Minerals in the soil

Jon_dear(4/5)March 19, 2012

I see a lot of threads talking about mineral deficient soils. What are your thoughts on different amendments like dried or fresh seaweed, azomite, greensand, calphos colloidal phosphate, planters II trace minerals, or sea salt or innumerable others.

Never-mind that they may have to be moved around the country to get to you. There are many things that move earth. Wind and water are a few. If responsibly and appropriately used to grow healthy nutritious food I don't see the problem with moving some to my little portion of ground.

What do you think?

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Do a soil test. Without one you could be causing an overdose of one or more of the minerals causing an imbalance which can lock up nutrients that the plants need. Not to mention the money you will save by only adding what you need and not what the advertisers suggest.
Some soils already have all the elements needed but are locked up. It is a matter of getting the unlocked. Adding organic matter will help do this and add many trace elements needed at the same time.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2012 at 6:53AM
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A soil test is one tool a gardener/farmer can, and should, use when determining what, if any, "stuff" to add to their soil. Are the nutrients in your soil in balance? How much organic matter is in your soil? What is your soils pH? How well does your soil drain?
As novascapes indicates knowing your soil and what it needs is necessary to know whether you need to add anything. Once you do know then you can determine what might be needed.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2012 at 7:23AM
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I agree with the premise that moving materials long distances if required to make one-time or very rare but very important corrections to the growth system is an ok thing to do.

Regarding the concern about overdosing minerals, I think that certainly applies to salt-form materials, and those should be used little or not at all. Azomite, for example, comes in a digested and supposedly much more rapidly soluble form and they say it can be over-applied. All such products are extremely expensive as well. Rock dusts are much cheaper, and much more difficult to overdo.

I am just beginning a lot of different experiments with rock dusts this season, including azomite, granite and basalt dusts from various parts of new england, and local glacial till dust.

Jon, I think you are in ME? You will find this website of SoilBuilders in VT interesting:


    Bookmark   March 20, 2012 at 8:10AM
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Hi Guys
Yes I did a soil test. My garden spot is pretty good. I did post my test results here a month or 2 ago, but didn't want to bump it. I agree with having organic matter in the soil and have done or overdone it somewhat. (11.4 %) But I see a lot of people trying to sustainability garden. It must be hard if the minerals aren't there at all to recycle into the garden. Especially if gardening on sandy or gravelly soil. My test indicated a lack of iron, so when I asked the guy at U Maine that did the test, he told me that greensand had some (20% according to fedco catalog)that would be of benefit to my situation. I guess what I'm saying is that once your soil is in shape, it would be easier to maintain and retain those minerals. The other point is that some amendments are "advertised" as being a source of certain things but also have appreciable levels of other things in them too. One such thing is dehydrated chicken manure. It is touted to have either high N or high P depending on who's selling it. But from talking to the lab, I learned it can bump your zinc and manganese as well. I wish there was a good reliable source of info that told of all these relationships.

pnbrown thanks for the link. Yes I'm from Maine. Someones been paying attention. lol I'd love to know how your experiments go with the different rockdusts.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2012 at 9:13AM
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Why not just use some iron chelate?

    Bookmark   March 21, 2012 at 5:55AM
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wayne_5 zone 6a Central Indiana

I consider my soil and my body fairly similar as they both come out of "the dust" For example I supplement with 200 micro grams of selenium daily. Selenium is reported to prevent cancers. I'm not saying 100%, but even if it was 90%, I consider it a wise choice. Many other minerals, both macro, micro, and extra micro are like that.

I consider the soil similarly. A moderate dusting worked in with a good mineral dust seems wise to me... also seaweed extracts.

I wouldn't spend a large sum of money to extensively test for the ones like Yttrium for example, but would supply a bit as insurance. We could argue all day perhaps, but I suggest it could be a wise thing to supplement both body and soil moderately.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2012 at 1:20PM
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tropical_thought(San Francisco)

Selenium had an expo on tv, I forgot the program name, but a woman had all her hair fall out. Also it cause damage to her kidneys liver and other organs. It was in her vitamin pills, but the company made a mistake and put in many times too much. However, I don't want any of that in my soil. I like to use Osmocote plus with iron. It has all of this but no Selenium.

