What Chemical Can I Spray To Make Loamy Soil?
Non-loamy soil with mixed amendments prior to planting.
Sometimes I get asked questions that boggle the mind. This was one of them. I mean, seriously?
And I shouldn't take that mindset. After all, we have a big box industry devoted to convincing us and our neighbors that all the solutions we need are "in the bag." Which seems easy (which we tend to like) and saves us from paying for expert advice or doing research (which we also tend to like).
It is time to fight harder against this trend.
We are currently in danger of losing our best means of pollination--the insects that do that work for us. It's happening because we are drenching our crop seeds, our crops, our lawns and shrubs and trees with long-acting chemical pesticides and weed killers. It happens because in our hubris or ignorance, we assume that if we mix a "safe" chemical at double the strength, it'll work twice as well. (Some) farmers planting Round-Up resistant crops
strike that -- DO apply the weed killer in stronger doses because they know the crop itself is "immune" to the poison.
Deviation from topic: Round Up
Highly Lethal Impacts on Amphibians [This just makes me sad.]
Glyphosate Formulations Cause Apoptosis in Human Cells [In other words, it kills them.]
Inert Ingredients of Round Up Are Not Inert [They hang around and have an impact.]
Glyphosate Linked to Increased Rates of Cancer, Miscarriage and Attention Deficit Disorder [!!! What more do we need to say?]
Pesticides: These target insects. Most pollinators are insects. We don't really need to go over that one, do we? But just in case, imagine having to pollinate the plant for every plant product you eat--watermelon, corn, tomatoes, spinach...by hand. They are already doing this in China, with some species of plants.
These two categories of poison -- pesticides and herbicides -- are applied so liberally by so many people that evidently we've got whole groups of people who believe that "spraying" is the answer to good dirt and happy crops. I'm not kidding. Somebody really asked me that question in the title of this post!
So. Let's look at that question and what the poor guy was really asking. Because, obviously, you can't just spray something on your dirt and watch it magically become loamy soil.
Back in 2010, I talked about the manner in which I was
here in WNC. Let's start with a paragraph from that post:
Of the four parts of soil, the mineral portion is nearly half of the volume--about 45%. Normally, water makes up 20-30%, organic material makes up less than 5% and the rest of the soil body is "air." Gardeners really can't do much about the mineral portion of their soil. So we spend our time working on the last three portions in an attempt to create fluffy dirt.
With most builder-lot soil, most of the good stuff has been scraped off the top [
see first photo!
], leaving the incoming homeowner with whatever the native subsoil is. In a natural system, leaf debris, fallen branches and other "recycled" organic material is contributed towards new soil by the plants currently living in the soil. These organic materials are then fed upon by soil insects and microbes, who further break down the materials and secrete them as insect and microbe poo. The movement of these insects, microbes (and earthworms) carry these nutrients into the subsoil, making the nutrients available to the plants that first contributed the organic materials. As this cycle continues, the system benefits from deeper and richer "deposits" of -- fluffy dirt. These broken down parts of organic matter become the magic ingredients of the essential 5% of soil that is not air, water or mineral content.
Dirt much closer to "loamy" -- third year.
So if you have lousy dirt, how do you get this process going, or how can you accelerate it?
For landscape planting (as opposed to vegetable planting), start with mulch. This a) provides organic materials for the bugs to work with and b) moderates soil moisture and temperature, making it easier for the bugs and microbes to do their thing. Further accelerate this process by using newspapers or cardboard under the mulch for an extra layer of shelter/nutrition. Want to go even further? Spread some dry oatmeal or grass clippings under the newspaper/cardboard layer as extra carbs for your workers! Do NOT spray with Round Up. You'll kill all your helpers!
The "loamier soil" photo at right was taken during the planting of bush honeysuckle in the third year after establishing cardboard, heavy mulch and shrub/perennial plantings with amendments to the planting holes. This photo does not show amendments--if you look at the side wall of the hole, you can see that it clearly does NOT resemble the wall of the planting hole in the first image, which was taken in the same year. The first image shows soil that was in a "grassy" area, without the benefit of mulch or other surface cover (logs, plants). Both the mulch and the plants themselves have provided cover and chow for the insects, worms and microbes that help you build loamy soil. Birds searching for those creepy-crawlies have contributed some fertilizer and surface aeration.
We have not tilled. We have not blanketed the property with 10-10-10. We have merely facilitated Mother Nature. She has far more stamina than we do! And yes, it was red clay. It is STILL clay, it's just greatly improved clay soil.
As you begin transforming your own poor soil, you will need to amend the soil for whatever you are planting, because the success of those plants will contribute to better soil all around them. Their roots will penetrate the former brick-like clay, their branches will contribute dead leaves and cover for the other working members of the ecosystem. Areas you wish to plant in the future? Cover it up with organic material until you're ready to tackle that new bed. Every month you leave it alone is a month the bugs will work it for you. Free of charge.
Resources and Further Reading: