compost

Today we live in a post-modern world. Post modernism is a worldview that completely rejects the status quo but offers nothing concrete in place of what it so soundly rejects. If that sounds like a bunch of gibberish consider two of its crowning achievements; political correctness and “globaloney warming.”

When post-modernism looks at today’s agriculture it quickly rejects toxic pesticides, GMO’s, food irradiation, implanted hormones, and other aspects of industrialized agriculture. I also find these toxic practices utterly repulsive to good stewardship. Unfortunately it is easy for zeal to outpace knowledge. When that happens non-toxic fertilizer are lumped in with the toxic practices listed above and compost takes on demigod status as a panacea for all that’s wrong with farming today.

As a point of reference my focus when dealing with backyard market gardens is the production of nutrient-dense foods—foods with the highest level of nutrition and the best taste. In other words my focus is on destination (nutrient-density) and not on the route I travel (organics vs. biological). My philosophy when making fertility recommendations is to create the right environment so plants can achieve their full genetic potential. The sweet spot to do this is to combine the best of both organic and biological products.

With that being said let's zoom in on compost by asking a foundational question. What is compost? Very simply compost is a tool to be used when needed. It is not the only tool but, when well made, it is a good tool. To be affective it must be part of an array of various tools. Let’s move on. What properties does compost have? This is an important question. Besides providing digested organic matter and microbial activity compost is a potent supplier of potassium and a fair source of Phosphorous. Before using compost ask yourself, Does my soil show a need for additional potassium? If not you may be better to avoid it. Why? Because compost has one glaring deficiency—it is chronically short on calcium and will imbalance the calcium to potassium ratio of soils in short order. To illustrate this point I need to tie two stories together.

Before using compost ask yourself, Does my soil show a need for additional potassium? If not you may be better to avoid it. Why? Because compost has one glaring deficiency—it is chronically short on calcium and will imbalance the calcium to potassium ratio of soils in short order.

Now You See it – Now You Don’t

First story

International Ag Labs is a member of the Manure Analysis Proficiency Program (MAP) so naturally we test our fair share of manure. We also have a lot of customers who compost manure and so we also regularly test compost. It is interesting that when manure is tested for NPK the analysis, depending on the type of manure, averages somewhere around a 1-1-1. That is 1% Nitrogen, 1% phosphate, and 1% potash. When we test compost on average, we also find 1-1-1. This naturally leads me to an important question for which I have no answer. If manure starts out as a 1-1-1 analysis and it is composted somewhere between 50-60% of the volume of compost disappears during the composting process. If the resulting compost analyzes at 1-1-1 then where did all the P & K go?

It is easy to understand that a fair amount of the nitrogen can be lost to the atmosphere but what about the P and K? They don’t volatilize into the air and if the compost was not waterlogged and had some clay added at the beginning of the process very little would be lost through leaching. This is a puzzling question without a clear answer. Here is my speculation: The process of composting manure must radically change the intrinsic properties of compost such that an NPK (manure) analysis does not reflect the true P & K value of compost.

Second story

At the same time I was pondering this anomaly International Ag Labs had a dealer, Duane Headings, who was questioning the validity of a different lab’s potassium reading on their soil test. Consequently he began splitting soil samples and sending half to us. A lot of the soils he sampled were fields or gardens that had been receiving high levels of compost for several years. The other lab results were consistently coming back showing potassium on the high side of adequate but not excessive. Test results from International Ag Labs couldn’t be more striking: On the Morgan test the potassium levels were through the roof. In fact many samples showed more potassium available than calcium. This obvious discrepancy lead to a phone call from Duane and we began comparing notes.

The Bottom Line Is This

Compost, in spite of it’s seemingly low NPK analysis, is a very powerful supplier of potassium. We also learned that not all soil tests can pick up potassium equally—especially if it is being supplied through compost.

With this information in hand we began looking closely at gardens and market gardens that had high levels of compost applied over several years. We consistently found the same pattern: very high potassium, generally high levels of phosphorous and extremely low levels of available calcium. We then asked these same gardeners how their garden was doing. The answers were telling: A lot of bug pressure – It used to be much better – Really poor tasting food – Very low brix levels.

This research lead International Ag Labs to promulgate two new quality indicators based off our soil tests: the calcium-potassium ratio and the calcium-phosphorous ratio. Both should be around 18:1. I have found that if the calcium to potassium ratio is narrow, say at 3:1 or less it is a sure indicator that the garden will not be producing high brix foods until the ratio is widened. Gardens with narrow ratios can still produce abundantly but the food will not be nutrient-dense and the flavor will leave a lot to be desired. While Dr. Reams did not specifically give this ratio he did teach the principle and it is from his desired levels that these ratios are derived.

