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Should I pH amend my acid soil?

 
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I'm wondering how altering my soil pH with limestone or wood ash fits in with Permaculture principles.
I have very acid silty loam and I'm preparing an area to grow annual crops, hoping to achieve something not entirely unlike a Fukuoka natural farming solution. Would it be enough to just improve the texture and life of the soil by the addition of organic materials (primarily seaweed and twiggy branches, hopefully biochar longer term) or will a more targeted approach to modify the pH be needed? One off or long term?
I do have access to wood ash. We heat the house and cook mainly on a wood fired range. I'm hoping in time that most of the wood fuel will come from our own coppice wood (still a small proportion at present) which would create a semi closed system. I'd obviously quite like not to have to lug the ash down the hill to the growing area; there are fruit bushes and trees closer to the house that would benefit from wood ash also.
How much will removing the coppice wood affect the pH in the coppiced areas? Shouldn't the ash be redistributed evenly over the 'robbed' areas?
Am I over analysing this? It just seems I would be better trying to get plants adapted to the soil (via my landracing approach) rather than trying to change the soil too much and have to keep fighting to keep the pH higher.
 
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Nancy Reading wrote:I'm wondering how altering my soil pH with limestone or wood ash fits in with Permaculture principles.
I have very acid silty loam and I'm preparing an area to grow annual crops, hoping to achieve something not entirely unlike a Fukuoka natural farming solution. Would it be enough to just improve the texture and life of the soil by the addition of organic materials (primarily seaweed and twiggy branches, hopefully biochar longer term) or will a more targeted approach to modify the pH be needed? One off or long term?
I do have access to wood ash. We heat the house and cook mainly on a wood fired range. I'm hoping in time that most of the wood fuel will come from our own coppice wood (still a small proportion at present) which would create a semi closed system. I'd obviously quite like not to have to lug the ash down the hill to the growing area; there are fruit bushes and trees closer to the house that would benefit from wood ash also.


I might avoid slaked lime. Yeah it works, but the mining, the processing, the transport all add up. And it's expensive. Wood ash is good and can give a boost in potassium as it is extremely water soluble. I've read some studies on using waste from pulp mills to buffer pH, but then, I'm not sure I'd want to add that to my garden. Manure compost has a high pH (~8) and when mixed with straw (or dry pine needles) could be a good option. Make sure you aren't in a floodplain. Also, take a sample of any manure compost (or normal compost) from the source, mix it 50/50 with your native soil and sprout some beans, radish and buckwheat in it.  This is an easy test to see if there are any residual herbicides. In general, I'd avoid horse manure.  Bottom line, find a way to boost organic matter. It will buffer the pH and have all sorts of wonderful side effects.

Nancy Reading wrote:How much will removing the coppice wood affect the pH in the coppiced areas? Shouldn't the ash be redistributed evenly over the 'robbed' areas?


I am actually working on a literature review on this very subject. My primary focus in on the pacific and inland northwest but I have papers from all over the world. The big issues I've seen, is what was the land prior to coppice culture plantings; ag land, forested land, marginal land, grassland. All these can skew the longterm outcomes. The other major issue I see is that all of the studies I have read tend to treat coppice culture installments like traditional ag, meaning, straight rows, bare ground, and strip as fast as possible. There aren't any studies on how creating a "guild", increasing plant diversity, percentage of harvest and  the effects of an "enhanced" system on long term regenerative capacity. I actually have grant proposal out to look into this exact topic. I should hear by the end of feb 2022 if it will be funded.

Nancy Reading wrote:Am I over analysing this? It just seems I would be better trying to get plants adapted to the soil (via my landracing approach) rather than trying to change the soil too much and have to keep fighting to keep the pH higher.


This is a good idea either way. but BUILD YOUR ORGANIC MATTER and stuff should fall into place nicely.
regards.
P.
 
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Do you make bone broth?

Have you tried taking the bones and grinding them to use as bonemeal?

Adding bonemeal is similar to adding manure and to me makes use of those wonderful bones.
 
Nancy Reading
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Patrick Rahilly wrote:
I might avoid slaked lime. Yeah it works, but the mining, the processing, the transport all add up. And it's expensive.


