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Soil is made up of
- Water and Air 50%
- Minerals 40%
- Biology 5%
Things to consider above the soil
- Temperature (Right plant for conditions or build micro climates)
- Shelter design (you should be able to see through your shelter belt)
- Soil compaction
- Breakages (human and animal movement, incorrect pruning, wind fall)
- Competition and companion plants
- Pests and predators
Things to consider below the soil
- Balance the mineral content (Physical, clay, sand, salt and all elements)
- Ensure correct soil biology organisms
- Feed soil biology
- Colourless/white: high silica content
- Light/white: lack of oxygen; leached; high calcium; alkaline ph
- Yellow: lack of oxygen; high clay content; aluminium & iron
- Red: iron oxide
- Red/brown: volcanic basalt origin; iron & magnesium
- Black: rich in organic matter & nutrients; holds moisture
- Azalea, dandelion: acid soils; usually leached; often compacted.
- Berries, conifers, dock: Poor drainage
- Saltbush, spinifex: alkaline; saline; dry soils
- clovers, vetch, nettles: excess nitrogen; low humus content; low micr-organism content
- blackberries: open disturbed soil, possibly acid
- bracken: recent fire; general decline in soil fertility.
- buttercup: poor drainage, acid.
- thistles: low calcium & iron content; hard soils.
- chicory, chickweed: good fertility
Eg soils derived from:
- Sandstone: sandy, high silica.
- Shale: clay; high silica & iron.
- Basalt: high iron & magnesium.
- Sour: Lacks oxygen, acidic, sulphur dioxide
- Sweet & earthy: high oxygen, good soil life & OM
- Garlic: arsenic in soil (or maybe theres some onion weed nearby!)
- Smooth & slippery: acidic, soil water lathers easily
- Weak soda: alkaline/mineral; won’t lather easily
- Worms: good moisture, OM, low pesticide residues
- Ants: drier, sandy
- Slugs & snails: damp, decomposing plant & animal material.
- Skinks & lizards: warm sunny, dry spots, good insect populations
- Run –off: is increased by bare ground, compaction, steep slopes
- Repels water: compacted, eroded, excessive use of dolomite, very little OM, sandy & allowed to dry out & has formed a moisture resistant barrier
- Shrinks & swells: high clay, holds water, cracks.
- Fast draining ( hole filled with water, drains within 10mins: erodes easily, collapses easily, few fungal diseases, good movement of water & soil life. Not good for dams.
- Bare ground: agricultural or industrial contamination.
- Growth in poor soils: previous structures, compaction, old poultry or animal pen site
- No topsoil: quarry or fill site, erosion.
- Bad cracks & rubbish: old tip or landfill site
Plants and soil minerals
Often plants which grow in deficient soils have the ability to concentrate those missing elements in their structure.
- Potassium present: marshmallow, knapweed, wormwood, opium poppy, fumitory, tansy & borage.
- Deficient: red clover. Celery & leek like potassium. Chicory is pot. rich.
- Calcium: buckwheat grown as a green manure or composted adds. Melon leaves are a source of it & oak bark is especially rich all thistles & willow. Dandelion “mines” it . Peas, beans, brassicas & turnips need it.
- Phosphorous: bracken indicates a lack of & accumulates it. Burn it & spread the ashes. Valerian & comfrey are rich sources. Whitefly indicates a deficiency along with magnesium. Brassicas need it to head well.
- Iron: blackberry is a rich source.
- Magnesium & sulphur: broom, salad burnett, plantain, & sheep sorrel (for magnesium)
- Ragwort: copper
- Thistles: nitrogen, copper & silicon.
How do we balance the minerals of soil?
- Look for indicator plants which will tell things about Nitrogen Phosphorus and Potasium
- Look at leaves for signs of deficiencies or excesses (Permaculture Designers Manual has a simple key to follow)
- Get a soil test done
- Book - The Soul of Soil
- DCC Website has soil analysis maps
- Talk to people
- Don't rely on simple 'acid' or 'alkaline' measures. The treatment for these can be too simplistic and might not balance the soil.
