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The Helpful Gardener wrote:You are just trying to stir as much as you are aerate, so leaving a spot for subduction (for the surface to go back under) is a good idea. Too much motion makes good fungal colonization tougher as well...

I think alcohol is not a great idea, as it breaks back into long chain carbs; read bacterial food. H2O2, with a little vinegar (acetic acid helps pentrate calcium shells on dormant bacteria). makes way more sense.

HG
OK, I got you. That makes perfect sense when I think about it. If I just have one stone off to the side, it will probably make the water move in a sort of a cyclical motion: moving up on the air stone side and down on the empty side. This should achieve the stirring motion you described.

Thanks for clarifying about the alcohol/peroxide issue. I know that vinegar is a great cleaning aid too. I'm thinking that I should clean out and air-dry the bucket and air stone after every brewing or every-other brewing.

What exactly is the purpose of ACT? Is it to add nutrients like N-P-K, or is it to add bacteria, fungi, and protozoa, which, in turn, help the plants to absorb the nutrients that are already in the soil.

That is why I was suggesting the various ingredients earlier. I though that by adding these things, I could get a brew that had more nitrogen, phosphorous, or potassium.

Now, however, I'm thinking that the real purpose of the tea is to add biological life, not N-P-K. Although, I'm sure that there are some nutrients in there.

Thanks for your response.

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I'm thinking that I should clean out and air-dry the bucket and air stone after every brewing or every-other brewing.
Spot on. Dessication is an excellent sterilant, but not complete. This is like brewing beer; cleanliness is the true path to quality versions of either. And drying out between batches assures a fresh start every time... but EVERY time. NO exceptions...
What exactly is the purpose of ACT? Is it to add nutrients like N-P-K, or is it to add bacteria, fungi, and protozoa, which, in turn, help the plants to absorb the nutrients that are already in the soil.


You are correct...
That is why I was suggesting the various ingredients earlier. I though that by adding these things, I could get a brew that had more nitrogen, phosphorous, or potassium.
You were incorrect... :lol: Not really incorrect but missing the point...
Now, however, I'm thinking that the real purpose of the tea is to add biological life, not N-P-K. Although, I'm sure that there are some nutrients in there.
Now you get it... critters eating critters is how tea works. Much the way yeast or lactobacillus (please note we have both fungal and bacterial kingdoms represented here) is how bread gets made, biology is how soil gets made. It is not a sum of parts whipped up in a beaker, it is a living thing, a breathing, reproducing, killing, dying entity, much as we humans are a sum of biological processes...

We have been sold "better living through chemistry" for a long time when that is clearly now not the case; chemicals are more and more implicated in negative health issues. Doesn't better living through biology make more sense? Isn't that how nature does it? I'll take billions of years of proven success over two hundred years of increasingly bad reports and testing ([url=https://www.truthout.org/article/how-poisonous-unregulated-chemicals-end-up-our-blood]when it's done at all[/url]... :roll: )

HG
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The Helpful Gardener wrote:
I'm thinking that I should clean out and air-dry the bucket and air stone after every brewing or every-other brewing.
Spot on. Dessication is an excellent sterilant, but not complete. This is like brewing beer; cleanliness is the true path to quality versions of either. And drying out between batches assures a fresh start every time... but EVERY time. NO exceptions...
What exactly is the purpose of ACT? Is it to add nutrients like N-P-K, or is it to add bacteria, fungi, and protozoa, which, in turn, help the plants to absorb the nutrients that are already in the soil.


You are correct...
That is why I was suggesting the various ingredients earlier. I though that by adding these things, I could get a brew that had more nitrogen, phosphorous, or potassium.
You were incorrect... :lol: Not really incorrect but missing ther point...
Now, however, I'm thinking that the real purpose of the tea is to add biological life, not N-P-K. Although, I'm sure that there are some nutrients in there.
Now you get it... critters eating critters is how tea works. Much the way yeast or lactobacillus (please note we have both fungal and bacterial kingdoms represented here) is how bread gets made, biology is how soil getsd made. It is not a sum of parts whipped up in a beaker it is a living thing, breathing, reproducing, killing dying entity, much as we humans are a sum of biological processes...

We have been sold "better living through chemistry" for a long time when that is clearly now not the case; chemicals are more and more implicated in negative health issues. Doesn't better living through biology make more sense? Isn't that how nature does it? I'll take billions of years of proven success over two hundred years of increasingly bad reports and testing ([url=https://www.truthout.org/article/how-poisonous-unregulated-chemicals-end-up-our-blood]when it's done at all[/url]... :roll: )

HG
Thanks for the article you linked to at the end of your informing post, HG; It was great.

I'm glad to hear that I'm getting the hang of the ACT concept. I know know that the goal with ACT is to inject a serious infusion of microorganisms into the soil. Tell me, how many nutrients are in the tea, a lot or very few?

I would think that there would not me much nitrogen, since the bacteria feed on it and probably consume it (please correct me if I'm totally wrong:lol:). I think that the main reason for adding the nitrogen in the first place is to provide food for the bacteria, not to nourish the soil.

The reason I'm asking about the nutrient levels is that if I want to give an amount of a specific nutrient nutrient to a plant, say, phosphorous to the onions, I don't know if the tea is going to have enough of it or not.

If the tea really has low levels of nutrients and mainly helps the plants to make better use of whatever nutrients are there, should I amend the soil with an organic fertilizer (alfalfa pellets, super phosphate, bone/blood meal, etc.) a day or two before applying the tea? This way, there will be an abundance of the specific nutrients I want for the plants to absorb.

Now, I'm sure that many members here have really great soil and don't really need to add anything. However, my soil is new and has hardly any organic matter in it and wasn't fertilized last year, except for liming in spring and some grass clippings around the tomatoes. I'm thinking that its probably low in available nutrients for plants and would need some additives (organic, of course) to give me the most benefit from the tea.

Thanks for your help.

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The tea is not so much a vessel of your N-P-K You said it yourself in a previous post. It's the key to unlock the nutrients in your soil. So if your onions need phosphorus that that should be added by itself the tea will help with the availability of said phosphorus but won't be what you want to use to add it in so many words.

