Friday, October 14, 2011

Dr. Soil

I collected a few pounds of soil from various corners of the new plot. Despite how great the soil looks and smells, I am determined to have it tested for heavy metals, NPK, and PH. I emailed Dr. Zhongqi (Joshua) Cheng at Brooklyn College on Wednesday morning to ask if he could process my soil test before next weekend -the planting weekend, and short of the normal three or so weeks testing normally takes. He emailed me right back to ask if I would  be coming in today to drop off the sample. Yes I would.

I had never met Dr. Cheng, but we had email contact a few years ago when he was starting up his soil testing service at ESAC of Brooklyn College and had asked if I could advertise the service on my then fairly new blog. Even today, a good portion of visitors to my blog come to read about soil testing for lead. Of course, it was that which lead to the NYT article on garden soil lead.

I found Joshua at his office exactly at the time I told him I would arrive. I gave him my ziploc bag of soil which he quickly declared was an excellent looking garden soil. I concur. We discussed my reasons for testing, but then moved on to talk about community gardens and their sociopolitical importance and the value of the gardens being close by (ha, except for mine). We shifted to talk of compost, and his students' experiments with various composting methods on campus, the use of food waste as a source of fertilizer (he says this is happening), and experiments with rice bran and molasses as a killer of composting odors. He says that soil testing is not keeping him too busy these days, but work on storm water management with the DEP is.

I am grateful that Joshua was willing to give me an hour of his time. I also felt lucky to not be just another number when I asked to have my soil test expedited. Knowing the results before planting will leave me in a better position. Joshua also seemed genuinely interested in the garden blog and the service he believes it provides. He wished that his students had the time and inclination to communicate in such a fashion. I found that reassuring.


  1. Good luck with the testing. (Joe used their services for testing the soil at our community garden's pumpkin patch.) Looks like you are having some fun already. Enjoyed the Toro picture. Nothing like a giant machine to sit on to make you feel like a real farmer! Here's to your breaking ground.

  2. Thanks! Back to it this coming weekend.


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