very poor soil ,animal and insect attacks - give up or what

Discussion in 'Planting, growing, nurturing Plants' started by sindhooram, Jan 16, 2010.

  1. sindhooram

    sindhooram Junior Member

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    Hello, after a year and a half working on this gardening thing here in South India I'm realizing that my soil still is far from as it needs to be which is probably making a lot of my problems with disease and insect attacks. (the recent destruction by street puppies and a cat of all my newly planted seedlings also doesnt make life easier).

    the thing with the soil is that it is a stony light colour nutrient devoid soil .to give an example, when I first came here I tried growing mint without adding anything to the soil as I thought its normally so invasive and would grow, but after 2 months we only had about 5 bonzai sized leaves.I put it in a pot with compost and its grown fairly well now.

    In one bed we have added a lot of cowdung and also spread quite a lot of mulch and sea weed on top. Whenever i have planted anything I have added compost. But still its far from good. Tomatoes I planted there are growing like snails. basil grows OK - we've had a few aubergine and last year some tomatoes and amaranth but its really little for our efforts.We were getting good passion fruit from out vine but now they are all falling half eaten I think by a fruit bat before we get to them and they are too high up to pick or anythin. There are Moringa trees growing here naturally which is great but even they arent in full health.
    I think a lot of the soil problem is that the soil somehow doesnt hold nutrients added to it well. And also we had a 6 month rainy season this year which really washes it out.When we dig into it its impossilbe to see the cowdung anymore.
    to make it worse the neighbouring lot is empty and the owners have just let a load of trees growing is now up, so one area we had prepared with a raised be is now in shade nearly all day.




    There is no locally available top or potting soil that I can buy. When I mix compost we've made with our 'soil' to put seeds in pots, the seedlings dont grow well. So I try growing them just in compost .but often I find I get seedlings wilting and dieing young.

    My question - what to do now. I'm thinking put all available organic matter into one raised bed and not be too ambitious about growing loads of things. Another idea is to make a roof top garden in containers to avoid street animal destruction (no way to keep them out). Does anyone have experience if container gardening really works well or do they just get even more problems with white fly etc.?? The other thing that I thought about is microgreens but you need so much seed for that.
    Locals basically dont grow much here - Moringa, bananas, coconut, and occasionaly some beans,amaranth or some type of gourd. My local friend was a keen gardener but he gave up - in his words you have to plant 100 and you'll get 3 or 4.

    I've been getting really excited about what to grow and looking for different types of plants but I realize now no use until I have a stratagy. DOnt want to just give up because I know how much chemicals are in the local veggies here.

    Any experts can recommend a stratagy of where to go from here???Sorry a lot of questions but feel like i need some advise!!!

    Best wishes to everyone...
     
  2. Bird

    Bird Junior Member

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    organic matter is what you need, is there any sources close and handy, straw, hay, resturant scraps, cardboard, if you can gather it sheet mulch, work one or two plots at a time and build from there, diversity in planting should help any insect problems, am unsure how to deal with street cats/dogs. the way to fix most soil problems is the addition of organic matter and manures use what you can get, get as much as you can.perserverance but youv'e allready displayed that
    hope this helps, and keep at it
     
  3. gardenlen

    gardenlen Group for banned users

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    g'day sindooram,

    certainly sound like you ahve a long way to go. container planting for obvious reasons of plant protection is going to for now add another difficulty into the proccess. container planting will take a special medium soil from the garden usually doesn't work that well in containers, and as you say that soil already isn't producing.

    organic matter is the way that will bring change but you need heaps and a continual supply, any sort of material prunings grass from mowing etc.,. grab the lot. not use what you can source but mulching with hay will also help, hay comes under the green label where it adds a raft a of nutrients, nitrogen being the major one. also have you tested the soil ph? maybe there is an issue there. when you can plant green manure type crops, clovers, peas beans. maybe you could grow tagasaste or leucania for your own leaf and branch mulch from these nitrogen fixing plants. collect weeds and sue them in teh agrden to reak down or make fertiliser tea from.

