Monday, June 30, 2014

What grows green grass and Healthy Crops in Western Soils?

Often our western soils have a problem with many of the 42 essential elements of plant nutrition being inhibited by the alkaline chemistry of the soil.  This simply means that the elements such as iron, zinc, copper, calcium, etc, etc, etc, are cemented into the matrix of the soil by way of a precipitation reaction called concretion.   This is where the term ‘Concrete’ comes from, where the mineral elements are not soluble with just water.  The process of getting these elements available for plant uptake requires a “solutioning” of the elements from the concreted soil, which is provided by the supramolecular chemistry of the organic matrix of humic molecules, and by the mycorrhizal fungi that are hopefully also present.    It’s one of the Mechanisms of Action for the Humic Molecules and the Mode of Action for the Mycorrhizal fungi. 

Another limiting factor is the availability of nitrogen in the form of amino acids, caused by a slow or weak Soil Food Web.   The SFW is the Terrestrial Biosphere of Micro-organisms and soil animals of all sizes, which all contain protein.    The largest most abundant part of this terrestrial biosphere should be coming from the cycling of mycorrhizal hyphae as they are constantly being replaced.   It’s been reported that the individual hyphae of mycorrhizal fungi only function for 5 to 7 days before they are replaced!  The cellular tissues of the hyphae have huge amounts of protein, which breaks down into amino acids, which accumulate in the soil and eventually get picked up by functioning hyphae of other mycorrhizal fungi and delivered to the plants as a major source of the nitrogen budget needed by the host plant.  Much of the protein organic substances of the cycling microorganisms also gets consumed by the grazers of the soil (other microbes) where the caloric value of the protein is used to multiply into more microbes.  
This is where we screw up in landscaping or farming, when we supplement our crops or urban landscapes with high analysis fertilizers rather than find a way to instigate a better functioning Soil Food Web.  Sure plants can use the 16% (plus or minus) analysis of nitrogen found in such products, but the best way for a plant to get nitrogen is by way of up-taking amino acids from the soil’s biosphere and not from acidified high salt index fertilizers.   The high analysis fertilizers don’t provide a protein caloric value to the soil microbes and most of the nitrogen never gets used by the plant as it’s too easily lost.  The result is a feast-or-famine-cycle!

Here’s another way of looking at the situation.   The plant needs the nitrogen in order to build important proteins and enzymes (also proteins), which is the same reason why we animals also need protein, for the nitrogen.  However what we really need are the amino acids, which are the molecular building blocks of protein and which on a molecular scale contain the nitrogen.  Think of it like building a brick wall, where the wall is the protein and the bricks are the amino acids.  It’s better and more efficient for a plant to build the wall with bricks that already exist rather than to need to manufacture the bricks before it can build the wall.   This is how Nature’s molecular biology of plant nutrition and soil building works, so for us its prudent to apply bio-mimicry as our method of growing any urban landscape or farm crop than it is to just crank the N-P-K into the fertilizer system.  

Michael M. Melendrez
Managing Member of Soil Secrets LLC 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Problem with Western Soils in Agriculture and in Urban Landscaping: Here's a Solution

The Problem with Western Soils in Agriculture and in Urban Landscaping:  Here's a Solution

Water is a growing concern in the arid West and it's a problem that will never go away.   This paper addresses two situations that contraindicate the efficient use of water in both urban landscaping and in agriculture, particularly where irrigation is essential.

Soil Compaction:
The first problem I'll cover is the compaction of soil.  This prevents water from  penetrating to an adequate depth, allowing roots to also grow deep, therefore providing plants with a greater contact zone with soil, where water and element nutrients can be found and sequestered.  Compaction also causes a problem with roots rotting due to the soil being airless (anaerobic).  Like us, roots and the beneficial microbes of soil need oxygen in order to survive and function properly, so compacted soils limit the functionality of roots and all the beneficial soil microbes.  Soils can also be made anaerobic by amending them with organic matter that easily decays.  This happens because the process of decay consumes oxygen rapidly causing the soil to spoil as it turns anaerobic.   Adding organic matter to either water or to soil increases the BOD (Biological Oxygen Demand) caused by the microbes of that environment attempting to break down the caloric value of the organic matter, which requires oxygen.  If the soil is extremely porous, providing rapid water percolation, then high soil organic matter is not a big deal, but in compacted arid region soils where the soil is collapsed, dispersed and compacted, it may not be a good idea to amend the soil with compost, peat moss, animal manure or other forms of easily decayed organic matter. 

