Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Loving Soil

It’s Alive! The Living Soil

 * Today's article, written by Andy Lopez of the Invisible Gardener, will help us understand about the relationship between the nutrients your plants need and biological activity in the soil. The article was edited by the blog owner, however, and a few corrections made.

There are two ways to get minerals needed by plants:
The first and fastest as well as easiest is to apply through foliar spraying onto the leaves and trunk. Trees and most other plants are much like humans in that they can absorb nutrients thru their "skin".

Another way to get minerals to the plants is to provide it in the soil by adding compost, which is rich in minerals and bacteria. This is the main reason we make compost piles or bins - to provide the proper condition for bacteria and minerals to get together and produce these nutrients in the form that the plants can then use. (*Blog Owner's Note: Remember a few days ago on this blog we talked about the term "bioavailable" - it applies here as well.)

The best time to apply compost is during the early spring, allowing for  the bacteria to get active making many nutrients and many minerals in just the right form for plants. These nutrients slowly make their way to plants root hairs where it will be absorbed by a type of fungi that live only on plant root hairs. 

Mycorrhizal fungi live in a symbiotic relationship with plants to extract nutrients and water. These fungi are living organisms that live with the plant, for its entire lifetime. In exchange the plant provides carbon and sugars to the fungi. 90% of all land plants employ this relationship to enhance their own root system's capacity to deliver nutrients.

Anyone with property should apply rock dust, compost and mulch (make sure the mulch is Azalea/Gardenia mix) as an annual garden habit.
Here in Malibu, we have a nice source of rock dust at our local garden center. Its Called Gypsum. While it is not a complete rock dust, it is  very high in calcium and natural sulfur as well. This will help break down the clay soil that we have here as well as allow for better drainage. The calcium is a very important mineral needed by plants and is best applied mixed in with compost. Gypsum can also be made into a tea and sprayed. I add 1 cup gypsum , 1 cup compost into a panty hose and tie into a ball. Place into 5 gallons clean water for a few days. Then add to sprayer and spray all your plants. I do this spray about once per month for most plants, although heavily fruiting and trees vegetables can be done weekly.
Additional ways to get minerals to plants is to buy liquids that are rich in minerals and spray those. Try liquid seaweed, fish emulsion, liquid organic fertilizers enriched with minerals, special mineral enzyme products such as Superseaweed, Nitron or Agri-Gro are good also.

Another way to provide minerals besides using compost is to provide the bacteria a place to inhabit by creating what I call "Tree Vents". I use clay drain pipes that are about 4 inches wide and about 1 or 2 feet long. These are buried near tree root systems so that the pipe is even with the ground, but have one end accessible (closing it off with a rock or something). Then, annually, place a mixture of nutrients and compost inside the pipe, close off the end. The nutrients will slowly leach out and feed the plant all season long. 

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