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Need help with soil fertility reccomendations  RSS feed

 
              
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I live in NW Oregon. I am planting this weekend. I got my soil analysis done professionally. My PH is 5.8

They recommend :
Soil amendments: Dolomite 140

Also the following (all in lbs/1000sq ft):
N-Nitrogen 2.3
S-Sulfur .6

Any suggestions on what brands to use for these amendments? I want organic if possible. I am using ProTime Premium Grass Seed and will be using a light 50% organic mulch.

Added note is that my soil contains a lot of potash so they recommend staying away from adding more. They also said to limit Nitrogen to 1.3 initially to avoid salt damage and split the rest over the active growing season.

Mid summer I tilled the whole area with a Toro Dingo but decided to wait for Sept to plant. Since then every weed known to mankind has come up so I reluctantly sprayed Eraser brand herbicide. I have many fruit trees and plants and am committed to organic but felt I had no choice. I regret it now but it is too late.

This Friday I am tilling whatever is needed into the soil and planting. I would appreciate any suggestions offered. I can't wait past the first week of Oct or I miss the window here.

 
Paul Jenny
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MJC- Welcome. I am glad you are wanting to go organic. I am not the expert here ( Paul Wheaton, the administrator is ) but I think that the dolomite has the same effects as lime which is to raise the pH. Your pH is a little low, but not much. I am not sure why they reccomend sulfur because that lowers pH. I say forget about the chemicals ( I think the dolomite is a chemical) and plant your grass seed. I use the Ringer brand fertilizer. It is an organic fertilizer with an initial burst of nitrogen and has some delayed release of nitrogen also. Once your grass reaches its mowing height ( 3-4 inches ) water infrequently and keep mowing high (3-4 inches).
http://www.richsoil.com/lawn/index.jsp
This article can tell you more. I am sure others will offer some advice too. There is probably more to do before planting or at least other options. Hopefully Paul Wheaton will be able to get back to you also. He has really helped me a lot. Good luck ! Try not to use chemicals. Nothing good comes from it but bad things do.
 
paul wheaton
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The answers to these questions can fill a book, so I'm gonna just give some real general advice.

"olomite" is dolomitic lime.  Cheap!  I always thought of it as ground up limestone, but I could be wrong about that.  It will also add a lot of calcium to your soil - many soils are calcium deficient.

Sulfur is an element.  If you are low enough in sulfur, you will need some - but it does lower pH.  So the lime recommendation might be to compensate for that.

I wouldn't be surprised if your soil turned out to be both sulfur and calcium deficient.

When they say potash, they usually mean potassium.  Having nearly toxic levels of potassium can lead to problems.  The best solution is to grow something in your lawn that looooove potassium and, as an added bonus, generates nitrogen!  Some clovers are good at this!

If you aren't going to add clover, then you want to add a nitrogen that will be as free of potassium as you can get.  How much are you willing to spend?  Do you have a farm supply nearby? 

I wouldn't want to lay down any fertilizer until your first mow.  Mixing in the sulfur and lime now would be cool.

Please, please, please don't use any more herbicides!

 
              
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Thank you both for the quick replies.

When I talked with the person who did my soil analysis, he said he was a little baffled  about the high concentration of potash. The potassium was high at 468 ppm-K Rate and Phosphorus (P1 weak bray) was very high at 116 ppm-P Rate. Sodium was very low at 32 ppm-Na Rate. Sulfur was low at 8 ppm-S rate. Nitrogen was medium at 19 ppm NO3-N rate. They also gave a percentage cation saturation of elements.

The guy I bought the house from built it in 1947 and was an avid fruit gardener. I have 8 fruit trees, raspberries, grapes and figs. I know he put a lot of fireplace ash in a raised garden bed which makes me suspect he did the same in the yard for many years. I also understand this area was once a walnut tree farm so I don't know what they used back then. My soil is loaded with earth worms and it is a dark rich color in many areas. I also have a few pine trees hanging over some areas and don't know what effect the needles have on soil.

I am on a budget but I am willing to spend what I need to do it right. I have about 3050 sq ft sun and 2000 shaded. I believe we have a Farm Rance Supply chain locally.

Am I understanding correctly that I should apply the ringers after first mow?
I will probably avoid the clover as I would like to have just grass.

I could scan the soil report and send but I don't want to overstay my welcome on your advice.

Grateful...Michael
 
paul wheaton
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It sounds like you probably don't need any fertilizer!

If you do choose to use fertilizer, do NOT use ringers.  You need something that is pure N.  In other words, you need 10-0-0 or 5-0-0 or 12-0-0 ... get it?  Ringer is something like 12-5-2.  (N-P-K)  Call the farm supply and see if they carry feather meal. 

You might even do fine without the sulfur and lime, but that stuff is so much better mixed into the soil than put on top, that if you are going to do it at all, now is the time.

 
              
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Got it . I will call farm supply tommorrow about feather meal. I think I will go ahead and till in the sulfur and lime this weekend. Is there such thing as organic lime and sulfur?

