British Columbia: Soil amendments

Discussion in 'Outdoor Gardening in the Pacific Northwest' started by Shader, Mar 18, 2012.

  1. Shader

    Shader Member

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    Does anyone know where to buy good quality soil amendment in the Vancouver bc area for a reasonable cost?
     
  2. Tree Nut

    Tree Nut Active Member

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    What are you looking to do? How much soil do you have to amend? Have you done a professional lab soil test first?
     
  3. Shader

    Shader Member

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    I have not done a professional soil test yet, wouldn't know where to get that done. I have a north facing garden and the soil is rocky, and clay like. I want to plant a red maple and get the soil ready to plant it.
     
  4. Daniel Mosquin

    Daniel Mosquin Paragon of Plants UBC Botanical Garden Forums Administrator Forums Moderator 10 Years

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  5. Shader

    Shader Member

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    Thank you I will read up on the literature you sent
     
  6. Tree Nut

    Tree Nut Active Member

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    The above link may be the case with clay soils, but certainly doesn't apply to sandy soils, at least in my experience. I planted 50 hazelnuts and amended half the holes with peat moss and bone meal, and re-used native soils in the other half. The amended soil holes didn't lose 1 tree, but the unamendede soils lost 9 trees. The difference in growth is significant as well. All other factors were the same for all trees (irrigation, etc.). This is now 6 years after planting...
     
  7. anza

    anza Active Member 10 Years

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    I'm curious Tree Nut. Did you inoculate any of your Hazelnut trees with any type of ecto-mycorrhizal mix ? I never amend soils as a general rule, but it has always been that I've never observed any noticable improvement if I did amend and have simply considered amending more of a waster of money more than anything else. Not that it doesn't have benefits, it may well have as you point out. But it has been my experience that it is unnecessary. Especially witha good mycorrhizal blend. At best I'd just top dress and allow the biological activity to slow release the nutrients as opposed to getting them next to the root itself hoping something absorbs in.

    But I think I would at the very least only amend just those top few inches and not the entire hole. Also I wouldn't amend with a product where chemical fertilizers or water treatment waste nutrients were added to the mix. If you added a good ecto-mycorrhiza mix, then top dressed with and good aged compost followed by a coarse mulch on top of that and I think that would have been beneficial. But mostly I'm for saving money and providing for the natural health of my landscape. The landscape at my mum's place is so healthy and biologically active that we NEVER EVER use and single commerccial fertilizer. One thing that does happen is the generous layers of mulch we apply break down rather quickly in the soil. not only are there loads of beneficial bacteria and mycorrhizae, but tons of little critter which provide alot of the mechanical tillage of the layers of mulch. We often are looking for free sources froma tree trimmer for more free chippings. As a side benefit I never have pest problems. EVER!

    Just curious as to your use of any inoculant or if you've ever considered it. I believe Daniel has written several articles on this here if you do a search. Good luck with your trees.
     
  8. Lysichiton

    Lysichiton Active Member

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    I have given up on this practise to some extent...but (you could see that coming) I have a rock-pit for a yard. I sieve out the rock & make up the 25-50% volume with my carefully conserved top soil. If I plant into the rock heap the result is a) broken & banged-up roots b)too much watering needed c) poor intitial growth & plant loss.

    Just my experience with rocky/sandy soil. As the years go by I believe in mulching with home grown or commercial compost more & more, as the best all-round way to maintain growth & health of my entire garden.
     
  9. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    Yes, mulching instead of amending is recommended by Carl E. Whitcomb. See his publications. He began comparing amended and unamended planting holes in the 1960s. There is a consistent history of amendments not producing an improvement in experiment after experiment, using a variety of amendments and amendment combinations on a variety of soils, including sandy and clay-like.

    An exception is organic matter improving the growth of acid-loving shrubs on otherwise unsuitable soils. However, this was due to effects on trace minerals and not on soil texture etc.
     
  10. Shader

    Shader Member

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    Yes,
    I am certainly learning a lot in this forum, but it seems everyone has their own notions of what works and what does not. Sometimes it is hard to know who is right and who is wrong. I am starting off with having my soil tested at a lab and will take it from there. Gardening in a north facing garden certainly has its challenges especially with trying to incorporate colour.
     
