Seasonal Agronomy Tips

Transplanting, Conductivity, and Nematodes

This time of year is when we're all jumping out onto our land to get things growing. Remember to be patient... wait for optimum soil temperatures before putting your seeds and plants out, or you may stress them such that they never recover. Often a plant set out in soil that is too cool will stop growing and one set out a week or 2 later will outgrow it and have less problems through the season.

This is a great time to add minerals and microbial inoculants to your beds to set them up well for the season. Many organic amendments will slow release throughout the growing season, while also encouraging more diversity of microbes. Add fertilizers to address soil mineral balance, and rock dusts. I like to use Desert Dynamin, Azomite, Basalt rock dust, Granite meal, and humates. To ensure good microbial populations after the winter months, I like to inoculate everything in the spring with broad spectrum inoculants like “Rhizo Shield” from Agri Dynamics and “Soil Infusion” from Terra Biotics.

When I transplant, I always water in with dilute Plant Sure and a solution of at least 1 inoculant. Dilute molasses and humic acid are great too.

This is also the time of year when I'm most likely to check soil electrical conductivity. In spring, soil conductivity tends to be low because the soil microorganisms that keep nutrients available have been less active, and snow and spring rains can leach out the soluble nutrients that contribute to conductivity. A conductivity meter measures the electrical conductivity of the soil. The higher the electrical conductivity, the more mineral salts are present in the soil. These mineral salts are the easily accessed nutrients that plants need. In healthy, biologically active soils, the level of these minerals naturally increases through the growing season, until you reach a point where you have exhausted what your soil provides and then you'll often see a drop in conductivity. Poor conductivity in spring can lead to poor germination, slow growth, damping off and other diseases, while later in the season it often shows up just before blossom end rot and early blight.

Soil should measure between 40 and 400 micro siemens... My meter reads milli siemens, so I have to multiply by 1000. As an example, my compost pile right now measures 0.46, so that's 460 micro siemens. You want your soil at 100 to start the growing season, higher (200-400) when plants need more nutrients. Corn can go higher than most plants, but anything over 1,200 and you seriously risk burning the plants.

To help control crop pests, this is a good time to think about getting out in front of the problem. Pest populations can be held in check with soil-applied beneficial nematodes, which will eat the egg and larval forms of many insect pests. Floating row covers and other mechanical pest control measures can help. And remember that pests generally attack stressed plants, so improve soil chemistry and biology balance, pay attention to water and weather stress, and make sure you have enough sulfur and boron, especially if you have high levels of nitrogen.

Happy growing!

Agronomy conference call

with David Forster, BFA soil & farm consultant

The next Agronomy Conference Call with David Forster, our in-house soil and farm consultant, will be held at 8pm (EST) on Tuesday, May 16, 2017.

This free 1-hour call is your chance to get your questions answered by our staff agronomist. And tell your friends... everyone’s invited!  (BFA membership is not required).

Check the Agronomy Consulting page for dial-in numbers and additional details.

And remember, if you are a "Grower Member" of the organization, you get up to an hour of 1-on-1 consulting help from our Agronomist, David Forster.  Subject to availability, so contact David today.


Agronomy Conference Call
Tuesday, May 16, 8pm EST
Call-in details

Sign up here for our agronomy newsletter, and we'll let you know before each consulting call, and periodically send agronomy tips to your inbox.

Mineral Depot announcement

Since starting the BFA mineral depot ordering system last year, we have helped numerous members source the amendments they need. We started the mineral depot as a means of connecting our members to sources of hard-to-find amendments bought in bulk at reduced prices.

With the growth we have experienced, it has become clear that we need to restructure how we approach and handle management of the mineral depot bulk buying system. Some of you have experienced poor service from us, due in no small part to the very labor-intensive process we first created to bring this program to our members, and for that we are very sorry.

We are going to transition to our original vision for the mineral depots, structuring them as a chapter-focused member resource, with clear guidelines and articulated expectations. "Grower members" will continue to be able to request individual orders and we will do our best to meet those requests, but other member orders must go through their local BFA chapters. Furthermore, we have been testing an online ordering system with the CT chapter called "Foodclub" that we will now use for all of our chapters. This system will help local chapters combine the orders of their members, assist in organizing splits of larger quantities of materials, and facilitate local sourcing.

Finally, we will also be switching to a biannual ordering cycle. This means that there will be a spring order cutoff date, and a fall order cutoff date. These dates will be approximately 1 month prior to expected availability/delivery dates and will allow us to better utilize our financial and staff resources, and provide more timely, efficient, and transparent service to our members.

The spring/fall cycle will only apply to dry mineral amendments. Orders for foliar and soil drench liquids and microbial inoculants will be processed throughout the growing season, but will still be expected to go through local chapters.

This means that we will be shutting down ordering from the mineral depot until this fall, as of May 15. If you would like to place an order, please do so ASAP and we will do our best to fulfill your request.

Check out the details regarding our new and improved mineral depot program here:


BFA Chapter Spotlight: Westchester / NYC

Doug DeCandia & Ellen Best, co-leaders of the Westchester/NYC Chapter, sit down for a Q&A to discuss the growth and success of the Chapter.

Starting from the beginning, what attracted you to better quality food?

Doug DeCandia (DD) – Health is #1, and taste is right up there, too.

How did you first learn of the Bionutrient Food Association (BFA)?

