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Trying to restore my garden soil (Cheap & Lazy!)... wanna critique my strategy?  RSS feed

 
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My soil kinda sucks. We used to deal with it by making raised beds filled with Mel's Mix. Mel's Mix ingredients are pricey. So in the newer section of garden, I've tried to mulch and cover crop. No great success yet. Two years in, still very rocky and compact. Pretty poor drainage. I suspect the clay. I found a link here on permies to find out what your weeds tell about your soil. Here's what it said about weeds I recognize from my garden:

bindweed:......................compacted
dandelion:......................low calcium, high potassium
henbit:...........................high nitrogen
lamb's quarter:...............rich, high nitrogen
oxalis (wood sorrel):.......low calcium, high magnesium
plantain (a little):............compact, sour, low fertility, heavy clay

So, here's what I'm doing so far. As I get beds ready for spring, I make sure to bury a little wood. Not too much. I don't chainsaw, so I only have small brush to use for this. My wife's not sold on the giant hugelculture mound idea, plus if I didn't redesign my garden a lot, the shadow of a big mound would shade areas that I'd like to keep full sun. So no "deleting the road", I just bury small scraps. The digging is hard, but I filled in a few trenches about 4" deep. Used the soil I dug out, so it's very slightly mounded. Then seed with a cover crop mix, covered with a thin mulch. First bed got imperial no plow mix and a little straw. Second bed got some wheat and barley, lots of turnips, and I think some buckwheat. Covered thin with shredded leaves. The second bed is barely germinating, I planted late and the cold is slowing it down. I am hoping this produces a lot of biomass, so I can chop 'n drop and plant into it. I also hope that as the wood breaks down, the soil will get easier to dig and I can bury more of it in future years.

I no longer waste my egg shells, I break/grind 'em up and put 'em on those beds. It's probably not enough, but wasting them, then looking for more calcium for the garden would make me feel stupid. I'm having some sheetrock hung this week. That's made with gypsum, which some folks use to amend calcium into soil. Is there bad stuff in it I wouldn't want in the garden?

I'd love to hear anyone's thoughts on this. I know there are about a million different things to try, but resources (and effort I'm willing to expend) are limited. I'd like to build a strategy that will make the most of those resources and effort. Said a different way, does anyone have any advice to help avoid wasted effort or "spinning my wheels"? How much improvement might I hope for by this method?
 
pollinator
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Sheetrock (gypsum board) is a decent soil amendment. It adds calcium without raising pH, which is a real plus in a lot of places. My experience in the alkaline, caliche-bound soils of Tucson was that anywhere sheetrock scraps got dumped would grow the most killer crop of pumpkins the following year. Here in the lower North Island, on weathered silt that's made at least four round trips to the sea and then been uplifted again, it seems to help with the odd bout of chlorosis in our citrus trees, but I've only used it once or twice for this. If your soil is already neutral or acidic, then you might be better off with lime unless it's around plants that prefer lower pH.

The only thing that sheetrock brings that you might not want is plastic or glass reinforcing joint tape. Everything else breaks down nicely.
 
pollinator
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I have found that using weeds to identify deficiencies in soils really help, but more in the way of a monitoring sense. In your case you need a baseline, and as the saying goes, "it is just a guess, unless you test." You are really guessing here because none of the weeds you indicate even show what your soil has for a PH level, and that is the starting point. Think smooth bedstraw here; a sure sign you have acidic soil which is probably the case if you live east of the Mississippi, and alkaloid if you live west of the Mississippi. In fact applying any kind of fertilizer, whether it be a hugel, organic matter, etc is a useless endeavor because if the ph level is widely off, it prevents the plants from absorbing it.

I am a bit anti-soil testing, but only because the USDA wants me to test my fields every three years, and I have a lot of them and it gets expensive after awhile. I learned from my Grandfather how to use weeds to make informed choices on what to amend the soil with, but I also know the history of that field going back some 40 years. That helps.

You really need a soil test to get a baseline, and at $12 there is no reason not too. One thing a soil test can tell you though that a weed cannot is how much to apply, and as hard as it is to obtain, mix, and overall produce soil amendments, knowing the exact amount to apply is worth it. Spending $12 to save laboring an extra 4 hours is well worth it in my estimation.

