Improving nutrient uptake...quickly?

greenepastures(9)July 7, 2014

My beds are loaded with organic matter...leaves, manures (horse, dairy cow & chicken), coffee grounds, bat guano, wood ashes, blood & bone meal, azomite, ...the works. I add compost tea made with worm castings, compost, humic acid & molasses.

Is there a way to accelerate the breakdown of OM making the nutrients available to plants sooner?

I was told epsom salt solution may help with that.

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Why? Who are you trying to outdo?

    Bookmark   July 7, 2014 at 9:03PM
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Not really. The Soil Food Web is what determines when the organic matter in your soil is converted into what your plants need and when. If you have an active Soil Food Web the OM in the soil will get turned into nutrients as needed by the plants.
An indication of how active the Soil Food Web is would be earthworm activity. Do you see more than 5 earthworms per cubic foot actively working away?

    Bookmark   July 8, 2014 at 6:37AM
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There's a lot of myth surrounding the use of Epsom salts in the garden. Epsom salts are hydrated magnesium sulfate and while both magnesium and sulfur are basic plant nutrients (although not major players), they are typically available in most soils without amending. Unless you have a demonstrated magnesium deficiency, adding ES really serves no other purpose. There is NO scientific evidence to support any better growth, lusher foliage, greater disease resistance, more rapid nutrient uptake or any other popularly touted benefits.......they simply do not exist!

The break down of OM into available plant nutrients depends on several factors - soil pH, warmth and wet and as already mentioned, soil biology. Summer weather and routine deep watering combined with a healthy existing soil biology is about all one needs for rapid decomposition of OM and as long as soil pH is at appropriate levels, the available nutrients will be rapidly assimilated.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2014 at 3:27PM
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Dear Coldweatherisevil....not trying to outdo anyone actually. This is my third summer of organic gardening and I've so much to learn. I started out thinking that organic additives out of a bag were the way to go so in went the guano, azomite, the meals..etc.

I'm basically self taught (books, magazines, You-tube & Garden Web) and only now am I beginning to appreciate the power of the SoilFoodWeb so you'll have to excuse my impatience.

Typical newbie---as soon as I learn about some new, can't-miss product, theory or technique, I'm all in. It's only on sites like this where I get a better sense of what is or isn't necessary.

Thanks just saved me a few bucks...there's no shortage of "essential" organics products out there.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2014 at 3:57PM
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Also, if you provide too many nutrients, you get "rank growth" ... very abundant, moist and weak. And less fruiting and root development.

The best investment you can make right now is a good soil test to see what you have managed to do with all this enthusiast adding of condiments to your garden.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2014 at 8:57PM
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gumby_ct(CT it says Z5)

Learn to amend your your soil in the fall so the nutrients will be available in the spring.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2014 at 9:52PM
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But gumby-ct....I'm here in zone the Tampa FL area and planting goes on year round! The same 4X15 area that I have to work with doesn't really get a break.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2014 at 11:17PM
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gumby_ct(CT it says Z5)

In that case you should adapt the gardening principles to fit your climate. Since I have not gardened in Tampa, I can't advise.

Suffice it to say to amend the soil takes time and is not a weekend project. Maybe read up on "Lasagna Gardening" (which it sounds like you are doing) to get more ideas.

fwiw - My dream has been to move to Tampa so I "can" garden year round.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2014 at 5:42AM
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Come on down's a gardener's paradise. I'm only 15 minutes from the only Worm's Way in Florida. Cattle & horses abound so there's all the free manure you can ask for. "Fall" for us is around February. Sounds strange but that's when all the leaves drop off the oak trees and they are small enough where you don't have to mow them. I still have about 6 unused bags in the back yard.

Some of the best compost can be found at "Mother's Organics", a humus farm located 5 minutes from my house (I'm not kidding). It's the priciest in town, around $38/yard, but nothing locally can come near it (believe me I've tried the others). Then there's the legendary Hong Kong Willie, the vermicomposter......(I can go on and on)...