CALCIUM (Ca) 1.9%
MAGNESIUM (Mg) (Total)
0.7% Water Soluble Magnesium (Mg) 1.4%
SULFUR (S) (Total)
4.0% Combined Sulfur (S) 4.0%
BORON (B) 0.02%
COPPER (Cu) (Total)
0.05% Water Soluble Copper (Cu) 0.05%
IRON (Fe) (Total)
0.42% Water Soluble Iron (Fe)
0.03% Chelated Iron (Fe) 0.45%
MANGANESE (Mn) (Total)
0.06% Water Soluble Manganese (Mn) 0.06%
Molybdenum (Mo) 0.02%
Zinc (Zn) (Total)
0.019% Water Soluble Zinc (Zn) 0.05

It may be safe to use a little Selenium in the soil, but I would have to weight any benefits of that vs. the risks. I never heard of what benefits to the soil one may or may not get from Selenium. Could Selenium be like the fad of the month?

I use much less Osmocote then recommended. I only sprinkle the tiniest amounts on the soil. Since I do my own composting my plants don't need very much plant food at all. One bottle lasts for years. But, I am getting micro amounts of trace elements.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2012 at 5:18PM
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Some soils have too little selenium, some too much (e.g., in Texas). That is mainly natural (even if maybe human transported in irrigation runoff to elsewhere).

Some Florida soil has too little copper to maintain plant growth (natural) and some has way too much, to concentrations toxic to roots (build up from copper sprays on citrus).

You have to have a bit of information to judge ahead of time. Proper pH and a complete fertilizer solves all such problems on most soils, because most soils have no problems to begin with or at worst just deficiencies, not exesses, and even some excesses are really excess availability due to far too high or too low pH.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2012 at 6:31PM
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feijoas(New Zealand)

OT, but...
tropical, human need for selenium is definitely not a "fad".
NZ soil's selenium levels are very low and there's plenty of concern about human/animal health due to deficiencies. We only need a tiny amount though: eating 3 (imported) Brazil nuts a day apparently supplies enough fr an adult.
If the only way to remineralise the soil is to import 'stuff', so be it I say. I think one of the most valuable additions to a garden is seaweed, which contains all sorts of minerals washed from the land.
I'm lucky; in the winter I collect fresh kelp from the beach and with my sandy soil I don't rinse, so I get the benefit of the sea's mineral salts.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2012 at 6:59PM
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I'm in agreement with Wayne and pnbrown here - if an addition of an "imported" mineral source will make the output of your garden improve substantially, then a slow-acting, long-term addition makes sense. On the other hand, using high-intensity, short-term inputs that require constant repetition seem not to be treating the cause but the symptoms; not a sustainable solution.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2012 at 7:15PM
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wayne_5 zone 6a Central Indiana

Some very arid soils like in certain western states tend to be mineral rich due to lack of rainfall leaching. These areas could have excesses of some minerals. I would think that most areas of heavier rainfall that have been cropped for 200+ years are likely low on some minerals.

It seems to me that the bizzare cases get headlines and scare people away from sensible and calm thinking.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2012 at 7:48PM
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tropical_thought(San Francisco)

I am all in favor of eating nuts. I have not read any studies, but I don't eat much from my garden and very rarely grow food. San Francisco weather is pretty bad for edibles. The summer is cold and foggy. If you get selenium from foods I am sure that is a good thing.

This woman bought the selenium at GMC in a pill form. I just thought I should pass it. GMC really has a mega amounts of things that people would be better off getting from foods. I wish remember the name of the program. It was something like 20/20 or Dateline. It was just last week on TV, but I had already deleted it and could not find it again.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2012 at 8:02PM
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It seems to me highly likely that plants take up what they need from the soil - if it is there - but not more than they need. So my thought is that they can be under-mineralized as food but not over-mineralized. I would rather get my trace minerals in the plant food than from supplement pills.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2012 at 8:05PM
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wayne_5 zone 6a Central Indiana

A twenty year old person likely gets a lot more out of their food than a sixty year old person eating the very same food. Stomach acid levels tend to drop quite a bit. This acid helps to start the breakdown of minerals to be absorbed. Hormone levels tend to drop as do different gland secretions. All these reduce bodily utilization of nutrients.