 
T Melville
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Travis Johnson wrote:You really need a soil test to get a baseline, and at $12 there is no reason not too.



I bought a cheap "at home" test at walmart. It was actually three tests. (N,P,K) For a few reasons, I don't know how much to trust it. The little capsule for the phosphorous test had leaked powder into the vial. (Was it just from the capsule, or was it extra? How much effect does extra powder have?) The phosphorous tested high. I expected that, as the previous owner had the washer discharge there for years. (It wasn't garden then.) But I don't know if the test is accurate. Finally, there was no number ("You have 'x' amout of phosphorous.") and no recommendation what to do about it.

I've never sent a sample to a lab, because there are so many, and I've no idea how much to pay or which lab is good. So, you know one you like, for ~$12? Who? How do you get started? Do they send a bag and a label and instructions, or do I just mail them a ziploc bag of dirt and a check?
 
gardener
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I'd like to comment and help. Phil is right that gypsum board will add calcium without raising the pH, however, some gypsum wall boards may also contain fire retardant chemicals among other things like binders, with the fire retardant chemicals being carcinogenic. I'm not making this up, it is known that those compounds can cause cancer. I would advise if using wallboard, to try and identify the manufacturer and see if they have a MSDS (material safety data sheet) for the product, and it will show what's in it. An alternative is agricultural gypsum already in a spreadable granular form without other ingredients.

The weeds you've identified in your garden do indeed tell a story, but just like Travis mentioned, they might say low calcium, but won't tell you how many pounds to add. I've done quite a bit of reading on building and amending soil, and if you raise the calcium levels to a balanced ratio of 7:1 to 10:1 with the soils magnesium, that heavy clay will almost magically begin to loosen up.

So I use Logan Labs to do my soil testing. There are many other good labs around the country that provide accurate tests, and even your states local ag extension does soil testing. Logan Labs charges $25 for a standard soil analysis. If you choose to send a sample to a lab, it's important to gather an accurate sample representing your garden area as a whole. To do this, take half a dozen or more small samples from the surface to 6 inches deep, mix these all up in a bag, then scoop out about 2 cups worth to mail off with a completed submission form. You can include a check with the sample or they can call you for a credit card number when the sample arrives.

I remember the first soil test I got from a lab and found it a little daunting to interpret and understand what the information was and what to do with it. Soil tests may appear a little confusing, but once one understands what the numbers mean, it's really not that bad. Lab tests are great because they use equipment that will tell you exactly in parts per million what's in your soil. If do choose to get a soil test done by a lab, and find the results confusing, I am more than happy to help you interpret them and guide you in how much of what minerals to add.
 
Travis Johnson
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Typically every state has a land grant university for such things, and they provide something called that university's cooperative extension office. In my case, the State of Maine's land grant university is the University of Maine, and thus they have the University of Maine Cooperative Extension. This runs a variety of programs, many being agriculturally centered. They also have testing for farmers including soil sampling. For me I get boxes provided for by them, or I can pick them up free at the local Cooperative Extension office in my county. Most states that I know have this type of system. You cannot just send in baggies of soil.

Alternatively you can just call your local (most likely in your county) Farm Service Agency, or your local Soil and Water Conservation District office, and ask them how soil testing is done in your area. Soil testing is required for farmers so its cheap and easy to do once you find out the protocol.

Myself, I might consider moving my garden and get a soil test in the new location. Plants uptake nutrients, minerals and heavy metals in the soil and I while you did not say if the washer was a dishwasher (not so bad) or a clothes washer (absolutely evil) I would not want to eat vegetables growing there. I say clothes washer's are evil because I know what gets washed in my washer on occasion; fuel spilled on my clothes, detergents that are not always green rated, etc. There is a reason gray water is heavily regulated.
 
T Melville
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I'm attaching the MSDS for the sheetrock. The way I read it, it's safe. I thought I saw a mention of fire retardant, but can't find it now.
Filename: sds01003.pdf
Description: MSDS
File size: 171 Kbytes
 
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[quote=T M
bindweed:......................compacted
dandelion:......................low calcium, high potassium
henbit:...........................high nitrogen
lamb's quarter:...............rich, high nitrogen
oxalis (wood sorrel):.......low calcium, high magnesium
plantain (a little):............compact, sour, low fertility, heavy clay

I'd love to hear anyone's thoughts on this. I know there are about a million different things to try, but resources (and effort I'm willing to expend) are limited. I'd like to build a strategy that will make the most of those resources and effort. Said a different way, does anyone have any advice to help avoid wasted effort or "spinning my wheels"? How much improvement might I hope for by this method?

