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Beginner needs help: Soil preparation

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Shakti starts with ...
We want to plant a peach, apricot, mango and orange tree in our backyard in Perth (Beechboro near Swan Valley/Midland). We have typical sandy, low nutrient soil. I read so many different nutrients etc that one should put in the soil that it is becoming a little discouraging. Can anyone advise on a few basic guidelines/requirements to bring back my enthusiasm?
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Shakti
Perth
16th May 2011 11:54pm
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Jim says...
There is an ongoing discussion in this thread that may be helpful

https://www.daleysfruit.com.au/forum/gardening-in-perth-sands/
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electra
Fremantle
17th May 2011 12:59am
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snottiegobble says...
Shakti, I underestimated how bad these soils really are & lost both a young nectarine & peach this last summer. You need to literally change the top 30 cms of sand to a loam by adding compost,manure,potting mix & bentonite so buying in bulk is recommended.
See if you can locate a cafe/ restaurant that will give you their coffee grounds as well & a greengrocer who will part with greens scraps.
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snottiegobble
Bunbury/Busso (smackin the middle)
18th May 2011 12:25am
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ringelstrumpf says...
I would start collecting all but all organic matter you can get hold of. Grass clippings from your neighbours or a lawn mowing company tree trimmings, everything.
Even big logs and all woody material.
Sepp Holzer has some funny ideas on building the soil. He calls his method Huegelkutur
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ringelstrumpf1
Blue Mountains
18th May 2011 10:44pm
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amanda says...
Sawdust is also very helpful for building sandy soils Shakti. It will give your sand much needed carbon also - in a size particle that will breakdown more readily. Just make sure you add a nitrogen source too - so you don't get nitrogen draw down.

Like SG mentioned - manure (lots), a good straw like lupin, lucern or pea straw (or sugar cane mulch), clay. And if u can afford it - sawdust, loam (buy in) and a heap of rooster booster too.

Compost will really help with building the soil biology needed to turn all of this stuff into non-water repellant loam....start a worm farm too - and keep throwing them in the soil once it's up and running too...they will survive as long as there is food and moisture, and they do a great job of binding all of the ingredients together to help make loam and a good 'crumb structure'.

It is a pain building sandy soils - but if you prepare the soil well now, it will really pay off down the track for your plants and your water bill :)

(unless u like weeding - be careful of some things you source too - some manures are just not worth the hassle :)
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amanda19
Geraldton, Mid West WA
20th May 2011 9:39am
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VLR says...
Speaking of sawdust there are rabbit breeders in Perth willing to give large bags away of used bedding for free so you can have rabbit manure with pine shavings/sawdust if you're able to pick it up yourself. I've done this myself and it breaks down really quickly.
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VLR
Perth
20th May 2011 11:26am
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Charles cant spell says...
Nice tip VLR most of my acquaintances with rabbits have them for the manure production more than the meat so they are no good to me.

I personally feel the number one soil amendment is clay, however you can get it in there. Sodium bentonite in bulk maybe 5% by weight or volume thoroughly mixed, and only then then start adding organic mater and trace elements, and zeolite etc. Until this old sandy soil has the glue and wetting agent affect of the clay the other soil amendments are rapidly flushed away with watering.
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Charlesstillcantspell1
Perth Innaloo
20th May 2011 12:33pm
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snottiegobble says...
Just think Shakti, once youve done all these things recommended you may have lovely workable tilth for years to come!
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snottiegobble
Bunbury/Busso (smackin the middle)
20th May 2011 1:17pm
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amanda says...
Too true CCS - my organics seem to jsut 'vanish' without clay. Someone explained it to me in another thread once (Speedy maybe?) I will have a look later and see if I can find it.
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amanda19
Geraldton, Mid West WA
20th May 2011 2:44pm
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haakon says...
A simple method is simply to buy a few cubic metres of good soil. I bought 4m3 of half mushroom compost, half 'vege mix' from a bulk supplier and it was delivered in my front yard the next day.
Building soils up is satisfying work but if want immediate results...
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fremantle
20th May 2011 2:54pm
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amanda says...
LOL!! So true haakon.. :) I would certainly do this first if the budget allows...and especially that nice red loam too...

