Good Soil Health = ?

angelady777 (was angelady on GW) - Zone 6(6)November 13, 2008

Does using good compost equal good soil health? I thought from everything I read that it did. It was basically a fool-proof way to get the best soil out there without doing all kinds of soil tests, etc. Do you agree? If not, why not?



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mike_in_paradise(6U 5A Cn Jun9Sep29)

I think that there is more to it than that and that different plants have different requirements in terms of specific nutrients.

The link below is a link to a guy who tried and abandoned intensive gardening. (oh no it is the Anti-Mel !)

Start at about page 20 he gets into compost, fertilizer and soil. Interesting read.

Here is a link that might be useful: Steve Solomon's

    Bookmark   November 13, 2008 at 7:09AM
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shebear(z8 NCentralTex)

This is a complicated subject. Healthy does not necessarily mean the soil has all the nutrients that a particular veggie needs to grow well. That's where the side dressings come in. You can't compare a forest environment to a garden one.(which is what most people do) In the forest the trees pull what they need from the soil but then the leaves fall and decompose and all the nutrients go back in the soil. Not so in a garden. And trees have deep roots that pull minerals out of the deep subsoil.

I have yet to find one book that explains all the things that affect soil. I'd love to find one that tells me how weeds show the fertility of the soil.

A journal is the best way to help you adjust your garden practices but you need to write everything down and really look at what's happening. For instance we've had a terrible year for tomatoes and beans this year in my area. Everyone is beating themselves up about what they did wrong but I think it was the long lasting high winds we had this spring. I think they brought in mites with different diseases and we had no natural protection. I feel this way because everyone had the problem and all my plants were affected. Will I being changing what I do to the soil this coming spring? No, because I don't think it will solve last year's problem. I will carry on as normal and I suspect our odd year won't be repeated.

This is not to say I don't agree with Solomon. However I feel he is really talking to farmers. City dwellers can't really do this, however, they could use the principles to help their gardening practices and educate them about what plants really need.

I'll stop now because I could go on for a long time.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2008 at 10:43AM
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not necessarily, but it certainly does help! LOL
the reason i say that is, well good soil also needs the nutritions for the plants that you are growing, also, you are going to need some.....wormies!! YUMMY!! what i am doing this year, is instead of throwing away all the stuff (dead) from the boxes, i cut them down, and am letting nature take their course with them in the boxes, along with more leaves, i am trying a little experiment, (if ya will) everyone got me to thinking when i read a post a while back about the whole "forest" thing. besides the fact that it was really cold when we finished the bed. LOL
so i'm curious if it'll be anything like the "forest" or what?? LOL i'll have to send pics if it gets all don'e. it,,assuming i figure a name. maybe. LOL anyways' that's what i think Angela, the compost does help!! your the total bomb for even asking this question, i'm so curious for this answer!! ~Medo

    Bookmark   November 13, 2008 at 12:56PM
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jbest123(Zone 5 PA)

We are getting too complicated again. What did the people do before the 1930s or a 100 or 200 years before that? MN is very forgiving; give her compost and animal manure and she will turn your garden into something beautiful no mater what you want to grow.


Here is a link that might be useful: Johns Journal

    Bookmark   November 13, 2008 at 3:49PM
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that's true :') put some serious banana's and egg shells and ya got it made!! Hee Hee!! LOL ~Medo

    Bookmark   November 13, 2008 at 4:18PM
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shebear(z8 NCentralTex)

What did they do before the 30's? They used up the soil and moved. Huge areas of this country had decimated topsoil by the time chemical fertilizers came into being. Farming correctly is hard just helps you with a few signposts along the dark road.

Sure farmers did things correctly way back but they made just as many mistakes. We got sidetracked in thinking science could save the world and save all the hard work......we've found out that ain't true.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2008 at 6:05PM
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jbest123(Zone 5 PA)

shebear, you should visit Pa at harvest time. There are thousands of farms that have been farmed well over 200 years. Many by the same families. They are still very productive and you should not make a blanket statement like that. Some made mistakes and some did not.


