Calli's Conundrums

Discussion in 'Gardening' started by calliandra, Mar 21, 2017.


    ttystikk Well-Known Member

    Water Burns only happen under high intensity lighting. How strong are your lights?
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    calliandra Well-Known Member

    To now, she's under 50W Cree Cob 3500K. The thought of adding another and adding some active cooling keeps crossing my mind these days though..
    She's a midget, so not sure upping the light intensity is going to be a good thing running at 6/2? What would you do (just assuming, for a second, the absurd situation of your having such a dwarf in such a small space :P )
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    ShLUbY Well-Known Member

    those white specs look like thrip damage to me. very common, easy to get rid of :) Seems like everything is going well over here on your end for the most part :) Nice compost pile!
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    ttystikk Well-Known Member

    I'd do what you're doing; not push too much light.
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    calliandra Well-Known Member

    Update @ Conundrum #6
    The cycle of living matter

    Seems I've found my way of dealing with those "salad slugs" - setting up mechanical barriers until the plantlings are robust is the way to go.
    2017-07-06 08.36.40.jpg

    For the first time ever in this garden, I may actually get carrots! :D
    When I sowed them the second time, I removed the mulch a few days before and let the soil dry, since these little slugs also like hanging out in air pockets in the soil.
    Plus I built that frame you can still see in the pic and kept it covered with gardening cloth - not sure what it's called in English, it's usually used to protect plants from cold and sun. This allowed the seedlings to sprout and establish without any greedy critters nibbling them to death.

    When I finally went to plant out the chards, at first I was disappointed, as the soil had gone hard, the earthworms having retreated to estivate in the depths, and then the heat wave, drying up the soil even under the mulch. I thought I had lost the benefits gained by the soilifying because there were no plant roots to maintain the biology when spring came.

    But when we compare how the chards on the soilified bed are doing as compared to another spot
    2017-07-06_mangold (2).jpg
    it does give me the feeling that fertility in the soilified patch has increased after all.

    Also, when you look at the onions bottom left, the ones on the edge of the bed (that didn't get soilified) are much weaker than the ones that are definitely in the soilified zone.

    And that although I stopped feeding the soil - first, because nothing was growing there anyway, and then, because my tools are inadequate; my blender was just going up in smoke with the amount of stuff I was blending, so I'm only making the juices and smoothies for my indoor & deck plants in it now.
    To really keep the soilifying going, one would need one of those scary shredders people have built into their sinks in movies (never seen one live though, so I don't know how well they actually shred?) or similar - in fact, Pommeresche does his juicing for the garden with something like that too.

    So I'd say this one is partially successful, whereby a phrase Pommeresche uses when explaining the soilifying process has been haunting me as I observe: ....good soil...
    The devil is in the details.
    Because my soil there wasn't good for starts, so no wonder my results are going to fall short of his?
    And no wonder I still have the pests too!

    MAYbe Pommeresche's soil wasn't good either, when he started using that method in his garden like what, 20 years ago? But when you've been doing this for decades, I'm pretty sure the microbial herd will be so much more diverse, robust, and beneficial.
    Whereas the soil I did this with had an unknown period of bad treatment (tillage & removal of organic matter, no giving back anything), followed by 3 years of mechanical aeration & mulching, mainly greens (yes and also browns, but way more grass clippings and chop-and-drop stuff).

    Impatient people may do better giving bad soil a good compost, especially for starts... :bigjoint:
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2017

    BarnBuster Virtually Unknown Member

    FWIW, although it's not residual, a spray mix of plain household ammonia and water (1:10) kills slugs quick. Pretty much an everyday spray when it's wet, though, but the plants seem to like it.

    calliandra Well-Known Member

    As for the other conundra...

    Conundrum #1 :: compost tea vs. rust & blackspot
    Still observing on this one.

    2017-07-06 08.36.59.jpg
    The control roses - untreated ones as well as the mycorrhized ones - are showing a bit of pestilence, whereby July-August is going to be the main test. Of the treated ones, two of 3 are doing really well, no signs of anything bad - the signs I'd seen a few weeks ago having disappeared again. The red rose took quite some damage in the late frosts and has been sickly and trying to recover ever since.

    But all in all, pest pressure is weaker in that bed - the hollyhocks for example have started getting their rusts, but they're much weaker there than in other parts of the garden.

    I think I've said it before, but my major error here was to assume foliars alone could do the job. But health, like beauty, must come from within :mrgreen:
    Plant surfaces are the most exposed part of the plant, so microbes introduced on that path have a much higher risk of getting killed than in the soil, which buffers temps and moisture. Hence:
    When using compost teas to fortify above-soil growth, always water it into the soil too!!!

