Soil Testing And Rx

How to Read Your Soil Test


Soil testing is absolutely vital for building healthy soil. If we don’t look for what is missing, how are we supposed to know what to be adding?


Even using a good organic fertilizer can get you into trouble. Think about it, if neighbors have different deficiencies in their soil due to developers bringing different kinds of soil or using different lawn products over time, a general fertilizer can actually create

imbalances and result in the pest, weed and disease issues you pay for in more ways than one.


The same is true on farms, or in any soil environment. In any kind of diet, eating too much of a good thing can be a problem.


Let’s take the example of the common practice of using lime. Lime raises the pH in your soil, but most don’t address the actual reason it raises the pH number. Soil pH is derived based on the number of hydrogen (H+) ions present. The more H+ present the more acidic, or the lower the pH, in the soil.


The soil is generally negatively charged ( - , called an anion). Soil is comprised of clay, sand, and organic matter. Clay and organic matter have this negative charge, sand is neutral.


Most of the elements required by plants to grow are positively charged ( + , called a cation), and opposites attract. So the ability of the soil to hold onto positively charged elements (calcium = Ca+, magnesium = Mg+, potassium = K+, sodium = Na+, & micronutrients) is called the cation exchange capacity (CEC).


One of the main metrics to success in building healthy soil is increasing this number. The healthier your soil, the higher the CEC, the more fertilizer” and water it can hold onto. This is done primarily by building the organic matter and microbe populations in soil .


So, when lime is added to your soil it raises the pH, but why? Lime contains mostly Ca+ (some types Mg+). The reason the pH increases when it is used is because the Ca+ and Mg+ contained in lime displace H+ ions in the CEC, therefore the pH goes up.


However, what happens if you have a K+ deficiency? Bottom line, lime does not address your deficiencies; it merely raises the pH number on a sheet of paper.

Our process is customized to your soil based on your biological and mineral deficiencies. The biological deficiencies are taken care of by compost tea applications from our Vortex Brewers.


Every landscape is not the same, and we don’t treat them that way. Very simply, we add what is deficient, then the living microbes in concert with growing plants organize the soil so that life can thrive.


Below is an example of soil testing results using our process. Please take a minute to familiarize yourself with it. The number ranges in the column on the right are what we are shooting for:






Exchange Capacity







6.1 - 6.5

Organic Matter %



> 4

Sulfur = S-



25 - 50

Phosphorous = P2O5



250 - 500

Calcium = Ca+



60 - 70%

Magnesium = Mg+



10 - 20%

Potassium = K+



2 - 5%

Sodium = Na+



0.5 - 3%

Other bases




Exchangeable H+ %



10 - 15%

Boron = B-



2-4ppm ; 1/1000th of Ca

Iron = Fe+



100 - 200 ppm

Manganese = Mn+



up to 50 ppm ; ½ Fe

Copper = Cu+



2 - 4 ppm ; ½ Zn

Zinc = Zn+



7 - 50 ppm ; 1/10 P

Aluminum = Al+



Below 2000


Note the low pH (high exchangeable H+) due to low calcium and potassium. If you added lime you would raise the pH, but would not address the potassium at all!


Imagine you have high calcium in your exchange but a low pH? Common soil testing recommendations such as what you get from the Extension Service would recommend the use of lime to increase the pH and we would be adding more off what we have too much of.


This recommendation from an “expert is a bit like going to an MD Doctor and getting a pill, rather than being told to change your diet. Our protocols will address the nutritional and biological deficiencies in your landscape, in short, we’re asking you to change your diet.

To continue the analogy, we don’t get healthy in hospitals. It can take a year to heal one’s self with nutrient dense food. In the same way, the minerals we will recommend, while not expensive and easy to obtain, can take up to a year to be fully incorporated into the soil.


You will also notice that there are no recommendations for nitrogen on our soil analysis. This is not an oversight and will be foreign to those

used to using nitrogen-based fertilizers to stimulate growth in plants.


Almost 80% of air is nitrogen. A biologically healthy soil contains many different forms of microbes that are able to fix this nitrogen from the air for FREE.


Nitrogen fertilizers are a crutch and over time do no more than create obesity in plants. However, given that you cannot expect a vibrant living soil right away, we supply organic fertilizers that can act as a bridge. It is important to make sure your fertilizers are organic so that they are feeding microbes and growing your goal.



It turns out that almost every potential issue you can deal with in a landscape or garden is born of a biological, mineral or energetic deficiency.  Pests are attracted to unhealthy plants, weeds grow to build deficient minerals in your soil and plant disease is no different than what happens to humans who eat a bad diet.


We know that this may be a different way of looking at living systems. But we ask you to keep an open mind and consider that we are not making these things up. We’re just getting back to basics.


Be patient. The results will come.


Please let us know how we can be of service.

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