This week we took the week off from school. We spent less than an hour doing school work and that was quick lessons in math. I spent a lot of time feeling guilty and behind. That is, until I looked at what we DID do.
Instead of sitting in our desks, we spent the whole week gardening, planting, testing the soil, amending the soil for the things it was depleted in, adding compost and building hoop houses. Cyan took a whole afternoon to convert a quick bread recipe into muffins and made a double batch of those to eat while watching Bill Nye the Science Guy on Smell and Senses. And yet, there were multiple times I had to pull myself back from the abyss of frustration that I couldn’t find the time in there to make sure they got their spelling lists memorized or we didn’t ever finish the coyote lapbook.
This week for my youngers was in sharp contrast with what my oldest was doing only his second month in public high-school. He spent the whole week doing HSPB testing to make sure he wasn’t ‘left behind’. I don’t begrudge the schools for making sure that their system is pumping out kids that can read and write. In fact, I appreciate it. But it’s just that. A system. A manmade solution to an organic process. The contrast between what society thinks kids need to learn and what they really will use in their adult lives has always been a point of issue for me.
Anyhow… on to what we learned this week:
Cyan read the instructions for all of the tests (three of which were the same, and one was different), and she did the whole process all on her own. Our discovery was rather remarkable:
PH Seems to be fine. The level is slightly acidic, but most plants that are planted this early (brassicas, lettuces, and other green leafy vegetables) like a slightly acidic soil. I will add lime and compost later to bring the acidity level to neutral so that my later plants stay happy and healthy.
Phosphorus: There is none. Phosphorus helps the plant mature and supply fruit. If the soil is depleted in phosphorus the plants will mature late and have small or no fruit and flowers. To get the levels of phosphorus in my garden high enough for good growth I added bone meal to the top 6 inches of the soil and mixed it in well. For continued supplementation and hopefully long term solution I am adding lots of organic compost.
Potash/Potassium: There is none. Potash is important to overall plant health and helps in the process of photosynthesis. To add more potash to my garden, I am adding a dusting of wood ashes and some commercial organic potash for a short term solution for the plants that are starting to grow right now (peas, onions, and kale). Then, on top of that, I am adding lots and lots of organic compost for a longer lasting solution to fix the potassium in the soil and release more slowly over the season.
Nitrogen: OFF THE CHARTS. This must be the chicken bedding we added to compost on the beds. My guess is that they ate everything of ‘green’ value (which would provide the other nutrients as well) and then pooped out the high nitrogen fertilizer. Too much nitrogen will cause my plants to grow VERY quickly and very green. Too quickly to let them get strong. It will also cause the plant to use all of it’s energy in making leaves, and too little into making flowers and fruit. To alleviate this issue, I am going to add wood chips to the top of the boxes after my plants are in the ground (and after I add the rest of the supplements, including the compost). The breakdown of the wood chips will bind some of the nitrogen making what is left available to the plants in smaller amounts.