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trinda storey
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My soil ph is 6.5-7 how do I get it to a more optimized range? I'm removing to grass and need to cover the soil until I'm ready plant. Should I mulch or plans cover crop to repair soil? It is mostly sand
 
Henry Jabel
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That seems like a pretty good range already for growing a lot of different plants. Working with what you have is easier than adding ammendments.
 
Angelika Maier
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soil ph is only one minor indicator.
 
Travis Johnson
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I would die to have soil naturally in the 6.5 to 7.0 range. I have a truck coming this week with 30 tons of lime to get my soil from 5.8 to 6.5 ph!

What is your nitrogen, phosphate and your potassium at? Again they are not the end all be all either, but getting them into proper range can really help before you get into the trace minerals.
 
James Freyr
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I second Henry and Travis as the pH is already in quite a good range. Have you had a complete soil test done to establish the phosphorus, potassium and other element levels? Without holding a handful of your soil or seeing a soil test, wood chip mulch would be a good way to go about preventing erosion and improving the soil instead of leaving it fallow. A couple downsides to mostly sand soil is it won't hold a lot of water, so regular rain/irrigation may be necessary. The other downside is it will have a low cation exchange capacity (CEC, and a soil test will give you this value) which is a soils ability to hold onto nutrients for the plants to use, otherwise they can rinse right on thru the soil when it rains.
 
trinda storey
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It's not to alkaline? I haven't gotten it tested I just have a ph meter
 
Angelika Maier
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The complete soil test is done by a lab.
 
Travis Johnson
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trinda storey wrote:It's not to alkaline? I haven't gotten it tested I just have a ph meter


You are not even on the alkaline part of the charts.

0-7 is acidic soil, and anything from 7-14 is alkaline soil. For that reason 7 is considered neutral and what most veggies likes. Grass can tolerate 6-7 PH. It is worth investing in lime to get the soil ph from 6.0 to 6.5 for grass for instance, but not really worth the cost to go from 6.5 to 7.0. There are a few veggies exceptions of course like potatoes that like acidic soil with high nitrogen as does rhubarb.

PH is important because it locks up the nutrients in the soil so getting your PH right is really important, but that is not an issue you have. Now you have to look at the NPK (through a $12 soil test) and see where you are at to correct deficiencies. What are you experiencing that seems "off". Often times an experienced gardener/farmer can tell by the types of plants thriving, or discoloration in the plant. For instance this year my wife bought some plants from a local school and the tips of their lower leaves are yellowed...a classic sign the school failed to get enough phosphate into their potting soil. We can just add some and hope we are close, but a soil sample will tell us exactly what we need.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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pH 7.0 is neutral, not acidic (0.0 to 6.99) and not alkaline (7.1 to 14.0) Ideal soil pH for almost all plants is 6.5 to 6.8 (very slighltly acidic), Most berry bearing bushes like more acidity (5.0 to 5.5).

Your soil pH is near perfect but pH is only an indicator, soil science traditionally puts far to much emphasis on pH.
Diversity of mineral content, exchangeable cations available, humus content, soil microbiology are all far more important than pH.

Plants will put out exudates that signal microorganisms to adjust the pH of soil directly in contact with their roots so really, as long as you are in the plants preferred ball park, you are good to go.

Redhawk
 
Travis Johnson
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I would not call soil PH as overrated, it is absolutely vital to the growth of whatever a farmer or gardener wants to grow. Get the soil PH off and no matter what the soil has for amendments, it just will not grow well. But oh my, get the PH right and ALONG WITH other soil amendments, it will really take off. In other words it is a first step. An absolutely critical first step, but fortunately a very easy one to correct.

