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I do not know where to begin with sandy soil!

 
Posts: 160
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Hello, some background.

I have 5 acres NW Central Florida, Marion County, the soil is Candler sand, local extension services has defined it as having very little organic material. There were hundreds of pine trees and blackjack oak which I have removed. I left about 25 live oaks standing.

Much of Marion County is thought to of been a series of islands back when Florida was below seal level. My property is high sandy ridges I.E most probably one of these islands.

My plan is to one day soon start building out there. I have planted many small trees and Im assuming that because I did amend the soil with compost and cow manure and have done my best to water they appear to be doing Ok.

This property is 120 miles North of my current residence. I go there every weekend.

I want to grow fruits and vegetables there, I do not have access to unlimited amounts of money nor compost. I know nothing about soil, I only know that my sand literally resembles the beach.

I just recently had a well put in but no electric. I have a generator that powers things on the weekends.

Ive read terms like PH level ect.

I do not know where to begin to get a better understanding of what I should know/understand so that I can have the optimal results avail to me from my gardening.

I am aware of David the good you tube, online presence ect, alot of information there, still trying to find the info specifically I am after. I did order a few of his books. Literally hundreds of videos ect. I am doing my best to find the time to sift thru it all.


Thank-you
 
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Hi Jason,

Welcome to Permies!  Looking forward to reading about your journey - let the adventure begin!

In your shoes, I might be inclined to start with a couple of raised beds and/or hugels. You didn’t mention what you did with the trees you removed - if some or all are still around, you have a good start on materials for hugels, or  as a base layer in your raised beds.

Good luck, and keep posting what works (and what doesn’t)!
 
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Hi Jason, and welcome to Permies!

So it sounds like you have beach sand for soil, correct?  My suggestion is to get as much carbon into that soil as possible.  This can be accomplished in a number of ways.

1). First, do you have any of the trees and cleared woody debris left?  The reason I ask is that the residual wood can be an excellent soil amendment.  I like to chip it up and compost it with fungi (my favorite fungi is wine cap mushrooms as they are very aggressive on wood).  Alternatively you could just bury it in the soil.  You also could convert this to bio char and likewise bury.

2). Again, assuming that you have wood available, you could build hugel mounds.  There is a ton of information on this site regarding hugel mounds.

3). You could also plant grass or some other type of ground cover that grows well in your area.  The idea would be to get roots growing nice and deep so that they will decay after the individual roots die and their accumulated carbon will be added to the soil.  Again, there is a ton of information here about cover crops.

4). Deliberately plant green manure.  My favorite is Russian Comfrey, Bocking 14.  This is a hearty perennial that produces huge quantities of green material that can be cut multiple times per season.  I would think that in Florida that you could have several continuous cuttings per year.

Congratulations on the 5 acres.  If you are planning a garden, I would suggest starting out small and adding additional beds as you go.  This way you could concentrate your time, energies and materials (wood, compost, etc) on one or two beds at a time.  You can also plan ahead and maybe plant cover crops where you intend to put in new garden beds.

These suggestions can go on and on, and this is just the beginning.  Feel free to use or discard whatever suggestions feel appropriate, feel free to ask more questions if you have them and please, keep us updated.  This is an exciting project!

Eric
 
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I agree with the above posts hugels or raised beds.  As I write this, why not experiment with both?  I suspect, given the description of your land, that raised beds might give you faster results if time is an issue.
 
Eric Hanson
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Jason, I did have one more thought for you.

Since you are just starting out and have little to no carbon, I have one other trick/technique.  When I last said that you want carbon in the soil, I should have mentioned that in addition to carbon, you want to have some soil biology with it (think organic matter).  If you still have some debris laying around, you could put this to good use.  If you already know where you want your first garden bed to go, you could pile up the debris and just let it decay on top of the bed.  If you want to mix greens and browns in the proper ratios, you could but this is not necessary.  

If you simply pile up the organic debris and let it sit there, it will at least partially decay.  I bet that in your Florida heat and humidity, decomposition takes place fairly quickly.  As the pile decays, the nutrients that are released will leach into the soil beneath.  More important, that leachate will also contain microbes.  Over time the pile and soil beneath sort of merge together.

I once did this by accident.  I had a huge collection of leaf clippings I wanted to get off the yard.  I raked them and placed them in a big pile well away from my yard.  The next year I had a big green ring where the pile had been and a dark green stripe that just encompassed a baby peach tree.  That green ring and stripe lasted for several years and the peach tree grew twice as fast as its neighbors.  I didn’t do anything special.  Just having a pile of rotting matter makes the soil beneath magically fertile.  I now make compost piles in my garden beds over winter to add the fertility of the leachate.  I really don’t care much about the pile itself as the leachate is amazing.

In your sandy soil, you might want the actual compost as well, but in the meantime, a rotting pile of vegetation can really add in fertility.

Good Luck,

Eric
 
Jason Walter
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Location: 9A Marion County Fl
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Thank you for the replies. I am at work now, difficult to reply properly.

LSS short. Wood is gone. I have a massive pile of wood chips though but I am sure they would not last long so I'm looking for alternatives.

I should have phrased my initial question better.

It should have stated.......I need x y z to have decent soil.

What are xyand z?

It is beach sand.

I really need to have the soil tested I guess?
 