Dynamic Accumulators of Nutrients for Composting
|Bracken, eastern||Pteridium aquifolium||x||x||x||x||x||x|
|Carrot leaves||Daucus carota||x||x|
|Chamomile, corn||Anthemis arvensis||x||x|
|Chamomile, German||Chamomilla recutita||x||x||x|
|Clover, hop||Medicago lupulina||x||x|
|Clover, rabbit foot||x||x|
|Clover, red||Trifolium protense||x||x|
|Clover, white||Trifolium repens||x||x|
|Dock, broad leaved||Rumex obtusifolias||x||x||x||x|
|Fat hen||Atriplex hastata||x||x|
|Flax, seed||Linum usitatissimum||x|
|Lamb’s quarters||Chenopodsum album||x||x||x||x||x|
|Lemon Balm||Melissa offcinalis||x|
|Marigold, flowers||Tagetes sp.||x|
|Meadow sweet||Astilbe sp.||x||x||x||x||x||x|
|Mullein, common||Verbascum sp.||x||x||x||x|
|Nettles, stinging||Urtica urens||x||x||x||x||x||x||x|
|Oak, bark||Quercus sp.||x|
|Pigweed, red root||Amaranthus retroflexus .||x||x||x||x|
|Salad burnet||Poterium sanguisorba||x||x||x||x||x|
|Scarlet Pimpernel||Anagallis arvensis||x|
|Shepherd’s purse||Capsella bursa-pastoris||x||x||x|
|Skunk cabbage||Navarretia squanosa||x|
|Sorrel, sheep||Rumex acetosella||x||x||x|
|Sow thistle||Sonchus arvensis||x||x||x|
|Strawberry, leaves||Fragaria sp.||x|
|Thistle, Canada||Cirsium arvense||x|
|Thistle, creeping||Sonchus arvensis||x||x||x|
|Thistle, nodding||Carduus nutans||x|
|Thistle, Russian||Salsola pestifer||x|
|Tobacco, stems/stalk||Nicotiana sp.||x|
|Willow, bark||Salix sp.||x|
Some Ways to Improve Your Soils
- Plant mulch making plants ~ comfrey, tree lucerne, grasses for hay, weeds such as dandelion, plantain, nettles, borage, deciduous trees.
- Use small prunings as part of the mulch around your trees. Place them over soil that you need to add organic matter to & put grass clippings, weeds, & manure on top & let nature do the rest. Once its reasonably broken down sow seeds/plant. Good way to establish an orchard/food forest.
- Harvest local resources ~ bracken & chicory are high in potassium, add it to your compost, burn it & use the ashes around plants such as, celery & leeks. The brassicas (cabbage, cauli, brocoli) need phosphorous to head up well, comfrey & bracken supply it. Ragwort concentrates copper. Broom is high in magnesium & sulphur, lupins in nitrogen & calcium. Seaweed has many of the essential trace elements that plants need. Food scraps from cafes & super markets.
- Plant wind breaks to filter air-born pollution
- Plant trees & shrubs to take up ground water pollution e.g alongside a road, runoff from your nieghbour who uses chemicals.
- Create wet lands planted with macrophytes ( reeds & rushes) to take up the above pollution.
- Use raised beds for growing in.
- Seaweed, compost & dolomite help to clean soils of pollutants such as heavy metals.
- Allow weeds to grow ~ add OM, take up pollutants.
- Spread rock dust to supply minerals ~ basalt, granite, dolomite.
- Remember that the more conditions you create for soil life to thrive the better your soils will be. Create diversity.
Notes on soil
- Feed the soil and land base and you will indirectly feed your plants
- Arden Anderson = Soil sciences writer and speaker
- Why is it that plants that are healthy tend not to be attacked by pests and diseases? Their defense system is intact. A plant that is unhealthy or stressed will be full of simple carbohydrates - which attract pests and diseases. Healthy plants have complex carbohydrates which humans require. Therefore, nature has a way to clean up weak systems.
- Arden Anderson started to observe a relationship between human disease and crop diseases, because of our industrial productions methods that prevent natures way of cleaning out weak species - and so we are interrupting our access to complex carbohydrates.
- How then do we ensure healthy plants?
Things to do
- Compost and spread or inoculate areas during planting 30g per m2
- Site specific compost made of the materials of the plants being nurtured
- Apply seaweed and fish 300g per m2
- 3 comfry plants per fruit tree
- For some pests consider using micro organisms from [Bokashi http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bokashi] to out compete pests