Patti Pitcher Presentation
by Gary Kline
Thank you for the invitation to speak to your group. As some of you know, I was here, with Suzanne, a year ago to talk to Patti’s group, so I call this the Patti Pitcher Presentation. My plan is to speak from my text first and have you ask questions later.
Earlier this year when Patti talked to me about coming back to talk she said everyone would want to hear more about growing nutrient-dense food. In other words, the interest is in fertilizing and preparing one’s soil to get the most nutritious food. But I think if we extend the reasoning a little further we realize this is really about health and achieving superb health through proper diet. More and more, people are realizing that the best way to assure you get the most nutritious food is to grow or raise it yourself, and that, of course, hinges on getting the garden soil in the most fertile status and best condition you can.
How to do that? Well, the best way to proceed is with a professional soil test and applying the soil test- prescribed materials. You can have someone who is trained in soils and fertilization do that for you, or you might do it yourself following one or another guidebook, and I’ll suggest a couple that I have some knowledge of - - - and I’ll have to say, was instrumental in bringing about. [HOLD UP BOOKS] The first one is The Ideal Soil by Michael Astera. The second one came out in January 2013, written by Northwest gardening guru, Steve Solomon, and is titled The Intelligent Gardener: Growing Nutrient-Dense Food. If you read and understand Solomon’s book you’ll have pretty much all you need to know.
But there is a simpler and more generic way to gardening for nutrient-dense food production, which does not require you to read a book or get a soil test - - - and we have to thank Solomon for that approach, which is to make or buy a complete organic fertilizer blend to be used along with quality compost or aged manure for conditioning and fertilizing your soil. There are some new wrinkles that go with that, which I will get into as we go along. And actually, I’d say those new wrinkles take us up a notch from what I discussed a year ago.
But first, I want to point out the importance of supplying nutrient minerals in all of this. And, secondly, I will point out that Steve Solomon’s latest fertilizer recipe - - - and perhaps his ultimate and final one - - - can be found on pages 84 and 85 in The Intelligent Gardener. I gather he also went back and inserted this recipe into recent printings of Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades. Thirdly, I will point out that I have developed a pre-blended version of the more potent and mostly “organic” type materials in Steve’s recipe and named it “Cascadia Gold”. Also, I just happen to have several small bags of “Cascadia Gold” here to sell. [HOLD UP FERTILIZER BAG]
Now then, I want to shift gears and take you on a ride through the cosmos that ends by coming back down to Earth. My purpose in doing that is to give you a big picture and a background understanding of how this all came about and what I see as going on in nature and through evolution that integrates the fertilizer formula and the principles behind professional soil testing with the course of the cosmos. My purpose is to show how we are on the beam and close to realizing how this fits a universal plan of what is meant to be - - - which is to say, why it works. There is a wholeness here. What fits with the whole goes with the greater flow, and what doesn’t fit does not have the support and acceptance of the larger system. Another way to say this is that these nature-based methods and materials work so well because they always have and are part of a grand design. That design has been millions of years in development, testing and refining.
It’s all about nutrition and nutritional balance, which translates to health and that translates to thriving and to surviving over the long haul. Nature and the cosmos appear to have a direction and a plan to be carried out. We could call it a health plan. If you get with the plan, you go where it is headed and the ride is smooth. If you don’t grasp the plan and get with it, you drop out as an individual and as a race or a species. In other words, if you garden all wrong, or your food growing methods and farming are all wrong, you can not be healthy and you will degenerate. Degeneration is the opposite of being, or becoming, healthy. A majority of Americans today have, or will have, at least one degenerative disease condition. If there is a way out of it or around it, it is through a diet high in nutrient-dense foods. Why? Because that’s the plan.
