right direction.  If you have been looking for a philosophically aligned Soil blending partner you have found the right place.

 


The 3 Modes of Soil Enrichment

  • Days – This is the most familiar mode of Soil Enrichment known to the aggressive grower.  You “Feed” your plants.  You can provide chemicals or amendments to the soil or foliage that provide a quick response over hours or days.  These are often well formulated fertilizers or soluble natural products such as bird/bat guanos, soluble minerals, etc.  One can also increase the beneficial decomposer microbiology with a compost tea or active topdressing of microbes.  These microbes can then provide a burst of accelerated release of the amendments that were previously locked up in the soil.

 

  • Seasons – This is the most familiar mode of Soil Enrichment known to the modern Soil Builder.  We take the finest of organic amendments, blend them to proportion and add them to a media mix, which hopefully has a focus on Soil Structure. These amendments are often “reasonably” available, meaning that they are broken down by microbes over the course of the growing season or the season prior. Components like Blood Meal, Bone Meal, Fish Meal, Alfalfa Meal, Kelp Meal and more fall into this category.

 

  • Years – This is the most familiar mode of long term Soil Enrichment to the high end outdoor gardener.  We take various amendments which are known to be slow to break down and blend them in increasing quantities to achieve an ever stronger backbone for Soil Enrichment.  Ingredients like Oyster Shell, Crab Shell, Green Sand, Limestone, Basalt and more fall into this category.  They are far slower to break down via natural decomposition, but are also known to provide a wide variety of needed plant enrichment.

*Many ingredients overlap between categories and this can be strongly influenced by the Modes of Soil Structure and Soil Utility Modification as described below.


The 3 Modes of Soil Structure

  • Aggregate Properties – The Aggregates in soil are the actual particles or chunks of material you see in a soil. Most soils have a variety of Aggregates, each of which can have different properties.  Some important properties are rate of decomposition, water retention, air retention, rigidity, shape, size perhaps even color and smell to be appealing to the user.  Some of the most fundamental in-organic Aggregates in soil are Sand, Silt and Clay – the particles that make up the Soil Texture spectrum.  Native Soils, those which have been scraped from the Earth, often have high levels of Sand, Silt and Clay in different ratios.  Premium Potting Soil tend to have less or none of these Aggregates, replaced by components like Peat Moss, Coco Coir, Perlite, Rice Hulls, Rock Dusts and more.

 

  • Pore Space – Soil Aggregate particles stack together to make voids or Pores which are filled with air, water, biological activity and roots.  If properly formed or designed, these Pore Spaces become breeding grounds for beneficial microbiology and promote aggressive root development.  Any cultivation or minor disturbance of the soil combined with gravity typically reduces pore space. Proper Aggregate selection and combination can make Pore Space more durable.  Worms and other organisms can create new pore spaces and their presence is often considered an indicator of good soil health.  Soil can be tilled, turned or replaced; but this will often cause a significant disturbance to the rhizosphere or soil root zone.  These may be desired in the case of commercial greenhouse rotated crops or may be undesirable in the case of progressive indoor or outdoor living organic soil operations.

 

  • Enrichment – Soil Aggregate particles can and often are temporarily or durably enriched with organic matter.  This organic matter can play many roles including plant enrichment, nutrient reaction catalyzation and buffering. Buffering is one benefit of using living organic soil with high levels of enrichment, structure and utility. Buffering is the process of minimizing or isolating effects and in many cases metering them back over time.  Proper Soil Formulation will provide an appropriate level of buffering plant nutrition, soil moisture, nutrient pH and more.  For us, enrichment also involves the process of engineering the Natural Amendments to wield their powers, providing the appropriate proportions of different materials that are known to decompose at respective rates over time to provide the desired results.

The 3 Modes of Soil Utility Modification
(This Section Under Construction)

  • Organisms – microorganisms, worms, animal compression
  • Carbon Sources – Composts, Castings and Bio Char – providing longevity
  • Air & Gases – Last, but certainly not least – positive microbes, O2 to the roots

*Note overlap and tie between amendments, structure, microbes and oxygen – that is what makes what some call “Living Soil” or what we simply call Soil.


Soil Mixes relative to Soil Formulation

  • Price/Volume Driven Soil Mixes – These are mixes often found in large garden centers and big box stores.  They are dominated by restaurant and lawn compost, outdoor production and inconsistent performance. They are likely to have low levels of long term feeding, unless enriched with chemicals, they are often overly dense with minimal pore space which ultimately limits beneficial microbiology.  You will not catch us making such mixes, simply because they are poorly formulated.
  • Modern Amended Soil Mixes – These are mixes that are often found in Hydro or Grow Stores, they are often higher quality and utilize varying levels of more exclusive natural amendments. Some of these soils, including a number of our retail soils, have given much thought to designing Soil Structure and thus, often have some level of Soil Utility Modification in the form of added microbes and carbon sources.
  • No Till Soil Mixes – These mixes incorporate a heavy focus on the multi-season feeding ability of the base soil. They do this with high levels of slow to break down amendments combined with biochar, rich worm castings and occasional top dressings. Soil Structure can be variable, but is often heavy based on the high levels of heavy materials in the soil. Pumice, Rice Hulls, Lava Rock and/or Growstones® are often used in place of perlite to provide more structural durability over time, as perlite is easily crushed over time. No Till soils mark high on the beneficial Organism and Carbon load, but can sometimes lack in Air exchange due to density, which can be addressed in Soil Formulation with more creative Aggregate choice.
  • Inert Mixes – These mixes are low in enrichment, by design. They are meant to be used in conjunction with added fertilizer programs. Soil Structure is paramount and is the primary focus of such mixes. Soil Utility Modification is primarily left to the grower, again by design, with the exception of Soil Structure. Inert mixes are all about Structure, plain and simple.
  • Soil Builders – These are mixes which address missing attributes in existing indoor or outdoor soils.  They could include higher levels of natural amendment enrichment to address a deficiency or increased levels of Soil Structural components to address soil density or drainage issues.  The attributes can change based on the needs of the operation.