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Gary350
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I can't get enough organic material for my garden.

I was noticing yesterday how dark my soil is and how many worms are in a shovel full of my dirt. I was digging holes to plant herbs and it is full of worms. It must have 35 to 50 worms in each shovel of dirt. The soil is so dark, it is almost black with organic material compaired to other soil in the yard. I wish I could keep it like this but it won't last. I collected so much grass clipping and dead leaves last summer it did not compost so I guess it will have to compost all this summer. I bought 4 bailes of peat moss 3.8 cu ft each to put in the soil again I will till it in tomorrow. I hauled in 2200 lbs of crushes lime stone and spread it pretty even over the entire garden. I hauled in 2 pickup truck loads of sand about 4600 lbs of sand and spread it on my 22 x 45 ft garden to help loosen up the clay soil. I enlarged my garden 5 ft so not it is 27 x 45 ft. The sand and gravel will stay but the orgainc material has to be replaced every year. I have an add on craigs list wanting free sheet rock scraps the gypsum is good for the garden. I have hauled a small amount of sheet rock myself but not much. I can't get enough organic material I just wish there was some way to load up the soil with lots and lots of organic material and make it stay.

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toss in your banana peels :o too.

Seriously why are you so heavy into adding all this material to your garden? I am curious like a cat now please give some details on your plans, not so I can help you (not the best gardener) but so I can know whats up. Seems like something big is taking place and I feel I am missing out on the details.
can you take some photos? love to hear more.
You can solve all your problems in a garden/laboratory.

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Gary -

I use the (fresh) grass clippings as mulch in the veggie garden - keep it 6-8 inches from the plants proper until it cools off - it all keeps going in the garden all season long. get dug/tilled in at the end.

leaves I chop up with the mower and leave in a heap for 3 years - makes nice leaf mold which gets tilled in.

I have very mixed feelings about the wallboard for gypsum. you've heard about the Chinese issue with strange wallboard? who knows what they put in it....

sawdust (check the furniture guys) - must be composed / left to rot/age for 2-3 years but once 'not fresh' is a good 'bulk' source

I know exactly what you mean about 'color' of the soil - I've expanded my plot at it's like night and day - dark/rich to yellow clay.....

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rainbowgardener
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Let us know how it goes. I'm trying to make sense of it, a ton of limestone and 2+ tons of sand on a 1215 sq foot plot. That's like 2 pounds of limestone and and 4 pounds of sand per square foot. How many inches deep are you piling this stuff?


I'm having trouble putting it all together. You said:

I can't get enough organic material for my yard

My soil is super rich and dark and full of organics and earthworms

I'm adding literal tons of inorganics to my yard.

Sorry, but I can't make all of those things fit together.

And the limestone and gypsum are to break up clay, but it doesn't sound like your soil is (any longer?) very clay- y. Am I missing something; are all the amendments for a different part of the yard than the dark rich full of earthworms part?

Anyway, perhaps there's a little overkill going on and you could just relax a little?
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uhmmm, sand is about 90 lbs/cubic foot. depends on [a lot stuff...]

4 pounds of sand would cover one sq ft about half an inch deep.

adding sand to clay soil is an established approach - but lacking organic matter, clay+sand=concrete

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Dillbert wrote:adding sand to clay soil is an established approach - but lacking organic matter, clay+sand=concrete
Yep! BT, DT! I even added a little gravel into the mix. My side yard looks like it's paved with aggregate. :roll:
"Isn't it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?" - Douglas Adams

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Very interesting. I want more detail also. I brought in 4.5 yards of free horse manure for (12 ) 3ft by 20ft beds. I thought this was excessive.

[img]https://i67.photobucket.com/albums/h300/eric_wa/DSC01588-1.jpg[/img]

[img]https://i67.photobucket.com/albums/h300/eric_wa/DSC01597-1.jpg[/img]

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Gary350
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rainbowgardener wrote:Let us know how it goes. I'm trying to make sense of it, a ton of limestone and 2+ tons of sand on a 1215 sq foot plot. That's like 2 pounds of limestone and and 4 pounds of sand per square foot. How many inches deep are you piling this stuff?


I'm having trouble putting it all together. You said:

I can't get enough organic material for my yard

My soil is super rich and dark and full of organics and earthworms

I'm adding literal tons of inorganics to my yard.

Sorry, but I can't make all of those things fit together.

And the limestone and gypsum are to break up clay, but it doesn't sound like your soil is (any longer?) very clay- y. Am I missing something; are all the amendments for a different part of the yard than the dark rich full of earthworms part?

Anyway, perhaps there's a little overkill going on and you could just relax a little?
The new 5 ft section I added to my garden is clay. It needs all the organic material I can get. The part of the garden I have been working for 18 years is doing pretty good. Your right about 1 ton of lime stone and 2 tons of sand its only a drop in the bucket but every little bit helps. I did the lime stone for slow release lime but last year I found out lime stone is too slow release I had to give the tomato plants some lime last summer. I did the sand to loosen the soil most of the sand is in a spot 8 x 22 ft for root crops like potatoes, onion, carrots. The carrots did great and the Garlic and Leeks are doing good too. Melons also like sandy soil so this year I will experement and plant melons there. I tilled in the peat moss today and it appears to be nealy nothing. I think I need to add about 10 more bails of peat moss to the 5 x 45 ft new section of soil just so it looks like I actually did something to the soil, clay is pretty bad. The University of Tennessee has been experementing with gypsum for several years they published their research data and crop production pretty much doubled for every thing except potatoes the sweet potato crop tripled. I think it basically loosens the soil so roots can grow easier.