Interestingly, Dr. Albrecht was quite familiar with this concept and wrote about it. His insight can be found in volume 3 of the Albrecht Papers on page 20. I quote:

Dr. Albrecht

The significant truth that brings soil fertility into control of the composition of our food, and therefore our health, comes out of the facts that in soils under construction by the limited climatic forces, or those with a wide calcium-potassium ratio, proteinaceous and mineral-rich crops and foods as well as carbonaceous ones are possible, and that in soils under destruction by excessive climate forces, or those with a narrow calcium-potassium ratio, protein production is not so common while production mainly of carbohydrates by crops is almost universal.

In the paragraphs following Dr. Albrecht goes on to show that soils with a richer supply of calcium also produce foods with greater minerals, more proteins, and ultimately much better health to the consumers.

Compost is a big word that covers a lot of ground. It is quite evocative and consequently there are so many voices and “experts” that its use and application can be downright confusing. Misconceptions abound and as a result I feel compelled to put compost in its place. As a prime example I would like to quote from The Rodale Book of Composting – Easy Methods for Every Gardener. Copyright 1992. On page 218 it says:

Apply at least ½ inch to 3 inches of well-finished compost over your garden each year. There is little danger of burning due to overuse, as is the case with chemical fertilizers.

And on page 219 I quote:

Your garden will thrive if you give it liberal amounts of compost.

Remember my earlier rant about compost taking on demigod status in the land of post modernism? Well here it is.

In defense of the book I find it to be a great primer on small scale composting and it is filled with valuable information and encouragement to be proactive. It is not my intent to denigrate the—rather, I take issue only with the rates of application and the “more is generally better” philosophy of compost use. With that being said let's look at several misconceptions people have regarding compost and a counterbalancing truth.

Misconceptions and Counterbalancing Truth Regarding Compost

Misconception: It is virtually impossible to over apply compost because compost is not high analysis or burning.
Truth: Compost is a very potent supplier of potassium and can very quickly imbalance a soils’ calcium to potassium ratio resulting in a decline of nutrient density.
Misconception: Compost should be applied regularly.
Truth: Compost should be applied when the soil needs it.
Misconception: Compost is really all an organic gardener needs.
Truth: Soil needs what it needs—not just what compost supplies.
Misconception: Compost is far superior to all other fertilizers and soil amendments.
Truth: Compost is a specific tool for a specific job. Other tools are also required to bring a soil to full remineralization.

Since my focus is on producing foods of the highest nutrient density i.e. destination, and not on the route I take i.e. being organic, I have been accused of being against compost. I am not. I am for the use of compost but only when it is needed. I would like to finish this article with a few applications of compost where its use really excels.

What’s Good About Compost?

  • Compost recycles nutrients back into the carbon cycle and food chain.
  • Compost is excellent when combined with rock powders because it assists in digesting them.
  • Compost can be used as a valuable source of P & K to replace the need to purchase expensive commercial fertilizers. I suggest using 3-4 tons per acre if this is the goal.
  • Compost is extremely valuable for jumpstarting a poor soil when combined with other needed minerals.

Too Much Compost in the Garden!

compost_steve_julieSteven and Julie See live in Beggs Oklahoma. Two years ago they wanted to grow a garden producing nutrient-dense foods for their family of seven so they selected 1,000 square feet for a new garden spot. A local neighbor, Joe Esposito, strongly suggested that before they apply anything they should get their soil tested by International Ag Labs and follow the recommendations, which is what they did.

The results came back pretty dismal; very low Humus, pH, calcium to magnesium ratio, and nitrogen; extremely low calcium, phosphorous and soil conductivity; soil tending toward anaerobic; even the potassium was low. This is typical Oklahoma poverty soil. They were rather discouraged by the lab results until I told them “This is the perfect soil to grow a high brix garden because there are no extremes—all we have to do is put back what is missing and the soil will respond extremely well. You will be amazed.” We had a custom blender put together the exact recipe and ship it to them. For 1,000 square feet they needed 128 lbs. of product to be broadcast over their garden composed of soft rock phosphate, limestone, selective commercial fertilizers, microbial inoculants, and trace minerals. They also used nutrient drenches and foliar sprays during the growing season.