Here is a link that might be useful: Johns Journal

    Bookmark   November 13, 2008 at 6:37PM
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very true John, my grandpa Never used fertilizers or any of that stuff, as i remember he only used horse poo, and sometimes chicken poo. very rarely on the later. but grandma had LOTS of beautifull stuff in her huge garden!! enough to can lots of things thats for sure, her tomato's were huge!! she had TONS of pea's and green beans, and TONS of turnips and TONS of beets, she grew lots of these in particular because she was a full fledge diabetic. ohhhhhh and we must not forget the cucumbers, ohhhhh that was her sweets!! LOL but the funny thing is, i don't ever remember her having any bugs in her garden either. she didn't use anything to keep them away, because she didn't want to take any chances. she was definately all organic. that's what i always loved about my grandma. she didn't get into all the new things, she used bleach to clean, dawn to wash dishes,, and i don't remember what i think tide/downy for the cloths. you always knew what to get at the store!! LOL and i always miss the smell of moth balls, she had them in the closets, and in the sheds/ under the trailer. anywhere snakes might hide and we might go. LOL she didn't get into the fancy cleaners either (that's where i get that from!! LOL) it was vinegar and bakingsoda and amonia. LOL i miss that too. ahhhhhhh now i really do miss her so much!!!
sorry for the huge OT Angela :'( (((HUGS)))

    Bookmark   November 13, 2008 at 7:04PM
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My grandparents had a huge, beautiful, productive garden for over 60 years with nothing but trench composting of vegetable wastes and lots of cow and chicken manure. Grandma was still caring for her garden (including tilling it herself) when she was 90 years old!


Here is a link that might be useful: Annie's Kitchen Garden

    Bookmark   November 13, 2008 at 9:56PM
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sinfonian(U8b A2 S5 SeaWA)

Folks are right. Soil health is a complicated subject. Most books start with a soil test, but then start talking about whether you have sandy soil, clay soil, or dead soil. The simple answer is if you have sandy or clay soil, add the other, acidic soil add lime. Dead soil is easy, because you just add siginficant amounts of quality compost. It takes a year or two to start from bad to lush, but it is well worth it.

OR you can do what I did and start from scratch with new Mel's Mix.

And I've read Steve Solomon's book as it's written for me in my area. I agree that he's more for homesteaders with land. I had 260 SF of space to build my garden and maximized it with 130 SF of raised beds. To each their own.

Hope that helps.

Here is a link that might be useful: Sinfonian's garden adventure

    Bookmark   November 15, 2008 at 10:29PM
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ya know what i love about our forum here? (our as in the sfg) is that even though we all have different opinions and such, we all use that to our advantage and gain knowledge instead of doing like some of the others do, UMMM>>>have to type to see yourselve be seen!! i just love that **big smile**
that makes me so happy!!
i'm not so happy about adding in all this lime and such, it kinda scares me.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2008 at 11:40PM
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engineeredgarden(7, nw Alabama)

Sinfonian - I agree with your thoughts. I started out the same way you did...with Mel's mix. I've read some of Steve Solomon's book, and didn't like it at all. He must've been smoking a big fatty while writing that stuff. Even though Mel's book is a little corny at times, I liked his much better.

Medo - Yeah, I understand fully. Everyone in here is very nice, and we all learn from each other. However, I do enjoy lurking over at the compost forum for all of the arguing that goes on in there. Talk about egos! Ha!


    Bookmark   November 16, 2008 at 12:31AM
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ya, i think it was over the summer time, maybe, i used to get into that, just for kicks and giggles. LOL
but hubs said no more, i was getting to combative at home, LOL Hee Hee!!
so i went over to the uhhh green one, man the bald fat guy, he totally went off one day, and then there was this one guy, geeze he was knocking on everyone because they all were "green" and had the time bla bla bla, so of course, i had to put my two cents in, talla, a 6 yr old helps me do the separating, my (then) 11 yr old helps and built me my first pile and of course i had to tell all about it, and i had to tell about how great it was that we 3 pulled together and mainly them two got into doing this. so really there wasn't a reason or something to that effect, then it was for him saying that he didn't have time and all this and no drop offs, then of course everyone jumped in, because like in topeka we have recycling places or drop offs at all the walmarts and alot of other stores, i think basically if i remember right he was just wanting to see himself and argue!! LOL
it was fun for a while, then the kids got into planting, so i was SOOO there!! **big grinn**
Carolyn gave me a great idea!! if i may borrow it too!! i have tons of seeds, so i'm thinking of giving them as presents to the nieces and nephews. to start their own garden. a little bit of vege's and a little bit of flowers.
its so quiet and i can't believe it!! ~Medo