 
Travis Johnson
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Just for fun, I am going to list my latest soil sample taken last week so people can learn from it. Just for overall information, I am converting a former 10 acre corn field into a newly sown grass for hay. The soil test came back as such:

Soil PH: 5.9 (medium)
Organic Matter: 5.0 (medium)
Phosphorous: 11.6 (optimum)
Potassium:2.4 (medium)
Calcium: 46.8 (Medium)
Magnesium:10.9 (Optimum)
Sulfur: 7 (Medium)
Boron: .3 (Medium)
Copper: .67 (Medium)
Iron: 4.4 (Medium)
Manganese:2.4 (Medium)
Zinc: .9 (Optimum)

To raise the PH to 6.0 would require 0 pounds of lime per acre
To raise the PH to 6.5 would require 3500 pounds of lime per acre

Major nutrient application rates are:

40 pounds of nitrogen per acre (n)
50 Pounds of potash per acre (p)
150 pounds of potash per acre (k)

When all is said and down, it will take 17 tons of lime, and 2 tons of 5/13/41 fertilizer to get this field back into shape. The lime is $22.50 per ton, and the fertilizer is $420 per ton, for a total cost of $1222.50.

While not really part of this discussion, just so others know, it requires 6 pounds of Timothy seed per acre, and 6 pounds of Red Clover per acre, and 50 pounds of Oats. That total cost is around $600.

 
Judith Browning
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it will take 17 tons of lime, and 2 tons of 5/13/41 fertilizer to get this field back


Out of curiosity, what type of lime and 5/13/41 fertilizer do you use?  Many of us are following organic guidelines or better when it comes to farm or garden inputs so would be using, if at all, for example, a dolomite lime, something that would improve the PH over years, not a quick working more caustic hydrated lime. 
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Travis,  I've been a soil scientist for over 35 years and I have only noticed pH being "vital" when it is related to Artificial, chemical fertilizer use.
If you are actually building soil instead of turning it to dirt, the pH will be adjusted by the plants growing.
The only place pH really counts is within the .5mm of soil surrounding a root, the rest of the soil isn't in play since that is also the distance bacteria and fungi hyphae work with the root.

A soil test gives you the means to artificially induce growth of plants, this is why every bit of non- organically grown food found in grocery stores has a far less dense nutrient profile than the Organic variety and that has less dense nutrient profiles than grown at home permaculture type grown foods.
Soil science disregards the biology of soil, it has a singular focus and that is mineral content and pH is a part of chemistry. 

Artificial fertilizers kill the microbiome and since soil is a living thing, composed of many different bacteria, fungi, amoeba, springtails, nematodes, etc., killing them with harsh chemical fertilizers turns the soil into something that only has minerals, this is dirt.
Dirt is not healthy for plants, they will grow in it for a while but it is a non sustainable method in use only since the end of World War 1.
It is also around this time that people started getting sicker than ever before and that trend continues today.

So I think it really depends on which methodology you want to follow as to how much attention you give and how much validity you give chemical soil tests.
Yes they are a tool but that tool only gives us at best 1/2 the information we need to grow nutrient dense foods, be that foods for people or foods for animals.

Redhawk
 
Travis Johnson
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Judith Browning wrote:
it will take 17 tons of lime, and 2 tons of 5/13/41 fertilizer to get this field back


Out of curiosity, what type of lime and 5/13/41 fertilizer do you use?  Many of us are following organic guidelines or better when it comes to farm or garden inputs so would be using, if at all, for example, a dolomite lime, something that would improve the PH over years, not a quick working more caustic hydrated lime. 


On this field I am using Mill Lime which is a lime that comes out of a paper mill. They use it as part of their paper making process and why it is so cheap. In essence it is a waste product so I am only paying for trucking from a mill only 40 minutes away. It actually is a little better then quarried lime as the scrubbing process fortifies it somewhat. It is used .9 to 1 in ratio to quarried lime.

But that is just this field, on most fields we use AlgeaFiber, which is used by a local plant to make a food product called Carregean, which makes jello suspend. Kind of funky stuff and comes from seaweed. That is awesome stuff for us farmers as it has lime properties, but lots of trace minerals. No NPK levels to speak of, but micro nutrients it sure has. This product has two issues. It's cost is only $1.90 a ton, but it takes 10 tons of it to equate to 1 ton of quarried lime. On my field, it would take 170 tons of it, and that means a LOT of loading and spreading which costs money. That also means it would smoother grass, so it can only be put on ground that will be tilled under like corn ground. And then there is availability. Everyone wants it, so right now they are making orders for next January.

