best pH for growing white clover?

heirloomgal

Deeply Rooted
Joined
Jan 17, 2021
Messages
308
Reaction score
990
Points
115
Location
Ontario, Canada
Sorry if this is hijacking the thread, this is the last soil post I'll make here, but wanted to show @Ridgerunner this soil to get his perspective - the 2 on the left are in ground gardens, the middle one turns to cement in long, dry heat. The 3rd pic is a container I just planted peas in with some ground soil. It was planted two days ago and it's cracking already. I guess this is clay content? Maybe some of the ground soil cracking is seasonal as I haven't tilled yet.

I find your refined soil knowledge super fascinating. It gives me a whole new way of looking at my garden soil. Until I went out to take these photos to post, I never realised that these other gardens have cracking soil as well.



20210409_171346_resized.jpg
20210409_171302_resized.jpg
20210409_171152_resized.jpg
 
Last edited:

Dirtmechanic

Garden Addicted
Joined
Jan 14, 2019
Messages
1,081
Reaction score
2,168
Points
217
Location
Birmingham AL (Zone 8a)
I live not too far from where Ridge got that Alabama clay I suspect. There are several specialty clay sellers within driving distance. When I did the mayonnaise jar settlement test on my lawn, it simply never settled. The wetting agent of detergent freed the surface tensions and for 3 weeks I watched that jar in vain for the layers of different materials that were supposed to settle out.

The water coats the surface of the particle and since it has volume too, the drying out process produces cracks as it shrinks. Water has a high electrical attraction force and can really pull clay together given the surface area. Placing something that retains moisture, like carbon, is very useful in dense clay. It is even more useful for retaining air, and helping drainage, and as a material that one does not have to replace like mulch carbon is very, very efficient over time.

Interestingly to me, the amendments can be, or have, living components. The Terra Preta soils of the amazon are the holy grail of this idea. They accumulated so much carbon from the activities of the indians dumping their clay honeybuckets that they now literally grow back (slowly) as current users sell the topsoil. But then they are measured 18 meters deep with kitchen scraps and oxidized vegetation from food fires and other sources. I find it interesting because those soils are Ultisols just like my lawn.

In either case, sand or clay, the water running through it really impacts the character. Here, lots of rains leaches out all the liming agents, and we have a acidic, low organic content series of clay called Udult. Elsewhere, without the rainfall, this same Ultisol will be alkaline.
 
Last edited:

heirloomgal

Deeply Rooted
Joined
Jan 17, 2021
Messages
308
Reaction score
990
Points
115
Location
Ontario, Canada
I live not too far from where Ridge got that Alabama clay I suspect. There are several specialty clay sellers within driving distance. When I did the mayonnaise jar settlement test on my lawn, it simply never settled. The wetting agent of detergent freed the surface tensions and for 3 weeks I watched that jar in vain for the layers of different materials that were supposed to settle out.

The water coats the surface of the particle and since it has volume too, the drying out process produces cracks as it shrinks. Water has a high electrical attraction force and can really pull clay together given the surface area. Placing something that retains moisture, like carbon, is very useful in dense clay.

Interestingly to me, the amendments can be, or have, living components. The Terra Preta soils of the amazon are the holy grail of this idea. They accumulated so much carbon from the activities of the indians dumping their clay honeybuckets that they now literally grow back (slowly) as current users sell the topsoil. But then they are measured 18 meters deep with kitchen scraps and oxidized vegetation from food fires and other sources. I find it interesting because those soils are Ultisols just like my lawn.

In either case, sand or clay, the water running through it really impacts the character. Here, lots of rains leaches out all the liming agents, and we have a acidic, low organic content series of clay called Udult. Elsewhere, without the rainfall, this same Ultisol will be alkaline.
I googled 'Terra Preta soils', and now I wonder if I should be adding charcoal to my garden as an amendment....
 

Dirtmechanic

Garden Addicted
Joined
Jan 14, 2019
Messages
1,081
Reaction score
2,168
Points
217
Location
Birmingham AL (Zone 8a)
I googled 'Terra Preta soils', and now I wonder if I should be adding charcoal to my garden as an amendment....
Interestingly, gardeners are likely to use too much organic matter. I have read white papers where tests indicate OG beyond 30% turns counterproductive. Here, we lab test at 2% for our starting point. The test requires a good scale and a self cleaning oven. I would not use my own though. Basically, soil is dried, a sample is weighed like say 100 grams, then the sample soil is burned. The temps up around the 700f or whatever so will not burn the mineral content, only the carbon based content. When the sample is cool enough it gets weighed again and the lower number of grams is used to figure the organic content percentage. Word is that it is a stinky test. My wife would come unglued.