I came across a short statement, written about 1950, by one Roger Bray of the University of Illinois (source: Hands-On Agronomy, p. 59): “Nutritious food depends on the chemical properties of the soil. This means that either we have to fertilize plants scientifically for the production of food adequate for survival, or we reduce our world population by the slow process of starvation, until finally we reach a balance with nature’s way of doing things.” That statement kind of sums up what I am saying about the necessity of getting soil fertility right in order for us to survive in good health.
The cosmic health plan of which I speak takes in both food and natural medicine, with food being your best medicine, in the words of Hippocrates. All we need to do is discover what the plan is, how to plug into it and carry it out. The plan is meant for all living creatures to find and follow. We are agents in that plan’s unfolding, and the plan is intended for us to conform to, along with all other living things.
Part of nature’s plan has already been completed in that the oceans long ago reached a state of perfect fertility and nutritional balance in support of the health of all the creatures that dwell in the marine environment. In the marine environment, where every bucket of water is practically the same as every other in nutrient content, there is no disease or detectable deterioration with age, except where modern humans have intruded to degrade the ocean environment. The land is a very different story, and we terrestrial beings are handicapped, and more so since the invention of agriculture and synthetic chemicals.
In the terrestrial environment no two square feet or any cubic foot of soil is exactly like the next, and the variations from one region to the next can be extremely different in physical and chemical make-up. The same is true on the vertical plane. The nutrient content, as well as the kinds of biota, is entirely different going from topsoil to subsoil to bedrock. Every garden is different and each corner differs from the others. If there is just one best or perfect nutrient make-up, as with the ocean, how could we hope to make every farmable soil and every garden an “ideal soil” nutritionally and structurally for growing the healthiest, highest quality and most nutrient-dense produce or livestock? Yet, that is the challenge, and that is, in essence, what we need to do to maximize everyone’s health. The thing is that I think it can be done, for all practical purposes.
Out in the stars and galaxies there are just 92 elements comprising everything, and all but one has been found on Earth. That one is surely here too. I think there is a universal plan of health and a universal formula for fertility that can grow almost any crop or animal to perfection, including we undeserving humans. The lands that are naturally infertile, the lands that have been degraded, we could upgrade and restore. And, should we do so, we might partially redeem ourselves for all the insults and assaults we have inflicted on the planet and its inhabitants. All we have to do is discover nature’s secret plan, decode it, add the appropriate nutrient and conditioning materials (including microbes and earthworms) and create that universally ideal soil for growing superb food and medicines. I think we are rapidly getting to where we know how to do this, and we can surely accomplish it for your garden, your orchard or pastureland. Different crops may need and select different nutrients, but we just set out the right buffet and they each take what they need.
About now you are asking yourself, where did he get this screwy, preposterous idea of a universal soil fertility formula? I confess, it is not original. It came from a 1993 book titled Hands-On Agronomy, authored by soils consultant Neal Kinsey, and co-authored by Charles Walters, both of whom, like me, are disciples of the great soils scientist, Dr. William A. Albrecht. However, Charles Walters is deceased, and that happened just after Michael Astera published The Ideal Soil in 2008. If you look at the front page of Michael’s book you will see that it is dedicated to Charles Walters and yours truly.
In the first chapter of Hands-On Agronomy (pp. 8-9), Kinsey wrote the following statements, which I consider to be highly revelatory and trailblazing with regard to establishing an essentially universal formula for balancing nearly any soil’s fertility and physical condition in order to grow practically any desired crop for food, forage or fiber. The message this conveys for achieving a singular ideal soil composition I consider truly profound, and, in fact, the world’s most important message.
Bear in mind, at the time of writing (1973), that Kinsey had consulted for hundreds of farmers in 42 states and 22 countries. Here’s what he related:
“Whatever the crop in the production sequence [be it] corn, soybeans, rice or wheat – these generally can be grown in the same soil without too much trouble. - - - clover, alfalfa, sugar beets, sugar cane, vegetables, citrus groves, pasture grasses, trees, flowers, or turf grass, all will grow best in the very same soil. That soil is the one which contains all the necessary nutrients we know to test for in the proper relationship to every one of the other nutrients. A soil that grows the very best corn will also grow the very best alfalfa - - - top quality blueberries grow in the same soil as the very best corn.” Wow!
