So I have a box garden which has layered soil, plenty of compost, highly nutritious. Do I need fertilizer at all?
Your plants will "tell" you by how well, or not, they grow.
So how will I know? Would it be like shriveled leaves, etc.?
Very probably just a bit of nitrogen. No P, no K, no micros.
Personally, I don't use much fert, except in some of my raised up gardens that are more like containers.
I do do my own compost, and try to get rabbit or goat manure fresh(or old composted horse/llama/cow/buffalo, all which are available in this area!) Those, I pile for a year or so, them compost with other stuff.
I have an old (60's???) little tiller that I till things into my beds along with the compost spring and fall(as needed) Nancy
The only ways you will know that is with a good reliable soil test and how well the plants grow. A soil test will give you an indication of what is readily available and plant growth will tell you how things are. Plants growing really lush and green and attractive to many parasitic insects (Aphids, etc.) are up taking too much Nitrogen (often to the detriment of other nutrients) while plants that do not seem to be thriving lack some nutrients.
The pH of that soil mix can also influence which nutrients the plants uptake, with a soil pH in the 6.2 to 6.8 range optimal.
However, to get those nutrients in compost converted into those which the plants can use means you need an active Soil Food Web, sometimes not easy in small containers.
This post was edited by kimmsr on Sat, May 17, 14 at 7:08
KISS principle, Kimmsr, KISS. I think in all likelihood, OP's "plenty of compost", means Glib has it right. Though what you said is of course, valid and accurate. I put myself in the shoes of a newcomer, who is almost certainly looking for a "simple, productive, and peaceful" (my phraseology) experience.
The way I would word it is to say, one cannot be certain without a soil test whether to fertilize, but as a general rule of thumb, if there is a sufficient amount of compost in that NY soil or virtually any other soil, you probably don't need much of anything, besides, perhaps, a small amount of nitrogen.
(A soil test can be virtually useless when it comes to nitrogen). Then, I would add, pay close attention to the plant, the plant will "talk to ya".
I'd point out to be very careful with any amount of synthetic nitrogen (can be overly done)
My observation is that if you fertilize, and you stick to a vegetative source for fertilizer (organic, non-manure based), it's much, much more likely that you won't screw it up when you are guessing (follow the general directions, pounds per 1000 square feet for turfgrass).
C'mon people, let's all try to be more helpful for now on, and not sound like such geeks! This tecnical mumbo jumbo has been flying around on this forum for years, Lol..
If the OP has more specific questions, then give more specific answers. One can always end any advice with the caveat, "you cannot be certain about anything without a soil test, but...". There are just certain rules of thumb, and one is, high quality, vegetatively sourced compost is a good solution for just about any situation. It's dead plants, for pete's sake, it has what a live plant needs...
You ever had a conversation with a computer nerd where you were seeking general information about computers? Maybe even just trying to start a conversation? It can be downright intimidating/frustrating, especially when you're lost after the first sentence. My two pennies, but them's some golden pennies ;)...
Mackel's Corollary- Simple is Superior (and science can back that up).
Thankyou everybody, another wonderful weekend (ain't they all!) is upon us...
This post was edited by Mackel-in-DFW on Sat, May 17, 14 at 9:46
You should always have a soil test performed just to get a baseline. Compost IS fertilizer and you can absolutely cause harm by adding too much. There is this persistent myth that if you just add organic matter you can do no wrong, but there are enough people just on this forum that have added compost and now have Phosphorus levels that are causing problems that this myth should be put to rest. On top of that is the fact that with current mobility levels, most people don't know how the land has been treated for the last decade. Maybe you had a guy tring to grow azaleas on thin calcerous soil who was dumping 20-20-20 and sulfur like it was candy. Now a little bit of compost, not too much, and mulch is a perfectly reasonable and simple starting point for a beginner as long as the 'not too much' bit is included. But in this day and age, if you care at all about whether you are polluting the environment, you should at the very least have a preliminary soil test done before adding stuff willy nilly regardless of whether that stuff is 'organic' or synthetic.
I was reading an extension paper on soil improvement. It suggested that gardeners use "standard rates" for compost addition, and fertilizer, and only order up a soil analysis if plants fail to thrive.
We tend to say "get an analysis first" now ... but it may not really be necessary.
I suggest that the OP plant, water carefully, mulch if needed (in most places in summer, yes) and then track growth rates, compare to other gardens in the same zone. If the plants need a boost, liquid fertilizers are easy.