What you put in your tea is food for the vast herd of critters in there most of the N-P-K you put in will be used up creating this micro herd.

The thing about people having the greatest soil that they don't need to add anything is just not so. Everything in your garden is using up the nutrients all the time. The plants the bacteria etc. So you should always add something at least compost to add those nutrients back to the soil (other good things would be green manures etc). That is where the tea comes into play.


Alright THG your turn to expand on this as well as check me.

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Not bad, Gixx, not bad, but you are still missing the same key point that G5 is missing when posting...
I would think that there would not me much nitrogen, since the bacteria feed on it and probably consume it (please correct me if I'm totally wrong:lol:). I think that the main reason for adding the nitrogen in the first place is to provide food for the bacteria, not to nourish the soil.


Here's the thing; the bacteria ARE the fertilizer. The critters ARE the nutrients.

They don't just consume nitrogen; they are how Nature STORES nitrogen. As the only way to then unlock it is to get eaten by something with a higher carbon to nitrogen ratio (pretty easy as at 5:1, NOTHING is lower than a bacteria), the only thing really necessary to fertilize is higher level predators like protozoa, nematodes, and the like, as THEY are the key to releasing nitrogen directly (and other things indirectly). THEY are the key item you are brewing for. Molasses and such feed bacteria; THEY are simply feedstock, the mast foodsource for soil...

What better way to store nitrogen than a living breathing thing that actually has a need to hang around in the root zones of plants? Quite convenient. Polysaccharide glues to stick it in place so it can't wash away (and the glues also help aggregate soil for better porosity and therefore field capacity for water). Some bacteria actually do help with fertilizing; phosphorus solubilizing bacteria ([url=https://www.fnca.mext.go.jp/bf/bfm/pdf/4_4_Phosphate_Solubilizers0403.pdf]PSB's[/url]) make mineral phosphate plant available (not to exclude the fungii all together, we should mention their key role in the phosphorus cycle with their high phospholipid content), nitrosomonas and nitrobacters take the ammonia excretions of our higher level predators from its noxious form to plant available nitrogen, but most importantly they are fodder for our more advanced livestock.

As chemical fertilizers and pesticides kill these higher level predators pretty quickly, chemically treated soils CAN lock bacterially (and collapse and compact, and lose field capacity and all sorts of other bad things). Organic soils CANNOT, unless unbalanced by some other outer force (flood, fire, etc.) . One way simply works better, safer, and more sustainably, IMO, but judge for yourself... :D

HG
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The Helpful Gardener wrote:Not bad, Gixx, not bad, but you are still missing the same key point that G5 is missing when posting...
I would think that there would not me much nitrogen, since the bacteria feed on it and probably consume it (please correct me if I'm totally wrong:lol:). I think that the main reason for adding the nitrogen in the first place is to provide food for the bacteria, not to nourish the soil.


Here's the thing; the bacteria ARE the fertilizer. The critters ARE the nutrients.

They don't just consume nitrogen; they are how Nature STORES nitrogen. As the only way to then unlock it is to get eaten by something with a higher carbon to nitrogen ratio (pretty easy as at 5:1, NOTHING is lower than a bacteria), the only thing really necessary to fertilize is higher level predators like protozoa, nematodes, and the like, as THEY are the key to releasing nitrogen directly (and other things indirectly). THEY are the key item you are brewing for. Molasses and such feed bacteria; THEY are simply feedstock, the mast foodsource for soil...

What better way to store nitrogen than a living breathing thing that actually has a need to hang around in the root zones of plants? Quite convenient. Polysaccharide glues to stick it in place so it can't wash away (and the glues also help aggregate soil for better porosity and therefore field capacity for water). Some bacteria actually do help with fertilizing; phosphorus solubilizing bacteria ([url=https://www.fnca.mext.go.jp/bf/bfm/pdf/4_4_Phosphate_Solubilizers0403.pdf]PSB's[/url]) make mineral phosphate plant available (not to exclude the fungii all together, we should mention their key role in the phosphorus cycle with their high phospholipid content), nitrosomonas and nitrobacters take the ammonia excretions of our higher level predators from its noxious form to plant available nitrogen, but most importantly they are fodder for our more advanced livestock.

As chemical fertilizers and pesticides kill these higher level predators pretty quickly, chemically treated soils CAN lock bacterially (and collapse and compact, and lose field capacity and all sorts of other bad things). Organic soils CANNOT, unless unbalanced by some other outer force (flood, fire, etc.) . One way simply works better, safer, and more sustainably, IMO, but judge for yourself... :D

HG
Wow, great information Gix and HG. I understand bacteria's role in the tea and soil much more, now. I also have a better idea of how the chemical fertilizers are bad for the soil (always knew they were, just didn't know exactly how).

Let me see if I'm getting the hang of this. When the bacteria feed on the nitrogen in the tea (or in the earth), they are not eliminating it, just storing it. Although some bacteria make nutrients directly available to plants,but for the most part, they must be eaten by protozoa and nematodes for their stored nitrogen to become usable by the plants. I think this is all correct.

What about the phosphorous and potassium? Do the bacteria store these too, or are they the ones that make it available to the plants?

What role do fungi play in all of this; do they too eat the bacteria or do they store nutrients and wait to be eaten?

Is this the only way that plants can use nutrients; that is, is it only through the presence of biological life in the soil that the nutrients there can be used by plants?

Thanks for giving me a schooling in soil biology and for the PDF (I'm saving it).:D

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Re: phosphorus.

The basic unit of energy for bacteria is adenosine triphopshate. So empirically, we know adding bacteria/archea is adding P. But normally when I think of P, I think of maintaining fungi.

Re: you have to add something of you take away...

Are you sure you have to add it? Who fertilized the great forests? Did biomass only increase relative to what was added by animals traveling in from outside the system? Then how did anything happen before animals? How did biomass above ground increase?

Bedrock. Water. Sun. Air. That's how. Nature is a wondrous thing, and the little miracle workers are almost all too small to see with a human eye.

To me, adding compost is not about NPK, it's about speeding up the process of building humus and aggregates, skipping steps in the order of succession. It's techology we use to alter nature in a cooperative way. Aerated compost tea is merely a more advanced technology for doing a lot of the same stuff with a fraction of the compost.
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I (mostly) agree, toil. But isn't [url=https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adenosine]adenosine[/url] an amine grouping and all about the nitrogen too?