Soil Salinity:
The second problem limiting plant health is the increasing salinity of both our soil and our water, a problem across all western regions of agriculture and urban areas where fossil water or effluent water is used for irrigation.  Soil also becomes increasingly saline (salty) because high analysis acid based fertilizers are often used.    Fertilizers have a salt index, meaning they contribute salt to the soil!  So soil salinity increases because we irrigate with water that can be saline, or high in TDS (total dissolved solids), we have high evaporative loss of our soil water, and our soils are often compacted, preventing us from flushing the salt out of the soil by irrigating with lots of high quality water.  And in areas where waste water effluent is has been implemented it’s causing major salinity accumulation which can only cause a bad situation to get worse.  Western soils are vulnerable to salinity accumulation because our water quality is not excellent and our evaporation rate is high, so the longer we irrigate and the longer we fertilize the greater the soil salinity becomes!    As times continues the practice of irrigating with poor quality water and fertilizing with high salt index fertilizers, we shall first experience the symptoms of salinity by seeing the burning or dehydration of the foliage, and we shall see the collapse of the soil caused by the dispersal of the soil clay particles as the salt accumulates.  This increases the compaction of the soil!   Dispersal of clay is literally a collapsing of the structure of the soil causing it to seal, become hard and anaerobic, and inhibits water percolation.  In addition, salinity will also inhibit water uptake into the plant as water will move in the wrong direction trying to equalize the concentration of dissolved solids in the liquid.  If the concentration of dissolved solids (salts) is greater in the soil water than it is in the plants vascular water then water will leave the plant and go into the soil, attempting to equalize the concentration gradient of the water. 

The symptoms of dispersed collapsed soil are easy to diagnose by simply probing the soil to see how hard it is.  You can use an inexpensive moisture probe for doing this.   A photo provided in this paper shows a moisture probe used by a Phoenix Arizona Landscaping Co., which has been monitoring a park sports field turf area in Phoenix after using the Soil Secrets products,  TerraPro and EndoMaxima.   TerraPro is a unique formulated product made by Soil Secrets which contains a bio-identical "organic matrix" of Humic molecules that function as supramolecular.  Because they have this molecular characteristic they are capable of assisting plants with water uptake, even under saline conditions.  They are also capable of helping the soil particles re-arrange, un-compact and form a macro-aggregate structure.  When TerraPro is applied on a turf area such as a sports field or golf course, even when high percentage Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium fertilizers has been used, you will often see the performance of the grass improve.  This is probably due to the improved water uptake into the vascular system of the grass and since water is an essential part of the chemical equation of photosynthesis, the grass gets greener. 

Phoenix Arizona Landscaping Co., water savings demo project on a park sports field. You can see that the right hand side of the field is noticeably greener than the left hand side.   Photo was taken 2 months after treatment with both TerraPro and EndoMaxima mycorrhizal inoculant.  

The image of the soil moisture probe picture is about 4 1/2 months after the treatment in January of 2014.  On the TerraPro treated side of the field the moisture probe was easily pushed 6 inches into the ground.  On the non treated side, the probe would not penetrate more than a half inch before bending the probe.  The results of this test have convinced the company to invest in a larger commercial probe for continued testing.

Salinity Test on Driscoll's Raspberries. Driscoll Strawberry Associates, Inc.   Field on the left was not treated and was typical of fields being impacted by the increasing salinity levels of the farm water and soil. 


 Field on the right was treated with the Soil Secrets TerraPro product and salinity damage was decreased.  

