Micromanaging your soil?

lazy_gardensFebruary 21, 2014

I see quite a few questions about producing the perfect soil.

This guy has the answer :)

Here is a link that might be useful: Are You Micromanaging Your Soil?

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nc_crn

Any broadly sold product that promises great results without knowing what your soil is to begin with is generally talking out their...umm...butt...especially if it's a one-size-fits-all-soils solution.

If anyone thinks something that promises 10-25-50% better yields works as advertised (usually closer to 25-50% from some of these snake oil dealers)...well, pretty much every large and small farmer would be using it if price permitted.

Soil biology is complex and not well understood across the board even if soil chemistry is much better understood...mix the two acting on each other (which they often do) and you have varying levels of understanding.

We map soil types in regions for a reason and it's useful for people other than geologists. Soil can vary quite radically just a few dozen to a few hundred miles in any direction in all but some radically stable (and mostly undisturbed) areas. In disturbed and urban areas it can be even more complex from block to block. ...and these are just generalized soil maps.

The physical characteristics of a soil often are a catalyst for any smaller (chemical or biological/microbial) changes one wants to make and generally needs to be taken care of before other aspects.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2014 at 12:48AM
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Kimmsr(4a/5b-MI)

Pretty much what I have been trying to tell peo9ple for years here.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2014 at 6:47AM
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luckygal(3b)

I let the earthworms micromanage my soil! They do a very fine job of it too.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2014 at 4:28PM
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ernie85017

So do you think the "remineralizing your soil" hype is just...hype?

That John Kroger, of the manic gardening videos, sure uses a LOT of very expensive products. Freebies in exchange for mention in his videos? For example, fertilizers and chlorine filters for your garden hose. It makes sense, but is expen$ive.

I finally got some real compost made and am now finding little baby worms in that bed! There were never worms in that bed!

    Bookmark   February 23, 2014 at 2:15PM
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toxcrusadr

Good stuff, that.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2014 at 1:38PM
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Kimmsr(4a/5b-MI)

For earthworms to micromanage any soil there needs to be a food source for them and that food source is organic matter. Get adequate amounts of organic matter in soils and most everything else will balance out and eliminate the need for any "magic elixirs".
On occasion, and you would need a good reliable soil test to determine that, some soil might need "remineralization".

    Bookmark   February 25, 2014 at 6:38AM
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pnbrown

I think that the primary misunderstanding is that cultivated food crops, in general, have much higher nutrition and moisture requirements than do locally-adapted plant species. This is why people often have huge weed problems. A feature of certain land-race crops (or even most) is that for a given soil/climate they behave more like a weed typically does, which makes them immensely valuable, especially in areas with sub-optimal conditions.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2014 at 7:15AM
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toxcrusadr

pn, can you explain your first two sentences more? How does a belief that vegetables require higher nutrition actually lead to weed problems? Do you mean people overfeed, which feeds the weeds?

    Bookmark   February 25, 2014 at 10:47AM
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wayne_5 zone 6a Central Indiana

I think that pn is saying that weeds are more vigorous than some of our more delicate veggies. Weed roots go down deeply and strongly.

I find for me and my area that drainage is the first requirement. Then I need to improve the soil structure to have a deep and mellow soil in ALL the growing season. After that it is pretty easy, but still, if you carry anything away from the garden, there needs to be continuing additions of organic matter whether brought in from somewhere else or/and gotten from green and cover crops. Also to be more certain, I like to do fertilization....debateable? Yes, but it works great here.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2014 at 11:30AM
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Natures_Nature(5 OH)

So do you think the "remineralizing your soil" hype is just...hype?
That John Kroger, of the manic gardening videos, sure uses a LOT of very expensive products. Freebies in exchange for mention in his videos? For example, fertilizers and chlorine filters for your garden hose. It makes sense, but is expen$ive.

Remineralization is mainly a marketing hype. Our soil we know of is a result of millions of years of breaking down minerals from the eroding rocks,etc. sand,silt, and clay is known as mineral soils, because they are comprised of lots of minerals. Most soils has enough minerals to sustain a garden for centuries, taking in account it took much longer to break down the minerals that are in soil now. I watched John Kroger, I'm even a raw foodist if you want to call it.. I bought into the rock dusts and magic potions, no more. I educated myself and know better now.. But i do believe that chlorine in the tap could harm organisms in our soil, isnt that's what they use chlrine for in the first place? It makes sense to get a water filter to filter out chlrine, it doesnt make sense to buy minerals to put on your soil when it already has adaquate levels. Some rare cases, or some not, need remerilization. But its generally uncalled for.

