Questions related to soil sciences and practical matters

Soil Sciences

Soil is made of air, water, minerals (sand, silt, clay), decayed plant residue, and organic matter from living and dead organisms. A living soil is one that is alive with beneficial microorganisms, which help to cycle nutrients and protect crops against pathogens.

grow medium can be defined as anything that is used to grow plants on. “Soil” is a grow medium, but the term typically refers to grow materials that do not contain actual soil. Grow mediums can be made up of a single source (e.g. rock wool, leca), but are often composed of a variety of products in different proportions (e.g. perlite, vermiculite, peatmoss). 

Grow amendments can best be defined as anything that is added to a soil or grow medium to improve the grow conditions. They are used to optimize the texture, structure, fertility, porosity or other qualities such as pH levels. With grow amendments, almost any soil or grow medium can be made fertile, suitable for growing various plants, flowers, and trees.

Soil organic matter (SOM) is the component of soil that is organic, i.e. that comes from living organisms. It is material that once was plant, animal, fungi or microorganism which is at various stages of decomposition and levels of stability. It includes debris, humus (e.g. fulvic acids, humic acids, humin), as well as root exudates and microbial synthetates. SOM fractions affect several critical soil functions (conveying nutrients, buffering humidity, supporting beneficial microorganisms), for instance through its influence on such properties as structure and CEC.

Soil texture is the relative proportion of mineral particles: sand, silt, clay.

Soil structure is defined by the size and type of particles it is made of; it takes into account the texture, as well as the SOM content and water and air. It determines the soil's capacity to withstand compaction and its capactiy for aggregation, aeration, drainage, and humidity retention.

Cation Exchange Capacity (CEC) is he total capacity of a soil to hold exchangeable cations, i.e. ions that are positively charged (e.g. magnesium, potassium, calcium). CEC influences the soil’s ability to hold onto essential nutrients and provides a buffer against soil acidification. Soils with higher clay and SOM fractions tend to have a higher CEC

We believe that both types of growing systems have value and should continue to be pursued, especially up here in Canada's North. For instance, leafy greens can be grown very efficiently year-round in the North using hydroponic systems, providing unbeatable quality, freshness, nutrients, and a low carbon footprint during our long winters. Other crops such as tomato, pepper and cucumbers can also efficiently grow indoors for a large part of the year.

Of course as the Yukon soil specialists, we believe in creating and supporting healthy, resilient and productive soil ecosystems. Such can be considered assets, as they will increase in value if cared for properly. Over and above producing healthy food, this can sequester carbon from the atmosphere and contribute to regulation of the climate. We're also quite techy and get excited about optimizing grow systems in general, including hydroponics. Reach out if you have questions about choosing a system! 

Practical Matters

Comparing products can sometimes be confusing. Soil amendment and grow media products are often sold by volume but are sometimes offered by weight. Moreover, a variety of units can be used. It can be useful to convert price for the same type of unit when comparing products. Visit our Calculator section to help you with conversions. Specific weights (unit of weight per unit of volume) can be found in each product's description. 

In the same way, items can be sold in a variety of states (e.g. compressed or not, humid or not). A typical example is with peatmoss: a 3.8 cu ft bale of compressed peatmoss (e.g. Premier) can contain up to 4 times the quantity of a 3.8 cu ft bale of less-compressed peatmoss (e.g. GolfGreen). Use our Calculator to help make accurate product comparisons of items in the same state - ie. decompressed.   

Not all products are created equal! For instance, the quality of peatmoss is notoriously different from one manufacturer to the other. Don’t hesitate to look up reviews and ask us questions when comparing products. 

Finally, you can consider how some products are more environmentally friendly than others. Every product has an environmental cost, and living soils, grow media and grow amendments are no exception. For instance, the environmental cost of peatmoss can be substantial, which makes adopting an alternative such as biochar all the more logical. Some certifications (e.g. organic, regenerative) can give an indication that the environmental cost is at least partly born by the product. 

You can always ask us for product suggestions and if  you’re looking for an all around environmentally friendly and high-value product, consider our biochar product offerings. 

Our Superbags of 1-2 cu yd keep things tidy and clean: no mess left on the ground like a bulk dump would do! The material is kept safe, dry and secure: the top lid closes, seals up and is weather-proof against rain, wind, etc. This allows for leaving the Supesack in the field worry-free, and using the product on your own time. If need be, the bottom spout can be used for rapid, controlled discharge.

Our Superbags can easily be handled with common loading equipment; they can be set on a pallet or lifted from the top using the handles. For instance a skid steer (e.g. bobcat) or a tractor can handle them wherever needed. We can also offer services to load, unload and carry them around as needed with our company bale deck truck (examples here and here).

When it comes to soil, grow mediums and grow amendments, buy local. 

Never in recent history has the importance of buying local been so apparent. This is especially true for food and the inputs that are required for food production, especially in remote places like the Yukon. When you buy local, you are contributing directly to the community's well-being. Your money is redistributed here rather than leaking out to a giant chain or conglomerate that cares little about you or your well-being. It creates and supports good, valuable jobs. And the customer service and personal touch of a local business cannot be matched by a larger chain store. You are also encouraging innovation, as local businesses typically are hubs of creativity, adaptation and resilience. As we see it, when you buy local, you help breathe life and create and maintain the identity of your community, its soul and its character!

When you buy soil locally, you also ensure that what you receive is optimized for our northern growing conditions. And locally-sourced products are also better for the environment. They have a much lower carbon footprint than those trucked up the highway to the Yukon. Shopping local for local products can be a great way to limit one’s carbon emissions.