…While the addition of the compost was an overall benefit and helped you in a lot of ways it also imbalanced your potassium level and ratios. Do not add any more compost or it will be to the long-term detriment of growing nutrient-dense produce…

The results were phenomenal yields, better tasting foods, and more tomatoes than they knew what to do with. Julie reported that she canned 150 quarts of tomatoes, had plenty of tomatoes for fresh eating, and even gave away a lot of tomatoes to friends and family all from 12 tomato plants.

The next year when I got their subsequent soil report I was quite pleased to see all the progress the soil made but one element just didn’t seem correct. Potassium had risen from 81 lbs. per acre to 435 per acre. It should have been somewhere under 200 lbs. according to the nutrients I had in the broadcast. I immediately called Julie and asked “How much compost or manure did you add to your garden?” The answer: “Quite a lot. We have horses and a supply of fish waste. We compost the horse manure with sawdust and fish waste and added this to the garden along with the broadcast you sent.” I replied that I could clearly see it in the soil report and ended the conversation with a strong warning: While the addition of the compost was an overall benefit and helped you in a lot of ways it also imbalanced your potassium level and ratios. Do not add any more compost or it will be to the long-term detriment of growing nutrient-dense produce.

Julie assured me that no more compost would be added till it was called for on the soil test which is indicated by a dropping potassium level. Incidentally the garden soil had made such impressive progress on its levels of nutrient availability that it only required 37 lbs. of fertilizers and soil amendments to be applied on the second year. She also reported that previously they could not think of walking anywhere on their farm (garden included) when it was muddy but now they could easily walk in their garden because the mud does not stick to their boots anymore. This is one of the beauties of Oklahoma soils—while they many times start out at the lowest level of fertility they are also about the fastest soils anywhere to respond to a remineralization program.

Frequently Asked Questions About the High Brix Garden Program

What is a High Brix Garden?

A High Brix Garden is a place where people can grow their own high quality nutrition. Food in this class, will grade on the A and B range for nutritional density as measured on a refractometer.

How long will it take until a garden begins to produce High Brix foods on a regular basis?

It is possible to produce some High Brix produce in the first year. Each year on the High Brix program the soil continues to improve, as does the food quality. By the third year most of the produce should be in the A and B grade.

What does International Ag Labs Provide to the gardener?

International Ag Labs provides a basic soil test including a measure of the microbial activity and a soil index. We also make fertility recommendations based off the soil test. The fertility recommendations are then custom manufactured in our warehouse as a broadcast to be spread on your garden.  Additionally we provide a nutrient drench that is watered into the soil around plant roots.  Finally we include a foliar spraying program.

Do we get the soil report?

Yes. The soil report is sent along with the fertility schedule showing when to apply nutrient drenches and when to foliar feed the plants.

What is the soil Index?

The soil Index is an indicator of the overall health of the soil. It ranges from 0 – 100. To grow High Brix we look for a Soil Index reading in the 60’s and 70’s.

What does the annual broadcast supply to the soil?

The annual broadcast is used to “feed” the soil each year. It is composed of soil amendments such as limestone, gypsum, and compost. It also has rock powders to help remineralize the soils. To this base fertilizers are added, if needed, to supply missing nutrients in the soil. Last but not least trace minerals and microbial inoculants are added to round out the annual broadcast.

What are nutrient drenches?

Nutrient drenches are liquid, organic based fertilizer solutions. Most have a nutrient base of liquid fish. They are applied with water at the base of the plants once a month.

What is the purpose of the nutrient drench?

Nutrient drenches in the High Brix Garden program perform 2 improvement functions. First they help the soil maintain its electrical conductance. This provides the soil with plenty of energy to keep the plants growing at full speed. Secondly nutrient drenches can supply extra nutrients to plants that have special requirements. As an example pumpkins and squash have a high requirement for potassium. This is supplied with the nutrient drench Wild Cat.

Why are foliar sprays used?

Foliar sprays are nutrient solutions that are highly diluted and lightly sprayed on the plants. Plants are able to take in these nutrients through the leaves. Foliar feeding of plants is the frosting on the High Brix gardens’ cake. Well made foliar sprays can have a tremendous impact in raising brix readings in plants. Foliar sprays are also used to direct a plant in which way it should grow. Plants can be told to grow vegetatively or to grow reproductively. A foliar spray that makes vegetative growth (new leaves) is great for spinach but entirely unsuited for tomatoes.

How do foliar sprays increase brix readings?