I counted several other mentioned crops Kinsey undoubtedly treated by this approach. In his opening bibliography of Kinsey (on page viii), Walters wrote, “All of these crops helped to demonstrate that supplying the correct fertility to achieve a proper balance worked in all types of agriculture.” Think how easy that makes things. It’s now as simple as ABC. And ABC means, simply, getting the right amount, balance and completeness of nutrients in your soil.
Using seawater extract (Sea-Crop) and a variety of marine waste products, plus lime (usually), we can bring back the missing minerals that long ago were leached from the land to enrich the ocean. Plus, with biochar, we now have the means and the knowledge to keep those minerals in place for our entire lives and the lives of numerous generations to come. I find this all exhilarating and revolutionary news. Now we are talking real sustainability for our agriculture, and I see us as poised to leap right into it. Interest in nutrient-dense food for health’s sake is growing rapidly. There is real hope for civilization’s and the planet’s future. I would never have said this ten years ago.
Once we visualize and connect to the cosmic plan, then we suddenly see why we are here and the mission of mankind, which is to restore and extend health to the whole planet and resurrect the paradise that was Eden. Arguably, all land surfaces were once underwater and started out fully mineralized, but erosion took much of the minerals away and we humans are tasked to bring them back and create a full and balanced soil fertility. You could say this gives us something to do and work toward. When you have paradise, then you realize there is nowhere else to go; nowhere better to be, and so you can rejoice in being home and being on the cosmic health plan. If there is heaven in the hereafter, that’s frosting on the cake. Health and happiness is all any of us really need or should desire. So, get with the plan.
What we seek then is the ideal soil, displaying perfect nutritional balance, much as has somehow - - - as if by plan - - - arisen in the ocean. We are very close to figuring out precisely what the formula is for that, although it calls for different proportions and treatments in any given location or soil area. And it should be obvious that, in most cases, we have to go outside the immediate area to bring in the missing or deficient minerals for creating the correct balance. Nevertheless, the term “balance” in this connection is a very specific and precise thing, which I will illustrate according to where our present knowledge stands.
What we presently know is that 19 or 20 of the universe’s 92 elements are required for healthy plant and crop growth and also to feed the critically important soil microbes. A half dozen more are necessary for human growth and health, and plants can take those up as well so that we get them. Most likely, science will discover that dozens more are actually needed, and it may be that nature has found a way to weave all 90 or 92 into the nutritional ecosystem of life. Did you know that each of us needs a little arsenic in our diet for good health?
This business of nutrient balance is highly complex with respect to the dynamics of nutrient interactions, which can be illustrated in what’s known as The Mineral Wheel (Click here to see Wheel Diagram). However, we need not worry about that if we get our simple ABC’s right. It’s all taken care of.
With respect to soil treatment and nutrient balance, it is important to understand that some elements are needed in multi-ton quantities per acre, whereas others are needed in almost undetectable amounts and it is still in balance. In connection with plant nutrient balance, I have prepared a crude little diagram using coin sizes to give proportional amounts of different nutrient elements and have the 20 elements total a dollar on each side of a balanced teeter-totter. [SHOW BALANCE DIAGRAM] I’ll come back to explain and discuss the diagram later.
