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revitalizing soil on large area with compost tea. Suggestions  RSS feed

 
Tim Luden
Posts: 26
Location: Missouri
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I have a couple acres I bought for the express reason of attempting a permaculture project and after reading a lot of threads here, sepps book, and countless others over the last 2 years am finally doing it! The land is kind of hilly so in the sepp manner I dug a decent sized fishing pond at the bottom and while I had the equipment here dug out some swales in between the fruit trees which I decided to make mini hugel bed/swales. The highest part of the property is on a corner where I've decided to put water collection and composting areas with the idea I can let gravity/rain take both down through orchards and gardens. I had the soil tested and the only thing it was lacking was phosphorus. I'm a big bbq/smoker so I was thinking about putting all the wood ash from the smokers and fireplaces up with the compost area as I'm a little concerned about it raising ph/alkalinity. I've found a place that will load all the composted horse manure I want and another that had a 2 acre hog pond dry up a few years ago that will give me what looks like some good fertile black dirt. I'm thinking this would be enough over time to start the rebuilding process but I want to speed it up as the soil (which is a bit of clay) appears to be dead from decades of fertilizing. I have a rod injector used to shoot termiticide into the ground at pressure and a gas powered auger. Do you think it would be beneficial to use the compost tea I've been brewing (cow manure, molasses, azomite, humic acid with water bubbler) by injecting it into the ground as well as just spraying on top? Also wondering about augering down about 2' all over the place and filling the holes with compost, and the rib bones I'm constantly smoking. Wouldn't that help with not only microbial life but the phosphorus I'm lacking and aeration?
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Tim Luden
Posts: 26
Location: Missouri
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This was the before pic below the fruit trees in previous pic. Later to become a bass and bluegill pond.
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Marc Troyka
pollinator
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Location: East Central GA, Ultisol, Zone 8, Humid
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From the reading I've been doing recently, it seems unless you areate your compost tea with a fish bubbler while making it, none of the microorganisms will survive. Also, you may drown the microorganisms that were in the compost itself as well. I don't really think it's necessary to spread compost tea, compost is fine.

Otherwise, looks like you're going to have an easy time.
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
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Location: North Central Michigan
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Paul was talking in his last podcast about Biodynamics and it sounded like it might have some suggestions for your soil..but right now in my opinion ..just add as much organic material as you can.

the char from the smoker should be ok to add as long as it has no chemicals added (no commercial charcoal)..

always put your char or ash on lightly..too much can be a problem..so spread it widely
 
Tim Luden
Posts: 26
Location: Missouri
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M Troyka wrote:From the reading I've been doing recently, it seems unless you areate your compost tea with a fish bubbler while making it, none of the microorganisms will survive. Also, you may drown the microorganisms that were in the compost itself as well. I don't really think it's necessary to spread compost tea, compost is fine.

Otherwise, looks like you're going to have an easy time.


I've got several good sized air stones and 2 extra pumps from my aquaponics in there aerating and circulating.

 
Tim Luden
Posts: 26
Location: Missouri
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My backwoods first attempt at rain collection. First decent rain we've had all summer. I was surprised how much I actually captured.
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Tim Luden
Posts: 26
Location: Missouri
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I didn't think I'd even have to worry about the fish until next year but after running the gutters to the pond I'm already starting to throw bluegill in.
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Marc Troyka
pollinator
Posts: 367
Location: East Central GA, Ultisol, Zone 8, Humid
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Tim Luden wrote:
M Troyka wrote:From the reading I've been doing recently, it seems unless you areate your compost tea with a fish bubbler while making it, none of the microorganisms will survive. Also, you may drown the microorganisms that were in the compost itself as well. I don't really think it's necessary to spread compost tea, compost is fine.

Otherwise, looks like you're going to have an easy time.


I've got several good sized air stones and 2 extra pumps from my aquaponics in there aerating and circulating.



I should qualify that, to say that compost tea is generally used by spraying it on plants that are vulnerable to bacterial/fungal diseases, to provide competing organisms on their foliage, and not particularly for soil.

I think the particular soil type you have is actually an alfisol, which like the clays in the southeast is granite derived but much less weathered. Alfisols can be quite fertile, and I agree with Brenda. You just need some organic material, possibly by throwing around some clover or other things and then mowing it down later. Hugelkulture will build soil much faster than digging holes and burying compost, and will attract tons of worms even just in the first season.

