Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Finding soil amendments in bulk quantities

After reading my last post, a reader commented about not being able to find bulk quantities of soil amendments locally and asked if I had any insights to offer on locating them. Shipping of 50 pound bags of amendments gets costly very quickly as distance from the shipping location increases. At the time I could offer very little help. Since then I have learned where folks in the greater St. Louis, MO area can find at least one of the desired soil amendments in 50 pound bags. While that may not help the rest of you much, the sort of place I found it at may suggest where and how to look for them in your area.

I found that O. K. Hatchery and Nursery (115 E. Argonne Dr., Kirkwood, MO, 63122, 314-822-0083) carries 50 pound bags of cottonseed meal, the oilseed meal that I prefer. Oilseed meal provides food for the soil microherd, whose excreta provides nitrogen in a form that the garden plants can use. What makes cottonseed meal preferable to soybean meal is that the soybean meal is lumpy, requiring me to grind it prior to applying it so I can obtain a reasonably even coating. Cottonseed meal, on the other hand, comes to me already evenly ground, eliminating the grinding step. O. K. Hatchery’s 50 pound bag of cottonseed meal cost under $25 to boot! I didn’t ask if they carried Calphos (soft rock phosphate) when I was there, as I had already purchased a 50 pound bag that will last well into 2017 if not beyond. But I will check there first when I need it or any other soil amendments in bulk.

You may be wondering why I didn’t include a hyperlink to the business. It’s because they don’t appear to have a website, according to the Internet search that I did. That fact bears noting. O. K. Hatchery is a long-standing local business which appears to spend what money it has on inventory rather than on a fancy building or frills like websites. These days, we tend to think that if it’s not on the Internet, it doesn’t exist. But this case proves the folly of that thinking. I knew to go there only because I’d seen the place at other times I’d been in downtown Kirkwood and because we had business at another store in Kirkwood on that day.

To find a similar store in your area, you may have to do some old-fashioned, pre-Internet store sleuthing. O. K. Hatchery is listed in our phone book, and its online version, under Garden Centers. That’s your first clue. For your second clue, think about what garden centers in your area also cater to folks who have poultry and some money. Where I live, the garden center that sells bulk feeds doesn’t carry organic chicken feed or much in the way of even small bags of organic amendments. Kirkwood is centrally located and well-off economically. O. K. Hatchery caters to backyard poultry raisers and offers organic chicken feed as well as conventional feed. I suspect that the same folks who buy organic chicken feed want to maintain their large (and expensive) properties using organic methods. Hence the availability of the bulk cottonseed meal. No, the cottonseed meal itself isn’t organically grown, but it is still considered to be an organic amendment compared to the salts that you’ll find in a conventional fertilizer bag.

If that doesn’t help, I know of a few online places to buy bulk soil amendments. If you aren’t too far away from one of them, you may get by with shipping costs you find acceptable. They are Fedco’s Organic Growers Supply division, Garden Harvest Supply, Black Lake Organic, and Good luck with your search!