  11. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    >it seems everyone has their own notions of what works and what does not<

    I'd go with the findings of professional researchers using organized experiments with controls and results that have duplicated themselves time after time.
     
  12. Tree Nut

    Tree Nut Active Member

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    There's likely been over a billion trees/shrubs planted in north america using amendments in the holes, and I don't see many of them them dieing or becoming danger trees. These results have been proven time after time. Professional landscapers amend soils because most warrantee their work.

    Most trees are quite vigorous and the roots soon grow out of the original planting holes. Anyone with large tree roots in their lawns and gardens can tell you that. The amendments help the trees through transplant shock and ensure they survive the first few tender years.


    I recently read an article in the northern nut growers 2011 annual report where a nut tree grower had the highest growth rates and overall success by planting his trees in the plastic containers that they came in. The roots went right through the drain holes in the containers, enlarging the holes as the trees grew. They didn't curl up inside the containers and die as suggested in the link above...
     
  13. Tree Nut

    Tree Nut Active Member

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    Anza,

    At the time when I planted the hazelnuts, they were my first plantings and arrived bare root. I had no beneficial fungi or inoculant to use at that time. I used a 24 inch auger to drill the planting holes 3-4 feet deep, and mixed in a couple of handfuls of bone meal and perhaps 10-12 shovel fulls of peat moss throughout the sandy native soil (each tree) for half the plants.

    I read a similar article on not amending soil, so for the other half of the hazels, I just augered the hole, and refilled with native soil along with the bare root plant. As mentioned, this was the less successful method for me.

    The following year, I performed soil tests which showed that my soil was quite low in certain nutrients, so I added organically sourced nutrients (by the ton) to several acres and mixed it in the top 6 inches of the soil. I followed the ideals of Michael Astera's book "The Ideal Soil", as there is an optimum balance of soil nutrients that delivers the best plant growth along with supplying the most nutrients to the plants (which deliver the same nutrients to you when you eat what you grow). Just adding mulch doesn't gaurantee that you will have nutritionally balanced soil.

    Most of my trees are now growing quite well, and I have over four hundred fruit and nut bearing trees/shrubs in my orchards. I too mulch my trees, and have the local brushers and arborists drop off tree chippings by the truckload at my place. I had a chip pile so large and so hot I thought it was going to burst into flames one summer! It has now rotted into very good mulch now and my blueberries and other plants love it. I also have manure from 5 horses, although i add most of that to my veggie gardens.

    I now have access to beneficial innoculants, as my neighbor is a biodynamic professional market grower and I traded some good will for some. I can't say it has made a huge difference, but it can't hurt. The biggest change i noticed was when I balanced my soil as per "The ideal Soil". I didn't think my soil had any earthworms prior to adding the nutrients. Now it is crawling with earthworms.
     
  14. Tree Nut

    Tree Nut Active Member

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    I just referenced the article again. The author was growing oak trees and tried three methods of planting. One row was planted in native soil with no amendments, the second row was planted in amended soil using a commercial planting mix mixed with the native soil, the third row was planted by placing the potted plants directly into the soil with the trees still inside the pots.

    Conclusions: The trees planted in the native soils with no amendments fared the worst with growth that lagged the other two rows, and several mortalities. The row with amended soils suffered one mortality and had growth at almost 175% compared to the non amended soils. The row planted in the nursery containers had no mortalities, and had growth at 285% compared to the non amended soils.

    While this was a short term study, and perhaps the non amended soils may eventually catch up with the amended soil trees (although in this test the roots of all trees escaped the boundaries of the planting holes). Looks like the reason why professionals amend holes, and nurseries recommend amending holes is to avoid mortality, and to have strong initial growth. This study was very similar to my own experience as well.
     
  15. anza

    anza Active Member 10 Years

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    Is it possible you could post the link to that Nut Growers Association 2011 Annual Report.

    Given the experiment you referenced, I have no doubt that it went EXACTLY as they stated. But here's the problem, it was incomplete. It had no fourth option of applying at the time of planting any good healthy mycorrhizal Inoculant mixed into the native soil within the planting hole, minus any neutral soil amendment. The plant species in that trial you referenced was an Oak Tree (Quercus) example as opposed to nut trees and I can think of no other perfect example for mycorrhizal benefits to a plant with mycorrhizae than an oak tree. Especially Oak Trees.

