• Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
permaculture forums growies critters building homesteading energy monies living kitchen purity ungarbage community wilderness fiber arts art permaculture artisans regional education experiences global resources the cider press projects digital market permies.com all forums
this forum made possible by our volunteer staff, including ...
master stewards:
  • Nicole Alderman
  • raven ranson
  • Jocelyn Campbell
  • Julia Winter
stewards:
  • paul wheaton
  • Burra Maluca
  • Devaka Cooray
garden masters:
  • Anne Miller
  • Pearl Sutton
  • Joylynn Hardesty
  • Shawn Klassen-Koop
gardeners:
  • Joseph Lofthouse
  • Bill Crim
  • Mike Jay

building soil on sand  RSS feed

 
Posts: 101
6
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Well- I believe the EM juice for sale in the USA is produced here, not Japan, but yes, shipping water is not cheap. Maybe you could evaporate or freeze dry it and put it in little foil packets- just add water! But if you look into Higa and his work, Effective Micro organisms and Bokashi, you might get some good ideas on how to make your tea even tastier, even if you can't "predict the outcome" After all, the biodynamic/organic Cacao operation at highest elevation in Ecuador (and thus wetter and more prone to fungal diseases) is using bokashi sprays, and their chocolate is awesome.
Another N-fixer for sand which I forgot in a previous post is Hippophae rhamnoides, Sea Buckthorn. Besides the nitrogen this big nasty spiny bush can be loaded with orange berries that make an absolutely delicious juice that beats OJ anytime. It's pretty hardy too.
 
pollinator
Posts: 301
17
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
if you google effective microrganisms you can get a quart of EM for a little more than 20.00, and then pay shipping. it will do maybe 50 - 20 x 20 gardens. a gallon is more, and i will buy a gallon for my 20 acre food forest. but yes make your own, i highly recommend it. i also add to the mix, when i am buying this stuff mycorhizzal fungi from Paul Stamets, fungi perfecti. They have a packet for$ 5.95 of MycoGrow that is enough for most gardens. this way i do not have to worry about whether the plants need a fungal or a bacterial environment, nature can figure it out. and these products produce great results, as i have mentioned elsewhere, from the moment you apply them and help you grow in pure sand, or other seriously compromised "soils" yielding crops that same season. One place where grew on clay subsoil, carrots went down 14 inches.
 
Posts: 105
Location: Wisconsin Rapids, WI
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

charlotte anthony wrote:if you google effective microrganisms you can get a quart of EM for a little more than 20.00, and then pay shipping. it will do maybe 50 - 20 x 20 gardens. a gallon is more, and i will buy a gallon for my 20 acre food forest. but yes make your own, i highly recommend it. i also add to the mix, when i am buying this stuff mycorhizzal fungi from Paul Stamets, Fungi Perfecti. They have a packet for$ 5.95 of MycoGrow that is enough for most gardens. ....


Thanks, Charlotte. It is not as expensive as I thought. My garden is 100'X 20', with a number of beds. Would MycoGrow or fungi perfecti work like sour dough starter? [I could buy it once and then keep making more from it if I keep feeding it?]
You folks are wonderful! so much help! Again, Thank you so much.
 
charlotte anthony
pollinator
Posts: 301
17
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
the mycorhizzal fungi look like tiny white filament threads and yes you can grow your own. some people go into the forest and gather them, but there are many types, so would not know which ones he is using in the MycoGrow. i do not know the best ways to help the mycorhizzals grow, aside from giving them a job to do, as in growing food. mostly i only do one application except in very poor soil when i one time did about 10 applications,(the one in this forum on sand subsoil where there was also no water for the plants).

also if something is compromising the soil like acid rain i would use more than one application. i love the way elaine ingham makes microbe tea from the weeds growing on the site she is working with. another thing that feeds microbes which was used on the forests in europe where trees were dying is rock dust or azomite. I got this out of the book Secrets of the Soil. I have for years used Azomite in my victory gardens. it turns out according to elaine ingham the reason tiny particles of rock dust or azomite work is because the microbes in the soil can easily digest the smaller particles. so no need to bring these things in from off site, just use microbe tea.

