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gardening in Perth sands

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Kath starts with ...
I went to a free Great Food Gardens workshop Thursday night-it was terrific & I learnt so much about gardening in our terrible sand. The speakers were excellent & like they pointed out, a lot of eastern states advice just won't work here. The link if anyone is interested in attending is http://www.greatgardens.info/main.php
I was wondering if anyone has used a product called Sand Remedy-link-
http://www.greenlifesoil.com.au/sandremedy.htm
-it is said to be a "once off" instead of the continuous money pit of wetting agents-it is not stocked at our local Bunnings-probably for this reason!! If anyone has tried it I'd love to hear what they thought. It retails at about $33 for 5 kgs which is said to cover 16 m2 which isn't cheap but if it is truly a once off it would be money well spent. Thanks heaps
Kathy from Karnup
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KathK
perth
1st March 2009 4:36pm
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Jimmy says...
I had the opposite reaction to their Belmont workshop, they just seemed to push products like sand remedy, buying mulch from their service, etc etc.

The chick down the road bought sand remedy and found that clay brought in from their relatives farm at Miling was just as good and cost zero.
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3rd March 2009 10:03am
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Kath says...
Thanks Jimmy, I'm wondering if the workshops we went to were run by the same people! They did recommend mulch but it was where you register for it for free & I didn't feel pushed at all ( & I'm normally pretty cynical about people pushing products) . I found the main presenter the opposite-he was into doing things on the cheap & recycling. They did have brochures on various things but you just chose which ones you wanted & a lot were ag. dept stuff or general water saving, worm farming etc-not a particular company. Yes, they did suggest Sand Remedy -who knows maybe they have shares in the company or maybe it actually works & does replace continually applying wetting agents.I don't have relatives with a farm with excess clay unfortunately!! Plus these days the fuel to collect it would buy enough of the other stuff to do me! cheers!
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KathK
perth
3rd March 2009 4:50pm
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Kath says...
Still hoping to hear from someone who has bought Sand Remedy-anybody out thee done so?

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KathK
perth
13th April 2009 12:26pm
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Jimmy says...
The hot plumbers wife down the road sill likes hers.

But normal heavy clay (5%) did just as good a job.
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13th April 2009 6:39pm
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Julie says...
Kath, I haven't bought Sand Remedy, but I have used Bentonite clay in my garden. I don't know now where it came from.

Have a stroll down the supermarket aisles and read some kitty litter labels. You will find most of them are bentonite and/or zeolite. They are pretty cheap.

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Roleystone WA
13th April 2009 7:51pm
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Kath says...
Thanks Julie-I bought some of that kitty litter yesterday-great tip as it was not too exy to get a large bag.
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KathK
perth
16th April 2009 4:54pm
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Itdepends says...
You can also get bentonite in 15 or 20kg bags for around $15 from livestock supply stores- it's used as a feed additive for cattle.
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Itdepends2
 
17th April 2009 7:06pm
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sarah says...
Hi,

I'm trying to give away 1 cubic meter of "gutter mulch" every wednesday for the rest of the year. Theres a local perth gutter cleaning business that vacuums the leaves out of the gutters and will deliver the mulch south of the river. (pics of mulch inc)

Do you know anyone that might want some? if so email iwantmulch@gmail.com
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sarah5
perth
30th April 2009 6:28pm
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Brad says...
After a couple poor harvests I just did a major adjustment to my Perth soil.

I found a blend of zeolite and spongelite in 10kg bags which were being offloaded at a large store cheaper than the 'new' 5kg bags. So I bought the last 2. I used Coles brand kitty litter as my cheap source of Bentonite clay - I'm not too sure how good it is - perhaps a finer powder is better than large granules???

I suspect this home-made recipe is very similar to Sand-Remedy and a quarter of the price.
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Brad2
Perth
13th May 2009 8:42pm
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Julie says...
Brad, I guess the zeolite etc is all gone now? Maybe they will stock it again, so what was the store?
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Roleystone WA
14th May 2009 2:14pm
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Kath says...
Julie try this place
http://www.gardenersdirect.com.au/commerce/search/index.php3?merchant_id=2135&keywords=&search_type=ANY&custom_store_category=35&by_category=+++GO%21++
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KathK
Karnup W.A.
14th May 2009 2:44pm
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Kath says...
Also Julie,the local stock feeds sell bentonite for $22 for 25kg bags-hope this is of use
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KathK
Karnup W.A.
14th May 2009 3:12pm
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amanda says...
Crickey - I got 20 tonnes of pure clay for just the cartage cost! (80 bucks)
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amanda19
geraldton WA
14th May 2009 9:50pm
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Julie says...
amanda, not a hope in hell of getting that in Perth! A landscape guy told me some time ago you can't buy loam any more. He may have been wrong, but he said you couldn't legally remove it and sell it.
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Roleystone WA
15th May 2009 4:48pm
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amanda says...
I approached our local brickworks for mine. Farmers are the best bet - but it's a lot of bother if you don't need much - I have 4 acres out of 30 that i have clayed - 30-40 tonnes all up! it's bloody hard work too!
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amanda19
geraldton WA
15th May 2009 5:37pm
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amanda says...
Had a thought about bulk clay - why not approach your landscape supplier to get it in (bulk) from a brickworks (as they have the permits to excavate it) It's always cheaper to buy something by the trailer load and if the mulch-dude doesn't think it will sell just refer him to this site! He would be a dill not see the need!
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amanda19
geraldton WA
16th May 2009 6:59pm
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Brad says...
Julie - sorry, I thought I'd get emails if someone replied, but I didn't realise they come monthly, so I only got it now