The crushed lime stone I added to the garden last spring is what they call manufactured sand. It is ground up lime stone nothing larger than a cucumber seed. It is mostly sand size particles and it really helped to loosen the soil. I put it over the whole garden except the spot where I grow potatoes I read lime causes potatoes to have scabs.

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"Your right about 1 ton of lime stone and 2 tons of sand its only a drop in the bucket but every little bit helps. "

Wasn't what I was suggesting.... I was suggesting perhaps overkill, but everyone has to figure out what works for them.
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"amending" a heavy clay soil involves some staggering numbers. frankly I think it works out better in the long run to start with a clay soil as the clay has lots of minerals and tends to hold moisture better, but going from clay to loam takes time and many pounds of other stuff.

in the chart below - and keep in mind the percentages are based on "dry weights" - a loamy soil is on the order of 70% sand. certainly a natural clay soil will already have some sand in it. regardless, adding sand and organic matter into a medium to large plot goes into amendments by the ton.


[img]https://i490.photobucket.com/albums/rr267/DilbertD/Soil_Class.jpg[/img]

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Clay soil doesn't compact because it lacks mineral content, which is all you are adding with sands and gypsum; it compacts because it lacks humus and biology to hold porosity open.

So why add more minerals instead of more organic matter?

HG
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HG -

you got to add both - well, I supposed one could go only with organic matter - it'll work in the end but sand does help break up the clay but only with the addition of organic matter to prompt 'tilth' - just organics&clay makes for a fairly heavy soil tho. but just sand and clay is not a good mix.

as for mineral content, sand is just mini-rocks. quartz, mostly. clay has a lot more to offer. technically I suppose sand does 'break down' - albeit very very slowly. gypsum acts more at a chemical level to disperse the clay whereas sand is a mechanical 'aerator'

as you can see from the chart - getting to a 'loam' is a 70% +/- sand type of situation. but it does require thorough mixing of sand & organic matter into the clay. if you take a lump of clay - in the 'squeezed = mud ball stage' - out of the garden, weigh it, stick it in the oven and take it to bone dry, in round numbers you'll find it's about 50% water by weigh. I've always used the 50-50 by _volume_ ratio sand to clay for the initial work.

garden fork type digging/turning is unlikely to create that mixing very quickly - tilling relatively dry clay does break it up and once broken into smaller clumps of clay the organics & sand do a quicker job at turning heavy clay into loam. so for a 6" tine tiller you'll get mebbe 4 inches of real till depth - so 4 inches of "top clay" - work in 4 inches of sand and as much organics as you can get your hands on . . . works out.

it's like compost - put it in a heap, it'll compost; turn & tend, it'll turn into compost quicker.

with my prior 420 sq ft garden I started with 18 cubic yards of mushroom soil and 14 tons of sharp sand. layer&till, layer&till until all gone. on the first passes I cheated - my brother had a Kubota with a 4-5 ft(?) wide hydraulic tiller - that made it like way easy.... with a front bucket to scoop half the garden to the side, dump on sand & mushroom soil, till, regrade,,, one afternoon made for pretty decent 'starter' soil.

then I made a to scale drawing, and with a flat shovel scooped paths between pseudo raised beds (nothing to contain them, just scoop the path onto the adjoining area - 'raised mound if you will)

all season long all the grass clippings went to mulch, along with the chopped/composted leaves. in the fall I would till the paths first - tilling down below the 'hard pan' layer - essentially tilling to 'double depth.' next season, move the path over so the prior 'hilled' area got tilled to double depth. after the area had been double depth tilled, I rotated the paths 90 degrees and repeat.

after 4-5 years of that 'plan' I had to _push_ the front tine tiller through the fluffy soil. root crops - like carrots - did especially well - I was able to grow those 10-12" long carrots no problem [g]

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Dill, do you know what clay is?

It's ground up sand.

So your answer is add more sand and use a big machine to grind it up more?

I'm poking some fun here at the general concept (at your expense, of course :P :lol: ); I recognize this is the collective thinking of a good deal of experienced and even professional horticulturists and agriculturalists, but I just think it is a broken model.

Humus is the missing component in most soils I see and it answers virtually every question you might have for any growing you would care to do. Lack nitrogen? Lack CEC? Porosity? Moisture? Add humus...

Compost, compost, compost...

HG
Scott Reil

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Compost, compost, compost...

I agree with this 100% I've turned my sticky blue clay into chocolate cake with compost and manures.

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Buying compost material is about to bankrupt me. Peat moss is $10 a bale I could use 10 more bales. I can get mulch $15 a scoop. I horse manure but it is 90% straw or 90% saw dust $15 a scoop. Straw is very hard to deal with its almost impossible to shovel and its hard to till in too. I am thinking I may not plant the new 5 x 45 part of my garden this year I might just add compost material this year then see how it looks next year. Peat moss works but it doesn't seem to last long I have been adding 4 bales of peat moss to the whole garden every year for many years. Fall leaves would work better if I could grind them into powder. I used a kitchen blender to experement and leaves grind up real nice all I need now is a way to grind up all my leaves in the fall. Only problem we have lots of rain and the leave are seldom dry and its impossible to till wet leaves in to mud.

