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No Earth Worms/Not great results

Posted by rich_manure z6 SEMA (richdelmo@aol.com) on
Sun, Apr 7, 13 at 11:14

I feel I do a pretty good job of "attempting" to keep my vegetable garden healthy. Each spring I add all of the compost that I've made over the past year which is enough to cover most everything with about one or two inches, I add several inches of shredded oak leaves to the top layer. I add purchased cow manure to each seedling planted, etc. etc.
I do till because my garden tends to attract lots of spiny roots as I live in a wooded area. BUT when I,m digging planting or just playing in the garden I rarely see any earth worms???? As Kimmsr suggests in many posts you should see several with each shovel, I often or usually see none. I don't use any chemicals. I do use a liquid fish emulsion to actively growing plants. My overall results are average or below. I have not been able to grow peppers for the past several years as they tend to get eaten and or diseased in early stages leaves get chewed become crispy and die,(even in containers) I normally have a good crop of cucs but last year I struggled as seedlings kept dying but I finally got a few, beans onions squash cabbage are great, although I had the same seedling struggle last year with vining beans, tomatoes are good but don't grow as tall and bushy as they used to and always get some sort of blight (or something) than turn the leaves yellow in late August. What else if anything should I be doing to attract earth worms? I don't rotate crops too much but I'm planning a complet overhaul this year, nothing will go where they have been in the past two seasons. I DO have lots o insects but I can only identify a few, I do go out at night to kill earwigs slugs and anything else I find. I put too much time and effort to not get a good great crop. Looking forward to your suggestions, ask and I will provide any info to help your analysis. Thanks and sorry for the long post.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: No Earth Worms/Not great results

  • Posted by pt03 2b Southern Manitob (My Page) on
    Sun, Apr 7, 13 at 12:04

Earthworms may be a good indicator of healthy soil but the lack of earthworms does not necessarily mean the soil is unhealthy. This has been pointed out numerous times to people who tend to accept the earthworm story as fact. Once again I shall include the link that states "Not all healthy soils will have earthworms."

Is it possible the purchased manure is affecting the plants? Long term herbicides, salt, etc? Do you till the oak leaves in?

Given that you say the garden used to be good but now it isn't, I'd lean towards it's something you added.

Lloyd


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RE: No Earth Worms/Not great results

The manure is always the bagged variety from home depot or wallmart hopefully that would not be a culprit. I don't till in the oak leaves they are chopped with a mower and placed on top of the beds after I have tilled, and in my compost bins. I've added peat moss but not in the past 7 years or so, I used to lime every fall but stopped once I started making compost, at least 5 years. I did put a small amount of lime in this past week.


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RE: No Earth Worms/Not great results

  • Posted by pt03 2b Southern Manitob (My Page) on
    Sun, Apr 7, 13 at 13:08

I have no experience or knowledge of the process of adding lime so I can't comment on that.

Manures can contain salt and that may be detrimental to some plants.

I'm thinking a soil test may be called for in your case due to we don't really know what may be causing the problem.

Lloyd


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RE: No Earth Worms/Not great results

  • Posted by ericwi Dane County WI (My Page) on
    Sun, Apr 7, 13 at 13:34

You mention living in a wooded area, so I am guessing that your garden does not get full sun, all day. Also, you may have tree roots that compete with your garden plants for moisture and nutrient. Lots of people garden in less than ideal conditions, so the question becomes, what can be grown successfully in the situation as it stands. We are growing broccoli and brussels sprouts in similar conditions, so I would suggest these two crops. Also, swiss chard will grow in partial shade. Tomatoes do best in a sunny location. Our native soil has pH around 7.6, with abundant calcium and magnesium, do we don't have to add lime, just compost.


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RE: No Earth Worms/Not great results

Based on a soil test, where does your soil stand on pH and the basic elements? Your state's extension service offers laboratory testing at a very reasonable fee. If you visit the website, you will find detailed insructions about how to collect a proper sample. All I would suggest is the 'routine ' test for lawn, landscaping, and home gardens. At ten bucks per sample, it will give you all you need, including the pH.

