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Do The Grocery Retailers You Shop At Have The Best Produce Selection?

soil friends fresh produce

fresh produce soil friends

Organic food is great for the fact of environmentally clean crop production but is it the most nutrient dense produce we can consume? Are retailers catching on to this and is organic produce the solution for a healthiest life you can live? A few things to think about follow, this just gives you more to think into than just labels. Know your farmers and make sure the retailers you shop at do also!

• Liquid Fish- Primary form of fertilizer for many organic growers and what are people say about eating fish? (High mercury and metal, ocean pollution)
• Raw- cannot be cleaned (Other than environmental issues what about sanitation from production from tank transfers, processing etc.)
• Foliar feeding gets it on the fruit- Organic method of feeding the plant through the leaves

To be honest I see so much wrong and not healthy in food ingredients that this topic is particularly hard to pin-point what isn’t wrong! We should focus on what can we put in our body that is good for us! The only food label that should be on the table is a soil analysis from the farmer. Some Retailers are catching onto this and  are experiencing less food waste because quality vegetables do not rot. This mindset instead of what not to have and what we should ban, how about what we should add?

“Farmers With Healthy Soils Yield Vegetables With Superior Levels Of Nutrition, Flavor, and Storage Capability” 

• Extracts from fruits (Red Grapes, Berry’s- cancer fighting anti-angiogentic therapy, doesn’t give cancer a chance to grow)
• Cut down obesity rate- (Cancer likes fat areas) -Based on Dr. W.L ideas
• Energy and mental clarity- What lifestyle do you want to live?

The ones eating true health food typically are shopping around the main aisles of the grocery store. Raw foods don’t have much labeling to worry about! Keep in mind it is about nutrient density and getting the right amount of anionic minerals in your diet.

• Nutrient dense crops that are grown in an environmentally clean manner
• Raw Foods
• Keep researching and educating yourself

Grocery inventory  information can be found from Dr. William Li

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Raised Garden Beds- Properly Compost Your Beds

Tomatoes growing in raised garden beds
Tomatoes growing in raised garden beds

When starting seeds in a garden or planting transplants, you always want a nice seed bed. Compaction of the soil is the enemy in your garden, so remember that when making your raised garden beds. There is no right or wrong way of making raised garden beds, some vegetable growers prefer to make raised beds from wooden frames and others simply mound the soil and compost.

If you need to bring compost into your raised garden beds to fill them, make sure you are using compost that has been properly composted. Compost is not always ideal for growing vegetables, if it was not properly composted it may cause salt and disease problems. This type of compost is toxic and often kill or slow the growth of your plants.

What is compost? -Oxidated decomposition of a mix of organic matter

Using a thermal compost pile is the best compost for growing vegetables in raised garden beds. The compost pile should not reach high temperatures and be turned on a regular basis. When the temperature of the compost pile heats up the organisms are going so fast they will consume all of the oxygen. When your turn the compost pile you will slow the organisms down by keeping temperatures down.

“If the compost pile is not aerobic the entire time, don’t use it”

Using aerobic compost will help build soil structure by increasing water holding capability, preform proper nutrient cycling while suppressing insect and disease causing organisms. If the compost pile is not properly managed with the right amount of moisture (50% moisture) and oxygen it is of no benefit for gardening. When you purchase compost for your garden notice most places will have compost with many dark areas. This is an indication that the environment in the compost pile was anaerobic, we want soil life and dead compost is not going to cycle nutrients to the plants as they need it.

 All of the greenhouse tomato growers we work with grow tomatoes on raised beds and cover the soil with black plastic. The loose soil in the beds allow the plants to start out vigorously for many reasons, soil without compaction is aerated and that means soil life. The soil is doing the proper nutrient cycling and feeding the plant what it needs with available nutrients at the right times.

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Soil Farmers- What Are You Buying At The Farmers Market?

growing bell peppers

growing bell peppers

Soil- The break down of bed rock into mineral components  sand, silk, clay

What are soil farmers?