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>>It's ground up sand.
to extend the analogy, Mount Rushmore could be considered just a large grain of sand [g] - tad hard to plant in it, tho . . .

the Enc. of Organic Gardening defines "Loam" as
"Soil which is composed of a friable mixture of clay, silt, sand and organic matter."

in the next paragraph it also says:
"Sand is coarser rock material, clay is finer."

setting aside the elemental analysis of "dirt" - there are mechanical properties of "dirt" that play a role in making a good garden soil. "well draining" is one that comes to mind.

so if the model is broken, apparently Rodale fell for it, too.

and of course, "sand" is not "sand" - there are many types - black volcanic sand to beach sand. marble dust and granite dust are "sand" - if one chooses ignores the accepted particle size definition of sand and clay.

sharp sand is most often touted as a soil additive - it's mostly quartz and feldspar.
here what EOG has to say about quartz:
/quote
... - quartz is of no importance to the soil. . . . may dissolve over many years, but no plant nutrients are released and no clay is formed as they do.
/unquote

if you've got a copy handy, check also "Mineral Rocks"

so indeed, sand is bits of rock - but not all rock is the same.

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Gary, you are having trouble tilling in your compost in ways you aren't even thinkinhg about...

As you till it in, you are putting it more in contact with soil and soil biology, which digests it faster and exhales a good deal of the carbon back into the atmosphere. That carbon is the humus we are trying to keep in the soil, NOT the atmosphere (there's the small issue of too much there already). The tilling also pulverizes the mineral content as much as it does the organic content, smashing it into smaller bits too. I think we already mentioned smashing your sand and silt actually makes clay?

So you are making your compost dissappear faster, making your clay soil more clay-y (?), and worst of all, damaging the fungal structure in your soil, making the soil compact yet further...

Tilling is your biggest issue, Gary, not compost... if you add your compost to your surface layer and do not compact your soil by walking or riding on it (which is why I use raised beds and hilled rows), compaction lifts naturally, instead of getting worse and worse... Why is the fluffiest soil in Nature found in the woods? Fungal structure in carbon rich humus, that's why...

Dillbert is right about rock, but I'm still right about clay. DDFarm talked about his blue clay, derived from the dark volcanic soils of the Northwest. Ozark Lady would be surprised by blue clay because hers is red; different parent material; different clay. But the mechanics remain the same; high CEC, poor porosity, and a serious need for humus... sand just makes more clay... treat the disease, not the symptoms...

HG
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>>I think we already mentioned smashing your sand and silt actually makes clay?

yes, you mentioned it. sorry to keep sticking a sharp stick in your eye, but the statement is not factual.

at the minutest level, tilling will probably chip off a few edges of a sand grain - but no rototiller is going to reduce sand to clay by pulverizing it - and that ignores the common trade chemical / elemental definition of "sand" and, as cited, per the common trade definition of sand - it cannot produce clay - pulverized or not.

I entirely agree that adding organic matter to clay makes it better. but if you do not also address the porosity of the soil, you've got a heavy clump of wet soil - both clay and organic matter serve to hold water - sand and coarser particles serve to break up that clumpy mass and allow the soil to drain, and allows roots to go somewhere.

whether one tills or does not till, digs or does not dig, sheet composts or or pillow case composts, the physical volume of organic matter decreases by thousands-folds upon decay - and doing something or doing nothing will not stop that process - doing/not doing may affect how fast it happens, but does not affect the eventual outcome. and when it is sufficiently decayed, it gets eaten by the plants, turned into foliage and fruits and the molecules disappear from the soil.

if you check into the definitions of "clay" and "sand"you'll find chemical, elemental and particle size distinctions. most naturally occurring clay contains 20%+ of sand - some a whole lot more - having dug local clays for pottery work I can personally attest to that - gets a little rough on the hands at the wheel. if your personal experience with your personal stash of clay is such that it contains a high percentage of sand particles your own experience may differ.

I also recognize and accept the existence of the "rototillers are evil" mindset. if you're there, it's okay by me - but (likely) your parents tax dollars put me through college in civil engineering where the subject of soil mechanics is formally addressed; and being an organic gardener since the 60's, I have my own experience to rely on.

certainly anyone is free to take the MythBuster's "I reject your reality and substitute my own" tactic, but that does actually not change physical science facts.

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I concur it does not...

For instance, the irrefutable evidence that woodland soils tend towards high porosity/percolation. This is because as fungus and bacteria reduce the soil, they add structure that depite the reduction of mass, holds the soil open... there is little or no sand in an old forest soil, so why is it so friable?

Bacteria does this with polysaccharide exudates that increase both micro and macroaggregation. Even in clay soils, this binds soils together in clumps that allow for more porosity in the soil. Woodland soils tend toward fungal which does an even better job of aggregating soils (both with the exudation of glomalin and in the structure of fungal hyphae that act as beams and girders in the soil. Tilling destroys fungal and promotes bacterial decompostition, which causes loss of carbon (think humus) as exhaled CO2. Loss of carbon in soil is almost entirely the fault of tilling.

Don't take my word for it though; here's [url=https://ohioline.osu.edu/sag-fact/pdf/0010.pdf]a paper[/url]from Ohio State's Ag program detialing what I am talking about...

