I admit I was concerned about this one. Normally tests aren’t a problem for little Miss Clever-Clogs here, but this one required years of study, some experimentation in the lab, and more than a pinch of intuition. And it was the kind of test that if you failed it, you’d have to do some serious remediation before you could take it again and expect to achieve better results. So I’m happy to report that all my cramming evidently has borne fruit: I aced my soil test.
You are seriously underwhelmed, aren’t you?
Yeah, OK, I didn’t get into Harvard (congratulations, Malia Obama!), nor did I qualify for a stint on the International Space Station or have one of my books nominated for an award. But, by jeezum, I grow a pretty darned good garden soil, and I have the test results from the Soil Testing Service at the University of Maine to wave under people’s noses to prove it.
Which I probably will not do. Modesty is becoming in such situations, I understand.
Oh, for years I talked a good game, seeming knowledgeable about pH levels, greensand, Epsom salts, seaweed, and the efficacy of various types of manure from cow flops to bat guano. People admired my tomatoes, zucchini, and rainbow chard, my raised beds, and the tower-of-power that is my compost pile, and I basked in the glow of their praise. But there was that little voice sometimes in the wee hours or the weeding hours, the insidious Worm in my Garden of Eden that wanted to know why, if I was doing everything right, the ends of the young zucchinis rotted before they could grow, or why the tomatoes just didn’t look as lush as they should. Had I dug in enough seaweed, or too much? Had the wood shavings mixed in with the manure made the soil less able to hold water long enough to do my plants any good? Had I done something horrid to the hard-working soil by dumping the ashes from the pellet stove on it in the winter? Was I a fraud for thinking I was a pretty good gardener, while all the time, under the soil, Something had gone seriously wrong?
It might easily have done so, after all. I have grown vegetables in the same seven raised beds for a quarter century or more. That’s a long time to draw nutrients out of the soil if you aren’t putting back the right stuff to replenish it.
The past three seasons, in particular, gave me the uneasy sense that something wasn’t quite right. It’s true that the weather’s been wonky, all over the place, really, and weather is always what I blame for poor crops or credit for good ones. What if it wasn’t the weather, though? Determined to get some answers, I picked up a soil sampling kit offered by the local Cooperative Extension. Continue reading