    Bookmark   November 16, 2008 at 2:58AM
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sinfonian(U8b A2 S5 SeaWA)

Don't get me wrong. I got TONS out of Growing Veggies West of the Cascades. It would definitely be the "bible" of homesteaders around here. But I didn't take everything he said as a must-do.

The more I read, the more I find that there are dozens of right answers to any gardening dilemma. And some answers may work better for one than the other. But that doesn't mean any of them are completely wrong. Soil is forgiving, if you use organic techniques, as plants for the most part want to grow.

I think that part of the reason home-grown veggies tast so much better than store bought is that they are provided all of the nutrients they need to taste good and be good for you. Of course that's not the only reason they taste better (nutrient loss over time, etc.), but you get my meaning. Just a thought...

    Bookmark   November 16, 2008 at 3:54PM
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also, they freeze them and refridgerate them until the store gets them. my mom is a truckdriver, she doesnt like the way they do the veges. or the fruit. she absolutly won't buy any fruit off season. or vege's for that matter. LOL

now i can't wait for spring to get here so i can get on with planting!! LOL and watching it grow and soon, be eating it!! LOL ~Medo

    Bookmark   November 16, 2008 at 7:16PM
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I just read the book, too. I'm a firm believer in the idea that everyone has something to add to the conversation, but it makes it hard to accept his contentions when he makes so many statements that are incorrect. Amusingly, I think he's spot on socio/politically and wrong on alot of his science relating to soil. Just my opinion. I DO want to try a row of something. If only because I've never had a row garden. The only issue becomes that it's so much work and would cost me a fair bit in soil improvement. Sigh...

    Bookmark   November 16, 2008 at 8:48PM
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mike_in_paradise(6U 5A Cn Jun9Sep29)

The old farmers on the island used to use seaweed and capelin which are small fish to fertilize the fields.

I actually have a supply of both in the ocean across the street. The picture above was taken about 200 feet from the front of the square foot garden.

The Capelin roll into the beach around the beggining of July and you can just scoop them out with a net. People eat them like smelt. You can get a 5 gallon bucket full in a couple of minutes whey they roll right up on the beach.

They are the reason that we have so many whales coming up to the beaches.

The black spots you see in the water in this picture are schools of capelin.

After I took this picture I went down and watch the whale come in to the beach. Very enjoyable.

I have thought of putting them in the field for fertilizer but the idea of having the smell of rotting fish just does not appeal to me.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2008 at 8:45AM
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mike_in_paradise(6U 5A Cn Jun9Sep29)

A link on the historical Newfoundland Lazy bed gardening and soil practices. This link describes in great detail how they built and fertilized the early gardens on the island mostly for root crops...

Quote: As the northern Newfoundlanders make them, lazy beds are 3-5 feet wide, of varying lengths, and separated by trenches one foot wide and up to a foot and a half deep. They are re-made each year, sometimes at right angles to the previous beds or by switching the trenches and beds. The ground is rarely tilled, usually only smoothed with a rake. Many gardeners use line and stakes to mark out straight and uniform beds and trenches. Stable manure, seaweed, or commercial fertilizer is spread in swaths where the beds will be raised. The vegetable seed is laid in close rows on this fertilizer, all of which is covered with loose soil spaded from the strips of ground between the beds, thus simultaneously forming the trenches and raising the beds.

I bet the dogs would have a ball digging up dead fish if I ever did this in the garden...

I can just see coming home and the love of my life asking why the dogs smell dead fish!