Here's [url=https://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6TC7-3VGTGCM-10&_user=10&_coverDate=03%2F31%2F1999&_rdoc=1&_fmt=high&_orig=search&_sort=d&_docanchor=&view=c&_searchStrId=1294478712&_rerunOrigin=google&_acct=C000050221&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=10&md5=9a64c4a171139398b2ffbe163b732c86]another paper[/url]on the role of biology in macroaggregation...

Here's [url=https://vzj.scijournals.org/cgi/content/full/6/2/282]a paper[/url]detailing how the biology in aggregates is responsible for increasing the Cation Exchange Capacity, or ability of soil to hold and release nutition. This paper clearly demonstrates that biology is the key element in the continued availability of solubilized soil nutrition, not simply mineral content.

Plants uptake from soil is only about 2% of the plants make-up; plants do not deplete soil. Look at any natural system and you see soil increasing, not dissappearing. Look at any regularly cultivated area and you see soil decreasing; any number of soil and plant nutritives are gassed off in this process. CO2, methane, ammonia, phosgene; all these are plant food gone airborne. All because of tilling... I quote the OSU paper...
Soil compaction is a direct result of tillage, which
destroys the active organic matter and a lack of living roots
and microbes in the soil.
So I agree, you cannot change scientific fact just because it doesn't suit your premise... tilling is a soil destructive act that breaks up macroaggregation and even microaggregation, which, as the above papers make clear, is the key factor in a sustainably fertile soil. If I tend toward simplifications like saying sand turns to clay (absolutely true in geological time frames) it is because the science tends to turn some folks off and bores most others. I simplify to make the facts accessible, not because I don't understand the science... I am always happy to discuss the science behind my "reality" at any time...

HG
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arguing with master?
You can solve all your problems in a garden/laboratory.

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No offense HG, or Dillbert. But I don't think of anyone here as a "master". (OK, no offense to those of you with the Master Gardner certification or Masters degree, ... or WHATEVER! :wink:)

Each one of use here have experience and knowledge to contribute. We all have our own expertise in different disciplines. It's the conglomeration of the collective knowledge and the generously offered exchange that inspires and creates the learning community that I so enjoy. :()

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I am no master of anyone or anything, just someone who has spent a good deal of time learning about soil and plants. And I am trying to master no one, just passing on things that have been overlooked and buried under an educational system that has been teaching "better living through chemicals" since the Twenties (and for the most part still is).

I understand that Dillbert and Gary are trying to do the same with the education they were given, disseminating to help out other gardeners, but the system teaches towards industrial agriculture and has ignored organic practice. The methods still espoused by most collegiate educational systems are still destined to produce depleted and compacted soils, because that's how they were taught. Stuff like the paper from OSU is starting to get disseminated, but the lag time between academic acceptance and general practice is still ludicrously long, because most academics are into lab work and grant writing and not field work. I have had that experience again and again (quite recently actually).

So if I seemed a bit touchy when someone tells me my "statement is not factual", it's probably because I have had this argument a dozen times before. The old ways of doing things are not terribly good for the planet or us, and are surely in need of revision. While some will fight the science no matter how overwhelmingly accepted it is in the scientific community (look at Global Warming :roll: ), the science does not change. Dillbert and I at least agreed on that... :wink:

Dillbert is correct that a quartz sand will not make a clay, but clay is simply another state of soil particle size. Adding more parent material will only get you clay with sand in it unless you add copious quantities, which seems to be Gary's issue in the first place. Increasing soil biology is the best way to start meditating a clay soil, and compost or biological amendment is the easiest/fastest BMP to do that...

HG
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Dillbert wrote:clay+sand=concrete
I hear people say that all the time; but I have to respectfully question whether that is true or not?

I thought that clay + sand = Silt

To make concrete, wouldn't Portland Cement need to be in the mix too?

I'm not trying to argue... just asking. :wink:

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farmerlon,

Yes, concrete is, sand + Aggregate + Portland cement

So not literally

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But FL, the point is you are most of the way there, add enough limestone and such in and voila!

Portland cement is actually limestone, marl, shale, iron ore, clay, and fly ash heated, but you have most of those in your soil; you are just missing the heating. How can that be better for porosity? You are one chemical process away from cement...

Humus at least heads in the opposite direction...

HG
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A little history of the San Juan Islands, WA.

John McMillin, clear cut the san juan islands to feed his lime kilns. John Mcmillin Lime and Cement Co. The barrels of lime were shipped down to Portland.

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>> whether that is true or not?

in generalization, true - but clay is not clay - it does vary as will results in exception cases - "=concrete" is technically inaccurate because, as you pointed out, there's no cement in the mix. but mixing clay and sand without organic matter can produce a situation worse that just leaving the clay alone.

how&why? if you make a cube of pure portland cement and "crush" it - measuring the force needed - you'll find it is much weaker (fails at a lower pounds per square inch loading/stress) than if you mix portland cement and sand and aggregate. the cement is just glue that holds the other stuff together and the ratio of cement to aggregate (including sand) is a major factor in how strong the final product is - it's a question of particle size distribution in the mix and how stress is distributed - the "mix" is commonly called concrete.

sand will never become clay because the crystalline structure of mineral(s) that make up clay are flat plates and the crystalline structure of the mineral(s) that make up sand is a much more three dimensional lattice work.