    unless you can fence off the garden from those dogs and cats using any kitchen scraps will be out of the question? so maybe start up a worm farm if you can grab some composting worms. do you have much worm activity in the gardens, essential for a healthy medium. anyhow if you get a worm farm going try to collect kitchen scraps from as many people/places as you can, don't forget restaurants and cafe's, also spent coffee ground if you have coffee shops near by as well as used tea leaves, grab all and everything ou can, if it rots you pretty much want it in your garden.

    i don't know your local situation so i'm just brain storming ideas, you'll best be able to work out what you can do.

    do you collect and use yor urine? what about human solid waste any chance to collect that and compost it then dig it in. me i'd just dig not too deep holes and let it compost in the garden where you want it. and keep gathering manure best from holding yards where it has lots of urine added, horse ad cow poo from paddocks ok but!

    len
     
  4. mischief

    mischief Senior Member

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    Sorry to hear things are not going well.
    One thought came to mind was could you approach the owners of the empty lot and ask them if you could keep their lot manageable and so harvest the overgrown trees and plants for mulch for your own garden.
     
  5. pebble

    pebble Junior Member

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    I was thinking that too - that the trees next door may be a good source of organic material. Also in some situations the soil under trees is better than in gardens. What is the soil like now at the boundary of you and your neighbours?

    What grows naturally in your area? Are there any native ecosystems? What are they like? What happens to bare earth if it is left to its own devices? What grows there? How long does it take? These things will tell you alot about what already works for your soil and climate.

    I've worked on land that drains nutrients very quickly (it's sandy). My friend there grows veges in raised beds. They need to be high though, like a metre. And you have to keep replenishing them as the soil drops out through the bottom ground. What was already said about concentrating on one or two smaller areas to get them established is good advice. How big is your place?

    You say your soil is stony light colour devoid of nutrients. Does it drain really quickly? Is it water repellant? How are you watering when there is no rain? There is a test you can do where you get a glass jar and put some soil in it, say 1/3 full. Then fill with water to 2/3 full. Shake well and then leave to settle. Take notes on what happens over the next few days and week. This can tell you how much clay, sand and organic matter you have in your soil. You may want to do tests from a few different areas, and maybe different depths.
     
  6. Ichsani

    Ichsani Junior Member

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    Hi Sindhooram,

    I have a couple of ideas about what may be at the root of your troubles, but I would ask first if you could do a couple of simple at home soil tests first & report back here?

    Test 1
    1. Break up some of the original soil & try to get a natural lump of soil about the size of a coin, a bit smaller is ok but it has to hold together naturally, not be pressed together to form a lump (if you have trouble with this let us known what kind of trouble - soil too loose or something like that)
    2. Gently place the lump of soil in a shallow dish of rainwater - it needs to be sitting in the water not covered by it
    3. Leave for 5 minutes and then describe what has happened to the lump.... has it collapsed into smaller pieces?... and is the water cloudy around the lump? How cloudy? ... or is the lump still intact?

    Test 2
    1. Take a glass jar or ceramic bowl and add a crushed handful of your soil (the original stoney soil not the garden bed soil)
    2. Mix in some water until you have a muddy slurry & let it settle a little.... you want 1-2 centimeters of water above the soil
    3. Add a big tablespoon full of sodium bicarbonate (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sodium_bicarbonate also called bicarb, baking soda etc)
    4. Mix gently into the soil/water mix at the top
    5. Watch. Tell me if it bubbles as it mixes with the water - does it bubble a lot & quickly or is a slow bubble? If nothing happens do test 3.

    Test 3
    1. Take a glass jar or ceramic bowl and add a crushed handful of your soil (the original stoney soil not the garden bed soil)
    2. Add 1/2 cup of vinegar.
    3. Watch. Tell me if it bubbles - does it bubble a lot & quickly or is a slow bubble?