Another product we normally use is wood ash coming from biomass boilers that produce electricity for the grid. This Bio Ash is no different then the ash coming out of your wood stove, and has lime properties, but also NPK properties as well. It is really good stuff, and I would have used that, but there is none to be had right now. They are behind on orders by about a week.

The final lime product I could use, but do not, is Lime-Sludge. Quite a few years ago they found out every farmer wanted Mill Lime, but few wanted Sludge. Sludge is the 1% of human waste waste water treatment plants can not break down. So they had an idea, get farmers in Maine who have very acidic soil to take it by mixing it with sludge...100% straight human waste. That is NOT going on my land though.
 
Travis Johnson
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Judith Browning wrote:
it will take 17 tons of lime, and 2 tons of 5/13/41 fertilizer to get this field back


Out of curiosity, what type of lime and 5/13/41 fertilizer do you use?  Many of us are following organic guidelines or better when it comes to farm or garden inputs so would be using, if at all, for example, a dolomite lime, something that would improve the PH over years, not a quick working more caustic hydrated lime. 


This field is unique in that we got a government grant to convert it from corn into grass, build a road across it, and then add a lot of swales. In actuality it is a very long story that spans 3 years, a Federal Court battle, a dairy farm that went out of business, and a lot of erosion. Erosion being a VERY key word, hence the swales that need to be installed!

When you get government grants, it is nice to have ample money to do the job, but when you "take the King's shilling, you do the King's bidding too". So it is here. The rules are the rules are the rules. Don't go by the rules, and do not get paid. Part of the rules is bringing this field up to 100% vitality, so that means adding lime and fertilizer. Normally we use what we got, liquid dairy cow manure and sheep manure, but just don't have the volume, nor the time. The latter is critical. The soil engineer specified cool season grasses (Timothy and Red Clover) which must be in the ground before June 15th. That is tomorrow! So to get the lime and fertilizer on the field, tilled under and seed broadcast, we had no alternative but to go with 5/13/41.

Under normal conditions we rely on sheep manure and liquid dairy cow manure to get us where we need to be for NPK, and AlgeaFiber for lime, but just don't have the time this year. Fortunately though, Mill Lime is a 30 ton minimum delivery, so we will have 13 ton available for other fields. With corn, we do side dress with a little liquid urea just to pop the cob a bit, but before we till for corn ground, sheep and liquid dairy cow manure is what is used for the bulk of our fertilizing needs. It is all specified under our CNMP...Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan.
 
Travis Johnson
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Bryant RedHawk wrote:Travis,  I've been a soil scientist for over 35 years and I have only noticed pH being "vital" when it is related to Artificial, chemical fertilizer use.
If you are actually building soil instead of turning it to dirt, the pH will be adjusted by the plants growing.
The only place pH really counts is within the .5mm of soil surrounding a root, the rest of the soil isn't in play since that is also the distance bacteria and fungi hyphae work with the root.

A soil test gives you the means to artificially induce growth of plants, this is why every bit of non- organically grown food found in grocery stores has a far less dense nutrient profile than the Organic variety and that has less dense nutrient profiles than grown at home permaculture type grown foods.
Soil science disregards the biology of soil, it has a singular focus and that is mineral content and pH is a part of chemistry. 

Artificial fertilizers kill the microbiome and since soil is a living thing, composed of many different bacteria, fungi, amoeba, springtails, nematodes, etc., killing them with harsh chemical fertilizers turns the soil into something that only has minerals, this is dirt.
Dirt is not healthy for plants, they will grow in it for a while but it is a non sustainable method in use only since the end of World War 1.
It is also around this time that people started getting sicker than ever before and that trend continues today.

So I think it really depends on which methodology you want to follow as to how much attention you give and how much validity you give chemical soil tests.
Yes they are a tool but that tool only gives us at best 1/2 the information we need to grow nutrient dense foods, be that foods for people or foods for animals.

