Help with renewing / recycling my soil - what to add back in & how much.

Discussion in 'Organics' started by NewGrower2011, Sep 9, 2017.


    NewGrower2011 Well-Known Member

    So quite some time ago I posted a thread detailing what I had started out with to build my initial soil....

    This soil was used over the course of 1 run for part of it and 2 runs for the other; I am not a pure organics approach and do use salt based ferts (Pure Blend Pro) and other liquid amendments, etc. Hygrozyme, Liquid Karma, Ful-Power, Hydroguard, Floarlicious Plus, etc...

    My practices were hand-watering and intermittent feedings vs water-only cycles; When I did feed them, I was probably a little heavy handed even though things did turn out fine. The soil from the last run has been sitting in a wheelbarrow now for a couple months just intermixed with the prior runs soil and today I just dumped it all onto a tarp and wet it down good with water that is chlorine free then gave it a stir anticipating re-amending things and letting it cook. I'd like for the cook time to be as short as can be without risking things and burning up the transplants.

    The total volume (very rough estimate) is enough to fill 6 x 7 gallon and have a good little bit left over and spread out it's somewhere around 6'x5'x6" deep (half assed level)... So let's call it 50 gallons for simplicity sake.

    So given the diverse mix used initially I have absolutely no clue how much broke down over time, how much was used up by the runs, etc. I find myself now scratching my head knowing that those runs had to consume/use-up some of the nutes and I don't want to have deficiencies.

    What should I add back in and how much? Below I'll list what I have on hand/my thoughts...

    On-Hand Amendments/Medium to choose from...

    -- couple small bricks of Coco and 1 of those big compressed blocks of Coco
    -- couple bags of Happy Frog, a 1/2 big bag of Sphagnum Peat Moss, bag of FFoF, bag of 'Just Rite'
    -- Ancient Forest (small amount left, can get more), small bag of Mushroom Compost
    -- Compost bag (generic/hardware store - very small amount left - claims to have Bio-char)
    -- plenty of Worm Castings
    -- plenty of Perlite (already emptied some small bags of small size / have large bag of chunky)
    -- good amount of Diatomaceous Earth
    -- Garden Gypsum (already added 2 cups/ Espoma)
    -- Organic Garden Lime (Espoma), also have Hydrated Lime (was told to never use hydrated!)
    -- Crab Shell Meal (already added some, sprinkling from bag - probably 3 cups or so)
    -- Charlies Chicken Compost Manure (1 large scoop already added / known to be 'hot' amendment)
    -- Blood/Bone meal (Jobes)
    -- Neem Seed Meal (DownToEarth)
    -- Cottonseed Meal (Hi-Yield/6-1-1)
    -- Rock Phosphorous (Espoma)
    -- Greensand (Espoma)
    -- Large bag of kelp meal and azomite
    -- "Turface" which was bought for Bonzai/Japanese Maples (but may be the wrong turface?)

    I also plan to brew a tea using whatever is on hand and use that to get things cooking...

    So "master soil chefs" out there - what would you do with my situation? How long would you let it cook and are there any other preparations you'd advise?

    GreenSanta Well-Known Member

    I used to eye ball everything with mixed results, now I grow strictly in vermicompost mixed with perlite / vermiculite. So if you have all that on hand, I d say eyeball a small amount of everything on your list and a lot of high grade vermicompost.

    MistaRasta Well-Known Member

    Things I wouldn't use:
    -Hydrated lime
    -Blood meal
    -Cottonseed meal

    If you're going for a ROLS system I'd mainly reammend Nitrogen and Potassium inputs as they leach easily. Calcium and Phosphorus not so much..

    The coco isn't really going to help much being its neutral and doesn't hold on to carbonates. Also always comes with too much Sodium and Potassium..I've only seen diminished returns in Organics mixing it with peat.. but your call.

    The ocean forest and happy frog simply aren't needed either..If going for a complex mix such as this I would just reammend with some peat,compost, and aeration..then throw your amendments in..

    IME the diatomaceous earth won't do much either.. Using crab meal should give you plenty of Chitin which is a natural pest repellent..
    714steadyeddie and Tyleb173rd like this.

    NewGrower2011 Well-Known Member

    Curious why you wouldn't use a few of those items you listed Mista... Can you provide some reasoning?

    i.e. the Azomite seems quite popular as an amendment. I also see others mention "rock dust" which seems to be an alternative to Azomite.

    Are there any amendments I don't have on hand/listed you'd say I should consider picking up? i.e. Biochar or what I found before was called "horticultural charcoal" - not sure if it's the same thing.
    Jimmy Verde

    Jimmy Verde Well-Known Member

    Ya why's the blood meal bad
    MistaRasta likes this.

    MistaRasta Well-Known Member

    Somewhat of a personal bias mixed with the fact that I don't think any of them are needed..

