Favorite soil additive?

Raw_Nature(5 OH)March 26, 2013

- what is your favorite thing to add to your soil(top dress,till,doesn't matter)
-Why do you like it?
- how do you apply it?
Example - My favorite thing is topdressing with compost because it does so much for the soil, microorganisms, water retention, etc..

Appreciate it,

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Tuggy3(9b NorCal)

Compost. Also add fish meal and alfalfa a couple times a year because I have glaciated young soil with lots of underground boulders.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2013 at 2:09AM
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Compost as a soil additive and as a mulch along with shredded leaves and other forms of vegetative waste as mulches. Those provide a food and energy source for the Soil Food Web that will provide the nutrients the plants I grow need.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2013 at 6:26AM
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toxcrusadr Clay Soil(Zone 6a - MO)

Oh, let's see, we're in the composting forum. I'm going to guess most of the answers will involve compost. :-]

I prefer tiny plastic soldiers. Preferably SeeBees, with little shovels. They do great work.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2013 at 10:50AM
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darth_weeder(z7 NY)

shredded leaves
fish guts

    Bookmark   March 26, 2013 at 3:22PM
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........... Preferably SeeBees, with little shovels. They do great work.

Ha ha ha. Awesome.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2013 at 6:30PM
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Raw_Nature(5 OH)

My favorites:

-Compost (nutrients, microorganisms,soil structure,etc)

-Cover crop (holds/recycles nurtients, prevents erosion,Soil structure,mulch)

-Leaves(mulch,minerals,microorganisms,soil structure)

-Woodash (minerals,underrated, cheap)

Thank for posting,

    Bookmark   March 26, 2013 at 6:41PM
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In this region one can go into an area that has been wooded for at least a century, dig down through the litter and within just 3 or 4 inches come to impoverished sandy gravel. So much for the nutrients supposedly always in leaves.

One can go to some other area also wooded for a century or more and dig down through maybe a foot of litter to come to a loamy top soil and then stony clay (this time you'll need a shovel). A much more fertile environment.

Why is that, when a hundred years of soil additives have been seemingly identical?

    Bookmark   March 27, 2013 at 7:33AM
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toxcrusadr Clay Soil(Zone 6a - MO)

I'll take the bait. The obvious difference between the two locations is "sandy gravel" vs. "stony clay". Soil is not composed only of the organic matter we add, but the indigenous mineral fraction, which has its own characteristics that are not completely wiped away by the addition of organic matter.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2013 at 10:18AM
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"not completely wiped away by the addition of organic matter."

I think that is understating the case by a lot. Even if one raised OM percentage to very high levels, by robbing nearby areas of biomass, elemental shortfalls native to the area will not be corrected. We've been through this before, but I suspect it's a new idea for Joe.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2013 at 1:05PM
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I'll play.

I add horse manure that is mixed with a straw bedding product, urine, and bits of hay that is usually not completely finished composting.

I like it because my horses produce at least 100+ pounds of the stuff every single day and I have to do SOMETHING with it. I like it because I don't pay anything extra for it. Another reason I like it is plants grow so well with it that it perpetuates the fallacy that I actually know what I'm doing in the garden.

When I create a new bed I dig in copious amounts of it--usually measured by the number of heaping front end loader loads. Once I have established beds I use it as mulch about 3" thick over just about everything--perennial gardens, vegetable garden, foundation shrubs, roses, trees. A few times a year--usually before a bloom flush I throw a couple shovel fulls on each rose bush. (Although a few roses are getting their shovel full fresh from the back end just as an experiment.)

    Bookmark   March 27, 2013 at 6:09PM
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Animal urine-soaked hay is super stuff to start compost with or to mulch with. The woodshaving bedding that most people use now is not so good.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2013 at 6:38PM
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-yard trimmings.
-They add nutrients and OM to my soil, retains moisture in the soil, makes the soil easier to work, I also get paid to use them.
-I spread it out on top and then till it in, the soil does the rest.


    Bookmark   March 27, 2013 at 7:16PM
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botann(z8 SEof Seattle)

Wood chips for me. I use it as a mulch, top dressing, and additive I till in. I also use it for paths. An Arborist tree trimmer parks his truck on my property so I get as much as I want.
He's been dumping wood chips for years. Partially composted, it makes a great potting soil with the addition of some sand.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2013 at 9:51PM
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The problem with compost is, it creates its own imbalances. Currently my P and K are too high and they interfere with minor nutrient absorption. I used to love wood ash when gardening in acid sand, but here the soil is alkaline.

