Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Building a Secret Garden using Soil Secrets and Trees That Please


Soil Secrets LLC was created from our nursery business Trees That Please back in the 1990's.  It's purpose was to continue the R & D of products that could be effective in restoring the natural balance of soil concerning what defines a healthy soil.  The other objective was to use these same products for growing our hundreds of thousands of trees at Trees That Please, growing trees with the natural processes of Nature flourishing on the roots of our product.  While fertilizers grow drug addicts addicted to the constant feed of the fertilizer, our Soil Secrets process will grow plants that are ready for the rigors of Nature.   For a long time nursery people used balanced N-P-K fertilizers with names that implied they would improve the texture of soil, or they sold bulk amounts of compost, mushroom compost, peat moss and products called Soil Builder, in the attempt to change the Soil Organic Matter and bulk density characteristics of a soil, somehow mimicking the rich dark top soil of nature.   However that has proven to not work as the chemistry of soil will consume the organic matter added faster than you can add it, resulting in a failed attempt to accumulate carbon to the point where you can say you are sustainable and contributing to "Soil Carbon Sequestration."    The other problem is that  by adding bulk volumes of organic matter from compost like products without knowledge of what the chemical characteristics are of the organic matter (salts, salinity, pH, etc.) can easily cause an accumulation of stuff in the soil that can damage the soils structure or ability to grow a healthy crop or landscape.   

I grow trees at my Trees That Please Nursery in Los Lunas because I love trees, however my Life's work has been soil and what's needed to make it healthy, because without healthy soil we cannot grow a healthy tree, lawn, crop or ecosystem.   In 1985 we purchased vacant land in Valencia County about 20 miles south of downtown Albuquerque, hoping to build a home we could raise our family in.   My vision was a large yard, a secret garden trees, hiding places and a big lawn that my kids to roll in, climb the trees and find adventure.  I soon discovered a major problem with the site in that the soil had been ruined by the decades of farming practices that had made the clay hard,  full of sodium and salts and extremely alkaline.  The surface would turn white during the winter revealing the White Death that would make it hard to succeed.   A professor of soil science from New Mexico State University told me it was impossible to fix the site and that I should put a for sale sign on it and move away.   
The following images are of the arboretum site as it is today which also has our Trees That Please production nursery on the grounds.     As you can see the professor was wrong and the site is now a healthy sustainable ecosystem of carbon rich soils, with a collection of trees from all over the world.  We succeeded because  Soil Secrets has developed the molecular biology and products that can restore Nature's natural balance of what defines a healthy soil and our Arboretum and our nursery production system at Trees That Please proves this point.  

Michael Melendrez
Director, Trees That Please Nursery
Director, Soil Secrets LLC








Friday, March 23, 2018

The Arboretum Tomé History

The Arboretum Tomé property was purchased in 1985 by Michael & Kari Melendrez as vacant land.  Unknown to the Melendrez couple the soil was a high pH Saline Sodic Alkaline clay with the pH running as high as 9.3 and never below 8.5.   In the winter the salts would come to the surface and turn the ground white.  In horticulture terms this situation is called "White Death" as very few of the most hardy weeds can tolerate those conditions.   Michael showed a soil analysis report of the site to a Professor of Soil Science at New Mexico State University who told him it was impossible to fix that kind of soil and to put a for sale sign on it.   Instead Michael using his knowledge of chemistry, molecular biology, microbiology and a good deal of dumb luck began to experiment with methods of soil  restoration.  The clay on the site is about 12 feet deep and was hard as a rock, taking many days of digging with a concrete buster and pick axe to dig a single tree planting site.   Many dozens of trees were planted in 1986 of which all died after one agonizing summer.  Today however the site is a rich collection of trees of the world with the largest collection of Oaks of any landscape in New Mexico or the Southwest.  Also growing on the site are 70 foot tall Redwoods, 50 foot tall Native New Mexican Oaks, Giant Timber Bamboo, Sugar Maples and a Naturalized forest Michael calls the Woodland Edge.  If you ask Michael what the key ingredient was to fixing the toxic chemistry of the site, he will tell you it was electricity.  That's right, electricity that is coming from the Carbon Matrix of our TerraPro product, an invention of Michael that is bio-identical to what Nature is doing in the healthiest soils on the planet.    In 2011 Clarence Chavez, Acting Soil Scientists for New Mexico working for the USDA NRCS requested from Michael that a new soil carbon test be used to measure the concentration of carbon on the arboretum grounds.  This type of carbon test can prove if a successful soil carbon sequestration process is taking place.  If the carbon accumulation is significant and is not there because you added it in the form of compost, biochar, etc., but rather is there  because the soil ecology process of  Nature put it there, than we can make the claim that Soil Carbon Sequestration has taken place.  A result of the Reactive Carbon testing performed by Clarence revealed the highest carbon levels measured in New Mexico, including many Organic Certified Farms that have been organic for many years.   It also revealed that when soils are healthy and full of carbon they stay cooler in the heat of the summer as the Arboretum Tomé soils were 16 F degrees cooler that other sites in the same county.  Cooler soils stay moist in the summer than hot soils!



                                       
                                        Looking East in 1986, showing the salt


The same view of the East side of the Arboretum in 1996


Tree production nursery in the arboretum

                  Fall color on a native red oak called Chisos Red Oak - Quercus gravesii


Fall color of the native Bigtooth Sugar Maple, Western Red Bud and Texas Redwood (Taxodium)


Arboretum's Woodland Edge, used to buffer the hot western sun and function as a windbreak.  Species included in this mix are Arizona White Oak, Chinquapin Oak, California Valley Oak, Iranian Chestnut leaf Oak, Gambel Oak, Chisos Red Oak, Swamp White Oak, Lacy Oak, Fendlers Oak, Western and Eastern Red Bud,  Texas Ash.


Arboretum lawn