G5, still not quite there; you still want bacteria to eat nitrogen and they are way more about carbs (the sweet tooth in me agrees wholeheartedly)or ammonia . They often congregate around roots, where plants will exude polysaccharide root exudates (Elaine Ingham call this "cake and cookies").

Once the plant attracts bacteria and fungii with cake and cookies, (some to help out directly, like PSB's and nitrogen converters, some just to get munched) the protozoa show up to eat bacteria and start the poop loop RIGHT where the plant needs them, in close association to the roots! It's a lovely system, everyone giving, and getting, and coexisiting (despite a little of the "red fang and claw" stuff).

Forget the NPK; that's for reading the side of a bag of blue goo. Nature has a incredibly resilient and effective system for dealing with this issue of fertilization. Get the soil healthy enough and you can jack the brix (sugar) levels in plants so high, many disease and insects cease to be an issue. Try to do that with a chemical fertilizer...

When trying to make plants thrive, make your soil thrive first. Just that easy.

HG
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That's true about adenosine hg, but every ATP molecule has 3 P atoms. So empirically, we can say every organism has some P. Like I said though, when I think of accessing P I think of mineralizing insoluble P found in inert materia. But if bacteria can survive and multiply, there must be P. And if there is P, you can access it if you try. In fact, it appears that if you don't try, and just add soluble P, you risk breaking the cycle, cutting out your P extractors, and having to keep your plants on P support. When I first stopped using chemical fertilizer, that's literally what I did: pee support.

The larger point is the same as hg's just not as clear and simple: if you have the biomass, and you have the right balance of microorganisms and enough biomass, the NPK is a non-issue.

I can think of two ways to evaluate soil: texture and what weeds grow, and with a microscope. Chemical analysis is a waste of time. I'm hoping to have a scope soon, so I can learn to ID and evetually evaluate.

Short on N? Feed the bacteria. Weeds outcompeting the brassicas? You need more fungi (and all the fungal buddies like nematodes) relative to bacteria to normalize the N cycle. Brassicas ok but tomatoes not happy? More fungi still. Trees not happy? More fungi still.

That's real simplistic, but that's the idea. It's based on "succession". The common thread is nutrient cycling by a complete soil foodweb (can I say that here?).

So when an animal visits your garden, now you can wonder if any new and wonderful microbes it is wearing. Another reason bugs rock.


If this is interesting to you, why not order a copy of teaming with microbes and read it with HG? There is a thread. Should be really cool for everyone.
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Toil wrote: If this is interesting to you, why not order a copy of teaming with microbes and read it with HG? There is a thread. Should be really cool for everyone.
I do want to read it, but I just realized the pun in the title. I had been hearing about this book and had assumed the title was Teeming with Microbes ,meaning there are billions of them (which of course there are), but here I find out it is Teaming with Microbes, meaning we should partner up with them! Interesting!

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More than just interesting, RBG; necessary...

We do it to bake bread, we do it to brew beer, but we remain largely unaware of just how often we are in the debt of microbiology. The other great unseen is the loss of soil in this country due to our [url=https://www.local-organic.net/image.axd?picture=2009%2F3%2Fsoil-erosion-hl4lag-sw.jpg]current practices[/url]; some estimates say we have used forty percent of the soil found here when Europeans arrived. We are getting better; we used to send a twenty yard dumptruck of soil out of the Mississsippi every second; we have gotten it back to every six second now. Small victories indeed.

One of the reasons this site started was to try and shift the thinking from chemical thinking to biological thinking; we are after all talking about biological entities, so it makes sense that living systems would handle that better than chemical ones. Some will now point out that it is ALL chemistry; that biological funtions are simply chemical reactions, and at face value this is true. But then why are'nt the chemical fertilizers building soil? Why aren't pesticides recycling into usable molecules, rather than long term pollutants? And why, why, why do people think that these chemicals are tested and found safe, when nothing could be further from the truth?

The alternative to the madness outlined above is biology. Folks around here get tired of me answering EVERY question with "Add compost", but it IS a functional answer for nearly every gardening issue, and I almost always provide scientific reasoning to support my claims. Perhaps the chemical companies would like to become more transparent on the modes of action for their products? Then perhaps I would trust them more. But it seems they have been cheating the system and outright lying to cover what they are really putting in their products. Ask yourself why.

And in the meantime, it is indeed time we started teaming with microbes. They hold soils together. replenishing them and adding to them in a natural manner. They've never lied to me yet... :wink:
A nation that destroys it's soil, destroys itself.

FDR
HG
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I would like to add that even if we see things from a chem perspective (I can't even balance an equation without head pain and possibly a strange body odor), our little critters are performing complex, targeted chemical operations on an order of magnitude and with precision that makes NPK theory, even at its most complex, seem hopelessly inadequate and outdated. Can any of monsanto's polymers even compare to a single strand of DNA? How about 2 strands? an organism?

It's not that compost isn't chemicals - compost is so many chemicals, with such complex relationships, that we need to group them in terms of species, genus, family, order, class, phylum, and kingdom, and as consortia or functional groups if we hope to harness or manipulate anything to our ends. It's as much about our own human-ness as anything. We think and communicate in symbols.

I think another approach, of balancing divine energies and even life spirit (biodynamic), is also a healthy way to approach the biosphere. It appeals to a different type, but if it works and isn't hurting anyone... a good symbol is a good symbol.
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garden5 wrote:
The Helpful Gardener wrote:I'll take billions of years of proven success over two hundred years of increasingly bad reports and testing ([url=https://www.truthout.org/article/how-poisonous-unregulated-chemicals-end-up-our-blood]when it's done at all[/url]... :roll: )

HG
Thanks for the article you linked to at the end of your informing post, HG; It was great.
2nd that. :shock: :eek:

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From the Intersection of Chemical and Biology... of his potato crop, Thoreau writes,
Our vintage is come; an olive is ripe. Fruits of the strong soil, containing potash. I am glad to know that Nature has her potash works as well as sugarhouse.
Fruits of the strong soil. Thoreau knew of the chemical links to life, but his real appreciation went where it should, to the soil. "Fruits of the strong soil." They all are really. Whatever joy in plants that draws you to this web site, whatever sustenance you derive, animal or vegetable, whatever clean water you drink; it is a a gift of that strong soil.