How much did the 4cum cost you, out of interest? Are u happy with it..?
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amanda19
Geraldton, Mid West WA
20th May 2011 10:05pm
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robin girl wonder says...
I have been establishing a garden on bare sandy soil for a year now. I am a total "feed the soil" geek and am constantly adding stuff to the soil. Before planting anything, I put on bentonite kitty litter to just cover the surface, plus a thick layer of rotted sheep poo and and a handful of blood and bone with sulfate of potash. I dig it in well. Once planted, I water in with seasol. Then every couple of weeks I fling around some more composted sheep poo and hose on seasol. In spring I mulch with a mix of chook poo and sugar cane mulch, covered with coarse wood mulch. In only a year I still have a sandy soil, but it seems to retain moisture and is HEAVING with earthworms :-). I'm a total amateur but love gardening and it seems to be working - plants are looking happy!
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robin girl wonder
kewdale wa
14th August 2011 2:36pm
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Wazza McG says...
Hi Robin,
I have been reading and reading about soil for years and a fellow "Soil Geek" as you put it. I absolutey agree with what you have done. You can probably back off with some of the other stuff now that you are established and just use a good cover of suagr can mulch and let the worms do the bulk of the extras.

It's your cash though - anything organic will be good of course.

I saw a step change in garden health with a reasonable layer of Sugar Cane Mulch - like you, it was possible to lift back a bit of the mulch and see the earthworms going to town with their young ones near buy.

I read a book called "Caring for Soil" by Alec Bulford. May I suggest that when you us ethe Blood & Bone - do so with Gypsum & Epsom Salts at a ratio of 4:2:1 >>> B&B : Gyp : Epsom Salt.

Good luck and well done. Happy Geeking.
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wazzamcg
Brisbane
14th August 2011 7:23pm
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Wazzbat says...
Hi Robin and Wazza.

Thats's pretty much what I have been doing too. Only, I just use sheep poop and sugar cane mulch. I have slowly been adding worms from my worm farm as well because they are multiplying fast and we can't keep up with the food scraps. The worms seem to love the mulch?

It takes time to build up good soil this way, but I think it is worth it in the long run and the results are starting to show already after about 1 1/5 years.
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Wazzbat
Vic Park WA
14th August 2011 9:59pm
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Original Post was last edited: 15th August 2011 6:15pm
amanda says...
Hi robin G.W... just wait a couple more years (and some good rain) and that wood chip will start breaking down into very yummy plant food! :)

It's taken mine about 3yrs (bit drier up here) but it's looking great now..loads of worms and the soil going nice and dark...I put down a loose layer of straw (makes weeds tho) with some aged mixed manure on this, then woodchip (for the natiave/general garden beds)

When you start to see fungal mycelia (and even mushrooms..) then you are going well - as certain fungi feed on wood and this helps to make the nutrients available to the plants.

I even collected some fungi/mushrooms from the woodchip in the council gardens and innoculated mine with them :)

I am a geek too...and I try and find as much biomass, for free, that I can (as I have a large property) Yesterday I filled up the back of the truck with the wild blue lupins that are growing madly on the road reserves - and used them to mulch my trees. It's a nitrogen fixer, a weed (so legal) easy to collect and free.

(A little embarrassing on North west coastal Hwy - but what the heck..lol)
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amanda19
Geraldton. Mide West WA.
15th August 2011 9:25am
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Wazzbat says...
Hi Amanda.

I didn't know that fungi/mushrooms are a sign of good soil? I've had quite a few pop up in my garden this winter. Tried to find out if they were safe to eat but couldn't work it out, so I just left them alone.

I think I am a soil geek now too. When anyone asks me about gardening, the first thing I tell them is spend as much time and energy as possible getting your soil right and the rest should follow. And... get a worm farm happening.
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Wazzbat
Vic Park WA
15th August 2011 6:18pm
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amanda says...
Hi Wazzbat - you might like this link:
http://www.soilfoodweb.com.au/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=46&Itemid=54

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amanda19
Geraldton. Mide West WA.
15th August 2011 8:53pm
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amanda says...
PS Wazzbat - this one even better re: fungi and plants...(I just love Dr Chris Smith on the science segment with Fran Kelly on ABC radio...he's amazing!)

http://www.abc.net.au/rn/breakfast/stories/2011/3291704.htm

Love the reference to "stingy" fungi being given the boot by the plant roots...very clever stuff :)

(you need to download the audio - but it's right at the beginning and quite short...)
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amanda19
Geraldton. Mide West WA.
15th August 2011 9:10pm
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Original Post was last edited: 15th August 2011 9:11pm
Wazzbat says...
Cheers Amanda. Quite interesting???