Your soil already looks like it has pretty abundant organic material, for that matter. If you really want to boost your growth, you might consider getting some basaltic rock dust at 5-10 tons per acre to recharge the nutrient content. I also suggest being careful with the use of compost; if you use too much your trees can suddenly become disease and pest magnets. Biochar would definitely help too, but you only need to apply it to the surface gradually, it's not necessary to shoot it in with a railgun or anything :X.

EDIT: Ok I see you're already using azomite. Making compost tea is probably a waste of time in your situation though. Also, the minerals in azomite are not water soluble.
 
Tim Luden
Posts: 26
Location: Missouri
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Thanks for the responses M and Brenda. I'm hopefully picking up a decent wood chipper tomorrow. Supposedly will take 3" limbs down to 1/4" chips. With the amount of debris already piled and 30 years of overgrowth still to trim I should have several tons worth of cellulose. I'm thinking of using half for hugel beds and chipping the other half to spread over the rest with the horse compost.

I was also clearing up the back fence line and noticed how dark and alive the soil was there. You can see in this pic where I dragged a rake to expose soil. Do you think raking the top inch or so off of this and spreading on top might help speed the natural process up?
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Marc Troyka
pollinator
Posts: 367
Location: East Central GA, Ultisol, Zone 8, Humid
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Nah, just plant in it. The worms hate it when you rake them up and move them (they told me so when I merged my hugel beds together). If you keep it intact it will serve as a source of worms and bugs that will migrate out of it as more food becomes available. It takes less than one season for hugel beds to fill with worms, as long as there are any on the property.

I say if you've got so much extra wood and stuff you might make half of it into biochar and spread that out. If your soil isn't acidic, it'll boost legume growth which will help build soil faster, and if it is acidic then it'll correct the pH some and improve yields of everything. If in doubt, biochar, rockdust, and diatomaceous earth are the answer to everything, and unless you're building a pond or a swale, chances are it's better not to dig. The lazier method is often more effective.
 
Lance Wildwood
Posts: 41
Location: Sunshine Coast BC
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You may wish to add http://www.seaagri.com/ if the soil is spent. Seems illogical but it is rather firmly backed up by the data.
http://www.ratical.org/ratville/SEA.html
http://www.acresusa.com/books/closeup.asp?prodid=768&catid=4&pcid=2

It's a rather low application rate, cheap, and need only be applied now and then (depending on what you are growing).
 
Tim Luden
Posts: 26
Location: Missouri
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Lance Wildwood wrote:You may wish to add http://www.seaagri.com/ if the soil is spent. Seems illogical but it is rather firmly backed up by the data.
http://www.ratical.org/ratville/SEA.html
http://www.acresusa.com/books/closeup.asp?prodid=768&catid=4&pcid=2

It's a rather low application rate, cheap, and need only be applied now and then (depending on what you are growing).



Lance is this much different than azomite? I can get it a lot cheaper here in the midwest than seagri. From what I read at the link provided it seems they're both claiming the same thing; all minerals from a to z.
 
Tim Luden
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Location: Missouri
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M Troyka wrote:Nah, just plant in it. The worms hate it when you rake them up and move them (they told me so when I merged my hugel beds together). If you keep it intact it will serve as a source of worms and bugs that will migrate out of it as more food becomes available. It takes less than one season for hugel beds to fill with worms, as long as there are any on the property.

I say if you've got so much extra wood and stuff you might make half of it into biochar and spread that out. If your soil isn't acidic, it'll boost legume growth which will help build soil faster, and if it is acidic then it'll correct the pH some and improve yields of everything. If in doubt, biochar, rockdust, and diatomaceous earth are the answer to everything, and unless you're building a pond or a swale, chances are it's better not to dig. The lazier method is often more effective.


To late on the swales and pond. I'd never heard of biochar (permie rookie) but have just spent the last hour watching vids on it. Thanks M, another obsession started. I've got a friend with a brewery so kegs will be acquired immediately and I already have plenty of 55 steel drums. So on top of the aquaponics, soil revitalizing, rain water harvesting, rocket mass stove and solar heating projects, I don't think I will be getting that already long overdue rest I need any time soon!

By the way the soil is around 6.7 ph.
 
Marc Troyka
pollinator
Posts: 367
Location: East Central GA, Ultisol, Zone 8, Humid
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I think SeaAgri is based in GA where I live . I wouldn't use it anyway for two reasons:

1) It's more or less unprocessed sea salt. Including the salt. Worms don't even like the amount of salt in well washed-out kelp meal, let alone pure sea salt. That cannot be good for your soil.