I'd take care of that if I was us... :wink:

If you, as many of you are, are here on this site because you garden, it is because you feel a tug of the same tide that moved HDT to build a little hut in the woods, or Muir to leave his flocks of sheep to roam the Sierra meadows, or urged any farmer to plant in the earth to gather sustenance for his family. Our membership surely embraces plants as a source of joy, even of self...

Yet in our common love of plants, where do we seperate them from that strong soil? Aren't the roots meshed into the soil? Even the soil is woven into the plants; fungal nets of hyphae extend an airy tapestry of soil in and out of our plants; actually IN them, as symbiotic mycorhizae penetrate and cohabitat within the roots themselves. These fungal nets extend for miles, as does the groundwater, both as sure a part of soil and plants as you and I are of blood and bone. What part of that can we give up? What part of it is acceptable to damage? What of that system can we do without? The least among them perform social services for humans that we cannot begin to do for ourselves; the same lactobacillus in your morning yogurt, the very yeast in my bread, are the exact same same organisms in the soil that make plants grow and give us oxygen and food and shelter and shade.

Let's show 'em some respect. Let's at least garden along with these creatures, give them back a little for what they give us. Gardening with chemicals and destroying this crucial part of plants is working at opposite ends from the intended goals. Destroying life in order to preserve it? Sounds like the old chesnut from the Vietnam War, "We had to destroy the village in order to save it". Nope, still doesn't make sense... neither do chems...

Like it or not, those little beasties are the engineers in our starship, keeping the life support systems functioning. Without the irreplaceable services these bacteria and fungi provide, we, as a species, are toast. We don't ever want to hear them say, "That's all there is Cap'n! I can't give you any more!" Even if they do a really great Jimmy Doohan... ([url=https://www.popcornnation.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/05/jamesdoohan.jpg]here's to ya, Scotty[/url])...

HG
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Thanks, everyone, for clarifying.

OK, let me see if I got it now. Its good to feed the bacteria nitrogen because they release it around the plant's roots when other biological life eats them. It's not usually necessary to worry about adding NPK since the soil probably has enough of that in it already; this is especially (allmost certainly) true if you have been adding compost regularly. Just worry about adding the microbes and the plants will get all the nutrients they need.


Oops, I guess I'm still focusing on the NPK. But, to my understanding, its these nutrients and minerals that actually cause the plants to grow and fruit. Even in the PDF on phosphorous solubilizing(yeah, I know I spelled it wrong:oops:) bacteria that you put up, HG, says "Phosphorus is second only to nitrogen in mineral nutrients most commonly limiting the growth of crops." To my understanding, this seems like the nutrients are what makes the plants grow, but its the microbes that make the nutrients available to the plants, thus making the bacteria, fungi, protozoa, etc., the real necessities of the garden.

Is all (or anything) of the above correct?

Oh, and Toil, I'm definitely finding soil biology interesting and now really want to get "Teaming with Microbes"! Will it tell me all about the stuff we have been talking about? It was actually this thread that introduced (hooked) me to the concept and importance of soil biology. I'm seeing now that its the addition of organic matter and microbiological life that is the real secret to a great garden.

Thanks for the great discussion, everyone!

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You're still feeding nitrogen to the bacteria, G5. I'm telling you THEY are the nitrogen.

Feed the bacteria; get nitrogen. Feed the fungii. Get phosphorus. Both of these help etch enough potassium out of the soil. NPK is WAY less important than healthy biology, because healthy biology IS the NPK. I am oversimplifying some parts here, but the crux remains the same; feed the biology and it feeds plants. IF there is enough carbon in the soil, these guys will even show up without your help (how does a volcanic island populate? WAY faster than you'd think...) WITHOUT any intervention from humans at all, we'd still have plants, right?

We can get more from our soil by mostly leaving it be and making small additions of natural materials than all the plowing, tilling, turning and burning, dumping bags of stuff made in refineries, or spraying poisons you'd care to try. The best part of green gardening is stepping out of the way and letting Nature do her job. She's a pro with a lot of experience. All she really needs a hand with is a little more carbon (humus), some extra water now and then (she uses less then the chemical garden does, though), and the weeding. But don't we all need help with the weeding? :wink:

HG
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The Helpful Gardener wrote:You're still feeding nitrogen to the bacteria, G5. I'm telling you THEY are the nitrogen.

Feed the bacteria; get nitrogen. Feed the fungii. Get phosphorus. Both of these help etch enough potassium out of the soil. NPK is WAY less important than healthy biology, because healthy biology IS the NPK. I am oversimplifying some parts here, but the crux remains the same; feed the biology and it feeds plants. IF there is enough carbon in the soil, these guys will even show up without your help (how does a volcanic island populate? WAY faster than you'd think...) WITHOUT any intervention from humans at all, we'd still have plants, right?

We can get more from our soil by mostly leaving it be and making small additions of natural materials than all the plowing, tilling, turning and burning, dumping bags of stuff made in refineries, or spraying poisons you'd care to try. The best part of green gardening is stepping out of the way and letting Nature do her job. She's a pro with a lot of experience. All she really needs a hand with is a little more carbon (humus), some extra water now and then (she uses less then the chemical garden does, though), and the weeding. But don't we all need help with the weeding? :wink:

HG
I'm sorry HG, I'm really trying to get this. It seem like every time I think that I've got it, I realize that I don't :( . I think that I keep messing up on the nitrogen issue because I'm used to thinking about is as something that is not a living life form.

I first thought that you were figuratively speaking when you said that the bacteria were the nitrogen. I now see that you literally mean it.

Now, however, I'm getting confused :?. Earlier on, we spoke about how adding fish emulsion or kelp meal to the tea caused the bacteria too feed on the nitrogen. Now, if bacteria are nitrogen, does that mean that the bacteria are feeding on other bacteria? I'm starting to think that perhaps (now, this is just a total uneducated assumption) all bacteria are nitrogen, but not all nitrogen is in the form of bacteria. I really want to get over this hump in my understanding of soil biology.

