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Smallaxe
01-23-2013, 06:55 AM
An interesting idea has come up in another thread, that I would imagine many who are looking at 2 more months of desolate frozen tundra, might get into...

There seems to be a great reluctance for people to look at their soils and determine texture, structure and even moisture... All these things are better observed and felt,,, on site by a real human being,,, so I believe that indoor pots/protected soils could give us great visuals as to what makes up a soil... Good, bad, or ugly...

All Season long there are questions popping up about fungal diseases, fertilizers, weed infestations and problems with seeding... One possible answer that is actually the most likely answer, never gets explored, and that is:
the condition of the soil...

Riggle, had the idea of an experiment with pots... I hope he follows through...
but I'm thinking,,, Once people are familiar with soil and how it should be,,, even how it could be,,, then the discussion about Turf problems can take on a "Whole Plant Worldview"... Right now the conversations deal ONLY with the grass leaves and even aeration plugs are too mysterious to comment on...

I think a collection of pix, highlighting interesting features of soil would be most informative... If you notice something interesting in soil,,, post it here... :)

Smallaxe
02-04-2013, 09:05 AM
I have a potted of soil profile down to rock at the bottom of a gallon pickle jar... I was hoping to observe the soil after it was placed into the jar and what happened as it dried... it is rich in compost,,, but otherwise regular soil from the garden...
I'm hoping to see new aggregation forming by watching through the glass...

At the top I have grass starting but germination is terrible... and I have yet to get a picture...

It seems there is always too much glare and diffused light turns out too dark for detail,, but I hope to have actual pictures by the time the roots are visible through the glass... :)

Smallaxe
02-07-2013, 04:30 PM
I got germination ,,, but I do not have the ability for close-ups through the glass... still working on that... this jar is sitting in my bay window and looks much fuller already... these pix are about 3 days old...
I'm going to try for the pix again... nothing seems to work anymore...

Smallaxe
02-07-2013, 04:38 PM
heres another try and at least 10 letters...

RigglePLC
02-08-2013, 11:10 AM
Good plan, Ax. For best photographs, try getting the light from the window behind you. Or shoot at night. Shooting through glass at roots and soil is tricky, I suspect. Try placing the camera on a tripod or couple books for support and use a short time exposure--flash may produce glare and reflections. Cover up the flash if necessary.

This could be interesting. Perhaps we can add water and shake up a jar of our local soil in a jar and let it settle. In theory, it should settle out in distinct layers, coarse particles, medium, fine and eventually tiny colloidal clay particles. What is the percent of each in your town? Naturally it probably varies.
At present...I have a bit of a snow situation. And glass jars are getting hard to find.

Most of my weed experiments are growing in purchased potting soil. I am raising tomato plants for a future weed control test, (4 inches tall). Suggestions? I only have 4 weed products to test at the moment. Various combinations could be tested. Or perhaps humidity effects.

Skipster
02-08-2013, 02:14 PM
Why are you using clear glass jars? Are you covering the glass while not taking pictures? Are you trying to get pictures of the roots as they grow?

Remember that roots are extremely light-sensitive (even ambient UV light kills roots almost immediately), so plants won't grow well in clear or translucent containers.

Smallaxe
02-09-2013, 08:38 AM
Good plan, Ax. For best photographs, try getting the light from the window behind you. Or shoot at night. Shooting through glass at roots and soil is tricky, I suspect. Try placing the camera on a tripod or couple books for support and use a short time exposure--flash may produce glare and reflections. Cover up the flash if necessary.

This could be interesting. Perhaps we can add water and shake up a jar of our local soil in a jar and let it settle. In theory, it should settle out in distinct layers, coarse particles, medium, fine and eventually tiny colloidal clay particles. What is the percent of each in your town? Naturally it probably varies.
At present...I have a bit of a snow situation. And glass jars are getting hard to find.

Most of my weed experiments are growing in purchased potting soil. I am raising tomato plants for a future weed control test, (4 inches tall). Suggestions? I only have 4 weed products to test at the moment. Various combinations could be tested. Or perhaps humidity effects.