2) The minerals in SeaAgri are highly soluble, whereas the minerals in rock dust like azomite are not. In other words, SeaAgri will wash out, and Azomite will not (at least not in our lifetimes).

Your soil pH is enviable . In your case biochar will mainly increase the biomass that legumes put out, so use it especially where you intend to plant beans/clover/etc. Boosting legumes makes soil building go much faster.

By the way, it looks like you've planted some trees (I think?). What all have you put in so far?
 
Leila Rich
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Tim, your place looks great!
I don't know much about biochar, but this guy does!
I wouldn't bother with high-tech 'injecting' stuff; I'm pretty sure the vast majority of soil life's quite close to, or on the surface, so you'll probably get a better result by piling goodies on top.
Like chipped trees...I think the only things that dig them more than me are birds and worms
My p is exceptionally high for some unknown reason, so I avoid manures as they can really increase it. Sounds like you have access to plenty? a big pile of manure and chip sounds nice...
Your ph is quite lovely and I think using ash could easily push it too high, but with my 6.9 ph and off-the-charts p, I have zero experience with ash.
Is your pond holding water ok?
 
Tim Luden
Posts: 26
Location: Missouri
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M Troyka wrote:I think SeaAgri is based in GA where I live . I wouldn't use it anyway for two reasons:

1) It's more or less unprocessed sea salt. Including the salt. Worms don't even like the amount of salt in well washed-out kelp meal, let alone pure sea salt. That cannot be good for your soil.

2) The minerals in SeaAgri are highly soluble, whereas the minerals in rock dust like azomite are not. In other words, SeaAgri will wash out, and Azomite will not (at least not in our lifetimes).

Your soil pH is enviable . In your case biochar will mainly increase the biomass that legumes put out, so use it especially where you intend to plant beans/clover/etc. Boosting legumes makes soil building go much faster.

By the way, it looks like you've planted some trees (I think?). What all have you put in so far?


Good to know.

Yes I planted quite a few trees. There were already a thicet of cherry trees and a couple plums so I added several apple, peach and pear.

Middle GA? We moved here from SAV. I didn't bother growing anything except spanish moss and mildew down there!

:Here was my first hugel and some grapes I started next to it.
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Tim Luden
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Location: Missouri
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Leila Rich wrote:Tim, your place looks great!
I don't know much about biochar, but this guy does!
I wouldn't bother with high-tech 'injecting' stuff; I'm pretty sure the vast majority of soil life's quite close to, or on the surface, so you'll probably get a better result by piling goodies on top.
Like chipped trees...I think the only things that dig them more than me are birds and worms
My p is exceptionally high for some unknown reason, so I avoid manures as they can really increase it. Sounds like you have access to plenty? a big pile of manure and chip sounds nice...
Your ph is quite lovely and I think using ash could easily push it too high, but with my 6.9 ph and off-the-charts p, I have zero experience with ash.
Is your pond holding water ok?


Thanks.

I don't know if it is holding well just yet. We got nailed with the remnants of Isaac and one rain a few weeks before that so it just filled out of no where. That first pic iof the pond being dug is only 6 weeks old. I hope it holds as I want to be able to farm a little bluegill out of it. And for a more diverse climate I'm connecting what will be a 6 pool (2 for each tier) multi baffled grey water wetlands area to it.
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Rick Larson
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Location: Manitowoc WI USA Zone 5
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Moved into this house in 1984 and the ground in this 333 feet deep lot was a used up farm field. Barely a half inch of topsoil then sand. I just let the weeds grow. Many types of wild plants were allowed to grow, the largest being joe pye weed, yarrow, catnip, asters, and now mostly goldenrod have all contributed to building up the soil over the years. It might be a foot thick now. I'll have to go measure it.

Wild plants is what built up soil tilth in the first place, and now hardly anyone is interested in applying this long term technique for soil building. I have been harassed off more than one board for postulating this idea!