Is the following statement correct: it's the nutrients (some in the form of microorganisms) that actually cause the plants to grow, but the plants cannot benefit (use) these nutrients without the microorganisms. Since most soils contain the necessary nutrients, it is the microorganisms that are the essential component to the successful garden.

Looking back at a few of my posts, it might seem like I'm getting argumentative. I apologize for coming off that way; I didn't intend to. I'm just really intrigued by this subject and full of questions (and you all are full of great answers :o ).

Thanks so much for helping me to understand the bacteria/nitrogen concept and for confirming or debunking my knowledge so far of this subject.

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garden5 wrote: Now, however, I'm getting confused :?. Earlier on, we spoke about how adding fish emulsion or kelp meal to the tea caused the bacteria too feed on the nitrogen. Now, if bacteria are nitrogen, does that mean that the bacteria are feeding on other bacteria? I'm starting to think that perhaps (now, this is just a total uneducated assumption) all bacteria are nitrogen, but not all nitrogen is in the form of bacteria. I really want to get over this hump in my understanding of soil biology.

Is the following statement correct: it's the nutrients (some in the form of microorganisms) that actually cause the plants to grow, but the plants cannot benefit (use) these nutrients without the microorganisms. Since most soils contain the necessary nutrients, it is the microorganisms that are the essential component to the successful garden.
you aren't confused! you are just looking to fill out a new concept: the soil foodweb. I'm not sure, but that may be a commercial term now, but it's the best word. I am not sure if bacteria eat bacteria but the organisms you are asking about are protozoans. They look like giant monsters to bacteria. And bacteria are prey to them. Fertile garden soil should have lots of flagellates (one big hair), and not too many ciliates (little tiny hairs).

Guess what they poop out? mineralized N! just like miracle grow or manure. Only in a targeted area, and if you play your cards right, in measured doses.

In fact, on dr. ingham's site, she mentions samples being contaminated with protozoa when scientists were first studying certain bacteria. the bacteria wound up being classified as nitrate emitters, when all along it was predation.
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Everything living on this rock, including you and me, are basically carbon and nitrogen. Fungi are around 20:1, trees are around 50:1 for deciduous and 100:1 or so for most evergreens. This is a simplification; trees vary depending on what part; bark is around 20:1 with the wood getting higher as it gets older (twigs are way less carbon than heartwood). A cedar shingle can be 1000:1; THAT'S why it won't rot... We're 30:1; so are protozoa and most other animals, including fish... proteins contain a decent amount of nitrogen... bacteria are HIGH nitrogen at 5:1...

When anything eats anything, we get what Dr. Ingham calls the poop loop; nitrogen releases as ammonia. Say Mr. Amoeba eats a bacteria; 30:1 eats 5:1. Amoeba now has all the nitrogen he needs, but still needs another 25 parts of carbon. Chomp, chomp, chomp, chomp, chomp; five more bacteria. But he now has 5 extra nitrogens, which he excretes as ammonia (proteins are amine groups, carbon stuck to ammonia; break off the carbon (digestion)and you get ammonia) Each amoeba eats about 10,000 bacteria a day and there are about ten thousand amoeba in your average gram of soil. And they can get eaten by nematodes (100:1). More poop looping; more nitrogen.... bacterial soil lock only happens when nobody eats the bacteria. SO...

...rather than concentrate on putting soluble nitrogen in the soil at all, I am suggesting putting biology in the soil, as biology won't wash away, creates a very stable supply of N, and as we cultivate the higher orders of species in brewing tea, creates a slow release system we call a food chain (I like Dr. Ingham's term of food web better). Dumping on N is just short term until it rinses away, then we need more, my way makes it and releases it daily and it stays around...

The difference between what I am saying and what G5 is saying is the difference between meatloaf and hamburger. I say I want a meatloaf sandwich, G5 says "I'll get some hamburger." and I say, "We have meatloaf right here already.", so G5 says "Sure, for the meatloaf sandwich; I'll get hamburger." :lol:

See what I'm getting at? We are brewing tea to make biology (especially higher levels), not to make nutrients. It just happens that the biology is a LOT of the nutrients, but it's far more than that.

It's the whole meatloaf sandwich. With chips. And a pickle. :wink: :lol:

This is not easy G5; I know pros who have a very hard time wrapping their head around this because it sure isn't how we were taught to think. We have become very wrapped up in our NPK thinking; toils words on symbology ring very true to me. I am asking for a shift in thinking much like toils biodynamic thinking; don't think in chemicals, think in biology, much the same way biodynamics asks for less science and more spirit (which I still have trouble with; in case you haven't got it, I REALLY like my science :wink: ).

Changing an entire mode of thought does NOT come easily to humans; we will put up with really awful stuff "because that's how we always did it". Look how long it has taken to get rid of cigarettes, racism, or lawyers. What? We still have all three? See what I mean? :lol:

But it really will make thinking about what your soil actually needs a lot simpler when we start to think of it not as the place we stick the roots or dump the N, but as an entity itself, full of creatures to be nurtured and sustained. In taking care of THAT aspect, we take care of EVERYTHING else; pH, big nutrients, micros, symbiot biologies... the soil takes care of plants FAR better than any concoction we can come up with... our bad symbology for soil has us making bad choices concerning it. THAT'S why I want to change the meme...

G5, if you still don't get it, I am not explaining it well. Don't be sorry; that's not what this place is about. It's about getting you answers, and we will figure this out together. If it kills us... :lol:

:wink:

HG

P.S. toil posted while I was crafting this short story :roll: . Good post toil...
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Word!

Clarification: I am too science oriented for biodynamic as well, but I think it's a good thing for a good many people in a lot of ways.


RE: Teaming with microbes - can you guys discuss it in the teaming thread as well? If there is interest maybe others will follow. I hope no one reads any of my posts here looking for brewer designs. :hide:
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Good information, everyone!

Thanks HG, for letting me know that it's the subject that's difficult and it's not just me.

I can clearly see now how when larger life forms eat the bacteria, they get all the nitrogen they need, but not enough carbon. This causes them to eat more bacteria so as to get more carbon. This results in them getting an excess amount of nitrogen over what they need. This excess is then excreted and is used by the plants. This is over simplifying it, I'm sure, but I think I've got the general idea.