Contact your lical office about how to get the samples to the lab.

Depending on the size of your garden area, you just might need to collect one homogenized sample. I would not add more lime until you know the pH. You may find that a fertilizer application is called for upon occasion.


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RE: No Earth Worms/Not great results

  • Posted by glib 5.5 (My Page) on
    Sun, Apr 7, 13 at 15:25

There are two possible chemical causes that you ought to be able to rule out.

1) is there a black walnut in the vicinity? That is enough to ruin a garden. even plants that are supposedly resistant become smaller. Cure: dig a trench between garden and woods, chop all roots down to at least one foot (two would be best). This may not save this year, but the next should be fine.

2) is there an herbicide in commercial manure? This has happened all over the country. There is one herbicide which goes right through a cow's digestive system, and takes a year or more to decay. Cure: also wait a year, stop buying manure at Home Depot. Replace with your own leaves plus urea.

The lack of worms could be a number of things. I am one who deeply dislikes finished compost, it will never nourish the worms. To have a healthy population, you have to dig in unfinished organic matter. Use the leaves of the surrounding woods

Could it also be that the trees have grown and your garden, formerly in full sun, gets shady in mid-day, midsummer?


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RE: No Earth Worms/Not great results

g'day rich,

you make it sound a tad complicated, maybe try and keep it simple and let nature work.

we sue no manures or fertiliser, only green type mulches ie.,. spoilt hay or sugar cane mulch, then we tuck our vege' scraps under the mulch almost daily, this generally satisfies the worms, we have also bought red wrigglers and added them into the gardens they do a better job with the kitchen scraps. then all spent plants get tucked under at the end of each season.

we have used lots of spent mushroom compost from the farm in the past but now it is no longer value for money.

currently our latest beds are filled with tree bits(hugelkultur) and top soil from our building site. our summer was a massive season and winter looks great early on the brassica's are doing great.

len

Here is a link that might be useful: lens bale garden


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RE: No Earth Worms/Not great results

My response to several of your points, first thanks for taking the time.

I do live in a wooded area but spent a many dollars several years ago removing numerous tress that were impacting my yard, I get anywhere from 6-8 hours of direct sun, then some filtered as the sun lowers.

I had a soil test done on 5 areas about 6 years ago which when I posted the results on the Garden Web all comments said it was very good soil, but I am probably over due for another.

The trench idea sounds good but my garden is rather large for that much digging, apx. 30x15 and 40x10, I'll consider it. Do you think in a few years the roots will grow back in.


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RE: No Earth Worms/Not great results

As far as the digging, you could probably do it the same way I do my running bamboo. I have several large groves of timber bamboo, and have easily controlled it for the last thirty plus years by simply checking the edges on a regular basis. Not sure the total number of feet I dig, but easily over 100 ft...maybe 150 ft ? each year. In chunks of say 10 ft each session, that's not really much.

Each spring and fall when the ground is just perfect for digging, I take my trusty perennial spade and do exploratory surgery, starting at one corner of a grove, testing by just slicing down, not actually lifting the soil. I work my way around each grove a bit at a time, as the spirit moves me. Half of the total gets done in spring and half in the fall. If I do find a runner starting out, I dig a bit of soil out and leave it sitting there as a marker, then return later to dig a trench right there with a better tool.

I realize tree roots are often deeper than bamboo, but it seems to me this would keep you aware of what's happening along your defense zone. As I slice down I can feel if the early roots are starting to grow in a spot, and how numerous they are. When I find an area where it seems they are wanting to grow out, I make a mental note to keep track of that area more often. This way I have several years advance notice of any bigger digging that's going to be needed.

Bamboo is generally a young man's game, but we grandma's have learned to work smarter, not harder. It's become part of the seasonal ritual,automatic with no thought required.It's easier that many other projects and I find I enjoy the process, knowing the long term impact for my garden and shade for my home is high value for me.