    Hydrated lime- is Ca oxide, only use it when you have a soil test on hand with a saturated paste with a Ca ppm index of >50.. Will fry your plants if you don't know what you're doing..In this case I would still opt for Calcium Sulfate (Gypsum.) If you hit it with some fulvic acid, you'll see uptake in around 3-4 days ime.

    Blood meal- is not needed.. you will have plenty of N in the rest of your amendments. The Nitrate found in blood meal is Water-Soluble, meaning it's immediately available and will burn plants. That mixed with the fact that I personally don't run a high N system..

    Cottonseed meal- is heavily sprayed with pesticides. There are much safer Long term N sources such as Neem or even top dresses of alfalfa would do you better..Like I said though, just not really a fan of high N amendments.

    Azomite is an Alumina-Silicate.

    Some people have a problem with this, some
    Don't. Basically, Azomite is going to import A LOT of aluminum into your soil. If using fulvic/humic acids you're going to untie any bound up aluminum ions in your soil and make them available no matter the ph. If not getting your soil tested regularly I wouldn't use it either as you don't want your ph falling too low using this stuff..

    -Biochar is good, make sure you don't use over 10% volume in your mix. Yes horticultural char is the same thing.

    -Id replace the blood meal with alfalfa.

    Personally, I think everything else you have on hand would work just fine. Consider replacing the azomite for a Little Rock dust,cut the things listed and you'll be golden.

    MistaRasta Well-Known Member

    Not bad..
    Not needed..

    He has plenty of N. Not water soluble so it's just a matter of getting it broken down and ready to be taken up.

    If using tea's of any sort you're getting all the available N you'll ever need.. even topdresses of compost will give you some N
    Jimmy Verde

    Jimmy Verde Well-Known Member

    Ok cool will probly save me some money knowing that lol
    MistaRasta likes this.

    NewGrower2011 Well-Known Member

    As I look at the NPK values of what I have on hand, I think the potassium (K) isn't very well covered?

    Would a dash of Langbeinite be helpful here? Or wait until flower and top-dress only (was thinking if added now, it'd be breaking down and become available in a timely manner around flower - leaving supplementing/top-dressing for the very end of flowering).

    When I did a quick amazon search for 'rock dust' everything keeps coming back offering Azomite... lol.... Is there a better/more specific term I should use in searching?

    NewGrower2011 Well-Known Member

    The last angle I don't think I've gotten my mind around is quantities/ratios. Is there some "golden rule" to go by such as for a cubic foot of soil, never have more than (X) cups of amendments in general... How do I determine a safe but adequate quantity of these various amendments. Last time I knew it was plain old dirt/compost/humus/etc and I think I went sparingly enough to be safe but it was 100% a guess.

    Wetdog Well-Known Member

    As a 'golden rule' sort of, in a re-amended mix, 1/2cup/cf is a pretty safe bet.

    The soil isn't totally depleted, but certainly x amount was used up in the grow. The 1/2 cup is enough to replace most, if not all and you can top dress later if something is obviously lacking.

    BTW, I still use blood meal for very specific instances when a high N fast release is called for. This is outdoors and once/year. Besides that, alfalfa or neem is the go-to.

    Like MR, I am not a fan of high N diets. It merely promotes lots of very lush, green, but very weak growth.

    For over 30 years I used Jack's Classic exclusively and my best results came from using Blossom Booster (10-30-20), from start to finish.

    The lower N and higher P/K seems to hold true in organics as well.
    MistaRasta likes this.

    NewGrower2011 Well-Known Member

    So I think my numbers are going to come out with I know I was at 6 x 7gallon plus leftovers (modest amount)... Spread out on the tarp and leveled and coverted to cubic/ft and then comparing that with a rough gallons to cubic/ft I think my numbers are in agreement and I'd have about 10 cu/ft before I add anything else (like more coco/compost/biochar/etc)...

    So given a 10 cu/ft +/- estimate and saying 1/2 cu of amendments, would that be 1/2 cup all amendments combined? or per? Any of them, which are the hot ones to watch out for and go lite on? Blood meal and Chicken it sounds like are known hot sources. I already added 1 large scoop of the chicken compost.

    Wetdog Well-Known Member

    That would be per cf. So, for 10cf (75 gallons), 5 cups of amendment.

    The "hot" sources could and should be reduced even further. They are way easy to over do and super easy and fast to add, if needed.

    NewGrower2011 Well-Known Member

    I may have already screwed up then since I put a couple cups of crab meal and that large scoop of chicken manure and 2 cups of the Gypsum. Doh!

    I guess if I add some of the other components that aren't amendments I can bulk up the overall pile. I planned to add some volume anyhow. So given that lean of an amount, I guess I need to just mix them all up / measure and then do my best to distribute across the pile evenly.

