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What does this soil test mean for a no-till vegetable garden?

 
Posts: 91
Location: King William, VA
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Hey guys.  I just got my soil test results back, and I am having a hard time understanding some of these results.  History - last summer I laid down cardboard and straw in an old horse pasture that had not been used for anything for several years.  Lots of various broadleaf weeds and grasses had been growing in the location where I created this garden.  I sent in my soil, which is sandy loam to loam, to have it tested by the VA Tech extension office a while back and just got my results.  

First of all, why would my phosphorous and magnesium levels be very high, being that this was previously neglected pasture?  Are these very high levels fairly common?  Do I need to be worried and how would I amend if at all?

The bottom of the sheet gives me a lime recommendation.  Why would I add lime if the pH is 6?  Also, if I do want to add lime to a no-till garden, how does that work?  Just sprinkle some lime on top of the soil and let it work it's way in?  My soil is currently mulched heavily so I'm not sure how that would work.

The bottom of the sheet also gives me a fertilizer recommendation.  Being that I am fertillizing with my own compost, mushroom compost, and mulching with straw and shredded leaves, how do I compare these recommendations to the types of organic fertizlizers that I'm using?  Being that I'm high in P and a little high in K, what options for fertilizer do I have that are organic?

Thanks in advance for any sound feedback!

InkedSOIL-TEST-RESULTS_LI.jpg
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pollinator
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Location: Saskatchewan
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Hey, I have a a few answers for you. Your phosphorus and magnesium levels are high because of the horse manure that was left there. This is a normal result of overapplication of manures. Usually the biggest issue with manure overapplication is runoff into waterways. At this point I think the only thing to do would be add carbon, which you are doing with the mulch.

If you want to add lime then, yes, just sprinkle it on top. It will work its way down whenever it rains.

For fertilizer you want just nitrogen. You could get that through inorganic applications, or I would suggest a cover crop of nitrogen fixing legumes; clover, alfalfa, and vetch would all be good.
 
Joshua LeDuc
Posts: 91
Location: King William, VA
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Thanks for that Leora.  So even several years later I will still see the results of prior horse manure?  Interesting.  I also read somewhere since this post that soil compaction as a result of horses and machinery might have something to do with the high levels.

How about bone meal?  I'm really not into cover cropping for a small vegetable garden.  Especially since I'm not tilling.
 
pollinator
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Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even Soil:SandyLoam pH6 Flat
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You mentioned that you added compost? Does your compost have manure in it? That would explain the P.
It will leach away just like nitrates even a some time.
Cation exchange complex is 65% Ca : 10% Mg : 5% K : 20% H.
Your soil could just naturally have high levels of Mg, but the ratio of Ca to Mg should be closer to 6:1
So by adding more lime you will more toward 6:1 vs the current 3:1
 
Joshua LeDuc
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Thanks for your advise S Bengi!  I did not add manure, only my own green/brown compost and a few loads of mushroom compost.  This may be residual from years of this area being a horse pasture.  I read somewhere that compacted soils can contribute to high P as well.  Not sure if this is true.  I don't even know whether or not the high P adversely affects the garden.  What's your take?  I do plan on adding some lime, but I'm not very keen on stopping the addition of compost due to high P and only adding bone meal or other N only fertilizer.  Without the constant addition of organic matter, I won't be able to build deep, fluffy soils.  
 
S Bengi
pollinator
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Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even Soil:SandyLoam pH6 Flat
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Bone meal is very high in P, so if you are adding that, then the numbers could be reflecting this, esp if the cardboad/compacted soil is preventing it from leaching out, given that it doesn't leach as easily as nitrates, esp once the mushrooms binds it up. In fact mushroom bind Lead to Phosphate to make the lead less bio-available. They will readily bind P with most metals/mineral. So I would not worry about the P-level.

As far as I can tell as long as you have 2X more Ca than Mg, it does not affect most plants (Do check your tomatoes though), esp if you have the soil life/organic, to keep the minerals bio-available.

So, I encourage you to keep on adding carbon to your soil, and as much microbes as possible.
 
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An additional question to this thread -

Would worms and or growing a specific cover crop that would be left to decompose under the cardboard help in anyway? I'm planning to use the same no till method at some point.
 
Joshua LeDuc
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Location: King William, VA
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Andy, having put down cardboard and straw last summer (2019) and letting it sit all winter, this spring there were tons of worms under the cardboard.  I assume they were loving all of the decomposing grass and weeds in this layer.  I would say if you are planning on growing in an area that is currently lawn, just mow the grass short and put down the cardboard.  There will be plenty of organic material here that will start to decompose
 
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