Soil farmers understand that the soil is alive and certain applications can stop the biology in the soil.  The applications from herbicides, insecticides, fungicides and inorganic fertilizers is killing off a chunk of soil biology each application. When the biology in the soil is not properly working do you think farmers are getting the ample amount of nutrients in their crops? The farmers with these type of applications will not have the highest quality vegetables at the farmers market, you can guarantee that!

Vegetables can be 1,000 times more nutritious from soil farmers 

 Local food is great but don’t get to caught up in the fact that local and fresh are the only option. You can buy local and fresh from a soil farmer who has the goal of growing produce in a soil biological manner. In the soil the bacteria, fungi, arthropods and beneficial nematodes that are used to feed plants must have the proper soil environment in order to function and preform proper nutrient cycling. This is done by farmers who use practices to always maintain and improve soil life, many practices in agriculture are not geared towards growing the most nutrient dense foods. So next time your shopping at the farmers market remember that.

Tilling does reduce Organic Matter from carbon from the surface area mixed in. The bacteria have a party and blow of 60-70% Organic Matter as CO2

Many small changes in management practices from farmers can help grow the high nutritional crops but it takes management. Don’t just buy vegetables from farmers markets because they are a farmer, ask them questions to learn if they are familiar with soil farming. Soil life is how nutrients move into the crop, when you take a step back at a soil farmers perspective  you notice.

“Plants are just energy conversion factories “

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How to Take a Soil Sample- Get your Soil Biology Working

The video above from Dr. Elaine Ingram is a great video serioes to save in your book marks if you need to remember tips on taking soil samples. Watch video 7 – How to take a soil sample

It is important to understand how to properly take a soil sample in order for your analysis to reflect your soil conditions correctly. Many local agriculture extensions and laboratories around that country will perform a soil analysis for a charge.

This is the first step to having the ability to grow high quality food. Growers need to understand their soil characteristics and make economical changes according to what is possible. Without a soil test you are standing in the dark. Understand that not all soils can grow the same crops. Soil is sand, silk or clay and can change from field to field depending on how the mineral components of the bedrock are broken down.

Biology needs oxygen and often compaction is a major challenge in agriculture. No oxygen and no biology and we are in trouble ! Understand what you have to do in order to get your soil biology active!

Soilfriends understands that growers can have millions of friends in the soil working to build healthy soils, but we have to create the conditions in order for the biology to work properly. We need balanced soils but most importantly we need to understand the soil in order to design a soil program for a successful agriculture operation. Not all products can work with all soils and management roles should change to be compatible with the soil type a grower is working with.

soilfriends plants pumpkin seeds
Take A Soil Sample Before You Plant Your Seeds

Take Your Soil Sample in the Fall!

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How to Grow Tomatoes For The Farmers Market- Flavor Sells

isp fruit set
ISP Technologies Greenhouse Tomato Program

Greenhouse tomatoes, fresh market, heirloom, paste, cherry, grape, sweet bell peppers, hot peppers; the choices are almost endless when it comes to growing tomatoes, peppers or even eggplant. In all instances though, an essential goal is to produce high yield with outstanding taste and shelf life. Accomplish those goals and the rewards can be great. Both wholesale buyers and retail consumers are searching for many of the same characteristics, with the primary one being taste.

Another similarity is the way that these plants tend to grow and set fruiting forms. Once we understand the concept of managing our crop for vegetative development, fruit set, fruit size and quality, we can then use this knowledge to improve many of our produce crops.

We all know that yield is the result of management decisions, but we also need to be aware that taste can vary tremendously … even with the same variety of tomato or pepper. Grow the “perfect” tomato or pepper and the world will “beat a path to your door.”

