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could it be hydrophobic soil ?

Posts: 59
Location: south of Giza Egypt . Home in cairo
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In a certain spot in my farm , where grey water from the kitchen run , there was a soil like no other , it creates top soil fast , it grows plant like leblab and lofa like no other.

I know that for 4 years or so , but couldn't really figure out the reason , I thought it might be the food left over that might be doing the trick .

later on, it came to my mind that the liquid soap wash might have something to do with it , what we learnt from childhood that soap water kills your plants

 I have to mention that my soil is sandy one , so I picked another spot in my farm and added some soap liquid with a lot of water . what appears to me that water don't leach down so fast as it used to do .

what in my mind now and I might be wrong is : I think that my soil is hydrophobic one it leaches water down so fast through cracks  ,and so little water gets to the plant roots , so dish washing liquid acted as wetting agent that did a better job with my soil .

my questions are ,
am I right ?
what am I  missing ?
how can I make a natural wetting agent ?
my soil is in end of the desert , it's almost caliche ,we get almost no rain all the time , we have to till big and add lots of manure every time we grow new crop, most of the near by farm use lot of chimical fertilizers  ,herbcide , pest and fung cide  ,no till method was not good idea at all . summer is really hot and long

I tried lots of natural things with little help

Mostafa Ismail
Posts: 59
Location: south of Giza Egypt . Home in cairo
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I will be around for a day or so then be gone to the farm for a while  where I don't have access to the net  so forgive me if I don't give answers by that time
Posts: 64
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My guess would be that tilling is killing all the good biology in your "soil." Try top-dressing your soil with manure, compost and mulch. Best wishes.
Posts: 1326
Location: Virginia USDA 7a/b
hugelkultur forest garden hunting chicken food preservation bee
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A couple questions and maybe some answers.

First, do you use soap or detergent? Soap requires a strong base and it may indicate the increased fertility is from pH increase, allowing uptake of minerals. This may mean amendment with lime may be important.

Second, I would consider your hypothesis, that this changes the infiltration potential of your soil. Caliche is famous for just running off rain, without infiltration. If that is the case, gypsum would be a longer lasting amendment to break up the caliche.

Overall, I would look at earthworks to retain water during the wet season, and potentially zai pits to get some plant cover. Shade and plant cover will eventually provide a place for other plants, and the roots will break up the caliche. Ultimately the answer is almost always more organic matter.    

Best of success!
Posts: 48
Location: outside Brisbane, Australia
chicken cooking greening the desert
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Hi Mostafa

Have you seen the work of Geoff Lawton and the Permaculture Research Institute in Jordan? They have a demonstration site that is about 6 or 7 years old. It was set up on a very inhospitable site, and the soil is the same white, desert soil that you seem to be dealing with.

Here are some links:



I think yo will find their work very relevant.
Posts: 39
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do you use organic / environment friendly soap ?

vegetable oils do act as a surfactant.

to me, the fastest way to improve sandy soil is a mix of fish and mollasses.
added to compost tea.

you want the correct microbes added to the soil crom the compost
but, also something fo them to chew on.

leaves, grass, etc... as mulch. they break down faster than wood chips

make sure to get fish from an unheated source
tht way the oils are still active.
fish heads in a blender works just fine.

wood chips are excellent, but a longer term solution.

cover crops...
radish, clover or other nitrogen fixers, rye grass (deep roots)
tillage radish can have very deep roots
i have 7 small pine trees to poke holes in the clay layer too.
they also have mycorrhizal associations.
i will chop them down when they get about 8ft tall. (and are in the way)
the roots will rot and bring in erven more fungi.
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