Right well I can tell you I have PH 8 and a lot of dandelions so no, not low calcium, same for wood sorrel it loves high lime. Bindweed in my garden grows everywhere it's not remotely picky. Lambs quarters is also a prolific weed that will grow anywhere it seems to (in my experience) like disturbed ground but other than that it doesn't care. There are very few plants that can actually tell you much about your soil some like rhododendron or blueberry will not grow on alkaline soil and solomons seal doesn't like acid, but most common plants will grow anywhere. Do not add lime before you have tested what type of soil you have. For a very basic test which will show you acid or alkaline you can use red cabbage water or artichoke water. try this link webpage It won't be acurate as to how strong your acid or alkaline is but it will tell you which way you need to move.
 
pollinator
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Mulch and cover-crop.  Rinse.  Repeat.

More biomass = better soil and regenerated soil microbial life.  Yes, a few egg shells are nice, but 10,000 living plants in a cover-crop is much better.  Plants pump sugars and starches into the soil profile and feed the soil food web and fungal networks.  Then chop and drop those cover crop plants when they get waist-high and dump 6 inches of wood chips on top.  In one year, you'll have better soil than ever.

One last thought: I wouldn't read too much into the weeds that are growing on your soil.  It may be an indication that other stuff doesn't want to grow there, or it may simply be an indication of what weeds are common to your area and what seeds are most prolific.  It stands to reason that if there is a field next door filled with a couple of weeds, those will most likely be highly represented in your garden.  My soil is very rich and healthy, yet I get bindweed, dandelion, lamb's quarter and plaintain all the time.  It's because those weeds are growing commonly in my neighbor's yard

Soil test.  Get a good one.

 
gardener
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Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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T Melville wrote:I'm attaching the MSDS for the sheetrock. The way I read it, it's safe. I thought I saw a mention of fire retardant, but can't find it now.



The MSDS shows that to be a safe for garden use product.
Here's a tip about how to quickly tell if you need to worry about any sheetrock material, fire retardant product will have "fire retardant" printed on the sheet edging and/ or the sheet will be a color other than white.
Usually the retardants will be contained in the "cover" not in the actual "rock", so stripping the paper off will remove almost all of any "undesirable" material.
If you have any doubts, you can place the pieces in a barrel or other container and light a fire under it (do this outdoors and don't stand down wind), this will burn off any contaminates.

Always wear at least a dust mask when breaking up, pieces, or you can wet it down then break it up with little chance of dust going airborne.

Every state has an extension service, if you call you can find the one closest to you and they will perform soil tests for you for around 15 dollars US.  This will be the basic soil test with recommendations (designed for chemical use farming) of what to add and how much to add per acre.

The best home testing kits come from mail order companies (google "Soil Test Kits") to find these and then you can decide what price you are comfortable with. The reliability of soil test kits is proportional to the cost of the kit and the contents of the kit.

If you can make compost, do that and spread it at least 2 inches thick on the garden bed area (rows) if you concentrate this application to exactly where you plan to put plants, you will get the most benefit from what ever quantity you use.
Compost can work to loosen soils adding enrichment over a single winter period if it is laid on at a 4 inch or thicker depth. Less works but it will take a little more time and at lest two applications to get the same effect.

Redhawk
 
T Melville
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So it looks as if I'm doing right things, just not all the right things. I've talked to my wife, it looks like I'll be getting a soil test. I've spent a few hours with google, and found where to go for soil testing by our land grant university. (University of Missouri) Trying to compare their test to Logan Labs' test, it looks like Logan will cost me an extra $10, but give me more information. I'd love to get folks' opinion, but if the extra info from Logan is even potentially useful, I'll probably use them. What do you guys think?
 
pollinator
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Burying wood is a great start in my book.

Also, chop and drop is a big soil builder.

I live in the sandhills of SC.  So far I have learned that it takes me about 8 years to get a real transformation if I don't truck in loads of stuff but just use the waste from my own kitchen and yard.