On my new farm near kimberly, oregon
there is a layer of volcanic ash, about a foot thick as one of the layers of soil. where these are dug up because of swales and or ponds, i am taking this very fine powder and spreading it to feed the microbes. another thing a lot of people have is silt. silt can be spread to feed the microbes as well.

This land gets only 8 - 16 inches of rain a year, yet we will grow many plants cash crops there without irrigation: some of these plants are blackberries, black walnuts, walnuts, tayberries, ashwaganda, other medicinal herbs and autumn olive Autumn olive is quite a tree. We were growing it for its very nutrient dense fruit, nitrogen fixing, nurse crops for our fruit and nut trees, hormone production which helps trees fruit earlier, especially trees grown from seed and much more.
 
charlotte anthony
pollinator
Posts: 301
17
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
i posted this to another thread and thought you all might want to read it also.


someone else asked why importing microbes would work better than whatever microbes are already in place on the land. imported microbes would never be as useful as the local microbes. however many things, wind, tilling, compaction, flooding, chemicals etc. kill the existing microbes. we can build on the existing ones by fermenting them and giving the soil a huge number of them to work with.

when i was serving in new orleans after hurricane katrina, several big time soil remediators came from around the u.s. they gathered soil and took it back to their laboratories to make preparations (which I call potents) to multiply what bacteria they found so that they could break down the toxins in the soil. they brought it back to us to apply around new orleans. the soil has some of the microbes necessary but we can increase them or we can wait 10s or 100s of years for them to increase on their own.

also while i was in new orleans i was supervising at the demonstration permaculture garden where many of the people who volunteered in new orleans spent their last day or days so they could bring something positive home with them. the gardens were about 300 feet long and 50 feet wide. they were beautifully designed with many interesting shapes, trees put in here and there and planted with what were supposed to turn into many great tasting and looking goodies. things were not growing. the soil was flat without tilth with all that compost. we received the spoiled food from 1/2 of the workers in new orleans and made a lot of compost. the beds were almost total compost. i sas using EM and mycorhizzals as i always do. I went to a lecture from an out of state visitor about microbes, saying that since 1967 50% of the microbes were extinct. What was making them extinct? When he said floods, i realized that as these gardens had been under water for many days, that the microbes i was adding and the compost we were making was not enough. I went to a garden that i knew which had not been flooded and brought back many 5 gallon buckets to innoculate the soil organisms. within a week, we had good soil tilth, earthworms and happy plants.


i will post again what elaine ingham says about all this as it cannot be repeated enough. all following this is a quote.

Elaine Ingham Seminar
Elaine Ingham <soilfoodweb@aol.com>
Mon, Sep 21, 2015 at 3:34 PM
To: ameloy75@gmail.com, info@nature-technologies.com
Reading through your summary, there are a couple things I would like to point out.

You describe sand, silt, clay particles, rocks, pebbles, gravel, etc as the framework for the soil "house". In fact, sand, silt, clay, rocks, etc do NOT make any such structure on their own accord.

It is the life in that matrix that builds the framework. Sand, silt, clay, rocks, etc are merely the base materials from which bacteria, fungi, protozoa, nematodes, microarthropods, earthworms, enchytraeids, etc build the framework, build structure.

No life, no aggregates, no pores, no way to maintain structure, no way to alleviate compaction.

Soils people who do not understand how soil structure is built will often talk about how tillage aerates soil. No, really, all that tillage does is fluff soil for a very short period of time. As soon as water begins to pass through the mineral particles, the fluff is lost. Rather like making cotton candy. Sure, blowing air into a syrup solution causes a light, airy structure, but at the first sign of moisture, wind, or other disturbance, the fluff is lost and it all compacts right down again.

Life builds structure. Soil organisms are much more like people, who build houses, buildings, urban, sub-urban, town, village, farm infrastruture. Without humans, none of that structure occurs. Any disturbance can destroy that structure and it may take days, weeks, months, years to re-build. But, without life, no structure will be built.

Definitions:

Probably best to start with what soil is.

