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Can you help me interpret the soil test results

Posted by teka2rjleffel z10FL (My Page) on
Sat, Jan 14, 12 at 9:08

I have had real problems with putting roses in the ground, even on fortuniana. I finally broke down and did a 'real' soil test, not just one from Lowe's testing kit.
Here is what it said:
PH 6.9
phosphorus 256, very high
potassium 54, medium
Magnesium 199, very high
Calcuium 5075, very high
For recommendations they only adding potassium
To 'fix' my soil I have kept adding supplements, about 98% organic. Does this soil test say to do nothing because I have done too much? What organics are high in the areas that I have too much so I can avoid them? Any advice would be appreciated.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Can you help me interpret the soil test results

What happened to the assays of Nitrogen and the important micronutrients and secondary nutrients?


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RE: Can you help me interpret the soil test results

Basically yes you've overfertilized and that can be a serious problem. I was just reading about a large well-respected public rose garden that had plants dying by the hundreds, turned out to be overfertilizing. This is why people recommend getting a soil test done before doing fertilizing and amending. Even organics can cause problems if overdone.

Though I have to say it's not easy to overfertilize in sandy soils since things wash through so fast. And we are left wondering what the values for nitrogen were. Your pH is good enough. I wouldn't even add the potassium myself at this point. Just let it be.


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RE: Can you help me interpret the soil test results

How long were the organics in the mix before you did the test?


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RE: Can you help me interpret the soil test results

marshallz, The test results said that they didn't test for nitrogen or micronutrients. When I saw the post from someone who got a test from the University of Maine, I was impressed. The University of Florida didn't give me a lot.

reg pnw, Thanks, any idea how long I need to let it sit?

wbonesteel, I switched to organics maybe 5 or 6 years ago.

In my test it mentioned that calcium levels are very high, What would cause that? I mulch every 6 months or so with eucalyptus mulch. Can the mulch breakdown be causing anything?

I have 6 established roses in this bed and some other plants and they are all flourishing. I just can't seem to plant any new roses that will thrive.


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RE: Can you help me interpret the soil test results

Because Nitrogen is very dependant on the activity of the Soil Food Web very few soil test labs today test for N. Most, unless you pay extra, also only test for P, K, Ca, Mg, and pH, while some do test for humus levels.
What you need to know now is how much organic matter is in your soil? How well does that soil drain? How well does that soil retain moisture? What does that soil smell like? What kind of life is in that soil?


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RE: Can you help me interpret the soil test results

Florida sand is calcareous, so Ca and P generally test high or extremely high. It has little to do with what you have added. I tested my central florida soil last year and both were high. Virtually everything else will tend to be vanishingly low, which results in the P being less available than it would be. I tested one plot that had been in citrus for many years previously, though the trees have been gone for a decade or more, and the copper was very high, whereas in other areas it was quite low. That is likely the result of many years of application of copper sulfate to the trees.

A great thing about the high P is that new trees root in like crazy if kept moist for the first months. I was planting wax myrtle hedges there some years ago and happened to move a couple of the plants about 3 or 4 days after setting out, and the rootballs had already put out loads of stocky little white feeders. Amazing. Trees generally do much better in florida sand than annual crops.


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RE: Can you help me interpret the soil test results

pnbrown, so the calcium is not somehthing to be concerned about or have the ability to change?


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RE: Can you help me interpret the soil test results

I have a friend that gardens in the San Diego, Ca area on sodic clay soils. Fairly high levels of Calcium in the soil but the fruits can have Blossom End Rot if Ca is not added because of the high levels of Magnesium. Those levels are not in balance and plants cannot properly use one if the other is unbalanced.
Adequate levels of organic matter in the soil can help with that balance as well as help keep excess nutrients from being washed out of the soil, especialy in sandy soils.


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RE: Can you help me interpret the soil test results

Both Ca and P are pretty 'clingy', as I understand them. They don't leach rapidly like N, K, S and some others. Florida sand is absolutely notorious for 'eating' OM. Heat and humidity in summer metabolizes it very fast and heavy rain washes away the leachable nutrients and in dry warm winter it desiccates and off-gasses. IME it is a nearly impossible task to keep an open plot enriched. Some form of permaculture is a necessity, so that larger perennial plants are producing more biomass and permanent roots in the ground with associated mycos and create a much more active soil over time.


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RE: Can you help me interpret the soil test results

kimmsr, there is no doubt something is out of balance. I'd really like to learn what will help my soil.
pnbrown, That is what I always felt was the issue, the sand just leaches everything out. That is why I ammended so heavily, but it seems too heavily.