Redhawk


This has not been our experience at all. As stated in some things above, we use copious amounts of manure simply because we have it to use and why our organic matter percentage is so high. In fact in this field it is rather low compared to other fields that are nudging close to the "above optimum" levels.

I watched some Gabe Brown videos and the interesting thing was, what he was showing is the exact same thing we are getting here. Part of that proof is explosive worm populations. As I plow, the birds run just behind me knowing there are worms and night crawlers everywhere. But all this stands to reason; Gabe Brown uses animal grazing to spread manure around, where as we do so using manure spreaders. It is accomplishing the same exact thing, putting organic matter back into the soil. The thing is, where he lives, they do not have access to the manure that we have here, so they rely upon chemical fertilizers to make up for it. He found a way around chemical fertilizer dependency that is the status quo where he lives, but we have had that for 280 years!

But all that leads up to lime and PH levels. Our experience has shown, even without chemical fertilizer dependency, and with lots of organic matter applied yearly, without having the PH at the right levels, it really limits the plants ability to uptake the ideal conditions in the soil. As stated in other replies on here, we can get ideal major and minor nutrients from manure from sheep and cows, our Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan ensures that, but if the PH is too low, we get less than optimum growth. Since lime is a major cost here, when we do invest in it, it really helps. By helps, I mean A LOT. Again this is experience and not theory, but it nearly doubles our production on a given field. When I asked an agronomist as to why, he said a lack of lime (low PH) has the same effect as drought, by limiting a plants ability to up take it, it just is not going to grow. Again, this is with manure-fertilized fields.
 
Angelika Maier
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Bryant, that is exciting having a soil scientist here. So you are advocating against soil test? Many organic farmers use them. I am not very scientific myself and would rather not do a soil test. Apart from the expense, I don't like measuring. But my soil is probably not very balanced, we had to build up the soil from scratch. I cannot grow beetrot the roots are too small for my taste, something that simple than beetroot everyone can grow this!!! I plant to use the steiner mixture 500.
 
Travis Johnson
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I don't think he is advocating not to soil test, though I can not certainly speak for him; I think he is saying that soil testing (at least here in the USA) is based on chemical compositions and does not take into account microbial, fungi and bacteria.

I agree 100%, it doesn't, but the problem is there is a mantra in farming; "It is just a guess, unless you test." As incomplete as soil testing is now, it is at least SOMETHING to gauge soil by. And since life is about chemical composition and the interactions thereof, there is some merit to soil testing as it is. We as farmers/gardeners have to get at least some of these chemical chain reactions going or its just not going to produce vibrant plant life.

Without question, microbes, fungi and bacteria play a critical role that scientists have just started to learn about, but we cannot throw the baby out with the bath water either. Take for example organic matter, here...where I live, organic matter is overrated. Because people read so much about farming and automatically think organic matter in soil is depleted, they add it here. The reality is, Maine has typically used manure for fertilizer and that produces organic matter, microbes, fungi and bacteria. HOWEVER, most places in the USA do not, for instance the mid atlantic state's average organic matter at a mere 1%...so for them organic matter is NOT overrated. It can be, but it depends. Same with PH levels, major, and micro nutrients. Best to know what you have no matter where you live in the world.

Now to quantify this in real life terms, IF ph levels, major and micro nutrient levels were not required, and microbes, fungi and bacteria were all that were required for vibrant plant life, my ancestors (Native American's) would not have used fish and seaweed as fertilizer as told by the settlers when they first landed here. Interestingly enough, being 15 miles from the coast, seaweed and fish guts are still used as fertilizer on my farm. I guess the more things change, the more they stay the same!

 
Tj Jefferson
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I think this is an interesting discussion, I definitely test, but I think you have to interpret it in relation to your soil type and goals. This is all heavily based on Bryant's soil series. Travis and I had a conversation last year about clover, since mine was not germinating or thriving. He mentioned that the pH required for clover germination is nearly neutral, and my pH was below 5! So I sucked it up and applied lime, tons of it. I have access to some ash from burning slash, and while the sulfur levels were low on my sample, I have wild onions everywhere, so I don't think that was a big issue. My other minerals were almost universally low, with the exception of sodium. Classic salinization. Lack of divalent cations was making my soil acidic and stunting growth.