How do you know your compost is "highly nutritious"? Have you had it tested? I believe there can be variations in the quality of compost depending on the ingredients used.
IMO whether your soil contains enough nutrients may also depend on the type of plants you wish to grow. If you want to grow prize winning pumpkins weighing 1 ton you may need to add fertilizer! :D Vegetable plants may be described as heavy, moderate, and light feeders depending on the amount of nitrogen and nutrients they require to grow well. There are also some that give back nitrogen by fixing it on their roots.
Thanks for all the replies! I forgot to mention the only thing similar to fertilizer I've used in the garden is some Garden Lime for my tomatoes (at least I think). Personally, I'm thinking I don't need fertilizer. My tomato plants are doing fantastic, along with most of the other vegetables. I just planted some carrots, so we'll see how that goes.
One more question: How can I tell if I should fertilize Sweet Corn?
YF, never fertilize carrots (or parsnips, or beans) if you have decent garden soil. Corn needs are typically nitrogen- dominated. You can tell from the color and health of the plants, but most corn prefers some nitrogen. You can buy urea from an ag supply store, but nowadays many lawn fertilizers are basically urea (like, 25-0-5).
You want to add some nitrogen when you are just starting out, but if have been composting for years and the soil is great, I have found you don't need any. But, the soil needs to be great all the way down to the roots, not just good on the top. I have some liquid nitrogen food, but I found when I gave it my ferns, they performed worse then if I don't do it. Some plants can get weak leggy growth and not slow strong growth. Since I used a lot of starbucks coffee and that is high nitrogen, when I add compost it feeds the plants at that time. Even thought its compost already, I don't let my compost sit and get old.
With regard to recommending soil tests, I tend to do it when someone is asking whether they need lime, which is a very common question, and the only way to know is to test the pH. Or, when someone is trying to amend a large area of soil such as a new lawn or large garden, particularly if it's a new house they haven't lived in so they have no idea about the soil. Then it seems to be worthwhile. For a small garden or a couple of raised beds that are already doing fine, it's probably not necessary.
I've probably said this before, but with 10 different raised beds, who's soil came from several different places, at $30 per soil test we're talkin $300 for soil tests! NOT gonna do it!
I try to top each raised bed at least 1x per year with my compost and some chicken poop from the big box store.
The new raised up beds, I'm treating more like containers and adding a bit of osmocote in case the compost is being washed out of the beds. Nancy
Good for you Nancy, I never did any soil tests. It just seemed very annoying and expensive and I have great soil.
I don't know what this is, some kind of conspiracy based on soil testing companies wanting big bucks? It's only needed if you literally have a farm and are selling organic produce. Just make your soil health.
Soil test is a last resort for the homeowner, for crying out loud. You know you have a problem, simply by looking at your neighbor's trees/plants and compare. If you want to know your soil properties, pH, etc., you can look it up on the web for free. Our county finished it's soil map in the 1920's, and the mineral profile hasn't changed since the dinosaur age.
But technical mumbo jumbo gets repeated for years, at the expense of many a newcomer. The regulars seem too intimidated to simply say, "Enough of the phony wisdom."
Here is a link that might be useful: Original copy of soil map for tarrant county, texas, 1920
But not Mackel ! Bahahaha.
I first realized this when I started reading soil tests, and they all said the same damn thing. Follow the money...
>> I first realized this when I started reading soil tests, and they all said the same damn thing.
I grow most stuff in composted horse manure. It's amazing how little animal waste is in there verses how much crude cellulose there is, and there's not much "soil" there at all until you go way down, so soil tests seem foolish to me. What am I going to sample? Where?
However, the alternate method of reactionary treatments (my habit) also has its problems. F'rinstance, it's hard to undo excessive foliage growth without waiting until next year. People want (justifiably) to be ahead of their problems, not behind them.
It all boils down to all gardening being a long term personal experiment, and watching those cranky plants carefully.
There is no good reason to have separate tests done on each and every planting bed one has and no one that does soil testing would suggest that.
Throwing Nitrogen on the soil may create more problems then it solves. Numerous insect pests are more attracted to plants growing in unbalanced soils then to plants growing in soils that are good and healthy. A soil test is one tool that can help when used properly.
Then why do you give the same advice to nearly every newcomer that comes around, Kimmsr? And make it all complicated soundin', and scare off folks to ever wantin' to garden again?
