Shiela Alexandrovich’s garden is acting a bit bipolar this summer.
The organic Yukon gardener filled one of her beds with celery. And half the plants are 30 per cent bigger than the others.
Her kale is following a similar anomalous growth pattern.
The secret is humic acid.
Alexandrovich added the black, coal-like stuff to half of each bed to do a trial run with the new miracle substance.
“And I’ve noticed a remarkable difference with a couple of things,” she said.
Chris Webb approached Alexandrovich at the Whitehorse farmer’s market pitching the wonders of humic acid.
The natural organic substance is a mix of different acids commonly found in soil.
“It’s what gives soil nutrients,” said Webb, who discovered the stuff accidently through a friend, Raymond Potie.
After working in the fertilizer industry for years, Potie got sick of buying humic acid – a key ingredient – from the US.
“I thought there has to be some deposits in Canada,” he said.
So, Potie started looking.
Pursuing government geological records, an area stood out in northern Saskatchewan.
“There were no roads so we flew in by helicopter and we could see the black seam on the banks of the lake before we even landed,” he said.
Now, a few roads and pieces of heavy machinery later, Potie is operating one of Canada’s only humic acid mines.
He sells most of it to Chile and the Philippines, some to BC and a little bit in Saskatchewan.
“But I have to fight against the fertilizer companies here,” said Potie.
The fertilizers companies aren’t keen on it, because humic acid allows farmers to use a lot less phosphate fertilizers, he said.
“But farmers who are using it are saving a lot of money and getting a better yield,” said Potie.
Webb, who moved to the Yukon last year, had Potie send him a bucket of the stuff.
He wanted to use it on his plot at the Whitehorse community garden, and with more than enough to go around, he shared the wealth.
“I noticed my seedlings developed roots much faster,” said Judy Kent, who has a plot in the garden.
“It really catches them, and they grew sturdy and healthy.”
Kent also noticed her seeded plants grew much faster than her transplants.
“My garden’s done really well,” she said.
“The only trouble is the gophers really like it this year.”
Kathryn MacDonald also gave humic acid a try, but can’t tell if it made a difference.
“It was a new bed so I used new soil and compost and it’s been really rainy, so my garden is growing well, but there are a lot of factors contributing to that.”
Still, she plans to use humic acid again next year.
And it’s not just Yukon gardeners who are interested in the natural substance.
Webb found out the fuel tank at his rental house was leaking.
The landlord brought in Adam Greetham with Groundtrax, an environmental remediation company, to clean up the spill.
Greetham and Webb got talking.
Now, Groundtrax is bringing in one ton of humic acid to incorporate into its mine remediation work.
“I am going to use it as a trial application to replace chemical fertilizers,” said Greetham.
Humic acid mixes with minerals in the soil and makes them available for organic life, he said.
“It’s a catalyst in soil – it allows the exchange of minerals and vitamins in plants.”
Greetham plans to mix humic acid into the Whitehorse Copper tailings.
Right now those tailings are inert; there’s no organic matter growing there, he said.
“I hope this works.”
On Wednesday, Webb was picking amaranth from his plot at the community garden.
“I planted everything late,” he said.
But his potatoes are bigger and healthier that the ones in the next plot over.
“And he planted those early,” said Webb.
“Humic acid is the No. 1 antioxidant,” he said.
“It was in all our veggies.”
But as soil became overplanted and depleted, fruits and vegetables began to lose their nutrients.
Adding humic acid, puts the nutrients back in soil, and it’s an organic, natural substance unlike fertilizers, he said.
“It gives people a chance to grow better, healthier veggies.”
The only drawback is it’s non-renewable, said Alexandrovich.
“Still it’s a clean amendment, it doesn’t pack any chemicals,” she said.
“And it’s not expensive either, at nine cents a square foot.”
It also helps offset the Yukon’s short growing season, said Webb.
“And there’s more to it than just growing great veggies.
“In the Yukon it will also help with mine reclamation.”
Webb didn’t mean to become the territory’s go-to guy for humic acid.
But he’s not shying away from the opportunity either.
Webb is in the process of looking for the cheapest shipping option, to get the dark, coal-like substance north.
In the meantime, if anyone wants to make an order or get more info, contact Webb at email@example.com.
Contact Genesee Keevil at