February 19, 2012 at 11:07 pm #256643
I have started putting together a new topic called “Understanding Soil” on our web site if anyone is interested. It will be written in parts and the first part is basically the foundation on which to build and explains the basics of the cation exchange and how plants get their nourishment plus other stuff. I decided to write it in parts as it is a bit to digest, so hopefully this will make it easier. I hope to do a new part each week (unless I get distracted :lol:) and hope it is of some help.
I am happy to put it up on ALS as an article as well but for the time being I am attaching a link.February 19, 2012 at 11:26 pm #520457BobbeeMember
Darn it Mauzi you are making me learn the science of it all and here I had been happily chucking manure and worm castings and compost and mulch onto my garden without having much clue at all as to what was doing what! :S
But thank you very much for preparing all that info and sharing it with us. I do need to learn whether or not I am helping or hindering the soil I demand such a lot from. :blush: 🙂
I very much appreciate that the info is coming in ‘parts’, for me at least, it will be much easier to take in the info in small doses. :tup:
Thanks Mauzi. :clap:
:hug:February 20, 2012 at 12:24 am #520458ZeitgeistMember
Ah refractometers, my favourite tool for gardening :tup: If you don’t use a refractometer for growing edibles your just gambling imo. Be warned though if you buy one you will never look at food on the supermarket shelves the same again, you will test everything that comes into your kitchen and you will always be dissapointed by what you see when you test store bought fruit and vegies, but the best thing about a refractometer is testing your homegrown produce and gradually watching the brix levels of your food rise each growing season and even during the season. I tested our apricots this year and got a brix reading of 22, my highest yet :cheer: high quality on my brix chart says 17.9 for apricots.
Thanks for the post Mauzi, now i know i’m not alone.February 20, 2012 at 10:48 am #520459
😆 bobbie. I can understand where you are at. I worked organically (without any science :D:) for many years and we were completely organically self sufficient for five years. When I say self sufficient, I mean everything, the only thing we bought in was grain and very small amounts and a few treats. Our total bills were $25.00 per week for a family of four and as many of you know, I have two very tall sons who at the time were growing rapidly….almost had to grow food to keep up with them :D: but with all that, I was still coming up with problems that I did not know how to deal with or could deal with better. When you totally depend on your food source it becomes a bit more serious when you have issues with disease, pests and stock management. Anyway, I find the combination of the two incredible and in most cases, makes it much easier to find solutions. Anyway, that is a long story, so hope you find our soil info interesting. All feed back greatly appreciated as I am aiming to make this introduction understandable for everyone – the end intention is a book, so we will see how it goes.
Hi Zeitgeist, Nice to catch up. I am with you on that one and look forward to talking more on this.
I think if there is one piece of science that everyone needs, it is how to use a refractometer and to use it on anything you possible can. It totally turns your world around….well it did mine anyway. There is so much guess work involved and no measurable way of gauging improvements otherwise. What I still find amazing after all these years is the correlation between taste and brix and of course mineral density. Much of the food we purchase, even organic, and even our own, often falls very short in mineral density and therefore health (let alone taste). Many organic farmers, though I take nothing away from them for at least going down that track, still do not address sufficiently soil issues and are still producing very low brix. Anyway, I am preaching to the converted here :D: but sharing this for others.
Stay tuned as the next instalment is on refractometers and their varied use in testing foods, growing foods, selecting the right additions to your gardens etc.February 20, 2012 at 10:51 am #520460
Oh Zeitgeist, forgot to say, sounds like great apricots, well done that is a great reading and I bet they taste fantastic.February 20, 2012 at 5:30 pm #520461
Ok, I felt like writing today, so I have done part 2. This part is on the use of refractometers in every day life and looks at an introduction into how to use a refractometer to test mineral density (goodness and taste) in food as well as how to test the usefulness of your foliar sprays and soil management. Have fun and happy to answer any questions.
