‘Soil Your Undies’: Keepers of Mono Pollinator Garden bury underwear to learn more about soil health

Volunteers at Mono’s pollinator garden gave new meaning to the term “soiling your undies” this year.

Of course, they didn’t do so in the traditional sense.

Earlier this year, the volunteers at Mono Pollinator Garden decided to celebrate the opening of their gardening season with a “Soil Your Undies” test that has become quite popular in North America.

“It was kind of funny, but it was also educational,” said Jutta Holdenreid, head of the garden maintenance group. “We had done it in the past and just wanted to repeat it.”

The test, with its tongue-in-cheek name, is built on sound biological and scientific principles and involves “planting” cotton underwear in various parts of the garden. The biological breakdown caused by microbes in the soil is expected to cause some degeneration to the cotton fabric.

Those soil microbe levels determine how much the underwear would break down and disappear, which helps to demonstrate soil health.

“We wanted to learn a bit more about how we could enrich the soil that’s there,” said Trish Keachie, a volunteer member of the maintenance group.

“This was an experiment that could give us a clearer idea of where we needed to put more effort into providing nutrients for the soil.”

When the planting and maintenance season began, the underwear were planted in four different areas of the garden in order to gauge different levels of organic material and fertility.

In mid-July, volunteers dug up the undies and evaluated their appearance.

“The (tests) showed the condition of the soil in different areas, and whether it was good soil or bad soil,” said Holdenreid. “We now know where things need to be improved.”

Microbe activity was recorded in three of the test areas, with only one area failing the test.

This means that there is a very

Your garden needs soil amendments. Here’s where pros suggest you buy them

We asked the pros: Where do you shop? Here's what they told us. <span class="copyright">(Stephanie DeAngelis / For The Times)</span>
We asked the pros: Where do you shop? Here’s what they told us. (Stephanie DeAngelis / For The Times)

Almost every gardening guru extols the virtues of adding good organic amendments to your soil, but where can you buy them? We asked many experts and here’s a list of the suppliers and nurseries they recommend for a more personalized shopping experience. Did we miss your personal favorite? Drop us a line at [email protected] and it might be included.

Armstrong Garden Centers, with 29 locations around Southern California, are employee-owned, full-service nurseries whose sister company, Armstrong Growers, grows many of the plants they sells, including a full line of organic fruits, veggies and herbs. The nurseries are open for customers and also offer online ordering and curbside pickup, organic fertilizers and potting soils, pots and garden tools.

Artemisia, 5068 Valley Blvd., El Sereno. California native plants, herbs and edibles as well as ceramic pots, gardening tools, and organic fertilizers and soils. Online ordering, curbside pickup or local delivery only.

Avalon Nursery & Ceramics, 5334 Avalon Blvd., South Park, is one of the few full-service nurseries in South Los Angeles. The family-owned nursery specializes in houseplants but also sells organic soils and fertilizers, pots, succulents, flowers, veggies and fruit trees. @avalonnurseryla on Instagram.

Cal Blend Soils, 1270 E. Arrow Highway #A, Irwindale. This family-owned business is the go-to supplier for landscape designers Leigh Adams and Shawn Maestretti of Studio Petrichor. It offers landscaping materials, including soils, mulches and wood chips. The minimum delivery charge is $75, so consider finding a pickup to haul your own.

Sarvodaya Farms & Nursery, Pomona, open by appointment only; online ordering available. The nursery offers organic soils and amendments, irrigation supplies, and organic vegetables, fruits (check out the strawberries) and herbs, some