BTW, where do you live?  Frostline vs. no frostline makes a big difference in how you do everything.

In addition to burying wood here are some of my soil building techniques:

Bag green grass lawn clippings.  Pack them thick (3" or more) around the base of plants and along garden paths.  Suppresses weeds, retains moisture, makes plants happy, and after only a short time dirt underneath becomes very loose and black.  A layer of newspaper underneath the clippings is even better as worms love the paper.

Large (250 gallon) wire pen or other container with the bottom cut out.  All kitchen trash goes in.  I don't bother with grinding anything up.  I keep a rake nearby to rake up a few leaves to throw on top of any unsightly or juicy trash.  I don't turn it but will occasionally water it. I also rinse out any milk/yogurt/cream containers and pour this water on the pile.  I will move this pile once a year or so.  I plant things around the outside of the pen.  Right now  I have ginger and turmeric growing around one of them.

After the pen is moved the area underneath is ready for planting.  I'm going to move my biggest one in a couple weeks and plant carrots/turnips/mustard/lettuce.

Plants to enhance soil Mustard, Comfrey, Mullien, clover, buckwheat, any root crops.

I do not currently have animals at this location so once a year I get pig poo from a friend who raises pigs without chemicals and a 50 pound bag of dried quail poo from a local organic quail operation.

If you do not find any worms in your soil you can go out in the woods and dig around for them.  I put them in my new compost pens and then 'harvest' them from the base as they multiply and move them to new areas in my yard.  A little hole with a bit of paper and kitchen trash and a couple of worms and fill hole back with a bit of loose dirt.
 
T Melville
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Jeanine Gurley Jacildone wrote:BTW, where do you live?  Frostline vs. no frostline makes a big difference in how you do everything.



Southwest Missouri, about half way between Springfield and Joplin. Elevation around 1200 feet, I think.
 
T Melville
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Things have been crazy here for a week or two. (Family member hospitalized, then rehab.) I DO plan to get a soil test, probably at the local extension office. If I don't understand what to do with the results, I'll probably post back. I may post back anyway, to compare test results to what the weeds said. That could be of interest.

Thank you, everyone, for the replies and your time. It helps to know I'm headed the right direction. (And ways to move KEEP moving, FASTER, in the right direction.)



My buried wood in this spot included fresh pruned rose canes. Shoulda let 'em dry. Or charred 'em. Or buried 'em deeper. We do have multiflora rose here, and it's rampant, but I'm pretty sure this is right at the end of the trench, so probably domesticed. I've seen decomposition before, and that ain't it. The surrounding cover crop is the imperial no-plow.
 
pollinator
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The MO test is very good. They'll probably loan you a probe to dig. What town are you near? I'm from Lamar. I'll bet you need lime or drywall unless it's already been limed.  I think all our soils are naturally acidic. I don't know how you know how much drywall to use, but it should work.

How big of an area do you have?  Lime is mined locally and is cheap here by the truck load if you have a few acres. I think about 20.00 a ton, but it's been a few years. You could probably buy a few buckets from a farmer if they have any piled in the neighborhood. As far as I know, ag lime is organic, just crushed rocks. If you buy it by the bag it will probably hydrated lime. Not sure if that is organic, but I think probably not. Does anyone know?

I haven't tested my gardens. My yard was mostly fill dirt. Every little area is different. I'd need a lot of tests. I can usually tell from how well things grow.
 
Ken W Wilson
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Does anything grow well there? Which garden plants grow best and worst?

A soil test is best, but adding lime and organic matter would mostly likely work good. 
 
Bryant RedHawk
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hau Ken, one of the nicest things about using drywall to condition soil is that it is slow release, this makes it very hard to overdo it, unlike lime, which will act faster.

Something that has been discovered recently is that many plants seem to thrive in slightly acidic to slightly basic soils. Previous convention was that plants wanted slightly acidic and that a slight basic soil would not let plants thrive.
 
T Melville
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↑ That's my garden. I'm mostly focused on the right side of the sidewalk right now. The raised beds are on the left.

I'm about 5ish miles from both Aurora and Marionville.