    Conundrum #2 :: improving an alfalfa patch w/ mycos
    Well that, quite simply, didn't work out :rolleyes:

    The soil the alfalfa's in didn't have a complete food web, i.e. I saw bacteria, and some very sparse fungi, but no microbial predators (protozoans, not even anaerobic ones! & nematodes), who are the ones who get that nutrient cycling going so that plants can actually use them. As long as the nutrients are trapped in those bacteria/fungi, no one is going to be using them for anything. And there weren't great amounts of earthworms about either, who could have compensated, at least partially, for the tohers' absence.

    Organic matter was also low.
    Despite that part of the plot being the one in my care the longest, with piles and piles of mulches going onto it over the past years, and stuff growing halfways satisfactorily there too.
    Looking at this soil, I was above all struck by how plants survive in successionally lower-than-they'd-need conditions

    So if those mycos vendors say all you have to do is add their great product to an otherwise crappy soil - nope lol
    You neeed that organic matter in there, you need the different tiers of soil food web.
    The whole system needs to progress, and we need to toss our bandaid mentality of searching for THE ONE organism that's going to save the day.
    Hm. Interesting philosophical implications there too... :mrgreen:


    Conundrum #3 :: Improving the soil for strawberries with mycorrhizae
    Already discussed, user error here:

    relying on the weather to water them in and not doing it myself when it failed to rain.:bigjoint:

    On a side note, the part of the strawberry patch I had treated is growing tons of borage now, whilst on the untreated parts, it's mainly bindweeds of different kinds.

    I haven't quite understood the nature of these bindweeds yet... they're lower-successional, but perennial, which is confusing to me because I had perennials down as successionally further evolved, i.e. also wanting more evolved biology. But then again, the roots are down so far in the soil, maybe down there it really IS mainly bacterial.
    Or maybe I need to revise my understanding of perennials :razz:

    Their powerful roots break up compaction all the way down to 2m depth (which is why they're hardly weedable, they will resprout from root fragments like ground elder), and their natural habitats (agricultural fields, paths, dumps) do seem to indicate their function is to aerate and loosen up the soil.

    So maybe they'll just go away of themselves when the soil becomes more aerated - I am not seeing any bindweed on my soilified patch for example!

    I had that happen with the thistles - whereby those disappeared in the second year of aerating and mulching the soil - even though there probably still are a gazillion of their seeds in the soil.

    Conundrum #4 :: Composting leaves

    Collecting greens at the mo, also collecting pine cones for trying out as part of the woody component.
    I hope to have finished my reflections on this in a week or so, and will then post a hopefully coherent wrap-up.

    Conundrum #5 :: Quick soil tune-up with store-bought soil
    Only one thing to note here:

    I hate perlite LOL
    Never going to use it solo as aeration again. It's super effective in lightening up the soil and getting air in, but almost too much, my pots dry out way fast, plus it just feels plasticky and synthetic, I keep having to tell myself it's not.

    I'm just getting ready to mix another soil, and while I will be adding like 10% of perlite, 10% are going to be biochar, and the rest a mix of crushed terracotta pots (ie burnt clay particles sized dust to 2cm), lavarock, handful sand, and a few different organic things: buckwheat hulls (which I suspect could be used in the "peat" component too from the way it integrates with the soil), grain hulls, aaand..... pistacchio shells! (washed) :bigjoint:

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    calliandra Well-Known Member

    Oh thank you!
    Of all the gazillion ways, I hadn't heard of this one yet :D
    Will definitely get some of this ammonia and try it out!
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    BarnBuster Virtually Unknown Member

    Yeah, this is an old time receipe for slugs and snails. Use reg houshold ammonia without any added scent. You can vary the ratio somewhat but the 1(ammonia):10 (water) works for me. I've seen ratios as low as 1:4, but i don't know if some plants are more delicate than others. The ammonia breaks down and adds N as well.

    Mohican Well-Known Member

    Copper tape around the planter works as well. They will not cross the copper.


    ANC Well-Known Member

    If you are using mulch in hot summers, it is important to water the mulch too. It will retain water in the upper layers of soil far longer than bare soil, this is important for the soil organisms that are needed to keep the soil light and airy. Don't be scared to mulch thick, 2 inches of mulch can keep a lot of water down. Keep a salt shaker near your plants, if you see a snail just sprinkle some salt over it.

    I also hate perlite. It is a holdover peeve from when I still grew mushrooms. You only want to bite into so many pieces of that shit.
    There is very little you can do for your garden once things start going. Adding topdressings and mulching that down to rot under the mulch would be the route I take.
    It will lure worms up to feast and slowly percolate down to the bacteria and fungi in the soil.