Jason Walter
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Location: 9A Marion County Fl
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Im also wondering as an example lets say the moringa tree which is claimed to be planted all over the world in the most infertile of soils?

How does this plant/tree not only survive but also still retain the nutritional benefits its acclaimed to possess.

Do not the plants pull these benefits from the soils themselves?

Maybe a dumb question but asked regardless.
 
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Jason Walter wrote:Im also wondering as an example lets say the moringa tree which is claimed to be planted all over the world in the most infertile of soils?

How does this plant/tree not only survive but also still retain the nutritional benefits its acclaimed to possess.

Do not the plants pull these benefits from the soils themselves?

Maybe a dumb question but asked regardless.


Jason, moringa is a legume pioneer tree.  As such it's able to grow in tough sites and its nitrogen fixing abilities are a big aid in being able to do that.  Pioneer species are a great choice to work into your site and build carbon and soil biology in place.  Soil needs plants and soil like yours needs pioneers.  Chop and drop of pioneer plants is one strategy to grow your own mulch and as the carbon and soil food web develop you can then start to support other plants that you'd like to have on site.  David the Good was mentioned and I think you'll find that David would suggest that you fill the site with pioneers...think over planting, then chop and drop to make room for new plants when the soil is kicking into gear.  Unless you want to spend a giant pile of money bringing stuff onsite across the whole acreage, then pioneers like moringa are the way to go.

EDIT:  It appears that the info I read online about moringa being a nitrogen fixer is incorrect....not a nitrogen fixer or a legume.
 
Eric Hanson
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Jason,

Well that huge pile of wood chips is at least a good start.  Perhaps you could start with one or two beds and add generous amounts of wood chips on those beds while adding cover crops to sites for future beds.

Regarding the NPK ratios, the amendment most likely to be deficient is Nitrogen.  Fortunately, that is also one of the easiest to add right back in via nitrogen fixers like the moringa trees that were already mentioned.  And there must be some Phosphorus and Potassium available since the oak and pine trees were already growing.  If you get some of those nitrogen fixers going, I would not be surprised to find that they would find Phosphorus and Potassium to bring to the surface.  In any case, just about any plant materials will help the soil out.  

If you are really hurting for fertility at the beginning, there are some good sources for those nutrients

Nitrogen--Blood Meal, Manure, Fish meal and many more

Phosphorus--Consider bone meal.  It is a really good source and it lasts fairly long.  To boot, it might contain a small amount of blood meal too so you might get a boost for free (check package)

Potassium--Green sand is great.  It also helps to contain moisture which would be advantageous on your sandy soil.

Eric
 
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Jason Walter wrote:Thank you for the replies. I am at work now, difficult to reply properly.

LSS short. Wood is gone. I have a massive pile of wood chips though but I am sure they would not last long so I'm looking for alternatives.

I should have phrased my initial question better.

It should have stated.......I need x y z to have decent soil.

What are xyand z?

It is beach sand.

I really need to have the soil tested I guess?


Hi Jason, congratulations on the new place. I wouldn't worry about getting the soil tested unless its something that really interests you.

Physically, soil is conceived of.being a mixture of sand, clay, and loam. Loam is organic matter and can come from things like compost or peat moss or coconut husks, etc...

You've got sand, you need loam and clay. Realistically, in my experience with really sandy soil you need loam first or the clay will just wash down through the sand. Good compost can provide both at once. Decomposition from piles like John mentioned, or from decaying roots of plants can provide a source of loam as well.

Beyond the structural aspects you need biology. This is also provided by compost, debris piles, the wood chips, and getting living roots growing.

I think that if you try to get some ground cover established over as much of the land as possible, that would.be a great start. Then, concentrate the resources you do have (your wood chips, any manure you can score, compost, etc...) In a small area where you want to establish your first garden.  Once you've got an active garden and some trees going you can start accumulating the materials that will help improve the next area. You'll also have a chance to observe your soil responding to your efforts and you'll surely learn things about how to get it to behave more to your liking from that experience.

Good luck and please share your progress, hopefully some fellow Floridians can chime in with more specific advice
 
Jason Walter
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Location: 9A Marion County Fl
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Greg Martin wrote:

Jason Walter wrote:Im also wondering as an example lets say the moringa tree which is claimed to be planted all over the world in the most infertile of soils?

How does this plant/tree not only survive but also still retain the nutritional benefits its acclaimed to possess.

Do not the plants pull these benefits from the soils themselves?

Maybe a dumb question but asked regardless.


Jason, moringa is a legume pioneer tree.  As such it's able to grow in tough sites and its nitrogen fixing abilities are a big aid in being able to do that.  Pioneer species are a great choice to work into your site and build carbon and soil biology in place.  Soil needs plants and soil like yours needs pioneers.  Chop and drop of pioneer plants is one strategy to grow your own mulch and as the carbon and soil food web develop you can then start to support other plants that you'd like to have on site.  David the Good was mentioned and I think you'll find that David would suggest that you fill the site with pioneers...think over planting, then chop and drop to make room for new plants when the soil is kicking into gear.  Unless you want to spend a giant pile of money bringing stuff onsite across the whole acreage, then pioneers like moringa are the way to go.



Not very handy with computers but I've googled legume pioneer tree and found some very exciting definitions. Thank you for those keywords

My wife is Philippino so I literally almost have moringa trees growing out my wazoo here in our home.