The only thing I initially "fixed" was the pH and calcium (and mag as a side effect with dolomitic lime), the rest I will see how it does. I will do another test sometime this summer, but I am certain it is much improved. As Travis mentioned this area has been till-farmed for hundreds of years and (along with the temperate climate) tends to be very low in organic matter. My soil was just dirt. Digging down there was evidence this should be productive with mineral application, it is mature ultisol.

What I am trying to do, and maybe Bryant can tell me if I am tilting windmills here, is to convert to alfisol and hopefully to mollisol by incorporation of organic matter. This will greatly decrease leaching of the applied minerals because there is more root zone to capture it and draw it back up, but I need to minerals to grow my own organic matter (or I need to import them, which I don't want to do). The best way of doing this is definitely the Gabe Brown method, by rotational grazing, but I don't have the infrastructure or animals to do it. From most of the posts on here this is the desired direction of soil maturation.

Travis, I suspect, has histosols, which in order to optimize solar capture, require a decrease in water holding and increase in pH. His organic matter is off the charts but the anaerobic metabolism going on in tall that wet goop is making organic acids. So his reason for acidity is different from mine.

Really this comes down to where you are on the soil spectrum and what soil types are possible. I could get to alfisols in several years by just doing nothing, but not mowing. In this climate first you get shade shrubs, then trees, then leaf litter, and then mature forest. I can't eat that forest and I am trying to not wait that long, so I am eventually going to need grazers to get the soil improved.  In the meantime I am applying crusher dust for the microminerals. I find myself interested in the bionutrient.org approach, and so far things are bonkers. I have a couple other posts about my attempts to increase organic matter, but honestly the minerals were more important and a better investment.

Bryant, if you have not seen the bionutrient.org approach would you be willing to comment on it?

 
Travis Johnson
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They say with permiculture a person should observe and see trends and one trend I see constantly on here is the word "clay". I checked my soil report for all of my farms and 95% of the soils listed had "fine sandy loam" somewhere in the description, so clay is just not something I have to deal with. In fact, when the State Soil Engineer was here last week to approve my gravel pit for road construction, she noted the lack of clay in the gravel and recommended we mix the overburden in with the gravel as we go just so that it packs a little bit better.

Another interesting thing is, the soil in my town is widely regarded as the best in the State of Maine and the fields here are designated "Vital to the State of Maine Agriculture". In farmer speak it is called "potato soil", because with the gravelly loam, it has enough loam to grow potatoes, has the acidic soil they need, but also drains well so the potatoes do not rot in the ground. We grew potatoes on this farm from 1838 until 1988. Now I say all this because I think it is part of the overall discussion. When you look at the soil texture triangle, there is a relatively small portion of loam in it, yet that is what I am farming in. For someone who is farming in heavy clay, their immediate needs are going to be far different than mine. I am wondering if the reason why we see such vast differences when the PH levels go up are because our crops are not really fighting other issues? Yes we have erosion because of the 3-8% slopes and loamy soil, but the plants themselves have quality soil to thrive.

I don't think the fields here are histosols though, or at least not naturally. I think you are onto something there TJ without really knowing it. As I said we put a lot of liquid dairy cow manure on our farm. Since dairy cows are intensively fed grain, and grain is fortified with zinc and copper, we have plenty of that. But the Histols you speak of probably are trucked in and here is why I think that. The manure pit is actually a huge concrete swimming pool where liquid manure is pumped into. That settles to the bottom where it should, and the "pure" water floats to the top. This is essential, it seals in the vulnerable nitrogen. Just before dispensing that manure on a field, a mixer is backed into the manure pit and stirs the pit to blend the water with the nitrogen rich manure. Then it is trucked to the field and spread...but here is the interesting thing. That manure is actually 97% water and only 3% manure. Since hay ground automatically generates organic matter yearly, that is fine, but on corn ground we spread solid dairy cow manure to get the organic matter levels higher. But what we are doing is trucking in anaerobic digested manure. We have to or we would lose the nitrogen.

