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Old February 12, 2019   #16
lubadub
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I believe my organic matter level is too high but I know quite a few people who are at this level. For the next few years I will be cutting back on the amount of organic matter I add. I am aiming for 15% for no really good reason. My cation exchange content is around 18.
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Old February 12, 2019   #17
Nan_PA_6b
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Hugelkultur has you planting in almost pure organics.
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Old February 12, 2019   #18
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With our clay soil here (never farmed) you can't ever add enough/ too much!
Here's a link: How Much Organic Matter is Enough?
[url]https://www.sare.org/Learning-Center/Books/Building-Soils-for-Better-Crops-3rd-Edition/Text-Version/Amount-of-Organic-Matter-in-Soils/How-Much-Organic-Matter-Is-Enough[/url]


Clay soils need more than sandy soils, apparently.

"....continuously adding a variety of residues results in plentiful supplies of “dead” organic matter—the relatively fresh particulate organic matter— that helps maintain soil health by providing food for soil organisms and promoting the formation of soil aggregates."
So adding something every year is going to be a good thing, regardless of how much organic matter is present by percent, I reckon.
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Old February 13, 2019   #19
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I think its human nature to think more is better.


A good soil will hold water and air.
Soil is as we all know a combination of sand, silt and clay.
I wont go into the ups and downs of sandy soil, clay soil, because we all know the pitfalls of each.

Everyone knows that crops need water, crops need air in the soil too.

A compacted soil will lack oxygen, roots will not be able to take up oxygen, like a heavy clay soil that is over watered, you folks know who you are!


Building soil tilth.

Adding compost and organic matter also helps build soil tilth, why do we need soil tilth? read above.

You can't increase the soil particle size (sand, silt and clay), but you can get the soil particles to form aggregates, by amending the soil. Aggregation of soil particles = soil structure. We constantly amend our soils for more than one reason, but it is different for each gardener and how they have their garden setup.

For instance I have very heavy clay soil and love it, why? Because I built raised hugelkultur beds and used the clay soil in layers with a lot of organic matter, so far so good.

Organic matter is no good to plants until it is broken down by Decomposers, we all know these guys, earthworms, pill bugs, and some are microscopic guys, such as fungi and bacteria.
Organic matter is there to feed these guys which in turn feed the plants (hence feed the soil).


Humus
Humus is not a decomposing organic matter (compost)
I really don't know how to explain it other than it is inorganic leftovers from compost that is needed for mineralization.


Here let Wiki explain it,
Microorganisms decompose a large portion of the soil organic matter into inorganic minerals that the roots of plants can absorb as nutrients. This process is termed "mineralization". In this process, nitrogen (nitrogen cycle) and the other nutrients (nutrient cycle) in the decomposed organic matter are recycled. Depending on the conditions in which the decomposition occurs, a fraction of the organic matter does not mineralize, and instead is transformed by a process called "humification" into concatenations of organic polymers. Because these organic polymers are resistant to the action of microorganisms, they are stable, and constitute humus. This stability implies that humus integrates into the permanent structure of the soil, thereby improving it.
Humification can occur naturally in soil or artificially in the production of compost. Organic matter is humified by a combination of saprotrophic fungi, bacteria, microbes and animals such as earthworms, nematodes, protozoa, and arthropods.



Adding fertilizer
As I said before adding too much fertilizer can increase soil microbes to a point where it can do more harm to the soil than good by breaking down the soil structure too quickly, this works well for short term but is not good practice for long term (building a soil).

Adding too much organic matter, hmm that ones tough, although I feel that this would be difficult, it seem that a few on line sources say otherwise.

My hugel beds are about 10-20 percent Clay soil and everything else is organic matter in the form of logs, sticks, leaves, hay, wood chips, grass clippings, hedge trimmings, cardboard, bio-char, coffee grounds, household garbage, rabbit manure and bedding, plants, compost to mention a few.

I personally don't thing teas and that kind of stuff is needed if you are using compost already, maybe if you were making a tea for houseplants but other than that I feel it's not worth the extra effort.

I think it would be pretty hard to add too much compost or increase microbe activity to a point of diminishing returns without extreme interventions such as chemical fertilizers. As far as too much organic matter, thats a toughie because it's a bit vague and probably a little different for each person, however, I do know this, if you were adding organic matter that is not broken down it will have a (short term) negative affect on the plant life.


Well, that's my 2 cents anyway.
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Old February 13, 2019   #20
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About 91 of the 118 elements listed on the periodic table are metals.
How they came about and what they do for us is an amazing story that dates back to the beginning of the universe.
With a very open mind you can see how this post relates to this thread.
Look up the three main elements in fertilizer and you will see.
They can be brought to the table easily and one potassium is a metal.

[url]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nitrogen[/url]

[url]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phosphorus[/url]

[url]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Potassium[/url]

Bactria, fungus, life such as worms and other critters and so on and in that order make the elements available for the plants.
So in my opinion you can have too much soil life for a short period but it will get back to normal soon maybe not this year but it will.
As for the perfect soil look no farther than the soil where the wild relatives of the plant grows best.


Keep in mind peat bogs turn into coal.
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Old February 13, 2019   #21
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How about adding perlite to your garden soil. How might that affect soil life? I read that it would improve drainage and oxygen levels in the soil. This should help the growth of aerobic organisms, the ones said to be most valuable.
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Old February 13, 2019   #22
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SQWIBB has written an excellent summary of the main points.