The one amendment that always makes a positive contribution to the garden is urine, and it is free too. Fish guts are also good but it difficult to get enough. I have been thinking about netting carp, since it is one of the few fish that can be netted legally, and one school will fertilize the garden for a year. Leaves also qualify, they provide earthworm food and pH buffering while not adding too many nutrients.

Perhaps I should have said kelp, or fish emulsion, but I am against spending any money for mulch, compost or fertilizer. I am even against spending money for seeding soil, and I make my own.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2013 at 11:02PM
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Me, I use as much stinging nettle as I can find growing as weeds everywhere. I don't really care about the chemistry; I just know that added to my pile, it cooks faster and the end product is better. So many folks will do anything to get rid of it - I'll do anything to get more. I even (gasp!) tried to seed it, but nothing came of it. So I watch for it in the garden and around my house and get all I can. Same for seaweed. Whenever I can, wherever I can. Stupendous stuff for my pile.

All you folks with shredders and chippers, quantities of hay and chips, etc. don't know how lucky you are. I never, never have enough mulch.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2013 at 5:32AM
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Glib, I'm sort of the opposite: I'd rather spend money on gardening-related stuff than other things.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2013 at 7:56AM
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Oh, I will splurge on fences, trees, equipment. But not on something that lies around waiting to be used. More universally good additives: rabbit pelts, chicken feathers, road kill, human hair. Anything with something-0-0 as nutrient profile. Although road kill leaves bones in your soil. Deer road kill has also the effect of discouraging deer, though it needs to be left uncovered, so use only if your garden is far away from dwellings. Hair does not attract flies...

    Bookmark   March 28, 2013 at 11:46AM
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That's interesting about the roadkill, but isn't the stink pretty horrible for the gardener?

    Bookmark   March 28, 2013 at 1:29PM
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Yes, even though the cost of fertilizer & amendments is small, I'll always use free stuff just feels better: wood chips, urine, weeds. Roadkill doesn't smell bad if you bury it under about 3" of soil and plants love it.

Open pit compost piles attract rats which make great amendments. Before getting cats, I had a rat zapper outside, protected from rain. It provided a steady stream of fertilizer.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2013 at 2:39PM
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You have to bury it, yes. Even a no-tiller like me ends up tilling a lot with burials (also of spent plants in the Fall), and also with the harvest of parsnips and other things. As a matter of fact I have not used road kill, but the byproduct of various traps. Without a doubt buried meat makes plants that are on steroids.

The problem with compost, at least in clay soils, is that it is not balanced for vegetables, and one ends up with too much P and K. It is certainly my case, though if I were still gardening in sand things would be different. Half the nitrogen is lost to the atmosphere in composting, leaving an unbalanced residual. I minimize that by burying unfinished organic matter which contains N. This technique also stimulates worms which produce more tilling.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2013 at 4:54PM
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Compost. Mulching with wood chips or leaves.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2013 at 6:16PM
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My favorite soil additive is alfalfa pellets. Alfalfa, as a deep rooting plant, is a fairly complete source of nutrients and minerals. Some people don't like to buy soil additives but at $10. for a 20 kg. bag it's very inexpensive. Some years I don't even use one bag and don't use other fertilizers in the garden.

As *soil amendments* I use compost, composted horse manure, leaves (both composted and uncomposted), and shredded bark mulch. I mostly top-dress with compost and of course mulch, but last year started digging in compost, bark mulch, and alfalfa pellets in some areas of the garden. This year I'll continue that experiment to see how well it works.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2013 at 9:42AM
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Blood, sweat and tears!

    Bookmark   March 30, 2013 at 8:09PM
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Coffee chaff, leaves, grass chippings, pine straw & compost made from them.
WHY: they are in large supply,close at hand & FREE.
They are organic.
I compost most of them, but have used sheet compost turn them under to let them rot.
I also have started to mulch my perennial beds with them.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2013 at 10:22PM
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Raw_Nature(5 OH)

Very interesting.. That's for all the posts you guys..

Now with the folks using roadkill, I cant see how that will benefit plants more than good ole' compost.. Aren't you spreading pathogens,etc, Especially if your eating out that garden? I just can't see how that will help to much.. I understand how it will keep out deer,etc.. But how about raccoons,etc? I can't even use blood/bone/fish meal without the animals digging up all my plants...


    Bookmark   April 1, 2013 at 1:58AM
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