I am hoping to seed by Sunday if I can get everything leveled. What do you recommend for covering? I am hearing that a very light layer of dark mulch is good this time of year here in that it keeps the temp a little higher for germination. I was planning on using a roll cage to put it down over the seed.
 
paul wheaton
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Is there such thing as organic lime and sulfur?

I'm quite certain they are organic as is.  They are both mined.

Covering?  If you have lots of time and money, there are all sorts of things you can do.  I usually toss out the seed by hand and then rake it in a bit.  Works fine. 

Rolling it will improve germination by about 20% to 30%. 

Tossing out a bit of loose straw will improve germination about 20% while reducing your need to water by about half.

 
              
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I found feather meal in a 25lb bag at $28.95..They also said blood meal might work?

I just want to make sure I got this all straight before I start tommorrow.

My soil report recommends:

     2.3 lbs of Nitrogen/1000sq ft (they reccommend limiting N initially to
     1.5/1000 to avoid salt damage. Will the feather meal later take care of
     the rest or should I also add dolomite later as they say.

      .6lbs/1000 of sulfur

Under soil amendments columns they list Dolomite and the number 140. Although I will call tommorrow to clarify this, I assume they are saying the form of N should be Dolomite otherwise 140 lbs/1000 seems a bit heavy.

From your reccommendations...I understand
Lime and sulfur in the soil now with tilling and add the feather meal after first mow as my fertilizer?

The guy at the supply store said I might need to calculate my N coverage from percentage to lbs. He said something about the product being rated at 12% N/lb therefor if I need 2 lbs N, I would need to do some multiplying...is this true
 
paul wheaton
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The feather meal seems expensive, but the last time I bought it, I bought it by the ton.

Blood meal should work too - although I've never monkeyed with it.  I like the feather meal better because it has a very slow release.

Yup!  To get about 2 pounds of N, you would need about 16 pounds of feather meal.

 
              
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Could I sub feather meal for the dolomite if I can find it cheaper and just till it into the soil?
 
paul wheaton
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MJC wrote:
Could I sub feather meal for the dolomite if I can find it cheaper and just till it into the soil?


Whoa!  No way!

These are two radically different things! 

The dolomite is "dolomitic lime", a type of lime.  Lime, as in smashed up limestone.  Lime will raise the pH of your soil and will add calcium which will your plants (grass) needs, will soften your soil and make the earthworms happy.  This particular variation of lime has lots of magnesium too.

The feather meal is going to provide nitrogen (N).  Grass is a nitrogen pig. 

 
Paul Jenny
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Hi Paul-  This thread brings a question to mind. I am about to send a sample to your son to test its pH. Should I have a complete analysis done and does your son do that also ? I know there is a place in Fort Wayne,IN ( the closest place to me ) that will do one for around ten bucks. You mentioned that most lawns are Ca deficent. Of course there is the chance that I am just looking for trouble. The old addage comes to mind - "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."  I am just trying to cover all bases.  
 
paul wheaton
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Paul,

Dane doesn't have the lab to do anything other than pH.  A full lab test would be better. 
 
              
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I called the lab today and indeed I need to add 140lbs of dolomite/100 sq ft. I hope this stuff is heavy or I may be replacing a couple sets of wheels on the spreader

Paul_Jenny
As far a testing labs go, I found mine through the county extention master gardener hot line. If all else fails for you can call the one here and mail them a sample. It cost about $13 for just analysis and $18 for analysis with reccommendations. The report was very thorough. And I am able to call anytime for clarification and other reccommendations

A&L Western Agricultural Labs
10220 SW Nimbus Ave
BLDG K-9
Portland, OR 97223
(503) 968-9225
 
              
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I got clarification that I need sulfate sulfur not elemental.

I found a great supplier near my house where I can use my contractor licence.

So here is the final for 5000 sq ft:

Today I will till in
700lbs of dolomite
3.5 lbs of Split Pea Sulfur
62.5 lbs feather meal (to meet requirement of 1.5 lbs/1000 sq ft nitrogen)

I will add more feather meal later after first mow


 
paul wheaton
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I would not till in the feather meal.  I would apply it later.
 
              
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Any reccommendations for a good nitrogen source to till in @ 1.3 lbs/1000 sq ft?
 
paul wheaton
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Don't till in the N!  You want it to leak in and get used, not end up in the ground water.
 
              
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Got it..

I was a little confused about the elemental vs sulfate sulfur. The guy who did my soil sample insisted it not be elemental. The gal at the supply store said I will not be able to find sulfate and insisted that gypsum is what I needed...apparently her degree is in this stuff. Besides, she does not like the way this particular guy words his soil reports. So now I have gypsum but have not put it down yet. I needed so little sulfur that I thought I would just use a hand spreader. It works out to 17lbs for 5000 sq ft

I put down the 700 lbs of Dolomite this evening...reminded me of being in New England at night when it snows.

I will add feather meal after first mow.
 
paul wheaton
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I've never added Gypsum to soils.  It seems controversial.  I've read scientific reports where gympsum was great, and some where it was useless.  I think it depends on a lot of things. 