If you have a lower OG, the need for micronutrients and such is also prevalent. Carbon alone will not supply them.

However, If you can create the conditions for bacterial growth, their dying bodies as well as the fungi and insects that eat them and also die will begin a supply of available micronutrients. The enzymes they use dissolve minerals in rocks and clays, and make them available. This is either by tiny little poops or the building blocks of their cellular makeup as they decompose. It is this function that makes Terra Preta grow.

The carbon from charcoal, char, bio-char and such just serve as a large charged surface that attracts oxygen and water, the primary nutrients. The carbon however does not leach away. Add some sugar to get the biodome started and it gets busy quickly. In fact you can over do it and end up fighting fungus because they all will want to come play at your house.

If you have ever heard that wood ash is alkaline, you understand that while I might use it on my acidic clay as the natives did with their Terra Preta, alkaline soils would become imbalanced. But its all a balance anyway right? Some prior soil knowledge is very useful for direction. Low temp fires like burning wood leave things like potassium. Is yours already sufficient? Would it be too much? Bio-char is highly oxidized charcoal. Burn wood, wait a thousand years and its the same as ultra high temp carbon products that will not have the potassium or lye. Maybe that would be a more refined choice.

It can get dizzy. Mostly I throw some compost and let the bugs do the rest.
 
Last edited:

flowerbug

Garden Master
Joined
Oct 15, 2017
Messages
9,419
Reaction score
8,986
Points
327
Location
mid-Michigan, USoA
I googled 'Terra Preta soils', and now I wonder if I should be adding charcoal to my garden as an amendment....

not the kind often sold for grilling out, but if you burn wood for heat or have an outside fire pit you can use any bits of charcoal in your gardens. wood ashes themselves can also help with clay too if your clay is acidic (some clays aren't).

the further south you go the harder it is to keep soil carbon levels up (notice that rainforests tend to keep almost all of their carbon above ground v.s. what a temperate grassland is like where the soil carbon can go down many feet in comparison) - this is because of the high fungal rates of breaking down anything organic and the plentiful rains leaching a lot of the nutrients away.

terra preta is one of those fantastic things discovered which we really don't know how they made it and if it was intentional or not and in some areas it is being mined and sold off for gardeners to use.

from what my own experiments have shown you can do very well with using humus from mostly decayed wood chips and mixing that with some garden soil, clay and sand and then having worms, food scraps and paper scraps mingle for a long period of time so that the worm excretions give it all a good amount of nitrogen and the other things given off by fungi and other soil creatures. this is my primary fertlizer and after i put it down in places in my garden it can still be found a few years later when i come back through that garden and amend it again.

humus aka humic acids are very large and complex molecules and they are not quickly broken down so they can act a lot like ground up bits of charcoal. all that surface area is great microbial habitat.
 

Ridgerunner

Garden Master
Joined
Mar 20, 2009
Messages
7,718
Reaction score
8,086
Points
397
Location
Southeast Louisiana Zone 9A
I've been feeling a little guilty about hijacking too. We do it all the time on here, some threads can take off in some really strange directions. Mitch has been around a while, hopefully this does not come as a big surprise.

I'm more into theory than hands on with a lot of that. It's classroom learning and conversations with an expert to confirm my thoughts. We'd take soil borings and the lab would send us the results. But I'll hazard some guesses. If someone disagrees I certainly won't get my feelings hurt. Remember what causes the cracking is that it swells when wet and shrinks when it dries out.

To me the one on the left looks like the surface cracking you'd get in a soil relatively high in organic matter, especially if it doesn't get that hard when it dries. If you soak sawdust and let it dry I'd expect the surface to look a lot like that.

The second one looks more like the cracks you'd see in clay. With it getting that hard when it dries reinforces that. Unlike the first one the individual soil particles seem to be tightly attracted to each other creating a smooth surface except where it cracks.

I would not expect clay to dry out that fast on the third one. Clay does hold moisture pretty well. I associate that color with clay with a high iron content and it looks like there is an attraction between particles. Probably clay but I don't know.

