Fixing the Soil

Discussion in 'Planting, growing, nurturing Plants' started by MicheleM, Mar 3, 2010.

  1. MicheleM

    MicheleM Junior Member

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    How do we fix the soil? If the soil needs more phosphorus, what plants to you plant?

    If the soil needs more calcium, what do you add?

    If it needs more magnesium?

    What else have I left out?
     
  2. Grahame

    Grahame Senior Member

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    Depends on what sort of soil you have. Are you definitely deficient in these elements? Have you had soil testing done?

    Purplepear will tell you to get more organic matter into the soil ;)
     
  3. ppp

    ppp Junior Member

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    and pebble will remind you (correctly) that these elements cannot be "created". If they don't exist in some form, the only thing that will do it, is to add the minerals.
    The quantities required are probably quite small
     
  4. sweetpea

    sweetpea Junior Member

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    Michele, compost, compost and more compost. At least 3 inches thick. You may not need to "fix" your soil, but compost will make it healthy and will keep it balanced. Compost makes clay less stuck together, and sandy soil more like loam. Rock powders and bone meal are slow, but a steady supply of minerals. If you are just starting to amend your soil, try compost tea that you can pour over your compost that you've already spread. Nutrients need carbons to cling to so that the plant roots can find them. In a garbage can 1 third full of compost, then add water to about 3/4 full, add a dozen eggs, powdered milk or spoiled milk if you have it, (spoiled yogurt or cottage cheese), a cup of molasses (you might find dehydrated molasses at a horse feed store), 1 cup epsom salts (for magnesium), and stir vigorously with a leaf rake to get oxygen bubbles in the water. Do this for 3 days, then pour it around plants, over the compost. It will take about a month before you see real results from any amendments, but this is a quick way. :)
     
  5. Speedy

    Speedy Junior Member

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    For calcium you can use ground limestone (CaCO3) - the finer the grind the quicker the release.
    Ultrafine will release over a couple of years.
    The course ground can stuff can take centuries, depending on soil of course.
    If you rub it between your finger and thumb and feel grit, its too coarse for my liking and takes too long to release.
    Gypsum (CaSO4) will supply calcium a lot faster than limestone due to it's better solubility, and wont change pH as much either.
    Calcium nitrate (CaNO3) for a reall quick fix, but i wouldn't recomend for beginners, and even then be careful.

    Burned then crushed bones are another source of Calcium (and other minerals)

    For Magnesium, use Dolomite Lime (CaCO3 and MgCO3), it also has Calcium as well as Mag
    Epsom salts (MgSO4) is very soluble and a good way to get Mg into the plant quickly is by foliar feeding.
    It's a handy antidote to nitrogen excess in plants too.
    too much Mg can antagonize Potassium availability in the soil and vice versa, so I like to add both at once in small doses

    generally, the less soluble forms ( rock dusts, limestones and dolomites) are more effective when added to hot compost piles .
    The compounds are thus organically complexed into the bodies of the microbes and more readily available to plants roots... when they die and the nutrients are cycled.
     
  6. Speedy

    Speedy Junior Member

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    for Phosphorus you can use Guano,
    Blood and Bone
    or Soft Rock Phosphate.
    For more concentrated (and soluble) sources
    Monoammonium Phosphate (MAP)
    Single superphosphate (rock phosphate trated with Sulphuric acid) Gypsum is a byproduct.
    also be aware that you'll get Cadmium, Lead and Uranium as natural contaminants in SuperPhosphate!
    I wouldnt use double super or Diammonium Phosphate (DAP)

    I'd recomend Blood and Bone, Soft Rock Phos or guano .

    If you have a large area under cultivation, pull some soil samples (strictly according to lab directions) and get a soil test done.
    then you wont be just shooting in the dark with it.

    Any one element added to a soil has and effect on ALL others in some way.
     
  7. pebble

    pebble Junior Member

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    Don't think that's me, but am chuffed to be confused with all these cool people. Just have to work on being confused for kimbo now :D
     
  8. purplepear

    purplepear Junior Member

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    I think it was Sue ppp
    Where is that zealot Kimbo? The revolution falters.
     