Heirloom varieties can open a new path for farmers to enter niche markets. Heirloom seeds start with more nutrition, is the quest for eating tomatoes or nutrient dense tomatoes? There are many varieties and flavors

The flavors are endless
The flavors are endless


Cass City, Michigan
 Soilfriends michigan local produce tomato soil program
Soilfriends Local Produce


The ISP Tomato & Pepper Program provides you, the grower, with the tools to accomplish higher yields and significantly improved quality.

1. Ensure that your soil has high levels of fertility.

2. Transplant solution: (example: 100 gal. of solution, add 6 – 10 lbs. 10-45-10, 16 oz. Seed Boost, and 1 – 2 quarts PhytoGro.) Irrigate enough to settle the soil around roots.

3. Allow transplants to dry somewhat to encourage root growth, then water as necessary (2 – 3 times per week).

4. After transplants are exhibiting new growth; add 2 – 5 lbs. 10-45-10, 4 oz. HV-1 per irrigation. Every 3rd irrigation, replace 10-45-10 with 32 oz. MetaCal.

5. Continually observe and evaluate plant growth. Pay attention to lower leaves and the growing point, which should always appear “fresh”. (See photo bottom right)

6. Once first flower buds appear, foliar 2 – 3 lbs. 10-20-20, 6 oz. epsom salt, and 2 – 4 oz. Seed Boost for each 12” of plant height. Repeat every 7 – 10 days.

7. Once pea size fruits appear, add 28-16-7 to both drip and foliar applications. The ratio of 28-16-7 to 10-20-20 will be based upon main stem node spacing. Total plant food application will be from 2 – 4 lbs. per foot of plant growth. Maintain MetaCal (1 qt. per week).

8. Once initial fruits are 1”, begin using 4-18-38 and 28-16-7 at 2 – 3 lbs. each per irrigation day. Increase MetaCal to 2 qt. per week. If base saturation of calcium is less than 65%, use 3 qt. through the drip, and foliar 1 qt. per week.

9. By the time early set fruits are ripening, nutrient will be applied through the drip with each irrigation. 4-18-38 will make up about half of total nutrient applied, but 28-16-7, 10-20-20, either Seed Boost or HV-1, and certainly MetaCal are all still important. We recommend at least two foliars per week to supplement drip applied nutrient.

Amount of total nutrient will vary based upon plant size and fruit set, with amounts being increased as the number of fruits increase. The most common mistake is to start strong, setting high numbers of fruit, then failing to increase nutrient applications as total fruit load increases. Continue to watch the lower leaves, the “freshness” of the growing point, bloom abortion, and the size of the maturing fruit. All of these are indicators of adequate or inadequate nutrition. Remember that as fruit set increases, so does the need for water!



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How to Grow Onions- What is a Sweet Onion?

“Sweet Onion is a legal term”

Among produce crops, onions and members of the Allium family (onions, garlic, shallots, leeks and chives) are somewhat unique in their growth habits and fertility requirements. Onions are the third largest fresh vegetable industry in the United States, with an annual per capita consumption of about 20 pounds and growing. ISP has worked with more acres of onions than any other produce crop except melons.

As a crop, onions require rather large amounts of nitrogen, yet it needs to be applied in the front half of the season, as late season applications can create serious bulb quality issues. Another significant challenge can be the variation in final bulb size resulting from mixed seedling vigor, nutrient availability or other growth factors. Finally, there is the chore of properly curing (drying) the onion bulb so that it has adequate storage capability.

Currently, we work with a high percentage of Candy onions. This season we will study more than 20 other varieties to provide growers with secondary variety choices, additional fertility information, and even exploring other market potentials in the arena of gourmet onions. Onions can be a good crop to grow when starting a vegetable garden, a gardener looking for plants to grow that don’t require a lot of maintenance would enjoy growing onion in their garden.