I think I'm finally getting what you are saying about the nitrogen, HG :D . I think you are saying that nitrogen is nitrogen; it is its own mineral/compound(which I believe, in its fundamental form, is not alive), but also is a fundamental part of life forms (which are alive). Either way, its the same nitrogen. I think therein lied my problem: I kept thinking that nitrogen was just a non-living nutrient and couldn't see how the bacteria "were the nitrogen." Now, I do; I understand that it's a part of their fundamental composition and the composition of about everything else.

I see now that the nitrogen is the same, it's the delivery method that's different. It can get to the plant's soil zone by way of harmful, microorganism-killing fertilizers, or, it can find its way there by the predation of bacteria. I know there are probably more ways it can get into the soil (or is in the soil already), but I'm just focusing this contrast. I'm thinking this is what you meant, HG, by the hamburger/meatloaf story. It's the same ingredient, just served differently.

Essentially: focus on building up the "soil-critter" population, and the plants will get all the nutrients they need, partly because some (maybe all, I'm not sure) of the nutrients actually make-up the the microorganisms.

Do I have it now, HG?

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I can't speak for hg, but: word!
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Yes, you can, in this case anyway, toil.

"Where does it rain?"

"In Spain."

"On Where?"

"On the plain."

"BY GEORGE I THINK SHE"S GOT IT!!"

I couldn't be happier, G5. You have definitely got it... :D :D :D

You're right, there are other ways nitrogen can get there (droppings, snow, volcanic deposits) but we are talking the big two, to be sure. And you demonstrate a complete grasp of the details. BREAKTHROUGH! (happy dance...) :D :D :D

8)

HG
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YES!!! :D :D :D :clap: :clap: :clap:

I've finally got it! Now, I just have to keep from losing it :roll:. One more thing to celebrate is my one hundredth post.

So, to keep the knowledge-ball rolling, I'll throw up another question. I now know how the tea and microbiological life adds nitrogen to the soil, but what about the phosphorous? How do the microbes get phosphorous to the plants. HG, you gave me a great PDF a few posts ago about how some bacteria excrete organic acids that solubilize phosphorus that is already in the soil, but in a form that is unusable by plats, and makes it a form that the plants can use.

What other ways (if any) do microbes get phosphorus to plants. Do any microbes excrete this mineral when they feed on other microbes (I don't think they do)?

Thanks so much HG and Toil for sticking with me and explaining the bacteria/nitrogen relationship in different ways until I finally grasped it. It is much appreciated!

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I love it. Just finished beating you over the head with big thoughts and you want more already. We are definitely alike in that... :D

Yup, excretions again; in the same manner that they are nitrogen, most everything living is phosphorus too. As toil pointed out elsewhere, the general currency of energy transfer between cells is this amine group (carbon and ammonia tacked onto something else) called [url=https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adenosine_triphosphate]adenosine triphosphate[/url] and as the name would imply, it's got three phosphates! So EVERY living thing has a huge amount of this floating about. Put it in the poop loop and the soil wants to lock it up, but those PSB's, and other weak acid responses put it back in play again for plants...

And there are mineral sources too, and fungii (know how they are water proof? That's [url=https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phospholipid]phospholipid[/url]; they are loaded witih it, but any permeable cell membrane you can think of (say, skin) is made from phospholipid)... bone is loaded with phosphorus, so are fish. There is usually plenty of P in most soils but it locks up fast unless we have plenty of biology to release it...

See why we call it a soil food web? So many relationships in so many directions that the old moniker food CHAIN just won't do...

How we doin', G5? Look, I don't get everything on those Wiki's and don't want to pretend I do. But I get enough to know that biology is not just a good place to store your nitrogen, it is an even better place to store your phosphorus; that's how Nature does...

HG
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Wow :shock:
Just wanted to drop in and say thanks to garden for all the questions and HG plus toil for all the info contributed in the last few pages. Wonderful stuff as usual going on in this site :wink:

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Alright, let's see if I get this easier than I grasped the nitrogen concept.

Just about everything (if not everything) has phosphorous in it in one form or another. Anything with cells probably has adenosine triphosphate, a compound that cells break apart, take energy from, then recombines and the whole process starts all over again. Also, fungi (and some cells) have phospholipids, which are phosphorous-containing compounds that create membranes for the cells. I say "compounds" since I forgot the actual scientific terms that the Wikipedia articles mentioned. Phosphorus seems to take many forms (combines with different kinds of molecules in different ways) since it also appears in the soil to begin with.

When Microorganism eat each other, they leave behind some phosphorous for the plants to use. Since phosphorous is unstable, it quickly combines with other compounds (elements) in the soil and becomes unusable by plants. The main phosphorous-oriented benefit that the microorganisms lend to the soil is not only putting phosphorus in there, but also making the phosphorous that's already there more accessible to the plants.

Did I grasp everything alright? I think I did...this time :).

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And the word of the day is... Mineralization!

Plants need everything mineralized. Start by mineralizing these and see which compounds you get: C, N, P.
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I think ya done good, G5.

toil, the way I understand it, mineralized forms are NOT plant available; they need to be ionic (dissolved) FROM that mineralized state. We are looking to seperate, not join...
In order for a plant to absorb nutrients, the nutrients must be dissolved. When nutrients are dissolved, they are in a form called "ions". This simply means that they have electrical charges. As an example table salt is sodium chloride (NaCl), when it dissolves it becomes two ions; one of sodium (Na+) and one of chloride (Cl-). The small + and - signs with the Na and the Cl indicate the type of electrical charges associated with these ions. In this example, the sodium has a plus charge and is called a "cation". The chloride has a negative charge is called an "anion". Since, in soil chemistry "opposites attract" and "likes repel", nutrients in the ionic form can be attracted to any opposite charges present in soil.


