Post by mountaindweller on Jan 30, 2013 21:35:38 GMT -5
I do some sort of sheet mulching, with the soil around here and use more or less everything I can find. I use cow manure and mushroom compost and blood and bone and woodash. I have really no clue what is in my soil, what is too mcuh and what is missing. The worst is that each and every bed is different. Two beds went really bad because I put too much sawdust into the mix. (I ran out of sawdust now). How can I find out if the mixture is right? What do you do to know whether fertilizer or lime is needed?
The only test I do is checking pH from time to time. The kits are readily available. Every four or five years, I add some mineral fertilizer (I use Alroc). The rest of the time it's mostly mulch (whatever I have at hand including woodchip), occasionally compost, if I have any, and occasionally manure, again, if I have any.
I do some sort of sheet mulching, with the soil around here and use more or less everything I can find. I use cow manure and mushroom compost and blood and bone and woodash.
That sounds fine to me as long as the amounts are modest. I don't use blood and bone very often, and when I do it is just lightly scattered. Testing pH will let you know whether or not to use woodash. As long as you're adding lots of organic matter, then it's hard to muck things up with moderate use of things like woodash. The organic matter tends to buffer things.
How can I find out if the mixture is right? What do you do to know whether fertilizer or lime is needed?
For lime, a pH test will help. I use gypsum for adding calcium because my soils are generally slightly alkaline. I only add it for alliums and brassicas and I don't add a lot, just sprinkled on the surface and rely on rain to take it into the soil.
Keep your additions of things like lime, blood and bone etc, modest and add plenty of organic bulk. Things will take care of themselves.
Ray Silty loam over clay, pH 5.5, altitude 1000m, latitude 30deg south, 150 frost free days.
Post by mountaindweller on Jan 31, 2013 1:27:32 GMT -5
We have for example too little borax in the soil, but you add only a tiny amount, maybe that is the reason why my beetroots don't grow well. We are magnesium deficient as well I add a tiny amount of Epsom salts but only around the citrus maybe I should do that elsewhere too. And I was also told we are zinc deficient for that reason you have to drive a nail into the poor citrus tree (mine are small and I didn't do that so far). I don't know weather the rest of the veggies need zinc, unfortunately our roof is colourbond, so no source of zinc.
The only thing I can recommend is getting a complete soil test that tests for major macro and micro nutrients, pH, cation exchange, etc from a reputable company. I use the local company Black Lake Organics www.blacklakeorganic.com/ where the owner has years experience with soil nutrition, biology, etc. I think he does non-local tests. But, just ask around, ask your ag extension. Some counties even do it for free! What to look for is someone who does analysis and tells you what you need per sq ft or acre. Pretty much everyone including the above sends away to one of the big labs (which is going to give you the most reliable test anyway). Expect to pay <$100 for one test sample which is usually fine at a lot of sites if the soils appear to be consistent. Usually they'll have you collect soil samples from a number of sample pits, combine it and mix to gain an average sample. Last time I did mine I paid $60 for the complete test plus analysis. If you need to know the full full complete or need to take multiple samples because your soil profiles change drastically or have drastically different history (old garden, horse pasture, rocky -> sandy loam, etc) -- that is where it gets expensive. A soil test is money well spent my friend.
Each soil is different. Of course regions have tendencies toward their excesses and deficiencies. Pretty much every soil in the world is deficient in something. Guessing can work but it often really screws up mineral balances which can sometimes be difficult to ascertain even with plant deficiency diagnostic tables. We all want nutritionally superior food for our families, friends, clients, etc.
Rock mineral dust, seaweed, fish emulsions are some of the mainstays here. But, for specific amendments, over the years each site I have farmed/gardened has been different in terms of its needs. My 2 cents.
Last Edit: Jan 31, 2013 4:29:53 GMT -5 by trixtrax
Post by mountaindweller on Jan 31, 2013 6:09:26 GMT -5
Hmmm, maybe I would need two tests one of the original soil and one mixture of the improved guess-work soil. I might not guess so different with every bed. I don't even know if we have extension offices here in Australia, especially as we are not in an agricultural area, we are surrounded by bush. I do test the ph frequently because it's so easy. Even if I am sheet mulching most of the materials are locally sourced, so they should have the same deficiencies. But I buy cow manure, which is not locally as there are no cows around and sometimes bales of spent lucerne hay, which does not grow locally either. I never used rock mineral dust, but my guess is that it would be good. Our base is sandstone. (if I would know how to add photos I would add a photo of the landscape here because it is so incredibly awesome)
Usually if there is a micro-nutrient problem everyone around who farms and gardens will know about it. Bringing in organic matter and optimizing the pH are the main things you need to do. You can go really crazy doing a lot of soil testing without truly learning anything about what is actually happening in your soil. And I'm speaking as a person who spent many hours in a soils lab as a work study student watching banks of Erlenmeyer flasks swirl round and round.