Nothing grows to my satisfaction there except weeds. Radishes and turnips grow a nice plant, but a small root. Indian corn does decently, sweet corn doesn't. Had some success with watermelons, one year. My garlic lives and multiplies well, but bulbs are tiny.
 
Ken W Wilson
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Hi Bryant.

I agree. Lots of conventions need adjusting.

I've only had cropland tested. I was a small scale farmer from 81-86. For gardens I plant several things and see how they do. Green beans seem to be a good indicator to me. They don't get a healthy, green color unless they have what they need. Pale usually means the soil is too acidic in my area.  Yellow around the edges and they need P or K. It might be different other places.

If I am making a new garden out of my lawn, I can get a pretty good idea from how well the fescue, white clover, and black medic do. I've been gardening in this area for 40 years. I couldn't guess the Ph, but I can usually adjust it correctly . Old farmers have told me that all the land around here needed 4 tons of lime per acre unless they'd already been limed. I've seen soil tests as low as 4.6, if I remember right.

My biggest problem is finding enough organic matter, since I live in town.

How much Sheetrock do you use? I guess you're talking about new construction scraps?  Are they hard to source?

I think old drywall from a tear out, might have lead paint. Pre 1974, I think.
 
Ken W Wilson
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T, you've really been working! I hope you get it figured out and grow some great crops next year.

You might have a couple different problems. Healthy plants and little production sounds like it could have been too much nitrogen.  Did that area get the manure? Or maybe they were just planted too close together?

Did the corn not grow much or grow but not make ears or just make empty ears? What variety? Some sweetcorn varieties are very short.

Have you tried Crimson Queen watermelon? It does very well in our area. It's much more disease resistant than most kinds. I've actually let mine reseed itself several years. Some varieties get diseases that kill them before the melons can ripen, especially if planted in the same location two years in a row.
 
Ken W Wilson
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Sorry if that sounded overwhelming or like an interrogation. I didn't mean it that way. I haven't been sleeping enough. Just trying to help.
 
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T,

First and foremost, read Bryant Redhawk's soil primer. This is the scaffold to work in.

Second, identify your deficiencies with the test, as Travis has recommended. I would strongly encourage the test with microminerals. I would confirm this is unavailable from the state lab, all it took was for me to ask for it, no additional cost! Most farmers don't care about it and it is not reported.

Third, use this to guide your amendment. The gypsum (calcium sulfate) can be beneficial for this use as people have noted. But I have learned to love the clay, there are things you can do with clay that you will not be able to do with gypsum. The active layer will be much deeper with gypsum, but that will depend on your plant choice and you may not have the plants to utilize it. In that case you will in my opinion lose more minerals to deep strata. I am adding gypsum but more slowly, and in combination with char.

If you have wall board and are not going to reuse it, it is very reasonable to amend with it. The price of a sheet of wallboard is much higher than a bag of gypsum with the same amount of tilth building, and no additives. Look at local rock dusts, I found one near me for a couple bucks a ton that compares well in terms of particulate size with other rock dusts. These are waste for the quarries and can be had for the price of delivery roughly.

Amend and repeat if needed. I have heavy clay and I am pulling out radishes 2 feet long after two months using deep wood chips and rock dust mixed in. There are many ways you can improve. I think whatever you can do in sufficient quantity is the right choice- I am getting hundreds of yards of chips and cheap rock dust, but if you have wall board- Super!
 
Ken W Wilson
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The soil primer is great! I'm going to read it very carefully.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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hau T. Melville, First I have to say, very nice garden area you are working on there.

Now to some ideas about what your plants are telling you.
When a root crop plant grows nice greens but no root, you have soil conditions that don't allow for root growth, this is usually soil that is to tight.
For an area like that you need to get the soil particles separated, I love the broad fork for this but a regular gardener's fork will do pretty well.
Clay soil is not the best for growing root crops. We need to get some open structures into all those superfine particles so air can get in and water can seep down.
This is where finely broken pieces of gypsum can do superior work, this will need to be forked into the top layer, it will tend to migrate down once you have done this.
I would want about a 5 gal. bucket per 10 sq. ft. to start with, spread it out over the 10 sq. ft. and use the fork to stab down then pull back on the handle to lift, do not turn over the soil, just open it up, this is what a broad fork does too.
If you have straw that too can be forked into the soil on a second pass, this will continue to open the soil structure and your toppings will filter down in the cracks and that will start separating those super fine clay particles.
That will allow water and air to have spaces to hang out and that will help the bacteria and fungal spores (most straw has these organisms present when you buy it) to start growing and doing their soil building thing.

