Can I lower the Phosphorus, Calcium and Iron organically?

ladyrose65January 22, 2012

My soil test came back extremely high. Is there anything I can put in the soil to lower this?

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fortyonenorth(6b)

How about the other information on your soil test? For example, what does it report for magnesium, potassium, sulfur, CEC or TEC (cation or total exchange capacity), and pH? You might have "a lot" of calcium in your soil, but based on its relationship to other nutrients, it might be ok. Hard to say without the big picture.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2012 at 2:53PM
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TheMasterGardener1(5B)

This is so strange to me, I look at soil tests needed for low quility organics and in-organic fertilizer application. If you feed the garden with perfect compost every micro and macro nutrient will be available to the plant do to natural buffering of the compost. No matter the ph, with good compost plant uptake everything. Please look more into this online.

Soil tests are for high productions concerned with cost and economics. What is the cheapest we can do rather then making or buying good compost (veggie scraps, little composted manure) rather then one cheap source of organic like cow manure only, then you run into soil tests, adding this chemical, soil test, add this ect.....

I know from experience that addding good compost to any poor soil plants grow, GOOD compost is the best buffer.

So "Can I lower the Phosphorus, Calcium and Iron organically?" just don't worry, we farmed for 6000 years just understanding basic plant nutrition.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2012 at 5:02PM
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fortyonenorth(6b)

I agree and disagree MG. Your scenario is a perfect one, but there are few "perfect" soils out there. If you have a well-balanced soil to begin with, adding compost may be a sound strategy, but how about if you have unbalanced soil? Take a heavy midwest clay that's very high in magnesium. All the compost in the world won't compensate for the fact that calcium is tied-up. Then there's the issue of "perfect" compost. 99% of the hand made and store-bought compost is far from perfect. Garbage in=garbage out. I'm not saying that you can't grow plants on imperfect soils. But if you want to grow consistently healthy, flavorful and nutrient-dense crops, one must move beyond the "just add compost" formula.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2012 at 8:16PM
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Kimmsr(4a/5b-MI)

The only way to "lower" high levels of nutrients in soils is to not add more and allow those to be used up.
Adding organic matter to soils is known to act as a buffer for the plants growing in that soil, so getting an adeqaute level of OM in your soil can help some. In some instances having high levels of some nutrient can be modified a bit by adding the counter nutrient. If a soil is too high in Magnesium then calcitic lime can be added to bring things back into balance, but adding dolomitic lime would be a disaster.
When we first moved here 40 some years ago the soil test done then said this soils pH was 5.7 and was deficient in Magnesium, Phosphorus, and Potash. Years of adding nothing but compost and other forms of organic matter (shredded leaves, cover and green manure crops, etc.) but no lime of any kind, no other types of "fertilizers", no rock phosphate, granite dust, greensand, etc. has changed this soil to having a soil pH of 7.2 with the Calcium and Magneium in balance and the levels of Phosphorus and Potash high optimal.
I have seen the same thing happen with the clay soils in southeast Ohio, around Norman, OK, in Seattle, WA. and numerous other places that I can no longer even remember. Although many people do not believe it all you really need do is add adequate amounts of organic matter to your soil to make it into a good, healthy soil that will grow strong and healthy plants.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2012 at 8:18AM
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strobiculate

Without knowing your definition of organic, this cannot be answered.

If we assume you mean organic to be the environmental definition...

You are seeking to radically alter soil chemistry. What makes you think that this is okay if you use no "bad chemicals"?

Now for an assumption, based in part on a number of other threads recently posted. Unless you state otherwise, I am assuming you are not concerned with soil, plants, or the growing of them. What you are concerned with is household water and cost.

If that is the case, I'm not sure they are any answers you are going to like.

And now for the real question...

you got a soil test. It gave you some numbers, provided some context. But when it told you the phosphorous level was x, did it tell you what form of phosphorous they were talking about?

    Bookmark   January 23, 2012 at 1:53PM
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TheMasterGardener1(5B)

"But if you want to grow , one must move beyond the "just add compost" formula."

So man has farmed for 6000 years without "tests" I guess those where not "consistently healthy, flavorful and nutrient-dense crops" that they had.
;)

    Bookmark   January 23, 2012 at 2:06PM
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toxcrusadr

There is merit in the idea that we haven't had soil tests for most of our history and we managed to grow crops. On the other hand we haven't had industrial farming that can deplete soils of nutrients in a massive way.

