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Sustainable Practices Part 2: Managing Soils

Discussion in 'Organic Lawn Care' started by Kiril, Feb 16, 2008.

  1. Kiril

    Kiril LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 18,308

    This section of the sustainable practices series of threads will be to discuss management of soils, mitigation of damaged soils, and general information that would be useful for anyone working with soils.

    I think we have three sub-topics for discussion here.

    1) General - General issues pertaining to management, mitigation and whatever doesn't fit in the following categories.
    2) Mineral - Issues & information pertaining to the mineral/inorganic fraction of soils
    3) Biological - Issues & information pertaining to the biological/organic fraction of soils

    It would be helpful when posting if you can remember to note one of these areas in the "title" field of the advanced posting form, and perhaps a specific key word. For example biological, compost teas or mineral, clays or general, testing. This is not required, but will help when doing searches on the content.

    I will start by providing a list of resources that may be of use. This is by no means a complete list of resources. I'll start with some general information links, and if time permits, links to more specific topics. The naming convention is as follows.

    Source Type_ Link To Homepage of Source : Link To File or Page

    Source Types Include:

    GI_ = General information
    JA_ = Journal article/publication
    PUB_ = Publications that are not related with a journal
    PUBS_ = List of links to publications (may or may not be related with a journal)

    I only post links to information that I believe are credible, unbiased sources. If someone has reason to believe a source is not credible, or is presenting biased information, point it out and please include an explanation why.

    Soil General Knowledge and Information

    GI_ USDA-NRCS : Natural Resources Conservation Service Soils Website

    GI_ USDA-NRCS : Web Soil Survey

    PUB_ USDA-SARE : Building Soils for Better Crops, 2nd Edition

    PUBS_ NCAT-ATTRA : National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service: Soil & Compost Publications

    PUB_ USDA-NAL-AFSIC: Organic Gardening: A Guide to Resources

    PUBS_ UC-SAREP : Organic Farming Publications/Resources

    PUBS_ VCE : SERA_17 Referenced Publications

    GI_ CU-CALS : Cornell Soil Health Website

    PUB_ Holistic Agriculture Library : Factors Of Soil Formation. A System of Quantitative Pedology

    PUB_ OSU-EXT : Soil Test Interpretation Guide

    Thanks in advance to all who participate. :)


    He who asks is a fool for five minutes,
    but he who does not ask remains a fool forever.
    -Chinese Proverb

    The thought manifests as the word.
    The word manifests as the deed.
    The deed develops into habit.
    And the habit hardens into character.
    So watch the thought and its ways with care.
    And let it spring from love, born out of concern for all beings.
  2. Kiril

    Kiril LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 18,308

    Thought it might be appropriate to replicate some of the information discussed in part 1.

    Soil Taxonomy: Soil are made up of 12 primary orders.

    The Twelve Orders of Soil Taxonomy (high res pdf of the below image)


    The University of Idaho also has an excellent site on The Twelve Soil Orders which includes some nice pictures.

    The USDA soil texture triangle (soil textural classification):


    For those of you that are interested in learning some of the basics, the following is an excellent site for all age groups.

    Soil Characterization Protocols

    To determine soil characteristics in the field, you can use this guide (also from the above site). Go to the site to get high resolution images of the guide.

    Soil Characterization Field Guide


  3. Kiril

    Kiril LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 18,308

    I'd like to open up discussion on quick methods of visually assessing a sites soil status.

    A couple of key things I look for on residential and commercial properties.

    1) Weed pressure (entire site)
    2) Mower ruts and shortcuts (lawn)
    3) Tree surface rooting (entire site)
    4) Plant indicators (biotic/abiotic) (entire site)
    5) Hardscape (entire site)
    6) Surrounding conditions (eg. city/rural, proximity to streets/street activity, etc...)

    Does anyone what to add to the list and/or expand the above?
  4. Newby08

    Newby08 LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 277

    can I ask you what these signs tell you? what they are indicating?
  5. phasthound

    phasthound LawnSite Platinum Member
    Posts: 4,583

    Weed pressure can tell you about soil compaction and nutrient deficiencies. There are books available with this info, can't think of their titles at the moment.
  6. Kiril

    Kiril LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 18,308

    List expanded with some possible problems for each.

    1) Weed pressure (entire site)
    a) nutrients
    b) compaction (physical/chemical)
    c) drainage/water status
    d) poor cultural practices
    e) historic conditions (weed seed bank)​

    2) Mower ruts and shortcuts (lawn)
    a) drainage and variable water status
    b) compaction (physical)
    c) possible anoxic conditions
    d) poor cultural practices
    e) poor design​

    3) Tree surface rooting (entire site)
    a) drainage and/or insufficient water infiltration
    b) compaction (physical/chemical)
    c) poor design​

    4) Plant indicators (biotic/abiotic) (entire site)
    a) nutrients
    b) compaction (physical/chemical)
    c) water status
    d) pest problems (loss of natural checks or due in part to items a-c)​

    5) Hardscape (entire site)
    a) drainage/water status
    b) nutrients
    c) compaction (physical)​

    6) Surrounding conditions (eg. city/rural, proximity to streets/street activity, etc...)
    a) pollution/chemical inputs
    b) drainage/water status
    c) nutrients​
  7. Newby08

    Newby08 LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 277

    great, I appreciate it.
  8. dtally

    dtally LawnSite Member
    Male, from Rock Hill, SC
    Posts: 82

    Somewhere I read you could tell the soil condition (to much nitrogen, to little, ect) but the weeds that were growing. I just don't remember what it said or where I read it. Any thoughts on this?
  9. Kiril

    Kiril LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 18,308

    While some weeds do require specific growing conditions (like any other plant), many weeds are generalists. Basically use your weeds to help you diagnose potential problems in order to determine what further testing may be required. The important thing to remember is to use weeds to form a general idea, not as an absolute indicator. For example, clover is known to thrive in nitrogen deficient soils, however if you see it, do not jump to the conclusion that you need to apply nitrogen.

    Your best resource is knowledge through observation and testing. Next would be identify the weed then get information regarding life cycles and growth requirements.

    Here are some resources for more information.

    PUB_ IAState: Spatial weed distribution: Can it be used to improve weed management

    GI_ Beyond Pesticides: Read Your “Weeds” – A Simple Guide To Creating A Healthy Lawn

    PUB_ EAP: Weeds as Indicators Of Soil Conditions

    PUBS_ ACRES: Weed Control

    Google Book Search: subject:"Weeds; Control."
  10. dtally

    dtally LawnSite Member
    Male, from Rock Hill, SC
    Posts: 82

    Where do you people store all this information? Thanks.

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