I should also add that I am in no rush. It will be minimum 3 years before I even start building.

Just thinking ahead.

To replenish what I've removed I have planted 262 Holly trees around the border of the property which have been in the ground approx. 4 months. Doing ok to good so far.

Also 23 decent sized sycamore trees. Also doing fine, all soil amended with pasteurized cow manure and woodchips.

Also 3 loquats that are doing well so far.

One Barbados cherry which gave me 1 fruit this past weekend..
 
Jason Walter
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I have 2000 ft of chinlink fence I am also trying to cover. Not having alot of luck propagating confederate jasmine plants.

No misting system.

Im looking into alternatives
 
pollinator
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Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even Soil:SandyLoam pH6 Flat
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You have near tropical growing condition with sand vs soil.
The biggest concerns are water and bio-available minerals.

Carbon that is added to your sand-soil disappears in no time, so I recommend bio-char that actually stays around.
The carbon will hold water like a sponge so that plants can get to it. It will also provide pore space for healthy soil life to live in. And soil life like to pee, poop and decay, releasing bio-available minerals.

I would also spread/innoculate healthy soil microbes/fungi into your soil.

I would keep a nice layer of dutch clover covering your entire site, they provide alot of nitrogen and minerals for soil life.


For the chainlink fence I recommend vines, fruiting vines like passion fruit, muscadine or regular grapes, there is also kiwi. There are also brambles like thornless blackberry and raspberry.
 
Jason Walter
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Greg Martin wrote:

Jason Walter wrote:Im also wondering as an example lets say the moringa tree which is claimed to be planted all over the world in the most infertile of soils?

How does this plant/tree not only survive but also still retain the nutritional benefits its acclaimed to possess.

Do not the plants pull these benefits from the soils themselves?

Maybe a dumb question but asked regardless.


Jason, moringa is a legume pioneer tree.  As such it's able to grow in tough sites and its nitrogen fixing abilities are a big aid in being able to do that.  Pioneer species are a great choice to work into your site and build carbon and soil biology in place.  Soil needs plants and soil like yours needs pioneers.  Chop and drop of pioneer plants is one strategy to grow your own mulch and as the carbon and soil food web develop you can then start to support other plants that you'd like to have on site.  David the Good was mentioned and I think you'll find that David would suggest that you fill the site with pioneers...think over planting, then chop and drop to make room for new plants when the soil is kicking into gear.  Unless you want to spend a giant pile of money bringing stuff onsite across the whole acreage, then pioneers like moringa are the way to go.


Could you please explain to me in a different way how this plant ( lets stick with Moringa as the example ) is able to give its consumer ( you and I as example ) the nutrients its known to give if it it grown in infertile dead soil. Im having a hard time because again Im assuming that the plants are bringing the nutrients up from the soil.

I hope Im not being a pest, if you do not know the answer than there is no shame with me in just saying that you do not know. I will find the answer and report back to you with my findings so we are both better educated. Thanks
 
Jason Walter
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Eric Hanson wrote:Jason,

Well that huge pile of wood chips is at least a good start.  Perhaps you could start with one or two beds and add generous amounts of wood chips on those beds while adding cover crops to sites for future beds.

Regarding the NPK ratios, the amendment most likely to be deficient is Nitrogen.  Fortunately, that is also one of the easiest to add right back in via nitrogen fixers like the moringa trees that were already mentioned.  And there must be some Phosphorus and Potassium available since the oak and pine trees were already growing.  If you get some of those nitrogen fixers going, I would not be surprised to find that they would find Phosphorus and Potassium to bring to the surface.  In any case, just about any plant materials will help the soil out.  

If you are really hurting for fertility at the beginning, there are some good sources for those nutrients

Nitrogen--Blood Meal, Manure, Fish meal and many more

Phosphorus--Consider bone meal.  It is a really good source and it lasts fairly long.  To boot, it might contain a small amount of blood meal too so you might get a boost for free (check package)

Potassium--Green sand is great.  It also helps to contain moisture which would be advantageous on your sandy soil.

Eric



Could you help me to better understand this statement.... If you get some of those nitrogen fixers going, I would not be surprised to find that they would find Phosphorus and Potassium to bring to the surface..............re-phrasing with a more in depth explanation would help. If you have no time than thank you anyway for the post. Food for thought is always a positive thing
 
Jason Walter
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s. lowe wrote:

Jason Walter wrote:Thank you for the replies. I am at work now, difficult to reply properly.

LSS short. Wood is gone. I have a massive pile of wood chips though but I am sure they would not last long so I'm looking for alternatives.

I should have phrased my initial question better.

It should have stated.......I need x y z to have decent soil.

What are xyand z?

It is beach sand.

I really need to have the soil tested I guess?


Hi Jason, congratulations on the new place. I wouldn't worry about getting the soil tested unless its something that really interests you.

Physically, soil is conceived of.being a mixture of sand, clay, and loam. Loam is organic matter and can come from things like compost or peat moss or coconut husks, etc...

You've got sand, you need loam and clay. Realistically, in my experience with really sandy soil you need loam first or the clay will just wash down through the sand. Good compost can provide both at once. Decomposition from piles like John mentioned, or from decaying roots of plants can provide a source of loam as well.

Beyond the structural aspects you need biology. This is also provided by compost, debris piles, the wood chips, and getting living roots growing.