Take a look at this:  http://www.ipm.iastate.edu/ipm/hortnews/2000/7-21-2000/limelawn.htm

Since gypsum contains calcium and sulfur, I would think that you might add it instead of lime and sulfur.

Based on what you have said so far ...  I would think that the recommendation takes into account the pH changing effect of each and you have probably now laid down too much lime to NOT lay down the sulfur.  I suggest that you now add sufur as recommended.

 
              
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Thanks Paul...good article on Gypsum. I did end up adding 40 lbs of gypsum mainly because it was 90% sulfite sulfur.

Everything is tilled and I am finishing up with the final details before planting seed by Wednesday. I am very pleased with how level the area is now which was one of the main reasons for doing this project. I have 8 fruit trees to finish putting a border around and add cedar chips to and some final rolling and raking, then I will be ready to plant.

I assume it would be good to add some feather meal below the cedar chips to fertilize the trees? My next project will be getting better educated on organic fruit tree practices.
 
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I just spent the weekend at a cider party and an orchard.  The orchard had not been cared for, and it sounds like myself and two other people with orchard experience are going to try a couple of minimalistic things.  All organic of course.

First, I would never use cedar chips.  They make your growies sad.  Full of all sorts of natural herbicides. 

For fruit trees, I like to put down moldy alfalfa hay.  You can usually get it for free when somebody left a stack of bales out in the rain and it got ruined.  Do not let the hay get within a foot of the tree. 
 
              
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This may explain why my lilacs are not doing so well. You say not to put the straw within a foot of the tree. I have these borders around the trunks of all my trees about 2 feet out and I have been filling them with the chips to control weeds and keep moisture in.

Can I just put some compost instead? Is there something else that would work well against the trunk areas to keep the grass out and moisture in? I have a circle drip system around each one also.
 
paul wheaton
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hay is green.  straw is yellow.

Wood chips of any kind can be problematic. They take up available nitrogen.

Some wood chips also intoduce stuff that can make plants sick (cedar is one, pine is another).

Circle drip system:  lots of bucks, I think a thick hay mulch is better.
 
              
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I said straw but meant hay
paul wheaton wrote:
Do not let the hay get within a foot of the tree.

I was curious what you meant by not putting hay within 1 foot of the tree?

My circle drip was actually on the cheap. It is well done but my own design by default. While I had the yard tore up, I installed a 4 zone sprinkler system. Instead of doing the standard pop ups etc throughout the yard, I placed about six "plug-in's" throughout the yard. They are basically just pipes above ground and two set below. I installed basic quick disconnect valves and made up several lengths of hose from an old hose and I use stick-in sprinklers. The beauty of it is the flexibility and not having to repair the pop ups.

I figure I am saving 3-5 hours per week during the summer not having to hand water. Besides, Home D was clearing out all their older style Toro stuff and I got it all for pennies on the dollar.
 
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Paul,
What are your thoughts on Peat Moss? I was just given seven 3.8 cu ft bales. I was thinking of spreading a light layer over my seed to help keep the temp up. The air is getting pretty cool here these days. I know straw is probably better but I can't beat the price on this peat. My only concern was how it might affect the PH.

Also, how much and often should I water? I was going to set the sprinklers for 15 minutes, 3 times per day when it isn't raining.
 
              
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I should mention that everything is done as of Tuesday. I spread the seed, raked it in, and rolled it twice. I can still see a lot of seeds on top. I haven't got the sprinklers set up yet. Last night was the first light rain and I supplemented a couple areas with water last night. I hope to get the sprinklers finished by tonight. My sister passed away last night and I will not be available much over the next week to water so I want to make sure I have the timers set at optimal.

If I can't use the peat on the lawn, is there any other use for it or should I give it to someone else?
 
              
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paul wheaton wrote:
To start, water very lightly twice a day.  When you see the very first bits of grass, switch to once a day.  When the grass is an inch tall, once every two days.  When the grass is two inches tall, once every three days.  When the grass is four inches tall, once every four days ...   mow at about four or five inches and then give your grass water only when it needs it.


I found your answer to the watering schedule...thanks
 
paul wheaton
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peat moss is very acidic.  I think it has a pH of 4.5.  Plus, if you have much of it, it will dry out and repel water.  It has a variety of other issues.

The up side of peat moss is that it is pure organic matter!  If you were to till it in along with extra lime, that could be pretty good.  As long as it wasn't too much. 

You definitely don't want much peat on the surface.

I would keep one bag for future use:  there could be something worth using it on.  Then give the rest away.



 
              
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I am not seeing my new seed germinate yet but I am noticing my neighbors onion grass taking hold in some areas and popping up all over. Any suggestions on getting rid of this stuff? I dug up a few small clumps and there were about 20 onion bulbs...this stuff seems tenacious.
 
              
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Lots of green showing through. I am wondering how careful I need to be about walking on it? I have to water and have been pulling weeds and raking leaves.
 
paul wheaton
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I would avoid walking on it until it is ready to be mowed.  But ... yeah the leaves are gonna smother the baby grasses - so they gotta go.
 
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