that is the how&why sand and organic matter 'breaks up' clay - the particles get between the plates of clay and resulting in a lack of adhesion between the clay plates.

if one chooses to substitute a different reality for the definition of clay, or sand, all bets are off.

one cannot pulverize sand by roto-tiller, plow or garden fork. why?
consider the following experiment:

place a grain of sand on a pink eraser and hit it with a steel hammer.
examine sand grain.
did it "break"? no - the impact/force was absorbed by the eraser, the sand particle was never subjected to enough stress to fracture.

place a grain of sand on a steel anvil, hit it with a steel hammer.
examine sand grain.
did it "break"? - oh yeah . . . pulverized. the grain of sand is trapped between two very hard very strong surfaces and the force of the impact stresses the sand grain to the point it fractures into little bits.

when a roto-tiller tine or plow or garden fork encounters a grain of sand, the surrounding soil will absorb the direct pressure and the grain of sand will not fracture. now, if you can trap the grain of sand between the roto-tiller tine and a big rock, you might fracture it.

after it is fractured the smaller particles still retain their three dimension angular lattice structure. that will never change; it will never become a flat plate crystalline structure to 'fit in' like clay. pulverize sand fine enough, you've got silt, not clay.

HG -
>>but clay is simply another state of soil particle size
is not correct. in addition to size, there is shape - and the crystalline shape is determined by the mineral. clay is slick because the minerals form in flat plates, when saturated with enough water, slide over each other very easily. toss some pointy particles in between the plates, friction increases greatly. makes for "friable" vs. "plastic" - those are physical facts you can demonstrate to yourself with a microscope - the only thing 'education' has to do with this question is the knowledge that there is a difference - 'dirt' is not 'dirt' when you get particular about its properties.

as I said previous, adding organic matter - only - to clay will work. as you said, takes a lot of organic matter and - I will add - a lot of time. takes time for organic matter to break down - and even more time, a lot more time, in anaerobic conditions. a trip to your local smelly swamp will demonstrate. breaking up the clay - adding more sand to create loam - is one method. it allows air spaces aka oxygen into the soil and organic decay happens faster.

same for gypsum - why gypsum? why not marble dust or crushed slate?
because gypsum chemically interacts with the typical mineral content of clays - just as soap 'dissolves' grease - gypsum 'dissolves' the bonds in the 'glue' holding clay plates together.

and adding copious quantities of "parent" (I disagree with "parent" - but whatever...) is true - "loamy" soil is defined, whether one chooses to accept the definition is another matter - as some 70% sand. if one heaps up a shovelful of clay, considers the weigh, and then considers one has to add about 50% of that weigh in additional sand to get to loam, one needs a lot of tons of sand.

this is why since pre-written history humans have gravitated to flood plains where all this soil improvement has been done by Mom Nature. humans plowing with wooden sticks attached to water buffalo did not have the option to phone the local building supply and order up 20,000 tons of sharp sand, delivered and dumped in the field.

I certainly don't disagree that "soil biology" is a factor - but unless one imports some biologicals that flourish in the absence of oxygen - one needs to loosen the soil and ensure air gets down to where it's needed - roots of the plants and decomposition of worked in organic matter. that can certainly be done with a garden fork. I'm too old and too lazy - so I use a roto-tiller - and "go deep"

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rainbowgardener
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Gary350 wrote:Buying compost material is about to bankrupt me. Peat moss is $10 a bale I could use 10 more bales. I can get mulch $15 a scoop. I horse manure but it is 90% straw or 90% saw dust $15 a scoop. Straw is very hard to deal with its almost impossible to shovel and its hard to till in too. I am thinking I may not plant the new 5 x 45 part of my garden this year I might just add compost material this year then see how it looks next year. Peat moss works but it doesn't seem to last long I have been adding 4 bales of peat moss to the whole garden every year for many years. Fall leaves would work better if I could grind them into powder. I used a kitchen blender to experement and leaves grind up real nice all I need now is a way to grind up all my leaves in the fall. Only problem we have lots of rain and the leave are seldom dry and its impossible to till wet leaves in to mud.
Without going into technicalities of particle size, etc., something strange is happening here. Gary is adding (to me) IMMENSE quantities of organics and inorganics. I'm actually gardening close to similar area, if you added up all the different flower beds, plus the raised beds for veggies and the herb garden. It is all in beds, some raised and some not very raised, mostly just edged. I add compost and leaves and/or wood chips in not very large quantities (relatively speaking) twice a year. Maybe 1-2 wheelbarrows full of wood chips in a 7X10 flower bed. The soil was heavy clay, now is dark and crumbly and friable at least as deep as my trowel. Haven't tried digging it deeper than that lately. I have never added anything inorganic, never added anything other than mentioned above.

So what makes the difference between my experience and Gary's? I have to assume it is because my beds are never stepped in and never tilled or disturbed. Now maybe Gary is just perfectionist and is creating some (to me) unimaginably lush soil. My wood chips and leaves do disappear, leaving nothing but nice soil. So I keep adding more mulch, spring and fall. I don't till it in, though when I mulch with fall leaves, I do turn them under a little with trowel in the spring. Or just dig holes in the bed and stuff them full of the leaves and cover. They don't need to be powdered! They break themselves down with the help of earthworms etc.

But Gary, I have to think you are spending way more time and energy and money on this than would be necessary. Relax a little!