    Though I don't know exactly what the article had to say word for word, who wrote it and what company they work for or who the sponsors of the Nut Tree Association are, the article (and no discredit to you of course) the article read like a huge industrial well known brand name potting soil mix/amendment Company's commercial plug for their potting soil amendment. Yes it probably did exactly what they stated in the trial, but at a cost.

    But this option is common in most urban and chemically managed agricultural sites. When you use the amendments which no doubt may even contain enrichment in the form of treated Sewage sludge or other chemical additives, you make the plant dependent on your spreading them around on a regular basis. It's sort of like being addicted to junk food. You won't necessarily die of starvation, but nutritionally you'll eventually pay for this diet later on down the road. Beneficial symbiotic associations will not only refuse to germinate with those enriched emending conditions, but may even disconnect from the plant if already present. The plant doesn't feel the need for them and stops producing those acids at the root tips that attract the mycorrhizae in the first place. Yes the plants may appear to thrive on amendment, but there may be possible health issues later on down the line. No mycorrhizal option was added along with the others in that experiment, so the reader will be unaware of the benefits of that option. Assuming the superiority of amending based on that written up experiment, it will surely influence the consumer to buy Industiral Giant X-Brand's product as the only option, which of course it was meant to do. In nature, the Oak used here in that experiment is dependent on such wild associations and they excel in growth with them. Daniel referenced Linda Chalker-Scotts soil amendment page, but she also has a page on the benefits of mycorrhizal colonizations and how they work.

    You can still use your amending if you want to, but as a Nut Grower and I assume business owner, you will simply be taking away from your profits as a result of spending money with Brand-X, unless of course you actually want a tax write-off. Personally I always find other areas for tax write offs like building a shed or some other area where a write off will actually benefit me in superior ways. Again, the bottom line here is saving money and creating a healthier environment in the process for your orchard. You may even find a more lucurative market for your organically grown nuts.

    Try your own personal inoculation experiment this year in your orchard. Take those before and after photos of the foliage. Photograph and document (usually a month after innoculation) the possible appearance of the first fungal fruiting bodies or truffles which will that first year be very small. You'll have to wait till the start of the next growing season's spring to observe any noticiable differences in the health and vigor of the foliage appearance and size incease. This is why when you are doing such an experiment, you should first begin by photographing the leaf size this summer and give a scale comparison like holding it in your hand, then doing the same thing the following year with that growth. Yes it will probably take about a year. I understand the human flaw of I wanna see results now. I've done this many times with Black Oak and Coast live Oak trees in Southern California. Again, just write down and photograph everything that happens with those trees. No need to conduct amending or fertilizing experiments along side. We already know what they can do. We and you should want to know what happens when you don't have to spend money (other than the initial purchase of inoculant) in the natural approach to maintenance which merely replicates what nature has been doing for countless milleniums. Maybe Daniel or others here can inform you of where to look for inoculant in your area.

    Good Luck
     
  16. Tree Nut

    Tree Nut Active Member

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    Thanks for the informative response Anza.

    Unfortunately I can't provide a link to the article as the Northern Nut Growers provided the article in their magazine-like annual report. The person conducting the experiment was a private orchardist who was growing the Oaks to replant later into a new man-made oak grove on his farm. There was no mention of the brand of soil amendment used.

    I believe the innoculants that you are suggesting work very well, as that is nature's way in a closed system where all nutrients are returned to the soil. However healthy, high bearing fruit or nut bearing trees will not grow on some soils even with innoculants. What if the soils are poor, or missing nutrients that the trees require (like my soils were). Can the innoculants transmutate missing elements?

    My bio-dynamic farming neighbor claims that, but there is no scientific proof of it. If it wasn't for the large amounts of manure he amends into his soil his trees and crops would probably suffer even though he innoculates as well. We share the same sandy soil and my crops are comparitively stronger.

    Any time that you off take produce from your land, the minerals that created and are in the healthy produce are taken off as well. Over a period of years you will slowly de-mineralize your land if you don't put back what you take off. That's why on most farms the produce only contains 40% of the minerals that it had when the land was first worked. Eventually there will be none and the land will be barren. Will innoculants replace the minerals?