I suspect that it would take a tremendously nutrient dense diet for the senior to be vibrantly healthy on diet alone...hence some wise supplementation.

I have read where there are 100,000 deaths yearly from prescription drugs. These are from both mis-dosing and reactions. I read where there might have been some deaths a few years ago from abuse of some diet "supplement". I don't know of any others. Usually the complaint is that some less reputable manufacturers of supplements are skimping on the listed amounts or are using inferior ingredients....like dl Alpha vitamin E[synthetic] rather than the natural d Alpha E family of up to 8 parts.

Anyway, since much advertising is drug oriented, don't be surprised to find media financed news to jump upon any opportunuty to discredit natural things.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2012 at 9:52PM
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Don't anyone say, "all soils are deficient in Se", the soils in the Uncompahgre Valley in western CO ore chuck full of the stuff!

Wayne: just a little note on Se. The Fed. EPA says municipal drinking water can have no more than 50 mg/L Se. 50 was attained by revision down from I think 100 a few years ago. In short, if you drink a L of my town's water (Se=42 mg/L) you won't need to take the pills to get to your pill taken daily supplement of 200 micrograms, in fact, you'll be way above 200. Shall I send you a gallon :)?
If by chance you are getting your water from a municipal source, get a copy of the yearly Consumer Confidence Report and see how much Se is in the water, like our water, there may already be far more in it that you drink every day than what is in the pills.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2012 at 10:42PM
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Thanks for that idea, Mike, I will check out the test for my local town water supply.

Wayne, my hope is to make my food so nutrient dense that by age 60 in a dozen years I will be all set.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2012 at 7:29AM
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Michael, your info is quite correct except all your units should be in micrograms per liter (ug/L or parts per billion) instead of milligrams. The federal MCL for Se is 0.05 mg/L or 50 ug/L. Not to split hairs. :-D

Se is one of those trace nutrients that we need a little of, but is toxic if too much is taken. Hence the lady who was poisoned by improperly formulated vitamins.

I learn new stuff on this forum all the time. The recent discussions about entire regions being deficient in certain micronutrients that can't be fixed by simply recycling yard waste into compost, have been eye opening.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2012 at 10:51AM
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wayne_5 zone 6a Central Indiana

I hope to not be too repetitive, but as a general rule, desert and low rainfall areas are likely high in many minerals. higher rainfall areas that are long farmed can be quite deficient in some of those minerals.

i am not on municipal water and I believe in a low selenium area.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2012 at 1:43PM
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tropical_thought(San Francisco)

US has enough selenium, but in China they need more. If are not vegan you won't be low in selenium. If you were vegan then you may have to worry a bit. But, I won't recommend what to do because the article has suggestions. Of course those people in China could also be starving as well and lacking from meat, chicken or fish.

Here is a link that might be useful: I found a good link here on selenium

    Bookmark   March 22, 2012 at 3:34PM
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wayne_5 zone 6a Central Indiana

tropical, That is a pretty good article. I only have one fault with it. It seems to follow "old" thinking in my opinion......such as the old thinking that if one doesn't have a goiter...presto..they have enough iodine. If they don't have scurvy, ricketts, bera bera, they have enough vitamin C, D3, and B. Also vitamin E wasn't helpful....naturally...they surely used a partial and synthetic form of it.

I for myself like more than 1940 RDAs.


Here is a link that might be useful: selenium in soil map..US

    Bookmark   March 22, 2012 at 4:30PM
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wayne_5 zone 6a Central Indiana

Re selenium

I would assume that areas that are rich in soil selenium would tend to deliver more selenium to the food. I'm not so sure about water though. Minerals form compounds and often-times those compounds are not very absorbable in the body. For example water may contain iron compounds, but you are not going to absorb much of them.There is more than one selenium form.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2012 at 6:59PM
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Can we assume that Se is in rock dusts like granite and/or basalt?