:)
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Relax a little!
and this may open a whole other can of worms. :lol:

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Thank you Dillbert for the informed and studious post. I find it to be most helpful... the points on crystalline structure and the plating of clay soils is certainly a valid one. I do take exception to the point on how much organic matter it takes to break up clay; even a smaller amount can act as an innoculant, and in a topdressed fashion you can let water and natural growth take its toll. You are indeed correct that would take a long time, but it is how Nature most often builds a soil...

If we created a soil that had no humus and just sand and clay, how fertile would it be? After a very short time, less than a season I would think) nothing would grow. We have eliminated the weak acid forces that etch minerla nutrition out of the CEC. Why? Because biology resides in humus and nowhere else in soil. Eliminate the humus; eliminate the biology. And the weak acid forces are a direct result of biological action. Not to mention that the biology itself is a huge nutrient sink...

To Rainbow's point, RBG, I think you have hit the nail on the head. The key difference is tilling and the difference in volume is loss of porosity, fungal mass, and increased fracturing. The loss of macro and microaggregation would mean less retention of nutrients, loss of field capacity, and a gassing off of huge amounts of carbon, rather than retaining it as humus. Among other things. Gary is disposing of his humus by gassing it off; you are not...

Tilling is responsible for the loss of about 40% of the topsoil since we have colonized this country. Every hundred years we need to plow another foot deeper and that has been increasing lately. When we got here an 6 inch moldboard was fine. A hundred years back we needed to go a foot deeper. Now they are sub-soil ripping down to thirty six inches in places. Where does that stop?

All those early agricultural sites Dillbert was talking about, go look at them now. What once was productive farmland is now desert. The Fertile Crescent, anywhere in the Med, you name it, if it was an ancient farmland it's SPENT now. Andf the Chinese are doing it to their western regions just like we did to the Dustbowl. Any exceptions all come with methods that rebuild with humus. Perhaps this was never a good idea? Perhaps it still isn't?

But tilling seems to be something you can't talk folks out of no matter how much science you throw at them. Rainbow, I guess some folks just like hard work with little return more than we do... :?

HG
Scott Reil

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>>If we created a soil that had no humus and just sand and clay,

please read my posts. I suggested a course of action entirely different from your supposition.

>>All those early agricultural sites Dillbert was talking about, go look at them now.

one cannot attribute dinosaur fossils in the Sahara to burning too much coal in the 19th-20th-21st century. something else contributed/triggered to that change.

this planet has a well documented history of massive climate changes - and all of those historical era changes pre-date massive use of fossil fuels. one can argue without end whether mankind's contribution post invention of the steam engine has caused climate change to happen faster or slower, but post industrial mankind cannot account for climate changes/shifts that occurred tens/hundreds of thousands of years ago.

there are things about the life of this planet nobody really understands or can explain, but politicians/extremists/unrealists all claim to have the answer.

the tilling question is a lot more complicated than made out.
the first problem to be addressed is there just too dang many people on the planet to even think they can be fed by dibble&drop methods. whether one likes it or not, "progress" has resulted in what is quite possibly / probably an unsustainable situation.

examine the changes in human life expectancy - 40 or 50 was once very old. now you can't even think about retiring at that age.

medical advances have now all but negated the process of natural selection in the human population. if a caveman could not see well, he could not hunt, he died. now pre-kindergardeners get eyeglasses and the poor eye-sight gene is propagated.
cruel opinion? yeah.
true? yeah.

so the options are:
improve progress
or
simply let half the world population starve to death by reverting to sustainable methods.

not pretty.

no till agriculture is hardly new. if one studies the economics of no-till one will understand why it has not become widely established. nice idea, not economically viable comma today. for the not-independently wealthy no-till farmer it makes virtually zilch.zero difference - nice ideal, but at the end of the day he has to eat, too. if it can't be done economically, it won't be done - well, a least until all other possibilities have been exhausted - and at that point, half the world population dies of starvation, food spikes double or triple, then the no-till farmer might make enough to feed his family.

it's like the current rage of "grass fed beef is better" - did you see/read the more complete (but who knows if it's 100% complete) environmental impact study of grass fed beef? makes one yearn for bigger stockyards/feedlots..... it's a methane thing, on steroids.

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Covered a lot of ground there; I'm not going to try to deal with it all.

But it is simply not true that the population cannot be fed if we don't use current industrial agricultural methods.

1) Cities could pretty well feed themselves, if we put vacant lots to use and rooftop gardens and more people did backyard veggie gardening. It's been done before or close. In the victory gardens days of WWI and WWII, everyone grew veggies as a patriotic thing. Cities came pretty close to feeding themselves and most of the industrial agriculture product went to the soldiers and the Allies in Europe whose lands were decimated.

2) Enriched organic soil is more productive than chemically fertilized -- look at the yields the square foot gardeners get. Look at how much I am going to harvest from my three 4x8' veggie beds. Yes to do it on a farm scale would be more labor intensive than currently. So what -- more than 10% of our population is unemployed. Why shouldn't we put more people back to work on farms? Until just since the 1950's way greater % of the population was employed in agriculture than currently.

Check out my thread here

https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=117651&highlight=david+montgomery#117651

on a talk by David Montgomery soil scientist AND archaeologist. His research indicates that erosion of soil due to plow based agriculture has lead to the demise of most of the great civilizations ... ours could be next if we aren't careful. It was after hearing his talk that I added the signature line I am using!

