Featured Gardening on really poor soil

Discussion in 'Fruit & Vegetable Growing' started by ClissAT, Oct 1, 2015.

  1. Ben Jamin

    Ben Jamin Active Member Premium Member

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    I'm not sure where you are but I noticed comfrey is more sedate in SE QLD than when I lived in Melbourne. It still grows strongly but loves moisture for its big green leaves. My first few plants grew slowly but then I was able to divide and they quickly multiplied. The roots go deep and mine nutrients but they must also exude a lot of goodness because they attract a lot of soil microbiology and make the soil soft. I found that keeping a small patch going in good soil allowed me to create lots of roots to put into poorer soil and start more plants. To transplant I just grab the top and pull like a carrot. It's pretty unlikely that you will remove all the roots and a new plant will soon be up stronger than ever. The roots I cut into 1 - 2 inch pieces and stick an inch underground.

    High nutrient levels particularly phosphorus stop plants establishing mycorrhizal fungal relationships. Tilling breaks the mycelium threads that connect the fungal web together and mycorrhizal fungi require living plant roots to create carbohydrates for them (which is why I try not to lay beds fallow). Fungicides can also be an issue (but I'd wager not at your place so much). Fungal spores are everywhere and innoculants are a waste of money (IMO). I bought some mycorrhizal innoculant for $50 and saw good results on tomatoes in neglected soil, but not in good soil. Mushroom compost is good as an amendment but not as an innoculant.
     
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  2. ClissAT

    ClissAT Valued Member Premium Member GOLD

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    Wow thanks for that Ben. Phosphorus is not a problem here as it's very low.

    Here is the soil test report done through Nutri-Tech Solutions at Yandina. It was done using the original paddock soil. Since then I have substantially improved the vegie garden area & fruit trees. Soon I will get another soil test of the garden soil in particular & a special water test done.

    The reference to Manganese toxicity is because there are several old manganese mines in the hills behind my place I thought that might be the problem with the top soil. I still could be the reason for poor dam water quality with it being leached into run-off water. The areas of the paddocks that I tested would not receive dam water because I don't irrigate the paddocks but of course I water the gardens constantly so a manganese toxicity could occur.


    There are some serious imbalances here. Magnesium is very high which will restrict the
    availability of water and oxygen in the root zone, as well as affect the activity of your beneficial soil
    biology, most of which are aerobic and require good oxygen levels to thrive. These organisms are
    vital in a range of situations including nutrient delivery, disease suppression, decomposition and
    nitrogen fixation. Nitrogen fixation, especially, will be severely limited in this situation and a nitrogen
    boost may be beneficial. A foliar application of urea and humic acid is ideal for this purpose. You
    could mix up your own humic acid to supply a very cheap source of humic acid, (~$8.00/ha), which
    will help to stimulate beneficial soil fungi, limit burnout of your precious soil carbon, and stabilise the
    dissolved urea (refer to Appendix 2). Sodium is also a little high here.

    Apart from nitrogen, the other major deficiencies include phosphorus, calcium and sulphur. These
    can be addressed through the spreading of bulk inputs such as soft rock, lime and gypsum. The trace
    elements zinc, copper, manganese, boron and molybdenum are also deficient. It is not really
    feasible, economically or practically, to broadcast trace elements, therefore these can best be
    supplemented through occasional foliar spray inputs, (refer to Foliar Spray Program).


    Interestingly, these results do not reflect high manganese, however, further testing would be
    required to determine if manganese toxicity is indeed an issue. For example, sub-soil testing may
    reveal higher concentrations down the profile from which the plants are drawing. A cheaper option
    would be to take a leaf test of affected plats (from one species only), to see what the plants are
    actually taking up. Please contact me if you are interested in this option. In the meantime, building
    the very low calcium levels will also increase pH over time, which significantly reduces manganese’s
    potential for toxicity.


    On the plus side, your organic matter levels are ok and good grazing practices should be continued
    to help maintain this level. Organic matter is vital to support a productive soil biomass which
    improves nutrient recycling and availability, water retention, drought tolerance and crop resilience.
    The Soil Correction inputs will help to address the major nutrient deficiencies as well as improving
    soil structure over time as calcium base saturation increases and the soil starts to flocculate and
    improve. The addition of beneficial soil biology will help to accelerate this process.

    The Biological Foliar Spray Program includes a once-off application of AMF/VAM fungi (Nutri-Life
    Platform®) that, once established in the root zone of a permanent pasture, will provide significant
    benefits including increased root surface area, greater nutrient uptake and recycling, as well as
    greater drought tolerance. This application also includes Trichoderma fungal species which help to
    break down cellulose and promote healthy root growth. Both species contribute to building stable
    soil carbon levels. A separate, general foliar spray program is also included in this section which
    focuses on a liquid version of your primary soil limiting factors and should give your pasture a boost
    as well as providing your stock with important minerals and trace elements that may be lacking from
    the forage.