Like magnets, right? The ability of a soil to hold these positive charged particles is called the Cation Exchange Capacity, or CEC.
Soil is made up of many components. A significant percentage of most soil is clay. Organic matter, while a small percentage of most soil is also important for several reasons. Both of these soil fractions have a large number of negative charges on their surface, thus they attract cation elements and contribute to a higher CEC. At the same time, they also repel anion nutrients ("like" charges).
Yet another reason I am always harping on the compost; it actually adds CEC, as well as biological housing...
Some important elements with a positive electrical charge in their plant-available form include potassium (K+), ammonium (NH4+), magnesium ( Mg++), calcium (Ca++), zinc (Zn+), manganese (Mn++), iron (Fe++), copper (Cu+) and hydrogen (H+). While hydrogen is not a nutrient, it affects the degree of acidity (pH) of the soil, so it is also important. Some other nutrients have a negative electrical charge in their plant-available form. These are called anions and include nitrate (NO3-), phosphate (H2PO4- and HPO4--), sulfate (SO4-), borate (BO3-), and molybdate (MoO4--). Phosphates are unique among the negatively charged anions, in that they are not mobile in the soil. This is because they are highly reactive, and nearly all of them will combine with other elements or compounds in the soil, other than clay and organic matter. The resulting compounds are not soluble, thus they precipitate out of soil solution. In this state, they are unavailable to plants, and form the phosphorus "reserve" in the soil.
Except if they latch onto say, an ammonium molecule instead, and become ammonium phosphate. Hey, wait! That's just like chemical fertilizer. It IS chemical fertillizer!

Which means it is water soluble, just like chemical fertilizer :( . Which means it will wash out into ground and surface water, just like chemical fertilizer... :cry: . Not plant soluble (ionized) but still water soluble (not part of the soil). Bad place for phosphorus to be...

So the trick is a nice balanced phosphorus cycle. Not too much, not too little. What cycle might we know that would regulate the occasional release of P, right where plants need it?

toil, I can think of no compound using all three (but enlighten me if you have a thought, please. The chemical thinkin' hurts my thinker. Why do you think I like to concentrate on biology so much? it's just eatin' and poopin' and THOSE I get, real good. Ask my wife!) :wink: .

I can mineralize carbon into C14 if I have no lignin conversion (how we got coal and oil in the first place, but that is another story) but even an octet grouping of carbon gets me brown coal, otherwise known as humate. I can add 4 hydrogen and make my N ammonium (solid cationic form) or I can add 3 hydrogen and make ammonia (gaseous state with neutral charge) We tend to get the latter in anaerobic conditions), and due to it's neutral state, it gasses off, taking our fertility with it... which is why I don't like that anaerobic state... a very sorry state... you can add your phosphorus to the hydrogens in the same way and make phosphene gas, and there goes that as well. Anaerobic is just bad for soil...

I don't WANNA mineralize my nutrients! I wanna Biologize mine! It's safer, and it don't hurt my thinker as much... :lol:

How we doin' G5? Got a little squirelly there at the end (ignore toil and I while we babble), but do you get the CEC thing? You are gonna be so set for Teaming With Microbes at this rate...

Thanks to the folks at Spectrum Analytic [url=https://www.spectrumanalytic.com/support/library/ff/CEC_BpH_and_percent_sat.htm]for their great explanation of CEC.[/url]

HG
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CO2 plus water equals what? Dissolved CO2! AKA carbonic acid. Without ionic C, no glucose, no ATP.

(CO2 is mineralized C. Source: Dr. Inghams site)

mineralized nutes + water = ions.

Just like NaCl plus water equals Na and Cl ions. Those Na ions in solution make your nerve cells work. You need minerlized nutes too.


(I'm on my iPhone and can't research, so check all this before you believe it). The above is as I understand it from the soil foodweb inc site. Maybe I misunderstood? The table salt bit is from memory, but as of this edit im wondering if Ca is the ion that jumps from outside the myelin sheath to the inside to fire the neuron.

Edit: ok this was bugging me so I looked it up. You know I care when i pull this on an iPhone. From the sfi site. And I think this is short enough and factual enough to fall under fair use:
Why do microbiologists say that bacteria mineralize? First, we need to understand what mineralization means. When protein is converted into carbon dioxide and ammonium or nitrate, that is mineralization. More generally, conversion of an organic material into mineral forms (carbon dioxide is a mineral form of carbon, and nitrate or ammonium are mineral forms of nitrogen) is mineralization.

What about when rock is solubilized? Rock is a mineral. You can’t mineralize something that is already a mineral. Typically rock P is turned into an organic form, through the action of bacteria or fungi, and on occasion root acids, and incorporated into the biomass of these organisms. When the bacteria or fungi or plant are eaten, phosphate can be released, and since phosphate is a mineral, that would be mineralization.

I have to admit, I'm just believing it because dr ingham said it. I have no clue, just trust. Any chemistry heads out there please explain. I can say with confidence though, that bacteria/archea provide us with atmospheric C, which is the basic prerequisite for Plant and animal life (after liquid water). Thank your PSB's bacteria evolved and transformed the planet.



No matter how or if you garden, or what species you are, green or pink on the inside, if you breathe air you owe your life to bacteria mineralizing C. Every breath you take, every move you make, you are using bacteria farts filtered by photosynthesis to do it. And every cell in your body has carbon that was also once bacterial flatulum.

Sort of blows holes in our cultural metaphysics. We are not lords set above or apart from nature. Our machines, our selves, our thoughts... Just one more natural process, indistinguishable from the whole. Agency and self awareness does not make us new and different, just occasionally blind and arrogant.

Now about that tea... This is getting long but I have one tip for small plots and indoor plants. An ACT brewer designer told me: brew if you want to, but make sure you have enough o2. An aquarium pump can handle a gallon or two, no more. As an alternative, quintuple the compost, add to the water, stir for 5 minutes, and pour. You can filter it to spray. That's direct extraction, and is near perfect "tea".

I use a good fistful or two per gallon to do this.
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To confirm: The CEC (cation exchange capacity) is a measurement of how much of a negative charge the soil contains (which is influenced by the make-up of the soil). This negative charge influences how many positively charged nutrient (element) ions the soil can attract, hold, and exchange. Nutrients are usable by plants when they are in their ionic form. Negatively charged soil elements will also repel negative nutrient ions (anions).

I think I'm two for two so far :D.

What happens to the anions and cations after they are repelled by or attracted to the soil. I'm thinking that both the anions and cations can be used by the plants, but that the anions that are repelled by the soil have a chance at being washed out, as opposed to the cations which are held.