This post was edited by plaidbird on Sun, Apr 7, 13 at 17:13


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RE: No Earth Worms/Not great results

rich,
Keeping a good mulch on the ground helps and making sure the soil is moist at all times.

I had the same problems for 3 years. Basically the soil would dry out under a pine needle mulch. Now I've switched to wood chip mulch and also to sprinkler irrigation for better water coverage (used to be drip).

As mentioned above, putting kitchen scraps directly in the ground will cause a worm explosion. Try it, dig in a gallon of scraps no more than 6" deep, cover with a little dirt and mulch.
Then after about 3 weeks, go back and dig it up. You'll find lots of worms there.

Tree roots won't cause a garden to fail. It will just take extra water and require more fertilizer.

Here is a link that might be useful: Kitchen scraps in the garden


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RE: No Earth Worms/Not great results

If you're planting while the soil is still cool the earthworms may not have moved up in the profile yet.

They tend to "rise" as the temperature warms and retreat further down as it cools.

They're also effected by low and high pHs, negatively, but at either extreme you'll notice more problems with plants before you have worms to worry about.

This post was edited by nc-crn on Sun, Apr 7, 13 at 17:28


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RE: No Earth Worms/Not great results

I was working cool soil in central MA yesterday and there were some worms visible so it probably isn't temperature.

In our climate with that amount of OM additions over the years it is mysterious not to have a good worm population, even if it were a very sandy soil. I wouldn't rule out the possibility that the bagged manures are highly caustic and are responsible for the plant problems and the missing worms.


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RE: No Earth Worms/Not great results

To answer regarding the roots...yes, they will grow back and in greater numbers than before. That's what root pruning does: encourage a flush of brand new roots!


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RE: No Earth Worms/Not great results

  • Posted by glib 5.5 (My Page) on
    Sun, Apr 7, 13 at 19:22

Just the same root pruning should be part of a regular gardening routine. I find it is not necessary to do it yearly. Once every two years is enough.

Bury those scraps, specially after they have started to rot, and mixed with leaves to stretch them. Once the population is high any light leaf mulch, or even wood chips or cardboard, will maintain them. I feel the same about leaving chunks of wood in the bed. You need to take care of the main players of the food web, and for vegetables, those are fungi and worms (bacteria will follow both).


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RE: No Earth Worms/Not great results

I'm surprised no one questioned the quality of water your irrigating with. What are you irrigating with? Take a few scoops of soil from several places in your garden and bring it to your local nursery.. They usually can do a cheap pH test... Water, pH, and mineral imbalance screams your problem.. Does the grass by your garden look abnormal?. There are so many factors.. When did you move there? Any chemicals around your property/ history of your property? Have you ever grown up to par with good results, or has it been the same? Do you notice dramatic plant differences after appying manure and other amendments? Are you picking up bag of leaves from the curb, which could have toxic chemicals in it? Is your well water high in sulfur,metals whatever? Is your tap water high in chlorine and other excesses that can cause an imbalance? Do your hose leach chemicals into your soil? Does your lawn mower/tiller,etc drip oil/gas? What are your neighbors doing next door? What's the distanc of the closest tree to your garden, what kind are they? There are so many variables, it could be next to impossible to find your problem.. A good place to start is by getting a quality soil and water test..

Wish you the best,
Joe

This post was edited by Raw_Nature on Sun, Apr 7, 13 at 19:54


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RE: No Earth Worms/Not great results

  • Posted by glib 5.5 (My Page) on
    Sun, Apr 7, 13 at 21:04

The water quality is a good one, but let me remind everyone I irrigate with pH=9.2 water and get crops. Of course my soil is very high in OM, so the buffering is not a problem.


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RE: No Earth Worms/Not great results

Glib:

pH is just one factor for water.. How about the composition; excess of various minerals, chemicals,etc..? Glib, just for this threads sake, do you have worms in your soil?