    Federal Soil Test Chart.jpg Federal Soil Test 2.jpg

    There are more recommendations if you want to read them.
     
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  3. Ben Jamin

    Ben Jamin Active Member Premium Member

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    Hmm - I've never had a soil test done but I figure it would have different results for each bed I have. I am also somewhat skeptical of how accurate these tests are in terms of measuring actual bio availability of these nutrients (maybe they'd be more valuable if I had more experience in reading them). The high magnesium to calcium ratio was interesting. I spread shell grit for chooks on top of my some of my beds as a slow release calcium source and ph balanced as it's quite cheap in bulk bags. I don't see much of it in the soil anymore but it did seem to help with curling leaves on my chilli plants the following year (but it's hard to say that was the cause/cure).

    After writing about the comfrey I tried to pull my plant in the kitchen garden out but the roots were too deep. I had to get the fork and lever them out. I ended up with a huge amount of leaves and a bucket of root cuttings. Enough for about 50 new plants (potentially). I'm going to put them in the mulch under my fruit trees to minimise weeds. I tried to get all the roots I could knowing that I would miss a few and they would resprout in a month. In 12 months time I could do the same again with a similar harvest of roots. If you leave the roots in the ground you can get a harvest of leaves every 3 or 4 months. They're very productive but the leaves iritate my skin particularly on the inside of my arms. I have them on the outside of my rock garden beds to keep the grass out and to drop the leaves straight into the beds.

    image.jpeg
     
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  4. Rhonda

    Rhonda Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    Very inspiring ClissAT...We have dreadful soil but we have persevered and also bought some in as well. The effort certainly pays off
     
  5. Rhonda

    Rhonda Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    Some how I managed to kill all my Comfrey (actually I think neighbors over spray more likely...Love love this plant
     
  6. ClissAT

    ClissAT Valued Member Premium Member GOLD

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    14 January 2016

    I wanted to do an update to show how my 'recipe' for developing soil health & nutrition is working out.
    I am very pleased with the results beginning to show up now in recent beds, particularly since we got a bit of rain.
    Rain makes a huge difference here because the dam water multiples the imbalances in the soil. So the more I have to water with it the worse the imbalances get.
    Here are a heap of photos with a bit of explanation for each.
    14Jan16 garden 1.jpg
    Now that the chooks roam free I have to put bird netting around each bed!
    But it is easy to see that the plants are doing fairly well. Still a bit slow & still have smaller produce.

    14Jan16 garden 2.jpg
    Sunflowers doing amazing but heads a bit small. Pigeon Pea on left of photo bearing heavily when king parrots leave it alone. Some yellow leaves in foreground on pumpkins & taro are result of times when the ground dried out & Potassium burning occurred in the leaves. Once it burns those leaves it can't be undone by more watering. Those leaves are done for. However if the soil is kept wet the new leaves will be green. When the soil dries out the plant cant access potassium so it cannibalizes it from the oldest leaves. This problem is often misdiagnosed as some sort of bacterial or fungal issue due to watering overhead or soil splashing up onto the low leaves.

    14Jan16 garden 3.jpg
    Best lemon crop in years! But it took the last 2yrs of mulching, watering & keeping the nutrient levels up to achieve this crop.

    14Jan16 garden 4.jpg
    This is the result of the tenant of my cabin following my fertilizer recipe.
    Added to existing bed 6ft x 3ft are:- 2x 25lt bags commercial compost, 1x 25lt bag Searles 5in1, my trace element mix, wood ash, B&B, rock minerals, gypsum, Katek & a generous covering of crushed dried lucerne hay(which has not been added yet to this bed).

    14Jan16 garden 5.jpg
    I'm extremely proud of this banana tree & it is almost read to 'give birth' with a bunch swelling in the stem now. The choko vine next to it is on it's second year but still does drop a lot of immature fruit. So more nutritional input needed.

    14Jan16 garden 6.jpg
    Paw Paws are getting flowers but unfortunately there are no males around so no fruit! You would usually expect to get at least a few males when setting seed but no joy for my crew of 12 female paw paws!

    14Jan16 garden 7.jpg
    My first banana flower (bell ready to cut off now & bag bunch). Unfortunately I didn't see this one coming so I didn't change the fertilizer regime in time. I needed to add way more potassium & phosphate(chook poo). I have done that now but the bunch will still be very small. I have also redressed the fertilizer for the other tree so it's bunch should be way bigger.

    14Jan16 garden 8.jpg
    My barrow full of ingredients.