Are the ionic nutrients ready to be used by the plants or do they still need to interact with the microbiological life forms? Maybe it is the interaction with the microbes that makes the nutrients ionic, I'm not sure on this one.

Toil, great information, especially about the small batches of compost tea. That will come in handy for when the seedlings start growing.

One thing I wonder about is the statement that an aquarium pump is only good for a gallon or two of tea. I find that hard to believe since that is what most people seem to use for a 5 gal. batch of tea, and the math that HG and I did a few posts (page or two) ago, seems to support this.

What's your opinion on this?
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Ouf, I have nothing to back up my hearsay.

Let me work on it. It's about dissolved oxygen, and the guy's point to me was that I was "doing it wrong". I kinda just believed him. Maybe i should not have spoken, but I wanted to give the context of the conversation.

Be patient, I gotta go sing a concert and tomorrow I travel. I should be warming up right now.

Damn HG! It's like crack!
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garden5 wrote:Good information, everyone!

Thanks HG, for letting me know that it's the subject that's difficult and it's not just me.
Don't feel bad I'm still trying to figure it out some 17 or so pages later.

What really gets me is why I'm not getting emails of updates to this most awesome thread. :x

:edit: I posted this a page or so ago, it seems like you got it. I'm pretty much there. It's hard to keep up though after reading the 3 pages I missed. Still computing it all :)

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Hang ten Gixx, good to see you on the book club forum too. You're doin' fine...

10-4, G5, the training wheels are officially gone. You're getting the hang of this...

To come back to thread, when we add tea to soil, we are adding biology above all other things. This biology becomes the innoculant for a larger colony that becomes a nutrient sink BEYOND the CEC, AND our soil "coagulant" (increasing tilth and field capacity), AND one of the key forces that helps bring nutrients out of the CEC and make it plant available (ionic forms are plant available forms). My position is that THIS is the key focus to soil health going far on beyond ANYTHING you can do with chemicals. THAT'S why we love this thread as we do...

HG
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The Helpful Gardener wrote:Hang ten Gixx, good to see you on the book club forum too. You're doin' fine...

10-4, G5, the training wheels are officially gone. You're getting the hang of this...

To come back to thread, when we add tea to soil, we are adding biology above all other things. This biology becomes the innoculant for a larger colony that becomes a nutrient sink BEYOND the CEC, AND our soil "coagulant" (increasing tilth and field capacity), AND one of the key forces that helps bring nutrients out of the CEC and make it plant available (ionic forms are plant available forms). My position is that THIS is the key focus to soil health going far on beyond ANYTHING you can do with chemicals. THAT'S why we love this thread as we do...

HG
Hmm, so the the microbes store up all the cationic nutrients that the soil can't handle and the anionic ones the soil repels. That makes perfect sense. Not only do they store it, they also move it into the plant's root zone since they are attracted there by the polysaccharides (?) (remembered the concept, forgot the term) that the plants exude through the roots. If you think about it, having microbes is like having a 100% organic fertilization system built right into the soil :P.

OK, HG, here is something that intrigues me. A few pages ago, we spoke about the benefits of adding ACT to little seedlings since the microbes not only add some nutrients, they also help in the development of the seedlings roots. However, I recently read that you want to plant seeds in soil-less, or at least sterile, planting medium and not compost because the microorganisms in compost that help large plants grow well are actually detrimental to seedling and can kill them :shock:. Could these be the anaerobic microbes that are killed in the aeration process of the tea that are harmful to seedlings?

What are your insights on this subject?

Toil, it looks like you might be in the right with your statement. At the very least, my math a few pages ago does not pertain to it :oops:. You are speaking about disolved oxygen (something I don't fully understan...yet 8)); my calculations were referring to how many times the pump turns the water in the bucket.
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The microbes don't store as much as they just ARE nutrients that plants can use; they need to be eaten to release said nutrient. But that more N, more P, more traces than we can store in CEC, right? And these won't wash away like free phosphorus... so it not like, it IS like having a fert factory in the soil. Exactly so...

The reason so many places are keen on sterile for seedling mix is the fact that they are about to hit these lil fellers with the chemical nasty, and as we've discussed elswhere, doing that is going to whack good guys before bad guys. Sterility is a false attempt to stack the biological deck or at least get the plant a little start before pathological organisms start. Organically we are not allowing any particular organism dominance, so the seedlings choose who to provide with cake and cookies (we are not so much establishing real roots at this stage as we are developing symbiot mycorhizal colonies that work with the seedlings, and the plant does a pretty good job of that. Or it should, anyway).

If I am developing a forum, I can just invite people I know to the forum, and it becomes a pretty sterile place, limited by what and who I know. If I invite the world, it gets filled fast with a crazy patchwork of personalities and characters, and takes on a life of it's own, but in so doing becomes SO much more than my pick and choose forum ever could. Kind of like this nuttiness :wink: .

Soil is NO different... only if you are ready to work in dead soil by feeding ammonia salt is sterility important. Just tried to explain to wife why sourdough starter is not "rotting" on top of refrigerator. Same thing. Good healthy cultures support health, not endanger it

HG
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I have to add: seeds that get into my wormbins sprout like editeds. They never damp off, they just blanch and die from dark.

Sterile schmerile.
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Nice technical terms, toil... :roll:

:lol:

HG
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Lol. You know the kitty cations and anions and polysaccharides made my head spin. I was too dizzy to sound smart.


I caught myself using the curse "edited" to myself today. As in edited, not a cursed word edited to read edited.
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Thanks for reminding me about the bacteria being the nutrients, I knew that they were and can't believe that I almost regressed back to our former discussion.

I think that I should be alright starting/growing my seeds in my sifted compost, which is mostly dirt, anyway. I don't plan on adding any inorganic fertilizers, but will probably do some compost tea with the extraction-method that Toil mentioned.

Also, I now want to get some worm castings and add them to the soil and make some tea with them. Are most all kinds sold in the store organic, or are there certain things I should look out for when buying WC?

Well, I guess that since we discussed nitrogen, and phosphorous, let's round out the "big three" with potassium. What are your insights on how the microbes relate to the K levels in the soil?
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