[NAFEX] Soil Testing & Fertilizer Spreading

Jim Fruth jfruth at uslink.net
Sat Dec 31 09:41:20 EST 2005

    I usually take two to three soil samples for my one and a half acre farm
and, in any given year, I could have three to eight different fertilizer
recommendations.  I grow twenty-some kinds of wood bearing fruits, plus
annual fruit which I'll call "vegetables."  Vegetables and strawberries are
lumped together for one test with a separate recommendation for
strawberries.  All cane fruit areas comprise a second sampling which
includes tree fruit and most bush-bearing fruit.  Last year I did a third
sample for an area being converted from vegetables to cane fruit.  This year
I did a third sampling with two recommendations for Aronia, Viburnum and
Gasylussacia, acid loving plants going into a spot where cane fruit used to
grow.  Three years ago, the third sampling was for a shaded area of
blackberries that didn't appear as healthy as they could have been.
    I take all soil samples in late July before the black raspberry and
blackberry patches become a tangled mess.  Fertilizer arrives in 40 to 50
pound bags.  Curiously, my fertilizer supplier doesn't sell gypsum and I get
that from a landscape supplier.  I believe I mentioned, in an earlier post,
that, regardless of pH, the university soil testers NEVER recommend gypsum,
even if gypsum would best be used.
    The fertilizer I receive is seldom exactly as I ordered.  I receive
different compounds which, when mixed, result in something close to the
compounds I ordered.  After the high humidity days of Summer are past, I mix
all macro nutrients in a cement mixer and store the various blends in
five-gallon buckets.  I use a broadcast spreader for the bulk of it and a
whirlibird spreader for micronutrients.  Micro nutrients, such a boron and
copper are used in such tiny amounts that they don't get even distribution
when not applied separately in the system that I use .  If I were to spread
the fertilizers and till them in, too many roots would be damaged so I
spread in late Fall letting the Spring snow-melt take the fertilizer down to
the root zone.
    When the sun is so low on the horizon that growth stops in the black
raspberry patch (Mid-October) I start pruning and trellising. With the help
of another person, the task is accomplished in about three weeks.  Then I
start spreading fertilizer - hopefully sans snow.  One year we received ten
inches of snow the day before spreading was planned.  That year the snow
blower got a workout blowing snow out of each aisle so I could spread the
    Occasionally I am asked if all the work and expense of soil analysis and
fertilizer spreading is worth doing.  I used to wonder that
too............before I started doing it.  Enough said.

Jim Fruth
Brambleberry Farm
Pequot Lakes, MN
Jams, Jellies and Syrups

Hi Jim,

When dealing with 1-1/2 acre how many soil tests do you do?

What is optimal soil testing for the rest of us?


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