Let me know how this first step goes for you, I think we can get your garden producing really well in one year of work.

Redhawk
 
Bryant RedHawk
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hau Ken,  organic matter is usually not hard to find in towns (if there are trees, there will be bags of leaves in the fall, just grab them up before the trash folks get there).
Leaves can be turned into the soil as they are or you can make leaf mold or compost with them before using them on your garden beds.

gypsum boards can be scraps from new construction or remodels (you want to soak the paper off before you use them (as much as possible) which takes away the lead probability.
In the US, if the walls were first painted after 1987 then there probably isn't any lead. Red and tints of red are the real worry since these colors contained the most lead of any of the old lead paints.
If it is latex paint, most likely no lead, lead was predominately used in oil based pigments.  When in doubt, soak the board with water, and carefully peel the paper off, if an inner layer remains, it should be clear of any lead.

I like to break gypsum board pieces into a very small size about like a half pencil eraser works fine for soil amendment and these are small enough to drop into broad fork cracks.

One other thing, if you can, make a compost extract or tea and pour that over the bed area you are treating once you have the amendments worked into the soil, that will boost the bacterial counts and get things rolling well.

Redhawk
 
Tj Jefferson
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One other thing, if you can, make a compost extract or tea and pour that over the bed area you are treating once you have the amendments worked into the soil, that will boost the bacterial counts and get things rolling well. 



Bryant my friend, you have exploded the knowledge base on here. What soil temperature are you still getting benefit from the compost tea? I have been getting closer to taking on that project but things are pretty dormant looking and I assume the soil organisms are not growing rapidly either. I am working on how to spread it, I am trying to avoid buying equipment, but that is a separate issue. I have a large area to treat. I was thinking more about doing some test plots, but hunting season is very busy and I think I may have missed the boat. Soil temps on the crappy areas that need the soil life are probably in the 30s here.

I tried making some last year, but had no bubbler and probably did as much harm as good. This does not seem amenable to winging it!
 
Bryant RedHawk
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hau TJ  bacteria will remain active in temps as low as 65 f  fungi seem to remain active (study is underway) in soil temps as low as 55f  If the study shows anything different in this third trial, I will let you know.

Even at soil temps being 55 f bacteria and fungi remain active but not so active as to "bloom"(rapid reproduction).
I prefer to give my soil biota a last boost at the end of October, my temps are still in the 70 -75 range at that time of year, then I will start again around the middle of March as our air temperatures begin to rise above 60 again.

I just received a paper from some friends in Poland, they have been doing research on Arbuscular Mycorrhizal fungi and the relationship with corn.
I also received a paper from my two friends in China that are doing mycorrhizal fungi work and the effect on PCB remediation.
Lots of good stuff for me to read now, LOL.

Redhawk
 
T Melville
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"Did that area get the manure? Or maybe they were just planted too close together?"

That garden hasn't ever had MUCH manure, as I didn't have enough concentrated in one spot. I do now, but I'll probably await test results before I get crazy.

I've experimented with spacing, but I used to space pretty wide, 12" - 18" for corn. Now I'm doing closer to 8".

"Did the corn not grow much or grow but not make ears or just make empty ears? What variety? Some sweetcorn varieties are very short."

I've had all of those problems, but not always at the same time. The indian corns generally grow bigger plants, and bigger ears, and have better pollination.

"Have you tried Crimson Queen watermelon?"

I try to mix up the genetics, hoping to build a landrace. One variety seems to provide most of the genes. Seems like it's Crimson Sweet. Is that the same?
 
T Melville
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Ken W Wilson wrote:Sorry if that sounded overwhelming or like an interrogation. I didn't mean it that way. I haven't been sleeping enough. Just trying to help.



Not at all. Besides which, if I get overwhelmed, it's in black and white for me to go over at my leisure. I have all winter to pick through.
 
T Melville
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Bryant RedHawk wrote:hau T. Melville, First I have to say, very nice garden area you are working on there.



Thank you! That picture was taken when it was looking it's best. It doesn't look that way now.