I think that much money is wasted on microbial formulas which are added to soil. Soil is not sterile and it already contains billions of microbes and other soil life. If you do not kill it with excess fertilizers, solarizing or tilling, then there is no reason that it will not keep reproducing and remain active in your soil.

Healthy and happy microbes make more microbes until they run out of food and then they will die off so it is important to have enough organic material for them to eat and decompose.

If you are adding compost then you will already have plenty of microbes in your soil.

I do use an innoculant for growing peas because it contains a bacterium specific for peas and it does increase the yield. If I grew lots of peas in the same area every year then I would not add the innoculant because the bacterium would already be there. However I only grow 2 rows of peas and I rotate their location every year so I add the innoculant as insurance.
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Old February 13, 2019   #23
lubadub
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Nice post Squibb. My interest is in growing giant vegetables. Every year I make some changes in what I do. There are so many opinions about what is best to do. Hearing from a variety of growers about what they believe is helpful. Sometimes opinions are conflicting and then you just have to choose which way to go. All I can do is try to improve the soil I have. I have several raised beds though they are small. I have often thought about taking one area of my garden and throwing all of the soil there away and bringing in my own. So much sand, so much clay, so much silt, so much organic matter and then after a soil test, balancing up the nutrients to get "The Ideal Soil," whatever that is. I know I will never do it and so I continue to try improving what I already have. All of your thoughts help.
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Old February 13, 2019   #24
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I have heard that people who want to grow giant vegetables limit the number of fruits on each plant so that all of plants energy goes into developing those few fruits. That is how they get those really giant pumpkins. I think they grow one fruit per vine.
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Old February 13, 2019   #25
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This thread makes me consider what my garden space is. Fifteen years ago we moved from central Iowa to southeast Nebraska. There was no garden space so I cleared off a place and began to try and grow what I always grew. Near disaster. The space was virgin; brush, scrub, trees and weeds and the soil had never been turned.

While natives grew rampantly, the non-natives did poorly. Every species planted by me in the garden was a non-native. Weeds, brush and trees continued to do well in what we call around here sugar clay or more commonly loess (pronounced luss).

I began immediately an organics program to amend the soil so that my non-natives (tomatoes, peppers, green beans, etc.) would do something. Besides all that, the pH was at about 8.5 and an addition of sulphur was needed every other year to get into the 7.8 range. After three years of diminished harvests (compared to the overly rich growing conditions of Iowa farmland) the tons of organics began to show promise. This struggle to have perfect soil conditions will be ongoing for the rest of my gardening life. After I am gone the whole space will revert to its original state very quickly.

The struggle is all part of the fun involved with gardening and growing tomatoes...and other plants.
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Old February 13, 2019   #26
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PaulF I can really relate to your story of virgin soil. Here where I live it was never farmed, but there is some clay topsoil. This is just the scanty topsoil formed in the last 10,000 years since the last glaciers scraped it bare. The pH of the clay when I started to garden here was 4.0! And the native vegetation conifers and lichens.

In my first garden I dug as much organic matter as I could get, year after year, still fairly marginal results for vegs. One year I made a raised bed with just organic materials, and it did so much better. Although my garden compost is really the best, where a small amount of the clay has gotten into it on plant roots, SWAG no more than 5% of the clay and in that amount it's magic. So when I hear of soil with 5% organic matter I can only imagine how good that soil was to begin with!


My mom's place, it was one of the first farmlands in this area. 400 years of plowing in the organic matter every year. (there were no chemical ferts here before 1949, so totally organic). The "clay" in her best garden area is brown, not orange, and it's a much better place to start. The color change tells the story, just how much organic was dug in there.



My friend's farm, was intensively farmed by organic farmers for 40 years. Besides organic matter added to the beds, the paths between them were layered in peat every year, and all tilled in at the end of season. It is a really mature farm soil that has great yields (and Lubadub, her tomatoes are huge!). You can still find orangey clay in the thinnest place at the top of the field, when deep trenching the potatoes 2 ft down. Otherwise dig as deep as you like it is a beautiful dark brown.


So my perspective on organic matter may be skewed, but we really can't get too much here.


When it comes to soil structure, things like inoculum and compost tea don't add a thing. Great if you're using promix in containers for example, which is all structure no ferts. This is why I don't have much motivation to the liquid approach, because we need structure first and... yes, it may take 40 or 400 years.
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Old February 13, 2019   #27
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Brownrexx, you are right that giant tomato growers limit the number of tomatoes per plant to one. They also do severe pruning. Some grow organically and some fertigate with a constant flow of low dose water-soluble nutrients based on soil tests, paste tests, plant tissue analysis, brix readings and soil conductivity tests. Big time competition as giant tomato growers try for a 10 pound tomato. They also use aerated compost tea and foliar feeding, anything that might increase the weight of the tomato, no holds barred.
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Old February 16, 2019   #28
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In our 94 percent sand soil, it will takes tons and tons of organic matter to exceed the optimum.
But if you have a good established farmland soil then you have to watch.
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Old March 11, 2019   #29
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Opinions?? I have been having my soil test done at Clemson U. in South Carolina, our Ag. school for the state.Is there any need to spend extra $$$$ on more detailed test??I have only used the C. U. test.
Are there valid reasons to get more detailed test??
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Old March 11, 2019   #30
brownrexx
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Depends on how much money you want to spend and how curious you are.

I get the basic soil test done at Penn State for $9 and pay $5 extra for the organic material level.

I have no need to look for contaminants like lead and I will not be adjusting micronutrients anyway so basic is good enough for me.

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