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RE: No Earth Worms/Not great results

If it was the manure, chances are its shipped across the country to at least several states.. Other gardeners who purchased the manure would have has noticed similar negative result as you have.. It is likely, the product would of been recalled.. Is it a special local kind type a manure or? What is the name/brand of it? How much do you use? I really can't see a bag or two causing your problem, unless there's something seriously wrong with it.. If you are concerned, stop using the manure and see if that helps, though that would likely take a couple years to truly know.. If I was you, I would want to fix the problem asap.. To find your real problem it could take years of trail and error experiments..I suppose Soil and water test would hasten this.. A good idea is to even get the manure tested.. But if I was you, I would put on a quality water fiter for irrigation, I would stop using the manure and double check your equipment to make sure it's not leaking.. I would only use leaves from your yard,not from the street.. Are the trees and grass around you growing fine or what? Are there weird deformities on plants around you? Do you live by a factory/powerplants? Whats the deal with your neighbors next door, if you have some? It would be wise to research your properties history... I heard some really really sick stories... A picture of your garden and plants would help, even a Picture of your yard,etc... Remember the best thing to do is get a water and soil test.. I would like to help you, especially because you are helping yourself, braking your back to have a perfect garden, to have something halt you in your path sucks...

Joe


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RE: No Earth Worms/Not great results

  • Posted by glib 5.5 (My Page) on
    Sun, Apr 7, 13 at 23:31

I have huge numbers of worms, yes. I only compost locally, and no grass clippings nor manure.


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RE: No Earth Worms/Not great results

Since we cannot "see" your soil, as in look at it, feel it, smell it, we have to depend on you to supply us with the information we cannot gather from those observations.
How much organic matter is in that soil?
What is that soils pH?
How well does that soil drain?
What does that soil smell like?


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RE: No Earth Worms/Not great results

Groundwater in SEMA is somewhat acidic, like the soil, IME. Even if the OP has municipal water regularly dosed with chlorine that is highly unlikely to be able to kill off all earthworms. But it is very tough on growing plants when the water has a high chlorine content.


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RE: No Earth Worms/Not great results

I did a search on our town's water report and this is the chlorine level. Where MCL= maximum contaminant level, and MCLG is maximum contaminant level goal. . There are several other components but I could not do a clean copy and paste as it is in pdf format.

Range MCL MCLG
Chlorine (ppm) 0.01 1.32 4 MRDL MRDLG

I will do a soil test as many suggests but how do I do a water test.

To answer a few question:
I don't live near any factories or buildings with any contaminants. We built the house 19 years ago and the land was truly all woodland prior to that. I compose my own leaves not from roadside, my trees don't appear to be diseased. The manure I purchase is buvung (dehydrated). I will post the soil test results once received


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RE: No Earth Worms/Not great results

Very interesting.. So you use municipal water? I have to tell you, there are so many factors besides chlorine in water... You have to test for minerals, and chemicals,all that good stuff.. If your by home depot, they have free water reports at their exits(probably for selling something), but it might tell you whats the deal with your water, is it ok, is it harmful? But I would go with a quality water/soil test.. Just look online, youll find something.. I would also seriously thinkabout getting a water filter, if not for your plant, but for your health! Obviously something is wrong, and I would hate to see it be contaminated water your drinking.. What's the deal with your neighbors?

Joe


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RE: No Earth Worms/Not great results

  • Posted by pt03 2b Southern Manitob (My Page) on
    Mon, Apr 8, 13 at 10:22

If it's the same water you've used all along, then I doubt it has anything to do with a degradation of the garden's performance.

Lloyd


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RE: No Earth Worms/Not great results

Probably not the water at fault, but nonetheless always a great idea to use rainbarrels.


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RE: No Earth Worms/Not great results

  • Posted by glib 5.5 (My Page) on
    Mon, Apr 8, 13 at 12:28

Our water mineral composition is posted on the web by the city. You have to keep in mind that a tiny amount of minerals will create a huge swing in pH.