"I think that the primary misunderstanding is that cultivated food crops, in general, have much higher nutrition and moisture requirements than do locally-adapted plant species. This is why people often have huge weed problems. A feature of certain land-race crops (or even most) is that for a given soil/climate they behave more like a weed typically does, which makes them immensely valuable, especially in areas with sub-optimal conditions."

Im so glad someone brought this up! I known for years that wild herbs are much stronger and healthier to eat than the hybridized counterpart. Look at how the weeds flourish without any help, no fert, no irrigation, nothing. Weeds are the true survivors. If we missed a week or two of watering in the veggie garden, it would most likely be dead. The weeds next to the garden are thriving! Try to to dig up a complete wild weed root system, i bet its so long you wont be able to, you will keep breaking pieces of the root..

Could you guys imagine how effiecient it would be eating weeds. They grow themselves, they need no help at all. We wouldn't need the fertilizers, pesticides, or the genetic manipulation. The plants adapt naturally, with no genetic manipulation. I guarantee you if you had test plots of commercial GMO crops vs a native weeds, the weeds would just take over, be much stronger and healthier, with less toxic inputs! Eat the weeds might just be one solution..

    Bookmark   February 25, 2014 at 12:33PM
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wayne_5 zone 6a Central Indiana

Weed eating...some people do some, but most of our spoiled tastes prefer something fancier.

As far as minerals go.....I have been reading several old books on the internet. They give the total amounts of the big three [NPK+calcium and magnesium] that were in the topsoil say a hundred years ago in the different areas of the United States. These totals are both the available and the locked up unavailable NPK poundages. The available amounts are a very small portion of the total poundages. This is very fortunate because otherwise they would have been mostly gone a long time ago.

Nature's plan is to provide a continual small stream of available nutrients yearly. Do all soils contain a high level of minerals? No. Many soils started out low and with a low base, they just will be lowish. The richer soils like the prairie and midwest soils will remain more mineral rich than sandy soils and older soils that have been farmed a long time and where high leaching takes place.

As far as micro minerals go......These can be expensive to test for. My opinion is that a soil with ph in the 6.4 to 7.0 range and with a healthy synergy from organic matter can go a long ways to utilize what micros that are there. I feel it could be a good idea to at least once give a moderate dusting of something like Azomite because you just don't know...do you?

This post was edited by wayne_5 on Tue, Feb 25, 14 at 14:46

    Bookmark   February 25, 2014 at 2:34PM
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Natures_Nature(5 OH)

"Weed eating...some people do some, but most of our spoiled tastes prefer something fancier."

That's the problem, we literally lost true taste of food. I think we are losing real food altogether...

"As far as minerals go.....I have been reading several old books on the internet. They give the total amounts of the big three [NPK+calcium and magnesium] that were in the topsoil say a hundred years ago in the different areas of the United States. These totals are both the available and the locked up unavailable NPK poundages. The available amounts are a very small portion of the total poundages. This is very fortunate because otherwise they would have been mostly gone a long time ago."

I trully believe nature has the answer to damn near everything. I do not think we are ever going to run out of minerals, i dont even think the earth would ever get too toxic for life, but the way we are going, that's tough.. All life on earth is meant to be here for a reason. A good portion of that life on earth is the cleaners, the microorganisms that break down and dilute toxins, this is known as bio dilution. But of course, you have bio magnification as well, there's always two sides, that's what make creation.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2014 at 3:38PM
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pnbrown

"Many soils started out low and with a low base, they just will be lowish"

I agree, having had a lot of experience with those low soils, in at least two different climates. I'm always amazed when I happen to see the difference in soils with a much higher starting point.

Tox, I'm trying to say that a common beginner mistake is to underestimate how much nutrition highly bred, high-yielding crops require. In part this may be because people are judging by how well bushes, grass, trees etc grow with seemingly so little inputs. Then perhaps after being disappointed, the second, third, fourth year gardener goes a little crazy with the inputs.