 “Onions Can Make You Cry ” :’ (

When you cut into an onion gas is released, Pyruvic Acid in Sulfur is what makes your eyes burn.  It is recommended to grow onions on grounds with lower levels of sulfur for sweet onions. When selecting a sweet onion it is expected to have at least 6% sugar and will hold more water than a storage onion, diluting the kick onion harness and indigestion problems. Locally grown fresh market onions taste very different than most store bought onions, they are to be taken advantage of for cooking during season because they will not store long. Taking the right management approach for growing onions will yield a quality with great flavor. Resulting in a onions with higher sugar content and lower Pyruvic Acid levels.


General Recommendations for Growing High Yield & Quality Onions

isp large onion feild
ISP Technologies Onion Trials

1. Ensure that your soil has high levels of available nutrients for optimum yield potential. Apply necessary fertilizer for optimum nutrient efficiency and plant uptake.

2. Prior to Planting/Transplanting – Incorporate into the bed 32 ounces of SB. There is also evidence that humates can be beneficial, especially in sandy, high magnesium or sodic soils. If desired, apply 64 ounces – 2 gallons of PhytoGro, or Pow’r Pak.

3. Flag Leaf Foliar Nutrients: If direct seeding into the beds, or starting transplants in a greenhouse, benefits have been observed through research that a high phosphorus plant food such as 10-45-10 or 15-30-15 can be beneficial to encourage more aggressive rooting. Under weather stress, seedling survival may also be increased with this foliar application.

4. Early Season Drip: Onions require rather high amounts of nitrogen. With a potential of N loss through leaching and/or denitrification from one or two large applications, we recommend adding N to all irrigations just prior to initial bulb swell continuing through the next 4 – 5 weeks. NC237 is a good choice, as the nitrogen and calcium combination can often enhance overall N efficiency.

5. Early bulb swell: 8 – 10 pounds 5-25-25 Onion Special (OS), and 16 ounces MetaCal applied as a foliar. Watch leaf tips; if any yellowing is occurring this is an indication of deficient nitrogen. All nitrogen should be applied within 5 weeks following early bulb swell. Late season N applications can be very detrimental toward bulb quality.

6. Mid Season Vegetative: Following early bulb swell the onion will continue to grow proportionately, with new leaves emerging as the entire plant enlarges. Although soil nutrients will play the most important role in growth, alternating drip applications of MetaCal (32 ounces/week) and PhytoGro (32 ounces/week) can be of benefit. Foliar applications of 6 – 8 pounds of 5-25-25 OS have shown positive results for yield and sweetness.

7. Primary Bulb Swell (Last Third of Season): Foliar up to 15 pounds per week of 5-25-25 OS, with 4 ounces Seed Boost, and 16 ounces MetaCal. Research observation has shown that this will tend to “tighten” the neck area of the onion, thus reducing susceptibility to disease.

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Foliar feeding for quality crop production 101

Pump up
Kwazar sprayers do the job for foliar feeding plants

Stress free crops have the highest nutritional yields with higher quality and better flavor. I have seen foliar feeding in management practices over the past few years give farmers a better understanding of growing crops. It gives a grower a chance to learn what plants do from perspective of plant frame and fruit set development. Plants will naturally grow, set fruit and grow again. When foliar feeding we need to understand what phase of growth our plants are in to achieve the maximum benefits with the proper solution.

Water is not water, check the pH! So many times we have worked with growers who need to spray  in order to get a quick nutritional increase to their crop. If we need to make quick changes to help crops, we recommend foliar feeding but if the correct pH for any application in agriculture is not correct then it is not effective. All water is sourced from different areas, we always want a lower pH to properly dissolve soluble plant foods and other products for effective applications. Foliar feeding can help reduce the time a crop spends in stressful conditions, luxiours amount of nutrients are absorbed through the leaves of the plant, this feeding is luxurious but only for a short time with the plants only taking what they can consume and will require another foliar feeding 5-7 days later.