My Fungi was growing close to my Nectarine tree so hopefully it wasn't "stingy".
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Wazzbat
Vic Park WA
15th August 2011 9:51pm
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amanda says...
As long as it's not growing on your tree Wazzbat - that's quite different... ;)

I find soil science really interesting myself (not just soil biology) it reminds me very much of the complex reactions going on inside an animal body, for eg. And let's face it - you feed the animal body crap and "processed foods" - it doesn't seem to do too well either...?
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amanda19
Geraldton. Mide West WA.
15th August 2011 11:30pm
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Julie says...
My feelings exactly amanda! I have always seen a link between the two.
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Julie
Roleystone WA
16th August 2011 7:07pm
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amanda says...
Also - be careful of sheep poo if u have water repellency issues. Sheep produce a problem manure for this - because of the way their digestive system works (or doesn't, as the case may be...)
It's worth alternating with cow, horse or pig poo anyway - as u will get more diversity of nutrients and physical properties.
A lot less weeds with cow n pig poo too :)

(just like u feed humans too, hey Julie? :D A diverse diet is the healthiest diet...)
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amanda19
Geraldton. Mide West WA.
16th August 2011 11:12pm
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Original Post was last edited: 16th August 2011 11:14pm
Wazzbat says...
Thanks for the sheep poo tip. Where can you buy pig poop from? Not sure if I've ever seen pig poop? I normally use cow poop in my worm farm but sheep poop in the garden. Might start using more cow poop in the gardens now.
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Wazzbat
Vic Park WA
17th August 2011 7:02am
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amanda says...
Don't know in Perth, Wazzbat. I get mine from a bulk landscape supplier - but our pig farm is closing down soon :-( I am gutted as it has been great for my sand here...

Bunnings have bags of a "mixed" manure, I think.
Nothing wrong with sheep poo and it might depend on your soil etc. Maybe just keep an eye on it. I know a lot of the sands in Perth are actually worse than mine here...

Even some of the woodchips can come from natives that are known to induce water repellency around them, as a competition method...

I am told that the problem has a lot to do with the bacterial/fungi ratio in our soils....and that ours are too biased towards the bacteria.
The Ag dept is working on a bacteria that will be able to break down the waxy residues (from organic matter) that cause water repellency - I wish they would hurry up! :D

This is why clay is so useful in Perth sands. You just can't beat it and it's worth seeking some out. I have clayed here (mainly orchard and veg beds) and it's been amazing.
In summer - when all else is dead outside my rabbit proof fence - it's still a little green inside (without any water from me) and the ground supports more grasses and useful weeds - rather than the general useless ones around here.

Adding carbon to your sands is also important - people tend to focus on manures and fert's - but these get gobbled up in sands. Bulky carbon (in the form of woodchip, sawdust etc) helps to give your soil more long term structure (I find anyway) - the elusive "crumb" structure - that can be so hard to achieve in sands.
Coco-peat/coir can be very useful here as it resists being broken down by the fertiliser salts and salts in general - so you may get more bang for your buck as it will last longer.

My thoughts are that this helps to "open up" the sands and allow water to percolate etc...otherwise they tend to collapse very easily - thereby aggravating the water repellancy.

Water repellent sands sure are a challenge though!

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amanda19
Geraldton. Mide West WA.
17th August 2011 9:39am
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CHERYL says...
I to have been putting copious amount of 'goodies',cow & sheep manure in bulk,plus 'pea hay'but thats only recntly into my 'clay soil,over the years to enrich it,but didn't realise until recently that I did not add enough 'carbon - manure' therefore my soil became heavy,and I noticed plants 'struggling'.Now my hubby is putting in lots of 'pine woodchip' so hopefully it 'loosens' the heaviness.What a great site to see people here in perth regards
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CHERYL 2
ARMADALE W.A
21st August 2011 8:41pm
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Rick says...
Cheryl,
Unless you are using composted pine woodchips, you will get severe nitrogen drawdown. Same with sawdust.
Those making such suggestions are actually causing more problems then they are solving.
In addition, the use of pine bark will lower the ph quite a bit.
Provided you have sodic soil, gypsum will help.
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Chris
Richmond, NSW
21st August 2011 9:31pm
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Wazzbat says...
I just bought a big bag of pinebark chips to mulch around my blueberries. I also bought some cow poop and chook pellets to feed my worms.

I thought about getting some pig poo mixed with lupin mulch but I might try that later on.

