Soil testing and maintenence

Sasha Bushell

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Aug 29, 2016
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Hi Everyone.

Its been some time since I've posted any thing on the forum. My apologies. However I am keen to ask a few individual subject specific questions to you oil.

Re: self sustainability and soil.
I believe soil is crucially important for self sustainability (please correct me if im wrong).
I feel that if the soil is not right, your harvest may not necessarily come to fruition; not good if your planning to live off it and i was wanting to ask you all what you do to your soil. And how self sufficient you feel you are.
Do you soil test? (If so; please explain)
What to you add? (And why)
Whats your harvests like?
What grows well and what doesn't?
What challenges are you facing?

The day we get property is getting closer and closer and trial, error and tips from SSC members i think are the best way to go.

Appreciate any tips, tricks or hacks available :)

Your fellow SSC member;
Sasha xx
 
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ClissAT

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Sasha if you read my thread about gardening on poor soil you will get an inkling into what happens when the soil & water are not good.

https://www.selfsufficientculture.com/threads/gardening-on-really-poor-soil.832/

Also you will read what I did to remedy the situation after many years of trial & error..... lots of error!

People who are lucky enough to have viable, friable soil don't realize just how lucky they are.
The rest of us must soldier on, spending far more on additives to fix our soil.

Eventually the aim is to have soil that is balanced but again as you might realize from reading my thread, it is an ongoing process where in my case the only available water apart from rain, continues to ruin all attempts to fix my soil.

Hopefully most people will not have the terrible water that I have to deal with.
But if you use dam water it is a very good ideal to have it tested if your attempts to fix your soil are not working.

Most plants will grow & produce in the range of 6-7pH where most soil sits. But there are still lots of plants that need more or less pH for best production.
 
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Sasha Bushell

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Aug 29, 2016
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Sasha if you read my thread about gardening on poor soil you will get an inkling into what happens when the soil & water are not good.

https://www.selfsufficientculture.com/threads/gardening-on-really-poor-soil.832/

Also you will read what I did to remedy the situation after many years of trial & error..... lots of error!

People who are lucky enough to have viable, friable soil don't realize just how lucky they are.
The rest of us must soldier on, spending far more on additives to fix our soil.

Eventually the aim is to have soil that is balanced but again as you might realize from reading my thread, it is an ongoing process where in my case the only available water apart from rain, continues to ruin all attempts to fix my soil.

Hopefully most people will not have the terrible water that I have to deal with.
But if you use dam water it is a very good ideal to have it tested if your attempts to fix your soil are not working.

Most plants will grow & produce in the range of 6-7pH where most soil sits. But there are still lots of plants that need more or less pH for best production.
Far out! Looking at your thread it seems almost not worth the trouble, but if you didnt do those then I'd guess you would be harvesting nothing! :(
 

Flatland

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I admit to being a lazy gardener. I've lived on heavy clay soil & now very sandy soil. Both I added horse poo, lots of it. Always had horses so no trouble getting horse poo. Sometimes I dig it in other times just chuck it on top. On beds I am going to plant out straight away I use old poo on beds that are going to rest for a while I use it new, straight from the horse so to speak. Only other thing I did with the clay was add in mounds of gypsum to break up the clay. Added that every time I worked the bed over until I had a loam worked well. As I said I'm lazy about adding this mineral or that, so far I've gotten away with it.
 
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Mark

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Do you soil test? (If so; please explain)
I don't soil test and the only time I would is if there was something drastically and obviously wrong such as nothing is growing at all and I mean "it's a desert in the backyard and I don't know why..."

99% of the time adding organic matter the garden beds and following general good garden practices is all that's needed in my opinion. I don't waste valuable time testing soils all around the place and then adding this or that to get the ph levels exactly right.

For commercial fruit and veg growers, there is obvious merit in soil testing but for the backyard grower into self-sufficiency practising commonsense gardening methods such as using compost, manures, organic fertilisers, green crops, weed control, crop rotation, bed resting, planting at the right time of year, etc is te way to go rather than obsessing with the ph levels in the soil because that could drive ya crazy!

Clissa is completely right about "trial and error" - don't be scared to fail in gardening because sometimes you can do everything perfectly and still fail to get great results. The best thing you can do is work your property and get a feel for your land because every site is different so expecting a "book" or "rule" to provide all the answers for your particular piece of land is unrealistic as most advice can only be a guide in reality. Getting out and getting your hands dirty is the best way to learn. :)

Whats your harvests like?
Generally, very good! Like I stated I get some poorer harvests than others but that's gardening...

What to you add? (And why)
Organic matter such as compost, manures, green crops dug in, mulch, organic commercial fertilisers, plenty of sun, and appropriate water. Fruit and veg are hungry plants because they need lots of energy to produce so a good steady supply of organic matter preferably mostly recycled from our own backyard is the perfect sustainability model.

What grows well and what doesn't?
Most food crops grow well in the subtropics given the right timing and place. Certainly, most of the fruit and veg we westerners are used to eating can be grown well in most climates.

What challenges are you facing?
Animals eating or destroying food such as birds, possums, bats, fruit fly. It's a constant battle but one that is winnable organically.

Time - Finding the time to get all the tasks done around my self-sufficient property is a challenge but a good one to have nevertheless.

Remember, you don't have to be self-sufficient in everything just be self-sufficient in something (and keep adding to that). Look, and see the Earth through her eyes... as a way to understand how things grow and complement each other naturally for sustainability and you will learn heaps.
 
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Ash

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Have a basic soil pH/moisture tester. No longer use it to guide my treatment of soil, just stick my finger in it to see if it will do.
As long as it looks pretty friable and organic looking I won't even bother much with pH unless it fails to grow hardy things. I see roses growing quite happily around where I am so I think I'm fortunate that way.
Time is the biggest factor for me doing things methodically. I'm OCD in my job but I do not have time to be OCD with my gardening. I just do what is necessary to get a decent result as it will always taste better than what we could get from the shops or even the local market.
 
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Mark

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I just do what is necessary to get a decent result as it will always taste better than what we could get from the shops or even the local market.
Exactly! Too many people want amazing results in their backyard food garden but the truth is even a quick dig and plant then forget can produce decent enough harvests to get a nice organic healthy homegrown produce hit. Even wild cherry tomatoes on a simple cheese tasted sandwich for breakfast is a win in my opinion.
 

Letsgokate

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Don't know if you have heard of Garden Mate from Earthlife http://earthlife.com.au/product/garden-mate/ it's a soil conditioner. I've used some of their other products. Had a really long chat with the guy at Farm Fantastic over the weekend. He was telling us some stories of where people's poor soil had been dramatically improved. They have stockists that sell their products I'm fortunate to have one close by. I'm going to exclusively use their products and see how things go.