The short story of my post is that I am wondering if any wonderful human reader of this would have any input about these soil and well-water test results: do you see any yellow or red flags about this soil sample; and what would you do to this soil to make it more fertile for veggie production (specific cover crops, or types of compost or manure, mineral inputs); do you see any issues with using this well water in a drip irrigation system for veggies and for seedlings in a greenhouse context. Below, long story, the context of our soil fertility needs.
My wife and I have been market gardening on rented land here in Zone 5 southern Ontario for a couple of years now (on nice rich sandy loam) and are in the process of hopefully buying a property to move residence and business to this fall (zone 6, further south southern Ontario). We may have a signed purchase agreement in two days from when I am writing this, knock on wood. The 5-acre field space where we would do 1-3 acres of annual market gardening (a balance of quick growing/fruiting intensive production like JM Fortier, Neversink, etc, and of less profitable-per-square-foot crops like squash, potatoes, cabbage, etc) and 2-4 acres of berries, other perennial edibles, and pollinator-supporting species is largely sandy loam. It’s a hay field which apparently hasn’t been tilled or sprayed with anything for 5-6 years, and before that may have been used for other cash crops like corn/soy, though we are not quite sure. The current hay crop seems to be grass- dominant with some red clover and alfalfa, like one plant or cluster every 5-10’, and overall they hay mix seems a little sparse (you can see some bare soil under the foliage, it’s not thick sod).
We would hope to (this fall) till and amend(with compost/manure) at least some space for garlic and overwintering spinach, mizuna etc under row cover (something we have had success with before) and to have some space (1/4 to 1/2 acre) tarped for early spring planting. We will save other bed prep and amending for the spring, keeping the hay in place as an overwinter cover-crop. Come spring I want to experiment with tilling in the hay in some places, in others just mowing and tarping (with the help of a balanced compost tea maybe) and in others also doing other cover cropping for fall crops or future years. Overall we plan on adding as much compost as is feasible on our first year heavy production beds (quick succession greens and roots, and fruiting crops) but eventually maybe rely more on a rotation of cover cropping and production.
Overall we have a general idea of just building up the organic matter content as much as possible, being low till to maintain and improve soil biology, and wanting to provide adequate nutrients through compost and cover cropping. But getting to specifics, we have gaps in our knowledge about matter like minerals (other than, I know calcium and magnesium play an important role in healthy fruiting crops, and avoiding blossom end rot in nightshades), micro-nutrients, and pH, and appropriate amendments to correct severe or minor issues.
So again, any context or advice people might have in regards to our soil and water tests would be very welcome.
Thank you all for reading.
Hi Adam, I think your test results look alright. The pH of the soil may need adjusting, depending on what you plan to grow. If you desire to grow something such as blueberries which need an acidic soil, it’s looking pretty good to start those right away. If you plan to grow different annual and perennial vegetables & fruits that prefer a less acidic soil, I recommend applying some lime to nudge that pH from 5.5 to something over 6. I believe some of the trace minerals in the soil could use a little boost, specifically the copper, zinc, and boron, especially the boron coming in under 0.1ppm.
I believe your desires to add compost are spot-on, as this will add microbial life to this soil and add a little organic matter. Just growing things adds organic matter as the roots grow beneath the surface of the soil and die off they leave behind organic matter in doing so. I believe building organic matter is always a good thing and I’d like to place emphasis on two aspects of building organic matter. 1) is it will soak up and hold onto rainfall that would otherwise pass through the soil and 2) it will increase the soils cation exchange capacity, which means the soil will hold more minerals.
This fall I recommend broadcasting some sea-90, and in the spring I suggest adding some kelp, both for trace minerals. If you’re doing some low-till green manure cover crop incorporating next spring, may I also suggest adding diatomaceous earth before turning in the cover crop. Doing so will add silica to the soil.
"Study books and observe nature; if they do not agree, throw away the books." ~ William A. Albrecht
S Bengi wrote:Bring your organic matter to around 10% and soil life. That will pretty much fix all of your problems.
That is wayyyyyyyy too high.
While few people realize this, there is an upper threshold for organic matter because it keeps water from moving through the soil. A swamp for instance has excess organic matter. The ideal level is 3-6 percent which is actually stated on the above soil test. My soil is at 6% organic matter and is at the upper limit of acceptable.
Granted at less than 2%, the original poster has a long ways to go before they have to worry about excessive organic matter, but it can be a problem for a few of us.
(Ours got high from spreading dairy cow manure on the soil for years and years)
Mandy Launchbury-Rainey wrote:Did not know that Travis. Thanks!
A lot of people do not know that, which is why I mentioned it.
On my farm, we spread liquid dairy cow manure on the grass ground because it has less organic matter, and does not need it, but spread solid dairy cow manure on the corn ground to keep the organic matter up since tilled ground reduces organic matter.
I live in Maine, and for the last 50 years we have gotten free sulfur from the coal powered plants in the mid-west. But since they had to clean up their act, literally, and put in scrubbers to get rid of the sufur in the air, we are to the point where we are having to buy sulfur and put it back in the soil.
It is a small price to pay overall, but we did used to get it for free.
The only thing that is strange about this soil test is that the water test shows fairly high PH levels, and the soil test with PH buffer shows a fairly high PH level, but yet it shows another PH level of being fairly low, yet that is the one where it has recommendations.
That is all well and good, but the calcium levels indicated would suggest to me that the soil would be fairly high on PH. And that is what it shows on the water PH reading, and PH reading with buffer on the soil. This is what I would expect from a soil sample taken in the center of North America. It is almost as if the lower ph reading is wrong???
If it is right, then my suggestion is totally different. The PH level has to be right before the soil will uptake the nutrients it already has, or is given (fertilizer). That will require lime, and must be done before anything else.
Location: southern Ontario
posted 11 months ago
Thanks everyone for your replies.
Sorry I can’t say much more right now, strapped for time what with market gardening, kids, and getting ready for the move (we bought it!).