A large rainfall event is stressful and biological soil conditions are not ideal for crop production, this is where foliar feeding can be used to increase soil biology. Active soil biology provides an environment for plants to uptake nutrients. Which direction do we want to go? Do we need more plant growth and foliage growth?  Are some plants lagging in growth? Is there to much growth and not enough fruit set with blossoms? This can give growers control by observing what they want to achieve with the capability to mix a spray that can make instant changes on crop development.  A fine mist is the most important aspect of foliar feeding.

More often it could be if there is a change in soil type, even soilless medium types and plant varieties can show a differently fertility requirement. A created solution with a goal in mind can do the trick, but we need to know what we want to achieve! How can we grow high yielding plants that don’t have enough nodes. Proper fruit development requires node spacing and control between nitrogen and mineral balance in the plants sap. When foliar feeding rowers can observe plants and make controlled changes as needed, but we recommend at least one or two applications per week depending on how aggressive we need to be in order to control the plants.  Different environmental conditions will cause growers to use different approaches that work in their programs. Take control so you can increase your quality and flavor of the crops you grow!

Kwazar Sprayers produce a fine mist
Kwazar Sprayers produce a fine mist
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Kwazar Sprayers are made to last- Why are they the best sprayers on the market?

Kwazar Sprayers are made to last

We have worked hard to bring experience, education and the highest quality products we can find to the market. We offer a range of products designed to meet a variety of needs and conditions, and we help you select the management program to serve your operation best. We have ample experience with most of the crops grown in the Midwest.

Good fertility levels in our soil helps us weather many challenges more successfully. The better our soil biology is balanced the better its performance and production. We have a line of powerful concentrated products including plant foods, soil inoculants, buffers and surfactants, liquid minerals, and biologicals. The greater the quantity and variety of life growing and feeding in and on soil, the better its fertility. This is where foliar feeding with the Kwazar sprayers plays its role in our program. Kwazar sprayers produce a fine mist that hang in the air and slowly drops down over plants, this cloud is ideal for foliar feeding plants. Foliar feeding with our plant foods can almost immediately increase soil biological activity and can be used as an additional management technique for growing healthy crops.

Kwazar sprayers manufacture the highest quality garden sprayers on the market from hand sprayers to backpack sprayers. We have found through our own trials and tribulations that low quality garden sprayers will not efficiency work in a successful crop production operation. From an economical and sustainable outlook we cannot keep throwing sprayers away after each growing season that are filling landfills. A common scenario we have dealt with in the past is having expensive solutions inside the sprayer and having problems with the garden sprayers not spraying effectively. Our search began for the best garden sprayers and after sometime we found Kwazar garden sprayers and realized they are built with the customer in mind, they produce the finest mist of any sprayer we have worked with on the market.

neptune lance
Kwazar sprayers give you a chance for an extra reach to hand a cloud 🙂

Every year brings it own challenges and weather complications.  Soilfriends will provide reliable information and management tools to give our customers for positive return on their investment. Yield loss from environmental stress factors can be reduced. Optimum result being less disease infestation and enhanced nutritional and storage quality. Foliar feeding is a critical tool growers can use to manage their crops, Kwazar  garden sprayers do their job by being durable sprayers that are easy to use. Let us help you develop a crop management program that will improve your bottom line.

Roadside stands can be a great place to purchase mineral rich produce
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Starting A Vegetable Garden

We wanted to share this video to pass on the information from Jonathan Foley, he shows how desperately we need to begin “terraculture” — farming for the whole planet. Growing up in Michigan I could not imagine water from the great lakes disappearing but the fact is things like this are happening all over the world. The colorado river is being drained from agriculture, this river no longer flows to the ocean. Our dominance on this planet is showing that we need to freeze the footprint of agriculture without further harming our environment. Demanding local foods and supporting farmers who are interested in doing the right thing is the way to change the world.