Here is a link that might be useful: Lazybed Gardens in Newfoundland

    Bookmark   November 19, 2008 at 10:51AM
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angelady777 (was angelady on GW) - Zone 6(6)

LOL! I am seeing that adding just about anything that decomposes is a good thing for the soil... IF you can bear the smell of some of it. :-)


    Bookmark   November 19, 2008 at 8:43PM
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Angela, that's why my grandparents always used trench composting. An added benefit was that some of the waste actually grew and produced a small crop! Grandma always buried her potato peelings, and they would give her a small crop of free potatoes. Of course, her potatoes hadn't been treated to prevent sprouting. The areas of Grandma's garden where she buried her compost was a surprise garden in itself!

Here is a link that might be useful: Annie's Kitchen Garden

    Bookmark   November 19, 2008 at 11:22PM
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Ohhh, the dogs wouldn't just dig... they'd ROLL! When I was a kid, we spent summers at our camp on the lake. One of the dogs especially liked to escape from the fenced yard. I think that dog searched the beach for the nastiest stinkiest dead fish he could find, and had a good roll. Sam died more than 20 years ago, but man, I remember that smell like it was yesterday. Yech.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2008 at 1:01AM
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mike_in_paradise(6U 5A Cn Jun9Sep29)

My dogs would never roll in dead stuff!

From Pets

Actually Sam's favourite is rotting clumps of grass that fall off the lawnmower. Gives him a nice green glow!

At least when JD is filthy I can go across to the beach and throw the ball and he self cleans. Sam will not go near the water.

This picture is taken at the same spot where the capelin roll in about 200 feet from the square foot garden.

It has just been pouring rain here for days now. I really need to put lime in the square foot garden boxes before they freeze. I have been told that you can even put the lime on over top of the snow.

Also I have a bunch of bags of compost to go in the square foot gardens but my thoughts are to do this in the spring as opposed to snow.

The other secret amendment that I used last year was moose poo! This is the area that I put the fence square foot garden in with Moose Poo spread on it. They are the little round pellets in this picture.

At least I can recover something from the fruit trees that the darn moose keep eating.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2008 at 7:01AM
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mike_in_paradise(6U 5A Cn Jun9Sep29)

I have not read all of this yet but it is an interesting account of creating field from scratch by native American Indians.

Some very detailed chapters on corn,sunflowers and beans...

Also interesting is the details about the "Watcher Stage" and how they protected their crops. I need a full time watcher to keep away the critters...

Look at the plant spacing... Look familiar????

Lots of historical info in this...

Here is a link that might be useful: Buffalo Bird Woman's Garden

    Bookmark   November 23, 2008 at 9:15AM
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mike_in_paradise(6U 5A Cn Jun9Sep29)

Ok after reading more of this, that planting chart above mislead me, at first glance as that corn (c) spacing is hills 4 feet apart,

Maybe Square Yard Gardening...LOL

    Bookmark   November 23, 2008 at 12:23PM
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mike_in_paradise(6U 5A Cn Jun9Sep29)

I printed off the buffalo bird woman's garden and have been reading it.

One part that I thought was very interesting was her talking about weeds. She says that they did not have many weeds in the early days before the whiteman. She says that lots of the weeds arrived with them.

An other intriguing part is that they let the horses into the corn to feed at the end but that they went through the fields and removed all of the manure and threw out outside of the the field. They believed that the manure caused more weeds to grow.

The only fertilizer that they seem to use was to burn the fields before starting them and then they burn the stalks and husks.

They would harvest them until they produced poorly and then leave them fallow for 2 years.

Also of interest is that they pre-sprouted all of their seed before planting in the ground.

One other interesting thing was her talking about the growing and use of tobacco and how they discouraged the young me from using it as it would cause them to be short of breath and would make them a poor hunter and warrior.

The old men had to grown and tend to the tabacco fields themselves.

The is a great read...

Oh and I just got back from walking the dogs and I went to a spot I don't go to much in the summer behind a local industrial park and on the way back there was a huge moose on the side of the road. I pulled over and watched him for about 10 minutes but I did not have my camera with me. He was about 30 feet from me but I was in the car. Biggest moose that I have ever seen. He had the cackles on his back standing straight up like a dogs, they must have been about 12 inches.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   November 26, 2008 at 12:31PM
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