Soil tests give the illusion of certainty "Oh! I need to add so many pounds of Phosphorus per acre! Problems solved!" What they really are is a best guess approximation of what is going on in your soil, assuming you've made a representative sample, at the moment you took the sample. If you took another sample from the same soil at a different time of year, you can often get totally different test results back from the same soils lab. The more soil testing you do, the deeper down the rabbit hole you can go.
Soil is an incredibly complex ecosystem. There are billions of square feet of soil surface area in the average garden bed, all of them covered in bacteria, actinomycetes, fungi, protozoa, macro and micro invertebrates, etc. They haven't really even scratched the surface in terms of understanding how they all interact, interface, and compete with each other and with plants.
Don't worry about it. Get your pH in range and feed the soil OM, that's Moses and the Prophets. Anybody who tells you different is just trying to sell you something.
Post by 12540dumont on Jan 31, 2013 13:47:23 GMT -5
So how did your veges do?
There are lots of vege problems that are the result of poor nutrients.
Sort of like symptoms. My nose is running, I have a headache...do I have a cold? Allergies? Sinus Infection?
I have blossom end rot in my tomatoes.
Did I water enough consistently? Do I have low calcium?
What sort of weeds do you have? Weeds can tell you a lot about your soil.
Leo's rule of thumb is compost, compost and then compost again. Cover crop, cover crop, cover crop and compost.
The year I brought home sawdust, all our veges were pale. The sawdust pulled the nitrogen out of the soil. The year I brought home chicken manure, our veges shot up green and huge and then aphids came and devoured them....a little too much nitrogen. Leo said it needed composting before use.
Post by mountaindweller on Jan 31, 2013 19:48:33 GMT -5
Very interesting! All your opinions even if they are contradictory. The weed thing is very interesting. We have St. Johns wort, Blackberry, fumitory, buttercup in the moister areas, coreopsis lancelota, montbretia, dandelion, scoch thistle, rumex, In the wider area holly, cotoneaster, privet, japanese honeysuckle, english ivy, hawthorn there are more, I think. In the main vetetable garden everything grows well, except root crops, they mostly don't do great.
Post by 12540dumont on Jan 31, 2013 21:14:45 GMT -5
Hey, Holly is NOT a weed.
Fumitory suggests a potassium overload.
Root crops need between 6 and 6.5 pH to do well, enough water (sometimes an issue in sandy soil). So if you're not close to this consider lime for the root crop areas.
Most of your other weeds are pasture weeds, not particularly nasty ones either, well with the exception of English Ivy...which I would seek out and destroy. Here it would take over the entire state....
Hunt for the book called "Weeds and What they Tell" by Ehrenfried E. Pfeiffer. Acres USA has a good primer on pH.
Here's a few basics: Sour grass weeds such as quackgrass - indicate calcium deficiencies (as do lots of cases of blossom end rot and poor pepper production.)
Broadleaf weeds are indicative of an improper phosphate to potash ratio.
Succulent plants such as purslane are indicative of soils deficient in biologically active carbons.
Sheet composting is great for improving your soil. Look up how to make Bio-dynamic Preparation 500. It might be just the ticket to improving your soil without a lot of cost and tests. Since most of your weeds are pasture weeds, it may be your answer.
You can also get your soil tested at your local university Ag Dept. When i moved here, my neighbour was doing a PhD in soil science. Very handy. I got it free, but it should cost about $25 from memory. Just make sure they test a few different areas around the garden. The test just really told me what i already guessed, low zinc, low boron. Low Magnesium. Rock minerals fixed it.
I live my life like a child running with scissors.
That are basically the deficiencies which we should have around here too. Where do you purchase rock minerals?
Your local rural supplies store should carry or be able to get rock minerals. I use the brand Alroc. They make a blend specific for our region. Or you could ring Safe Fertilisers and ask where their nearest outlet is. You could use crusher dust, available from almost any landscape supplies outfit. This is probably the cheapest option but you have no idea of the mineral content.
Last Edit: Feb 16, 2013 14:28:46 GMT -5 by raymondo
Ray Silty loam over clay, pH 5.5, altitude 1000m, latitude 30deg south, 150 frost free days.