Case in point, my yard, which had been a wheat and soybean field until we moved in. I wondered why my dwarf fruit trees hardly bloomed, so I got a test and found it was very low in P. We added bone meal around the trees and voila, next year they bloomed and produced crops. We might have accomplished that blindly but probably not, since we hadn't seen any advice that recommended compost for fruit trees.

So there's merit in a soil test, especially with a new garden. I do agree you have to understand the complexities of the results, as they are not always as simple as they seem.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2012 at 10:55AM
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TheMasterGardener1(5B)

This is why I stated....

"This is so strange to me, I look at soil tests needed for low quility organics and in-organic fertilizer application. If you feed the garden with perfect compost every micro and macro nutrient will be available to the plant do to natural buffering of the compost. No matter the ph, with good compost plant uptake everything. Please look more into this online.
Soil tests are for high productions concerned with cost and economics. What is the cheapest we can do rather then making or buying good compost (veggie scraps, little composted manure) rather then one cheap source of organic like cow manure only, then you run into soil tests, adding this chemical, soil test, add this ect....."

I don't know what to say, I have seen a gardener up in Alaska that grows record sized veggies with just compost tea. The veggies never have pest problems. He never had a soil test.

I have seen farmers use nothing more then left over fruit scraps as that is what he has surplus of on his property. Not one soil test.

As organic gardeners we need to be aware.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2012 at 12:36PM
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darth_weeder(z7 NY)

The Master Gardener, I'm sorry if I missed it but what do we need to be aware of?
Also how do we know if we are making /buying perfect compost?

    Bookmark   January 24, 2012 at 12:53PM
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toxcrusadr

Master, we are in agreement on most points. I was actually responding in large part to your statement that soil tests are for large production farms. So many of us in American suburbs are on *former* production land, and that can affect our gardens, was all I was saying.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2012 at 1:35PM
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TheMasterGardener1(5B)

"Also how do we know if we are making /buying perfect compost?"

Thats just it, we don't have perfect compost. My garden is on old farm land I don't make that much of my own compost, I don't get soil tests, I have been producing food in the same garden for years. Composted chicken manure, and food scrap compost, and random organic fertilizer but very little.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2012 at 5:53PM
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TheMasterGardener1(5B)

I can understand if you really are trying to push a lot of crops out of one area and don't want to wait, soil tests are good. If you topdressed an area with compost then mulched over that, you could wait a year and have living soil that will grow just about anything. Then keeping a good addition of compost after and during each crop, you will find a natural balance with nature itself.

I just know from experience that using good balanced compost creats a natural buffer that no matter the ph, plants will uptake all micro/macro nutrients.

Like I said above using tests can be helpfull, but doing it natural is slower and guaranteed.

I understand if you get tests it's the way, I am more or less a gardener that is a beginner, and I like to keep it simple for other beginner gardeners.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2012 at 7:07PM
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darth_weeder(z7 NY)

I just don't think a soil test could be a bad thing, could it?

    Bookmark   January 24, 2012 at 7:33PM
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TheMasterGardener1(5B)

No way ; )

    Bookmark   January 24, 2012 at 8:12PM
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sunnibel7 Md 7(7)

Moonlighting here from my usual haunt in Veggies, but I too had a test that indicated a high level of phosphorus. I don't intend to do anything about it since the plants don't show signs of stress, but it did make me reconsider buckwheat as a cover crop to till in. Buckwheat, I believe, accumulates phosphorus in its tissues, and I do use compost regularly, so possibly could continue to ramp up P levels... But the OP could use buckwheat as a method to remove P by allowing it to grow then removing the plants entirely: P in buckwheat, buckwheat removed from area altogether, voila! P levels reduced. They use that method to help remediate lands with heavy metal contamination, using plants that bioaccumulate the specific contaminants.

Now as to whether this is really a neccessary step, I cannot say.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2012 at 11:24AM
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toxcrusadr

Master, if I was in your situation and had an old garden that was producing well year after year, I'd just keep doing what I was doing too. :-]

    Bookmark   January 25, 2012 at 12:54PM
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Michael

Seems to me a soil test can be very valuable if the sample is taken properly and interpreted correctly. Imagine you move to an area where all the "topsoil" was moved into a new neighborhood by the home builders. Who knows what the "topsoil" is? It isn't too difficult to figure out where the subsoil is below the new, overlaying "topsoil". A soil test is an excellent way to figure a lot out about that topsoil before anything is done to it, why start adding a darned thing when you don't have a clue what you are starting with, it makes no sense when you can make more educated decisions.

