Re: [tomato] Nuking soils.

Thomas Giannou (
Fri, 5 Mar 1999 11:13:54 -0800

Hello Paul,

I've used the microwave before and it has worked out well.  I don't really
have any other kind of equipment that I could use.  I'd probably look into
something like that if I ever wanted to do that on a large scale.  However,
I must caution people to not set their microwave on high if they want to
attempt this.  My brother tried that and had a fair amount of smoke in his
home... and burning durt really has an awful odor.  Make sure you look for
any metal debre... microwaves don't get along with metal.  Warning:  If you
are not an adult and you are reading this, please check with your parents
before attempting this with a microwave.

If I had a steamer to sterilize the soil, that might be better, but running
the microwave on medium for about 3-5 minutes seems to heat it up enough to
do a number on the insects... yet doesn't get the soil really hot.  Mixing
it with sand and worm castings and then using that as a potting soil has
worked well for me in the past.

I have switched over to using Mycorrhiza inoculants and the 10-20-10 in the
manure would be risky.  The soluble phosphate could suppress the fungi from
being picked up by the plants.  Also, that kind of fertilizer is what I am
trying to stay clear of using anymore.   I've had good results with adding
fertilizers like Biosol or Renaissance Organic fertilizers.... at about 1/3
the rate recommended by those vendors.   Working with mycorrhiza in my
garden with transplants, I've found that if the potting soil is similar to
the soil out in the garden, then the plants transferr well.  I also have
noticed there is a high degree of colonization with the VAM fungi... judged
mainly by the plant response and a significant root system development when
growing plants in soil in my "living room nursery" and being able to observe
the hyphe going all over the place.  I've read a lot of war stories about
people using mycorrhiza in a nursery setting, getting a good response, and
then when those plants went out into the field, not doing well at all.  So,
I hatched up this idea about using dirt to make my own potting soil and have
found it to work fine.   I've been spending most of my time doing home
experiments and learning a lot about mycorrhiza.  I have been striving to
see how all this stuff can be used to achieve a good balance out in the
garden.  There's a lot of different factors to consider... it seems to be
improving despite my meddling.

I have been adding sand, manure, and organic fertilizer to garden soils and
then inoculating plants with mycorrhiza... and then covering the top with
mulch material.  What I have noticed is a nice build up in the worm
populations and they consume a lot of mulch.  The earthworms I have here
seem to be top feeders and will much away on the mulch.  Their castings will
serve as a good organic fertilizer... estimated to be about 1/3 of what is
needed... which is just about right for the mycorrhiza fungi.  I have
observed that the mycorrhiza and the earthworms keep the soil nice and loose
and water drains through just fine too.  It's a system that seems to be
sustained mainly with mulch input.  I am also using a no-till approach after
it is all put in place.  I was reading about the volume of the earthworm
castings being generated where conditions are good for them... and it seems
likely to me that ought to suffice for fertilizer.... I may still have to
apply the organic fertilizers once in a while, but I have a feeling I may be
able to back off on those and just focus on adding mycorrhiza to new plants,
and adding a good mulch on top.  So far, this method seems to be working for

I've been gardening for years and this last year everything seemed to be
more in balance.  I had far fewer weeds to contend with and a lot more time
was freed up... in my opinion, this is how gardening ought to be... I was a
weekend gardener for years... had to work during the week... and never had
much time to think about these sort of things.  Now that I'm retired, I've
come upon this method that works for me.  I like sharing it with others,
because it seems to be a "balanced system" and may work well elsewhere.
I'm looking forward to using those Bingo seeds in my potting soil above.
Besides, they are open pollinated and will be getting me away from those
beef steak tomato's... I've really not cared much for the taste of those in
the past.  In fact, I'm not even sure what a really good tomato tastes like,
because we have been growing hybrids in the past with chemical
fertilizers... last year, they were really good.

Anyway... I'm off to LA for the weekend.  Will reply back to you all on
Monday afternoon!

Best Regards,
Thomas Giannou
Spokane, Washington

-----Original Message-----
From: Paul Reynolds <>
To: Tomato Digest <>
Date: Friday, March 05, 1999 9:04 AM
Subject: [tomato] Nuking soils.

>Nuking is a good idea to control all sorts of pests.  However, the
>preferable method, in my opinion, would be the oven or an autoclave.  I
>really don't know if a microwave would have an adverse affect, but, I'm
>from the old school, before the advent of microwaves,  where we used
>heat from the stove or an autoclave.
>Also, one of the best combinations I've found for my tomatoes is mixing
>a bit of 10-20-10 with my manure.  The manure will help ensure that the
>chemical fertilizer is not lost to the environment and if added in a
>small amount, a cup of 10-20-10 to 5 gallons of manure, there isn't any
>harm to be done.  Most of my experience is with transplanting and I
>usually dig a post hole, put in the manure and ferti. mix then cover
>with a few inches of soil and place the plant over that.  Takes a bit
>for the plants to take off, but, once they do you won't be able to keep
>up with them.  The blooms are numerous as well.