As defined by Hans Jenny, the Father of Soil Science: 1. The mineral component (sand, silt clay broken down ---- by organisms for the most part --- from rocks, parent materials, gravel, pebbles, boulders, etc), 2. Organic matter component (plant detritus, debris, residues, exudates, whatever label you want to give plant material, and any and all decomposed organic materials --- possibly we need to be clear what is meant by organic: any material which contains carbon in chains ultimately produced by photosynthesis) and 3. Organisms which perform all the processes in soil that transform organic matter, release nutrients in plant available forms, structure soil, retain, hold and sequester nutrients, including carbon, etc. Of course all abiotic factors affect rates of transformation of organic matter, building of soil, etc.

Dirt then is comprised of factor 1 above: the mineral component, with a minimal amount, or no organic matter or organisms.

• compacted soils --- Compaction occurs when compression, occurring by whatever means, packs the mineral fraction, and if present, the organic fraction of soil to greater than 100 to 150 psi. Work done by Penn State clearly shows that most plants cannot push roots through soil more compacted than 150 psi. Taprooted plants may be able to pressure their way through soil up to 300 psi. Compaction as low as 50 psi can reduce oxygen and all gas movement as well as infiltration of movement of water. This means if any organism activity is present, these compacted areas will rapidly become anaerobic.

• soil structure is the formation of microaggregates (bacterial function), macroaggregates (fungal function), peds (all soil organisms working together), passageways, hallways, small pores and large pores, allowing for the movement of oxygen and other gases, water, organisms and roots.

• soil aggregation: flocculation (chemical surface interactions involving clays surfaces), and structures built by bacteria and fungi,

• mineralization/oxidation actions Mineralization requires organic compounds to be converted to mineral forms. For each compound on the Periodic Chart of Elements, mineral (including purely mineral forms in the crystalline structures of rocks, sand, silt and clay, to the soluble and exchangeable forms of each nutrient) and organic forms occur, and the role and function of each in plant growth should be understood. Oxidation: forms of nutrients when partially or wholly oxidized, along with the recognition that in SOIL, all these interactions are typically dependent on organism transformations. Extreme environments operate differently, but those conditions do not exist in soil. Reduction: All interactive sites wholly or partially occupied by hydrogen. pH: the concentration of hydrogen ions expressed in a logarithmic scale. Note that in SOIL, pH is completely dependent on BIOLOGY. Organisms control the pH of soil.

• photosynthesis, the process of storing sunlight energy in carbon - carbon bonds

• Dynamic Soil Property, ----From Anne's summary: Dynamic Soil Property (DSP) studies which quantify the changes in soil properties over a short time frame such as differences from native condition to cropped land on similar soils. Whoa ---- this concept is extremely scale-bound. When is soil NOT in a state of flux? Daily changes in organism activity abound. What are the daily, weekly, monthly inputs of organic matter? When did the herd of herbivores walk by? Rainfall, snowfall, temperature,s humidity all work to invoke changes. there is a seasonal cycle, and that cycle must be understood. This Dynamic Soil Property seems to actually be talking about DISTURBANCE impacts, not a dynamic property. A dynamic property, to me, implies how the system responds to normal seasonal shifts in conditions, not how the system responds to one particular disturbance, which may not happen again for decades, or centuries or eons.

How does each system respond to being plowed with a mould board plow? A chisel plow? A disc plow? A sub-soiler? A deep-ripper? A keyline plow with or without compost extract or tea? The response to each is different, and the effects will be different, especially if amendments are added in: inorganic feritlizers, or reduced waste, or compost or teas? If compaction is broken up and structure built, the long term response is going to be massively different than the soil just compacting back down again because no life survived the tillage event. What happens if a herd of cattle walks over the tilled ground too soon? Or when the ground is wet? Will there be a difference if there is lots of organic matter, or none? how much life was present in that organic matter? Massively different end points............