What's with the cut and paste opus, too. Don't you think everybody and their mama has read it, already.
I think you're one of the truly guilty, here, of playin' soil expert, Mr. Master Gardener, when you won't answer when you are challenged on what you're insistin' upon.
And whatchya goin' off on a tangent with the nitrogen thingy-- that's been addressed in the thread. If you just wantin' to join in on the kumbaya, I get it, then. Human needs, and all, wantin' to fit in.
But yer posts seem to leave a lot more questions unanswered, than answers that are useful, encouraging, and kind to the novice. Cain't ya see it, Man?
What does yer wife do when you start talkin' and ain't listenin' ? I know what mine does, and that's why I quit, long ago. (Don't care to pickin' m'self up off the floor.) It's all love and sharin', now, plus I want to be a good example to the chil'ren.
Mackel "the Lesson Learnt" Lovemachine
This post was edited by Mackel-in-DFW on Tue, May 20, 14 at 10:38
I garden on 3 acres. There at least a dozen different soils, everything from loess on the west to a cat tail swamp to alkaline flats to thin clay over sand stone to sandy clay to some very pH stuff they dug up when they put in the lines and drains.
I just add all the organic matter I can.
As for artificial fertilizers, the only time I use any now are when I'm growing green leafy stuff like basil or kale or chard - **If** they're not growing rapidly, I will add a few pellets of high nitrogen fertilizer between the plants. But generally, I mulch with clippings from a clover/grass lawn, and the worms integrate that into the soil with enough speed that I don't need to add anything else.
"scientia potentia es", knowledge is power, Mackel. The more you know the better.
Ignorance is not bliss.
This post was edited by kimmsr on Thu, May 22, 14 at 7:07
Platitudes, schmatitudes, Kimmsr. Who ya gonna believe ? A degreed biologist (graduated with honors) actively studying the subject, or a homeowner with a certificate on his wall ? Nyuk nyuk nyuk. M
Yanksfan, here is an image showing signs of nutrient deficiencies in corn.
Here is a link that might be useful:
Oh yes if your plants are growing great you don't need a soil test. Well at least you don't if you don't care about whether you are polluting the watershed. In my professional practice, not destroying the environment is important tous and our clients. So we test first so that we don't cause more of the same problems that those old timers caused by adding more than they needed while having great looking plants. The problem isn't deficiencies. It's toxicity and contamination and your plants won't tell you if you are polluting the watershed.
I don't understand, Nil. If you stop using "fertilizer" (synthetics or animal manure) altogether, add carbon to the soil, the land should heal itself (?) You can do this with fabulous results, whether the soil is overamended or not. M
Where do you get this pure carbon source?
But if you are just getting at just planting some plants, cover with say arborist chips, and then just replenishing that mulch, then sure if your plants grow fine there's no need for a soil test. The mulch will improve the soil and everything is peachy. And then send me a truckload of that soil.
A soil test not only aids in getting the soil you have into a good healthy condition but is a tool that can help save you money and can aid in keeping the environment in better condition, by helping prevent pollution.
People that throw a bunch of stuff on their soil ore often then not contribute to the pollution of our world because too many nutrients in soil are simply washed out with the excess water. Too much Nitrogen in soils results in nitrate poisoning of the water we drink. Too much Phosphorus applied to soil results in lakes and ponds sprouting toxic algae growth. While animal factories, Confined Animal Feeding Operations, are partly responsible they are not the only source and that is why many states have put restrictions on certain lawn fertilizers.
The only way to know if the soil you have is a good healthy soil is to use the many tools available, soil tests are one, to monitor what is happening. Throwing large amounts os anything on the soil is not good husbandry.
Hey Mackel, you seem to know what has been "flying around" these forums for years, and yet you also just registered last month.
What was your old registration name?
Compost, not "pure carbon", with a vegetative, non-manure origin, or mulch. You've heard me advocate that before, and that's what I meant.
Then, avoid manures, or synthetic ferts. That's what I've practiced for several years, not out of a sense of responsibility, but becuase it works very well. It's saved me from having to use pesticides, I have a lot of fruit trees and I dont spray. Been "organic" for 9 years. I am a conservative, not a progressive.
Much of the rest of the gang have been the advocates for throwing down the "gauntlent" onto the soil. I don't advocate that.
I've said it before, don't use your soil as a dumping ground, for things like salty materials, such as wood ashes (you thought that was a good idea, remember), or "mushroom compost".