Another reason for soil tests - over the years of adding this and/or that, has anything changed, if so what and by how much? To measure is to know.

Don't get me wrong, if anybody wants to keep it simple, I have no problem with that.

OBTW, to the OP: grow a crop that is a relatively large user of Ca and P and remove all of the above ground portions of the crop, that may begin to drop your P and Ca levels. As has been pointed out previously, production ag. is capable of doing what you are trying to do for a long time, that's why they have to replace the nutrients that are removed by their crops or the fields' productivity goes down.

Mastergardener "I can understand if you really are trying to push a lot of crops out of one area and don't want to wait, soil tests are good." What does time and waiting have to do with soil testing? Let me guess, if one is soil testing, that means they are going to apply synthetic fertilizers in order to "push a lot of crops out of one area". No.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2012 at 3:46PM
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TheMasterGardener1(5B)

"What does time and waiting have to do with soil testing"

Thanks, I needed a good laugh.

One of my statements should explain this. ;)

"If you topdressed an area with compost then mulched over that, you could wait a year and have living soil that will grow just about anything. Then keeping a good addition of compost after and during each crop, you will find a natural balance with nature itself. "

When man found out about plant nutrition, is when we bacame no longer needing to foriage and gather. We found we could stay in one area focusing on populous.

Trust me on this, we do not need soil tests. History itself proves that. ;)

    Bookmark   January 25, 2012 at 6:47PM
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TheMasterGardener1(5B)

Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!!!!!!!!!!!No edit!?!?!?!?!?

*forage, sorry.

I just want to say know things are not the same today but it shows that farming can be done with no soil test.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2012 at 6:50PM
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novascapes

Initially starting off with a soil test and applying the necessary amendments will get things up and going. Afterward the repeated addition of organics will maintain and improve the tilth. It will make the use of further soil testing and artificial amendments unnecessary.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2012 at 7:24AM
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toxcrusadr

>>Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!!!!!!!!!!!No edit!?!?!?!?!?

Hey, I can't even post right after my last post, how do you do that? The forum rejects my post and says I've already replied.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2012 at 10:54AM
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fortyonenorth(6b)

The addition of organic amendments and biologic stimulants, and the use of cover crops is sound practice and is almost always going to be of benefit to the gardener or farmer. If you have the necessary nutrients PRESENT IN YOUR SOIL these practices will help make and keep them available for use by plants. However, if the vital nutrients ARE NOT PRESENT in your soil organic gardening will not "create" them. I tend to believe that modern fertility is science run amok. But, the principals are sound and should not be discarded based on the current mis-use of the science.

It's also important to remember the baseline for "adequate nutrition" has changed dramatically over the centuries. A Mayan "farmer" was doing well if he reached the age of, what, 30 years? A few centuries ago, one was "old" by the time s/he was 40 or 45. Today, we expect to remain healthy and useful into our 70s, 80s and beyond.

I'm not suggesting that it's impossible to grow crops without a soil test - mother nature is a powerful force. But, as I stated above, if you want to grow the very best, most nutritious food, it's necessary to establish and maintain the "right" balance of nutrients. The only way to do this is through periodic testing. And testing isn't only for large-scale "modern" farmers. Once you know what you have and what you need, the choice of organic or synthetic is up to the gardener.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2012 at 10:54AM
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TheMasterGardener1(5B)

Yes soil tests are very helpful, I was considering one for a friend that wanted to farm land. I am pretty sure the Pennsylvania Dutch do not use soil tests.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2012 at 1:51PM
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TheMasterGardener1(5B)

I wrote what I was trying to here in a different post!!!!! : O

I come to this forum everytime I get a break so I may miss spell and write off subject things and I am sorry for that.

I wanted to say that soil tests are very helpfull I am a beginner and that is why I never used them. I bet they can make things practical. Maybe native soils are not the best some places and like many said maybe I have a good native soil to from the start.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2012 at 2:54PM
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Michael

Just a simple point on the soil test issue, maybe a new post should be made so we can stop leading this one astray :) Any volunteers? OK, I'll do it.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2012 at 3:59PM
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TheMasterGardener1(5B)

I am sorry for changing the subject.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2012 at 4:53PM
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novascapes

To answer the question directly, No. Once minerals are in the ground you cannot remove them, short of using some sort of acid. At best you can dilute them by adding material low in the minerals you do not want.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2012 at 6:19AM
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