Soil amendments

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 Organic Amendments

When organic material is broken down by the micro-organisms that are living in the soil, we must remember that a certain amount of nitrogen is required to completely brake this material down. If these micro-flora cannot get a sufficient amount of nitrogen from the organic matter within itself, they will take it from within the soil, robbing the roots and plants of whatever nitrogen is available.

 How nitrogen is made available to the plants





 Dead Plants
leaf mold
















Well rotted 



 Sodium Nitrate

 Calcium Nitrate

 Organic Nitrogen Compounds
From dead plant and animal material in soil

 Decomposes to Ammonia
Not immediately useful to most plants

 Decomposes to Nitrites
Not useful to plants

 Decomposes to Nitrates
Useful to all plants

Useful to all plants








 stimulate and

 /or exhilarate

 VAM activity within the soil

 As we increase the micro-organism activity within the organic material, the direct results are a faster decomposition process and at the same time increasing the quantity of nitrates that are made available to the plants.
Organic amendments such as Peat moss, leaves, leaf mold, well rotted *manure and/or compost, usually have sufficient nitrogen to complete the decomposition process, whereas saw dust, wood shaving and/or bark, will require additional nitrogen to complete its decomposition cycle, without robbing the soil of its already available nitrogen.
The addition of micro-flora accelerators or stimulants can help in the decomposition process by increasing the Micro-organism activity, thus making nitrogen readily available to the plants and at a much faster rate. Products such as EcoSane and
Aspergillus, have worked extremely well for me.
Sheet composting is a method whereas you spread a thin layer of leaves and/or lawn clippings over your garden beds. This should be done by spreading a sparse coat of yard material throughout the spring and summer months. This does two things, first it keeps the micro activity going strong in your soil while providing a constant, readily available, natural soil amendments and at the same time it is acting as a thin layer of mulch to hold and keep moisture (see mulch below).
The results of over fertilizing and/or the use of insecticides and fungicides, prohibits the growth and decreases the amount of micro-organism activity in the soil and on the plants themselves. I have found that smaller amounts of fertilizer, given over a shorter time-span, results in better managed soil bionomics, thus enhancing the gardens overall performance.
Good healthy plants are not always the best indicator that your soil and micro activity is 100%, only in the long term, can we realize and come to appreciate just what this symbiotic relationship between plant, soil, and micro-organism do. Surviving the winter is one thing, but surviving and flourishing over the long haul is quite a different story, its just another way inwhich we can look at, or I should say, within our soil. The response of our botanical treasures, in a well established and balanced growing media, can only mean the fullest potential, beauty and health of these plants.

The use of organic amendments when planting palms. Some people will tell you that by adding organic material to your soil when planting a new plant is bad news! They claim that by doing so, will cause the plant to be unstable and that, as the material decomposes, it disappears and sinks causing the plant to be lower than the soil grade. This maybe true if you don't know what your doing, but if done right and the compost that is being used is grade "A" meaning that it is completely broken down and is properly mixed with the existing soil this will not occur!
Although a certain amount of settling does occur regardless, even if you plant it in the native soil without adding anything at all to the mix. This is one reason you want to plant a little higher than the soil grade. Some palms like Sabal can be planted deeper than the soil line without any problems whatsoever.
As a general rule, palm roots grow close to the surface and spread out and beyond the drip line, so when digging the planting hole, remove as much soil as possible to the sides, its kind a like making a donut shaped hole with a raised center. See illustration below.

Planting Hole

By building up the soil to the outside of the planting hole creating a dike around the plant, makes watering and fertilizing more efficient and much easer (see illustration below). This method of planting keeps the plant from settling down and allows the roots plenty of room to grow. Also by adding mulch, compost or other organic material to the back fill area, replaces any soil loss, due to any ground settling that may occur.

Planting hole 2

So, by digging the planting hole and leaving a mound of undisturbed soil where the root ball will be placed, and digging the hole deeper around this area allows the root ball to rest upon solid ground. This aids in better drainage giving the roots much needed room to grow both down and outwards. I have been using this method for many years with much success, regardless of soil types and conditions.
Remember when planting any plant, find out what soil conditions and watering needs are required as to maximize its growth potential, including (drainage, fertilizing, soil PH, amount of sunlight etc...) then plan and dig your hole accordingly.

MULCH: The use of mulch is very beneficial through out the year, during the summer months it holds and retains moisture within the soil, reducing water loss due to extreme heat and drying hot winds. It prevents splash up, by keeping the soil from splashing on to the plants and thus prevents soil borne bacteria from getting on the plants and causing disease and other problems. During the winter it helps to moderate soil temperatures. A 3 to 4 inch layer of mulch is highly recommended.

Please Note: The information found on this page, is from my own experiences or gleamed from the knowledge of other garden enthusiast, and is suited for South Texas soil & growing conditions. Although I have used these practices and techniques in Portland Oregon, with excellent results, still it is very important that you know your soil and growing conditions within your own area. Check with your State Agricultural Extension Agent for more information, and enjoy the wonderful world of exotic gardening the safe and sane way, while keeping the environment healthy!
* M
anure should only be added once every 3 to 4 years and also note that they contain salts!

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