A good foliar spray will include phosphate in its nutrient package. Phosphates are the energy source in ATP. ATP drives the Krebs cycle in plants. Increasing phosphates in the plant through foliar spraying allows the Krebs cycle to transfer more energy within the plants. This allows the plant to be more efficient in storing energy as sugars from the process of photosynthesis. Some of these additional sugars are sent down to the roots and excreted out of the roots as exudates. Root exudates are a food source for bacterial colonies around the roots. The bacteria respond to the extra food from the plant by making more minerals available to the plant. The additional minerals are taken up into the plant and increase the total dissolved solids in the plant. This registers as a rise in brix.

Does International Ag Labs advocate the use of chemical pesticides or herbicides in High Brix Gardens?

No. Pesticides destroy microbial balance and make it very difficult to achieve High Brix.

Is the High Brix Garden program organic?

High Brix gardens are organic based, but not strictly certified organic. Our primary focus is quality in the soil and in plant health.

When is the best time to start a High Brix Garden?

The best time to start is right now! The only poor time is in the dead of winter when the ground is frozen and a soil sample cannot be taken. If beginning too late for the current growing season just apply the broadcast and grow a cover crop. Hold the drenches and foliar sprays until the next spring then follow the schedule. Then sample annually from fall to fall as the ideal timing.

How do I get started?

Just fill out the Garden Soil Test Order Form, take a soil sample and send both along with a payment to International Ag Labs.

Does International Ag Labs guarantee any result or yield?

No.  While we can reasonably expect cumulative increases in produce quality we do not promise a specific yield or Brix reading.

 

Is it really possible to grow fruits and vegetables with high mineral density?  More importantly can it actually be accomplished in your backyard? YES it is possible to grow foods with high mineral density and YES it can happen in YOUR backyard. It is really quite simple—just create the right environment and plants will respond to their full genetic potential. The difficult part is to understand what conditions are required for plants to grow with optimum nutrition and how those conditions are achieved. 

In a nutshell the High Brix Garden Program is all about helping you create the right environment for your garden plants. 

So what are the specific requirements to grow high brix?  The first requirement on the path to high brix is to ...

Have A Vision

path_to_high_brixI have a vision—do you?  Part of my vision entails healthy soil producing therapeutic foods from my own garden.  I further envision my family eating therapeutic foods as an ever-increasing proportion of our diet.  The expectation is that this increase in nutrition will amplify our health, energy, and vitality as a family and circumvent the “need” for drugs and surgery.  On a larger scale I also envision a growing tide of people having a similar vision to consume therapeutic foods grown on healthy soil.  This has the potential to radically change the way some people buy, sell, and grow food.

Before starting on the path to high brix it is important to have a vision of where you want to go and what you want to achieve.  A final destination is an indispensable prerequisite before starting any journey.  It is no different on the Path to High Brix.  To help cement and articulate your vision to others I would encourage you to write out your family’s personalized Vision of Health.

Once you have secured a vision it is now time to take the first practical step on the Path to High Brix ...

Get A Roadmap

A road map is an indispensable requirement when starting a journey to an unfamiliar destination.  The first thing it helps us determine is where our starting point is.  Once we know our starting point and our final destination the road map helps us plot our course of action needed to get us where we want to go.

On the Path to High Brix our roadmap is the soil test.  The soil test is the foundation from which all fertility decisions are referenced.  It is our eye into the mysterious world beneath our feet.  No other tool comes close to matching the soil test in importance when aiming for high brix.

There are a multitude of different soil testing methods all purporting to be the best but there is only one soil test that really lets you see what you are looking at: the Morgan test.  If you don’t believe this try an experiment.   Find leading proponents of base saturation testing or testing for fungal and bacterial balancing.  Now find out what they say about achieving high brix.  Whoops—they don’t say a word about brix.  Why? Because the soil test they use doesn’t let them see what they are looking at with enough clarity to produce high brix.  Once we have the right soil test we are now ready to take the first action in creating the right environment for our garden plants.

Remineralize and Balance the Soil

In college classes soil has been endlessly classified according to its’ proportion of organic mater, sand, silt, and clay while soil typing assigns names to various soils based on its structure, texture, and other parameters.

In the real world of growing high brix plants none of this matters one hoot.  What really matters are things like:

  • How much calcium is available for the crop to build healthy cells?
  • Is calcium in correct ratio with magnesium?
  • Is there sufficient available phosphates in the soil needed to carry other nutrients into the plant and provide the energy transfer within the plant?
  • Is there a broad-spectrum of trace minerals available to the plant?
  • How active is the soil biology?

These are the important issues that must be addressed if we are to achieve high brix.

