The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Rockdust soil conditioner


Photo: Autumn garden

Photo: Autumn garden

Yesterday I popped into Notcutts looking for Rockdust. They didn’t stock it. In fact most of their shop was packed with Christmas things. They did have the jute sacks that Penny mentioned on my Autumn Leaves post – knocked down to four for a fiver. A bargain.

We are composting like mad. We have the chicken poo from our flock and are considering bokashi composting since Suky told us how to make our own bokashi bins on the forum.

I’ve spent some time researching the benefits and claims of Rockdust. A recent 3 year study at Glasgow University concluded that Rockdust could not be proven to be a useful soil fertility amendment. However there are many people who claim that it’s a miracle soil conditioner, including the couple who have been experimenting with it for over twenty years. They are located in Scotland and grow huge vegetables. You can read about them here.

This rang bells with me. Do you remember the first news from the Findhorn community? Those giant vegetables growing in the sandy soil of the caravan car park. Although they laid down their success to the help of spirit guides rather than rock dust.

A small wood borders our cottage garden. On the positive side it provides a great vertical counterbalance to the long garden. When it’s breezy, the wind in the leaves sounds like the sea. The wood also creates pretty patches of dappled shade. But the downer is that the roots of these trees are leaching the nutrients from the soil in the garden. The soil can be very compacted, particularly in the old kitchen garden. If we are growing vegetables all the year round we are putting our soil under pretty heavy pressure. Perhaps rock dust would help?

The more that I read about it the more attractive it sounds. As a by product from a quarry it’s not wildly expensive. I’m off to buy some fleece today so I’ll see whether I can find some Rockdust at Scotsdales in Fordham. Otherwise it’s available on line from Harrod Horticulture where it has a lot of encouraging reviews from customers.

Does anyone out there have any experience with Rockdust?

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  1. I wish I could attach the two PDFs on rockdust that I’ve saved to my desktop- one was an article from several years back from Martha Stewart Living (back when I was taking her magazine well before her disgrace). I am convinced that rock dust and organic material are the ONLY way to fertilize (ok- worm castings and worm tea, too, but that’s it) and plan on doing only those things. Funny- I’m finally taking care of a much needed soil sample now and have asked them for only organic suggestions. In addition to better nutrition, rock powders are supposed to make fruits and vegetables taste a whole lot better. Seaweed is also supposed to be good for adding missing elements, but it stinks and you have to rinse it. Not sure I’d mess with seaweed.

  2. I read about rockdust in an early edition of ‘Home Farmer’ magazine. For a long time we looked out for it in garden centres etc but have forgotten about it. We have just changed our car and can no longer fit in the great black bins full of cow and chicken manure from my sister’s farm but want to replenish the greenhouse over winter so this is very timely. Thank you too for the link Celia it will make it easy to order some hopefully if it’s not too expensive.

  3. magic cochin

    Hi Fiona – here’s the link to the programme Dr Alice Roberts presented about minerals in food – she talks to the couple in Scotland who use rockdust…

    and the SEER Centre web site


  4. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Geraldine

    The toad-in-the-hole was sublime!

    Hello Willo

    These are fascinating ideas that immediately had me thinking. Never heard of the strawberries/pine needle combination. And biochar – had me rushing to Wikipedia.

    Thanks for all these tips.

    Hello Magic Cochin

    I’m going to order some from Harrod Horticulture as none of my local garden centres stock it.

    I must get back into Radio4. I used to listen all the time when I was decorating.

    Hi Rob

    Brilliant advice. Thank you.

    Hi Penny

    I’d checked the price of the Crocus ones so knew the Notcutts ones were a bargain. It’s amazing how prices vary between different companies.

    We only noticed how small the vegetables were in the old kitchen garden when we extended it. Now I’m determined to improve the soil there.

    Hi Hazel

    Thanks for the link! I’m going to try this first before investing in the bran and equipment.

  5. Hi, I’ve just started bokashi composting, and there are loads of instructions on the net for making your own EM bran, which all work out much cheaper than buying it, but I’m going to try this- virtually free and fairly straightforward. I thought you may be interested


  6. Glad you were able to get the jute sacks Fiona, and what a bargain. I shall be hotfooting it to Notcutts myself at those prices. It just shows you really need to shop around these days.I’m tempted to give the rockdust a go myself as we have a similar problem with adjacent trees sucking out all the nutrients.

  7. I did the Bokashi thing for about a year, but just like with any kind of composting it requires diligence and attention. I am not doubting the effectiveness of EM-1 (the active ingredient of Bokashi) however I did not get HUGE results in the garden from it. I am however very keen on good micro-organisms in the garden. Instead of Bokashi I opted for a different route.

    I understand you have extremely leached and compacted soil, I have very similar conditions. So to solve the problem of compaction and still get the microbes I want, I mulch HEAVILY with un-composted leaves from the forest. This is usually loaded with microbes and nice white fungus, which will introduce a nice matte of microbes that helps make nutrients much more available to your veggies. Couple this with your rock dust and I think you will have a winning combination.

  8. magic cochin

    I’ve heard some interesting stuff on Radio 4 about using Rockdust. I think it’s worth doing a trial – it would be fascinating to compare the same crop grown on the same plot with and without the addition of the rockdust.

    Mmmmm – there’s another project!


  9. We used a bokashi bucket for a couple of years but stopped because the bokashi itself was very expensive.
    At the same time we ran a worm farm which turned out to be our preference by far.
    Here Rod collects the cow and horse manure. We heap the wood shavings from the chicken shed around the raspberries.
    We do also have an Aerobin making hot compost. These are pricey though. Now we have the hang of getting the mixture of wet and dry well balanced it works well for faster production.
    We collect seagrass for the Asparagus bed and pine needles for the Strawberries.
    We mulch with grass clippings around fruit trees adding blood and bone of course.
    Today we are planting sweet corn seedlings using biochar we collect from the wood fire over winter.
    I agree Fiona it is all in the soil and every little bit helps. I have not heard of rock dust before.
    Goodluck with it.

  10. Geraldine

    Sorry , I haven’t a clue about Rockdust . Sounds like an ’80s band !
    Just want to say thankyou for reminding me about Toad in the Hole .Now there’s a blast from the past . Must make it tomorrow .

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