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What dynamic accumulator plants do I need to "remineralize" my soil?

 
Adam Buchler
Posts: 70
Location: New Jersey
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I have searched all around for local rockdust options because I hear such great things about it. However, I know that in the long run it's not really a sustainable solution to improving soil on a large scale so I'd rather not use it regardless of how easily it would improve my small scale garden. Anyway, I understand that there are different types of plants...like comfrey? that I can plant which are tap rooted and can pull up minerals from the sub soils. Can anyone give me an idea of what plants I can use in my small backyard garden(which is around 800-900 square feet). I live in NJ(zone 7). Preferably plants that aren't super invasive and hard to manage.
 
John Polk
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Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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Dynamic accumulator plants are what you are looking for.

However, these plants do not produce minerals, but rather, mine the minerals from the soil.
If your soil is lacking those minerals, the plants will have nothing to accumulate.

If the minerals do exist, at lower depths, then deep rooted plants can bring them closer to the top soil. After their growth, you can chop them off at ground level, and their decomposing roots will leave the minerals closer to the surface. The leafy top growth can be either mulched on the surface, or composted and worked into the top soil.

 
Leila Rich
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Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
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As John says, plants need the mineral to be there in the first place.
For example, NZ soils are extremely low in various important minerals/nutrients,
and plants can't mine them as they're not there at all.
This is when I wheel out the old "proper laboritory soil test" thing.
Over here if you tell the 'conventional' labs your property's organic, they'll adapt their advice;
but there's also labs that only suggest organic options

While rock dusts etc are not in the least sustainable, they can 'jump start' the soil.
I thnk seaweed is a fantastic remineraliser, but that's not an option for everyone...
 
Cj Sloane
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Location: Vermont, off grid for 22 years!
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Here's a list of Dynamic Accumulators of Nutrients for Composting
 
Peter Ellis
Posts: 1304
Location: Central New Jersey
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One of the benefits of being in New Jersey is that the seaweed option is relatively nearby, no matter where you are in the state

And what others have said, the plants accumulate and concentrate what is already in the soil. If it is not there, they cannot concentrate it.

Which suggests two lab tests, one at the surface, and one well down into your subsoil. Say three feet down. If the minerals are not there in the subsoil, they will have to be brought in. If they are there, then there is potential for bringing them up with dynamic accumulators.

I have not had my soil tested, if I were planning on being here long term I would, but I do know that where I am in NJ, it is sand all the way down. I do not know how it balances out for minerals, but it is devoid of NPK and has effectively no organic matter. Rough stuff to grow in.
 
Cj Sloane
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I recommend reading the article Mike cites Does Comfrey Really Improve Soil? because it is about someone documenting the effect of comfrey on soil!

...but all these figures are blown away by the sample I took this year under the comfrey plants. After 5 years of comfrey, the topsoil in this sample shows a lower pH and higher percent organic matter than any of the previous samples, and the nutrient levels are practically off the charts – a 47 to 232% increase over the previously observed highs. I did not test for calcium or magnesium either before or after, but just on the basis of NPK the comfrey is completely vindicated.

 
Adam Buchler
Posts: 70
Location: New Jersey
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Well assuming the minerals are there in the subsoil would tree leaves be a good source of minerals? I collected an absurd amount of leaves last fall which I used to mulch all my beds and I also mixed them with manure and garden waste to make compost, which by the way I just used to bury the potatoes I planted. From what I understand trees send some 80% of their mineral content to the leaves?
 
Cj Sloane
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I think it depends on the tree. I've been researching the benefits of various trees to be used for fodder but I've been looking into protein more than anything else.

A quick look at my notes does show that Mulberry is very high in minerals ("A striking feature of mulberry leaves is the mineral content, with ash values up to 25%. Typical calcium contents are around 1.8-2.4% and phosphorus 0.14-0.24%. Espinoza et al. (1999) found potassium values of 1.90-2.87% in leaves and 1.33-1.53% in young stems, and magnesium contents of 0.47-0.63% for leaves and 0.26-0.35% for young stems."

Willow leaves are also high in zinc and magnesium.

The only thing is that I don't think the minerals stay in the leaves during the autumn. I think most of the good stuff in the leaves are reabsorbed by the tree before the leaves fall. That's why if you were going to use leaves for fodder (as I am) you've got to make tree hay in the summer like you make regular hay.
 
Bippy Grace
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Location: Elgin, Texas 581 ft elevation/ zone 8b/ 34 inches avg. rainfall (hah)/ Mediterranean climate
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I'd suggest taking a second look at rock dust. During the Great Depression, we lost most of our topsoil, and it keeps getting degraded. That topsoil had glacial rock dust from the last ice age already in it, but even with that richness in the soil that's been lost, depending on your location, there's wide swaths of mineral deficiencies in the soil.

Part of my family is from the Great Lakes region, which used to be called the goiter belt. My great grandmother died tragically young from a goiter caused by iodine deficiency, in a way that had negative implications for three generations of my family. There's an entire region of soils with insufficient iodine in them. In the south, there's another band of soil that's deficient in selenium. A hundred years ago, White Muscle Disease was an issue- perfectly healthy children would drop over dead, and horses would as well. Not enough selenium in the soils for proper muscle development.

With the advent or railroads bringing in out-of-season (and out-of-region) produce in the 1890's and the development of the non-local, big agra foods, as well as aggressive supplementation of certain types of foods (Iodized salt, vitamin D enhanced milk), these problems just aren't a problem anymore.

However, if you're trying to grow most of YOUR food on YOUR land... if the underlying rock beneath your feet lacks these minerals, so will your plants, and so will you. It takes very little, really, to get more minerals in your soil, and it makes an enormous difference to the health of your soil, from the microbes to the trees.

I get some of mine from a place that makes granite countertops. They have a water jet system (you don't want the dust if they have an aluminum saw, you'll get too much aluminum in your soil), and they just throw out the dust. I bring them baked goods, they save the dust for me in a bucket. It's fantastic stuff, I've used it to bring nearly dead fruit trees back to life.

Rock dust and other mineral fertilizers really are one of the most sustainable ways of improving soil, even for large-scale farms. You don't have to apply that much, that often, and if you practice good cultivation techniques and don't let all your topsoil run off into the ocean, but mulch/compost/use permanent crops, you'll end up with fantastically healthy soils forever. I did some calculations on the soils at my old place, and if I recall correctly, I would need to apply rock dust every year for 5 years, then once every 5 years for another 3-4 times, then once a decade from then on to completely fix my soils.

Given that my house was on old farmland that was gutted during the dust bowl (local records suggest somewhere between 4-8 feet of topsoil lost), I figure it's just putting BACK most of what the soil lost in the first place. I just make sure that I get my minerals from places far enough away from the underlying rock of my location that it'll fix the micro nutrient deficiencies I probably have (selenium being the big one, probably vanadium too).
 
Tim Malacarne
Posts: 226
Location: South central Illinois, USA
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I'm with Bippy... And thanks for the idea, my current rockdust source is a monument place, and the dust is dry and very, very fine... I've used about 50 gallons of the stuff on 5,400 square feet of garden, quite a load, I'd imagine. Gonna see if I can latch onto a countertop place with a wet saw. Thanks again!
 
Permaculture isn't that hard to understand. Sometimes a little bump helps: richsoil.com/cards
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