DD – I attended an introductory lecture held by Dan Kittredge, at Hilltop Hanover Farm, about 7 years ago now.

Ellen Best (EB) – A mutual friend of Doug and mine told me about the BFA 2-session Workshop in Bedford Hills, NY.

How long have you been implementing the information shared during that workshop?

DD – 6 years or so.
EB – Over a year.

Please share the story of how the Westchester/NYC BFA Chapter started, as well as how it's developed and grown.

DD – A small group of us, after attending one of Dan's Workshops, started meeting at the Westchester Land Trust (WLT) and other local farms for potlucks and meetings. We have been able to use the gardens at the Land Trust to demonstrate different practices. Folks reached out to friends and others they thought would be interested in attending the meetings, and our small group got bigger. We meet once a month, usually at the Land Trust, and share a potluck and discussion around natural food and farming.

EB – Word is spreading all over the place, via Doug’s contacts!

What are some steps you use for planning topics, agendas, events, and so on for Chapter meetings?

DD – Good question. Last year and until recently, although we had a general topic idea to cover, the meetings were more free form, including a potluck. Feedback was that people wanted more of an in-depth discussion, beyond just having a general one. Also, it is important for our group to be mindful of the hours of the WLT, when the meetings are held there, to best utilize the time at the WLT. So we structured it much more – devised an agenda, and stick to it.

Please share your thoughts on organizing a BFA Chapter event, as well as running it.

DD – Be organized and structured, but have platform(s) for communication that is sparked at meetings. It takes a while to catch on, but worth it. I’m talking YouTube videos, Facebook page and now a Google Group. Next up, a doc to share recipes, food preservation, etc.

What was the most enjoyable event that the Chapter organized?

DD – Every time we meet in the garden for meetings, it just feels right.

How do people learn of the upcoming events?

EB – Was emails, now a Google Group. Doug spreads the word wherever he goes.

How have chapter members benefited via participation with the chapter?

EB – We have started demos, both on YouTube and at meetings: how to make soil blocks, biochar, scheduling seed sharing at meetings, opportunity to share amendment orders, get a discount locally at a supply store for cover crop seeds, tools.

Please share your experiences tabling at local events, as well as what "things" that are done to reach the most people at such events.

DD – I haven’t tabled much, except with Mark and Kris this past winter at the NOFA-CT Conference. The table was set-up with pictures, recipes, rock dusts and seeds, and the collage of the Hartford CT BFA Chapter’s demonstration garden, were all very helpful.

What do you believe attracts people to your BFA Chapter/events, as well as to the BFA?

EB – I feel Doug attracts people through his work for the Food Bank and just the way he is! He’s so welcoming and committed to gardening in the big picture: for overall health and on a global, spiritual level, too.

What impacts do you see the Chapter making in your community?

DD – It’s definitely connecting and re-connecting people through this common denominator of this makes-sense approach to growing food and helping each other do it.

Do you have a story how the Chapter has made an impact?

EB – Personally, just covering my soil has – as I just recently discovered – improved my soil so much. Worms everywhere!

How has the BFA Soil & Nutrition Conference impacted the Westchester / NYC BFA Chapter?

DD – We further realized the connection to so many aspects of growing food – what we can explore as a Chapter.

With marketing and spreading the word of your BFA Chapter events, what have you found works best?

EB – Reaching out personally is #1 – inviting friends and telling others. Having a potluck at each meeting is a good vehicle for attracting people, as well as garden demos. We don’t do much other marketing, but are considering making a card to put in local nurseries, etc. The article I wrote for Bedford Magazine helped to get the word out. Article is found here:

Are there plans for demonstration garden(s), utilizing information shared in the BFA 2-session Workshop, of acknowledging, supporting, and working with biological systems?

EB – Doug's garden at Westchester Land Trust is our demo garden at Chapter meetings. We are planning on having samples of various amendments and materials on hand at meetings.

What is the motivating factors behind your enthusiasm and energy with maintaining and building the Chapter?

EB – Learning more for myself is primarily why I do it! It takes repetition! Also, connecting with like minded people, in our area, is rewarding.

What “connections” have been made with those in your community through the work of the Chapter?

DD – Links to the YouTubes have made it onto local environmental and gardening websites and spread the word.

Going forward, what and how do you envision the growth of the Westchester / NYC BFA Chapter?

EB – I would love to visit other gardens (either as a chapter meeting or just Doug and me) – both individual's and community gardens – to see what BFA approaches are being used and to discuss how people can do more. We already have a relationship with a local garden supply store, but would like to put info at area businesses to alert them and their customers about the BFA approach, of working with biological systems or Nature's Basic Operating System (Nature's BOS).

Thank you for sharing your time and stories!


Upcoming chapter meetings and events

Learn more at, or follow the links below. May 14  Basics of good planting, hands on On-Farm Mineral Mixing Day
Questions? please contact M.L. Altobelli at, and put "backyard" in the subject line! May 17  Chapter Meeting: Foraging and Making Pro-biotics for Plants & People, plus a tour of Ellen Best's garden to see how it is coming along following some of the principles discussed in chapter meetings (Pound Ridge, NY)


Save the date!

2017 Soil & Nutrition Conference
Nov 28-30, 2017 – Southbridge, MA

We would love to hear from you!  Who would you like to see present at this year's conference?  What topics you would like to see covered? Feel free to reach out at
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