Calcium

Let's start with calcium. Calcium is needed in every healthy cell—no life can survive without it.  It takes good microbial activity to make calcium available in the soil.  At the same time when soil biology is increasing rapidly they will utilize available calcium—even taking it away from what the plants need.  High brix foods are higher in calcium than low brix foods.  Consequently it is imperative for available calcium to be addressed when embarking on the Path to High Brix.

Phosphates

Let's move on to phosphates. High brix foods cannot be built with low phosphates—it just doesn’t happen.  Dr. Reams said it this way: “Available phosphates determine the sugar content in plants.” High Brix foods are not particularly high in phosphates; rather they are significantly higher in calcium, sugars, and trace minerals.  Phosphates are the catalysts that transport nutrients within the plant.  Once the nutrients are transported to the correct location the phosphates recycle and again carry more nutrients to the correct location within the plant.  Phosphates are the trucker moving nutrients and joining these nutrients to the plant.  They are the catalysts of chemical reactions but are not part of the union.  When phosphates are low fewer minerals are transported within a plant—hence lower mineral density. Phosphates also play a major role as the energy source in the Krebs cycle.  This is just a fancy way of saying that phosphates help the plant get more energy out of the sunlight, which leads to a greater production of carbohydrates.

Trace Minerals

Trace minerals have received a lot of coverage in the health world lately.  They are vital and must be in our diet for good health.  A few come to mind: selenium, iodine, cobalt, lithium, and vanadium.  They all play a role in our health and we know it.  Unfortunately most people just aren’t getting enough in their diet because they are not in our foods.  Most trace minerals are quite heavy and when foods contain rare earth minerals they weigh more than low brix foods.  In other words if two apples of differing weights are the same size the heavier apple will be the most nutritious because it contains more minerals.  So how do we get trace minerals into our foods?  Obviously the first thing we have to do is apply them to the soil.  Since trace minerals are so dense uptake also requires high levels of calcium and phosphates in our plants.

Potassium, Nitrogen and Sulfur

Other important nutrients to consider when remineralizing soil include potassium, nitrogen, and sulfur.  Potassium plays a key role in plant health and yield but its use in recent times has been excessive to the detriment of calcium availability.  Nitrogen, like potassium, has also been over used and rarely understood.  Sulfur, in the form of sulfates, is indispensable for proper protein formation within plants.

Microbiology

Soil Remineralization is the best time to add microbiology.  By combining biology with rock powders, soil amendments, and fertilizers, the soil has greater digestive capacity to make the minerals available for plant uptake.  In the High Brix Garden program soil remineralization is accomplished by the annual broadcast of nutrients that is custom formulated according to the results of the soil test.

Achieving Balance

An important consideration in growing high brix is to achieve balance.  Excesses and deficiencies are equally debilitating.  Deficiencies are, however, much easier to overcome.  Many gardeners have so imbalanced their soil with excessive phosphorous and potassium from manure or compost that their soil is virtually ruined for growing high brix.  By following the roadmap of the soil test we can avoid the extremes while supplying the missing nutrients.  Once we have begun soil remineralization, we need to follow it up with an equally vital step ...

 Remineralize and balance the soil

Create and Maintain Soil Energy

Energy in the soil is measured by electrical conductance.  The unit of measurement is microSiemens (mS) per centimeter on a conductivity meter.   On the soil test electrical conductance is shown as ERGS.  This is an acronym, given by Dr. Reams, which stands for Energy Released per Gram per Second. 

The governor for electrical conductance in soils is humus.  When humus levels are high the Ergs reading is stabilized and does not “climb the highest peak and then plunge to the deepest valley.”  When striving for high brix plants on soils with low humus levels it is important to keep the Ergs up.  As the growing season progresses plants draw heavily on soil reserves and the Ergs reading drops.  In other words the soluble nutrients in the soil are taken up by the plants, which results in a decrease of electrical conductance in soils.  Low soil energy causes plant growth to slow way down.

Monthly Nutrient Drench

A monthly nutrient drench increases the soil’s electrical conductance and thereby keeps plants growing at optimum rates.  This is especially important when it has been raining heavily and the soil solution is already diluted from the additional water in the soil.  The nutrient drenches used in the High Brix Garden Program includes Perk-Up!, WildCat, OND, ErgsBlaster, and DroughtBuster.  Nutrient drenches are used at the rate of 1 quart per 1,000 square feet mixed with 30 gallons of water and applied at the root level of plants.  By regularly applying small doses of nutrient drenches we insure a steady growth of plants because soil energy is being maintained.  The next step to achieve high brix is to …

Soils and Foliar FeedingFoliar Feed Regularly

Have you ever used an old-fashioned hand pump to draw out water from the ground?  The first thing it needs is some water poured down the shaft followed by vigorous pumping on the handle.  It only takes a small amount of water to “prime the pump.”