Also bought some kitty litter to try and help out my sandy soil? The guy at City Farmers said it should work well???
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Wazzbat
Vic Park WA
21st August 2011 10:26pm
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snottiegobble says...
Wazzbat, blueberries need acid soils so be careful which manures you apply & how much! Chook & sheep manure is usually alkaline so you need to be careful. Dont apply used mushroom compost for that reason also. You can offset the alkaline in manures though with coffee grounds. All cafes have coffee grounds & most of these venues dispose of it in the rubbish bins because they have no other way of getting rid of it. it is excellent for strawberries, carrots, potatoes, azalias, rhodies, daphne & of course blueberries so make arrangements with your local cafe to pick coffee grounds on a regular basis. I leave alternating buckets to fill up & as a thankyou I water, fertilise, & prune their alfresco pot plants when needed.
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snottiegobble
Bunbury/Busso (smackin the middle)
22nd August 2011 12:45am
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Wazzbat says...
Thanks for the tips Snottiegobble. I am aware of the acidity factor for the Blueberries though, hence the pinebark mulch. I bought the cow poo and chook pellets for my worms though - not the Blueberries :) We don't produce enough food scraps to feed them all at the moment and I want to get as many as I can (and as fat as I can) so I can spread them around the garden a bit.

I also read that worms like coffee grounds but now I'm a little bit confused because I didn't think they liked stuff that's too acidic, yet you reckon that they are good for Blueberries which like acidic stuff???

Also bought myself a pH kit so I can now test all my gardens and fix them up if need be ;)
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Wazzbat
Vic Park WA
22nd August 2011 7:02am
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Brad says...
Worms absolutely love coffee grounds.

I found spent coffee grounds are not very acidic if at all

Sounds like you're on top of things. Have you heard about biochar yet? (if not search this site or google. Some perthites swear by it)
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Brad2
G Hill,Perth
22nd August 2011 9:12am
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amanda says...
Rick - whenever wood chip, sawdust and such is added to the soil - then a nitrogen source must be added too...and the point is that you are not digging it into the soil. Sandy soils benefit more from careful layering and then allowing the worms, and time, to incorporate the layers.

Otherwise it needs to be composted.

I had a soggy bag of dynamic lifter sitting on the soil for some time and went to use it yesterday - and it was chocka full of worms! Wouldn't have thought they would live in pure fert like that - but they were loving it :)
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amanda19
Geraldton. Mide West WA.
22nd August 2011 1:14pm
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Mike says...
I use lots of wood chip as mulch and try to mix leaves and grass clippings to improve the N to C ratio.It will 'hoover' N from the soil in the short term and create an N deficiency in the plants unless N is supplied at the same time.If you dig it in it is hard to compensate for the N reduction and beetle larva decompposers may also interfer with tree roots.
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Cairns
22nd August 2011 6:12pm
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amanda says...
Brad - that's a good suggestion about the Biochar too...I have just started using some of mine and am really looking forward to seeing the results...so far the cape gooseberry bush looks ultra-happy :)

I am also going to start using more molasses (cheap from stock feed places) to add some instant microbial food...(I did dilute 3L and drenched veg bed that I was having problem with nematodes in - I am growing tom's in there now so it will be interesting to see how they go...)
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amanda19
Geraldton. Mide West WA.
22nd August 2011 6:37pm
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Wazza McG says...
Amanda

Re: soggy bag of dynamic lifter full of worms - I'm thinking a handful in my wormfarm? it's not going to hurt if they love is it? and should be an overall winner for the the worm wee - what do you think?

Everything I have read suggests Biochar is a good thing, but, it needs to compete price-wise with easily obtainable organics such as sugar cane mulch - it's not going to make your garden 2 times better if you already use organics. Biochar needs to be cheap to encourage people to put carbon back into the earth - well, that's my 2 cents worth ;-)
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wazzamcg
Brisbane
22nd August 2011 7:39pm
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Wazzbat says...
I haven't heard of Biochar. I will give it a google later. I'm keen to give anything a crack.
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Wazzbat
Vic Park WA
22nd August 2011 7:46pm
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Julie says...
Wazza, be wary of adding Dynamic Lifter to your worm farm in SUMMER. It may heat up too much. Now would be OK though.
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Julie
Roleystone WA
22nd August 2011 8:17pm
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amanda says...
Agree with Julie - I use chicken starter crumble in my worm farm - but not in summer - it "composts" and heats the farm up way too much.
But right now the D.L. (I use Rooster booster - exact same but cheaper) should be no prob's - and they would not have invaded the bag if they didn't like it...? :)