I think that if you try to get some ground cover established over as much of the land as possible, that would.be a great start. Then, concentrate the resources you do have (your wood chips, any manure you can score, compost, etc...) In a small area where you want to establish your first garden.  Once you've got an active garden and some trees going you can start accumulating the materials that will help improve the next area. You'll also have a chance to observe your soil responding to your efforts and you'll surely learn things about how to get it to behave more to your liking from that experience.

Good luck and please share your progress, hopefully some fellow Floridians can chime in with more specific advice



Sand, loam and clay, got it. Thats a big help. I recently had my well put in. Most people assume water is 6 ft down in Florida, not true, I hand dug 27 feet down in 3 places on my property looking for surface water, nothing but barely moist sand, I ordered a well drilling rig to dig my own well but soon figured out there is ALOT more to finding water than digging a hole, in the end I learned alot about well drilling, I have learned more and collected more information than most would be interested to see, there are MANY way that wells have been and are still be bored throughout the world.

LSS my first water was approx 53 feet down but it fluctuates ALOT, on a typical day its prob more in the range of approx 75 feet, last time I measured my water table it was short of 100 feet.

I deal with a nursery about 1 hr away, there water table is 2.5 feet down.

 
Jason Walter
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Maybe someone would be interested in my conversation with .......Sustainable Ag. & Food Systems Agent I .......at the local extension services. I will copy and paste the dialogue below. This is not an effort to disparage anything said but for me its points of interest and may be to some of you as well.

First contact to me:

Name omitted on purpose  indicated you were interested in building your soils for the purposes of vegetable gardening. There are indeed several strategies that can help to build soil. Generally, plants in the bean family (Fabacea) are most effective for building soil, so planting bean plants for your garden can produce food and build soil at the same time. The foundational approach to building soil with cover crops is to always have something growing on the soil, thus introducing plant biomass into the soil as it decays. During the cool-season, there are a lot of grass cover crops as well as bean family cover crops.

Given that it’s a little late in the year, it may not be as effective to plant cover crops like Sunn hemp, though I do believe it will still grow quite well. It’s just ideal to plant a bit earlier in the year. If you do plant Sunn hemp, I suggest you read this publication on the subject: Sunn hemp guide. Sunn hemp will need to be cut down or terminated (crushing) after about 75 days or it will become as hard as bamboo. Aside from that feature, Sunn hemp is one of the most productive cover crops available. It also produces a tremendous amount of nitrogen that helps with the composting / soil building process.

UF has a publication on cover crops that I think you will find quite useful: https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/aa217 This guide contains a list of suggested cover crops based upon the time of year, seeding rate, etc.

Once you’ve taken a look at these publications, please let me know if you have any questions.

Regards,

My response :  Im sorry for the short e mail but I am at work now.



Can I ask your opinion of using the moringa tree as a cover crop versus your suggestion?



Moringa trees are readily avail to me and the benefits to our health are outstanding.

His reply : Hello Mr. Anderson,

Moringa are not suitable for cover crop purposes because the objective is to cover as much of the soil as possible and generate a large biomass to integrate into the soil to build it up. Moringa could, perhaps, be planted similarly to an ornamental or fruit tree in its own designated area.

Regards,

My next question : Is it true that whatever organic material that is within the sand now will slowly dissipate down into the ground over time.



I am dealing with candler sand. There were literally hundreds of pine and blackjack oak trees removed leaving behind some organic material.



If left unattended I'm assuming my sand will eventually turn white as a beach.



Is this correct?

His reply : Generally, yes organic matter will in time dissipate, but often very slowly. Decaying tree roots will take many years to decay and will not contribute significantly to building the soil. Constantly growing cover crops and dumping thousands of cubic feet of chipped wood are essentially the only ways to practically build soil.

I may have a program dedicated just to building soil before the end of the year. Keep an eye on posted events on the Marion County Master Gardener facebook page.
 
Greg Martin
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Jason Walter wrote:

Greg Martin wrote:

Jason Walter wrote:Im also wondering as an example lets say the moringa tree which is claimed to be planted all over the world in the most infertile of soils?

How does this plant/tree not only survive but also still retain the nutritional benefits its acclaimed to possess.

Do not the plants pull these benefits from the soils themselves?

Maybe a dumb question but asked regardless.


Jason, moringa is a legume pioneer tree.  As such it's able to grow in tough sites and its nitrogen fixing abilities are a big aid in being able to do that.  Pioneer species are a great choice to work into your site and build carbon and soil biology in place.  Soil needs plants and soil like yours needs pioneers.  Chop and drop of pioneer plants is one strategy to grow your own mulch and as the carbon and soil food web develop you can then start to support other plants that you'd like to have on site.  David the Good was mentioned and I think you'll find that David would suggest that you fill the site with pioneers...think over planting, then chop and drop to make room for new plants when the soil is kicking into gear.  Unless you want to spend a giant pile of money bringing stuff onsite across the whole acreage, then pioneers like moringa are the way to go.


Could you please explain to me in a different way how this plant ( lets stick with Moringa as the example ) is able to give its consumer ( you and I as example ) the nutrients its known to give if it it grown in infertile dead soil. Im having a hard time because again Im assuming that the plants are bringing the nutrients up from the soil.