 
Lance Wildwood
Posts: 41
Location: Sunshine Coast BC
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Howdy:
Well even if you are not going to use SEA-90 (maybe BC worms are different, my neighbours worms don't seem to mind it!) here is the data on it...they're all PDF' so I'll just give the link. When I went to order it last year the shipping cost was too much (2x the product itself) but I just found a source in Vancouver, which is a ferry ride away. Good reading! When I'm done reading I'll start another thread on it.
http://www.seaagri.com/articles.htm

Plant and Flourish
 
Marc Troyka
pollinator
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Location: East Central GA, Ultisol, Zone 8, Humid
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Haha, no spanish moss here but I can understand not being able to grow much besides mildew.

I think you're probably going to have to rework that pond to get it to hold water, here's a thread about how to make that work:
http://www.permies.com/t/3409/ponds/Gley-technique-sealing-ponds
 
Tim Luden
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Location: Missouri
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Ok, I've got the beer kegs on the way to start making some biochar. I wanted to ask some of you if the natural lump charcoal I use in my smokers is the same thing. I had 2 50lb bags that were neglected by being left out in the humidity. Could I not use that and throw it in the compost piles then hose them down with the compost tea I was advised not to use for root drenching?
 
Marc Troyka
pollinator
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Location: East Central GA, Ultisol, Zone 8, Humid
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Well, the lump wood charcoal you buy at the store is generally charred at a very high temperature, so it's not the best, but if you can't use it for anything else then you could certainly toss it in your compost pile.
 
Tim Luden
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Location: Missouri
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Little update for you, I've acquired a kick but wood chipper and the local grocery stores have started giving me truck fulls of produce for the compost piles. As well a local coffee maker is giving me truck fulls of spent coffee grounds and chaff. From what I've been told the chaff is a valuable source of N. This weekend my friend is bringing up a dumpster of horse manure/compost. So I'm about ready to get serious. What are your thoughts on this? I'm thinking of digging out about a 1000 sf keyhole hugel laying freshest wood at bottom, then layers of chaff, manure and rotting wood then finishing the mounds off with the soil I dug out mixed with the compost. I also am having fire search and rescue help me cut the beer kegs in half today so I can start making biochar.
 
LaLena MaeRee
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Make sure any manure, compost, composted manure, or hay/straw/mulch brought in is free of Clopyralid It is recently spreading all across the US, and wiping out broad leafed plants. A few here on permies have discussed issues with it, and apparently once you have it, it sticks with your soil for periods of years so I would hate to see it happen to anyone else.

I like your ideas, the cheap and easy water catchment is beautiful
 
Tim Luden
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Location: Missouri
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LaLena MaeRee wrote:Make sure any manure, compost, composted manure, or hay/straw/mulch brought in is free of Clopyralid It is recently spreading all across the US, and wiping out broad leafed plants. A few here on permies have discussed issues with it, and apparently once you have it, it sticks with your soil for periods of years so I would hate to see it happen to anyone else.

I like your ideas, the cheap and easy water catchment is beautiful


How would I tell if it's tainted other than the outcome? I have full access to the facility. I guess I'd have to figure out where they're bringing in the hay from? Or could I just do some experiments? See if I can get broadleafs to grow in it?
 
Marc Troyka
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Location: East Central GA, Ultisol, Zone 8, Humid
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Tim Luden wrote:
LaLena MaeRee wrote:Make sure any manure, compost, composted manure, or hay/straw/mulch brought in is free of Clopyralid It is recently spreading all across the US, and wiping out broad leafed plants. A few here on permies have discussed issues with it, and apparently once you have it, it sticks with your soil for periods of years so I would hate to see it happen to anyone else.

I like your ideas, the cheap and easy water catchment is beautiful


How would I tell if it's tainted other than the outcome? I have full access to the facility. I guess I'd have to figure out where they're bringing in the hay from? Or could I just do some experiments? See if I can get broadleafs to grow in it?


Pot test sounds like a good idea. Make sure you take at least 4 samples from different parts of the compost pile. I'd plant some grasses in it too, just to make sure there aren't any other sneaky poisons hiding in it. Otherwise, if you can track down where the compost came from and exactly what the animals were fed, and where that was grown, and then find out exactly what kind of herbicide they're using (and they are), then you could check its half-life and see how much trouble it might cause you.
 
LaLena MaeRee
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I found the bioassay guidelines from WSU on detecting clopyralid in compost~
Bioassay

Edit: You could ask where the hay comes from too, I would, that may tell you the answer without experiments. Our local WSU extension rep told me personally that clopyralid is used very heavily allover eastern washington. I believe her because I am from over there, Idaho side, and I have watched those fields be sprayed a LOT.
 
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