Fresh Earth Farms - CSA

Dropping Acid

Week 15

We are still taking orders for 2024. Seems like we are starting to fall behind our recruitment from the last several years. I saw a news report on the 5:30 national news the other day about a hotdog restaurant somewhere in America where a customer took a picture of the forlorn restaurant owner staring out the door of his establishment wondering if he will ever get customers to come to his store. The customer sent out the picture on his social media and it went viral and the restaurant was suddenly overwhelmed with new customers and the store became a huge success. The story got me wondering, how do we get this to happen with our farm? Would a picture of a dejected Farmer Chris looking out over the vast tundra of what will be a thriving field of veggies this summer help the cause? I could do that! Just say the word. In any case, it would be nice to not have to worry about selling the shares up until the middle of June. That way I could concentrate on more important things like growing plants and writing newsletters. Anyway, if you can spread the word and make it go viral I would appreciate it! (We had good luck with NextDoor a few years ago).

Farm News

I mentioned in a past newsletter that I would discuss the effects of a soil acidity in a future newsletter. Let this be that future newsletter.

When we first started farming here earlier this century we did a soil test to find out what we were dealing with. One area we measured was the soil’s pH — its acidity level. It came back at 5.3. More acidic than we would like it.

Week 6

As I mentioned in an earlier newsletter the main reason for the acidic soil here in Minnesota is the pH of rain water. Rainwater pH is around 5 to 5.5. So with abundant rain the soils tend to turn more acidic. To counteract the effects of acidic rainwater, farmers typically lime their soils to raise the pH to a level that plants like — somewhere in the 6 to 7 range. We thought about doing this but never got around to it. But we also thought since our irrigation water is fairly alkaline maybe we wouldn’t have to lime the soil.

These last few years there has been little rain during the growing season. So we ended up irrigating quite a bit. With the reduction in acidic rain and the increased use of alkaline ground water we’ve seen a change in the soil pH to 5.9. And harking back to our High School Chemistry class you will realize with pH being a logarithmic scale that a pH of 5.3 is four time more acidic than a pH 5.9. We dropped a lot of acid!

So what changes do we see when we decrease the acidity (increase the pH)? One thing I noticed prior to even testing the soil was increase in potato scab. One nice thing about having acidic soil is that scab is far less prevalent. For most of the time we’ve grown potatoes here we didn’t see scab. Then about five years ago we started seeing a bit of scab. The last few years we’ve seen even more. It isn’t exceedingly detrimental and the only way I know to control it organically is to decrease the soil pH (increase the acidity). So with the increase in pH we’ll have to tolerate a bit more potato scab. The potatoes are still safe to eat they just look like they have a bit of acne. You’ve probably seen it but didn’t know it was potato scab.

Another effect of increasing the pH is that we now have the ability to grow plants that are sensitive to soil acidity — the main one being spinach. We haven’t tried growing spinach in a while since the low soil pH caused the spinach to turn yellow especially at the tips of the leaves. It also grows slower and possibly decreases germination. So now with the higher pH we can look into growing it again. Though a pH of 5.9 is still a bit too acidic for spinach, in our high tunnel the pH is 7.5. That might be a bit too high, though I’m willing to give it a shot to see what happens.

Week 11

Out in the field where the pH is 5.9 we expect to see better plant growth over the range of veggie we grow and — though we haven’t really measured it — to me the plants seem to do better each year. I always thought it was due to our increasing skill in growing plants but maybe it is just Mother Nature adjusting the soil pH.

So as we see, our plan to do nothing to adjust the soil pH is working. Probably not as fast as if we limed the soil but still effective in the long run. Maybe I’ll use this “do nothing” technique on a few more of our problems like deer or gophers. What could possibly go wrong?

By the way, I’m not sure if anyone else caught this scene in the recent Barbie movie but I thought I’d include it here. Tough choice, pumpkin or cabbage…

Joke of the Week

Q. What is the difference between spinach and boogers?

A. Kids won’t eat spinach!

As always, do not hesitate to contact me with questions, comments, suggestions, share orders, or other things that I could ignore and they’ll turn out good nonetheless.

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