Fertilizing rocky soil where it's half soil half stones (and no dirt)

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On Tue, 6 Sep 2016 11:51:13 -0400, Frank wrote:

Horse manure is too much for two five-gallon buckets of soil, so, I am sorry for misleading folks.
I'm mostly asking for *technical* details like how I know if the soil is good or bad in the first place.
I did look up how plants get their nutrients.
Apparently only about 1% of the root actually *touches* nutrients, which soak into the root along a corky layer that surrounds each root cell. That corky layer utilizes ATP to *force* the nutrients into the cell since there is a *higher* concentration inside the cell so simple osmosis won't work.
However, 99% of the nutrients get *to* the roots by osmosis of the fertilizer. That is, if I put a nodule of fertilizer a few inches away from a root tip, the root can't get to the fertilizer until the nutrients *diffuse* out by simple osmosis from the nodule to the root.
So, what seems to happen is that a *water flow* is set up where the leaves transpire water, which then causes a vacuum in the root which pulls in water by pressure, where that water flow brings the water close to the root where that water contains the fertilizer nutrients that diffused by osmosis into that water.
Once the water is pulled next to the root, then an active (and complex) process begins to actively pull the nutrients into the cell.
That's as far as I got, so any added value you can provide as to the technical process of fertilizing a bucket of soil would be helpful as the goal is for the kids to learn how the whole process of growing food works (scientifically).
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On 9/6/2016 12:56 PM, Danny D. wrote:

That's easy. Have a sample of the soil tested. Most universities will do it for a small fee. Contact your county's agricultural extension office and ask about getting a soil sample tested. They usually have the instructions and submission form available, plus the address to mail or drop off the sample. They may have a listing of additional places that you can send your sample to for testing, besides the university.
In general, a soil test report will report on the amount of organic matter present, indicate the type of soil, test for pH, phosphorus and potassium levels. Testing for nitrogen levels usually isn't done because nitrogen generally is not persistent in the soil. They'll recommend how much nitrogen to apply based on what you tell them you're intending to grow in it.
Or you could bypass all that and just start gardening. You could make it a science project for the kids - one bed or container with the soil as-is; another bed or container with the soil augmented with a small amount of fertilizer. You could further tweak the experiment by having a third bed, where you apply half the fertilizer at planting time, and the other half about 6-8 weeks later. Have the kids keep records as to how well the plants grow in each situation, and which produces the most of each particular vegetable.
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On Tue, 06 Sep 2016 15:23:55 -0500, Moe DeLoughan wrote:

This is along the lines that I was thinking also. Having the soil tested is good because it would be a concrete proof of whatever it is, while doing the experiment will back that up.
The closest school is UC Santa Cruz, but their soil lab number is odd in that it either displays busy or not in service: 831-459-4089
I'll look around for another number... http://eps.ucsc.edu/about/contact-visitors.html
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On 09/06/2016 02:32 PM, Danny D. wrote:

https://www.amazon.com/Environmental-Concepts-1662-Professional-Tests/dp/B003JCMKEK
This is the one I use. It's a science experiment in itself as you collect and prepare the samples, mix them with reagents, and compare the results fro color or density.
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On Tue, 6 Sep 2016 20:13:00 -0600, rbowman wrote:

That one seems cost effective, since sending soil out for analysis will cost more than the twenty bucks that kit costs!
Thanks.
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Meet Professor Kratky's easy/cheap hydroponics system:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6LTq3WKxYV0

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On 09/06/2016 11:56 AM, Danny D. wrote:

There are inexpensive soil testing kits that will give you some idea of what minerals, if any, are present, and the alkalinity. What are you trying to grow? Different plants prefer different profiles and soil types.
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On Tue, 6 Sep 2016 20:09:26 -0600, rbowman wrote:

We're just gonna grow food waste. I envision tomato, garlic, onion, carrot, pepper, and my favorite, horse radish from the jar of condiments! :)
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On 9/6/2016 10:34 PM, Danny D. wrote:

Be warned about growing horseradish: where ever you plant it, there it will always be, forever and ever amen. It is impossible to completely eradicate that stuff. If that might be a problem, plant it in a pot.
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On Tue, 6 Sep 2016 08:26:18 -0500, Terry Coombs wrote:

If I do fertilize the soil, I think what I'll do is take an empty bucket and fill it half way with soil, and then sprinkle a handful or two of the fertilizer and shake it up.
Since there are only two full buckets, that won't take long.
I don't ever fertilize (don't ask me how my lawn is doing!) so I have zero experience with fertilizer.
Does it go on top and then you let it soak down? Or can I mix it up with all the soil in the two five-gallon buckets by shaking it about like I shake flour and my potato wedges?
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Danny D. wrote: ...

different plants need different types and amounts of nutrients.
i usually start each new garden by planting the heaviest feeding plants first (tomatoes) and then after that amend or not as needed. crop rotations extend the time between amendments (i get three or four years in some gardens and the soil keeps improving because i'm burying organic materials in there sometimes even if i'm not adding anything else - the stuff i'm adding is usually either weeds or the left- overs from plants grown in there and/or leaves, wood chips, pieces of bark, etc.).
my fertilizers for gardens are the worms (worm pee/poo and the worms themselves along with whatever garden soil has been reprocessed by the worms over the year that i go between taking the worm buckets out) and some green manure crops used to add more N and organic materials. i also have wood fire ashes and charcoal pieces to use once in a while.
in the arid southwest you're going to need larger planters IMO and some surface mulches to keep the water situation from getting too horrible. raised beds will also be likely a bit hot if they are too small for some plants. it may also be very hard to have any worms stick around and be very expensive (water costs). rain barrels can help catch the infrequent rains and to help. many other methods worth adopting for arid climates also help (wind breaks, swales, partial shading, plant selection)... whatever rains you do get you want to capture as much as you can and soak it in, but you also should have a good idea of the area you are in and how stable it is. don't need to create any hazards/landslides...
songbird
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On Tue, 6 Sep 2016 23:41:48 -0400, songbird wrote:

While this is almost certainly true, getting to that level may or may not be too much for me to handle at this early stage of learning.
But I do agree with you, in that I have waged a genocidal war against scotch broom and spanish broom, where, my research tells me, they're "nitrogen fixers", which, AFAICT, means they sort-of-kind-of make their own nitrogen (so to speak) with help from bacterial friends.
Apparently that ability to colonized nitrogen-poor soils enables them to thrive where other plants can't take root yet. So, it's complex, I agree.
Who knew that plants make their own fertilizer? Not me.

Hmmm... what does that mean? What's a "heavy feeder"? Is it a big fat plant that sucks up nutrients?
How do you know tomatoes are "heavy feeders" and not, say, melons or peppers?

I looked up what the "organics" do, and, apparently, it's complex (like evertyhing else) but we can simplify it by saying the organics aren't "rock" so there are spaces for water and they act as a sloooooooow release of fertilizer (to the tune of about 1% a year of their nutrients).
Why Soil Organic Matter Is So Important http://www.sare.org/Learning-Center/Books/Building-Soils-for-Better-Crops-3rd-Edition/Text-Version/Organic-Matter-What-It-Is-and-Why-It-s-So-Important/Why-Soil-Organic-Matter-Is-So-Important
That article above literally says that soil organics promote fertility, whatever that means, and that the organics make for better compaction, less erosion, more water availability, fewer parasites, less diseases, and fewer insects.
I find it hard to believe that there are "fewer parasites" or "less disease" and "fewer insects" but that's what they say.
So, it seems that organics in soil are the panacea for all ills! :)

I haven't seen a worm in months. We have them. Somewhere. But not many. Maybe once every six months I see a worm. So that's not gonna happen here.

Sun we have plenty of. There is no water from rainfall. None. Zip. Nada. We have to water them daily.
Did I mention my grass is brown in summer and green in winter? The opposite of yours, probably.

I don't get the raised bed thing. What good is the extra height? OK. So I know it's not the height. So what is it?
Can't plants drain water on the ground? (Remember, it never rains here, except in the winter.)

Heh heh .. rain barrels. My neighbor has a 22000 gallon rain catchment basin, and its' dry within a month of the rains stopping. And it won't rain a drop until November.

We are on a mountain so, there is both plenty of wind and plenty of swales to hide from the wind. But basically, there is no wind in the summer and the wind is ferocious in the winter (coming off the Pacific).