To put some numbers: my soil is 0.4% Ca (very high), or 4000ppm. The city water calcium carbonate content is 138 ppm (huge with respect to other waters, and creating a pH=9.2). Soil is approximately 2.5 times as heavy as water. To change the content to 0.5% over the first foot, I need to water with 18 feet of water depth. That looks to be the irrigation needed over 12 years or so. In the intervening time rainfall/snow will provide some 36 ft of pure, slightly acid water, that will leach and buffer a lot of it away, probably all of it. Modern day Iraq has taken 5000 years of continued irrigation to become the salt flat that it is, and that is a semi-arid climate. It also helps to have 21% organic matter, that is 20 lbs per square foot, with a huge buffering capacity.


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RE: No Earth Worms/Not great results

  • Posted by glib 5.5 (My Page) on
    Mon, Apr 8, 13 at 12:37

Errata: CaCO3 is only 48% Ca, so I need to water with 36 ft of water depth, 24 years of irrigation, in the intervening time 72 ft of rainfall.


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RE: No Earth Worms/Not great results

glib, excellent post demonstrating the actual effect of minerals in water.

Re: chlorine, I hear people saying it's hard on plants, but it's hard for me to reconcile that with the fact that the approx. 3 ppm of free chlorine in tap water will react with any organic matter it touches and disappear in seconds. OTOH rainwater has nitrogen (from lightning), and I wonder how much of the apparent negative effects of chlorine is actually related to the absence of the nitrogen boost that would come with rainwater. Just an unproven theory.

As far as other toxins (anything except hardness/minerals, pH and chlorine), all public water supplies are required to test for a wide range of chemical toxins regularly and publish the results, same way they do with pH, chlorine, hardness etc. Of course the standards are for human health, but If it's safe for humans I would expect it's safe for plants. If you want to remove chlorine, fine, but don't start thinking toxins in your water are damaging your garden. If they are, it'd be all over your local news and they'd be fixing it pronto.


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RE: No Earth Worms/Not great results

  • Posted by glib 5.5 (My Page) on
    Mon, Apr 8, 13 at 15:09

Without a doubt the big part of rain water is the nitrogen. For me, it probably does change the pH over the short term, given that my soil pH is 7.6, and pH is a logarithmic scale. The pH if rain water is 4 to 5. Even going down to 7.4 for a while will help some plants.

The chloramine is in fact 2.4 ppm, but there are 60 ppm of sodium in my city water. I guess the sodium has a larger effect on the soil than the chlorine.


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RE: No Earth Worms/Not great results

Thanks so much for your information but some of the posts are displaying knowledge way over my head and and past what I desire to understand, I just want grow some good veggies like everyone else does. But I am impressed.

My soil samples have been collected and are drying out, should be ready to mail to UMASS tomorrow. Thanks again everyone.


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RE: No Earth Worms/Not great results

  • Posted by pt03 2b Southern Manitob (My Page) on
    Mon, Apr 8, 13 at 17:24

"the big part of rain water is the nitrogen."

Isn't N 'fixed' during thunderstorms by lightning? IOW, regular rain would not have any appreciable N. Have the oldtimer farmers being pulling my leg (again)?

Lloyd


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RE: No Earth Worms/Not great results

Perhaps this video from Growing a Greener World can be of some help.

Here is a link that might be useful: GGW307


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RE: No Earth Worms/Not great results

  • Posted by TXEB none (My Page) on
    Tue, Apr 9, 13 at 23:04

End the guessing - get a good soil test done, and use the results to figure out what you may need to do about soil. Alter that, I would encourage you to get to know about the common pests for gardens I your area, and then how to control them.


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RE: No Earth Worms/Not great results

Rich:

I hope you find solution, best of luck... If it was just the absence of worms, I wouldn't lose sleep over it, but it is strange that you are doing so much good for the soil and don't see benefits... I just moved in my house a couple years ago, and my brother applying weed n feed to the lawn, as well as bags of miracle grow fertilizer and other pollutants I found in the soil, I just dug some hard clay and that one shovel had 3-4 worms... That was me neglecting the soil, and others applying chemicals to kills weeds... Maybe your soil is feeding something far more superior than worms!