The shaking of soil in a jar full of water actually is a fundemental activity that every gardener, horticulturalist and even turf growers should do on a new site... this will show you with great clarity what the Texture of the soil is and give you a good idea of the amount of OM available...

When I was trying to shoot through the glass I have had the light behind me, in fairly dark and dispersed lighting situations , but it is either too dark or there is a glare... not bad , but just bad enough I can't get to see anything with the camera...

I'm actually trying to show soil aggregates as the soil dries...then note any changes when watered again... also noting changes as the roots move into the soil which is beginning now...

I'm mowing the top every couple of days now with a scissors... :)

Good luck with the tomatoes and thanks for the ideas that involve winter activity...
Speaking of which,,, there was an optimist on the weather report last nite that said , after this morning we are likely to be above zero(0) degrees F. for the remainder of the season...

Smallaxe
02-09-2013, 08:47 AM
Why are you using clear glass jars? Are you covering the glass while not taking pictures? Are you trying to get pictures of the roots as they grow?

Remember that roots are extremely light-sensitive (even ambient UV light kills roots almost immediately), so plants won't grow well in clear or translucent containers.

I'm actually monitoring Soil Structure Aggregates as the soil dries and get rewatered over a period of time... the grass seed was an after thought...

I haven't had much problem with roots in glass jars over the years, even when starting cuttings in glasses of water sitting in the window... glass(and water) does filter UV quite effectively, so maybe that's why it's OK...

In fact I got a very interestting bulb that was grown in a jar full of water, from the nursery,,, and roots are visible all the way to the bottom... I would think that the roots would drown and rot, but I was wrong... I'll have to include that in my next photo shoot... :)

RigglePLC
02-10-2013, 03:04 PM
So...Most of our soil is under deep snow and frozen, but I found some soil at a construction site where a tree had been cut and the stump pushed out with a bulldozer. The soil was obtained from around the upturned roots. I estimated that the soil had originally been about 12 to 18 inches deep. The site was an old vacant lot that had been covered by grass (probably quackgrass) and not mowed for many years. The lot is adjacent to the new construction seeded last April 26th, and discussed with many pictures in the summer of 2012.
I added the soil to the jar, and the soil was lumpy, but clearly friable, aggregated, but not hard, easily shoveled into the jar with a hand trowel. After water was added and the jar shaken 100 times--it formed a muddy suspension. Difficult to photograph due to glare. Light from the side was best. After 24 hours (photo 2) there were about 2 inches of coarse material, and a half-inch of finer particles that settled out more slowly, about a 1/16th" layer of still finer particles There were some very fine particles still in suspension, and a thin layer of organic matter floating on top.

I am not a geologist, but I have been told this area was probably under water--perhaps under Lake Michigan, a few thousand years ago. My neighborhood is almost flat with a few hills about a mile to the east.

Smallaxe
02-11-2013, 08:21 AM
Just from a rough estimate of the photo, I'd say your texture is 75% sand and 25% clay,,, minus the % of silt sitting on the clay... That's really not a bad texture to work with, if OM was added to it and tilled in good, I would imagine the top 6-8" being an excellent loam as a result...
Your jar is quite similar to the types of pecentages we see in our jars, only all the clay around here is red...

I enjoy hearing ideas about the geology of the planet, especially the Glacial Midwest... Was your friend saying that L. Michigan was larger at some point after the flood and that you are living on soil that was part of lake bed at one time??? How deep is the water table in your flat areas???
I'm sitting on high ground with the well being around 100' deep,,, but the back 40, has a pond and swamps... We have lots of steep hills in this area, yet Centro Wisco has flatlands of sand, just above the water table that grows potatos like misquitos...

Smallaxe
02-11-2013, 08:22 AM
Congratulations on getting decent photos , BTW... :)

44DCNF
02-11-2013, 10:10 AM
Axe, are you in a scoured or driftless region?

Smallaxe
02-12-2013, 06:43 AM
We definately got rolled over by the glacier in this area, but we don't have to travel to far to see some of the rock formations that would indicate driftless...
I like to see a gravel pit or quarry in the 'driftless' areas to compare with profile we see in the pits around here... I imagine it would be the same layers as the walls along the Mississippi River, but I don't know... :)

Smallaxe
02-14-2013, 06:29 AM
I have a few pix on the progress of my jar... it hasn't had any water added to it since it was planted and the length of the roots extend below the dirt clump... I brushed the dirt away from the bottom of the 'plug' to show their size and density, but it isn't the greatest visibility...