There is zero rain. Not a drop. Between something like May and November. Not a single drop.
There is no such thing as a rain date. In fact, when I first moved out here, I asked "when is the rain date?" just in case, and they all looked at me funnily'.
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Partially the height, makes working on them easier, but mostly because you can create the type of growning medium you want. The lack of ground contact also keeps undesireable critters like nematodes out.
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dadiOH wrote: ...

there are predatory nematodes which will help out any other nematode problems.
songbird
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Danny D. wrote:

not only do they harbor nitrogen fixing bacteria they can also encourage other bacteria and fungi.

experience, study, observation. and like i noted elsewheres a moment ago (in another post) red peppers seem to do better with more nutrients while green peppers don't. there are many other kinds of peppers i've not even grown so i don't know what their needs are yet.
i grow many different kinds of beans too, and some seem to grow about anywhere i plant them and do ok, others are more finicky and demanding to produce well.

that and are habitat for the many other creatures. in compacted subsoils there is no room for the complex soil community so it is less fertile. every organism is an energy source/nutrient source for something else (eventually one way or another). plants can use various nutrients in the soil, but they also encourage bacteria and fungi in various ways to trade nutrients. in subsoil without much organic material you won't see such networks (this is why no-till practices are interesting to study).

it is certainly fitting to my experiences and results. so far a few instances of diseases and pests have been corrected by amending the garden with wood chips or with worm compost.
...

we've had a long dry summer that finally improved the past few weeks. normal for us is about 3 inches of rain per month. we had four months with that total rainfall. i had to water the veggie gardens every three or four days. last year i hardly had to water at all.

i consider it mostly an expensive fad but some people do find it easier with things being up higher. i don't want my gardens isolated from the subsoil/minerals/worm hiding places, etc. every edge or container is just to me yet another thing to maintain. when you have almost an acre of such things the fewer number of things the better. i can work a larger garden much easier than many smaller ones. able to rotate or change where i plant following crops, reuse pathways or whatever. much easier to weed along one edge than around four edges of a smaller garden. and all the wasted space in pathways that i can use instead for production. much nicer. i'm gradually taking out extra useless pathways and consolidating smaller gardens into larger areas. what i don't have is enough fill and organic materials to bring up the elevation yet in some spots where they can flash flood. eventually it will get done... :)

better than nothing, but if you can capture water and hold it underground then you don't lose as much from evaporation. as long as your ground doesn't slip when saturated...

that's harsh, but do you have control of any upslope areas? there's things that can be done which will hold water back and soak it in and then that can be a source of a spring further down the slope eventually. some changes can take years to see obvious results, but are worth it.
if you have buried organic materials around they can also act as a reservior for moisture.
i think the major problem in many arid areas is that any growth during the wetter times becomes a fuel source during wild fire times. that's another good reason to get things buried. :)

:)
songbird
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On Tue, 6 Sep 2016 05:51:30 -0700, Taxed and Spent wrote:

If I eventually put in a vineyard, I'm sure I'll go the commercial fertilizer route (if the neighbors don't mind the stench).
However, in this case, I'm just asking for *technical* advice, such as ...
Q: How do I know if fertilizer is even needed? Q: How do I know how good (or bad) this soil is? Q: Is *your* soil half stones like mine is?
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On 09/06/2016 11:57 AM, Danny D. wrote:

https://www.amazon.com/Environmental-Concepts-1662-Professional-Tests/dp/B003JCMKEK
I wish mine was only half rocks. I understand what you're trying to do but if I wanted to seriously grow veggies I'd go with raised beds.
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On Tue, 6 Sep 2016 20:15:03 -0600, rbowman wrote:

So yours is worse than half stones? Part of my question was to compare with others.
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On 09/06/2016 09:34 PM, Danny D. wrote:

I live on the bottom of what used to be a 1500' deep proglacial lake about 15,000 years ago. Yeah, it's a little rocky :)
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On Tue, 6 Sep 2016 22:57:19 -0600, rbowman wrote:

I used to live in glacial till, so I know what that's like!
Here, there are no boulders. Just the Franciscan sandstone (aka red chert) for entire mountains. You can dig 3000 feet and it's the same stuff through and through (all mashed up like it was blended in a kitchen blender, which, in effect, it was because the oceans mashed into the continent and schmushed it all together 30 million years ago).
So your soil is stonier than mine. Mine is weathered on the top to what I pictured.
I have been looking up the importance of organics, and, it seems they're a mysterious elixer that pretty much does everything good possible, but the plants don't actually "eat" the organics.
Function of organic matter in soil http://karnet.up.wroc.pl/~weber/rola2.htm
The organics are a *slow* source of N and P. They affect the microbial flora of the soil. And, they act as pH buffers and moisturizers.
It's super complex though ... and it's kinda like toothpaste. It, in and of itself, doesn't do anything directly to the plants but it seems to be a "good thing" overall to what we're trying to accomplish in that it does a bunch of indirect things for the plants.
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