    I also noticed some plants that look like they can do with some magnesium. Maybe do a foliar feed on the yellower looking plants. I also need to do some gardening today, my arms still feel like I won a regional jerk off competition after chopping all those vines yesterday.
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2017

    calliandra Well-Known Member

    Hey ANC, thanks for dropping by and sharing your ideas! :D

    Certainly it would help to water my garden, but I don't, not past the first 2-3 days to get plantlings established, a bit more often when starting from seed. Oh and I do water the plants in my coldframe (at the mo housing 2 eggplants) occasionally.
    But by and large my system has to cope with whatever weather it's dished out, and what you see on my pix is how they're dealing with that :mrgreen:
    And yes, I have thought it may help my returns if I did ;) But my aim is not immediate gain, but rather a gain in understanding and know-how with a minimum of intervention, allowing the soil ecosystem to unfold and delevop the desired characteristics (water retention being one of them).

    As for mulch, I'm all for it!
    At least as long as I haven't established the perennial ground covers I ideally would want to have.
    I've been sheet composting (12inch layers getting digested down to just a bit of residue within a few weeks) and mulching that soil for a few years now.

    The interesting (and also very shocking) thing I noted on my plot is that after a few years of mulching, my soil is still microbially poor.
    My current theory (which I do plan to ask Elaine Ingham about too!) is that the fresh organic matter that is introduced this way gets "eaten up" straight away, on the surface, improving the soil just a very little bit at a time.
    So I've noticed successional changes in the "weeds" that get growing, but still have the pests as the transition to true soil health continues, and am seeing (as far as my microscope skills at the mo allow) that essential elements of the soil food web are still missing (especially the fungi and predators).

    I like how you're kind of on the same path as I am - your suggestion to topdress under the mulch is aLOT like soilifying living matter as I have begun doing, and I totally agree it's a sound path to take towards increasing microbial populations and activity :)
    However, I am coming to the conclusion that if we want to turn around things quickly, a really good compost (which I have yet to see, per the criteria Ingham establishes) to innoculate those soils are the way to go.

    And eeeeewwwww at chewing on perlite!! lol
    Have fun in your body-building garden haha :bigjoint:

    ANC Well-Known Member

    That is likely because you don't use cover crops on those areas from time to time.
    The soil microbes can not exist in isolation from plants and the insects that thrive around them

    I read last night they hit some problems with their plans to populate Mars. There is a chemical in the soil that reacts with UV light from the sun to turn into chlorite and hypochlorite that pretty much sterilises the surface. SO we couldn't even introduce soil organisms.
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    calliandra Well-Known Member

    Regarding the slugs!
    I stumbled over nematodes that decimate their populations yesterday!
    Didn't know about this, apparently BASF is selling them, though I couldn't find this Nemaslug on the German-speaking market...
    The way I found out was someone sharing this youtube video on how to get our own slug-killing nematodes into our systems ourselves.
    LOL warning: it's gross!
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    ANC Well-Known Member

    I wonder why nature makes slugs and snails. Like what is their purpose?

    Try and work some biochar into your soil, it serves as a safe zone for microbes and spores to hide in when things are not going well.
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    calliandra Well-Known Member

    Yes and what is their function in the ecosystem!
    Still conundering about that one myself too ;)

    There's this thing about sickly plants sending out chemical signals that say "eat me, I'm subpar", or, "eat me, this is not the environment I can grow in well", actually attracting pests to them. So yeah slugs may be just a sanitation service when in a balanced healthy system.

    When however any element of a system takes over without counterpressure, it's a clear sign something's out of whack. As in, do I have an excess of slugs or do I just have a lack of hedgehogs/ducks/nematodes?/....
    To really solve the underlying issue, there are probably more than one factor involved that needs improvement. Often, we just do not know enough about the interrelations yet, so we need to go by our intuition to find solutions.

    Killing the foe is definitely the "wrong" approach in the long term, just like washing aphids off a plant does not really address the underlying cause. Instead, what the soil food web approach is giving weight to positive influencers instead and focussing on fortifying those to suppress the populations of undesired critters.
    But in the transition period, I find it's valid, just to reduce pressure and allow other, more beneficial creatures to take over.

    So that said, I looked into the nematode used in Nemaslug. It's actually a bacterial feeder, Phasmarhabditis hermaphrodita.
    Found a really nice writeup from Cornell about it too:

    Cheers! :bigjoint:
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    ANC Well-Known Member

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    calliandra Well-Known Member

    Haha love the site too, snail wranglers! :D

    Ah but yes, snails are different creatures, and as detrivores famed to also eat the eggs of the Spanish slug, have always been welcome in my garden.
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    Mohican Well-Known Member

    I like to let some pests survive in my garden to train the predators to eat them! I wish there was a predator for budworms.
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    calliandra Well-Known Member

    I had to read up on them --- so is that why you're building that enormous cage thing?! To keep the moths out? :D

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