  9. DJ-Studd

    DJ-Studd Junior Member

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    How stuffed up is my soil? lol.

    Heeeelp!! I couldn't even get pumpkins to grow. Beans and radish no hope and the tagasaste just wont grow. The soil used to be a potato farm 30+ years ago and as far as I know it has never been fertilised since.

    5 acres of weed.

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    2334 Kg of Calcium is needed to raise the Available Calcium to 68% and/or Exchangeable Calcium to 65%
    195 Kg of Magnesium is needed to raise the Available Magnesium and Exchangeable Magnesium to 15%

    GYPSUM REQUIREMENT 0 t/ha
    LIME REQUIREMENT 4.7 t/ha
    DOLOMITE REQUIREMENT 1.8 t/ha
    COPPER 1.8KG
    ZINC 3.8KG
    COBALT 0.03KG
    MOLYBDENUM 0.05KG
    MANGANESE 5.5KG
    BORON 1KG

    - Lime Requirement is to increase the Calcium and decrease the hydrogen in the soil
    - Lime Requirement is based on Lime containing 40% Calcium.
    - We advise that Lime should be applied first in Autumn then followed by Fertiliser in Spring.
    - We advise that Lime be applied first before applying trace elements.
    - Dolomite Requirement is to increase the Magnesium and Calcium and decrease the Hydrogen in the soil.
    - Dolomite Requirement based on Dolomite containing 11% Magnesium and 25% Calcium.
    - We advise that Dolomite should be applied first in Autumn then followed by Fertiliser in Spring.
    - We advise that Dolomite be applied first before applying trace elements.
     
  10. Grahame

    Grahame Senior Member

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    All those numbers and stuff mean nothing to me. I like to stick my hands in the dirt and have a feel around. What sort of weeds are growing? Is there any organic matter in there? got any animals? there are so many things you can do to maximise what your soil can do for you with out all those 'amendments'. You can always add those things gradually over time. Are you trying to farm or is it just about growing for yourself?
     
  11. ppp

    ppp Junior Member

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    ok, so the soil is acidic, plus it is low in quite a few nutrients.
    Is it clay?
    so.. they recommend 4.7t / hectare of lime. so bringing it to a more imaginable scale, that is 470 grams of lime per square metre. you should be able to convert the rest as well
    eg
    GYPSUM REQUIREMENT 0 t/ha
    LIME REQUIREMENT 470 g per m2
    DOLOMITE REQUIREMENT 180g per m2
    COPPER 0.18g per m2
    ZINC 0.38g per m2
    COBALT 0.003g per m2
    MOLYBDENUM 0.005g per m2
    MANGANESE 0.55g per m2
    BORON 0.1g per m2

    so, a 20kg bag of liime will do 20 / 0.47 = 42.5 m2 or an 8 by 5m plot, the others are smaller.

    You've done the test.. I'd go with the recommendations .. all the crap about "external imputs" the quantities are actually small.. far smaller than what you would be importing in food if you don't grow your own.

    I'd try to basically prepare it in "beds", dig as much manure and organic matter as you can, then add the lime etc as recommended.. then put a good thick layer of mulch over the top.
    Plant a crop or green manure. Do this in bite size portions, hopefulyl a size you can prepare in a session (day?).
     
  12. purplepear

    purplepear Junior Member

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    Principle number such and such " use small and slow solutions"
    Is this a permaculture discussion or a conventional agriculture solutions venue?
     
  13. sweetpea

    sweetpea Junior Member

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    dj Studd (I really hope this is your real name) your pH is pretty bad. That is locking up whatever nutrients are in your soil. Acidify it, add as much biomass and compost as you can, plant clovers and vetches, get as much biodiversity with grains/herbs/legumes as you can. You'll see it turn around you pH, and then you'll see lots of your plants thrive. Cl ay has a ton of minerals in it if you just get your pH slightly into acid. :)
     
  14. Speedy

    Speedy Junior Member

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    DJ-Studd, your soil is not stuffed , it's just out of balance.
    the most obvious thing is the Bases- lack of Calcium and Magnesium- and excess of H+ ions = low pH
    The soil test shows excactly what's needed to bring back some balance to it.
    I'd go with the recomendations of the test as per ppp's advice.
    Bite size pieces is the way to go if it's just to grow some veges for yourself.

    getting the bases sorted out is always the first step.