    Ok. So these are 3 simple tests that will tell us something about the chemistry of your original soil and then I can offer you some soil advice. For the record I'm expecting that test 2 will bubble.... lets see!

    Let me know how you go

    Cheers
    Ichsani

    :)
     
  7. Bird

    Bird Junior Member

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    what do the two tests indercate, have not heard of this test before (2-3)
     
  8. milifestyle

    milifestyle New Member

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    Duplicate the environment in the pots on a larger scale. That may require forgetting about the soil all together and use raised garden beds for a couple of years. Add heaps more of what you already have. Keep the best for the top 10 inches or so. After a couple of seasons of planting remove any edging rake over and dig into the soil. You should have lots of activity in the soil by this time. Nutrients will have also washed through to the soil layer.
     
  9. Michaelangelica

    Michaelangelica Junior Member

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    Don't give up
    There is more than one way to skin a cat.
    1. Testing soil is important. You need to learn about what you have got.
    2. Organic matter is extremely important. Use anything that was once alive.
    3. Water is important, if you let the soil dry out the 'wee beasties' that make soil work go into stasis.

    Cheating
    If organic matter is in short supply:-
    1. Grow your own green manure crop.
    2. Use sugar as a fertiliser

    Soil problems.
    Check pH, i suspect one of the above tests will give you an idea about this, otherwise buy a test kit.

    I have found that soils deficient in organic matter often are also infested with nematodes; here, the root-knot nematode.
    To find out if this is a problem dig up a plant look at its root. If it is NOT a pea, and has little round 'balls' or nodules on the roots you have nematodes. Too many of these and growing anything is impossible.
    The solution is organic material, sugar, and moisture.
    Help
    Have you talked to local growers about what grows best in your area and what they do with the soil?
     
  10. purplepear

    purplepear Junior Member

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    Adding soil biota will change lite soils to chocolate cake in no time.

    .Check out the link given here - it may well be the start of something for you but don't tell gbell - he thinks it may be woo woo. https://www.onemanonecow.com/
     
  11. pebble

    pebble Junior Member

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    Ichsani, how much leeway is there in that test with the pH of the water? eg could I use bore water? Or would I be better using tap water, if there is no rain?
     
  12. pebble

    pebble Junior Member

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    PP, it doesn't matter if its woowoo as long as it works ;-) and biodynamics certainly works as well as other disciplines.
     
  13. sindhooram

    sindhooram Junior Member

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    hello - thanks for so much input. I am going to do those soil tests - local shops dont seem to have sodium bicarbonate so I'll have to go and seek some our further afield and will post the results once I've done them.

    About the sugar as a fertilizer - does that literally mean going and buying several KG of sugar and spreading it on the ground, or is there some specific type to use? I can get cane sugar and jaggary (palm sugar in lumps) here. You are right - nematodes are an extra problem which seem to attack beans more than anything.
    I know one man who gardens here and is more succesful than me but he does use chemicals for pest control. He uses cow dung and sawdust but also urea. Urea is something available here but I assume that wouldnt be classed as an organic fertlizer and good for the soil in the long term??

    I guess the other thing that I am learning is that i have to make raised beds higher than I thought and just up the quantity of everything so I probablly have to concentrate on one or two beds for now.

    If I do put things in pots - I am wondering about collecting some sandy soil from near the beach and bringing it here and mixing in compost - might that be better than our soil or would the salt be a problem? Our soil seems to form like a compact mud in the pot so I thought the beach soil might give better aeration.

    Is it actually possible to get all soils to optimum fertility or are some just not possible and only raised beds the solution??

    SO far I dont know who owns the empty neighbouring lot - its been empty since I moved here 2 years ago. Last year some workers caim and cleared it but its just been left to grow back since. When it was cleared before I suggested to my partner that we go and collect the cuttings for the garden but we were told by the neighbours that they wouldnt like that because they would burn it to collect the ash...
    but maybe I'll just go in there and start pruning and see what happens...
     
  14. mischief

    mischief Senior Member

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    Just another thought.
    Do you have many worms in your soil?
    If you are adding organic matter and dont have alot of worms it might also be a good idea to see if you can introduce some at the same time.
     