Best of luck,
Joe


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RE: No Earth Worms/Not great results

Glib, that is interesting about the mineral effects of irrigation water. I suspect even in seemingly wet climates it can be an issue where irrigation is significant during a dry season, for example in florida. Many of the typical garden crops there must be grown during the dry season so most of the moisture to grow a crop is applied as irrigation. Of course the large amount of summer rainfall should prevent any accumulative build-up from year to year.


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RE: No Earth Worms/Not great results

Minerals brought in by irrigation water can be a very significant issue, and depending upon mineral specifics, soil composition and pH, typical rainfalls may not provide much of a "cleansing" effect at all.

Sodium salts are broadly soluble and will leach with clean rainwater. However the solubilities of salts of higher metals, such as calcium and to some extent magnesium (and copper, etc.) are typically pH dependent. If the irrigation water is high in calcium, and it deposits on/in the soil, and that soils pH is alkaline, then it will tend to stay there for a while. Acidic rains will help counter that, but only to a limited degree.

Nitrogen brought by rainfall is measurable. The average amounts across the southeastern US are ~ 5-10 lbs total ammonia and nitrate nitrogen per acre per year. That is well less than 10% of the typical nitrogen requirements for common agricultural crops. It is generally considered inadequate to have an determinable effect on soil nitrogen levels or plant nitrogen response.

Chlorine in municipal waters is really a non issue. The typical municipal water chlorine levels is 1 ppm or less. When it is applied to the surface of garden or lawn soils even at those low levels it can and does kill some soil-born bacteria. But the effect is confined to very, very near to the surface. One study tested water containing 5 ppm chlorine, 5X the normal levels, and soil organisms killed were limited to the top half-inch of soil. To kill soil organisms to a 6" depth takes about 65 ppm chlorine in the water applied. Soil borne bacteria reproduce quite rapidly, so the real effect is negligible at proper municipal water chlorine levels. Further, sunlight very rapidly destroys residual chlorine in water, leaving dissolved hydrochloric acid. The issue then becomes again soil pH and chloride.


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RE: No Earth Worms/Not great results

Chlorine in municipal waters is really a non issue. The typical municipal water chlorine levels is 1 ppm or less. When it is applied to the surface of garden or lawn soils even at those low levels it can and does kill some soil-born bacteria. But the effect is confined to very, very near to the surface. One study tested water containing 5 ppm chlorine, 5X the normal levels, and soil organisms killed were limited to the top half-inch of soil. To kill soil organisms to a 6" depth takes about 65 ppm chlorine in the water applied. Soil borne bacteria reproduce quite rapidly, so the real effect is negligible at proper municipal water chlorine levels."


You do make a very good point, but I do think municipal water is much more harmful to our plants, and us than we like to believe, or what scientific evidence shows us is "true".... Even if it was just chlorine we had to worry about, you mentioned only a few inches at most of the soil organism would be damaged... But what if you irrigate your garden with chlorine multiple times everyday? I think you understand where I am coming from... A lot of vegetable roots, especially how farmers and small scale gardeners grow their crops is only 6"- maybe 12" below soil, give or take, you know... Now imagine if you took a inch or two and wiped out the soil microorganisms, wiping out the soil foodweb, disrupting the mutual benefit the plants have with those organisms... Now that's just chlorine, how about the other thousands of possible harmful pollutants in municipal water? All I'm saying is a wouldn't non chulently go irrigating with municapal water thinking it's not doing anything to the soil... Especially if you could just as easy harvest rainwater, or throw on a simple water filter, no it's not perfect, but I believe we would be better off....

