The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Soil mystery solved

Soil analysisI got my soil test results back, and it's no wonder nothing wants to grow in the Starplate pasture --- the pH is 5.2 and the soil is seriously deficient in calcium (and also rather low on sulfur, phosphorus, boron, copper, and zinc).  Luckily, I was able to look back at my old lunchtime series for The Intelligent Gardener and generate a prescription to fix the issues.

When liming soil, it's best to apply the minerals in advance of other additions since the calcium can cause other cations to wash out of the soil.  So my plan is to apply lime this fall, then gypsum, borax, copper sulfate, and zinc sulfate in the spring.  The hardest part of the endeavor will be hauling 550 pounds of lime back through the muck to our core homestead!

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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Hi Anna and Mark,

Carey Ream's method was Cal-Phos first. Then Lime/Gypsom. Wait 2 weeks. Then LOTS of manure.

The other method would be live, fresh brewed compost tea to get the soil biology going so that could make minerals already there available.

And then there is the 'just put on lime' crowd.

IMHO - measure, treat, measure, treat, ... Where measure can be lab tests or careful observations of plants growing and which plants grow and how they look. See for example the writings of Joseph Mittleider and his plant doctor book series.

Just my two cents :).


Comment by John Tue Oct 14 08:07:56 2014
How permanent is the change in pH after adding lime? Is that a dumb question? I know that salts can wash out of soil after very wet seasons. Is lime that way?
Comment by jen g Tue Oct 14 09:38:27 2014
You need to install a cargo-hauling zip line, or maybe two: downhill each direction. Then you can slide cargo across the creek without carrying it.
Comment by Robert Tue Oct 14 10:55:53 2014

Is it possible to use the goats to remineralize? I've heard multiple ranchers (Darren Doherty, Salatin, Greg Judy, etc.) talk about "free choice minerals" wherein you let the grazing animal choose which mineral they need to supplement. As time passes, those minerals end up in the pasture, but in a more bio-available way since they'd be in the decomposing manure, then through the earthworms and decomposers, and eventually back into the grass that gets grazed again.

I have no clue if it works with smaller groups of animals (i.e., two goats), but it might be a less-expensive and more gradual way to improve the ground there.

Comment by Stephen Tue Oct 14 12:08:36 2014
I missed your entire post that was about free choice minerals... Reading it now...
Comment by Stephen Tue Oct 14 12:13:27 2014
Who did the soil test? I am thinking of sending a soil sample away.
Comment by Su Ba Wed Oct 15 00:24:21 2014
Su Ba --- The short answer is Logan Labs. The long answer is that I recommend these labs in general, but that this time around I chose a lab that uses the same kind of soil test that Solomon bases his worksheets on.
Comment by anna Wed Oct 15 17:21:23 2014

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