So, by DSP do you really mean, what's the effect of disturbance? There is much more useful ecological terminology present that covers this type of subject material.
----------------------------------------------
So the question for the microbiologist is: What is the role of the mineral soil?
1. Mineral nutrients: The crystalline strucutre of clay, sand, silt, rocks, pebbles, etc hold withiin it a great deal of EVERY nutrient that plants require. Bacteria and fungi make the enzymes to remove those nutrients from that crystalline lattice work and pull those nutrients into the body of bacteria and fungus, retaining, holding and keeping those nutrients bound inside the organism. The organic matter, or food, for the bacteria and fungus to do this work is usually provided by the roots of plants, or to a lesser degree, organic matter present in the soil.

Consider that there is no soil on this planet that lacks nutrients. Do not be mislead here by thinking I'm talking about SOLUBLE nutrients, because I'm not. Plants need a certain amount of each nutrient important to that plant's growth. Those nutrients are present in the sand, silt, clay, rocks, pebbles, gravel, parent materials, and so forth. No soil lacks the nutrients to grow any plant you care to grow. Please look at tables that show TOTAL NUTRIENT CONCENTRATIONS from all soil, in any part of the world where they have been tested. All the nutrients the plants could possibly want are present. And if life is present, every second of every day, new nutrients are being replenished in that soil from the bedrock, parent materials, rocks, boulders, pebbles, gravel..........etc. Until the bones of the planet are gone, there will always be nutrients in the soil.

So why do plants grow better, green up, yield more when inorganic fertilizers are added? Because those fertilizers are the soluble forms of nutrients that plants require. All that is necessary is to convert the TOTAL sets of nutrients present in any soil, in the sand silt and clay, into plant available, soluble forms, and you don't needed inorganic fertilizers.

How does that conversion occur in the real world? Soil biology does that job. Inorganic, soluble fertilizers ONLY WORK, only give a plant response if soil biology is destroyed.

How did human beings destroy soil life? Tillage; compaction; use of high salt manures, and we have maintained that lack of life by using inorganic fertilizers and pesticides.

Want to return to an agriculture where we don't destroy soil, but build it? Must return soil life, in the proper balances, to cycle and retain nutrients, prevent disease and pest organisms from being able to grow, build structure to allow water, air and root to move as deep as they can into the soil, decompose toxin, present weeds..............

-----------------------------------

A clay particle is about the same size as a bacterium. But bacteria growing, increasing in number, given enough food, can increase to larger than the size of the Planet Earth within about 96 hours. Luckily, lack of food stops this from happening, but given infinite resources, they could do that.

So consider that within a few hours, a bacterial aggregate can be the size of a sand grain, and those bacteria happily glue all sorts of organic matter, clays, silts, etc into that aggregate. With the help of a few fungi, the microaggregates can be turned into macro-aggregates that people can see with their eyes. And consider all the benefits that come with building these structure, and that this structure can only occur IF THE ORGANISMS ARE PRESENT AND FUNCTIONING.

We can certainly see clays, silts and sand grains using a 400X total magnification. but if the sand is big and hard to see what is on it, then we back off to 200X, or 100X or 40X. Or a hand lens. We can look at interactions are any scale that is useful.

“The secrets of soil are being un-earthed. <wink> All puns intended!” Elaine R. Ingham. 2015

Elaine R. Ingham
Soil Life Consultant
 
Posts: 77
Location: Eastern Shore of Virginia, USA, Zone 7b, KeB Bojac Sandy Loam
7
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I have sandy loam soil, a far more forgiving situation than pure sand, but almost all of my research is into sandy soils. I've compiled a lot of information on improving sand. Here are some key quotes:

“Undoubtedly the different kinds of earth will have their influence, according to their specific properties as kinds of earth. If there is sandy ground where you want to store the manure, it will be necessary to fill it in with a little clay. For the sand is pervious and will suck in the water. If, on the other hand, you have a very clayey soil, you should loosen it a little, and sprinkle in some sand. For a medium effect, always take a layer of sand and a layer of clay. Then you have both — the inner consistency of the earth kingdom and also the watery influences. Otherwise the water will trickle away. A mixture of the two kinds of earth will be the best.” - Rudolf Steiner, Agriculture Course, pg. 103.