I hope Im not being a pest, if you do not know the answer than there is no shame with me in just saying that you do not know. I will find the answer and report back to you with my findings so we are both better educated. Thanks


Hi Jason, not specific to moringa, plants get their minerals from the rocks and sand.  They do it through their soil microorganism allies.  For this to happen the plants have to help provide for the needs of these soil microorganisms.  Plants provide carbohydrate based exudates from their roots in exchange for minerals that the microorganisms mine from the rock/sand.  The plants also need other elements like nitrogen, which they get via their symbiotic relationship with nitrogen fixing bacteria, carbon, which they get from CO2, and oxygen that they get from water.  I would be interested in anything specific you might find out about the moringa.  Up here in Maine we can grow non-legume nitrogen fixing pioneers like goumi that produce fruit while growing in very low fertility soils.  These pioneers are impressive plants indeed.
 
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Jason, often counties do have a free mulch, compost or wood chip drop. I found one for Marion County , Fla. is that you?   Also, that area is a very horse-y area. maybe you could ask for horse manure or yucky used bedding material to help that sandy soil. https://www.ocalafl.org/government/city-departments-a-h/electric-utility/vegetation-management/mulch-delivery-request
 
Jason Walter
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Greg Martin wrote:

Jason Walter wrote:

Greg Martin wrote:

Jason Walter wrote:Im also wondering as an example lets say the moringa tree which is claimed to be planted all over the world in the most infertile of soils?

How does this plant/tree not only survive but also still retain the nutritional benefits its acclaimed to possess.

Do not the plants pull these benefits from the soils themselves?

Maybe a dumb question but asked regardless.


Jason, moringa is a legume pioneer tree.  As such it's able to grow in tough sites and its nitrogen fixing abilities are a big aid in being able to do that.  Pioneer species are a great choice to work into your site and build carbon and soil biology in place.  Soil needs plants and soil like yours needs pioneers.  Chop and drop of pioneer plants is one strategy to grow your own mulch and as the carbon and soil food web develop you can then start to support other plants that you'd like to have on site.  David the Good was mentioned and I think you'll find that David would suggest that you fill the site with pioneers...think over planting, then chop and drop to make room for new plants when the soil is kicking into gear.  Unless you want to spend a giant pile of money bringing stuff onsite across the whole acreage, then pioneers like moringa are the way to go.


Could you please explain to me in a different way how this plant ( lets stick with Moringa as the example ) is able to give its consumer ( you and I as example ) the nutrients its known to give if it it grown in infertile dead soil. Im having a hard time because again Im assuming that the plants are bringing the nutrients up from the soil.

I hope Im not being a pest, if you do not know the answer than there is no shame with me in just saying that you do not know. I will find the answer and report back to you with my findings so we are both better educated. Thanks


Hi Jason, not specific to moringa, plants get their minerals from the rocks and sand.  They do it through their soil microorganism allies.  For this to happen the plants have to help provide for the needs of these soil microorganisms.  Plants provide carbohydrate based exudates from their roots in exchange for minerals that the microorganisms mine from the rock/sand.  The plants also need other elements like nitrogen, which they get via their symbiotic relationship with nitrogen fixing bacteria, carbon, which they get from CO2, and oxygen that they get from water.  I would be interested in anything specific you might find out about the moringa.  Up here in Maine we can grow non-legume nitrogen fixing pioneers like goumi that produce fruit while growing in very low fertility soils.  These pioneers are impressive plants indeed.



Thanks, Ill have to read this a few times and see what sticks but your time was not wasted
 
Jason Walter
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Philomom Elmtree wrote:Jason, often counties do have a free mulch, compost or wood chip drop. I found one for Marion County , Fla. is that you?   Also, that area is a very horse-y area. maybe you could ask for horse manure or yucky used bedding material to help that sandy soil. https://www.ocalafl.org/government/city-departments-a-h/electric-utility/vegetation-management/mulch-delivery-request

I have tried these avenues, they will not deliver outside city limits but thank you for your efforts.

Ive done a bit of research on horse manure, in a nutshell Ive been told to stay away from it for various reasons but I am still planning to do a more in depth consideration toward it. Marion County is the horse capital of the world.
 
S Bengi
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Tropical soils are different from temperate soil.
Tropical/Flirida soils don't really have a leaf litter that stays around like in say New England, everything get eaten by soil life and which they turn into energy and carbon dioxide (just like humans). In New England 4inch of woodchip can last 3-4 hears. In Florida that same amount only last a year.  Bio-char however will not be eaten by the microbes/soil life.

To most folks cover crops, like pasture implies alot of grass/grain family and legume/bean family plants. And to keep things balance maybe 20% spinach and cabbage family plants and herbs in the mint/thyme, onion/garlic, celery/carrot family and other.

I would not call spinach/onion a cover crop or moringa even though they are super healthy. Moringa is actually in the cabbage/kale family and not in the nitrogen fixing family, so it does not fix nitrogen and it does not capture as much sunlight/carbon as the C4 family of grasses. I might include daikon radish as part of a cover crop, but that would be for it's 6ft deep root system and 3ft tuber that will 'plow' and aerate my compacted soil. But for your sandy soil you probably don't need help in looseing your soil.

For now I would focus on only adding grass and legumes to your cover crop. Maybe in year 3, you can experiment with getting the right ratio of onion and sage and moringa that should be added to optimize your covercrop.  