The photo below shows the treated field on the left and the control untreated field on the right.  The reddish tinge on the right hand side untreated field is the burning of the foliage from the salinity! 

by Michael Martin Meléndrez

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Are You Interested in learning more about how to build healthy, moisture-retaining soils?

You are invited to the annual Spring Garden Fair at Arboretum Tomé on Saturday, May 31st.

The Garden Fair will host two soil expert lectures beginning at 10 a.m.

New Mexico State University agronomist Rudy Garcia, a USDA soil scientist with the National Resource Conservation Service, will discuss how to improve local soils to grow healthier, more nutritious crops, more sustainable lawns and robust trees.

“He will talk more about the science of how soils work and how to fix them and make them healthier"

Kim Costion, of Ashokala Gardens in Snowflake, Ariz.,, will tell her personal story how she converted a desert soil into a fertile farm able to feed many families.

“She will show you pictures of building three to four inches of black topsoil in three years, even out in the desert”.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Spring Garden Fair at Arboretum Tomé on Saturday, May 31st.

Gardeners, farmers, and students interested in learning more about how to build healthy, moisture-retaining soils are invited to the annual Spring Garden Fair at Arboretum Tomé on Saturday, May 31st.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Come and See How a Healthy Soil Supports A Plethora of Plants!

Come and see how a Healthy Soil, developed by the exclusive use of Soil Secrets Products, can support a great abundance and variety of shrubs and trees!
Enjoy the shade and abundant plant life at the
Arboretum Tomé Annual Open House and Garden Party.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Arboretum Tomé Annual Open House Guest Speakers

We are proud to announce the Featured Speakers at this year’s
 Arboretum Tomé Annual
Open House and Garden Party

Lectures Begin at 10:00
 Rudy Garcia, State Agronomist for New Mexico
“How better soil health relates to increased water conservation
and a healthier garden or landscape”.

Kim Costion of Ashokala Gardens Arizona
“A growers experience: building a healthy soil to increase garden health and productivity”.

Arboretum Tomé Annual
Open House and Garden Party

May 31st from 9:30am to 4:30pm


Location:  9 Gilcrease Road, Los Lunas New Mexico 87031

For Additional Information Contact:

Trees That Please Nursery
Winter hours: Mon-Sat 9:00 to 4:30,  Sunday 11:00 to 4:00
Phone: 505-866-5027

Trees That Please is located at 3084 Highway 47, Los Lunas NM 87031
Visit our web site at:

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Using Less Water And Growing Healthier Landscapes By Being On The Journey To Better Soil Health

There are some people in the arid Albuquerque market and other cities of the Southwest that still prefer to have green lawns that you can walk barefoot on.   Historically the standard practice for keeping grass green was to use high analysis fertilizers.  Products with names like Miracle Grow, SoilTex, urea, etc.,    which were dumped on landscapes like crazy and have been the tradition all across the country when it came to growing turf and trees.   This article will describe the problem with using high analysis fertilizers, how they damage the soil ecology and I'll describe how Soil Secrets has a better idea that results in the gradual improvement in the soil health while also reducing the amount of water needed to keep our urban landscapes green. 
  While fertilizers do what they claim, which is provide Nitrogen, Phosphorous Potassium and maybe a half a dozen other elements, and will make your lawn green as promised, they do so at a cost to the health of the soil.  This results in a multitude of other problems which I'll address here.   First is the issue of water.  The poorer condition your soils bio-geo-chemical process (Soil Ecology) are in, the poorer the soil structure and the poorer the root system of the plant.  Thus, resulting in the plant, the crop, the turf, the trees and shrubs needing extra water.  This is true for agriculture and it’s true for urban horticulture.   The first two pictures I've attached show a typical situation in Albuquerque where the home owner is trying to compensate for soil that is not healthy by providing the landscape with extra water, yet still we can see a dead/dying spot in the top photo.  

Notice the dead spot in the background.  This is caused by disease pressure and the roots rotting caused by poor drainage, anaerobic conditions (no air) and poor soil structure.  

