Healthy Beginnings

Successful Growing in Nevada Soils Part 2: It’s All About the Minerals

Let’s start with a story …

In a time long, long ago, in the late 1800s, two scientists found themselves in a spirited intellectual battle. The first, Justus von Liebig, was known as the “father of chemical fertilizers,” as he avidly promoted the use of man-made fertilizers for plant growth. His philosophy revolved around the use of chemical fertilizers with three elements: nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (this trio is commonly referred to as N-P-K).

The other scientist, Dr. Julius Hensel, adamantly resisted Liebig’s chemical approach, arguing plant growth is much more complex than N-P-K can address. Hensel was in favor of natural fertilization through balanced minerals and naturally occurring nutrients. He believed forcing plants to eat man-made chemicals would lead to devastating results – and we’ve now come to understand the negative effects of overusing harsh chemical fertilizers in agriculture.

In this article, we’re going to explore these minerals and explain how you can create a mineral buffet for your plants, even in harsh Nevada soil.

Why Are Minerals So Important for Healthy Plant Growing?

In his now-famed book, “Bread from Stones”, Dr. Hensel details a simple experiment in which he ground stone mineral powder and dressed the soil of his garden, which resulted in “new, more vigorous growth” in his vegetables. Inspired, Hensel ground more stones and applied the meal to the base of his fruit trees, soon noting the apple trees that formerly produced imperfect, wormy fruit began producing high quality, worm-free fruit. Even in the poorest of soils, Hensel was growing healthy, insect- and disease-resistant plants.

With Hensel’s experiments, he was making an important discovery: rich, natural plant growth is possible when there is a balance of minerals available for the plants to consume. Had he simply placed rocks and boulders in his garden, he wouldn’t have experienced such impressive results. It was be- cause he ground the stones and made them digestible by the plants that his fruit and vegetable plants thrived… without ever being exposed to chemical fertilizers. Incredible.

What Minerals Are the Most Important for Plants?

By sharing the story of Hensel’s simple experiments, we don’t want to mislead: you can’t simply grind down any stone, toss the dusty meal into your garden and magically create Eden. It’s the minerals found in the stones that hold the keys to vigorous, healthy plant growth. In this next section, we’ve provided some of the basics to balanced mineralization.

Calcium: The backbone mineral, calcium is the de- livery truck carrying all other minerals from the soil to the plant. If there aren’t enough trucks, the other minerals and nutrients won’t make it to the plant.

Phosphorus: Another “foundational mineral,” phosphorus is the “go food” that gives plants their essential energy needed to perform primary functions. The better your plants can obtain available phosphorus, the better they will be able to capture energy from the sun and increase the nutrients in the fruits or vegetables they produce.

Nitrogen: The core plant-growth element, nitro- gen is certainly important and powerful, but only when balanced with other core nutrients for sustained impact and plant health. When using nitro- gen-based fertilizers (and looking for a chemical “miracle”), you’re likely to produce plants lacking the immunity to insects and diseases because they lack holistic nutrition. Nitrogen is an important mineral for plants, but only when looking beyond N-P-K to achieve real balance.

Magnesium: Directly increasing a plant’s ability to perform photosynthesis, magnesium plays an essential role in helping your plants grow green and healthy. Also, it’s the calcium-magnesium ratio that creates hardness or softness in your soil. A 7:1 ratio of calcium to magnesium is necessary to establish that soil “ u ” that plants find so comfortable and cozy.

Potassium: Essential in building plant cell wall structure, potassium is a must for healthy plants. Here in Nevada, our soils almost never have a deficiency in potassium. Low rainfall keeps potassium and sodium present in our local soils. Therefore, adding a fertilizer with additional potassium results in excess.

Other Notables: Just as the human body needs a full assortment of nutrients, so too do plants. Each trace mineral has a slightly different role in plant health. Other honorable mentions include manganese, copper, iron, zinc, boron and sulfur.

The minerals mentioned are merely a selection from the long list of ones beneficial to plant growth and health. Applying minerals to your soil is not guesswork. The first step is to complete a comprehensive soil test, which we discussed in the January 2017 issue of Healthy Beginnings Magazine. Only after a soil test can you accurately know what deficiencies and excesses exist in your soil. From there, you’ll know what’s needed to create and sustain nutritional balance in your soils.

For storing necessary minerals in your soil, we highly suggest applying a natural humus product. We’re not talking about the hummus bean paste you eat with carrots and crackers, but rather the resulting organic material of a complete composting process. Humus is not a mineral, it’s the organic medium that holds all of the minerals in the soil so your plants can access them. At Full Circle, we know healthy growing starts with quality humus, and we’ve been perfecting our composting recipe to help complement Northern Nevada soils for more than 20 years.

Full Circle is the only local company that can create custom compost, soil and mulch blends with added minerals and nutrients to address the needs of any unique soil and growing environment (based on the soil analysis).

For more information or to get your soil tested, email