Soil composition
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Soil composition

August 26, 2019

So all of our potting mixes are made using various materials, It’s more a
traditional material method. We don’t use commercial mixes generally speaking. We’re mixing our own
to spec according to the plants that we are planting, so this is shale that we harvest from basically from down
along the driveway from cliffs that erode every winter time from the freeze-thaw process so we have
basically an inexhaustible supply this stuff, the shale and we put it into greater or lesser degrees depending on the plant. For a lot of our plants that grow in shale barrens, we’ll actually use quite a lot of this if not even almost straight shale. So we use that and then this is pine bark and pine bark
is a byproduct of the lumber and papering industry
in the Carolinas and also in Canada and
Michigan you know. It’s a traditional medium
for growing a lot of things in. So this is leaf humus. There’s a couple
places here on the property… they were old saw mills from back in the 30’s or
something like that and basically huge piles of the refuse from the sawmill were built
up and over almost a hundred years have
degraded into this very, very rich material which we basically go out to
the old you know, the sawmill’s long gone in ruin and disappeared but the piles were left behind and you can basically harvest this stuff, you know till the cows come home and it’s really,
really a good, rich, additive organic additive.
You also have peat although some you can also just use
this straight. Now peat is kind of controversial to some
extent because it’s it’s sustainability in some cases depending on where it comes from is in question. A lot of nurseries are switching to coir which is a coconut product, byproduct. We may do that too at some point but at the moment we still use, we do use peat
still for certain plants. So here’s some charcoal. That’s another thing that we
will frequently add. We actually make charcoal here and will crush it and add it to the mix as an organic carbon. Rice hulls make a really good amendment too. They’re very light and fluffy and can add a lot of drainage to the soil without
adding weight and some people think they actually
produce better root growth. Perlite is the traditional potting
medium and this is a mined material. Both of these products are used to
improve the drainage of the soil mix and I’ll use one or the other in different measures. Perlite I’ll use more in things that really need a
coarse drainage. Over a long period time plants are going to
sit around the nursery for probably few years. Because rice hulls
after about two or three years their porosity actually disappears so they’re great initially and they’re great
for using in fast turnaround plants but
the porosity actually become… they become wet. They
begin to rot and they flatten and the porosity goes way down. So compost is a major component of our planting mixes also and sometimes we use that
woods humus that we were talking about…that I showed you earlier but in the majority of
cases we use this homemade leaf compost. So what this is is actually a mix of leaves and pine
needles interspersed with wood ashes and
some other organic ammendments as well as green material free of seeds and pests go into this. All these leaves are collected from
the property so a lot of nurseries will shelter
their plants under plastic for the winter time. I
shelter my plants under pine needles and leaves. So basically you bury the pots all winter long under that. And that’s a lot of
leaves and a lot of pine needles, so in the spring, when I gather this stuff up, I have a huge, huge pile of
leaves and pine needles. Put them in here, compost them down and then that goes into the soil mixes and again because the leaves have come here from here, I know they’re free of weed seeds. The composting process usually destroys
everything else and you get really good the material and also since we’re here, you can see also, this is a pine bark in its raw
form before it’s processed and getting good bark quality bark is actually kind of a problem.
So this material could be passed through a wood chipper to make it finer and that’s where that material comes from. Some invasive plants can actually change the chemistry of the soil. That goes for a lot of non-native trees
also and even native ones at least to some
extent. So a lot of people are familiar with black walnuts and how black walnut leaves and roots and things are toxic to certain kinds of plants.
Well Norway maple leaves are similar. So you wouldn’t want to have your compost
be full of black walnut or Norway maple leaves necessarily
because those components actually take a really long time to biodegrade So, if you actually get municipal source of your
leaves for compost, it could have particularly Norway maple, which is a popular urban street tree and that does not make
great compost.

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