What's happening is that the turf is declining regardless of fertilizer and water being applied?  While Soil Ecology is complex, we can accurately determine that the grass roots on this site are shallow and vulnerable to moisture availability.  Why?  Because the site has poor soil structure resulting in anaerobic soils (no oxygen), resulting in poor drainage and poor root depth since roots can only live where there's plentiful oxygen.  The issue is poor soil structure caused by a system of management that does not encourage, prime, or support the process of soil ecology.  In other words, no high analysis fertilizer product has every built a healthier soil and since plants must have a healthy soil in order to grow a healthy immune system and a strong structure, we can accurately say that fertilizers can't grow a healthy plant.   So back to the attached pictures, where the homeowner is watering like crazy, trying to save the turf, we also begin to see turf disease issues.  Like humans, a healthy plant has a capable immune system while an unhealthy plant is vulnerable to disease!  The image below, taken just a few weeks after the photo above, shows the turf recovering and the brown spot disappearing.  

This site had been treated with TerraPro, which fortified the soil with Humic Molecules (erroneously called Humic Acids) that are powerful "bio-organic matrixes" essential for a healthy and productive soil.  TerraPro is a novel material of the industry that cannot be duplicated with other products on the market and was developed from information obtained from molecular research performed at both Los Alamos National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratory, which provided molecular information as deliverables to Soil Secrets under a Commercial Proprietary Information Contract!  On a molecular atomic scale they are bio-identical to what is found in Nature's best soil environment and they contain the proper supramolecular (quantum physics) characteristics.   In the Journal of Chemical Education, research published by two Bio Chemical Engineers from the University of Arizona have stated that these carbon rich bio-organic matrixes that we generically call Humic Acids, are essential for a healthy and productive soil.  So in the case of the images provided in this paper we simply fortified the soil with that chemistry of Nature, plus we switch the source of nitrogen  from using a high analysis type fertilizer to using a protein based product called Protein Crumblies, also a novel product of Soil Secrets.   Why protein?  Because Soil Ecology depends on the life and death cycling of animals in the soil, including the smallest creature the bacteria up to larger animals such as earthworms, all of which bodies contain protein.  As that protein decays, the nitrogen that's part of the molecular structure of the protein slowly becomes available for other soil microbes to graze on, with some of the nitrogen becoming available for the vegetation.  This process is called "the soil food web", also essential for a healthy and sustainable soil ecology.    I've been writing and talking about the soil food web since 1974, when I first wrote a paper on that topic for a college class.   Essentially what Soil Secrets is accomplishing on this site is a process of "bio mimicry" where we are adding to this soil what is needed to prime it back into a functional productive soil.    It demonstrates that we can grow an attractive turf, use less water, have less disease pressure and be more responsible with our environment when we use Soil Secrets Bio-Mimicry processes versus using fertilizer and watering like crazy.   Need more convincing? Here's a unsolicited email from Craig Thames, Midland Texas Independent Schools, Grounds Forman.

The use of TerraPro and Protein Crumblies dates back to the late 80's at my Trees That Please Nursery in Los Lunas, New Mexico.  The names have changed and the products were crude in comparison to what we have today, but I developed them for the production of our trees, shrubs and other plants, where I was attempting to mimic Nature for the objective of being on the journey to better soil health.   Today Trees That Please production still uses TerraPro and Protein Crumblies, in production of our plant materials and we retail them to our clients.  They are also available to other nurseries/garden centers and they are used Nation wide in agriculture, mine reclamation, State Highway re-vegetation, city parks and sports fields.  Some of the largest farms in the United States are now using TerraPro and other products of Soil Secrets, which has   evolved into a national company.       It Works! 

Here's another site in Albuquerque, where the soil health was compromised by the use of high analysis fertilizers.  

The image below was taken a few weeks after the above, with the bottom image benefiting from TerraPro and Protein Crumblies treatment.

Don't forget that on May 31st, we shall be opening our arboretum collection to the public for our annual Spring Fling in the Trees.  It's free and its open to the public.  Mark your calendar and if you wish to attend, contact us for directions and more details. 

by Michael Martin Meléndrez