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Soil Structure

Discussion in 'Organic Lawn Care' started by Smallaxe, Mar 23, 2011.

  1. Kiril

    Kiril LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 18,334

    I put that up there to define pedogenesis (per Hans Jenny's state equation) and the factors that drive it. Yes it does take a very long time to form a soil ..... but that is from parent material. In the systems we work with we typically aren't dealing with parent material but rather disturbed or mismanaged soils that are already developed. The factors I mentioned are an example of some we can directly manipulate to our advantage to help rebuild a soil and/or improve it's ability to naturally support plant growth.
  2. ICT Bill

    ICT Bill LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,115

    I do believe "soil formation" the erosion of mountains or displacement of oceans over time is quite different than growing turf, shrubs, annuals or trees in an urban.suburban/Ag environment

    you can apply compost as a top dress and effect change in the top 6 or 10 inches easily in one/two years, spray compost teas and provide nutrient teas and it will happen even faster

    we are not talking about a 10,000 year glacial event
  3. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,082

    I believe your right... Our local construction site take a mountain of mineral sand, and a mountain of mineral clay, and a mountain of compost and sells 3 levels of topsoil, for lawns and gardens...

    The OP was about how we enhance that stuff... but what I'm seeing on this site we are not about organics, and giving advice about getting the compost into the soil with proper cultural practices... or accomplish any other cultural practice...

    We have developed a "Program" that is just as "rigid" and "one size fits all", as TGCL has now... All with a quaint little cliche, "builds soil structure"...

    Well, I tried... :)
  4. Kiril

    Kiril LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 18,334

    I'm not following you Axe? This issue has been addressed by myself and others on numerous occasions. If you aren't tilling it in, the best way to get organic matter into the profile (for turf) is to core aerate and top dress with compost. From there, let the water and soil organisms do the rest.
  5. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,082

    OK... now that's clear...
    What we have from this thread so far is:

    The only time compost will be helpful is when you can get it into the soil profile, by mechanical means... Compost doesn't not help reduce real thatch, but may actually contribute to it...
  6. Kiril

    Kiril LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 18,334

    I don't agree. As I already said, if you have a significant layer of thatch, you need to address it. This is an issue of turf health, not about getting organic matter into the soil profile. Top dressing compost will help breakdown thatch as it will help keep moisture and temperature at levels that are more conducive to faster decomposition as well as introduce more microbes into the system.

    The issue here is time with respect to turf health. Do you have the time to naturally breakdown the thatch layer by top dressing and/or using a simple sugar like molasses in combination with fixing whatever cultural problems that are contributing to the problem, or should you mechanically remove it now? This is a judgment call only you can make on a site by site basis. Will a compost application help build the soil if there is thatch layer .... yes. Is it going to magically make a significant thatch problem go away overnight .... no
  7. starry night

    starry night LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,186

    Hey Smallaxe. I can't recall that you posted much during the winter......now all of a sudden you are everywhere (ubiquitous, even). Did you just come out of hibernation? :)
  8. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,082

    This was one thing we agreed upon earlier in this discussion, when you said:

    "A significant thatch layer is a real problem and as it grows in thickness, it will likely result in more roots in the thatch layer than in the soil. " (In response to compost possibly causing roots to grow at the surface rather than below)

    So in this case we would be adding to the 'real thatch" problem by using compost without aeration... what with 'real thatch" being the layer of living and dead, roots and stems covering the actual soil, and all....

    I'm not looking for a 'magical solution' , just a real world strategy in correcting 'real thatch' and building soil structure and fertility...

    My theory with 'real thatch'... impervious 'real thatch'...
    Using sugar/molasses to speed digestion of dead material. Dry lawn thoroughly, each time b4 allowing irrigation. This would open pores even in the real thatch that would allow water carrying OM particulates deeper into the soil...

    Now without sidestepping the issue, with "too many factors", can you say whether "in general", this is a wise strategy, or not???
  9. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,082

    Yeah, hibernation... This was a rough winter and it continues... I know it is hard for anyone to believe, but it actually got me into a 'bad mood' for a while... :)
  10. Kiril

    Kiril LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 18,334

    Axe .... you are trying to combine two entirely different management issues into one. The first issue is thatch. Assess your turfs thatch layer (if it exists) and determine if it is a problem. If it is, identify the potential factors that are leading to it, and change those factors. If the thatch is significant, you need to address the thatch now, not later. This is why I said top dressing compost on a significant layer of thatch doesn't really do any good, because it doesn't address the issue in a timely fashion.

    The other issue is improving your soil using compost. This is an entirely different issue and should be treated as such.

    I wouldn't hesitate to top dress compost on a turf that has a shallow thatch layer. In fact, having some thatch is beneficial with respect to water management. Now if you have a significant thatch layer, applying compost on that isn't going to deal with the thatch problem now .... which is what needs to take place. That said, it will still be beneficial towards both reducing your thatch and building your soil.

    Your real world solution is if you have a significant thatch layer, mechanically remove it, and change your cultural practices to keep that thatch under control.

    How do you do this outside of changing the obvious factors that lead to it? Top dressing compost is one way to manage your thatch layer. Applying molasses or any simple sugar or CT is another. Your goal is to keep your thatch decomposition rates just below the rate it is accumulating at.

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