Avoid human waste unless you got to pee real bad, and use very little animal manure, if at all. Know exactly what's in any mystery sources of compost or mulch. .
Most people want to defend these practices. They think you might be raining on their parade when you point out it's a waste of time and potentially harmful.
If you want to find out the mineral content of your soil, Kimmsr, you can usually find that out for free.
I've said that several times, now. Should people that are slow on the updraw be giving out advice to everyone and their mama? I don't understand. How do you expect people to be polite to you, if you can't offer the same?
Started lurking in 2003. I've used Mackel as a username for several years. I re-registered after several years of absence, and a life-changing illness.
This post was edited by Mackel-in-DFW on Fri, May 23, 14 at 11:02
Whats wrong with manure?
Thats sort of the basis of many of the large market-farming organic farms around here.
Either horse manure from stables or cattle manure from feed lots - its heaped over the summer and winter and composted where the animals are, the farmers haul it off and spread it on their gardens in early spring.
The feedlots and stables get rid of it, which makes them happy, and the gardeners are happy.
David- What's wrong with manure ?
If you let it sit for a year or two, and leach out the salts from rainfall, not much wrong with manure (if you have a place to store it.) However, it can pollute the water and the soil if in a large enough concentration. It also depends on if you have acid or alkaline soil. Acid soils will always recover much faster from abuse or overamendment
What's wrong with manure? I really hate that this is a thing, but apparently it is:
It Happened to Us! - Killer Compost
What a world.
I keep asking Mackel what pollutants or contaminants are in manure but I don't get an answer. How does manure pollute soil and water in a way that other compost does not?
I'm surprised every time you ask that question, Tox. Particularly, when the answer is easy to find, right in this thread. Excessive salts. Excessive phosphorus, excessive sodium, excessive nitrogen.
In addition to that, heavy metals. You said yourself that in your job, it's not the presence of pollutants/contaminants that is a problem, it's their concentration levels.
When you compare manure to rotting plant material, rotting plants have a perfect balance of all these minerals for plants. They do not, as a general rule, possess the concentrations to throw out of wack the soil chemistry.
Unless manure has been aged for a year or two, PARTICULARLY in alkaline soils west of the Mississippi, such as Nil has in California, they can cause more problems then they are worth, until aged.
It is illegal to park animal manures next to a water source in many states. That is because fresh manure pollutes our rivers and streams, as well. Why don't you refute my hypothesis, rather than asking me to explain. You've been here eight years and have had plenty of time to do your own research.
Since I grow on a limited set of real estate, I am not focused on what works. I am focused on what works best, easiest, with the least amount of potential extra work with having to correct mistakes.
It could be presumed that most people here are not farmers, nor in commercial production. That is a whole different scheme. It can be frustrating for the home gardener having to correct the soils that they have mucked up by careless, inadvertent advice from a website like this. Do your own research, then come back and help me become a better gardener. I have a very open mind, Tox.
This post was edited by Mackel-in-DFW on Fri, May 23, 14 at 17:49
The source I use when I want to buy compost in bulk I have been told contains up to 25 percent animal manure. But it is two years old. All the herbicides, if you read John's link, are gone.
One last point to ponder, I have pointed out that in an acidic soil, typical of east of the Mississippi river, mistakes made will correct much faster. This is due to the fact that the soil will not lock up with the excessive salts you are laying down on your soil. But alkaline soil will cling onto these salts, and not readily let them go. This stunts root growth, and interferes with drainage. Half the country does not garden on an acidic soil, Tox. Fortuanately, what works best in an alkaline soil can be said about acid soils, but not the other way around.
This post was edited by Mackel-in-DFW on Fri, May 23, 14 at 17:56
Well, I live on alkaline soils, pH usually 7.5 - 7.6, and where its been dug up and mixed up for gas, phone, and water lines, its over 8.0.
I used to collect horse manure from two 5-8 horse stables - or more accurately, I had two stables that would very happily deliver me horse manure so they could get rid of it -- one of them wouldn't do it one year because they'd sprayed their hay with some of that gawd-awful persistent stuff.
For several years, I'd get 12-15 cubic yards of aged, broken down manure - as in heaped up behind the stable for a while - every April and I'd put it down in my veggie garden, anywhere from 6 - 12 inches thick, water it in, and I'd plant in June, mixing just a bit of soil up into the manure, but pretty much planting in straight, broken down manure. By the end of the season, the manure would be gone and there would be an incredible number of worms in the soil. These were, without a doubt, the best gardens I've grown. I got the impression that this amount of organic matter was actually lowering the pH.