What would it take for you to get a soils analysis? That way you would know. South of the border from you each of our states does it differently but they usually make it pretty easy and not that expensive to get a soils analysis. In Arkansas it was free. I can't remember what Louisiana charges. It's not that much but it isn't free.
 

heirloomgal

Deeply Rooted
Joined
Jan 17, 2021
Messages
308
Reaction score
990
Points
115
Location
Ontario, Canada
Interestingly, gardeners are likely to use too much organic matter. I have read white papers where tests indicate OG beyond 30% turns counterproductive. Here, we lab test at 2% for our starting point. The test requires a good scale and a self cleaning oven. I would not use my own though. Basically, soil is dried, a sample is weighed like say 100 grams, then the sample soil is burned. The temps up around the 700f or whatever so will not burn the mineral content, only the carbon based content. When the sample is cool enough it gets weighed again and the lower number of grams is used to figure the organic content percentage. Word is that it is a stinky test. My wife would come unglued.

If you have a lower OG, the need for micronutrients and such is also prevalent. Carbon alone will not supply them.

However, If you can create the conditions for bacterial growth, their dying bodies as well as the fungi and insects that eat them and also die will begin a supply of available micronutrients. The enzymes they use dissolve minerals in rocks and clays, and make them available. This is either by tiny little poops or the building blocks of their cellular makeup as they decompose. It is this function that makes Terra Preta grow.

The carbon from charcoal, char, bio-char and such just serve as a large charged surface that attracts oxygen and water, the primary nutrients. The carbon however does not leach away. Add some sugar to get the biodome started and it gets busy quickly. In fact you can over do it and end up fighting fungus because they all will want to come play at your house.

If you have ever heard that wood ash is alkaline, you understand that while I might use it on my acidic clay as the natives did with their Terra Preta, alkaline soils would become imbalanced. But its all a balance anyway right? Some prior soil knowledge is very useful for direction. Low temp fires like burning wood leave things like potassium. Is yours already sufficient? Would it be too much? Bio-char is highly oxidized charcoal. Burn wood, wait a thousand years and its the same as ultra high temp carbon products that will not have the potassium or lye. Maybe that would be a more refined choice.

It can get dizzy. Mostly I throw some compost and let the bugs do the rest.

This whole topic discussion has me thinking that I need to begin some research in terms of the physical makeup of soils & methods of soil improvement. I never realised until this point that I really have neglected to look more deeply into this aspect of my garden, which is a bit strange when I think of it now. I spent more time looking for organic ways to provide extra nourishment to, mostly, container grown plants, unusual varieties of things, creative ways to grow things vertically, and just other things in general. Its amazing what you guys understand in terms of a highly refined perspective on the physical properties of soil and the corresponding performance/realities. I'm glad to have sort of woken up to this perspective on soils.

I guess part of why I didn't do my homework was that I judged the soils' state by how my vegetables grew, which was mostly great. Lots of tomatoes over the years in the same (relative) places did seem to put a dent in their production, but I had never applied in ground fertilizers for all the years I gardened in my main plots, so that seemed to be a good sign. I only enriched container soil. I also made the assumption that my soil was not in need of consideration because, for the moment it seems, there is a lot of talk about how worms are indicative of good soil health. (But worms are invasive to North America I think, so I'm not sure if that's actually true??) Last year, when I had a sudden and unprecedented presence of cutworms I went hunting them at night with a flashlight. Not having done this before, I was shocked to see what appeared to be many, many dozens if not hundreds of large worms jerk suddenly down holes as my light fell across them. It was actually a bit chilling because I had never seen such a thing in my life. Again, this seemed a good sign of soil health, if not aeration. But now I'm curious to get some of my soil tested to see its pH and to try to figure out more specifically its physical composition.
 

heirloomgal

Deeply Rooted
Joined
Jan 17, 2021
Messages
308
Reaction score
990
Points
115
Location
Ontario, Canada
To me the one on the left looks like the surface cracking you'd get in a soil relatively high in organic matter, especially if it doesn't get that hard when it dries.
100% the case. Lots of the soil in this bed was amended with excavated bush soil, and bush peat, over the years. It was not fully broken down of bush material the first year it was dug in. But as that has fully broken down the performance has been really good.

The second one looks more like the cracks you'd see in clay. With it getting that hard when it dries reinforces that. Unlike the first one the individual soil particles seem to be tightly attracted to each other creating a smooth surface except where it cracks.
100% the case. I think this particular garden plot (imported soil) had lots of clay and then sand, that wasn't 'sharp', was mixed into it. This stuff needs to be just about sledgehammered when baked dry. And then when moistened, it turns into a wonderfully textured soil again. It's strange. I wonder if a bale or 2 of peat, dug in with it, would help with the cracking.
 

Latest posts

Top