    So are there any 'must haves' I should try and squeeze in given that I'm already at that reccomended threshold... And I was going to try and embrace the "less is more" mantra and under-shoot things... That train has left the station it sounds... I thought I was well under given the size of the pile and a gut feel.

    I was doing research this afternoon on bio-char and whether I wanted to order anything like dry powdered humic/fulvic acids; I also forgot to mention I did throw in a handful of carbon from an old filter after reading a bit on what to do with an expired filter. Hopefully that wasn't a bad move and perhaps means I don't need to even think about bio-char.

    After it 'cooks' I have Azos and Oregenoism too use, and was contemplating whether to buy a replacement bottle of Hygrozyme. given the cost of Hygrozyme I'm thinking of trying to do without it - except maybe when recycling such as now. Thoughts? better alternatives (cheaper) than Hygrozyme I should consider?
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2017

    NewGrower2011 Well-Known Member

    With the crab meal and the gypsum, am I nearing a problem with too much Calcium? Cause of lock out potentially? I will be under a modest wattage of LED and I've heard of the LEDs causing them to be very hungry, so perhaps a good thing if I can just avoid causing a lock-out of something else.
    MistaRasta likes this.

    MistaRasta Well-Known Member

    It's pretty hard to add too much Calcium. Too much Calcium Carbonate(crab,oyster,lime) yes, as these will raise your ph too high but being Calcium is the carrier of every mineral into the plant I'd say that'd be hard to do. I load my soil up with gypsum (Calcium Sulfate). The stuff causes giant white fuzzy matts of roots that glow. I'm using 1 cup per cu ft right now but am about to go to 2 and do some tests. I'm predicting good things.

    Now, if I have low amounts of Magnesium or Potassium then yes, the high amounts of Ca are going to antagonize other cation uptake. Luckily for us, both of these elements are very mobile in the plant. Spray with some magnesium Sulfate for Mg and Potassium Silicate for K and you'll see results the next day if deficient in either. Or you can just put the elements in the soil and not worry about it..
    Chunky Stool likes this.

    NewGrower2011 Well-Known Member

    Good to hear. I was going to throw a dash of Epsom salt into the mix, the only question was how much. I'd rather have it in the soil there and ready when needed than need to use in my feeding. I'd like to get close to a water-only feed schedule with the occasional additives that aren't suitable for amending with (not sure what all falls into that category at the moment but I'd expect some things are better done in watering/feedind vs amending with).

    MistaRasta Well-Known Member

    Magnesium is one thing you don't have to worry about using peat.

    Here's a test on premier peat straight out of the bag below...If you look at the base saturation percentages a little over half way down (in gray) you'll see that peat comes with around 14% Mg. (This one of the reasons I don't use dolomite.. I already have more than enough Mg in the peat, why throw more in?)

    Magnesium is supposed to be somewhere in the neighborhood of 10-20% of your CEC. 20% being a lot of magnesium.. i personally try to keep my Mg pretty low, around 10-12% of the base saturation, Never had a problem.

    Chunky Stool, Buba Blend and Wetdog like this.

    NewGrower2011 Well-Known Member

    Any suggestions where I might get a test like that with that level of detail... I know I can search and probably find tests but which companies are offering the level of detail that we need and for the data points we care about? Any suggestions? I'd consider shipping one off and stalling a bit to get it back if timely enough.

    NewGrower2011 Well-Known Member

    So after letting things sit for a week or two after applying a tea (well, a lot of bubbling water with a handful of worm castings, a little ancient forest and an old tea bag that was left from a season or so ago but only used once - which aerated for probably a day too long) I've tried to get a feel for the ph.

    I took a sample, mixed it in a cup with ro water (should have been distilled?) and stirred vigourously; I then used a brewers wort bag to filter things first pass and then on second pass ran through a paper towel. I left that cup of murky but fairly particle free water sit overnight. This morning I tried using the ph drops to assess things and as you would expect it's hard to tell given the water wasn't clear to begin with. Also of note, the soil was slightly damp before putting it into my RO water - I read somewhere it should have been dry? Just to put into water? anyhow...

    I *think* my soil ph is now a tad high. When eyeballing it I think it's color matches the 7 range somewhat more than the other above/below.

    So given my mix, what reccomendations are there for lowering it just a tad? I think I'm aiming for that 6.25/6.5 range if I follow all I've read. I'm not soil but not soil-less either...

    I have a ph meter but a dead probe and I was hoping to not need to buy a new one; They just die too fast if not paying attention and the cap goes dry. Are any of those soil ph meters worth a shit? THe cheap ones? I've also seen the more commercial looking one on Amazon that is short & fat / looks like a spike around $30 to $40 bucks. I would also consider if I need a true soil ph probe for my meter (bluelab)...

    Thoughts/reccomendations? I think I just need to send it off for a soil analysis...

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