Incidentally, we need to be learning how to do all this stuff, because current agricultural practices based on petroleum derived fertilizers and petroleum driven giant machinery are only economically feasible in the era of cheap petroleum. That is coming to an end.
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DoubleDogFarm
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It was pretty easy seeing where this was heading. Politics was mentioned, now we just need to flow into religion.

cynthia_h
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DoubleDogFarm wrote:now we just need to flow into religion.
Actually, we don't... and I haven't [yet] seen any partisan/axe-grinding politics...heated, fact/science-based debates/discussions are just about the only ones worth getting involved in; they have the potential for education on all sides. Even if one doesn't agree with the other's point of view, one can be educated on how to respect the other for his/her point of view and/or hard work.

And, so far, that appears to be the case. :D Don't you think so? :?:

Cynthia H.
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Last edited by cynthia_h on Wed Apr 14, 2010 8:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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rainbowgardener
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I personally am working on sticking to science and fact.
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DoubleDogFarm
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continue.

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Gary350
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rainbowgardener wrote:
Gary350 wrote:Buying compost material is about to bankrupt me. Peat moss is $10 a bale I could use 10 more bales. I can get mulch $15 a scoop. I horse manure but it is 90% straw or 90% saw dust $15 a scoop. Straw is very hard to deal with its almost impossible to shovel and its hard to till in too. I am thinking I may not plant the new 5 x 45 part of my garden this year I might just add compost material this year then see how it looks next year. Peat moss works but it doesn't seem to last long I have been adding 4 bales of peat moss to the whole garden every year for many years. Fall leaves would work better if I could grind them into powder. I used a kitchen blender to experement and leaves grind up real nice all I need now is a way to grind up all my leaves in the fall. Only problem we have lots of rain and the leave are seldom dry and its impossible to till wet leaves in to mud.
Without going into technicalities of particle size, etc., something strange is happening here. Gary is adding (to me) IMMENSE quantities of organics and inorganics. I'm actually gardening close to similar area, if you added up all the different flower beds, plus the raised beds for veggies and the herb garden. It is all in beds, some raised and some not very raised, mostly just edged. I add compost and leaves and/or wood chips in not very large quantities (relatively speaking) twice a year. Maybe 1-2 wheelbarrows full of wood chips in a 7X10 flower bed. The soil was heavy clay, now is dark and crumbly and friable at least as deep as my trowel. Haven't tried digging it deeper than that lately. I have never added anything inorganic, never added anything other than mentioned above.

So what makes the difference between my experience and Gary's? I have to assume it is because my beds are never stepped in and never tilled or disturbed. Now maybe Gary is just perfectionist and is creating some (to me) unimaginably lush soil. My wood chips and leaves do disappear, leaving nothing but nice soil. So I keep adding more mulch, spring and fall. I don't till it in, though when I mulch with fall leaves, I do turn them under a little with trowel in the spring. Or just dig holes in the bed and stuff them full of the leaves and cover. They don't need to be powdered! They break themselves down with the help of earthworms etc.

But Gary, I have to think you are spending way more time and energy and money on this than would be necessary. Relax a little!

:)

I can see your gardening method is using a lot less compost than my method and you probably get full advantage to your compost while I only get a small advantage from my compost.

My soil is all clay. When they built this subdivision they bull dozed all the top soil away. In the summer the soil is almost as hard as my cement driveway. The only way I can work my soil is to put compost in the whole garden. Without compost the tiller just bangs away at the surface and not much happens. I add a lot of compost to loosen the soil but it composts away and I have to keep adding more compost just so I can work the soil. Sand helps to brake up the soil but it has not food value for plants. I had tried to till in my leaves in the fall but the soil is always too wet and the leaves are wet too so it is just a big mud mixing job.

Here is a photo of how I plant. I made a place to put my Bean seeds. I put nitrogen fixation powder on my seeds and drop them in the row. I cover the seeds with 100% compost. After the beans come up I cover the compost over with dirt. The compost acts like a wick and it wick away all the moisture if I cover them over with loose soil it help to hold the moisture.

I dig holes for tomatoes and squash and fill the holes with 100% compost then I plant my seeds.

I put a levy of soil around each plant so I can fill it with water I want the water to stay on the plant and not run all over the whole garden.

When I lived in town I tried your method of garden on part of my 35 x 100 ft garden. I had about 7 rows of raised beds filled with all compost. It was working pretty well on the plants I was planting in the beds. I had the raised bed wide enough so I could push the lawn mower between them and cut the grass. Grass clipping blew into the compost bed and lots of grass and weeds came up. It kept me busy pulling weeds. Also my raise beds were always very dry it did not get much natural moisture from the soil so I had to water every day. It caused my city water bill to more than double so I went back to planting in the soil after about 3 years of experementing with raised beds.

[img]https://i43.photobucket.com/albums/e358/gary350/Garden20.jpg[/img]

Next year when I till the soil all the compost in the rows and holes just mixes into all the soil in the garden. There is no way to save it or reuse it so I need a pretty good continious supply of good compost.

When I lived in Southern Illinois 40 miles N/W of Evansville Indiana the soil was coal black. The soil was almost like all compost. Nothing needed to be added I just tilled the soil once to kill the weeds and grass then planted my garden. I had to hoe to keep the weeds out. Every thing grew like it had been fertilized with some magic mixture of fertilizer.