  15. Ichsani

    Ichsani Junior Member

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    Hi Sindooram,

    Look for 'bicarb soda' which is used for cleaning etc.... here are some images of the packaging https://images.google.com.au/images...ent=firefox-a&um=1&ie=UTF-8&sa=N&hl=en&tab=wi if this link doesn't work put 'bicarb soda' into google images.

    Else you can buy a pH test kit or find an agricultural extension officer to test it for you.

    BE CAREFUL with sugar & soil. Its not really a fertilizer, it feeds bacteria and is good for speeding up the composting of 'dry brown' organics when you haven't any manure to add... so things like lots of dry leaves, small sticks etc. Used in excess on soil it will speed up the breakdown of organic matter beyond what you want.... its fine in small doses (say a handful per bucket of water) and is often mixed with microbial teas to breed up the microbe numbers (as molasses which also has some trace minerals). But no, I'm sorry its not a 'fertilizer' in the classic sense.

    If you're using sand from the beach - wash it with water a few times before use. Coarse sand mixed with compost (70:30) is good to grow annual plants in pots. Perennial plants will need top-ups of compost & mulch to keep them going ....because the sand has minimal capacity to 'hold' nutrient so the plants will depend solely on the breakdown of organic matter...

    Urea is not classed as an 'organic' fertilizer.... quite frankly if you want N quick just pee in a (9 liter) bucket, fill with water & spread. I read somewhere once that 1 human excretes enough nitrogen in urine (which is sterile & there's nothing wrong with it - as ignorant as most people are) to provide for 300 m square of vegetable garden per year (that's 1 year of pees too :) )

    Else, if you could tell me where you are (in terms of district) I can ask an Indian soil scientist I work with - she knows the major soil types (and issues) of most areas of India. All my experience is with Australia - which is pretty different :)

    For the other people who asked:

    Test 1: is for a sodic soil (crappy clays high in sodium that often hard set)
    Test 2: is for an acid soil (I think you have this)
    Test 3: is for an alkaline soil

    The sensitivity of the test water is hard to describe (and tell if the water is suitable or not) .... BUT, drinking water should be neutral if supplied centrally by a water board..... so that should be ok. I don't know what you're bore water is like.... but what is the main rock type where you are?

    Cheers
    Ichsani
     
  16. pebble

    pebble Junior Member

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    The main rock at the surface is schist. Not sure about where the underground water is though. It doesn't build up scale in the kettle (unlike bore water in other places I've lived).
     
  17. ppp

    ppp Junior Member

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    ? pebble ?is it schist where you live, or where the main topic of this thread (sindoram ) lives?
     
  18. pebble

    pebble Junior Member

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    Where I live :) Ischani was responding to a question I had about the pH of bore water, so I used where I am as an example.
     
  19. sindhooram

    sindhooram Junior Member

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    Ischani thank you for the reply - I do know Sodium bicarbonate - but so far only finding baking powder in the shops but I'm sure I'll find it in a chemical shop when I go that way in town.I'm curious about the tests.

    If you put sugar is there no danger of that also feeding badies so to speak like harmful fungal diseases that may cause seedling damping off etc.?

    I'm thinking now that I'm going to focus my attention on making lots of great compost, then to do the container gardening on the roof thing with some beach soil mixed in. It will just remove a load of stress...constantly chasing puppies out of the garden, I doubt many crickets will get up there to devour everything green, and I can control the sun /shade they get better.

    Also I just checked the growth stunted tomatoes roots and they are full of nematode. I put loads of organic matter,compost and cow dung before planting them - I'm fearing that the compost probably contains the nemtodes?? Any solution for that??
    Sorry for so many questions but this is much more complicated than I imagined when I started!!
     
  20. purplepear

    purplepear Junior Member

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    Sindi - please promise you will look at the link to Peter Proctor it is very relevant to your area and I think the answer to yoour situation.
     

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