 
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I'm over in Jefferson county. Really sandy, but already a layer of weak soil. A year old lasagna bed and a couple hugels are doing best right now at my place.
 
Eric Hanson
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.... If you get some of those nitrogen fixers going, I would not be surprised to find that they would find Phosphorus and Potassium to bring to the surface..............



OK, regarding your question, lets start with the sand/soil.  If you indeed had 100% pure SiO2 quartz sand, then your "soil" would have very, serious, fundamental nutrient problems.  Fortunately, your sand, despite appearances, is not 100% pure quartz.  Other minerals do exist there, generally increasing with soil depth.  The fact that you had tree cover already present that you had to clear away is evidence that your sandy soil does at the very least contain some vital nutrients, in particular Phosphorus and Potassium.  Further, I would suspect that your sand has some degree of salt content in it.  Believe it or not, some people deliberately add in some sea salt in order to add vital micro nutrients that may be lacking in their soils.  So those two nutrients must exist in some form or the trees would not have grown in the first place.

But on to Nitrogen.  Nitrogen is the most volatile of nutrients and plants themselves are incapable of using atmospheric nitrogen for their growth (Nitrogen is especially important for the green parts of the plant).  Nitrogen can literally evaporate from the soil.  But fear not.  There are a host of microbes that are capable of using atmospheric nitrogen and these organisms tend to form relationships with plant roots.  In healthy soil, these microbes are abundant.  As the plant grows, the roots attract these microbes and feed them nutrients in exchange for usable Nitrogen.  It is a true symbiotic relationship.  Some plants are better at this than others, and Legumes are among the best nitrogen fixers available.  

As the legumes grow, they extend their roots downwards in search of nutrients.  As they encounter the Nitrogen fixing microbes, they grow faster, sometimes much faster.  Thanks to the ability of Legumes to build relationships with Nitrogen fixing bacteria, they can grow in highly nutrient deficient ground. Now as the greenery pops up and the roots grow down, these parts of the plant will also be scavenging for other nutrients, especially Phosphorus and Potassium.  When, the plants inevitably die, the Phosphorus and Potassium will break down from the plant and be released near where the plant died--which is to say that in general, these nutrients will be situated on or near the surface of the ground.  If you plant cover crops--especially Nitrogen fixing cover crops--then over time you should find that your sandy soil darkens in color.  This is in large part due to the release of stored carbon, but also due to an increasing supply of Phosphorus and Potassium.

I don't doubt that right now your soil is probably low on nutrients, but it is not completely deficient of these nutrients.  The ultimate source of Phosphorus and Potassium is continental crust which will slowly dissolve thanks to the acidic action of carbonic acid naturally present in rainfall.  There are literal continents of Potassium and Phosphorus slowly available over time.  Carbonic acid, microbes and time have no doubt already deposited some of these nutrients up near the surface which is why your oaks and pines were able to grow as well as the holly trees and other plants that you have planted.  Cover crops can utilize these nutrients and gather them for growth and then deposit them on/near the surface after they die, naturally increasing the overall fertility of the upper parts of the soil.  It won't happen immediately, but it does work over time.

Incidentally, Carbon really needs to get a good mention here.  Plants cannot use Carbon out of the ground--they only utilize Carbon Dioxide from the air.  But the Carbon in the ground plays a crucial role.  Soil Carbon immensely aids retention of all nutrients, but especially Nitrogen which otherwise wants to simply evaporate from the ground.  Ground Carbon also helps retain water and makes other nutrients more available to the plants.  I did some research on this and found that for every 1% increase of soil carbon, the land fertility can increase by up to 25%.  This is most notable in poor, nutrient deficient soils.

I hope this helps answer your questions,

Eric
 
Jason Walter
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Eric Hanson wrote:

.... If you get some of those nitrogen fixers going, I would not be surprised to find that they would find Phosphorus and Potassium to bring to the surface..............



OK, regarding your question, lets start with the sand/soil.  If you indeed had 100% pure SiO2 quartz sand, then your "soil" would have very, serious, fundamental nutrient problems.  Fortunately, your sand, despite appearances, is not 100% pure quartz.  Other minerals do exist there, generally increasing with soil depth.  The fact that you had tree cover already present that you had to clear away is evidence that your sandy soil does at the very least contain some vital nutrients, in particular Phosphorus and Potassium.  Further, I would suspect that your sand has some degree of salt content in it.  Believe it or not, some people deliberately add in some sea salt in order to add vital micro nutrients that may be lacking in their soils.  So those two nutrients must exist in some form or the trees would not have grown in the first place.

But on to Nitrogen.  Nitrogen is the most volatile of nutrients and plants themselves are incapable of using atmospheric nitrogen for their growth (Nitrogen is especially important for the green parts of the plant).  Nitrogen can literally evaporate from the soil.  But fear not.  There are a host of microbes that are capable of using atmospheric nitrogen and these organisms tend to form relationships with plant roots.  In healthy soil, these microbes are abundant.  As the plant grows, the roots attract these microbes and feed them nutrients in exchange for usable Nitrogen.  It is a true symbiotic relationship.  Some plants are better at this than others, and Legumes are among the best nitrogen fixers available.  