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RE: Can you help me interpret the soil test results

What were you amending with? compost? organic fertilizers? what kind of organic fertilizers? peat? bagged soil conditioners? gypsum? potting soil?

I learned from years in retail that people don't use words the same. While I know the technical use of the word 'amend', other people use the same word differently. Like I would ask people if a site was in full sun, meaning direct sun all day long, and they'd say "oh yes, full sun" but further questioning would reveal that they meant direct sun for any length of time, which inevitably was only an hour or so for the site in question, and that's why their roses weren't doing well. Which is why I'm looking for specifics on what you amended with, and how often.


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RE: Can you help me interpret the soil test results

If older roses flourish, but new ones are hard to start, perhaps the soil needs a rest from new rose plantings for a while.


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RE: Can you help me interpret the soil test results

reg, alfalfa, milorganite,, homemade compost, bagged top soil, bagged cow manure compost. For the last year or so about once a month, previously more often than that, maybe twice a month.

Wayne,
I hear you but it's tough being a rose nut and have the best area for roses off limits. I haven't actually planted any new roses in there for maybe 2 years.


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RE: Can you help me interpret the soil test results

Are you applying those things as a topdressing, I would imagine? And when you took the sample for the soil test, did you get an even amount to at least 6 inches deep?

What I am getting at is did you basically test the bagged amendments, IOW, have you built up more than the top 6 inches of introduced material, or did your sample have a good amount of the native sand in it?

I wonder if you have made the area overly rich for roses, temporarily? They do pretty well for my mom in central fla with very little fertilizer, just a lot of moisture.


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RE: Can you help me interpret the soil test results

pn, yes they were top dressings. I followed the directions with the soil test kit and went down 6". There was native sand in there. Yes, it seems that it is overly rich if I read the results correctly. I just don't know what do now or in the future. I am flushing it well once a week. I don't want to drown the roses doing well in that bed. So I don't want to do more. But other than that, it seems I just need to wait, but for how long?


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RE: Can you help me interpret the soil test results

Very high levels of phosphorus, magnesium and calcium should make the soil alkaline. The fact that it isn't suggest there's something in there that is very acid. What's the drainage like? Your roses should be telling you something.


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RE: Can you help me interpret the soil test results

ifraser, My roses are giving me a mixed message. My established roses are flourishing. Any new roses that I try to add fail to thrive. My drainage is very good. It is sand.


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RE: Can you help me interpret the soil test results

That is a lot of stuff to be adding every month. But, why would the older roses be fine when the newer ones aren't? My guess is the newly growing roots on the newly planted roses are simply being burned, while the established roses have big enough root systems to handle it.

Milorganite is pretty strong stuff. Cow manure can be too, it's often enough by itself. Why the bagged soil? Alfalfa is fairly high in nitrogen too. I fertilize my roses with either alfalfa or manure, but not both at once. I have very sandy soil too, although colder than yours, so everything moves slower.

You're not adding all that to the planting holes, are you? you say you're applying as a top dressing. Because that would partly explain the difference between the older and newer roses.

So, now, can you tell us what exactly 'fail to thrive' entails? Wilting? burning? just not growing? leaves turning yellow? older leaves, or newer, or all? leaves distorted?

If you're in very sandy soil you won't drown the roses. And from what I've heard of Florida soils you could retest it later this spring to see if it's still too strong.

I wonder if you have nematodes, or some other bug like FL has so many of, like chili thrips. There are a lot of Florida rosarians on the roses forum, you might want to post your symptoms there, with timeline, and with photos if you have any.


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RE: Can you help me interpret the soil test results

Reg, no I don't add them all together. I can see from my post why you thought that though. I generally add one thing a month which is recommended for our sandy soil combines with intense rain. Watering isn't the issue. After a hurricane when things are flooded, it is all drained within a couple of hours. I could water all day and not drown them. Failure to thrive means, in my garden, they just don't grow. The leaves turn yellow then brown, soon the canes look dead and it dies. I have nematodes, everyone in Fl does. That is why my roses are on fortuniana rootstock, which is nematode resistant. Yes I have Chili thrips, again I am in Fl. The only thing I ever added to the planting hole was bone and blood meal, which I did on the established, healthy roses too. The cow manure is only bagged. I don't have access to the fresh stuff. The top soil I have used as a top dressing, to make it look nice. I did post it on the rose and the florida forums. Your thought on why the established roses are doing OK and the newly planted ones aren't makes a lot of sense. I appreciate all of your help.


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