Hence two questions ...
Q1: Is your soil rocky like this?
Q2: If so, how would you fertilize it?
The wife wanted planters for the grandchildren to put their food in so that
the kids could revel in the wonders of tomatoes and melons and peppers
grown from their own leftovers.
So she asked me to get her a couple of 5-gallon buckets of "soil" (she
called it "dirt" but dirt and soil, I was told by my college professors,
are two different things - but no matter how many times I tell her the
difference - she still calls it "dirt").
I went to the lowest area of my property to find the most non-rocky soil I
could find (yes, "rock" is different than "stone", as outlined by the same
college professor); but even then, thousands of feet away from the
bulldozed areas, I still ended up with 100% Franciscan sediments currently
weathered to 50% stone and 50% smaller particles.
I sifted out with a quarter-inch grid the smaller particles, but the result
is still a coffee-colored mix of what seems to be relatively infertile
How would you fertilize this stuff sufficient for kids to grow plants?
On Tuesday, September 6, 2016 at 6:27:12 AM UTC-4, dadiOH wrote:
Or if there is use for enough, for a couple hundred bucks he
can probably get a load of topsoil delivered. If he has a large
lot, it can be left in a spot for use over time. For that or
his existing soil, a general purposed 10-10-10 type fertilizer
should be fine. I'd test the soil PH though, who knows what
it is, and adjust if needed.
On Tue, 6 Sep 2016 05:20:33 -0700 (PDT), trader_4 wrote:
I know that I can get potting soil but this is a "nature" experiment, so,
the natural soil is the goal, so that the kids use their own soil and their
own waste food to grow their own food plants.
It's really an experiment and not a commercial venture.
I'm more curious if your soil is as stony as mine.
Is yours half stones?
Funny you mention the water, as I looked up how roots uptake nutrients.
I was debating whether removing the stone chips helped or not.
On the one point, the stones may create cavities for the water.
But on the other hand, the roots would be forced to go around the stones.
Besides, the water remains, I thing, by capillary action, around the soil
Do you think it's a good idea to "loam" the soil by mixing in some
uniformly sized sand grains?
I was wondering if I could grow a horse radish for myself from the
condiments I have in my refrigerator! :)
Hmmm... I guess "cemented" soil is bad, I guess.
So, from that 'sandpoint', the sandy soil may be better for drainage.
But, um, what is the problem with water.
Plants need water to live.
And, they don't "drown" since they don't have lungs so they don't "breathe"
I guess if the roots are very wet for a long time, they may get diluted of
their ATP and other chemicals necessary for life, by osmosis into the
Is that what the danger is of too-wet soil?
And how do you know it's too wet?
So many questions, so much I don't know.
On Tue, 6 Sep 2016 19:49:57 -0500, Dean Hoffman wrote:
I guess I need to look it up because the plants I know can drill through
solid rock it seems. SO the roots find a way.
I never understood when people say plants need to "breathe" as if they had
lungs, or that they can "drown". I understand the use of flowery words but
they really don't tell me anything since plants don't have lungs.
Looking at the URL ... http://scienceline.ucsb.edu/getkey.php?keys0
I had not realized that plants use oxygen to burn sugar to make energy; I
had always thought oxygen was a waste product for plants (which it is). I
didn't realize it's *both* a waste product by day and a necessary product
by night. Apparently it simply excretes more oxygen from the green parts
than it consumes from all the parts of the plant.
The roots aren't green. So the roots need oxygen. They get that oxygen from
the air spaces in the soil. *that* is why they can *drown*. They actually
need air at the roots. Who knew that roots needed air? (I always thought
putting roots in air was a bad thing.)
So much I don't know...
if you are planning on growing root crops (like
carrots) you don't want large stones in the soil.
besides, it's tough on the hands to work in a
garden bed if the soil is full of stones (and tough
on garden tools too).
smalls stones can provide some basic nutrients
via fungi and other processes which break things
down (plant roots/exhudates, bacterial stuffs,
freeze/thaw cycle, water leaching, wind and rain
motion, worms grinding...), but you don't usually
need a lot of those in comparison to the more
common nutrients known to be useful for plants
(N, P, K plus many others too).
there's entire books written on this topic, but
what you can do for most soils to help without
having to do any testing at all is to add organic
matter which will also help adjust pH and improve
water and nutrient holding capabilities.
i've never tested the soil here at all. when
i first started growing veggies they didn't do
as well as they could. now things go much better.
