no, vineyards worth their effort get their
character from the native soil. you don't really
want to change that much, because if you do then
it may change the flavor of the wines... that is
if you are growing grapes for making wines of
in primarily mineral soil, yes, but added along
with other things (clay and silt and organic matter).
no. not too many stones here at the surface.
you have a substrate, for growing veggies you'll
need some compost (partially decayed organic materials)
and perhaps some clay to hold moisture. if the compost
is not very good you may also want to add some chopped
and dried alfalfa or other nitrogen rich plant based
material. let it sit (water it once in a while to keep
it moist) for a few weeks.
for other gardening/soil questions the rec.garden
groups still function. i'm very happy to go on at
length about such things. ;)
worm composting is a very good way to keep such
gardens topped up with nutrients...
On Tue, 6 Sep 2016 09:49:19 -0400, songbird wrote:
You bring up good scientific points in that I doubt there is much humus
(organic) material in this particular soil.
Bearing in mind the goal is to teach the kids science in the process, these
soils are Franciscan sediments, which are ultra mafic rocks which covered
the floor of the Pacific Ocean which were shoved fifty miles under the edge
of California about 30 million years ago, and then which popped up when the
Farallon Plate was consumed in this area (the Farallon Plate still exists
but only north of Mendocino).
Since it's all Franciscan sediments, it's really all the same "clayish"
sandstone. There's nothing else in these parts. Just that one clayish
sandstone (often termed "chert").
I'm trying to find a chemical composition description of Franciscan chert
but I wonder if you look at the soil in my pictures if it looks "decent" to
I suspect it has far too little humus to be useful.
But I don't know that for a fact.
I just know that back east, the soil is black and filled with roots,
whereas out here, it's a uniform brown with almost no root matter and no
bugs whatsoever in it.
What is your soil like?
Is it similar to mine?
if it is light in color there's not much humus
(or any) or carbon in there.
i haven't looked at the pictures yet. was in a
bit of a rush this morning...
mostly clay, some sand, compacted, very fertile
and good for holding moisture and nutrients but not
easy to work once it get dried out or when it is
too wet. i much prefer it over overly sandy soil
though. we get decent crops from our gardens when
others around us with sandier soils have to struggle
or give up entirely.
this is an example from a few years ago of what
our soil amended with sand looks like (the light
soil) and what i use to help the garden fertility
along (worms and worm poo/pee - the dark stuff):
On Tue, 6 Sep 2016 22:58:14 -0400, songbird wrote:
It's kind of coffee brown, but, remember, it comes from Franciscan
sandstone, which is a red chert that came from the bottom of the ocean
thirty million years ago when it was mashed against the continent to depths
of tens of thousands of feet.
You could dig through this entire mountain, and you'd hit the same stuff
It's coffee colored. Here is a picture:
Lucky you that it's clay, sand, and holds moisture. I'm realizing, slowly,
that organics are the elixer of soils, even though they, themselves, don't
do anything directly.
The organics seem to have an indirect effect, like toothpaste does.
Wow. I haven't seen that many worms since I lived back east!
I saw a worm just a few months ago, but that was the last one in a while.
Your soil seems pretty loose, and grainy, as I can see, in that picture,
sand grains. Mine is more uniformly NOT sand. However, I don't see
"organics" all that much in either of our soil. Just a stray root here and
there, but, I don't see a lot of organics in yours.
But they must be there 'cuz of all the worms.
not entirely true...
they are a long term energy source, also a large
surface area, a storage medium for both nutrients and
water, a home for fungi and bacteria and many other
animals of the soil community.
i raise them to break down food scraps and to be used
in the gardens like what you see above.
by the time i take them out to the gardens in the
spring there's about 150,000 - 200,000 worms. which
i keep 10-20 percent for restarting the cycle.
i need so many buckets because Ma cooks for quite
a few people at times and so i need enough capacity
to absorb the scraps from making a fruit salad for
50 people or whatever she's up to.
while many worm composters only use the red
wriggler composting worms, i use a mix of about
six species (i no longer count or sort them out)
including earthworms. so if i have a bone or
meat scrap i can bury it in the bucket and the
worms will break it down eventually. this is not
commonly done (because rotting meat in an organic
only worm bin will stink - something buried in
the dirt will not stink if you put it down several
i have all these bins here in my room, they only
smell when i'm disturbing them and usually it's
not a horrible smell. sometimes a little swampy
if i get a bucket too wet (worms don't care how
wet as long as it isn't actually swimming in
there). since i'm only four months into the
cycle there's probably only 100,000 worms here
and most are likely to be fairly small, but they
keep on going all the time. very good helpers
and keeping them indoors during the winter frozen
months means they keep on working when everything
else outside is fairly quiet.
no, that was pretty plain unamended soil mixed with
some extra sand. clay is not loose, when dry it can
be as hard as a brick. if i showed you that same garden
now it's a few shades darker and is currently covered
by squash plants with vines about 30ft long. they're
growing in mounds with piles of leaves and other
organic matter, ashes and clay layered, plenty of
half-decomposed wood chips in there too. i still
have about half the area to do the same thing to to
raise it up and give it some things for the worms to
the dark stuff in the trench came out of one of my
worm buckets. i put it down in trenches where i'm
planting, it's full of nutrients from 12 months of
i'm not familiar with that experiment, but a simple
soil analysis whereby you mix a soil sample and some
water and then see what settles out quickly(sand and
coarser particles) what settles out medium term (silt)
and what settles out eventually (clays or finer
particles). some organic matter may float and give
you an idea of how much of that is in there (trace
amounts in most subsoils).