 
Travis Johnson
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By the way TJ, I feel for you on that lime; whether talking about the pain in the back of moving it all, or the pain in the wallet.

On Friday I had 30 tons of lime delivered (at $22.50 per ton mind you), and spread it on two 10 acre fields. I spread at 3000 pounds to the acre for both of them so it should do something. I also spread 2 ton of 05-13-41 fertilizer which should do something as well.

I was kind of under the gun time wise. The lime company let me use their lime spreader, but only until Monday and heavy weather was coming in, so I worked through the rain and got it spread before the lime caked up on me. 30 tons is a lot for my little Kubota tractor, and the spreader was rather big for it, especially with a few ton of lime in it as well. On that slimy soil from the rain, I had to stay ahead of it so it would not jack-knife!

The fertilizer I got spread with my bulldozer and spin-spreader, but the PTO slipped off the dozers jackshaft and broke a yoke and busted a lifting ear right off it. I needed it for spreading the seed today, but don't have time to weld it back into shape. I cobbled up together a makeshift seeder with my dump trailer; and if it works, I am definitely going to take pictures and video of. It was so cheap and easy to do that people on here might be able to use the idea to spread seed. You know my philosophy, USE WHAT YOU GOT, and I got 1000 pounds of seed to put in the ground...now! (Timothy/Red Clover/Oats)
 
Tj Jefferson
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That is a really good deal on the lime. We don't have paper mills close enough to get mill lime, I checked into it since you mentioned it.

I have essentially the same tractor and it would be scary on your grade in the muck. On my terrain it was a champ with a hopper/spreader and a lot of fun! I have read all the stuff from you and Bryant on this thread and I definitely fall more into his program, BUT I am not trying to run as many sheep as you are or in your soils. All I can say is that you have granite quite close to the surface, so maybe integration of some conveyor species (I don't use the term accumulators) to bring some igneous minerals up to the top would be effective. I am trying to get some chicory going, but I am sure there are other species that would be deeper-rooted. I have no concept of the root depth on timothy. The bluegrass/orchard grass gets nice root depth but there are no igneous rocks to reach. So for me I want a dense root mass, which the grass/clover are doing.

Gotta fence and get me some herbivores.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Angelika Maier wrote:Bryant, that is exciting having a soil scientist here. So you are advocating against soil test? Many organic farmers use them. I am not very scientific myself and would rather not do a soil test. Apart from the expense, I don't like measuring. But my soil is probably not very balanced, we had to build up the soil from scratch. I cannot grow beetrot the roots are too small for my taste, something that simple than beetroot everyone can grow this!!! I plant to use the steiner mixture 500.


I advocate everyone to get a soil test, I also advocate a biological test for micro organisms, the two together will give you a more complete picture of the state of your soil.
In sandy soils lime is indeed called for as a conditioner.
Folks like Travis, who have a good understanding of their soil, are in a great positon and usually see better results because they already know their soil.
They also know how to observe the effects of what they use for amending the soil and thus they do improvement rather than disruption of their soil food web.

Far to many people though only get a chemical soil test done, then they follow the chemists recommendations without any further thoughts.
That puts those people in the same conundrum as the commercial "traditional" farmer, making amendments of chemicals instead of building the microbiome and rhizosphere.
This leads to dirt instead of soil.
One of the grand things about those who practice permaculture is that their knowledge base is broad enough to make far better decisions on going forward with the results of their soil test in hand than the "average" person.

Redhawk
 
Travis Johnson
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Bryant RedHawk wrote:Folks like Travis, who have a good understanding of their soil, are in a great position and usually see better results because they already know their soil.
They also know how to observe the effects of what they use for amending the soil and thus they do improvement rather than disruption of their soil food web.