"Yellow Lupine grows well in sandy soil. Exhausted, sandy soils, once worthless, have been brought back into production by green manuring with Yellow Lupine. It will even thrive on coastal drift sandy. This legume also grows well in sandy loam soils, light red soils rich in iron, and acid soils. Yellow Lupine requires good drainage and does not tolerate standing water. If the soil is suitable, Yellow Lupine always outcompetes the weeds." - Edwin McLeod, Feed the Soil, pg 136.

“In sandy soils or those lacking in good clay, adding bentonite or montmorillonite clay to animal feed is the best way of rebalancing the whole farm. Keep in mind that not all forms of montmorillonite are suitable; it’s worth doing some trials first; and animals shouldn’t drool after absorbing clay. Add it to forage at a dose of 50-100 g (1 ¾ - 3 ½ oz) per animal day (suggested by Raimund Remer of Bauk Farm in Germany). This practice should result in good health and productivity, and fertility for the soil which receives the animals’ manure. It’s valuable approach for poultry and pigs as well as cows and sheep.” -- Pierre Masson, A Biodynamic Manual, pg. 220.

“The single most important aspect of managing vegetation is building up carbon. Carbon is the basis of life. Carbon is free. Sandy soils, rocky soils, dense clays and soils that are way out of mineral balance--all can be made productive as long as they contain high levels of organic, living carbon.” -- Hugh Lovel quoted in the Foreword to Grass: The Forgiveness of Nature, xvii-xviii.

“Sand itself has almost no exchange capacity and the only way to build up the exchange capacity of a sandy soil is by adding organic matter, colloidal clay, or humic acid sources.” - Michael Astera, The Ideal Soil, pg. 33.

“Light sandy soils have been greatly improved by relatively low amounts of ground igneous rocks, or clay, added to the compost.” - H.H. Koepf, The Pfeiffer Garden Book: Bio-Dynamics in the Home Garden, xii.

Consider Buckwheat. Alan Chadwick's indications are strong: you can plant it in rapid succession, cut the tops when at 10% bloom (when roots are at their maximum), compost the tops, and replant buckwheat -- as many as three times in a single growing season! That's a lot of carbon in those roots. Maximize root production and you'll see sand turn into loam. I'd recommend a lot of cover cropping and good high CEC clay added to your compost.

Another ideal plant is Stinging Nettles. The plant turns even the lightest soils dark under its roots. And the plant itself makes great compost (or "teas"). Alan Chadwick claims to have made a compost pile of nothing but Stinging Nettles and that it was ready for use in... only three (3) days (!?).

Good luck!
 
Posts: 10
1
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I've been growing on sandy loam for many years, here in the South. The problem with adding organic matter is that it burns up fast. Compost lasts much longer in the North; here it is basically gone in a year or two in our heat and humidity. So I've been using biochar to help hold the nutrients from the compost, and I've found that it helps quite a bit. It also helps with water conservation.

Now we will soon be moving, and I'll be giving biochar the extreme test, as we are going to be growing on an old barrier island that is pure sand. It's not only droughty, but it's even hotter than the sandy loam I am used to, so I expect it will burn up organic matter even faster. Since much of the land is wooded with loblolly pine and blackjack oak, and I have lots of half-rotten wood, I'll be doing hugel for much of my growing, and I'll be amending it with copious amounts of biochar, along with compost.

My impression is that biochar makes a lot more difference in the South than in the North, but it might be worth a try for that sand, too.
 
Stewart Lundy
Posts: 77
Location: Eastern Shore of Virginia, USA, Zone 7b, KeB Bojac Sandy Loam
7
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Biochar is probably quite good for sandy soils. Even a single 50# bag of good clay per acre every year would seriously help the low cation exchange capacity (CEC) that that sand has. Not only does organic matter burn off, but nutrients leach very fast from pure sand. Good biochar has a high CEC. Good clay has a high CEC, too. And clay can't burn off. Composting biochar or clay first should give a better final product for the garden too.... or just feed the clay or biochar to your animals and compost the manure.
 
The first person to drink cow's milk. That started off as a dare from this tiny ad:
Self-Sufficiency on nearly 10 acres of Eden
https://permies.com/t/95939/Sufficiency-acres-Eden-renter-utilize
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
Boost this thread!