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A garden is only as good as the ground that it's planted in. Discussion forum for the many ways to improve the soil where we plant our gardens.

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Old February 29, 2016   #46
Farmette
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Originally Posted by PureHarvest View Post
I would highly suggest you tarp or cover your compost piles to keep rain from leaching nutrients out of the pile. Occasionally uncover or hand water to keep it from drying out though.
Right now my compost pile is one of those covered plastic things and it is not working as well as I'd like. So, I was planning on making some out of pallets or wire. Pure harvest, your comment about covering a compost pile is well taken.
Dutch, I am open to using cotton seed meal, etc. Do you just leave the leaves/grain on the top of the soil or do you work it in to the top few inches? If not do you have trouble with it blowing off? My garden is on top of a hill and it can get pretty windy at times. Great for drying leaves after a rain, but not so great for some other things.
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Old February 29, 2016   #47
My Foot Smells
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Here is a list of soil amendments that I found interesting (copied online article). I haven't used most of these, but some information related to topic:


Plant-based fertilizers

Fertilizers made from plants generally have low to moderate N-P-K (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium) values, but their nutrients quickly become available in the soil for your plants to use. Some of them even provide an extra dose of trace minerals and micronutrients. If you don't find all of these at the garden center, check out your local feed store. The most commonly available plant-based fertilizers include the following:
  • Alfalfa meal: Derived from alfalfa plants and pressed into a pellet form, alfalfa meal is beneficial for adding nitrogen and potassium (about 2 percent each), as well as trace minerals and growth stimulants. Roses, in particular, seem to like this fertilizer and benefit from up to 5 cups of alfalfa meal per plant every ten weeks, worked into the soil. Add it to your compost pile to speed up the process.
  • Compost: Compost is mostly beneficial for adding organic matter to the soil. It doesn't add much in the way of fertilizer nutrients itself, but it does enhance and help make available any nutrients in the soil.
  • Corn gluten meal: Derived from corn, this powder contains 10 percent nitrogen fertilizer. Apply it only to actively growing plants because it inhibits the growth of seeds. The manufacturer recommends allowing 1 to 4 months after using this product before planting seeds, depending on the soil and weather conditions. Use it on lawns in early spring to green up the grass and prevent annual weed seeds from sprouting.
  • Cottonseed meal: Derived from the seed in cotton bolls, this granular fertilizer is particularly good at supplying nitrogen (6 percent) and potassium (1.5 percent). Look for organic cottonseed meal because traditional cotton crops are heavily sprayed with pesticides, some of which can remain in the seed oils.
  • Kelp/seaweed: Derived from sea plants, you can find this product offered in liquid, powder, or pellet form. Although containing only small amounts of N-P-K fertilizer, kelp meal adds valuable micronutrients, growth hormones, and vitamins that can help increase yields, reduce the plant stress from drought, and increase frost tolerance. Apply it to the soil or as a foliar spray.
  • Soybean meal: Derived from soybeans and used in a pellet form, soybean meal is prized for its high nitrogen (7 percent) content and as a source of phosphorous (2 percent). Like alfalfa meal, it is particularly beneficial to nitrogen-loving plants, such as roses.
  • Humus: When looking at organic fertilizer products, you'll invariably come across those containing humus, humic acid, or humates. Some of these products have almost magical claims as to what they can do for your plants. Humus, humates, and humic acids are organic compounds often found in compost. Humus is touted to increase soil microbial activity, improve soil structure, and enhance root development of plants. These products have no fertilizer value, but rather are used as stimulants to support soil microbial life that, in turn, support the plants. Use them as supplements, but not to replace proper soil building and nutrition.
Animal-based fertilizers