What this diagram illustrates is the complete array of known nutrient elements in balanced proportions. What is missing is the dimension of amount. Applying a complete and balanced fertilizer (or fertilizers) doesn’t do much good if you don’t put on enough. Therefore, amount, balance and completeness are the ABC’s of correct fertilization to get the soil in what I contend is the universally correct or ideal status according to the cosmic plan unfolding over the eons. What’s further amazing about this balance is that given some time, the pH of the soil will automatically adjust to the ideal level of 6.5. And, when you think about it, the analysis of soil lab data by an analyst implies a universal formula to which all different soil parameters are matched and adjusted. What we do is throw in a little Azomite or Sea-Crop or kelpmeal to make sure we have some of every element that may be needed, and often this makes a spectacular difference. Applying glacial rock dust is also a good mineralizing option, or use all four for greatest completeness. (Click here to see Plant Deficiency Symptoms)
According to my ABC theory, this fertility balance diagram also illustrates the direct correspondence between ideal soil nutrition and optimum human nutritional health. If you were to take a human being in excellent nutritional health, raised on this ideal soil, put him or her in a blender and push “puree”, you would get a slurry that has exactly the same nutrient make-up, and that person would make an excellent fertilizer, but don’t try this at home. (Click here to see the Composition of Vegetation and Comparative Soil Mineral Composition)
Out of the 20 known plant nutrient elements, just four of them may be regarded as “organic” and the rest (except perhaps the six noble gases) are thus inorganic and minerals. Those four organic elements all derive, ultimately, from the atmosphere, and they are carbon, oxygen, hydrogen and nitrogen, which spell out COHN. Carbon, oxygen and hydrogen are necessary to make carbohydrates and various forms of organic matter. Nitrogen is needed in addition for plants or animals to make protein, and there is no life without proteins; whereas humans have no proven need to consume carbohydrates. The rest of the elements (16) may be regarded as minerals, which all derive from the ground. So, feeding the soil and plants calls for both organic and inorganic elements in order to grow and be healthy. This I refer to in the concept of mineral-augmented organics. So many conventional organic growers have simply failed to get the mineral message.
Mineral-Augmented Organics, a term that I coined around 1998, although descriptive, is admittedly a mouthful. I have gotten to where I cringe every time I hear the word “organic” because it almost always fails to carry or convey the other essential half of complete fertility and complete nutrition represented by essential minerals. Minerals are at the core of enzymes, and without enzymes we are stone dead. Probably, we are stuck with the term “organic”. Thus, realizing I am never going to get popular organics or organiculture modified to include the mineral concept, I came up with an all new and more appropriate name to replace organics, and that term is Nutriculture. That, too, is a less than sexy name, but when I compare it to terms like natural or biological farming, I think it conveys far more meaning. So, Nutriculture it is and it is almost synonymous with nutrient-dense food. Organiculture is a term, an outmoded concept, and almost a cult that is hobbling advancement in terms of understanding correct fertilization and nutritional completeness in our food. Henceforth, whenever speaking to me, you will cross out the word “organic” and insert “nutriculture”. (click here to see the article entitled "Fertile Mulching: Why It Works So Well")
So, now let me try to boil this down to practical measures you can take to achieve or increase nutrient-density in your garden produce. What I have said is that there are two ways to deal with this comprehensively and intelligently or in light of current intelligence. I refer to these as the scoped-rifle and the shotgun approaches. A professional soil test is like a scoped rifle in that you hardly can fail to hit the bulls-eye. The shotgun approach uses a complete, mineralized fertilizer that is perfect for no one’s garden, but generally satisfactory for everyone. You probably won’t hit the bulls-eye, but you should at least hit the target. There are advantages and disadvantages to either approach, depending on your situation. (click here to read "Practical Applications of Black Lake Organic Products")
We are shooting for the highest nutritional quality, which can be measured using a refractometer to get the BRIX score as an indicator of both sugars and mineral content. Therefore, money, or your initial cost, should not be the determining consideration because we are talking about medicine that is going to hold down doctor and hospital costs and give you more years of vibrant health. Yes, you can buy health, by preventing unhealth, and lord knows we are living in an unhealthy era and unhealthy societal situation where the number one killer is our “modern” healthcare system; and what passes for food is leaving people chronically malnourished. However, the problem is at least as much due to soil mineral depletion as it is to destructive commercial processing.