I never thought of this before, but it is true Redhawk. One thing I have going for me is that I have been here for so long; all my life! My grandfather taught me how to know what the soil needed by amendments by tasting...yes tasting weeds. Some were sour and some were sweet, knowing the difference of what they were told you what you needed for amendments. But I am not advocating NOT getting a soil test, it is just a way to tell if what I did was working. In other words tasting weeds only gets you so far, and honestly...some are disgusting.

But we rely on manure for the majority of our nutrients, but some farmers do not. In layman's terms, it is like we give our "kids" wholesome, nutritious meals, giving them a Flintstone Vitamin to make sure every deficiency is accounted for, the other farmers he speaks of, feed their kids a steady diet of sugar and wonder why they have to be given lots of it, and Benedryl to make them go to sleep at night. Both are parents, but which one is better? Same with farmers. Both are farmers, but which is better?
 
trinda storey
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So mis spoke my ph is 7.4 to 8
 
James Freyr
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Trinda you likely need to nudge your pH down to around 6.5 and sulfur is a good way to make that adjustment. Mind you that adjusting a soils pH with sulfur requires microbial activity, and that only happens when the soil is warm, which is right now this summer. If you wait till autumn to apply sulfur, it won't lower your pH until the following summer.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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hau Trinda, As James brought up, sulfur is the way to reduce pH.
If you have some mineral defects you can get sulfates of those minerals and apply, that will do two jobs at once, reduce the pH and add the minerals your soil needs.
Sulfur is a long term mineral, it takes a while to work and then it lasts a long time.
Using Sulfates is very similar in how the pH reduction goes but you are getting the mineral addition benefit at the same time.

Redhawk
 
trinda storey
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Would coffee grounds do the trick? Sulfur is expensive but coffee grounds are free
 
James Freyr
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Coffee grounds won't really lower the pH of soils. They may have a measurable affect of pH adjustment on very sandy soils, but for all intensive purposes I wouldn't rely on it to modify a soils pH. They have a pH range that can vary quite widely, some even going alkaline over pH 8.0. Coffee grounds are great to add to soil, or even better add to the compost pile. They have good levels of nitrogen, sometimes over 2% and also have fair amounts of magnesium and copper as well. Coffee grounds are fantastic for vermicomposting, and Cornell University has found lining traditional compost piles with coffee grounds will attract earthworms.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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If you can't afford Sulfur (agricultural sulfur) which is usually in a price range of 21 to 30 dollars per 50 lbs. you do have options that would quickly lower the pH but more temporarily than elemental sulfur.
The list below are products that can be used to lower pH of soil.
Epsom salts are a bit tricky since you can flood your soil with magnesium which is not particularly good for growing plants but you could use Epsom salts and gypsum together to keep from overdoing it on the magnesium.

Agricultural Sulfur    Sulfate of Potash     
       
Langbeinite or Sul-Po-Mag which is 22% Sulfur 22% Potash 11% Magnesium
       
Magnesium Sulfate (Epsom salts)       14% Sulfur 10% Magnesium 
       
Calcium Sulfate (Gypsum or Gypril)    16% Sulfur 22% Calcium 

       
Redhawk
 
trinda storey
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Thank you. I did a test plot with coffee grounds and the ph dropped to 6.8. Will the ph hold
 
Bryant RedHawk
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You will most likely find that you need to replenish the coffee grounds on a three month basis for around 2-3 years to get the pH to last.
The reason most folks resort to sulfur is that it is time release in the soil. The bacteria convert it slowly and that is how the pH stabilizes.
 
Simone Gar
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I get the ph and we are pretty close to 7 but what about all the other stuff? NPK? I have the results but what does that tell me? I mean what's good N? Good P? Mine are all over the place and I suspect N is low. Is there are guideline?
 
Bryant RedHawk
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hau Simone,

When you get the results of your soil test, there should be quantities listed as well as recommendations for additions.
Generally, the desired pH is within the range of 6.5 -6.8, the considered perfect range for most deciduous trees, vegetables and bushes. The exceptions are those plants that either need or prefer more acidic soils such as conifers, blueberries, etc.