Yeah. I've heard that in the UK ground limestone is the least bad option. I do occasionally find lumps of chalk which presumably were from previous attempts to alter pH. I'm quite keen on not buying in stuff if possible, as you say it's not just a financial cost.

Wood ash is good and can give a boost in potassium as it is extremely water soluble.


Well wood ash is what I've got, and in my wet climate that solubility is one of the reasons for the low pH I believe. Not a flood plain, just a fair amount of rain!

Bottom line, find a way to boost organic matter. It will buffer the pH and have all sorts of wonderful side effects.


That's what I need to know!

The big issues I've seen, is what was the land prior to coppice culture plantings; ag land, forested land, marginal land, grassland. All these can skew the longterm outcomes.


I'd be interested if you can share a summary. My area before was relatively poor grassland - sheep grazing. We are in a marginal agricultural area here. In the more distant past the field was ploughed and used for growing seed potatoes. The soil is very compacted, and only a foot or two deep on top of the bedrock, but is potentially amongst the best in the area. I haven't done much planting around the coppice trees (there has been lots of other things to do!) but my coppice is long rotation coppice in the main - and I'm just starting to plant more fruiting shrubs like blackcurrant and raspberry.  Good luck on your grant application.
 
Nancy Reading
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Anne Miller wrote:Do you make bone broth?

Have you tried taking the bones and grinding them to use as bonemeal?

Adding bonemeal is similar to adding manure and to me makes use of those wonderful bones.



Now that's something I haven't thought of! I do make bone broth - actually for the dogs. I have a growing mastiff and a getting elderly labrador retriever and making bone jelly to add to their dinner is something I do on a regular basis - all that connective tissue is so good for them!  
I suppose grinding the bones will make the calcium incorporate faster due to larger surface area.  I'll have to look into the practicalities of grinding them. They tend to be large beef bones so quite chunky! But if I don't grind them the dogs would dig them back up again!  I have been putting the bones in the bin, so this will stop a waste stream too. Thanks Anne!
 
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An alternative to soil amending that I'd like to suggest is using what you got, planting things that prefer acidic soils. For foodstuffs, blueberries, many legumes, currants & gooseberries, raspberries and even peanuts can do well in acidic soils. Blueberries need a more acidic soil, and for the most part, will not do well in a soil with a pH over 6.0, whereas some of the others previously mentioned tend to be more tolerant of less acidic soils and have a broader range of soil pH that they can grow well in. If you desire ornamentals, plants like hydrangeas and gardenias like acidic soils.

Have you had a soil analysis done and know what the average pH is?
 
Nancy Reading
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Hi James,
Thanks. I am growing soft fruit in other parts of the field - in amongst the trees and on sunny edges. I just planted blueberries last year - on a sort of hugel bed to give them better drainage. So far they're doing fine. Blackcurrants and raspberries do love it here, and I'm starting to get good crops of both these, and expanding other fruit planting too.
I've done a bit of pH testing see here for example, but ought to do it again with distilled water I suppose. I've no reason to assume the soil is less acidic than the water in the burn (stream) though - about pH 5 I think!
 
Anne Miller
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Nancy said, " They tend to be large beef bones so quite chunky!



Larger bones will present some obstacles.

Maybe you can get some rib bones and chicken bones as these will be easier to break up and grind up. Cooking the bones will help make them easier to grind and cooking as long as possible.
 
Patrick Rahilly
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Nancy Reading wrote: I'd be interested if you can share a summary. My area before was relatively poor grassland - sheep grazing. We are in a marginal agricultural area here. In the more distant past the field was ploughed and used for growing seed potatoes. The soil is very compacted, and only a foot or two deep on top of the bedrock, but is potentially amongst the best in the area. I haven't done much planting around the coppice trees (there has been lots of other things to do!) but my coppice is long rotation coppice in the main - and I'm just starting to plant more fruiting shrubs like blackcurrant and raspberry.  Good luck on your grant application.



Nancy, I sent you a link to my proposal in a PM. if anyone else want's to see it, send me a note. I'm not ready to go full public cuz it ain't funded YET! Soon enough :)
 
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