I've been living in Tampa for almost 3 years now (moved from the Mid-Atlantic area after tying the knot) and I've turned a small portion of our back yard (all my wife would allow) into garden central. They know me by name at the local Extension Office and I've attended all the classes that they offer.

If gardening is your passion then Tampa is the place to be, especially in the Brandon / Mango/ Plant City areas.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2014 at 3:56PM
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gumby_ct(CT it says Z5)

I like the way you talk.... so tell me what is growing in the garden now?

    Bookmark   July 9, 2014 at 5:55PM
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Right now...I've got ginger in various parts of the yard...I plant some every month and in different areas to see where's the best spot. Then there's sugar cane, wifey's favorite...that too I plant monthly....we have everything from seedlings to full grown ten feet high. There are two okra plants, a volunteer cucumber, a small pumpkin patch, scotch bonnet peppers, 8 roselle plants.

This is the hot & rainy season here in Tampa so only a few things can flourish (okra for example). I have some more hot pepper seedlings in containers. I believe in trench composting so at least twice weekly I'm burying veggie scraps in the ground. Sometimes potato plants emerge from where I bury the potato skins, as do pumpkins & squash.

Transplants for the major September & October planting months are being seeded now. Now that I'm a little wiser, I won't try to grow everything but plan to stick with the basics....tomatoes, beets (both gold & red), radishes, and, later in the "winter", broccoli, carrots & cucumber.

I've thrown a handful of papaya seeds near the bed and lo and behold they are emerging....I don't know if they will survive the short cold bursts during the winter months.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2014 at 1:06AM
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Use organic mulches - i.e. compostables - in the garden. They will not only keep in moisture and keep weeds down, but as they decompose they feed the soil just like compost. I mulch my garden in summer with grass clippings mixed with last fall's leaves or wood chips/shavings/sawdust. By fall that layer is pretty much gone and I can see bare soil.

You don't really have to feed the garden massive quantities once you get good soil. Everyone here has heard this from me already, but after adding compost for 20 years I found my P and K were very high, almost excessive, so I've cut back for awhile. You may not have that problem in sandy soil, just something to keep in mind.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2014 at 11:30AM
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The levels of Phosphorus, Potash, Calcium, and Magnesium have all gone from below optimum to high optimum in my soil as the amount of organic matter in that Lake Michigan beach sand increased. Numerous others, all over the world, have observed the same thing, an increase in levels of nutrients as organic matter in soils increased. Also noticed was that the soils pH changed to near neutral as the amount of organic matter in soils increased.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2014 at 6:24AM
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Once again we find that location and geology are all-important. For example, sulphur is absolutely a "major player" in florida sand soils, which are very impoverished of S. Any sandy soil in a high-precipitation zone (absent significant air-pollution with sulphuric acid) will be very low in S.

Also, as I keep pointing out on these threads, highly-drained soils in hot climates have very different decay cycles from what most north american gardeners are used to. Carbon tends to gas off rather than be accumulated in soil. It is immensely difficult if not impossible to raise C (SOM) more than a very trifling amount in florida sand by any method other than massive inputs of ready-made compost and/or char. Fungus dominates natural decay systems in these climate/soil paradigms. Contrast to the the muck pockets where large amounts of OM breaks down for millennia in the presence of ample ground moisture; SOM becomes extremely high. Back when it was not against the law and environmental ethics to drain such areas exceedingly rich soils for horticulture was the result. Most vegetable production in FL happens on those soils.

Some should bear in mind that sandy soil in MI does not behave like sandy soil in central FL.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2014 at 8:32AM
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So, how can you get sulfur into that sand? I'm thinking gypsum. Or clean drywall scrap, which is mostly gypsum. I'm sure that last one will start a debate. Or do you need elemental sulfur rather than sulfate?

    Bookmark   July 14, 2014 at 11:24AM
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Sulfates are the most practical. Gypsum is useful in highly-drained situations, even if a little on the acidic side.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2014 at 3:04PM
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According to the people at the University of Florida the best thing to do to the sand in Florida is add organic matter.

Here is a link that might be useful: Amending Florida sand

    Bookmark   July 15, 2014 at 6:32AM
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