Monday, October 27, 2014
Soil Testing and Learning What I Don't Know
The scariest thing about going from hobby gardener to farm owner is that I feel like I need to know things now. Things that I don't know. In fact, I don't even know what I don't know.
Right now if my tomatoes don't come up, I say, "that sucks," and move on with my day. Last year when a groundhog ate my entire garden, I was upset. It was wasted work, but at least I could go to the grocery store.
At the farm, things will be different. Because we are hoping to grow and preserve more food for ourselves and also sell our harvests, the trial and error approach I'm used to taking is less practical.
So right now I'm learning everything I can. I'm talking to organic certification specialists, conservation specialists, and I'm looking for experienced farmers willing to answer dumb questions.
I've signed up for a two-day bionutrient workshop. It's probably important to mention that last week is the first time I heard the term bionutrient. This course is supposed to teach me how to analyze soil samples, naturally enrich the earth, and have a productive growing season.
This means, of course, that I need to get the soil tested. Which means I needed to collect soil samples. Which means I needed to learn how to collect soil samples.
After a call to my local Agway, some online searching, and watching a helpful video from Rutgers Cooperative Extension, I loaded up the truck and Jeff and I headed to the farm.
We spent the afternoon going from field to field. We moved top soil, dug down six inches, and collected samples in a bucket. After collecting multiple scoops from a single field, we mixed the soil in the bucket to get a representative sample, filled a sandwich baggie, and labeled it. Then we repeated this process in each of five fields.
Then we played a little dirtball baseball. Because we could.
My next step is to fill out some paperwork and ship the samples off to a testing facility. When the bionutrient workshop rolls around, I'll learn how to read the reports and how to act on the results. I hope.
I almost let not knowing how to test my soil keep me from signing up for this workshop. Thankfully I ignored that fear voice and realized the point of going to the workshop is because I don't know. I need to learn.
And I will. I will keep going, keep trying, keep asking. I will learn how to farm.