As the legumes grow, they extend their roots downwards in search of nutrients.  As they encounter the Nitrogen fixing microbes, they grow faster, sometimes much faster.  Thanks to the ability of Legumes to build relationships with Nitrogen fixing bacteria, they can grow in highly nutrient deficient ground. Now as the greenery pops up and the roots grow down, these parts of the plant will also be scavenging for other nutrients, especially Phosphorus and Potassium.  When, the plants inevitably die, the Phosphorus and Potassium will break down from the plant and be released near where the plant died--which is to say that in general, these nutrients will be situated on or near the surface of the ground.  If you plant cover crops--especially Nitrogen fixing cover crops--then over time you should find that your sandy soil darkens in color.  This is in large part due to the release of stored carbon, but also due to an increasing supply of Phosphorus and Potassium.

I don't doubt that right now your soil is probably low on nutrients, but it is not completely deficient of these nutrients.  The ultimate source of Phosphorus and Potassium is continental crust which will slowly dissolve thanks to the acidic action of carbonic acid naturally present in rainfall.  There are literal continents of Potassium and Phosphorus slowly available over time.  Carbonic acid, microbes and time have no doubt already deposited some of these nutrients up near the surface which is why your oaks and pines were able to grow as well as the holly trees and other plants that you have planted.  Cover crops can utilize these nutrients and gather them for growth and then deposit them on/near the surface after they die, naturally increasing the overall fertility of the upper parts of the soil.  It won't happen immediately, but it does work over time.

Incidentally, Carbon really needs to get a good mention here.  Plants cannot use Carbon out of the ground--they only utilize Carbon Dioxide from the air.  But the Carbon in the ground plays a crucial role.  Soil Carbon immensely aids retention of all nutrients, but especially Nitrogen which otherwise wants to simply evaporate from the ground.  Ground Carbon also helps retain water and makes other nutrients more available to the plants.  I did some research on this and found that for every 1% increase of soil carbon, the land fertility can increase by up to 25%.  This is most notable in poor, nutrient deficient soils.

I hope this helps answer your questions,

Eric



This should be made a sticky somewhere and should be a must read for guys like me.

Ill add this: my property had approx 16 feet of elevation between l front corner and r rear. Gradual all the way, not erratic but certainly distinguishable especially after I had dropped and cleared the trees.

I rented a 3 yard wheel loader and dozer. I moved the dirt on r rear toward the middle/frontish.

The front of the property is typically darkish sand, especially notable when wet. The entire rear half of property is pure whitish and very little vegetation I.E.grass or weeds popping up.

Its happening but slower than front.

I now have an embankment on r rear of property that is approx. 12 feet of elevation/ sloped and of course it tapers off as it wraps around.

Something else I have to deal with.

I built up my house pad and small front yard with all this material.

There is a second slope which leads down into the front of property which is where I plan to grow sustainable fruits/vegetables.
 
S Bengi
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Leguminous Crops: Rhizoma Peanut (living mulch), dutch white clover is super cheap, so I would also plant a bit of it too as a winter annual. pigeon pea as a shrub is also great

Perennial Grasses: Bahiagrass or Pangola digitgrass, you could also just plant corn and then chop it down

 
Eric Hanson
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Jason,

I kinda have an idea of what your property is looking like.  Interesting that you noticed areas of light and dark sand.  I would guess that the darker sand has more carbon and is likely more fertile.  You mentioned that the lightish sand appears to be the most infertile, what with only grass & weeds growing.  That grass and weeds is actually doing the sand some good as at least there are some roots in the sand.

This has been mentioned before and I don't want to beat a dead horse, but if you have an approximate idea of where you want to grow a future garden, now is a really great time to get some ground covers going.  Three years of cover crops will likely build up a nice supply of organic matter by the time you actually want to use the land.  Dutch White Clover, Crimson Clover, and Peanuts have all been mentioned and are actually quite good nitrogen fixers.  I know that some other Legumes were also mentioned (beans are a really good one).  Any/all of these are really good potential cover crops, but also consider growing some grasses as they typically grow well with Legumes and will help add some good bulk to eventually rot in place.  Potentially you could simply throw some of the seeds down in place and let them grow over the season.  If you wanted, you could mow down once per year and just let the clippings lay on the surface and rot.  I would imagine that in your climate that lots of green stuff laying on the surface rots fairly quickly.  You could repeat each year until you want to grow crops where you would mow down and either work in to the sand or maybe lay some additional sand on top and let the material rot under a bit of cover.  Either way, your vegetable crops should like the rot and decay and grow well.

At any rate, these are just some possibilities.  Feel free to share and/or bounce ideas around.

Eric
 
Jason Walter
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Thanks Erik, one of my next goals is gonna be getting some water down to the front. I know I need sprinklers ect to water in whatever I plant.

I wish I had endless amounts of money cause things would be moving much quicker.

Im gonna post some pictures hopefully tonight that I've taken as I've been moving forward.

I have a zoning change hearing end of this month to go from residential into ag. I'm sure that will be approved.

I'm not even aware of how that is gonna benefit me at this point, I know there are at least some tax benefits. Cost me 1000 just to have the change.

Im doing that though cause I have 40 ft containers on the property that technically are not supposed to be on a residential lot.

Anyway I am gonna get some measurements this weekend of my intended food plot and then maybe ask you guys for some sprinkler lay out ideas.
 