On Wed, 7 Sep 2016 20:35:53 -0400, songbird wrote:
It was suggested by someone else, and easy enough to try.
I was kind of surprised how much *smoke* there was, so, that tells me there
are some *extremely* fine grains there.
Probably because the dirt is so dry...
Um, yeah. Since it's displaced into a bucket, it's actually my dirt.
Here's what it looks like as soil when it's not displaced:
Here is a zoomed out view showing where I got the topsoil from:
It's weathered from Franciscan red chert from the bottom of the ocean which
has been shoved against the continent to the tune of tens of thousands of
feet, and then exposed by weathering over the past tens of millions of
years, such that it's currently "soil".
Why do you ask?
Well, I found out that mixing in baking flour might not be the best
solution because it has a lot of amylopectin, which, I'm told, will just
form a hard "clay" like substance in the soil.
I do plan on mixing in some bottom-of-the-pile wood-chip detritus and maybe
even some under-oak leaf rakings, which, I'm told, will contain zillions of
fibers from fungi, which help by allowing better water penetration and
adsorption (on the fungi fibers) and with good bacterial action (such as
I might even throw in some Guadalupe manure from San Jose residents' poop,
but it might be easier to use non-coal wood-original charcoal ground up to
add to the existing "dirt" to make my own "terra preta":
Apparently charcoal has an immense surface area, acres of surface area, in
fact, in a single handful of soil (I'm told), which aids in the adsorption
of water and associated dissolved nutrients.
In addition, I'm told, I can add calcium carbonate, which also helps in the
adsorption of moisture in this otherwise dry soil.
Of course, considering what I'm starting with, it won't be easy by any
means, but, it should be doable if I think it all the way through.
Here is the "rock" I'm starting with, before it weathers to "stone" and
then eventually layers into "soil" before I displaced into my "dirt"...
I don't believe in "organic".
I took plenty of chemistry in my day as I have multiple degrees.
Organic is meaningless (to me).
I would pay *less* for organic labeled products, but not more.
I just like experiments.
And I like to know exactly what I'm doing.
Details are everything.
I like details, too.
This year when it came time to plant in my raised beds, I had to
supplement the soil for several reasons. I didn't have enough compost
for all of my beds, so I created compost IN each raised bed. Maybe you
could do the same thing?
Yah, organic standards are silly.
Sprinkle some Imazamox or Glyphosate on genetically modified food
and you'll have a very healthy dish. And don't worry about soil
nutrient depletion, that's just propaganda from the health nuts.
An "organic" sticker is nearly meaningless (IMHO).
Just because a chemical has a horrid sounding name doesn't mean that it's
bad for you (or good for you either).
The chemical name is meaningless other than what it actually does to either
the soil, the food itself, or to the human.
We'd have to take each one on a case-by-case basis - but just putting a
label with a pretty green sticker saying "organic" isn't that solution.
It's just not that simple.
I can't market horrid sounding dihydrogen oxide but I can sell crystal
clear natural water for twice the price, as long as I put a sticker on it
that says "organic".
me either, not since the gov't messed up the term.
natural methods are good enough.
if you are using less inputs and can still get
results eventually it should result in lower cost
produce, but the demand is great enough at present
that the price/premium is holding.
i don't sell the stuff we grow here, but often
give it away. that's as low cost as it gets...
yep, and sustainability over the long-haul.
is your topsoil improving each year or at least
holding up? or are you farming subsoil?
when i look around here most farmers have taken
prime topsoil and over the years turned it back
into subsoil. where i grow my veggies now used
to be climax forest for our area (150 years ago)
and there would have been about a foot of prime
topsoil. all gone, farmed away and back to clay.
it's fertile if you treat it right. used to be
a christmas tree farm here and then farmed again
for a while, then fallow for a few years before
we bought it.
i've been doing experiments around the place
since i've been here (about 10 years of the 20
years total we've owned this plot). i now have
a great example of a green manure patch which
puts out more nitrogen than the rest of my
gardens could ever use. when i started back
there the topsoil was gone, the subsoil was
compacted and there was no support for much of
anything, even weeds struggled back there with
all topsoil and organic matter being washed
away in any heavy rains.
first thing i did was level it (tilled a few
inches and then leveled). there were no worms
or night crawlers in there. then i seeded it
with a mix of birdsfoot trefoil and alfalfa and
kept it weeded so those were the dominant plants.
they are nitrogen fixers. after the second
season i started chopping them back once or twice
a growing season. which increases the rate of
nutrient cycling and increases organic matter.
after six years the previously uniform clay
subsoil layer has changed into about a foot of
noticeably darker soil. the worms and night-
crawlers are now all through there and i can
still harvest a few hundred lbs of good green
manure for use in other gardens if they need
a nitrogen boost.
i'm now increasing the complexity in the area
by adding other plants (strawberries, turnips,
radishes, beets, buckwheat, etc.) and so the space
is going to become even more productive now that
there is good topsoil. i've already taken several
hundred pounds of garlic out of there too. which
would take over if i let it. but i'm trying to
remove it as getting garlic out of heavy clay in
the middle of summer is not very easy... i like
eating it as green garlic and the worms love it if
i pull it out and let it dry out on the surface.
so, um, yeah, let's keep on growing and learning
what we can, but simple biology and knowing about
ecology will trump the narrow views of chemistry
any time. it's nice to know what is happening with
the chemistry of the soils, but as i've found out
over the years it's completely not needed if you
know how to farm for the diversity of the soil
community and soil organic matter drives that.
the simple chemistry approach ignores that. if
you go by strictly looking at NPK you're missing
95% of what is important.
having the examples of the surrounding farm fields
i don't need to see any more examples of their
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