Bryant RedHawk wrote:When a root crop plant grows nice greens but no root, you have soil conditions that don't allow for root growth, this is usually soil that is to tight.



That's always been my hunch. I know nitrogen is another possibility, but a test should rule that in or out.

Bryant RedHawk wrote:For an area like that you need to get the soil particles separated, I love the broad fork for this but a regular gardener's fork will do pretty well.
Clay soil is not the best for growing root crops. We need to get some open structures into all those superfine particles so air can get in and water can seep down.
This is where finely broken pieces of gypsum can do superior work, this will need to be forked into the top layer, it will tend to migrate down once you have done this.
I would want about a 5 gal. bucket per 10 sq. ft. to start with, spread it out over the 10 sq. ft. and use the fork to stab down then pull back on the handle to lift, do not turn over the soil, just open it up, this is what a broad fork does too.
If you have straw that too can be forked into the soil on a second pass, this will continue to open the soil structure and your toppings will filter down in the cracks and that will start separating those super fine clay particles.
That will allow water and air to have spaces to hang out and that will help the bacteria and fungal spores (most straw has these organisms present when you buy it) to start growing and doing their soil building thing.
Redhawk



So I get most of the advantages of tilling, (though probably more slowly) without  the OM loss? I get the soil broken up, but get to stay no-till? That's be awesome! I was afraid I'd have to either till in organic matter or pile it up and spend decades trying to make a DIY forest floor.
 
T Melville
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Bryant RedHawk wrote:I like to break gypsum board pieces into a very small size about like a half pencil eraser works fine for soil amendment and these are small enough to drop into broad fork cracks.

Redhawk



What method do you like? Sure, I've broken drywall during a temper-tantrum before, but if I try to scale that method up for this project, I'm afraid my knuckles won't take it. (Besides which, I like to think I'm less angry than I used to be.)
 
Bryant RedHawk
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I use an 8 lb. sledge hammer in a large bucket. Break the drywall into pieces that will fit into the size bucket you have and then lift and drop the hammer to break those pieces up to whatever size you desire.
Its a  lot like using a mortar and pestile but on a larger scale.
 
T Melville
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Got a broadfork for Christmas! Meadowcreature Tall. As promised, it's a workout, but not hard on the back. I'm afraid I'm in for it. I'm sure my ground being frozen made it tougher, but at the full 14" depth, I couldn't pull it back to loosen the soil. Not until I made one cut at half depth, then I could cut all the way down, if I was near that spot. I'm north of 250#. Gotta start somewhere, though. I assume the first time should be the hardest.

IMG_20171229_155525.jpg
[Thumbnail for IMG_20171229_155525.jpg]
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Congratulations on your new broadfork. Yes indeed the first time through a space with one will be the hardest, especially if the ground is frozen.
As you go along, the soil will get better and better, if you make some compost tea this spring and broadfork then pour on the tea, the microbes will sink deeper into your soil and that is a super thing.

Redhawk
 
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Drywall is made from crushed slag which is a byproduct of melting  a mineral out of rock. We have lots of it here in Pittsburgh. I once put about 5 tons in a steep 300 foot driveway. The story was that as you drove over it, it would lock together, almost like concrete. Well the next big storm washed it all into the road. Some of it in the travel lanes I shoveled into a wheelbarrow and filled in the deepest ruts. After that I just used limestone. Usually #3 which is about 3 inch diameter at the biggest. The limestone is cheaper even here in slag central.

If I was buying an amendment for my garden I'd go with lime. If I had some scrap drywall I'd go with lime.

Here's a link to the characteristics of slag:

http://www.slg.jp/e/slag/character.html

There's a mountain of slag as you enter the Squirrel Hill tunnel from the east as your approaching Pittsburgh. I wouldn't go there and shovel up the silt at the bottom of the mountain. I'd buy a bag of lime, for what, two bucks.
 
