The Blog‎ > ‎

Healthy soils workshop series

posted Nov 3, 2014, 11:41 AM by Dan and Caroline Swansey
Soil, often called dirt, is often taken for granted and even dismissed as something that needs to be washed off as soon as possible. However soil is the medium from which life starts and where life ends. Soils are incredibly diverse and complex: they can be young or old, they can be depleted or full of nutrients, they can be full of organisms or lack organisms, they can be dynamic with diverse forms of life or be dominated by a few pests, they can have good tilth, with nice aggregates and a good balance of pores, or they can be clumpy or hard, lacking aeration and low infiltration, they can be sticky or silky or gritty etc. etc....
My definition of a healthy productive soil is one which gives plants the ability to grow at its natural rate, produce food full of balanced nutrition and fight off diseases and pests without the need for chemical pesticides. 
So what makes soils healthy and productive? 
In my workshop series I will address the basics of soil physical, chemical and biological properties that are important in understanding how to make a soil healthy and productive.
Week 1: Soil Physical properties
We will discuss soil texture, structure, porosity, infiltration, soil aeration, and the role of organic matter in giving your soil good tilth. We will learn hands on how to determine the texture of a soil, we will look at different amendments that can be used to improve soil structure, we will put together potting soils with different physical properties that can be used for different purposes
Week 2: Soil Chemical properties
We will discuss the chemically active part of soil, the soil colloidal fraction, and learn the basics of how nutrients are released and held onto soil surfaces. We will discuss the most important plant nutrients and their availability. We will learn how to use soil test results to make decisions about which fertilizers and amenments to choose. We will discuss the importance of pH and aeration in soils and how these two things affect the chemistry balance in the soil. The importance of organic matter will be discuss.
Week 3: Soil biology
We will learn about the importance of soil life in keeping our soils healthy and productive. We will touch on the role of a few different macro and microorganisms present in soil. We will discuss soil ecology and the importance of diversity in preventing disease outbreaks. We will look at different types of organic matter inputs and why organic matter is so important to soil life. We will learn how to increase soil life, by giving a basic overview on how to make compost and compost tea. If time permits we will discuss how the 3 different aspects of soil discussed in this series (physical, chemistry, and biology) work together and need to be seen together as a complex system.

The workshops will be given at our farm
20217 NE Yacolt Mountain Road, Yacolt Wa 98675

The dates will be 3 consecutive Saturdays from 1 to 430pm:
January 10th
January 17th
January 24th

Fee per individual: $25/day or $60/3day series

To sign-up please e-mail me at and send a check payable to Yacolt Mountain Farm to 20217 NE Yacolt Mountain Road, Yacolt Wa 98675

if you have any questions feel free to send an e-mail to the same e-mail address