    I would think that responsibly amended soil and innoculants can work together. I don't mean only manures, but naturally occurring elements and chemicals (calcium, magnesium, etc. from natural sources). In my experience, soil that is in the correct balance will grow anything, and likely provide an optimum living environment for fungi and other beneficial soil creatures. The huge increase I have seen in earthworms and other soil creatures since amending my soil confirms that in my mind. I also have large amounts of mushrooms and other fungi growing in my orchard too!
     
  17. anza

    anza Active Member 10 Years

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    Actually, you may be surprized here. Soils poor in phosphates for which some plants by their very nature won't grow for one reason or another, will actually thrive in such soils if the correct fungal inoculant is applied and a networked contruct is obtained. Many mycorrhizae are host specific, it's kind of like finding the correct key to fit the correct lock to open a door when you've got a large ring of keys, all of which look very similar in appearance. This is where you need to find the right literature or informed Soil Inoculant Company with competant employees/help desk to advise on exactly what their brand will do or not do. The risk is of course is that the person on the other end of the phone may be nothing more than a salesperson and this could be true if he's an employee or the owner of the business.

    I can't give you any recommendations of companies here, but perhaps Daniel or Eric who run this forum and maintain it's content could advise you. What is amazing is the these fungi and beneficial bacteria have the ability to search and assimilate for the plant even nutrients that are otherwise unavailable to the plant because they are locked up in material substrate that the plant by itself is unable to unlock

    Who said anything about not putting things back into the land ? I didn't. It's the types of things you put back that are the problem, like those industrial strength chemicals, even when you dilute them and believe you've followed the proper company recommended instructions. Your nieghbour apparently is using an organic feed like manure, no problem there. The beauty of that is that it's a slow release as opposed to quick fix chemicals most of which will never become part of the plant, but will leach into the water table only eventually to reach water sources like wells, streams, lakes or ponds which nutirent enrich these water ways and act as a sort of "Miracle Grow" for algal blooms which give the water it's pea soup green appearnace.

    Let me illustrate what your nieghbour (if he's done it correctly) has constructed and engineered under His Orchard. He has purposely created and architeched a greater absorbtion mechanism for which HIS trees will more efficiently utilize the soils around them containing the nutrients released to them thru the mulch/compost slow release(actually excellerated a bit when fungi is present) method of farmimg or landscaping. Look at this link from a site called Willis Orchards which shows these two very historically famous pictures which are found on the Internet images of other websites. These are pines tree seedlings with a type of ecto mycorrhizae. The left photo shows the nature-based system and the possibilty of increasing the rooting area and water/nutirent absorbtion rate by 200%. The photo on the right side is the same image that has been digitally altered to remove the fungi from the same photo to illustrate what happens when you use the conventional 1950s science-based "Green Revolution" chemical system. Which one looks superior to the other ?


    Willis Orchard co - Mycorrhizal Fungi


    So apply mulch, compost or natural manure back on top as a dressing. These will be slow released back into your soil. Nobody is saying , ""Hey, this method is maintenance free". I have heard this alot when certain types of landscape systems. There's no such things. There certainly are less maintenance landscapes, but there will always be some type of maintenance. That's why most of us here are gardeners and landscapers, because we like the outdoors and the particular type physical work we do. We just want a healthier more effecient way of accomplishing this.

    Well as long as you have soil and you've kept it healthy, you'll always have nuts. That doesn't mean dumping chemical fertilizers are the only way to fix the problem. Beneficial bacteria, microbes and various biodiverse presence of many forms of mycorrhizae (both VAM & Ecto) will do the job for you. They actually can attack those hardcore minerals which plants can't do on their own and unlock and release what's inside. Highly Concentrated Chemical fertilizers can and often will actually cause a detachment of the relationships with plant roots from the fungus. Plants will simply rely on the hospital intavenus method of feeding.

    Well that Is the point of what most here have been saying. The two should be working together, but the point of this thread I believe was the initial planting. There has never been a need to back fill with commercial soil amendment. If you want to top dress with compost, working some of the top 3 or 4 inches into the soil layers and then add coarse mulch on top of that, then perfect. But you want roots to climb into the native soils as quick as possible. Dumping amendment into the bottom of the hole is simply a waste of your money and that is the point of what others have been saying. Mycorrhizal inoculant at the time of initial planting and mixing in the raw unadulterated native soil should definitely be done. That merely replicates what nature does anyway.