I will add a photo here of an electronic refractometer, a manual refractometer and a garlic press.February 21, 2012 at 10:37 am #520462
I will put up a brix chart asap. Having some tech problems with it at the moment. But basically, I put the intro to refractometers into the “understanding soils section” as it is a great way to check the health and balance of your soil and brix is directly related to this. If you have low brix (basically anything under 12 still has some nutrient deficiency and the lower it is the less nutrients and more likely to get disease and insect attack to the plant) although when the chart goes up you will see there is a variation on figures for different plants.February 21, 2012 at 10:10 pm #520463DTMember
Bring it on the more we can learn about the how and why the better.
Irecon most of us chuck stuff on and hope.
When i left wheatbelt farming me were just starting to learn about P H and were amazed at the difference in yeilds when the numbers were right.
dtFebruary 24, 2012 at 12:33 pm #520464lavmanMember
I am very interested in this whole topic, I grow garlic and ginger organically (not certified at this stage and not sure if I want to go down that track)
The paddock I’m using was natural bushland and was cleared in 1996, the trees were pushed into windrows and burnt, I never did anything else with it apart from grazing stock on it until four years ago when I decided to grow garlic as it is the best soil (about 4ac) of our 50ac block, it’s the type of soil that looks good enough to eat.
With a small tractor with back-blade, offsets and rippers etc, and a lot of manual labour we (a family effort) levelled and stick picked the area and then planted cowpea which I later slashed, added 10 ton/ac compost and sprayed with BD500 then turned in for a green manure.
We have done this every year since, asap after the garlic is dug out, we are cutting back on the amount of compost we use each year with the hope that we won’t need to use it in the future and maybe just use a compost tea.
We use cert organic chook pellets as per soil test which is turned into the soil, the other thing we do for the soil is seed it with worm eggs, this is the last thing we spread on the beds after the garlic is planted, the beds are then covered with a thick layer of mulch.
OK that sounds like a lot of effort and it should produce great garlic and mostly it does but there are still small patches of garlic within the block that look unhealthy, it only appears when the garlic is starting to bulb, otherwise you can’t pick it, the plant gets a tight curly leaf with a motley look like a zinc deficiency, the soil ph in these areas are very low,(5.5) a full unit or more below the rest of the block.
I feel the problem patches are where large trees and stumps were removed and the soil got turned upside down, I am now thinking that I may be able to sap test with a refractometer before there is a problem and maybe use a foliar spray on the stressed plants.
I have half acre crop rotations so the garlic hasn’t been planted in the same ground as yet, which means I don’t know where the problem will be.
Sorry for the long post, I just wanted to give you the whole picture, any advice or suggestions would be much appreciated.
Thanks KevFebruary 24, 2012 at 2:35 pm #520465
Oh my! :jawdrop: I’ve only just looked at this thread……….I’ve never even HEARD of a refractometer………better get over to mauzi’s links ……..
Later.Lots more :jawdrop: Do people really go around using these refracto thingies in supermarkets?? Do they just snitch off a bit of a lettuce leaf ,or a grape, whip out their garlic press, drip juice on the prism and hold the whole thing up to the light??Then they wipe the prism clean with a tissue,wash the garlic press in the loo, and move on to the celery? I’m actually very serious with these questions! The mind boggles about how the supermarket staff and other shoppers react……..
Thanks for the info mauzi, very interesting.A whole new area for me and I have a lot of work to do. When I was teaching we used to mix up some soil in water and let it settle for a few days , clearly into layers.Is this actually a rough starting point to show the current composition of my soil?February 24, 2012 at 5:02 pm #520466ZeitgeistMember
Lavman the problem you may have with a refractometer and testing garlic is that garlic that i have tested goes over 32 brix on the scale on my refractometer, which measures 0-32 brix. So obviously our garlic is over 32 brix. That’s not to say our garlic is the best of the best because none of the brix charts i have, has a reading for garlic on them. I suspect garlic naturally has a very high brix reading, probably explains why it’s so good for us. I have never bothered to test supermarket garlic because i don’t buy it. I’m just guessing but i think if you tested the garlic from the supermarket you would probably get a reading below 32, most garlic sold in Australia is from China.(enough said)
Mauzi will probably be able to tell you what might cause the curly leaf problem, sounds like a deficiency though or maybe if the ph is that low wherever the problem is the plant can’t access the nutrient it requires. 5.5 is a pretty low reading and while i’m not a big one for worrying about ph too much, it could be the problem.