Joe


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RE: No Earth Worms/Not great results

  • Posted by glib 5.5 (My Page) on
    Wed, Apr 10, 13 at 11:09

In practice, not an issue in Michigan (alkaline soil, but typically high organic matter, and limited irrigation) nor in Florida (typically acid soil).


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RE: No Earth Worms/Not great results

  • Posted by TXEB 9a (My Page) on
    Wed, Apr 10, 13 at 12:15

Raw Nature

"but I do think municipal water is much more harmful to our plants, and us than we like to believe, or what scientific evidence shows us is "true".... "

Okay, why do you "think" that? Is this just your own thinking, a suspicion, a hunch, or do have some real data to support your thoughts?

Many controlled studies have been done. So long as your municipal water meets the Safe Drinking Water Act requirements, I am confident you have no problems in your garden soils. Yes, there are other pollutants in drinking water, but they are again at very low levels and should not be a problem. As far as chlorine, go back and look at what I pointed out - at 5X what is typical in municipally chlorinated drinking water the kill zone is but a half inch, and regrowth is typically at a greater rate than kill. If the water is aspirated on its way (sprinkler), then much will be lost on the way. Drip irrigation would leave higher levels. If what you're thinking were a real problem, most of the urban and suburban landscapes and gardens in the US would be long gone. You may want to rethink your concerns.

Untreated surface and well water sources pose as much risk via different forms of contamination, particularly biological as well as chemical. A recent study of irrigation canals in Yuma, AZ area found a number of common pathogens widely present, including salmonella (21% of samples tested positive), campylobacter (55% positive), giardia (5% positive), cryptosporidium (20% positive) and norvirus (20% positive). How many commercial produce recalls due to contamination over the past 2 years do you remember?

Even more troubling is that since they aren't monitored the user is working with a complete unknown. One of the major contributors to human longevity over the past century is water treatment and disinfection. So as far as human health is concerned, I believe the record is quite clear.

If you have a known better water quality source, then by all means use it. But if you don't know what your using then you're working blind and hoping it is really better.


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RE: No Earth Worms/Not great results

In south fla I have many times seen vegetable plants suffer a lot short-term from being soaked by municipal water from the hose (due to people not knowing better than to soak the plants rather than the ground). On commercial scale both drip (by not wetting plant foliage) and the high aeration factor of overhead irrigation would tend to mitigate the chlorine, I agree.

Glib, it's true that native ph of most florida sand tends to be slightly acidic (less acidic though generally than the northeast), the ground water is quite calcified due to the limestone bedrock (in fact I was able to make nixtmal without adding an alkaline agent to the water). Blueberry growers in north florida well know they have to mediate the irrigation water.

I haven't paid much attention to this reality in the past, but am now thinking that it is an important factor there.


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RE: No Earth Worms/Not great results

  • Posted by TXEB 9a (My Page) on
    Wed, Apr 10, 13 at 13:01

On plant damage from munipal water, a point often missed by folks is the adverse impact of high salinity that can come with softened water. My drip irrigation system runs on a softened water source. I counterbalance that with periodic irrigations by hand after bypassing the softener. Someday I'll replumb the garden irrigation system to run on unsoftened water. But so far the back and forth seems to do quite well. I can only get way with this because of the raised bed (12") and highly permeable soil that drains really well.


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RE: No Earth Worms/Not great results

Soils in Michigan, according to Michigan State university, tend to be acidic just as most of the soils east of the Mississippi are because the rain we get tends to wash the minerals out of the soil while the lack of rain west of the Mississippi allows them to accumulate. In really arid areas those minerals (salts) can make the soils sodic.
Every manufacturer of water softeners I have looked at tells those where their products are installed to bypass the water softener for the water used for lawn and garden irrigation because of the cost of operating the system as well as the potential harm that might occur to the plants and the faster need to replace the equipment.


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RE: No Earth Worms/Not great results

My 2 cents worth.

I have a well and municipal water. I noticed that watering with the well seemed to be better than the municipal water.

