FAQ's: Ask Kevin

Hohstadt's owner Kevin Murphy is the foremost expert on bulk soils and agriculture for Humboldt, Mendocino and Trinity Counties. Here are some FAQ's!

As a pioneer in the Humboldt County bulk soil industry, what changes has Hohstadt's seen over the last thirty years?
The biggest one is the availability of high quality bulk material. When we started people were just learning about how to compost for producing soils. Also with the volume of soil that people need now - the bags are just no longer making sense. For the larger beds and farms they need access to a greater amount of material than you can buy in a bag.

We hear the saying "older than dirt," so all dirt is old, but not all dirt is tired, right?
Right, so plants consume a lot of the nutrients that are in the soil. For heavy feeding crops, by the end of the season, your soil is going to be depleted of most of the nutrients that a new plant will need for the following season, especially for outdoor gardening. If the soil gets rained on all winter long,  that will lead to nutrients being washed out of the soil too, so it’s important before the season starts to have your soil analyzed. You find out where you’re deficient, and what nutrients you need to add to your soils to get them ready.  That’s really the idea behind our Hohstadt’s Concentrate, that in February, when it’s time to get your beds ready, to have a simple product that you can add to your soil rather than having to purchase brand new soil. So you can add a smaller amount of a product to tired soil and it gets it ready. It revitalizes the soil and gets it prepped.

Talk about bulk vs. bags. What makes bulk soil a great choice?
Well, I hate plastic! I would love for people to stop using plastic in their gardens, it’s a total waste. I was really laughing when the whole thing with the super markets happened and everybody was against single use bags, but at the same time, every time you rip open a bag of soil, that’s a single use bag. It will never get used again, and that can really be avoided with bulk soil. Now a lot of people have the idea that because it’s in a bag, somehow it’s of a higher quality than bulk material, that it’s better. But the truth is all soil is bulk until you put it in a bag. So they make the soil exactly the way that we make it, and they buy a really expensive machine that puts that bulk soil in the fancy bag to make it look great but the bag does not make it better. It makes it easier for them to stock it on store shelves, so for the smaller home gardener maybe it makes sense, but for larger scale agriculture, really bulk is the only way to go!

Talk about soil testing. Why is that important?
Soil testing is important for a number of reasons - one is - you want to find out if you have any pathogens or fungal infections in your soil that could affect young plants when you plant in them.  There are several pathogens out there that over-winter very well so it’s very difficult to get rid of them. It's important to know if you have those before starting your season - to know if you need to replace your soil to get rid of the infection, so that's pathogen testing.

For nutrient testing, at the end of a season if you’have used a lot of fertilizers and stuff you could have a tremendous amount of salt build up. All of that needs to be leeched out before you re-amend or plant. You can find out if you’re deficient in trace minerals or if you need a general amendment for your soil or if you need something a little bit more specific. So if you want to target a certain crop and to know what really needs to be added to the soil, testing is the only way to really know. You’re not going to be able to just look at soil and know that it needs more nitrogen or potassium or trace minerals.

We also do testing on our compost all the time - there’s been a lot of concern lately about pesticide residue from grape products. Grape pumice and leftovers from the grape harvest are some of the main components in a lot of the compost out there. So people have a lot of concern that they might buy a soil that has residue left over from chemical pesticides, and that that would actually get transferred into their products, their plants. Then when they have their plants tested to be able to sell on the recreational market,  maybe there would be contaminants that could be traced all the way back to something that got into their compost. All of our compost and soil products are tested for pesticide residue and those kinds of things. For the compost that we actually use there are extreme steps taken to make sure that no food products or grape pumice goes into it. You know they test cannabis for parts per billion, so just a trace is bad. Now there are higher standards being placed on cannabis than on any other food crops that have ever existed. Even higher that tobacco, higher than anything. It’s a huge concern for people, so we always do the testing on our products just to make sure and I feel pretty safe with that. So for testing, it's THREE things really - testing for fungal pathogens, testing for nutrients, and testing for pesticide residue to prevent contamination. We have a testing lab we work with and we can help people with soil samples.

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