    470 g/metre lime and 180g/m dolomite will better balance Ca,Mg ,H+ against each other
    ( NH+, Na and K also need to be considered technically but it's Ca and Mg that's most urgent atm)

    another way to look at it is that for every 1kg of lime add 380 gms of dolomite
    or for every 20kg bag of lime , mix 7.63 gms of dolomite.

    either way, whatever is most convenient for you to work with.

    if you intend to plant trees, broadcast the lime and dolomite over the area you
    want to plant them in at the same per metre rate.
    it will make a big difference to the way they grow.
    also N-fixing bacteria will be able to do their job.
    Nutrient cycling will also be more efficient , building humus more quickly in the soil.

    for the trace elements, you could get a fert. company to formulate a trace element mix
    according to the test results and calculate total grams per metre to add.
    the cost of making it up may be more than you want to spend on it,
    so foliar application of seaweed may be a better way to go and will work for the plants anyway.

    I guarentee that after this treatment , you'll at least be able to grow pumpkins and beans next season.
    also, you might also have a chance at growing decent Brassicas now too.

    If you're not sure of anything contact the lab that carried out the tests and ask them or their agronomist what you need to know.
    That's usually part of the service.
     
  15. Grahame

    Grahame Senior Member

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    Permaculture?
     
  16. purplepear

    purplepear Junior Member

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    There are none so blind as those who will not see?
     
  17. DJ-Studd

    DJ-Studd Junior Member

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    Hi Grahame,
    I'd break my wrist if I tried to feel around in the dirt. I cannot imagine a penetrometer would go too deep either! I'll look up the weeds that are growing there, should help with the big picture. I'm just growing for myself, I'd like to get it to the stage where I have a nice pasture to raise freerange chickens (does a chicken tractor on rich pasture count as freerange? I suppose it would) for my family.



    Hi PPP, Clay it is. It compacts very easily, so I'd hazzard a guess at saying there is little to no organic matter. Your suggestion of thoroughly working a piece at a time is very good and may make it achievable.


    Sweatpea, no need to worry, it is based on my real name :)
    Do you mean Alkalinise it as opposed to acidify it? So cover crop seems to be the way to go by the look of things? Just need to get the pH to a point where the cover crop will grow.


    Cheers

    Is it specifically that the minerals aren't there, or just that they're mostly locked up by the acidic pH? Would raising it to a more netural pH show a greater range of minerals on a new soil test?


    Cheers all.
     
  18. ppp

    ppp Junior Member

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    um, I didn't know that adding naturally occuring rocks (lime) to soil was anti-permaculture, correct me if I'm wrong?.
    As per my original post, I think that mulching, and growing green manure (legumes, say lucern), in combination with the lime will produce good results.

    Hey, one more thing.. I'd be tempted to get some "rock minerals" or the finest crusher dust you can find from a dolerite quarry, I know, for example there is a dolerite quarry less than 10km from my house, perhaps you have the same? It is not uncommon to have a local dolerite quarry, since the dolerite is formed by a volcanic intrusion, which occurs all over the place.

    Hey purple, can you tell us what you would do? I'm sure the orginal poster is open to more ideas, I am too.
     
  19. purplepear

    purplepear Junior Member

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    The thing I do not agree with is the distance the
    has to travel to get to your site and the bat and other habitat that is destroyed to obtain it. I do not question your knowledge on agriculture tripple p but wish to make a point of a softer approach that uses organic matter (which is full of minerals) as well as releasing nutrients that may be locked up in soils that are too wacked by pH or clay or other.

    Grahame has correctly related that my opinion is well known here - "when it comes to soils - what ever the question, the answer is add organic matter."

    I know that an argument could ensue as you are not wrong in your wonderful technical assesment of the process in agricultural terms and I am not much into arguments so unless my position is not clear to you I trust you will respect my right to an opinion and know that I admire your contributions to the forum.
     
  20. DJ-Studd

    DJ-Studd Junior Member

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    Thanks :)
     

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