Azomite appears to have small amounts of Se and larger amounts of yttrium. Here is the link:


    Bookmark   March 22, 2012 at 8:00PM
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If the material you compost is very diverse, a wide range of material (and not just paper and manure) then the nutrients in the finished compost will be very diverse, too. Micro nutrient deficiencies in soils show up most often appear where soils lack adequate levels of organic matter.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2012 at 7:11AM
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"If the material you compost is very diverse"

Meaning from many different regions, or meaning compost made from different species of plants?

Of course, it is a forgone conclusion that most any bought compost is made from plant material that was grown on soils that have less than optimum percent OM. Most compost and manure ultimately goes back to a grass crop, and hayfields tend to be poorly managed. So you are continuing with your consistent position that mineral deficiency can be corrected by growing and composting plant matter grown on soil with that same deficiency. As a general concept, this cannot be so.

In a few cases there is some evidence that over long periods of time certain "accumulator" plants, very deep-rooted weeds, can partially change a surface deficiency. For example, dandelion and burdock grow where calcium is quite low in the top foot of soil. Due to their deep-rooted and perennial habit, they probably must bring up into their tissues at least tiny amounts of Ca that has leached into the denser subsoil or hardpan below. So those types of plants and to some extent probably shrubs and trees as well recover a small part of what is lost to leaching and then release it slowly through decay. Assuredly that is why a freshly converted piece of heavily grown-over land produces well for a few years. This concept does not apply to a heavily-cropped low-level monoculture like a typical hayfield or grain field.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2012 at 7:30AM
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tropical_thought(San Francisco)

I think diverse means if you compost many different vegetables and fruit, instead of just composting one type of food. Each one adds something different to the compost.

If you buy supermarket stuff you are saying it is not grown right, but I think that would only remove some of the benefits. Logically if you grow it yourself and compost the same thing yourself....

There are produce markets and one can buy more organically grown in stores like whole foods.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2012 at 10:47AM
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I am composting stuff from more than my yard. A lot comes from the store my Girlfriend works at. They save me veggie and fruit scraps and stuff that is in less than prime shape. Added to that, is spoiled hay, straw, sawdust... you get the idea... So I SHOULD be bringing in some goodies that I don't CURRENTLY have in my soil. It's just a work in progress. I agree that a lot of the veggies aren't as good as mine, but all I have to do is pick it up and run it through my compost pile.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2012 at 2:47PM
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A one-household pile from kitchen waste and occasional collected food is not what i was referring to. I am talking about more mass-produced compost as at landscaping places.

In any case all the feedstock for big operations is being grown in a general region, so regional deficiencies probably will not be corrected by it and specific deficiencies may or may not be.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2012 at 6:57PM
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I found this interesting. From Australia but basics still apply.

Here is a link that might be useful: mineral site

    Bookmark   March 23, 2012 at 10:44PM
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Another interesting read. Site is called soilminerals.com

Here is a link that might be useful: another site that talks about minerals

    Bookmark   March 24, 2012 at 12:41AM
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I love seaweed, both in my garden and in my body. Such a catch-all of micronutrients. I need to suck it up and deal with the county to get permission to collect some kelp from Palos Verdes' rocky beaches. Having buckets of dried, shredded seaweed available whenever I want is such a nice luxury.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2012 at 1:30AM
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wayne_5, thanks, I do not know what Se is, but I now know that I am getting it in both well & city water.
pnbrown & gonebananas, the rock dust link will not deliver this far south for less then a mint.
So is their another dust that can be shipped here to South

    Bookmark   March 24, 2012 at 10:52AM
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wayne_5 zone 6a Central Indiana

jon dear, Thanks for posting the sites. I think that after a basic rock dusting that occasional feedings of something like Neptune fish emulsion with seaweed extract is good.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2012 at 1:36PM
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Jolj, moving stone is an expensive proposition anywhere.

Northern GA has sources of granite, but if you are more than a few miles the trucking costs will be high. Fuel alone is about a dollar a mile for a 20-ton load. The materials at source tend to be cheap.

Another angle is to look for local stone fabricator shops and see if you can take their dust leavings from cutting. Every large town has such shops. The amounts will be small but they make it constantly, it's free and it is very fine which makes it maximally useful. Nowadays marble is out of fashion for countertops, it's all granite which is what you want. Marble is a source of dolomitic lime which is cheap enough at any garden supply place.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2012 at 8:07AM
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