Foliar feeding is like priming the pump on a growing plant.  A prerequisite prior to foliar feeding is to ensure adequate minerals and biology have been added to the soil.  When this is coupled with regular nutrient drenches to keep the soil energy at its peak, the plant is now ready to be “primed,” via foliar feeding, for optimum production.

Lets take a closer look at what happens when a foliar spray is applied to plant leaves.  A well-made foliar spray is a dilute nutrient solution.  If properly constructed it will pas through the leaf surface and increase the photosynthetic capability of the plant. In other words it will allow the plant to take in more energy from the sun.  The difficulty is in properly constructing the foliar spray.  It is very important to fully understand what effects specific nutrients have on plants.  The wrong foliar spray at the wrong time can create a tremendous yield decline.  Here is a very important caution when foliar spraying: Either know what you are doing or work with a consultant who does.

When a foliar program is properly applied the mineral density within the plant is increased, as are the carbohydrates or plant sugars.  This increase of plant sugars and minerals are sent to the roots of the plants, some of which are excreted out of the roots as plant exudates.  This increase of plant root exudates, caused by the foliar spray, creates a ready food supply for the bacteria that live symbiotically on the plant roots.  Bacteria respond to this increased food supply by making more nutrients in the soil available to the plant.  These minerals are picked up by the roots and sent to the aerial part of the plant.  This process explains how a foliar spray can increase brix readings.

In addition to increasing nutrient density, a foliar spray is a command to a plant’s physiology.  A foliar spray can either push a plant toward vegetative production i.e. growth of leaves, stems, and stalk or it can push a plant toward reproduction i.e. promotion of blossoms, flowers, and fruit set.

Systematic foliar spraying will exhibit a cumulative affect of increasing yield along with mineral density and plant sugars.  In the High Brix Garden program we emphasize a weekly foliar spray of either BrixBlaster or Qualify! beginning one month after transplanting or emergence.  BrixBlaster is used for crops making reproductive growth such as tomatoes, peppers, and sweet corn.  Qualify! is used on crops making vegetative growth such as lettuce, kale, and spinach.  It can also be used on early growth of crops that will later need BrixBlaster.

The High Brix Garden Program also uses two other foliar sprays: Enthuse and ShowTime. Enthuse is used on a monthly basis or as needed for plant stress.  It contains a broad-spectrum of trace minerals, bio stimulants, and single L-amino acids to help plants cope with stress.  ShowTime is used once a month or as needed to enhance the visual appearance of plants and to repel noxious insects.  This is a great product to use 1 day before you show your garden off to friends and family and you want it looking its best.

The Path to High Brix

In summary the Path to High Brix is really quite simple—just create the right environment for plants to express their full genetic potential.  To do this we must have a vision and a roadmap as we do the following 3 steps:

  • Remineralize and Balance the Soil
  • Create and Maintain Soil Energy
  • Foliar Feed Regularly

Other Important Considerations

Lastly there are several other important considerations when aiming for high brix.

Water
No plant will grow indefinitely without adequate water.  If you do everything else right but do not provide your plants with water you still cannot achieve high brix.

Weeds
Weeds need to be kept under control because they compete with the garden plants for moisture and sunlight.  A good way to do this is to use a woven vinyl mesh to keep weeds down but still allow movement of water and air.

Tillage
Working the soil has definite benefits and should be part of preparing the land to be used for a high brix garden.

Sunlight
If plants do not have access to adequate light they will not reach their full potential.  Light is the basic energy source for all crop growth.  Even several cloudy days can significantly reduce brix readings.

Hybrids
As a general rule hybrid genetics do not pick up as much mineral from the soil as do open-pollinated genetics.  It is strongly suggested to use open-pollinated genetics when striving for high brix.

Green Manures
Green manures are an important tool used to keep soils healthy, biologically active, and producing carbon dioxide.  It is suggested that a high brix garden be divided into 5 parts. Every year 1 part can be used in rotation to grow green manure crops that can be worked back into the soil. Thus every 5 years the garden will have had 1 year of rest and fertility building.

By following the Path To High Brix and keeping in mind other important considerations, one can reasonably expect to produce high brix foods within a 2-3 year time frame.

With Jon C. Frank & Lynn Hoag

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