BlueWren i think what most people who own a refractometer do is buy the minimal amount of produce at the supermarket, take it home, test it then re test cause they can’t believe the low reading and then realise what they are being sold. Then they go to other produce stores and do the same thing, with the same result. Then it’s off to the markets and “organic” suppliers, back home and test again, same result. Frustration then kicks in and they decide to grow their own. A few months later the home grown is ready to eat but before that out comes the refractometer and you guessed it, same result. Ok so i am being a tad cynical here, occasionally you will hit paydirt and find some good stuff, if you do keep shopping at that outlet. As for growing at home, most of Australian soils have been farmed to death and any that haven’t been probably wasn’t worth farming in the first place. Australian soils are also some of the oldest on the planet and are depleted of most minerals. Getting brix levels high requires getting the soil high in minerals and nutrients. Putting compost, manures and green manures back into the soil helps but doesn’t fix the problem. If there is a deficiency in one mineral required by that plant that becomes the limiting factor. My advice would be to get on google and read anything written by Steve Solomon, there are even some videos on you tube. Type in “complete organic fertilizer” on google and make yourself some, it’s Steve Solomon’s recipe, and of course read whatever Mauzi writes on the subject. She knows her stuff. Building your soil up takes time and can’t be forced. Your brix readings will rise over time as will the taste of your produce and the health of your body. All chronic illness is a result of low nutrition. A gutsy thing to say, but i stand by my words.
As for the soil in the water trick, you may find a few layers depending on your soil type, probably sand on the bottom, then silt and finally clay on top if memory serves me correctly.February 24, 2012 at 5:21 pm #520467
Thanks for that full reply,Zeitgist , much appreciated.I was a bit tongue in cheek about the supermarket testing…… 🙂
Regarding the soil in water ….I just thought it would give a rough indication of the ratio of sand/silt/clay/still whole organic of my soil?February 24, 2012 at 5:47 pm #520468lavmanMember
Hi Zeitgeist and thanks for your reply,
I have my eye on a Digital Refractometer on ebay which does a Brix Reading of 0 – 85% It’s not cheap about $170 delivered, but then that equates to about 10kg of garlic so it will pay for itself in no time.
I downloaded a Brix chart from the internet which has garlic on it, it says cured garlic is; Poor = 28, Average = 32, Good = 36 and Excellent = 40
I get a complete soil test done every year to correct any mineral deficiencies and I can happily say that the soil is improving each time.
I’m looking forward to learning more.
I just noticed that the only thing with a higher brix reading than garlic is Raisins which goes from 60% for poor through to 80% for Exellent WOWFebruary 24, 2012 at 10:31 pm #520469lmd80Member
Hi, I only have a small vegie garden (10m x 6m) and it was here when we bought the place but am interested in improving the soil. We are also looking at building another one so would be interested in recommendations on soil? I have just started to read and don’t know much as yet so would love some suggestions on where to start, books or websites? We also have 3 chickens so have access to chook or horse manure. I look forward to reading the posts. Also interested in recommendations on mulch?
P.S. just googled refractometer and now feel I need one! Plus I could see myself testing vegies/fruit at Woollies 😉February 25, 2012 at 12:40 am #520470
i had a quick look on EBay for refractometers.I’m not in the market for the more expensive ones, so would the roughly $20 ones that go up to 32 be OK for a beginner?
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