    I actually wrote about this in my blog where I took out alot of horrible landscape my mum had since the 1950s-60s and planted a southern California native plant landscape, with a few alternative non-native volunteer Canary Island pines which popped up from the pines straw mulch and chippings from work. I intensely inoculated with various mycorrhizal blends for underground bio-diversity and the result was that I had to several times a year add mulch with truck loads dropped off by local tree trimmers for free as the biological activity(mycorrhizae, bacteria, insects, etc) quickly made a meal of it time and again. The resulting material breakdown was of course transfered into the healthy vigorous landscape as you can see in the pictures. Here's two links.

    http://creating-a-new-earth.blogspot.se/2012/03/is-plant-in-right-soil.html


    http://creating-a-new-earth.blogspot.se/2012/03/is-plant-in-right-exposure-eg-sun-or.html
     
  18. Tree Nut

    Tree Nut Active Member

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    If the minerals aren't in the soil to begin with, no sane amounts of manure or compost will replace them. There is so little minerals in manure or compost that it is impossible to properly balance soil way. Manures are mostly organics. Some soils require a ton of mineral amendments/acre to bring them into the correct balance. Mine did.

    So if the minerals aren't in the soil to begin with, how will the innoculant release what isn't there? Have you ever done soil tests on your property? Have you done Brix tests and mineral analysis of your produce? How can you be so sure that innoculants only will ensure that you have the most flavorful and nutrient rich produce?

    As far as industrial strength chemicals are concerned, this was my prescription for re-mineralizing and balancing my soil per 1000sq/ft. Multiply by 43 and you get the weights per acre:

    25 pounds rock phosphate (for phosphorus)
    25 pounds Agriculatural sweet lime (for calcium)
    8 pounds Magnesium Oxide (for magnesium)
    7 pounds Potassium Sulphate (for potassium and sulphur)
    2 pounds sea salt (sodium and trace minerals)
    8 oz sodium borate (for boron)
    1 pound of manganese sulphate
    5 oz of copper sulphate
    7 oz of zinc sulphate
    20 pounds of glacial rock dust (trace minerals)
    5 pounds of lignite or leonardite (for humic acid)
    Biological innoculants (for beneficial fungi and bacteria)
    200 pounds quality compost or composted manure

    Although these sound like chemicals, they are naturally occurring soil ingredients that my soil was lacking. My garden now grows incredible vegetables. The best I have ever seen or tasted. It is also very rich in beneficial worms and insects, which I didn't even notice before adding these amendments.

    For details on how I reached the conclusion to add these minerals to my soil, see www.soilminerals.com
     
  19. anza

    anza Active Member 10 Years

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    I'm not really understanding what you mean by minerals are not in the soil. Are not minerals what make up soil ? There are always minerals in soils, but some beneficial nutrients may be locked up in a form that is not available for the plants on their own to use.

    As an example, we humans would starve if we depended on most of the food we enjoy eating if it were not for those all important benficial bacteria which breaks it down our food into various sugars for our cells to utilize. Our gut bacteria is on the inside working with those little tiny absorbant cell hairs which take in the products they provide us.

    Plants on the other hand have their stomachs so to speak on the outside. Their gut bacteria and microbes are the beneficial bacteria & Fungi which colonize inside and around their absorbant root hair cells. When you use many on the conventionally marketed chemical approaches, you destroy that connection and the plant is dependent on the manufacturer's diet plan, which is what the market wants in the first place

    This is almost comparable to someone who get Crones Disease or Colitis and in extreme cases had had their intestines removed almost completely. Their diet for the rest of their lives is a specially formulated sugars based diet which is regularly fed to them through a permanent attachment. My Great Uncle has Parkinson's Disease along with some intestinal issues and could not normally eat and we had to feed hom this way. The point is I'm for allowing plants to do their own thing as they have done for 100s of thousands of years before Dow Chemical or Monsanto said they knew better.

