how to make soil amendments without digging up the yard?

Page 1 of 2  
Hello,
The soil in our yard appears to need nitrogen and calcium. The stuff I've read, and the advice I've been told, says to add soil amendments.
How?
Okay. I'm far from an expert. Let's start at the beginning.
If I add something like dolomite (for calcium), I'm told that will kill microinvertebrates and make the lawn dependent on chemical fertilizers indefinitely. I don't want that!
So let's add compost. But, in order to add enough calcium in compost form, I'd have to add several inches (in vertical depth) of of compost. That would smother the lawn. Nope. Not gonna do it. I don't want to re-plant the lawn.
Obviously I can't believe everything I hear or read.
What do you suggest?
Thank you.
Ted Shoemaker
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Ted Shoemaker wrote:

How do you know this?

Firstly don't add dolomite to improve just calcium, it contains calcium and magnesium which need to be kept in balance. Generally dolomite is used where both calcium and magnesium are required and to change the balance towards magnesium. Instead add garden lime (calcium carbonate) if you want to raise the pH or gypsum (calcium sulphate) if you don't want to change the pH. All these are natural minerals which have been used by gardeners for centuries.
Secondly the microflora will not be killed by adding any of these is sensible quantities. Yes you could cause damage by changing the pH very quickly by adding something like builder's lime (calcium hydroxide) but you don't want to do that. Adding reasonable amounts of dolomite or garden lime will not make your lawn dependent on chemicals. I don't know where this idea of dependency comes from.
Nitrogen can be added in many ways, I prefer bird manure (pelletised chicken manure is commonly available) but synthetic fertilisers will do the job without causing the last trumpet to sound. Be warned that synthetics are more concentrated and so can be over done easily and nitrogen compounds leach out quickly if the soil structure is poor. This will waste your money and pollute the nearby waterways.

Compost is good for depleted soil for many reasons but it will not increase calcium very much if at all.

Ted where did you get this information? Have you tested the pH? If not do so before you act.
David
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
David Hare-Scott wrote:

if you add enough to improve the habitat for worms they will increase calcium levels. worms do secrete calcium.
also many plants do have calcium, that doesn't disappear when compost is made (or if it does where does it go?).
just be careful as adding too much compost all at once will likely encourage fungal diseases ( if you smother the grass).

agreed.
but really, it makes more sense to plant grasses or add other plants to the mix that will tolerate existing conditions. leave the amendments and compost for the garden beds that you want to alter to fit specific crops (much smaller areas, less expensive, etc.).
songbird
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
songbird wrote:

The worms will just recycle the calcium already in the environment so this would have no net effect.

All plants have calcium (but not much) and it doesn't go away when they die or are composted (unlike nitrogen). However this is a very inefficient way to add calcium to your soil, especially if the compost came from your calcium depleted soil in the first place.

This is an option but if liming is suitable in the situation it is not difficult nor particularly expensive.
David
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
David Hare-Scott wrote:

no net effect if you are looking at it from a physical/chemical component level. i think that differs if you look at it from a nutrient tied up in certain forms level and how the worms actually ingest and alter the soil they ingest.
if a worm ingests a calciferous fragment they will grind it in their gizzard along with everything else they ingest. add to that secreted calcium. i think all of these things would increase available calcium in the soil (which is what is more important to plants than calcium levels tied up in forms that aren't very accessible).
wish i had a lab set up for this sort of thing as i think the experiments would be interesting in and of themselves.

i suspect the original poster is talking about adding additional compost from another source.

also true, but i'm not a big fan of encouraging lawns to grow even more so they need to be mowed more often, etc.
songbird
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
calciferous fragment? ;o)
Worms can cycle the calcium in an environment, but they can't add to it by their presence. You need a source like dead (preferably;O) animals, limestone, or egg shells.
I think worms are big into leaves, forest litter, and mulch.
The World Without Us by Alan Weisman (Jul 10, 2007)
<(Amazon.com product link shortened) _1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid00338811&sr=1-1>
You'll like it.
--
<
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hYIC0eZYEtI

<http://www.democracynow.org/blog/2011/3/7/michael_moore
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Billy wrote:

the short way of saying any mineral particle that contains calcium (in some form).

those last two, i.e. calciferous fragments. :p
they may not add it, but i think they do make what is there more accessible.

especially the forest litter... but they do ingest fragments of rocks for their gizzards to grind stuff with. and if those fragments have calcium in them in some form the grinding will make that calcium more accessible to plants than it was previously.
some time when i am rich and famous i'll run a study in my lab and see what actually is going on.
note that some worm species do not dwell in leaf litter, instead they feed more in the subsoil and around plant roots. you don't find them on or near the surface unless they have been flooded.

i think i've read that one, but don't recall specifics at the moment.
songbird
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On Mar 16, 6:43pm, songbird wrote:

Songbird, below info may help clarify:
http://cronodon.com/BioTech/Earthworm_nutrition.html
It was originally thought that the calciferous glands excrete excess calcium, since earthworms living in calcareous soils ingest huge amounts of calcium carbonate (limestone/chalk) - sometimes too much to digest and absorb and so it is presumed that they must rid themselves of excess calcium. However, whether or not an earthworm lives in calcium-rich soil does not seem to correlate with calciferous gland function. The glands have been shown to contain large amounts of the enzyme carbonic anhydrase, which fixes carbon dioxide gas by reacting it with calcium to produce calcium carbonate. Carbon dioxide is generated by respiration within the earthworm and must be excreted since it is acidic. Experimental removal of the calciferous glands has been shown to result in increased acidity (lowering of pH) in the earthworm's coelomic fluid. This suggests that these glands have an important role in acidity (pH) regulation. All organisms function best within a certain pH range and the body must be maintained within this (often very narrow) range. The calcium carbonate excreted by these glands may be so abundant as to form crystals or concretions that pass out with the worm's faeces (or casts). Perhaps in winter these glands are not required as much, since the respiration rates of earthworms may drop with a fall in temperature. Calcium excretion may also help to neutralise the humic acids in the ingested soil.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Gunner wrote:

interesting, thanks for posting. it contains some speculation, but at least it does point to an actual experiment that was carried out and an actual result.
my searching last night did not find anything that was worth a mention here.
songbird
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

You might try searching Google Scholar with key words like; Casting activity - Earthworm number - Mineral fertilizer - Organic manure - pH - Earthworm biomass - fertilizer materials & earthworm activity, worm & calcium in soil, etc.
here is one such experiment I read yesterday when I went to see what is out there:
http://tinyurl.com/4hq7kw2 or http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6TC7-476NBJY-SX&_user=10&_coverDate=12%2F31%2F1984&_rdoc=1&_fmt=high&_orig=gateway&_origin=gateway&_sort=d&_docanchor=&view=c&_searchStrId=1682702262&_rerunOrigin=google&_acct=C000050221&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=10&md5=88c43c0855b7954067129df90cdc2cfd&searchtype=a
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Gunner wrote:

"worms and soil calcium levels" worked ok, but my connection is slow, so it takes a long time to bring up most sites.

thanks, i'll have to check that out later when i get back on-line.
the few places i was able to actually read articles said that the worm castings were between 1.5 and 3 times the calcium levels of the surrounding soil. so that's a pointer in the right direction.
songbird
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Someone assed: how to make soil amendments without digging up the yard?
Why would any normal brained person want to... if it's not going to dug up for planting just leave it lie fallow... why would you put mustard on a hot dog if you're not going to eat it?
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

a fairly simple solution, but one that is long term, to get nitrogen fixed in your lawn is through adding clovers. Try oversowing the lawn with a clover mix in autumn.
rob
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
In article

Add pulverized egg shells (put in blender with some water) to your lawn. Egg shells breakdown slowly, so you won't get a quick response, but they will break down eventually.
--
<
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hYIC0eZYEtI

<http://www.democracynow.org/blog/2011/3/7/michael_moore
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Billy wrote:

Get serious. Ted already has enough goofy advice. If the lawn is no bigger than 3m square and he has 5 years to wait this is a good idea.
David
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Explain your goofy response.
--
<
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hYIC0eZYEtI

<http://www.democracynow.org/blog/2011/3/7/michael_moore
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Billy wrote:

I appreciate your aim of re-use and recycle but in this case it isn't practical.
How many eggs do you have to eat to get enough shell to spread on a yard? Sure it depends on the size of the yard but we are talking about some kilos of egg shell.
How fine can you grind it? Not very fine without a mill. Fine garden lime or gypsum will take months to work, ground shell will be much coarser and take years.
David
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

IMO, if the OP wants to add calcium, all he/she needs to do is to just find someone who still has a wood burning fireplace/heater, then s/he could just spread the seived ash which contains calcium. It should be spread thinly like icing sugar (confectioner's sugar in USian) on the top of a Victoria Sponge cake. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wood_ash
For nitrogen I'd spread 'your friend and mine' - good old blood and bone.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

And you get this from where?, he said with reservations.
In the mean time, I found: Lucerne - Primarily a plant source of nitrogen, Alfalfa Pellets (5-1-2) also contains trace minerals and triacontanol, a plant growth promoter.
I use lucerne for my mulch. Makes me proud.
But for nitrogen look at <http://www.plantea.com/manure.htm and then look at the price, before you buy.
--
<
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hYIC0eZYEtI

<http://www.democracynow.org/blog/2011/3/7/michael_moore
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

I have no idea since I don't live in the US. If I did, I suspect I'd be looking for it under a different name, like blood meal or bone meal or somesuch.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Related Threads

    HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here. All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.