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Thu May 7, 2015, 08:45 PM

Got the new soil test results today -- a mini-crisis

Test took longer because this is peak season. I am growing on a larger farm, 300-acres, and I had a sample from the exact plot that I am planting in tested. Got the results this morning and it turns out that the soil is 5.5 ph. That's just too low for my beans.

Organic matter is 3.0% which is good but the soil is crusting as it lacks air space and any life. It has decent P and K but no worms. Little to no rocks but no root matter/decaying cover crop either.

I planted sunflowers, favas, canellinis, flagolets, snow peas, quinoa, baby bok shoy, fresh soy beans (edamame) and green beans (bush, Maxibel) about 3 weeks ago. The weather went from 30F nights and 45F days to 58F nights and 80F days like a someone flipped a switch. Winter lingered late here, had a frost on Apr 26 and light snow then the next day it's like Arizona. I think the snow peas, favas and probably the quinoa are done for now. The sunflower have done the best and I have planted twice more since 4/19 and added zinnias to the row.

But the beans...only the Maxibels emerged. And they seem burnt now. The soy has done nothing at all. I found one seed that the root had cracked the casing on but it seems to have not made it to emergence. Other seed holes seemed to empty (?) and the soy I planted last week with inoculant is just dry and dead looking.

I took on small farming as a challenge and it is one. Rewarding and challenging. Addictive really because the learning curve is steep and you want to apply what you learn next season

So I'm looking at other options -- stuff that likes 5.5 ph and can deal with some crusting and sandy loam soil that overdrains by a little. I think that makes my options: potatoes, peppers, tomatoes, carrots, basil or corn. (?) I can't make money on any of those because so many other local farmers do them well and at scale. And I kind of have to grow the beans regardless.

I grew for some restaurants last year and they want the beans and edamame this year so I may have to just find space on another farm and leave this 5.5 desert with just the sunflowers. It is an organic far so I can't use a quick lime; dolomite would be preferred but the soil test rec's "4000 pounds per acre" in order to get to 6.5. Pricey but it would work and would add calcium, which is also lacking in this soil and crucial for taste in beans. Problem there is the PH probably wouldn't drop significantly in time for me to get this first crop in again.

Thanks for listening. I wanted a challenging and rewarding hobby and I found one in small farming. Appreciate any ideas or feedback.

Happy May gardening!

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Reply Got the new soil test results today -- a mini-crisis (Original post)
GreatGazoo May 2015 OP
Curmudgeoness May 2015 #1
XemaSab May 2015 #2
GreatGazoo May 2015 #3
Elad May 2015 #4
GreatGazoo May 2015 #5
libodem May 2015 #6

Response to GreatGazoo (Original post)

Fri May 8, 2015, 03:26 PM

1. Sounds like this year is lost for you,

but as I think I suggested before, many farmers in our area collect leaves from town and plow them into the ground to add organic matter as well as increase the ph. It is a lot of work, but it is free organic material in abundance in the fall.

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Response to GreatGazoo (Original post)

Sat May 16, 2015, 01:33 AM

2. Leaves will lower the pH

You need lime and gypsum.

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Response to XemaSab (Reply #2)

Sat May 16, 2015, 07:50 AM

3. I was fortunate enough to be able to go back to the farm that got me started

They are super organic -- cover crop, green manure, no-till, permaculture -- all of that. Saved my season and they will let me do my native farming technique stuff -- 3 Sisters plantings + sunflowers. I'm getting a cordless electric mower (new toy) for the paths and between rows. Down the road I want to hook up the batteries to solar and charge them right in the field.

My first 20 minutes on the new (old) farm were spent watching their bees swarm. A cloud 20' tall and 10' wide that hum and buzzed as loud as a small waterfall. Awesome. I had never seen bees swarm. They settled on a pine tree branch and we are reaching out to beekeepers to see if anyone wants some (more) or how we can get them to back to our hives. The bees did this about 10 hours before the first rain storm in 3+ weeks. Not sure if the events are related. Got me interested in learning more about bees and how to share this field with them.

We had a session with the Compost Whisperer at the acidic farm and he loved our compost. Learned a lot in 2 hours, mostly that lasagna piles are okay, not ideal, but should be turned and mixed. Better to chop everything down small and put newer, hotter stuff in subpiles before making the larger mix (or adding to existing mix one). Commercial compost is over-worked, turned 6 times a week, to make it black quickly (because customers want black compost). Best compost is dark brown with no ash pockets and none of the bigger twig/bark stuff, nothing identifiable. Younger compost has more nutrients than aged but too young compost will mulch your crops and lock up nitrogen. Compost should be kept between 40 and 60% moisture and you can use a tarp or high tech covering to either keep water in or keep it out depending on what is needed. Turn the pile the first time at about 2 weeks and then at increasingly longer intervals but don't allow it to compact on itself. If it is too cool turn it. If too warm add water. Windrow should be 4' high with a wide base and a peak as this shape limits surface area making the moisture content level more stable and controllable. For smaller (garden) compost pile, a mound shape is fine. Carbon to nitrogen (in raw materials) should be between 20 to 1 and 30 to 1. The inital mix should be 10% earth/soil/mature compost to help inoculate the pile. Looking forward to trying it at the new farm.

I limed (dolomitic) the acid farm but will put most of my beans on the new one which tested around 7 PH.

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Response to GreatGazoo (Original post)

Sat May 16, 2015, 03:33 PM

4. Don't use dolomite lime. Use agricultural lime.

Dolomite is too high in magnesium. You should apply dolomite only to the level you want to raise your magnesium, and ag lime for the rest of the calcium. Calcium and magnesium need to be in a certain balance for healthy soil. Too much magnesium and you end up with hard, crusty, cloddy soil.

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Response to Elad (Reply #4)

Sat May 16, 2015, 09:05 PM

5. Thanks. Good to know.

This soil is a little magnesium deficient and I limed about 2000 SF with 40 lbs -way under the rec (1 pound per 10 SF).

Is there any specific Ag lime or other acid neuteralizer that would set up the soil for better tasting beans?

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Response to GreatGazoo (Original post)

Mon May 18, 2015, 10:26 PM

6. A bit off the subject

My friend's cat has used areas in her flower beds for a cat box. How would you neutralize the soil? Any idea? Anyone?

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