This link will give you really good information on the subject of nutrients and the quantities you want in your soil.
soil test, what those results mean

Redhawk
 
Simone Gar
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Bryant RedHawk wrote:hau Simone,

When you get the results of your soil test, there should be quantities listed as well as recommendations for additions.
Generally, the desired pH is within the range of 6.5 -6.8, the considered perfect range for most deciduous trees, vegetables and bushes. The exceptions are those plants that either need or prefer more acidic soils such as conifers, blueberries, etc.

This link will give you really good information on the subject of nutrients and the quantities you want in your soil.
soil test, what those results mean

Redhawk


We received the results but no guidelines. We only got the guidelines on the water test. I will check out the link. Thanks!
 
Bryant RedHawk
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That is odd, that they didn't make any recommendations.

This is what I try to achieve with natural amendments.

N =2.5 to 5.0 ppm

P = 2.0 to 4.0 ppm

K = 3.5 to 5.0 ppm

Cu =1.5 to 2.5 ppm 

All other minerals I like to see in the Cu range.

So you know, 1ppm is about equal to 1% per sq. ft.  In that link there are ways to calculate what you have present and then how much to add.
Since every piece of land is different (there can be large differences within a parcel of land) I try to not make recommendations on soils I have not personally done the tests for.

Don't forget to create some good composts since from that you can extract the living organisms ( real compost tea ) and then add those by watering in your plants with that tea within 48 hours of brewing the tea for best results.
If you aren't familiar with brewing compost teas, there is lots of good info on this site about it or you can ask and I will be happy to give you some directions.

Redhawk
 
Simone Gar
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This is what I got. I don't know what ppm is. My report is in mg/kg?! I see in the guide and some other articles that I read online it's by lbs/acre and units like that. I don't know how to convert this.




I just want to know if something is completely off. I do work on compost and mulching anyways but this is a new property and I have no idea what I am dealing with. I got some information from our extension office but is again in a totally different measurement.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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ok, here's the low down on your report.  First off mg/kg is the same as ppm. 1 mg per kg is equal to 1 ppm. 
Here is a great link to conversion charts for agricultural use. conversion tables this is in pdf format for easy saving for later reference.

pH of the property is 7.4, quite a bit basic for good plant growth.
The electrical conductivity (anion and cation presence) is .95 
Sodium (salinity) is .2
under the soluble salts (cations (that's negative charge) the numbers are in the right hand column
Calcium is pretty good, Magnesium is pretty good

Items that need addressing through amendments would be;
Nitrate, nitrite, and sulfate.
The Nitrate level is 5 for your soil so some additions of ammonium will take care of that.

The low sulfate level (9) is why your land  is slightly basic and that is where using mineral sulfates will help the most.
Using sulfates of the minerals you are needing (trace elements are not listed but can be presumed to be fairly low) will do a double duty, they will add the anions and cations you need as well as lower the pH.

Redhawk
 
Simone Gar
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Bryant RedHawk wrote:ok, here's the low down on your report.  First off mg/kg is the same as ppm. 1 mg per kg is equal to 1 ppm. 
Here is a great link to conversion charts for agricultural use. conversion tables this is in pdf format for easy saving for later reference.

pH of the property is 7.4, quite a bit basic for good plant growth.
The electrical conductivity (anion and cation presence) is .95 
Sodium (salinity) is .2
under the soluble salts (cations (that's negative charge) the numbers are in the right hand column
Calcium is pretty good, Magnesium is pretty good

Items that need addressing through amendments would be;
Nitrate, nitrite, and sulfate.
The Nitrate level is 5 for your soil so some additions of ammonium will take care of that.

The low sulfate level (9) is why your land  is slightly basic and that is where using mineral sulfates will help the most.
Using sulfates of the minerals you are needing (trace elements are not listed but can be presumed to be fairly low) will do a double duty, they will add the anions and cations you need as well as lower the pH.

Redhawk



Wow, thanks so much! This is a huge help!
 
Bryant RedHawk
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You are most welcome.  (my wife is from Alberta, Lethbridge to be exact.)

Redhawk
 
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