Also Wazza McG - you can make your own biochar very easily at no real cost.
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amanda19
Geraldton. Mide West WA.
22nd August 2011 8:42pm
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Wazzbat says...
Does crumble work better than pellets? I almost went for the crumble but thought it might turn into a soggy layer a bit quicker?
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Wazzbat
Vic Park WA
22nd August 2011 8:47pm
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amanda says...
Ummm...I feel a bit guilty saying this but the crumble has growth hormones in it...? (that's why u shouldn't give it to egg laying chooks...) No - no soggy mess - I mix a big handful into their medium. It's cheating - but it doesn't end up in your soil or food - so what the heck :D
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amanda19
Geraldton. Mide West WA.
22nd August 2011 9:17pm
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Daisyetta says...
You shouldn't feed chicken crumbles to layers because there is more protein than they need in it (the most expensive part of the food), so costs too much. That's why chicken crumbles cost more than layer pellets. It is also lower in calcium that the layers need to produce strong eggs. Excess calcium given to growing birds is likely to cause kidney damage as they need to excrete the surplus via the renal system.
Hormones? Way, way too expensive to add to feed for birds destined to become layers. Also no reason to do so.
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Daisyetta1
Wallacia, NSW
23rd August 2011 7:20am
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amanda says...
Well it says so on the label. :) You would think it would be way too expensive to give them to cows too...but they still do.
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amanda19
Geraldton. Mide West WA.
23rd August 2011 11:02am
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snottiegobble says...
You must have worms to compete with the giants in Gippsland Amanda ? :)
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snottiegobble
Bunbury/Busso (smackin the middle)
23rd August 2011 9:14pm
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amanda says...
lol - not quite SG :) They get shoved out of the cozy nest into the real world fairly regularly! Must say though - it's simply not true that compost worms won't survive in the garden - I picked up a soggy bit of seaweed in the middle of a 'nothing' area of dirt n weeds, yesterday, and it was crawling with big fat tiger worms underneath!
I always thought they only lived under the trees where all the 'goodies' are - but they are everywhere! All this rain really helps though :)
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amanda19
Geraldton. Mide West WA.
24th August 2011 9:30am
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CHERYL says...
'rick' yes I understand and have been hopefully doing the right thing, we added 'gypsum' and 'blood n bone plus' to hopefully compensate for 'nitrogen' I had some 'fresher' but now have some apx 1yr-18months,so should be better.
I also concur 're 'coffee' grounds' from what I've researched and read these appear to help so much, I tried locally to get some, but it was hard convincining 'coffee shops' ,but have found good source now, so into the garden they will be going ,very soon,along with 'pea hay',so if my garden struggles now, 'I give up'.lol
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CHERYL 2
ARMADALE W.A
24th August 2011 5:01pm
#UserID: 5697
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CHERYL 2 says...
Hi just updating in relation to last year, exactly.
We added the 'pine chips,coffee grounds, pea hay,and now we have lovely 'friable dark soil'.
My neighbour had a huge tree chopped down and now what was once a 'shady spot', has become a 'sun haven', and I lost apx 5 12yr old camellias as the fence they were near heates up tremendously, some are 'coping',but struggling and so I'm hopeing we can encourage these to better health with the better soil also.
I just can't 'give up', lol.
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CHERYL 2
 
24th August 2012 11:58am
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roborthudson says...
Hi Friends,
I tried all the tricks to make the soil more fertile. I used different chemical and everything. My friend suggested me Bioactive Cocopeat I mixed it with soil and I find it very helpful In the growth of the plant.
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roborthudson
Australia
18th January 2013 9:40pm
#UserID: 7571
Posts: 9
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gus says...
Does anyone have a favourite soil merchant in the metro area?
Any luck with soils ain't soils?
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gus
karrinyup
17th April 2013 2:27pm
#UserID: 3596
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Anonymous says...
For soil preparation, it takes so much time but, if we do it in right strategic way we will get quick result. Firstly one has to analyse the soil, then according to it's condition procedure are design and implementation takes place. Know here more about Gardening with less water but having a better yield - http://landscapeandgardenblog.wordpress.com/
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88
Australia
10th September 2013 7:09pm
#UserID: 8194
Posts: 3
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