Regarding the nutrition angle, in the case of both weeds and crops, I strongly suspect the highest nutrition comes from plants that have the longest growth cycle. Example: a spring-harvested walking onion that had all fall, winter and spring to accumulate nutrients from the ground has higher nutrition (I feel) than an equal weight of green onion around the same time of year that grew very quickly from a seed sown in a greenhouse in February or March. Certainly it is logical to suppose that the soil biota that can form over the much longer undisturbed period would be significantly more robust.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2014 at 7:36PM
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Natures_Nature(5 OH)

"Regarding the nutrition angle, in the case of both weeds and crops, I strongly suspect the highest nutrition comes from plants that have the longest growth cycle. Example: a spring-harvested walking onion that had all fall, winter and spring to accumulate nutrients from the ground has higher nutrition (I feel) than an equal weight of green onion around the same time of year that grew very quickly from a seed sown in a greenhouse in February or March. Certainly it is logical to suppose that the soil biota that can form over the much longer undisturbed period would be significantly more robust."

I kind of think like that as well.. Everytime I pick fruit from these huge, nargly trees, I just wonder how damn huge their root system is, I mean, man... Same thing with tapping maple trees for syrup, could you imagine the nutrition in that! And we cook it to death, ruining lots of that raw nutrition..

But on the flip side, how about sprouts? They are just as packed with nutrients, concentrated antioxidants, just a damn pack of life! The parent plant supplies her seeds with the nutrients to get off to a good start. Perhaps its how old, or should we say, big the rootsystem is of the parent plant?

Either way, I believe no matter how old the plants are, they all uptake different quantities/ratios of nutrients.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2014 at 8:55PM
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toxcrusadr

I'm not sure we could survive on nothing but weeds, but OTOH early man ate what was in front of him, and many people still do. I guess I mean it can't support the current global population. That said, I also think we've lost a lot of knowledge and interest in eating wild plants. Food goes to 'waste' all around us.

I'm going to do my part by trying dandelion greens for the first time this spring. I already harvest wild fruit and mushrooms. :-]

    Bookmark   February 27, 2014 at 11:58AM
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pnbrown

Since the term "weeds" covers a lot of ground, so to speak, no doubt we (people) could survive on them alone. Without large inputs of labor and replenished soil nutrients, I agree, the current populations cannot be sustained.

OTOH, when you get right down to it, anybody and everybody is willing to work if hungry enough.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2014 at 8:31AM
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Kimmsr(4a/5b-MI)

A "weed" is any plant that you do not want growing where you do not want it to grow.
Dandelions, Lambs Quarters, Chickweed, Purslane, Sorrels, and many other plants we consider "weeds" are really good sources of nutrients, and do taste quite good as well as add a bit of spice to the foods we eat.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2014 at 6:56AM
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pnbrown

So the word 'weed' effectively means nothing in terms of whether it is a good food source, because plenty of random weedy plants are not useful food sources. The defining characteristic of a weed is that it is out-competing a crop. If it happens to be as good or even nearly as good a food source, then one would do better to crop the weed.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2014 at 8:17AM
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Natures_Nature(5 OH)

Why is there no middle ground. We either got mono crops of gmo, or fields of weeds that we cant care for. How about growing the weeds, and caring for them! Get the best of all worlds. The native weeds are used to growing without care, they still even grow after we dose them with poisons. If we could take the beneficial weeds(not the harmful invasive ones) and cultivate them, there would be very little cultivating, as the weeds grow itself. Cultivation would almost ensure success.

And who says we have to eat 100% weeds? A normal person, eating a SAD, will feel quesy and ill if they eat anymore than a couple handfuls of wild herbs. You have to wheen in it slowly. For example, if we just replace one meal of the day with wild plants growing in your area.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2014 at 10:10AM
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pnbrown

I don't know what a SAD is, but again you seem to characterizing all weeds with a very broad brush. Plenty of weedy greens are as mild as any other cooked green. I often eat steamed winter cress in early spring, it never made me feel queasy. Poke, OTOH, certainly will. I don't eat it anymore, no matter how many times I change the cooking water it gives a bad feeling.

Anyhow, to get back on topic, weeds are a useful indicator on whether one's soil is well-balanced for the crops one wants to grow. Certain weeds are well-known fertility and ph indicators and correlate with soils in good shape for many of our common crops. The majority of weeds, OTOH, if in abundance indicate a soil problem.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2014 at 3:41PM
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elisa_z5

I read it as Standard American Diet. (SAD)

Of course, it could also be Seasonal Affective Disorder, or Search and Destroy, or any number of things (don't get me started . . .)

This post was edited by elisa_Z5 on Sat, Mar 1, 14 at 16:49

    Bookmark   March 1, 2014 at 4:21PM
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