Whether by land, by air, or by sea, animals, fish, and birds all provide organic fertilizers that can help plants grow. Most animal-based fertilizers provide lots of nitrogen, which plants need for leafy growth. The following are some of the most commonly available ones:
  • Manures: Animal manures provide lots of organic matter to the soil, but most have low nutrient value. A few, such as chicken manure, do have high available nitrogen content, but should only be used composted because the fresh manure can burn the roots of tender seedlings.
  • Bat/seabird guano: Yes, this is what it sounds like — the poop from bats and seabirds. It comes in powdered or pellet form and is actually high in nitrogen (10 to 12 percent). Bat guano only provides about 2 percent phosphorous and no potassium, but seabird guano contains 10 to 12 percent P, plus 2 percent K. The concentrated nitrogen in these products can burn young plants if not used carefully. They tend to be more expensive than land-animal manures.
  • Blood meal: This is the powdered blood from slaughtered animals. It contains about 14 percent nitrogen and many micronutrients. Leafy, nitrogen-loving plants, such as lettuce, grow well with this fertilizer. It also reportedly repels deer, but may attract dogs and cats.
  • Bone meal: A popular source of phosphorous (11 percent) and calcium (22 percent), bone meal is derived from animal or fish bones and commonly used in a powdered form on root crops and bulbs. It also contains 2 percent nitrogen and many micronutrients. It may attract rodents.
  • Fish products: Fish by-products make excellent fertilizers. You can buy them in several different forms. Fish emulsion is derived from fermented remains of fish. This liquid product can have a fishy smell (even the deodorized version), but it's a great complete fertilizer (5-2-2) and adds trace elements to the soil. When mixed with water, it is gentle, yet effective for stimulating the growth of young seedlings. Hydrolyzed fish powder has higher nitrogen content (12 percent) and is mixed with water and sprayed on plants. Fish meal is high in nitrogen and phosphorus and is applied to the soil. Some products blend fish with seaweed or kelp for added nutrition and growth stimulation.
Mineral-based fertilizers

Rocks decompose slowly into soil, releasing minerals gradually over a period of years. Organic gardeners use many different minerals to increase the fertility of their soils, but it's a long-term proposition. Some take months or years to fully break down into nutrient forms that plants can use, so one application may last a long time.
  • Chilean nitrate of soda: Mined in the deserts of Chile, this highly soluble, fast-acting granular fertilizer contains 16 percent nitrogen. It's also high in sodium, though, so don't use it on arid soils where salt buildup is likely or on salt-sensitive plants.
  • Epsom salt: Epsom salt not only helps tired feet; it's a fertilizer too! Containing magnesium (10 percent) and sulfur (13 percent), Epsom salt is a fast-acting fertilizer that you can apply in a granular form or dissolve in water and spray on leaves as a foliar fertilizer. Tomatoes, peppers, and roses love this stuff! Mix 1 tablespoon of Epsom salt in a gallon of water and spray it on when plants start to bloom.
  • Greensand: Mined in New Jersey from 70 million-year-old marine deposits, greensand contains 3 percent potassium and many micronutrients. It's sold in a powdered form, but breaks down slowly so is used to build the long-term reserves of soil potassium.
  • Gypsum: This powdered mineral contains calcium (20 percent) and sulfur (15 percent). It's used to add calcium to soils without raising the soil pH.
  • Hard-rock phosphate: This mineral powder contains 20 percent phosphorous and 48 percent calcium, which can raise soil pH — avoid it if your soil is already alkaline. It breaks down slowly, so use it to build the long-term supply of phosphorous in your soils.
  • Soft-rock phosphate: Often called colloidal phosphate, soft-rock phosphate contains less phosphorus (16 percent) and calcium (19 percent) than hard-rock phosphate, but the nutrients are in chemical forms that plants can use more easily. This powder breaks down slowly, so one application may last for years in the soil. It also contains many micronutrients.
  • Limestone: This mined product has various nutrient levels, depending on its source. It's used primarily to raise pH, but dolomitic limestone, which is high in calcium (46 percent) and magnesium (38 percent), also adds magnesium to the soil. This powder also comes in an easier to spread granular form. Calcitic limestone is high in calcium carbonate (usually above 90 percent). Conduct a soil test for pH and for magnesium to find out which kind of lime and how much to add to your soil.
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Old February 29, 2016   #48
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Hi Chris,
I was thinking about using cracked corn which is relatively inexpensive here in Wisconsin. Blain's Farm and Fleet has 50 pound bags for $7.29. Today they have a 10% off sale so it would be $6.56 a bag. http://www.farmandfleet.com/products...cked-corn.html I have not used anything like this yet, and at like point the cause and affect are still speculative. I would definitely work cracked corn into the soil or it may become a calling card for rodents. I would think the microbes in the soil would love it. Feed the soil and let the soil feed the plants.
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Last edited by Dutch; February 29, 2016 at 11:10 AM.
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Old February 29, 2016   #49
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Thanks "My Foot Smells", your post contained some very good info!
"Corn gluten meal: Derived from corn, this powder contains 10 percent nitrogen fertilizer. Apply it only to actively growing plants because it inhibits the growth of seeds. The manufacturer recommends allowing 1 to 4 months after using this product before planting seeds, depending on the soil and weather conditions. Use it on lawns in early spring to green up the grass and prevent annual weed seeds from sprouting."

