From Page to Practice, Putting New Society Tools to Work

by: EJ on 06/08/2016

One of the best things about New Society books is that they help you learn how to do stuff.  And one of the best things about working at New Society Publishers is when we get to meet readers who are out there using our books to help change the world.  Over the next few months, Sara Reeves and I are going to be blogging about the projects our readers are doing out there in the big wide world. If you have a story to share, please let us know in the comments below or contact us on Facebook or Twitter.



This month I had the pleasure of visiting Homestead Junction in Vancouver.  Homestead Junction is a shop and learning centre located on East Hastings Street, a few blocks from Main Street in Vancouver's East End. Their goal is to bring sustainable living into the status quo.  They have a mission to "...offer accessible, quality supplies for self-sufficiency, especially those that would otherwise be difficult or inconvenient to source" and  "offer a continuum of learning options, creating consistently awesome introductory content while tapping into a network of specialists to help people take their skills to higher levels."  They also aim to "forge alliances with grassroots organizations that promote self-sufficiency and sustainability through education." What's not to like?


I had dropped by the store to chat about our soon to be announced urban homesteading series (shhh - you didn't hear about it from me) and met Karlis Kalnins who works as front of house staff.  Karlis is a font of knowledge about the New Society book, The Intelligent Gardener: Growing Nutrient Dense Food.

I asked Karlis how he found about about The Intelligent Gardener. "I read a copy of Steve Solomon's Gardening When it Counts: Growing Food in Hard Times. Steve's approach to gardening resonated with me more than other gardening books I had read, and I also liked that he wrote to this region, so I eagerly anticipated reading his next book. I have a scientific background, so the idea of soil testing appeals to me. I'm still a fairly novice gardener, so it can help with illuminating the mysteries and uncertainties of my sometimes inconsistent gardening success. It's important for me to eat for good health, and so I also like the idea of increasing the nutrient density of my vegetables."

Most of the customers at the Homestead Junction are urban gardeners and may be working patches of ground that have not been gardened in years, if ever.  Karlis emphasises the importance of finding out what condition the soil is in.  Of course, contamination is a concern for urban gardeners and needs to ruled out but that is not all an urban gardener should consider.  In the The Intelligent Gardener veteran gardener Steve Solomon walks the reader through how to take a simple soil test to evaluate the minerals in the soil. He then explains how to interpret the results and what amendments to include to remineralize your soil.  This will allow you to grow truly nutrient-dense food. 

Karlis says, "The idea of soil testing is pretty fringe, and targeted remineralization even more so. The subset of gardeners who do focus on growing the health of soil are mostly content with following organic composting methods, and seem to add any amendments without the benefit of testing. People are intrigued by the soil testing methods in this book, but I think it's a bit intimidating. I'm looking forward to hosting some workshops to familiarize gardeners with the practice, after I have a little more experience myself."


At Homestead Junction, Karlis walked me over to the shelf of soil amendments.  On the top left hand corner, he has attached a photo copy of a chart from The Intelligent GardenerThere is a bewildering array of soil additives on this shelf from feather meal to green sand.  Each soil additive will add specific trace minerals missing from your soil and will balance the nutrients - if applied in the right amounts.  Too much and you can ruin your garden for years.  I asked Karlis what he thought the strangest additive was.

"I think the strangest additives to me are not the organics like guano or kelp, but stuff that seems to belong in a bath or laundry like epsom salts or borax  (used to deal with minor element deficiencies of magnesium or boron, respectively). 


Once you get the results of your soil test, drop by Homestead Junction and pay a visit to Karlis.  They sell a wide range of soil amendments in small quantities for the home gardener to help you remineralize your soil and grow vegetables with optimum nutrition for you and your family.

Check out the Homestead Junction website at and sign up for the newsletter at the bottom of the home page. They host workshops every week on a variety of garden subjects including soil building, composting and even soil testing in the future. Oh, and you can buy The Intelligent Gardener and other New Society books there too.




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