Soilfriends kwazar garden sprayers foliar feeding Soilfriends water soluble plant foods work great with foliar feeding Kwazar garden sprayers
Soilfriends kwazar garden sprayers foliar feeding transplants

The world uses 60 times the amount of the land to grow food than the entire world population takes up. We need to take a world wide approach to increase the efficiency of food production on the land we currently use instead of expanding operations. If we create biological soil programs with properly balanced soils we can receive maximum yields of quality food in small areas. The future of agriculture depends on changes that need to be made to save our environment. Agriculture is the largest emitter of greenhouse gasses from human activity in the world.

We encourage growers and gardeners to farm with the mindset of building soils to reduce inputs year after year and saving resources by using drip irrigation. A vegetable garden layout can make work more efficient and effective, that why most growers and gardeners start developing a plan months ahead of time before growing vegetables. A good garden layout can save energy and resources! You can have the garden of your dreams from and it starts by learning about  Terra-culture. Growing vegetables this way can be accomplished by using biological soil programs to produce food on mineralized soils. Management practices that focus on fertility can use foliar feeding with Kwazar sprayers to increase the biological activity in the soil to help the plant with nutrient uptake. Soilfriends has found when foliar feeding with a fine mist that Kwazar garden sprayers have a uniform mist. Healthy plants have higher yields of nutrient dense foods. Soilfriends focus on building soil health in order to increase yields and protect biodiversity. Starting a vegetable garden is a step in the right direction if you desire nutrient dense foods on your table.

One step at a time!

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How to create a design for growing vegetables

When Farmers are not working, they are thinking what to do to do next. The video attached is from one of our trail farms in Michigan. We set up small zones for drip line fertilization practices. This idea is currently used in both small scale and commercial agriculture production. Growers using drip irrigation can plant similar crops that require the same moisture and nutrient requirements together to reduce labor in both mixing nutrient solutions and changing zones.

We had success planting onions, zucchini and cucumbers in a zone together, towards the end of the season the crops required extra water so we split the zones up again. All three crops require larger nitrogen applications in the beginning of the season. We encourage onion growers to apply nitrogen early in the season, because late season applications can have negative effects on flavor. The onions were irrigated in a section at bulb swell with nitrogen taken out of their program and changed to the onion program we use. After our findings we found that will we plant cabbage near the onions in 2014. They both require early nitrogen applications and when sizing both require chloride.

When you shop for fresh produce look for farmers who use biological soil programs, they are the source for nutrient dense foods

We have blends of water soluble fertilizers specifically designed for specific crops, our 5-25-25 blend is the onion special! After learning the nutrient requirements of crops, we are able to design a fertility program. Planting crops in zones helps create a management plan that will be able to keep up with fertility requirements and create soil environments to allow companion planting.

Planning the growing season months ahead of time is the key to designing an efficient operation for vegetable production. Water pressure is always going to be the decision maker on how elaborate your irrigation system is designed. Vegetable production grown with biological soil programs must have enough irrigation to keep the soil moist to keep biology active. As the season progresses healthy plants will set more blossoms and additionally require more nutrients and water because of a higher fruit load.

More common than not growers will have many things to do when its time to harvest, and can get behind on fertility through the drip line irrigation. If we are going to manage our plants early in the season with practices that encourage reproduction and fruit set, we have to have a designed system that will be effective in maintaing soil moisture and nutrient requirements for the plants aggressively. We do not advocate more is better because often it  is not, but we do not want to get behind on fertility practices with full fruit loads.

We teach growers that foliar feeding is like icing on the cake, because we can create biological conditions in the soil immediately and encourage the plant to change its mineral and nitrogen ratios for goals such as new growth or creating fruit set conditions. In critical points of stress in the plants life we can use foliar feeding to give our plants an extra boost of nutrients. Kwazar garden sprayers produce a fine mist that will cover the leaves of the plant uniformly. Kwazar sprayers are the best garden sprayers on the market for spray preformance. When plants that require similar nutrients are planted together, Soilfriends can mix specific nutrients and stimulates in the foliar solution to spray in zones without having to spray to take the energy to spray the same thing in many other areas.

Planning ahead saves energy for later, good luck growing in 2014!