Chris, It looks like corm meal may works as a pre-emergent and can inhibit seeds from germinating. This would affect both vegetable and weed seeds. This shouldn't affect seedlings as tomatoes and peppers. Other crops that already have already germinated like garlic, shallots and onion sets I would think would be fine too.
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Old February 29, 2016   #50
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If you want to do more research on plant based fertilizers, look up things that fall under the category of dynamic accumulators. Things such as stinging nettle, clover, comfrey, dandelion, hairy vetch, horsetail, yarrow, etc.

Dynamic accumulators in conjunction with a product like EM-1 (lactic acid producing bacteria) are great for making your own liquid fertilizers. Such things are amazing for foliar feeding to offset a deficiency in the soil. This is generally referred to as a fermented plant extract.

Dynamic accumulators also make the best no-till cover crops. Due to the nature of their deep rooting systems they sequester nutrients far below the standard plowing depth and return them back to the soil surface when cut for decomposition.

Within such plants are also plants considered hyperaccumulators that amazing for leaching heavy metals out of soil and therefore essential for bio-remediation or the transitional phases between converting from a chemical fed garden to an organic garden during fallow seasons.

A more correct botanical term for such behavior is phytoaccumulation.
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Old February 29, 2016   #51
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Great information...thank you all! Dutch, I have used the corn gluten meal as a weed inhibitor. Got the idea from Dixondale Farms when I first started planting their onions. Works pretty good and found it at a small store near here. Pretty reasonable if I remember correctly.
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Old February 29, 2016   #52
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Hi Chris,
I was thinking about using cracked corn which is relatively inexpensive here in Wisconsin. Blain's Farm and Fleet has 50 pound bags for $7.29. Today they have a 10% off sale so it would be $6.56 a bag. http://www.farmandfleet.com/products...cked-corn.html I have not used anything like this yet, and at like point the cause and affect are still speculative. I would definitely work cracked corn into the soil or it may become a calling card for rodents. I would think the microbes in the soil would love it. Feed the soil and let the soil feed the plants.
Dutch

My brother is a lawn nut and he used cracked corn spread on his grass 2 years ago. The lawn was spectacular. It was very lush and green. However, he had a terrible rodent problem. So as Dutch has said, work it into the soil.
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Old February 29, 2016   #53
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[QUOTE= Things such as stinging nettle, comfrey
[/QUOTE]

Bringing back to the farm. Stinging nettle down by the slew. I cut comfrey to feed the young turkeys. Slept on an iron rail bed on the front porch and ole' ferrel berry honk is horn to go run limb limbs at 0500 and then come back and sip wild turkey w/ peach snapps out of an cork bottle................. missouri ozarks
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Old March 17, 2016   #54
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Fascinating thread, and I thank everyone for their comments because it gives me lots to think about. MFS, I am in the process of putting in raised beds similar to yours, except they are 18" tall. The beds have been built and are in place. Now I am trying to make an educated decision on what to fill them with. Options of materials include topsoil from my local co-op. They tell me the topsoil is from w. Alabama. I used quite a bit of it for my flowerbeds that I put in during February. Based on its color, I suspect it may be black prairie soil. I also have a large pile of hardwood wood chips for mulching and pathways, and pine straw. Oak leaves are rather scarce right now. I'm sure the co-op also has compost available in bulk, but I haven't asked yet. Suggestions on ratios and materials to use?
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Old March 29, 2016   #55
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kchd, I'm not really an expert, but I can tell you what I used. I have a whoiesale supplier and a 3 axle dump truck driver (think 18 ton) that I use. the mix was a 70/30 compost/green sand. I also used some perlite that I can get for free.