Smallaxe
02-14-2013, 06:37 AM
I didn't have a small ruler handy so I just used the old butterknife for scale... it is also the one I used to cut out the plug... I was hoping to get some focus on the root ball, for a view of the structure, but not yet... it will take practice...
I'll be off on a roadtrip for a few weeks, so my jar will be left behind to be cared for along with the rest of the plants...

I think I'll just have it sit in the window and dry out until I get back...

Smallaxe
02-18-2013, 12:55 PM
Another indoor sport with pots,is an experiment with Pulverized Charcoal, various types of OM and regular blow sand(mortar sand),,, all mixed together as a potting mix...

One purpose being to observe and note water retention with drainage...

Another observation will be health and vigor of the entire plant... at some point I'll be cutting this peat pot in half, to see the roots, crowns and grass from a X-section or profile view...

Smallaxe
02-18-2013, 01:07 PM
****
The peat pot is sitting in the same mix for moisture to "wick in" from outside the peat as the interior dries...


*****

RigglePLC
02-22-2013, 11:18 AM
Here is the soil view from the area where my soil sample was taken before shoveling it into the jar and shaking it with water. It was snowing. Stumps pushed up by bulldozer in preparation for building a new house. It was an old vacant lot, not mowed for years. Not as woodsy as it appears. There is a new house 100 feet to the left and a 15 yr old house 100 feet to the right. Very sandy and flat in my neighborhood, perhaps 75 percent sand as you estimated, Axe. Water table is high--shallow wells can sometimes be only 12 feet deep. We have clay hills to the north of us in the fruit growing region.

Smallaxe
02-22-2013, 11:42 AM
It would be interesting to see what kind of OM is mixed in the top 4-6 inches of undisturbed dirt right around the base of those pines... looks like they've been there a while and unless the needle litter has been removed each year that could be an example of some dynamite soil... :)

Smallaxe
03-14-2013, 12:43 PM
Here we have the grass,,, one month later...

Still no signs of thinning,,, it's mowed on a regular basis,,, no fertilizers,,, soaked with water, then allowed to dry thoroughly and kept in as much sun as possible here in the window...

Smallaxe
03-16-2013, 02:21 PM
Here we see thinning which started shortly after I dug into the roots to have a look...

This continues to grow and be mowed as well... the main purpose of this experiment was to determine the formation of soil structure as the grass grew and the soil slowly dried out...
There was a bit of standing water among the rocks at the bottom of the jar and the soil is drying VERY slowly as one might expect in a jar...

This is plain old garden soil and seems to be becoming more granular all the time...
When the grass uses up all the water, once I get it outside, we should see a lot better structure than the mud I stuck in there... :)

Smallaxe
03-22-2013, 11:07 AM
This plug is still one solid mass of tiny roots...

Smallaxe
03-22-2013, 11:12 AM
This is what it still looks like after being 'mowed' to 1.5 inch height...

Smallaxe
03-23-2013, 12:15 PM
A Better Photo:

Smallaxe
04-02-2013, 11:25 AM
I took apart my glass jar to get a look at the soil structure in real life... it was put in as mud and allowed to sit without additional water(Except just before my trip South) until this past weekend...
The camera did not capture the structure at all but that long slow drying period left some excellently structured soil behind, from what started as anaerobic mud...
When we start with anaerobic mud and keep it wet, we'll always have anaerobic mud... here is a typical grass plant taken out of the glass pot when I shovelled out the top 6" of dirt to have a look...

The root itself is 3.5 inches long and it grew that deep just while the jar was drying out...
Germination began : on an earlier page... :)

Smallaxe
04-02-2013, 11:30 AM
Germination was recorded in the forum by 2-7-13 and by 3-29-13 it had grown a 3.5 inch root in a jar,,, through a window,,, in a Wisco winter...
imagine what could be done with a well managed turf outdoors,,, in the Spring... :)