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what do you think about my soil? (Orange County, CA)

 
Ronnie Yu
Posts: 31
Location: Orange County, CA
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I finally got around to digging some holes around my yard to collect soil samples for a soil test.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LKe9c0oVrKY

90% of the yard is covered in various grasses and sedges (St. Augustine, Bermuda, nutsedge and at least two others). So there's typically maybe a inch of organic material by the roots, but directly under that is a thick layer of reddish-orangish-brown clay, with 1-2 inch rocks scattered throughout. That generally goes down to about a foot, but then past that the soil is more sandy and crumbly (this video only goes down to the clay layer). The hole is about a foot in diameter and two feet deep. I didn't find one earthworm.

Some history: The land here was once part of a large citrus grove. That went on for about 50 years, until it was purchased and cleared by developers. Then in the 80s, the area that is now my back yard was dug up completely and an underground drainage channel was installed (see here for photo: http://www.permies.com/t/26157/trees/drainage-channel-running-backyard). So the soil profile is probably all screwed up.

That said, all the trees in the backyard seem to like the soil just fine. So long as the soil remains moist I think the trees have no problem growing their roots in and through the clay. I found some grass/sedge roots up to 1.5 ft down.
 
Adam Klaus
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gardener
Posts: 946
Location: 6200' westen slope of colorado, zone 6
65
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The soil in OC is quite a marvel to me. My parents yard is pretty similar to what you describe, they are in Mission Viejo. At first glance, looking at the texture and lack of soil life, I would think nothing would grow there. But strangely enough, it does, and grows well. The climate there is so wonderful that I think it overcomes some of the soil shortcomings. Of course, there is also a huge potential upside to growing in that soil, in that a little bit of improvement would likely yield huge benefits for you.

What did you soil test numbers come back as? I cant convince my folks to think of the soil as anything more than a place for roots to sit. No compost, no soil test, no nada. Curious about what the mineral levels look like in those old citrus grove soils. OC would have been an ag wonderland back in the day, that's for sure.
 
Ronnie Yu
Posts: 31
Location: Orange County, CA
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I think you're right about the climate. Too bad it only really rains in the winter though! I haven't sent my soil samples in yet, but will post the results here once I do.
 
John Elliott
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Looks like great soil to build an adobe mission with.

There's a lot of clay in my soil too, and it took me a while to get earthworms back in it. Once you cut the dependence on herbicides/pesticides/fungicides/industrial fertilizers, you can start to see the soil life return. Working in organic matter also helps speed up the process. As does bringing back "samples" of soil life from wild places. If you ever get down to San Clemente, take the Cristianitos exit to the San Mateo campground and walk the nature trails with your bucket and shovel. If you see some particularly lush stand of vegetation, get a soil sample (and the leaf litter too!) so that you can re-introduce that soil life to your back yard. It's real easy, just dump the dirt anywhere and water it in good. All the nematodes, collembolans, arthropods, insects and fungi will make themselves at home in short order.

Soil life has almost been banished from the urban areas of Southern California. Even the golf courses and parks and agricultural fields get treated so often that little life remains. The only remaining islands of soil life are in areas that are off-limits to development -- campgrounds, the National Forest, wetlands, and seasonal river beds.
 
Adam Klaus
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gardener
Posts: 946
Location: 6200' westen slope of colorado, zone 6
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^^^ really good idea John. Also maybe in all the leaf litter out at Caspers Park or O'Neill Park.
 
Ronnie Yu
Posts: 31
Location: Orange County, CA
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Thanks for the San Clemente tip, it's only 30 minutes away

Are there laws/regulations that prohibit taking away buckets full of dirt?
 
John Elliott
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Ronnie Yu wrote:Thanks for the San Clemente tip, it's only 30 minutes away

Are there laws/regulations that prohibit taking away buckets full of dirt?


Not if you appear eccentric enough.
 
Joe Moore
Posts: 18
Location: Breckenridge, CO
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That is a great idea. I was at a workshop years ago on super small scale aquaponics with Scott Kellogg (Radix Center) and one of the methods for "inoculating" the water was to obtain water from 3 different wild streams or ponds. This introduces all sorts of "native" biota to the ecosystem. Something similar for the soil should also be great.

Maybe stacking functions by turning this into an OC camping road trip?

How is the seaweed in Orange County? I'm originally from New England and some gardeners used to take heaps of it hope to build soil.
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