    14Jan16 garden 9.jpg
    a great sized pumpkin but it's the only one between 4 vines. There were lots of flowers & fruit but they all fell off except this one. So this mango tree that I planted these vines under still needs more fine turning of nutrition. The mangoes were nice & big although not that many of them. They all had to be picked green cos the crows got into them. All fruit went in the freezer.

    14Jan16 garden 10.jpg
    Even the grasshoppers I catch for the chooks (off the broccoli mostly) are fully organic since they seem to live out their whole life cycle here!

    chooks inside.jpg
    Just for fun! :)
     
  7. Mark

    Mark Founder Staff Member

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    Fantastic update with lots of excellent tips thrown in on the image narratives.

    I've given my bananas a ton of love (and fertiliser) but the fruit size is still about half that of a standard lady finger. I'm beginning to think my trees are just small bearing...?

    Very unlucky not getting a male pawpaw out of 12 what's the odds of that!

    It's good to see a thriving vegetable garden in this heat. Mine looks like a weed paradise in places and the moon in others lol :(

    Hopefully once I finish landscaping the patch (which is killing me atm) I can get back to sowing some new crops.
     
  8. ClissAT

    ClissAT Valued Member Premium Member GOLD

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    Mark mine has lots of weeds too but they just don't show in the photos! :p
    But I use them to provide green mulch. If they get too tall or shade out a vegie plant, I just break them off & lay the tops onto the soil. Every little bit helps around here.
    When I want to mulch an area I pull all the weeds & use as mulch or place in compost.
    It's 0nly thriving because I am pouring the water on daily, an amount that most would consider weekly deep watering.
    One thing I didn't show was almost full sized capsicums! First time in many years that I have been successful with caps.
     
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  9. Rhonda

    Rhonda Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    ClissAT thank you for the up date very inspiring. I was gifted 2 Pawpaw trees last week so far so good they have dropped their side leaves but new ones are showing on the top.
    Sadly I lost my Bananas again another victim of my neighbors over spraying
     
  10. ClissAT

    ClissAT Valued Member Premium Member GOLD

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    Don't you just hate neighbours?! Rhonda is there any way you could put up a tarp on the fence or some corrugated iron sheets to protect your trees?
    Both bananas & paw paws like free draining (planted on a big mound) rich moist soil high in organic matter such as compost with lots of top up feeding & kept covered with soft leaf litter.
    My Mother used to dig the F&V scraps into the sand around our pawpaws & those trees bore heavily & were long lived. Eventually they got bunchy top but we inoculated each tree with a garlic clove in the truck which seemed to work. They lost their main tops but grew a heap of new side shoots that gave us even more fruit but slightly smaller!
    I remove the top out of my pawpaw trees once they reach 6ft high. I like to get them to fork & grow side shoots.
    Commercial farmers often cut them off at 2-3ft high & promote many side shoots. Easier to pick the lower fruit & more concurrent fruit.
    I'll write in the Banana & PawPaw section about what their fertilizer requirements are.
     
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  11. Rhonda

    Rhonda Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    Since the over spray episodes he doesn't come out much into the yard..We are on 5 acre lots and his garden was close to the fence line. So I am in the process of replanting what trees I can..Sadly Banana suckers wont be happening .
    My neighbor is now 86 years old and is from an era of spray every thing.
    Thank you ClissAT for your advice I will be doing that with my Pawpaw. They are both planted on mounded soil and well mulched
     
  12. ClissAT

    ClissAT Valued Member Premium Member GOLD

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    Another update is in order.

    The sunflowers are finished thanks to crows, king parrots & anything else that fancied a free feed! The chooks got some seed but I only give them a little now & then because both BOSS(black oil sfs) & grey SFS are both calcium hungry during the digestion process & chooks need all the calcium they can get.
    There were a few plants left in that bed that were not mature so I worked around them to redig the beautifully rich soil that developed while the sunflowers were growing.

    I added some compost from chook pen & a smaller amount of my usual fertilizer recipe along with the rock minerals & gypsum & sowed a heap of seed. Most is now up so I need to get on & get another bed ready to take the seedlings. I'll be using the bed that grew all those fantastic tomatoes over the last many months.

    I use tread-in electric fence posts with a long strip of bird mesh to keep the chooks out. Plus a few down the center to hold up a big piece of shade cloth that was over the bed for a week because of hot days while the seed germinated.

    sseedling bed 1.jpg

    sseedling bed 2.jpg

    Having discovered exactly what was lacking in my soil & what the key was to unlock all the goodies I have been applying rock minerals & other phosphate substances along with my standard recipe.
    This has resulted in far better soil, outstanding yields & healthier plants in general.
    I was particularly in awe of the best corn I had grown in years with big full cobs almost ready to pick. I went to the garden to water on this particular morning after passing a few minutes with the friendly king parrots that were resting on my verandah railings. I wondered why they had such smug looks on their faces!