I only used the municipal water on the garden to use up what I'm paying for every month, 1,000 gallons of use it or lose it. I use the well because it tastes better and the tests on it are nearly perfect. PH, minerals, ETC.

The municipal is really just a backup for emergency's. It only costs about $9 a month to pump what we use out of the ground verses $40 or more a month on top of the $26.94 for municipal.

So I had a little experiment, non-scientific, I watered half of the rows with the well water and half with the municipal water. 100' rows with 50' of soaker hose from each end.

I know that my garden has different soil conditions and different sunlight from end to end.

But:

The well water side grew much better.


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RE: No Earth Worms/Not great results

My two cents worth... Neighboring trees grow larger with time and they then impact gardens more. They also block necessary sunlight. These roots can suck the vitality out of the soil, and the shade tops it off. Available nitrogen may be low.

This post was edited by wayne_5 on Thu, Apr 11, 13 at 19:26


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RE: No Earth Worms/Not great results

I received my soil test results but my pdf converter won't open in word so here is a summary.

Ph slightly high 7.4
Buffer 7.4

This portion was from a bar chart:
Phosphorus very high but they say sufficient
Potassium medium
Calcium very high
Magnesium very high

Low lead level

Boron 1.2
Managanese 13.4
Zinc 4.8
copper 0.3
iron 8.3
sulfur 87.9
extractable aluminum 37
micronutrient levels - all normal

I didn't see any nitrogen analysis but they did add this:

you may apply the standard recommendations supplied, or you may provide sufficient nitrogen and potassium by using alternate sources to provide about ¼ nitrogen and about 1/3 lb potassium per 100 sq ft/.

I have already covered my beds with chopped oak leaves, so if I want to add sulfer to lower the PH can I just put it on top of the leaves or do I need to work it into the soil.

Thanks for looking everyone hope to hear some feedback.


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RE: No Earth Worms/Not great results

  • Posted by TXEB 9a (My Page) on
    Thu, Apr 25, 13 at 11:11

I'd be mixing garden sulfur into the top ~ 6", if at all possible. The oak leaves may help a bit on lowering the pH as well. Even though it's only slightly high, the pH is probably contributing to the elevated calcium and phosphorus levels.


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RE: No Earth Worms/Not great results

  • Posted by nil13 z21 Mt. Washington L (My Page) on
    Thu, Apr 25, 13 at 13:18

nice earthworm link pt


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RE: No Earth Worms/Not great results

Have you added a lot of dolomitic lime over the years? Wondering how Ca and Mag got so high. P can be driven high by chronically adding a lot of manure.

That is also a pretty amazing high figure on Mn.


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RE: No Earth Worms/Not great results

Rich, I once read that it's possible that you won't see many worms simply because they scatter and scamper away whenever they feel you working in their particular location. I wondered, so have watched in the garden and I believe it's true. I try to thump the ground before I plunge in the garden fork to give them a running chance. :) If you're heavy handed or heavy footed they'll feel the ground vibration and try to get away.

pt03/Lloyd, THANK YOU for linking to that very interesting article on worms!!! I've only read the first few pages but will study the remainder later. Maybe the article will discuss whether worms really do scatter. :p


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RE: No Earth Worms/Not great results

How about your water test?


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RE: No Earth Worms/Not great results

While a lack of earthworms may not mean the soil is unhealthy, the abundance of earthworms does mean that one is obtaining a large amount of soil conditioners from their castings and it's all FREE! So I am in the camp that wants lots of earthworms in my garden. I dig in raw food scraps between plants for the worms to feast on. Right now whenever I dig a weed there are several worms in the roots.

I've heard of problems with purchased manures on several garden forums. "Here is one link that tells about it."


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RE: No Earth Worms/Not great results

Thanks folks, and no I didn't have a my water tested.
About a week ago I buried some partially broken down kitchen scraps and yesterday I found few worms in that area YAY.

So aside from the ph being a bit high for veggies I don't understand much of the results, so based on what I posted how does it look overall, fair good bad?? Thanks again.


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