Red_clover_(1) (1)A whole soil is a fertile soil

Like us, a living soil needs adequate nutrition to grow and thrive. Plants and soil bugs all need a balanced diet of nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, and the other essential nutrients.

With time, a living soil and a natural garden can grow and recycle most of the nutrients it needs. To get started, though, soils might need some help from us.

What is Whole Soil Fertility

Whole soil fertility is the way we make sure that the soil is fed. Instead of relying just on soil tests and fertilizer calculations, whole soil fertility takes the whole picture into account.

Whole Soil Fertility is a step-by-step tool to figure out fertilizers

A soil test can’t measure the living soil. Whole soil fertility simply helps to fill in these blanks, so we can give our soils  the best possible diet – not too much and not too little fertilizer to grow gardens that are just right.

Here’s the quick and dirty on how we do it.

1. Look-up how much nitrogen our garden plants need in a year.

2. Figure out what is in the mineral soil from a soil test.

3. Estimate what nutrients are in the living soil.

4. Find a fertilizer to match the difference between what we have and what we need.

5. Watch your gardens to see if you got it right. Healthy garden plants will tell you how good your whole soil fertility estimates were. Make fertilizer adjustments based on the real dirt you see.

Whole Soil Fertility Worksheets

Whole Soil Fertility Worksheet

Whole Soil Fertility Instructions

Other Helpful Worksheets

A little estimation goes a long way for Whole Soil Fertility, but it’s not always easy. It’s hard to pinpoint the exact nutrients that organic matter, cover crops, and organic amendments contribute.Recently, some handy tools have been developed to help us get better and better estimates for our cover crops, organic fertilizers, and manures. For growers who really want to go the distance in pinpointing their optimal whole soil fertility needs, these other useful worksheets can help.

Organic Fertilizer and Cover Crop Calculator (Oregon Small Farms) 

For the complete how-to on Whole Soil Fertility, see my book: Building Soil: A-Down-to-Earth Approach.