    Well I soon discovered they had opened & eaten part of every cob of my excellent corn. %#@*&^%$@# parrots!!!
    So I quickly put some bird mesh over the whole bed. Luckily that bed has a permanent trellis down the middle that I could just throw the mesh over but I did have to prune other plants in that bed & the corn flowers were taller than the trellis. I have another bed of corn that I will have to cover soon too & it has broccoli & snake beans growing with the corn.
    corn.jpg

    Here is a pic of my tree lettuce.
    tree lettuce.jpg

    Here is chia & pigeon pea growing in the chook pen for shade & seed.
    chia & pigeon pea.jpg


    So I have decided to put up a huge grow house using some very long bamboo & bird netting & cover the whole vegie garden area along with some of the fruit trees, in particular the pawpaws which now have several 10-15cm fruit on each tree. Won't the parrots have fun with those if I don't cover them!
     
  13. Mark

    Mark Founder Staff Member

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    Sounds like a large netted area is something that just has to be done now the parrots have zeroed in :)

    Do the chickens eat the pigeon pea?
     
  14. ClissAT

    ClissAT Valued Member Premium Member GOLD

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    Yes Mark, pigeon peas are found in several brands of chook food. Particularly organic non-soy types.
    The one I buy is Heritage soy-free organic & it has several types of seeds as well as grains.
    I grow mung beans also for me & chooks.
    But I also like eating the fresh pigeon peas. They make excellent dahl when soaked 3 days first.
     
  15. Mark

    Mark Founder Staff Member

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    Is that right!?

    Did you have any trouble starting your plant because don't they have to be inoculated?
     
  16. ClissAT

    ClissAT Valued Member Premium Member GOLD

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    No I just soaked as if growing sprouts until root was showing then set in tubes of seedling soil.
    I am actually now having a problem of them becoming weeds because the parrots open every pod & spill lots of seed which all germinates.
    The only thing I have ever inoculated was lucerne seed, which nowadays actually comes pre-inoculated.
     
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  17. Mark

    Mark Founder Staff Member

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    Ok thanks - very interesting. I have some seeds and been meaning to germinate them.
     
  18. Sanyam

    Sanyam Member Premium Member GOLD

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    A veterinarian once told me that Chickens diet has similar composition as Human diet. Based on this, my guess says the Humipee has as high N content as that of Chicken Manure. Do you dilute HumiPee before using on soil to avoid plant burn?

    Humans eat excess salt. Does the high salt content have any effect on soil? It does have effect on the earthworms I am sure. They wiggle in pain when touched by salty sweaty hands.
     
  19. ClissAT

    ClissAT Valued Member Premium Member GOLD

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    Sanyam welcome to this wonderful forum.
    Yes I dilute water with the (fresh)humipee between 2:1 & 4:1 depending on what it's being used for.
    2:1 to heat up a compost heap; 4:1 to water around fruit trees; 3:1 to cast out onto the horse paddock or grass in the orchard. I don't have any lawn around the house that is not also orchard, but if I did have lawn I would use 4:1 for that.
    re worms suffering, yes I guess they would but then again, the simple act of exposing worms to light will kill them as they are very UV sensitive. So if you have already dug them up they are going to die anyway, sad but true! Also once they have been exposed to air they begin to dry out & once the slime layer is scuffed, bacteria gets in really quickly, so if they don't die from UV or being hurt by the act of digging them up, then they will die from bacterial infection.

    The Phosphorous in chicken manure is almost ready for use immediately. It generally has the correct balance between P & N which is why results can be seen almost straight away. The phosphorous in our waste comes from the 'brown stuff'! That needs very different treatment.
    'They' say we use far too much chicken poo on our gardens & that it only takes the output from 2 chooks to keep 1 acre fully funded with P&N.
    I disagree with those scientists whole heartedly & challenge them to come to my place & prove that theory!
    I have 3 chooks & their output can't even keep up with demand just in the vegie garden area let alone a whole acre!
    Of course I'm starting from a very low bench mark & 'they' might be working on the assumption the 1 acre is perfectly arable & balanced land on which no nutrient hogging plants will be grown!
    Ah, the rationality of theoretical science, hey?
     
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  20. Sanyam

    Sanyam Member Premium Member GOLD

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    Thanks for the welcome!!
    I mentioned the touching of the earthworm as an example of the problems the good soil worms and microbes might have with too much salts in soil. Well, of course it also depends on how much salt goes in our diets :popcorn:

    Does that mean the humipee can work as slow release source for P ? That can work as a positive thing since P is needed in quantity at the time of fruiting, right?

    My land too is not in great shape. The previous owner of it never paid attention to its deteriorating organic contents. I discussed this with a veterinarian who has contacts with many local poultry farms. I hope to procure Chicken manure and some compost at cheap rates :chuffed:
     
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