Dr. Maynard Murray, author of Sea Energy Agriculture (1976), did the pioneering work in the 1940s on ocean minerals in relation to animal and human health and the use of sea salt and seawater in growing vegetable and fruit crops. Arthur Zeigler, the maker of Sea-Crop and author of Seawater Concentrate for Abundant Agriculture (2012), dedicated his book to Dr. Murray and took his principle inspiration from Murray. [HOLD UP BOOKS]
Here is what Murray, as quoted on pages 9 and 10 of Zeigler’s book, had to say about the connection between soil minerals and human health and the need to return minerals from the sea to restore those lost from the land.
“My research clearly indicates the reason Americans generally lack a complete physiological chemistry is that the balanced essential elements [minerals] of the soil have eroded to the sea; consequently, crops are nutritionally poor, and the animals eating these plants are, therefore, nutritionally poor - - -. We must alter the way we protect our plants from pests and diseases, and the way we process our food.”
Let me interject here that this is the essence of what Dr. Albrecht had to say in his hundreds of articles and research reports related to soil fertility and health. The fact is that building nutritional health or nutrient density in plants goes a long way toward preventing and eliminating insect pest and disease problems. It is claimed that if you get a very high BRIX reading in a crop, you will have absolute pest immunity. Think about that. Toxic pesticides are completely unnecessary under nature’s cosmic health plan. Everyone needs to sign on to the plan.
Back to the quotation. “He [Murray] theorized [that] the apparent difference in disease resistance and vitality between life on land and [life] in the sea is due to mineral deficiencies in our soil and our food. He visualized an endless cycle wherein continents rise from the sea rich with minerals. The constant effects of climate: freezing, thawing, rainfall and erosion, combined with mankind’s historically poor stewardship of the land and increasingly acidic rain cause topsoil minerals to go into solution. These mineral solutions [then] enter streams and rivers that subsequently flow into the sea. Dr. Murray concluded that these minerals hold the key to human health and that it made perfect sense to recapture them and restore them to our soils.”
The word is out; the evidence is mounting. To reach a status of highest quality, home-grown food, we have to get beyond ordinary organic methods and we should take the fast-track to creation of not only the “ideal soil”, but the sustained ideal soil, which means reduced fertilization, conserving mineral nutrients, higher productivity, reduced pest and disease troubles, less watering and a bonus of contributing to carbon sequestration. What I’m referring to, of course, is incorporation of biochar to your soil. In order to do that, you first have to charge the char with minerals and other nutrients. A second consideration is how much biochar to incorporate. An optimum amount would be 10 percent by volume, but smaller amounts have a beneficial effect, and where cost is a substantial concern, one might add one or two percent annually for half a dozen years. This needs to go on all around the world. It would be the best investment society could make in monetary savings, peace and societal stability into the future. (See "Biochar in Gardening")
Biochar can be charged in several ways. One of the simplest ways is to run it through your compost pile by adding up to 25 percent of beginning volume. But if you choose this method, I recommend fortifying the compost with our Compost Fortifier Mix (BLOOM No. 10) to give it a range of minerals, plant and animal meals, and beneficial microbes. A second way is to soak the char in urine that you collect. A more conventional way is to soak it in an 8 percent Sea-Crop solution for two weeks before applying to your garden. This method gives a wide array of trace minerals that will satisfy the raw char’s need to be electrically or magnetically saturated so that it does not initially rob nutrients from the soil.