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rather than hauling/buying in wood and putting it in the ground, I prefer to put roots in the ground. I've had success growing corn in clay soil. Plant corn seeds with much closer spacing as the first crop wont grow so high, and you're aim is amending the soil rather than getting a crop. Harvest the corn or not, as you wish, and chop the stalks down at ground level, don't dig em up. leave the stalks on the ground as ground cover. If its windy just trample them down so they are still attached to the underground parts of the plant. Now interplant with a legume such as peas or beans. Varieties that are both dwarf and early will do best. Wait for harvest or trample them before they are ready, as you wish. Now you have some considerable organic matter in your soil that compared to buried wood is much more ready to give up its nutrients to whatever you plant next. And you only had to go to the effort of burying tiny seeds rather than branches.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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John Duda wrote:Drywall is made from crushed slag which is a byproduct of melting  a mineral out of rock. We have lots of it here in Pittsburgh. I once put about 5 tons in a steep 300 foot driveway. The story was that as you drove over it, it would lock together, almost like concrete. Well the next big storm washed it all into the road. Some of it in the travel lanes I shoveled into a wheelbarrow and filled in the deepest ruts. After that I just used limestone. Usually #3 which is about 3 inch diameter at the biggest. The limestone is cheaper even here in slag central.

If I was buying an amendment for my garden I'd go with lime. If I had some scrap drywall I'd go with lime.

Here's a link to the characteristics of slag:

http://www.slg.jp/e/slag/character.html

There's a mountain of slag as you enter the Squirrel Hill tunnel from the east as your approaching Pittsburgh. I wouldn't go there and shovel up the silt at the bottom of the mountain. I'd buy a bag of lime, for what, two bucks.



I am not sure where you got your information but the link you posted here does not mention drywall as one of the products made from iron slag, rock wool insulation = yes, but not Drywall or Gypsum Board.

Dry wall is also called Gypsum Board, a product that has nothing to do with the Iron or Steel industry. 
Gypsum is a natural occurring product, not a by-product of any other manufacturing process.

Redhawk
 
John Duda
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Bryant

https://stewartperry.com/construction-trends/can-drywall-be-green/

I got that out of my head and seem to remember the discussion about imported dry-wall. I have to admit I don't know what percentage of dry-wall is still imported.

I would use lime.
 
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Compacted Soil
Diakon Radish with 3ft tuber and an additional 3ft of smaller hair root. so 6ft total. So alot of dug holes once this annual dies and root
Carrot and Parsnip could also be used in a similar way too

Mineral Availability
Activated Charcoal/Biochar to grab onto the mineral in your soil that the plants can then easily absorb,
Animal Soil Life:  If you have alot of stuff in your soil pooping and living\dieing it will be alot of bio-available mineral for your garden.
Fungi Soil Life: Plants will actually give Fungi sugar and the fungi will use their superior "root" to extra mineral from the soil, it more cost effective for the plant more time
Rockdust/Gypsum/Mineral/Fertilizer: You can import some slow release Minerals that are lacking from your soil.

Water Availavility
Decomposed Roots will leave space in the soil for water
Animal/Worm Tunnels will leave space in the soil
Dead Sponge Plant Matter will hold water in the soil, like a sponge
Plants will absorb and require less water if the water has more dissolved mineral, so increase bio-available mineral helps
Increase Infiltration rates and storage capacity

Root/Leaf Pest Management
Nematodes/etc will find plant root and suck it dry, if you are lucky they will only eat the roots, other like aphids will do the same for the above ground parts of the tree.
Provide a "house" for Predatory animals above and below the ground to get the "bad" herbivore pest.
Out-compete the "bad" bugs with adding "good" ones (worm tea, inoculating the soil with good/edible fungi/etc)


 
Bryant RedHawk
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John Duda wrote:Bryant

https://stewartperry.com/construction-trends/can-drywall-be-green/

I got that out of my head and seem to remember the discussion about imported dry-wall. I have to admit I don't know what percentage of dry-wall is still imported.

I would use lime.



I get mine from construction people who don't use materials not made in the USA and they are "Green Builders", I've never seen sheetrock from china or any thing like those, for sale in my area.
Always read the label if possible and if not, do a vinegar test since true sheetrock will fizz and the others most likely won't.

Lime is fine but you have to make sure you are getting AG lime, there are other types out there that will kill your soil. It also cost you money but the way I look at this whole thing is do what you can do within your budget.
 
Are you okay? You look a little big. Maybe this tiny ad will help:
It's like binging on 7 seasons of your favorite netflix permaculture show
http://permaculture-design-course.com/
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