And I threw it in my flower beds and used it to mulch my fruit trees and basically took all I could get and spread it everywhere. Then I got older, and stiffer, and shoveling around horse manure by the cubic yard every spring in the cold wind became increasingly less attractive, and the final straw? Those hippy organic gardeners with pickup trucks who started showing up at the stables and shoveling it into their own trucks and driving it off to their own gardens, and even baking the stable owners cookies and bringing carrots for the horses and this kind of blatant bribery.
In the over-all scheme of things out here in the irrigated alkaline areas, the salt comes from under ground, not what you put on the top. You get it from over-watering. The water percolates down to the high pH stuff, lots of Sodium Carbonate, it gets dissolved, starts to migrate up the water / soil matrix, once on the surface the water evaporates and over the years, there's an increase of the sodium carbonate (and other soluble salts) concentration on the surface. Which is why you see the cow skulls on the white Sodium Carbonate 'salt' by the 'springs' and down in the lowest corners of irrigated hay fields. Which is also why there has been such a push in the Colorado river basin to get irrigation water into pipes and sprinkler systems instead of flood irrigation, because of all the salt that leaches up and out of the soils and heads down river.
Anyway, I do get a slight crust of white stuff on my garden soil in the spring, noticeable if it dries out completely, but I don't worry about it.
I also have a whole lot of irrigation water, and can flush the salt on down towards Phoenix and LA now and again. So, YMMV. I am not in the same conditions of some guy trying to garden in West Texas with a small amount of water.
1. I've never done a soil test and never felt the need.
2. I mulch my perennials with ridiculous amounts of compost, like 4" twice a year. in my raised veggie beds, I put down about 6-8" of chopped leaves in the fall and dig in what's left in the spring. After I plant, I mulch with compost.
3. The only fertilizer that I use is organic stuff that I put in my potting soil (that I mix myself) and a handful when I transplant in the spring. When I remember. But not in the fall.
4. I also use a lot of worm castings. And I usually top dress plants that I grow for foliage like hostas and heucheras with a bit of used coffee grounds in the spring.
5. I've been doing this for 10+ years and my soil is amazing and I don't have any weird problems that could be attributed to soil deficiencies.
I have always thought that the most important thing is paying attention. If something isn't working for you, do something different. But first you have to notice what is or is not working. I don't think most hobbiest gardeners need soil tests unless they have a problem that is likely due to soil deficiencies.
I've never used much manure, but I stopped using it when some nasty weeds showed up and were clearly attributable to some bags of manure I'd bought from a big box store. Now I make most of my own compost, but I used to have to buy a lot of it and I just made sure it came from a reputable source.
Excessive amounts of animal manures can cause problems both with the soil and our water, but if used properly with vegetative waste can be a very good source of soil nutrients. A major problem with using animal manure is they do harbor disease pathogens that if not recognized can cause severe human health issues.
Excess amounts of animal manures can also contribute to the buildup of certain "salts" a fairly generic term as in Acids, Bases, and Salts. A salt is "A salt is defined as a compound formed by the complete or incomplete replacement of the hydrogen ion of an acid by a basic radical."
Some people that post here appear to think that is one disagrees with them then a a personal attack on that person and their intelligent is warranted. If you cannot state your opinion with attempting to disparage another you probably do not belong here.
Hi Kimmsr, what's your advice on how to deal with trolls ?
" If you cannot state your opinion with attempting to disparage another you probably do not belong here."
I agree 100%
This is supposed to be a supportive forum where ideas are exchanged, and points are argued, sometimes vehemently. Attacking another poster personally makes for a very uncomfortable feeling, which is detrimental to new comers who come here for advice.
So Mackel, welcome back after your absence. And would you please be more polite? It really destroys your credibility to read your personal attacks that are mixed in with whatever gardening knowledge you want to share.
Folks who go behind people's back regularly, and refute what they have to say, yet who refuse to engage with them directly, are not here to help anybody.
Credibility is built upon telling the truth, and admitting when one does not know the truth. It is based upon integrity.
I learned this from a very strong, loving and intelligent mother, as she was tought by her mother. I pass that on to two daughters.
I do have an email if you'd like to express your sense of outrage, and perhaps find it a little difficult to express in only a few short sentences.