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Umm, steering off of politics and religion...

I can show examples where permaculture operations take amounts of food off of pocket acreage that a commercial agriculture operation couldn't match on twice as much land, using no-till organic polycropping. Sepp Holzer's farm in Austria, the Permaculture Institute, Emilia Hazelip, PLENTY of examples to dismiss that paradigm.

Can you do it from a tractor? No. Can you do it with tilling, or chemicals? No. All of the people saying we can't do THAT are the ones that have never tried it, and want to stick to what they know. It's human nature to resist change, but if you never embrace the old thinking in the first place then it's a lot easier than you think. I am trying to convince people to not adopt the old school thinking and start fresh with ideas that embrace natural systems, so they don't create the problems modern agriculture has.

Cynthia is right, this has been a discussion, not an argument. Dillbert is not ever likely to go with the wierdness I have been dabbling in lately. Not tilling, leaving some weeds; this sort of thinking rubs old fashioned gardeners the wrong way. They see the style they have adopted as being threatened, like they are being told they have been doing it wrong all their lives. Whether that is true or not, it evokes strong emotion, and we need be cognizant and respectful of that.

Dillbert, have you read the white papers I presented? I see no reference to them. What is your response to the destruction of aggregation? I can offer more papers; Penn State has a good one as well... the majority of agricultural academia are embracing lowered rateor lower impact tilling if not complete dismissal of it.

Desertification is NOT a GW issue. Not at all. The Chinese are currently turning their western farming region into a dustbowl with deep plowing on unsustainable soil, just as we did in our Dustbowl. This has been going on for millenia; cultivation without return of huus depletes soils. It took longer with old school tilling, but it is the very same process, just speeded up. I am not saying that GW is not a factor, but it is human intervention that is causal, and mostly due to agriculture. [url=https://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/2004/maathai-bio.html]Dr. Wangari Maathai[/url] has addressed this issue with her Greenbelt campaign, for which she won a Nobel. Even China has started to figure this out, and they have planted 6 billion trees in the past few years where they had eliminated forests in favor of big fields and tractors. I hope we do not have to get to such dire straits to learn these lessons, but our soil is still not completely depleted yet... :roll:

My supposition of a clay/sand soil was not based on anything you said; simply taking the extreme to illustrate the difference in our tactics. Sand addresses the mechanical issue alone, while my method addresses the chemistry, biology, AND the mechanics. Just helping to illustrate why I think we are better off doing it my way... ;)

About no-till not being new? Absolutely. When the Dutch got to New Guinea, they looked at the land, what they knew about agriculture, and said, "Maybe we will find 20,000 inhabitants".

They found over three million, making it at the time, one of the largest national populations on the planet. The agricultural system in New Guinea has continued for over five thousand years in the same fashion, feeding a sizeable population pretty darn well (no between meal humans anymore!). They have recognized that there are natural constraints that they need to put on their population and have evolved mating and courtship rituals that restrict population. This "primitive" culture has never had a need for big government, wars beyond the intertribal, mostly ceremonial type, or industrial society and it's inherent damages. All documented by Jared Diamond in a number of his books.

I am not saying we all need to emulate New Guineans, but we should be aware of the example and know it can be done and done well. I agree with Dillbert (and Malthus)that population restriction in some form is part of the solution/problem, but refute the idea that we cannot feed the planet sustainably. RBG's WWII example remains a sound one...

As for grass-fed versus CAFO, I would need to see what you are talking about Dillbert, because that goes against everything I have read or heard. [url=https://www.greenuniversity.net/Ideas_to_Change_the_World/AllanSavory.htm]Alan Savory's work[/url]is generally considered to be the cutting edge now, and we get carbon sequestration, soil retention, healthier animals and end product at a reduced cost. [url=https://www.wildflowers-and-weeds.com/sahara.htm]Current practices are not sustainable[/url], but it doesn't mean the idea is wrong. What have you been reading? Can you share it?

I have given plenty of examples to back up my position; I feel it remains opinion and conjecture until supported by documentation. I would be happy to review any supporting evidence you would care to present... disagreement should not mean dismissal :)

HG
Scott Reil

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If you can't cart in enough organic matter to do the job, why not grow it?

I am not experienced with cover crops, but it seems to me that Gary's garden would be a great candidate. You get the double benefit of roots breaking up the soil as well as the material from the spent plants. And Gary could still get his tilling fix when it comes time to turn the crop under.

cynthia_h
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The Helpful Gardener wrote:It's human nature to resist change, ...

Not tilling, leaving some weeds; this sort of thinking rubs old fashioned gardeners the wrong way.

...All documented by Jared Diamond in a number of his books.
1) Re. "human nature" resisting change: Prof. Elizabeth W. Barber, in Women's Work: The First 20,000 Years, noted that most advances in textile technology, even in ancient Egypt, came at the hands of men, not women--whose unremitting work this was. ""The only people who have the leisure to experiment...are those not locked into basic subsistence production..." (p. 258)

2) I'm not a new-wave gardener, but I've never had enough ground to worry about tilling. I use a fork. However, as discussed elsewhere on the forum, I agree with those who define a weed as a plant where it doesn't belong. I remove all such.

3) Jared Diamond...what can I say? The man is a writer among writers, a scholar among scholars, a beacon among lesser lights. A true hero of the mind and of the earth.

Cynthia



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