On Tue, 6 Sep 2016 23:25:45 -0400, songbird wrote:
Why not? I guess if there were a huge boulder, the carrot root couldn't get
past it; ub what if there were just the small stones that are in my soil
pictures. Can't a carrot root just push them aside or wend their way around
True. I tried to dig out a baby oak tree, five inches tall, for the
grandchild's biome and the first sound of the shovel hitting the soil was
that rocky gravely sound of scraping against pavement.
Hmmm.... small stones harbor fungi. I guess that makes sense since the
stones probably create little caves and niches like where Neanderthal man
lived in a larger set of caves.
I'm agreeing with you that there's probably no organic matter in this soil
so if plants need organic matter, then I have to add it.
Interestingly, when I think of "fertilizer" I think only of NPK and not of
Carbon-based life - so I'll look up exactly *why* plants seem to want to
eat other plants and animals.
What Does Organic Matter Do In Soil?
Hmmmm... that says the plants don't *eat* the organic matter; it says that
the organic matter acts like the *sand* that someone else suggested, which
prevents compaction but it also cryptically says the organic matter is a
"reservoir" of fertilizer (which is slowly released into the soil).
They make a distinction between organic material (e.g., a dead leaf) and
organic matter (i.e., the humus left after most of the leaf has
Only 5% is decomposed yearly after the initial decomposition, and, get
this... It is the stable organic matter that is analyzed in the soil test!
you don't want crooked or reasons for the root to
no, the fungi will extract nutrients from rocks
stones if needed. they also can act as transport
agents to get nutrients to plants in exchange for
sugars and other goodies. soil and the soil
community can be complex. there's millions of
bacterial species (many which haven't even been
classified or studied yet) and fungi, virii, etc.
the more diverse you can make a garden soil the
more resilience you have for handling different
conditions and a balance between the good kinds and
the kinds which can cause diseases.
humus and various compounds of late decomposition are
weak acids and large molecules that can hold up well for
years if not abused (excess N increases the rate of
some types of soil carbon are even more stable and will
be around for hundreds or thousands of years. best thought
of as a very large surface area for bacteria and fungi.
bacteria and fungi are your basic support system for long-
term fertility (in combination with your mineral elements).
you'll see terms like biochar used too. very useful stuff
for poor soil, but it needs to be mixed in compost and
aged for a while to give it some nutrients/bacteria/fungi/
On Wed, 7 Sep 2016 11:23:29 -0400, songbird wrote:
While it's all complex, I think you summarized the problem set pretty well,
which is the more diverse you can make the soil, the better because all
sorts of "minor" good things happen, and most bad things are diluted, so to
i've been studying soil sciences, gardening,
microbiology, ecosystems, and many related topics
for many years (agroecology, permaculture and
regenerative agriculture are intersting topics :) ).
if anyone refers you to a university or agricultural
school you will get the chem-ag approach to farming in
mass production. many master gardeners programs use
similar materials and philosophy and it is all through
the gardening references and web-sites. it is often
expensive and damaging in many ways. much more
expensive than it needs to be.
I once drank from the Lehigh river, not too far from the Susquehanna
(depends on what "far" means). I was hiking along the Appalachian, as I
recall (it was very many years ago so I might have the details wrong) and I
didn't get sick. I was shocked.
The water alone out there is good fertilizer!
It's the fertilizer and the ability of the media to hold moisture that
is important. After all you can grow plants hydroponically without
soil. Get a good fertilizer from a gardening center. Tomatoes also
like calcium and it pays to add limestone. I use regular cheap bagged
topsoil in my pots.
It's more an experiment of how the local soil works, with a bit of
fertilizer, if needed.
So my main question is how would I *know* if fertilizer is needed?
As for the ability to hold moisture, I think the water remains by capillary
Is there a *test* for that?
I guess I could weigh a pot of the soil before and after watering, and then
weight it a day or two later.
But is there a standard test for how soil holds moisture?
Out here, in California, except in the winter, the moisture has to be
I looked at the first in your list:
It was the DT-129 and it was just for wood (not soil).
But it's too expensive to be practical ($166).
It does seem to simply be a resistance meter though.
I'll bet most of the moisture meters are resistance meters.
Looking at the second one in your list, it's half that price:
But it's a "Wheat corn paddy rice moisture meter" for testing grains.
Still, it seems to be a resistance/conductance meter.
It gives a range of Moisture measurement range: 2%~30%
My pots drain from the bottom into a pan and if there is water in the
pan and roots deep than I add no water.
Fertilizer will be needed and I sorta determine how much by how growth
is going. Too much all at once might kill the plant. In my opinion
some potting soils that contain fertilizer have too much fertilizer to
start plants in.
The calcium needed for tomatoes was discovered when I had blossom end
rot and calcium cured it.
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