You remember, Elisa, you're the one asking how to compost troll poop, and whether it's possibly toxic. I would say yes to both, and did so quite politely in another forum.
It's all good -- no need for email, as I've said all I needed to. Thanks for the very polite response, and I'm glad you had fun with the troll poop question -- I thought that would be right up your alley humor-syle-wise. :)
Mackel I'm glad your illness is in remission or however you can now be more active. I am asking anyone, and hoping for uncomplicated answers on my question. In my neutral to slightly acidic soil, is the bunny poop I sprinkle around my plants (uncomposted) going to cause trouble. The plants are hostas, heuchera a Needle palm, Astilbes a couple oaks. That's all I can think of now. I bought the poo (bunny) so unsure on food they eat. I never had trouble before around oaks. These are young oaks about 7 yrs old +. I have done this a couple years in a row with no apparent problem. When it rains a little gets released, in my mind that's how it works.
Since there are better ways to spend your money, Poaky, I would not introduce unknowns into your soil as a protocol. For experimentation purposes, perhaps. I personally like to experiment, often when I doubt the results, initially, will be superior to alternatives.
Potential problems arise out of the amount or concentration of the undesireable aspects of raw manure, as previously discussed. I am saying this for non-commercial production schemes, such as a home garden. In a commercial production scheme, a cost benefit analysis should be performed, and the downside may be outweighed by economics for a farmer. A farmer is always facing a compromise in how much to abuse his soil each year, and still stay in business..
Rotting plant matter that has not passed through an animal's gut is going to be superior becauase it has a perfect balance of nutrients for plants. Not too much of anything, nor too little. Rotting plant material is usually more expensive than raw manure, but we're talking about a few bucks, vs. say hundreds or thousands of dollars, in the case for a farmer.
I have cotton tail rabbits that very often come through my yard, and the occasional jack rabbit, they leave 'a gift'. Lots of deer in the winter as well - pellets all over the garden. Not to mention raccoons, feral cats, skunks, and birds - they all poop here.
Does this mean I shouldn't just leave the stuff rot but should carefully go around every morning with a hazmat suit and pick it all up? Or would just disposable gloves and a face mask be enough?
And where do I put it? Double bagged in the trash?
You're too funny, David. Poaky says he is buying the stuff.
I would suggest you get a shotgun to keep those critters from pooping/tracking all over your garden, and learn some coon/cat/skunk/bird recipes.
I like to use a slow cooker. Mm mm good.
Mackel, Chef Extraordinaire
As stated earlier, it's not the presence of contaminants, it is their potential concentration levels. If you rounded up all them dumplings yer friends are leaving ya, and put 'em in one spot, that's not what God intended what He's gifted fer ya.
(I have bunnies and squirrels too, and they are always after something I'm growing for myself...)
This post was edited by Mackel-in-DFW on Sun, May 25, 14 at 13:55
If you are into dead languages, see "reductio ad absurdum". Man, them folks knew how to come up with werds ! And we're supposed to be so smart...
Here's a good example- "Rocks have weight, otherwise we would see them floating in the air!".
Mackelus Lithus Floatus
One more point to ponder, David, how many decades or centuries do you think that 3 acres will take to play out ? Do you think you and your heirs could go on indefinitely? What would happen if things got real bad, and we all had to produce our own food with our own hands, once again ? Or do you think you might move to an acidic soil site, with much greater rainfall, where your family could have a realistic shot at survival ? Was there a history of agriculture there before the white man came along ? The reason why I would trade places with you, would not be because I perceive you to live on a sustainable location to produce crop. It would be because I'd be closer to my favorite outdoor vacation recreaton, skiing. But now I have to worry about all the speeding, stoned snowboarders that have all moved to Colorado from California and changed your state forever...but I try to live and live, just have to be extra vigilant and keep my eye peeled, and not to get run over... M
There were subsistence farmers here for thousands of years before the Europeans showed up - Mesa Verde and precursors. They had irrigation setups, and the human population density was as high then as it is now. What did 'em in were 50-year severe droughts and multi-generational warfare, the two likely related.
I don't know what the comparative advantage of living on acidic soils would be - I've grown up here and am so familiar dealing with alkaline / basic soils, I wouldn't know what to do with an acidic one. We grow corn, hay, sun flower, oats, safflower, beans, fruit trees, etc.
Blueberries, not so much.