Jason Walter
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Can one of you guys positively i.d this plant. This is what all the local farmers are using as a cover crop. Thanks
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Jason Walter
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Number 2
15971707399965972816004948532036.jpg
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The plant is sun hemp.
 
Dan Allen
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Another great native nitrogen fixer that requires zero inputs is the native wax myrtle.
 
Jason Walter
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Dan Allen wrote:The plant is sun hemp.



Thats what I thought but thanks for confirming.

Ill have to do some research. Its in every field locally.

Thanks
 
Jason Walter
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I just read that green wood chips suck nitrogen out of soil? If thats true how does it happen? Also assuming its true is there a list of does and donts for gardening that would cover some of this important information for first timers like myself?

On a side note I'm wondering if it would be appropriate/ helpful if I were to post a video of my property so that I could get opinions and so that I can better express what I'd like to see and you guys can comment on how I should get there?

Final note, any of you guys see a flat tree?

I have a gumby mango plant, I call it gumby because its wide but thin like paper. Small plant. Im guessing it will die or grow out.

Its amazing to see if you haven't
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Eric Hanson
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Jason,

The notion of wood chips sucking nitrogen out of the ground is an extremely persistent myth.  As with most myths, there is a grain of fact, but is misconstrued drastically out of proportion.

The myth originates from the fact that nitrogen accelerates the decomposition of wood.  If you lay some wood chips on the ground, there is an extremely thin (as in under a millimetre) zone near the wood where the nitrogen leaves the soil and enters the chips.  So in that sense, yes, a very thin layer of soil loses nitrogen to the wood.  But the nitrogen is not lost.  Now it is present in the wood and as the wood breaks down, it sort of becomes new soil, containing the supposedly lost nitrogen.  Give the wood chips time and they will eventually decay to the point where it becomes hard to discern where the chips end and the soil begins.

At present, all of my garden beds are raised beds 1' tall.  They are filled entirely with wood chips that have been composted with fungi.  That bedding is now the most fertile bedding I have ever seen.  I never add any new fertilizer aside from an occasional dose of chop and drop comfrey.  My veggies, tomatoes in particular, are dark, vibrant, rich green.

In the long run, wood chips act like a nitrogen sponge and will yield up nitrogen willingly to nearby plants.  I could go on and on, but simply put, I do not consider wood chips to be any sort of nitrogen robbers at all.

I hope this helps, and by all means, if you have any questions, feel free to ask.

Eric
 
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You need to start planting plants that you can use as a chop and drop mulch like Tithonia diversifolia or even Bidens alba. Florida soils don't act much like northern soils the main thing you should go for is shading the soil to increase moisture holding ability, plant native grasses with deep roots that will draw the soil moisture upwards.  Start with really drought resistant legume type plants like acacia, palo verde, and grow things underneath them as nurse trees.  Shade is your friend here I grow tomatoes in near total shade!  Check out echo farms for seed ideas, and also consider native plants like muscadines , everglades tomatoes tried and true things like that.
 
Jason Walter
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Justin Jeannero wrote:You need to start planting plants that you can use as a chop and drop mulch like Tithonia diversifolia or even Bidens alba. Florida soils don't act much like northern soils the main thing you should go for is shading the soil to increase moisture holding ability, plant native grasses with deep roots that will draw the soil moisture upwards.  Start with really drought resistant legume type plants like acacia, palo verde, and grow things underneath them as nurse trees.  Shade is your friend here I grow tomatoes in near total shade!  Check out echo farms for seed ideas, and also consider native plants like muscadines , everglades tomatoes tried and true things like that.



Thanks, I am all over it, Im doing the best I can to get some research done, I work long hours, I wish I could find more time. I do plan to have something ( anything ) legume in the ground next spring.
 
Eric Hanson
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Jason,

Building soils takes time and it seems like you have that time and are willing to put in the effort.  Good.  I am glad to see that your questioning has led to a plan of action.

Eric
 
Jason Walter
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Stupid question bu here goes, what does that mean...... native grasses exactly.......I have grass popping up all over the place ( and spreading ) in the lower section of my property ( where my gardening will be ) Its growing down there cause ( Im guessing ) the earth is untouched, I cut down the trees and removed all the stumps but other than that the earth is still darker sand ( as apposed to the upper rear section ) cause of all the bio I.E pine needles that had rotted and whatever leaves where in there have made their way into the soil.

When people say native grass are they meaning the garbage grass that is already popping up and spreading ( several different varieties there )

Thanks
 
Jason Walter
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Eric Hanson wrote:Jason,

Building soils takes time and it seems like you have that time and are willing to put in the effort.  Good.  I am glad to see that your questioning has led to a plan of action.

Eric



If you have the chance please see below, I started to make a video last weekend of my property so you could see it, I did not know there was a 15 minute time limit, it stopped recording when I was maybe half way thru, I became disgusted and deleted the whole thing, anyway Ill just ask straight away........is there a grass ( or whatever ) that I can plant that spreads fast, is a legume so that it does well by my soil and isnt gonna require a sprinkler system?

Maybe something that will get so thick it will drown out the crappy weeds that are sprouting all over the place now. I dont care what it looks like, Id just like it to do good for my soil in the meantime whilst I am still working on getting pipes buried ( which I havent even started yet )

I dont have a way to water 5 acres of sand so keep that in mind. Thank-you
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