It strikes me that none of the above charging methods offers the fullest range of major plus minor nutrients you could want the char to have starting out and for feeding the variety of bacteria and fungi you wish to have take up residence in the labyrinth of micropores that char provides. I recently learned that unlike clay and humus (to a lesser extent), which provide negatively-charged sites to attract and hold cation minerals, biochar provides these, plus positively-charged sites to attract anion elements that otherwise tend to be rather easily leached out to below the root zone. These include nitrogen, phosphorus, sulfur and boron that usually require regular replacement. To address both these needs for a more complete supply of all known plant nutrient elements, plus some, I concocted a special brew that we have named “Bio Charge”. [SHOW BIO CHARGE BOTTLE]
Liquid “Bio Charge” contains several goodies: Sea-Crop Ocean Mineral Extract, lignite, liquid fish, liquid kelp, molasses, cider vinegar, beneficial bacteria and fungi, humic acid, solubor boron and EM-1. It comes in a one-gallon jug that is just the right amount to charge a 1.33 cubic foot or 10-gallon bag of fine biochar particles. You put this bag of char in a barrel or tub, pour in the Bio Charge solution, then add a couple cups of water and slosh it around in the near-empty jug to pick up any residues and remaining liquid brew, and dump that into the barrel too. Stir all this well and let the char stand for two weeks to get fully saturated. After sitting two weeks, you can spread the charged biochar over your garden site, till it into the top six or eight inches, plant seeds or starts as soon as you wish, and get superb production. A suggested rate of application is one-half inch on 64 square feet, but you can use less and perhaps apply smaller amounts annually for perhaps five years. I brought a photo of my own raised bed growing vegetables in a urine-charged biochar-enhanced growing media.
I think you will have been ahead to do a standard full-meal fertilization of the garden area prior to adding the charged biochar, perhaps using one of Black Lake Organic’s BLOOM fertilizers and lime, as needed. In fact, the new Solomon blend I named “Cascadia Gold” will be BLOOM No. 11 and is probably ideal for this purpose. This “Cascadia Gold” blend has an NPK rating of 3-4-1 and carries Steve’s endorsement, as expressed on the front label. I brought along several 5 and 10 pound bags for you to purchase today if you wish and they are also available by mail.
I point out that Steve put a lot of research into this latest formulation and I suspect it will not be substantially changed in any future books he writes on vegetable gardening. In addition to the “Cascadia Gold” bags, I also brought along some bottles of Sea-Crop and the amazing pro-biotic from Okinawa known as Effective Microbes (EM-1). [HOLD UP SEA-CROP AND EM-1]
So what am I trying to accomplish here? A year ago in June, Black Lake Organic was at the Mother Earth News event in Puyallup. For that event I had written some special leaflets and I’ve brought along copies. One of those leaflets was titled “Terra Preta in Cascadia?”. For those who don’t know, that’s a mind-blowing story of an ancient and now vanished agricultural society in the Amazon basin that had created an essentially permanently fertilized soil using charcoal augmented with a variety of organic materials. That’s what I see as the wave of the future and, frankly, a major ingredient of sustainable living and the savior of civilization, here and nearly everywhere. This Terra Preta formulation will enable us as individuals and a society to have a truly sustained agriculture and food supply system for centuries to come. That’s the aim, and biochar is the key component in this abundant future that I have christened “The BLOSSOM Era”. I’m looking for recruits to the campaign to bring in that long-awaited revolutionary era. (Click to see "Entering the Blossom Era: Concepts and Products for Achieving Real Sustainability")
I point out that the Terra Preta soils, which fed millions of people for perhaps 6,000 years, until European diseases wiped them out, were created without the benefit of a single soils laboratory or soils analyst. We don’t know how haphazardly or methodically they went about this, or how well they understood what they were doing. We only know that it worked very well. They created highly fertile soil that no doubt grew maximally nutrient-dense crops and livestock from ground that ordinarily was highly infertile. If they could do it, why not us? Nevertheless, I still recommend getting your soil analyzed at least once as the best basis from which to most accurately, and perhaps most economically, create that “ideal soil” in which to grow the most nutrient-dense garden produce or raise the best and healthiest animals possible. The “ideal soil”, augmented with charged biochar, is the holy grail for achieving nutritional health. And by the way, I’m told the word “holy” actually means health.
© 2014 Gary L. Kline
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