As for how long 3 acres would take to play out, I spent much of my career dealing with improving small scale subsistence farms, where the cycle of crops, fish ponds, and livestock - with some nitrogen fixer in there - cycling the manure through the system - have led me to believe I could not only live off 3 acres for a pretty long time, I'd leave it in far better shape than when I found it.
The limiting factor here is water. Without it, 3 acres wouldn't get you very far. You'd need more like 300.
It’s quite easy to find NPK values for manures and manure compost. Bagged composts containing manure that I have seen are typically in the NPK range of other bagged composts ��" 1-1-1 for example. It is not so easy to find ‘salt’ content of manures. Everyone likes to SAY that “manure is salty,” but there are vastly more NPK reports for manures on the web than there is data on salt content. If anyone has actual data, please post a link. Fact sheets and articles saying manure is salty are not particularly useful.
It does make sense that when urine is included in the manure, it would have higher salt content. Particularly in a feedlot, where (reportedly) higher salt levels are fed in order to make the animals retain water so they sell for more. If you’re getting manure from someone who has a couple of horses, it’s probably going to be different from manure from a beef feedlot.
This does not make all manure unusable. My FIL put manure on his garden (NE silty sandy loam) annually for decades and had wonderful gardens year after year. I have clay (which retains salts longer), mostly use my own compost, and wouldn’t use pure manure year after year. I do occasionally buy bagged products that have or probably have manure in them. No problems here.
A claim was made that Western soils retain more salt because they are alkaline. It was always my impression that Western soils retain salts better because it’s more arid in the West so they are not washed out. Regardless, it might be a good idea for Westerners to watch the amount of manure they add, and know what’s in it. Unfortunately in arid zones there is often a lack of green waste for composting, but there are lots of cattle so manure becomes an important source of OM for gardeners.
I was able to find a paper on extraction of HM from manures and it appeared that Cd, Hg, Pb were somewhat higher than they might be in native soils depending upon where you are. Based on the numbers I saw, it would take a looong time for them to become significant. However metals do accumulate (they don’t biodegrade) and the heavy ones likely don’t leach away (the more clayey the soil, the more they will stick). Basically any time you’re importing organic matter (or synthetic fertilizer, for that matter), any bioaccumulative constituents present are being added to your current load. Unless you can subsist entirely on your own compost made from your own waste, this is an inevitable consequence. How long would it take for Pb to build up to an unsafe level in topsoil if you’re adding so many lb of imported compost per sq ft per year? The math is not actually that complicated. What’s the HM content of non-manure based composts (i.e. the alternatives)? What’s the background level of HM in the soil to begin with? These are all things to consider, and there is no single answer due to the endless variations. Rejecting the use of manure based compost entirely, on the basis of HM content, is a very simplistic approach.
Sodium is the worst one, Tox, it can easlity create a hardpan in my Western clay. I wonder how much sodium is in 1-1-1 aged manure. You can look it up if you'd like to further research the subject. I'd be curious to know.
Phosphorus is also unnecessary in most soils, and an environmental pollutant, as well. If there is enough carbon in the soil, phosphorus is readily available.
For the record, I have used aged manure on more than one occasion, including over the entire lawn, on two occasions in the last ten years. However, I found that nearly finised compost (still a little bit chunky, with the largest pieces about one eighth of an inch), derived from tree trimmings, had better results as a top dressing for our bermuda grass. It retained water better, lasted longer, and there was no brief, initial schock to the grass, at all.
I've also used a cubic foot each of aged steer manure on three grapevines that I planted bare root late this winter. Virtually everything I try to discuss, I have tried, or have experienced, including hard pans, peat moss, pine bark and manure, before discussing pros or cons.
In Western areas, not only is the soil generally alkaline, but the irrigation water is generally alkaline, as well, because of the local minerals it is running through or over. So there is no easy way to leach out excessive salts without rain water doing the job, which I do collect, in very large quantities, for special situations and plants.
It's potentially a problem too, as it runs across the roofing material over the house. I'd love to have a tile or slate roof, but it's pretty expensive.
You can look at it this way, alkaline soils are low in H+, so any positively charged particle such as Na+, it latches, and clings tightly, onto. In order to be released, it takes rain water, which has a slight excess in H+, to exchange with the Na+ and flush it out. But another characteristic of Western areas is very limited rainfall. M
This post was edited by Mackel-in-DFW on Tue, May 27, 14 at 14:26