    Once again, no one here said you could'nt ever apply top dressing every year, The OP was merely about amending at time of planting and the experiments mentioned didn't allow for mycorrhizal inoculants, and I can understand why.

    Here's a link to Plant Health Care Inc's (PHC) mine site reclamation projects which deal with horrible soils, even some toxic soils.

    PHC Reclamation Inc

    You are totally not getting this and I can see that this has gone beyond the OP about the original applications of amending while planting being uneccessary. No one ever said you couldn't top dress, just that amending in the hole was merely a waste of your hard earned money. NONE of the various experiemnts that were given as proof had an honest appraisal with a mycorrhizal approach added as part of the tests which really should have been included.

    It's kind of like an article I read sometime back about new findings on how drug companies test their synthetic junk using totally unfair and unrealisitc placebo comparisons. They said the findings could throw out many already approved drugs out in the market place. One of the examples referenced was a company who had a drug for Diabetics. Some were given the drug and others the placebo. The placebo was a sugar pill. Guess which diabetic group did better, the one with the diabetic drug or those who took sugar ?

    Great. I'm sure the Big Industrial ompanies who manufacture and package such material appreciate your generous contributions to their technologies. If that is what works for you than I think I speak for the rest here that we're fine with it working for you. Best of luck.

    Thanks for the link, I'll look at it.
     
  20. Tree Nut

    Tree Nut Active Member

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    It has been determined that there is an ideal soil, with a certain balance of minerals that allow for optimum growing, and nutrition for the plants and the end users. That is scientific fact.

    Most soils do not have an ideal balance of minerals. In fact most soils are either deficient or over represented in some minerals. This affects how they grow things, and whether the nutrients are available to the plants. That also is scientific fact

    It appears that you believe all soils are equal or perfectly balanced in minerals, and the magical application of innoculants and organic matter will transform any soil into super garden soil , regardless of the background mineral composition of the soil. If the minerals are not in the soil, they are unavailable to the plants. Organics and innoculants will not create elements and minerals where none exist (the organics may provide extremely small traces of minerals, but not enough to make any material difference in overall soil mineral content). Again, scientific fact.

    Performing a soil test, determining the background composition of the soil, amending the soil with minerals to put all the nutrients in the soil into the ideal balance will create the most fertile soil. Again, scientific fact.

    While you call the minerals I put into my soil industrial products, you may be surprised to learn that they are all certified organic, and come from organic sources. The scientific names appear to put you off. How else would a professional describe them?

    The soil prescription included innoculants and organic matter as well. Don't you think beneficial fungi and soil creatures would thrive in an ideally balanced soil vs an unbalanced soil?
     
  21. anza

    anza Active Member 10 Years

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    You're kidding me. Didn't I previously acknowledge this before ? Hello ? The topic of the OP was soil amending at the time of planting which is uneccessary and a waste of money. However if someone wants to top dress after inoculating then great. But as pointed out by Daniel, Ron and Linda-Chalker Scott, this old conventional thinking and practice has no scientific basis as giving a head start. Not that it hurts or does any harm, but there has generally been no noticable benefits. So save the money.



    Here you go. This is a link to Joel Salatin's video Library of his Polyface Farms land management techniques. For decades he has intensely yet efficiently farmed and raised livestock on the same piece of ground his father did. The land you see at his farm was a rock pile in his words. It was originally so mismanaged that the top soil on this farm like many of the farms in the Shenodoah Valley washed away. In 50 years they have not bought any fertilizers other than that produced by their animals. Yet their animals are part of that product that you insisted goes away and doesn't get put back into the system. They simply feed and nurture the land with responsible Nature Replicated practices as opposed to the old "Green Revolution" big business science-based power controlled system. You'll have to listen and judge for yourself.

    And again, No One here has told you to stop doing anything. Below is a video library put together with a collection of Joel Salatin's public speaking engagements and farm tour engagements. He travels the world speaking on their poly - permiculture methods of holistic landcare. This was put together on the Ron Paul webite. Officially I could care less about Ron Paul or any other politician, this is merely an easy reference to refer to from time to time.

    Joel Salatin's Polyface Farm (Video Library)


    Also, Plant Health Care (PHC) recommends this link for teaching kids from early ages all the way up to 99 years.

    The Microbe Zoo
     

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