What is your opinion of using treated sewage for garden fertilizer
(termed NutriGreen in my community)? It is banned from use
meeting federal standards for organic approval. Is there scientific
data, pro or con? Also, you told me that a good stand of crimson
clover does not reflect the level of soil fertility. Is there
any cover crop or weed that does?
Edward L Alexander,
The position of The Rodale Institute coincides with that
of the federal guidelines for certified organic agricultural
practices. Unfortunately, most of the research that's been
done on treated sewage has been done by the industry that
has the product and needs to find a home for it, so could
be a bit suspect. I personally think there are some wonderful
uses for the material in mined land reclamation, road bank
revitalization, and major construction projects where large
amounts of earth has been relocated. Food production, especially
vegetables for human consumption, is not the best use. If
you planned on using the product, I would be very careful.
I certainly would not plant root crops into it and harvest
them for personal consumption.
You also asked about plants as soil-health indicators. This
is not my area of expertise; however I will say that the presence
of certain weeds can be an indicator of soil pH, organic matter,
or nutrient content. Cover crop quality may or may not be
an indicator. My suggestion is to go to Gempler's catalog
and look at the soil health test kit they sell based on the
design by Dr. John Duran, USDA-ARS. You could use the tests
in the kit and cross reference the results you get to the
weeds you see over time and develop your own rating system
to use the weeds or cover crops as indicators.
Hope this information helps. Good luck with the 2005 growing
Have some questions to Ask Jeff? E-mail
him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.