my experience with a straight top soil is that it held too much water and I had problem with fungus and disease. too heavy without a mixer. the sand helps with the drainage, but holds just enough moisture. topsoil does well outside of the box though, but in the box got thick.

some places do a 60/40 mix of like matters. I also live across from a horse farm that I can get aged manure, but the ants love the stuff too and have had problems w/ the ★★★★ ants nesting in my pile.

in subsequent years, I have either added another heaping of the "supersoil" mix, or just a 4" layer of compost, as the bed shrinks down in existing soil, or decomposes further. I can trailer small loads.

I live by a river and live on top of modeling clay. Certain bulbs do ok, but looks like topography of Minnesota after a rain (land of lakes). holds water like a bucket. Thus the RB, which has done well.

I've got 11.5", 18", and 22" beds throughout. the higher bed saves my back, but can't vouch it is more ethical than the 18". the shorty I don't plant deep species.

Str8 compost may be too "hot" the first year, and it might make a difference to what your native soil composition is. Seems like there would be some kind of silty-compost mix in your area. Mississippi (like Arkansas) can get some heavy, heavy periods of rain in the spring; so I would rather have drainage that something that will take 2 months to sunday to dry out. I usally run some leaky hose on top of bed, so I can drink a beer & water at the same time. LY, I didn't whip out the hose almost until June - got so much water.

Once again, this is just an opinion.

Last edited by My Foot Smells; March 29, 2016 at 07:06 PM.
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Old March 29, 2016   #56
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In addition, I also have two compost bins that I use. Often like to dump those on the bottom of new bed or mix. Always think composting is a good habit.
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Old March 30, 2016   #57
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You will be fine adding more compost and mixing.
Just remember it is a wives tail that compost is fertilizer it isn't, it is a soil builder.
Also compost is a generic term for anything broken down.
If it is wood and leaves you are going to have almost zilch nitrogen.

Worth
I wonder if somebody could explain to me why "compost isn't a fertilizer"? I'd like to know where all the nutrients from all that vegetable-matter are going. When a whole years waste becomes maybe 4 square feet of finished compost, there must be an accumulation of nutrients.

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Old March 30, 2016   #58
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http://www.planetnatural.com/compost...science/myths/
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Old March 30, 2016   #59
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maybe one more thing to add regarding dirt in a box:

I am of the impression that the soil should not form a dirtball when you try and compact, unlike a snowball.

Also, I am on flat land, flood plain. So have no water run off attall. May make difference if you have slope and rocky underlayment.

When I think of "topsoil," I envision brown dirt. However, do realize that topsoil has become a rather large spectrum nowadays. The prairie dirt sounds applicable - like it would pass the snowball test.

Just a refresh here, as it is hard to say without "being there." Certainly wise to do some research before you have a 30 ton mountain of the wrong stuff.

I live on tributary to Ark. River, but the "big" river is just a couple miles over yonder. The dirt on the big river plain is a silty dark soil, sometimes muddy - but not clay. My place is like gumbo mud, you can't drive a nail in the summer and will get buried to your axle in the spring. So........ even a country mile, you can have totally different scene.

Most landscape material places will carry the approp mix, and/or will have knowledge of options in your area and more than glad to assist. I know several landscapers and even get their discount on anything (15% up to 50% off direct order of plants and shrubs).

In closing, it would be impossible for anyone on forum to give you the best advice (imo). One of those have to be there things, as many factors.
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Old March 30, 2016   #60
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good article. thanks
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