It was Bunnings Cannington, and they had it in 5kg bags.
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Brad2
Perth
1st June 2009 1:18pm
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Big Col says...
hi can some one tell me if its worth while plantins tomatoes chillis and pumpkin in my little side garden.The space its self faces due north but only gets about two hours of direct sunlight a day but gets plenty of residual light. I would like to fill the space up coz its just a waste other wise.The gardens size is approx 1500X3000 with the skinny side facing the sun. It has a fence running down one side hence while there's only limited sun.Any information is greatly appreciated cheers.
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Big Cols little farm
kwinana(the good part)
4th October 2010 11:03pm
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BJ says...
Big Col ... I'm forever amazed as to what will grown in Perth - especially if the soils are improved a bit (as per all the suggestions above). I've managed to grow tomato and pumpkin in an area that only gets about 2 hours of direct light per day. You might get lucky with a lot of leafy plants (kale, lettuce, beets etc) because Perth sun is quite fierce and gentle shade can be a good thing. Plus you may consider something more shade tollerant (pepino, rhubarb, herbs like mint or cardamom). Or you could fill it permenantly with a hedge of strawberry guava or grumichama.
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BJ11
WA
5th October 2010 10:36am
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Brad says...
Hi BC, lack of sunlight is probably more of an issue for tomatoes. they can grow in our soils, but beware nematodes if you keep planting those types of plant in the same spot.

No idea what the rest of your garden looks like, but maybe a banana patch could be made out of this spot?
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Brad2
Como, Perth
5th October 2010 7:16pm
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amanda says...
Big Col - what's the area like? eg - against a brick wall, brick paving etc? Will it get very hot with radiant heat?
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amanda19
Geraldton Mid West WA
5th October 2010 7:37pm
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Big Col says...
Thanks for the advice l&g the area in question has lattice down one side which is my car port and super six fence down the other will post a photo I like the idea about the pepino and agree the direct heat may be an issue so it may be ok will keep you posted
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12th October 2010 11:30am
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Mags says...
Can anyone tell me how much clay to add to my sandy soil? I'm about to ring up some brickworks, etc to get a delivery and want to calculate how much to get. I have a quarter acre block. Just rang a company who advertise selling clay but said they don't. Well D'uh!!
I'm guessing I need quite a bit, so any help would be appreciated, thanks. (but not as much as Amanda!!)
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Myjoe
Perth
3rd November 2010 1:58pm
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Jimmy says...
The problem is they sell it by the tonne and most gardeners work in cubic metres. Get the ratio from the seller. I reckon about 100mm over the soil ie 10 sqaure meters per cubic metre would be a good starting point.

1/4 acre is 1000m = 100 cubic metres of clay !
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Jimmy
Perth
3rd November 2010 2:17pm
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Original Post was last edited: 3rd November 2010 6:41pm
Mags says...
Jimmy
I have to read (and re-read)through your reply slowly, for I am not that blessed with an arithmetical brain; neither metric nor imperial :-) But many thanks for your help. Can you over-clay Perth's sandy soils? Will ring a few places to see what I can get.
Mags
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Myjoe
Perth
3rd November 2010 2:52pm
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Mags says...
Update re trying to get clay; is there a "bang head against brick wall" emoticon? Thank goodness Coles now deliver and I can bulk order kitty litter (as an aside, will that encourage more cats to poop in my garden?)
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Myjoe
Perth
3rd November 2010 3:11pm
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amanda says...
Hi Mags (and anyone with water repellant soils) These two links provide some interesting reading/background for WA sands. They are more directed to farmers - but helpful.

I used far too much woodchip in my garden and aggravated the problem! :-(

http://www.agric.wa.gov.au/PC_92461.html

http://www.agric.wa.gov.au/PC_92440.html
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amanda19
Geraldton Mid West WA
5th November 2010 7:26pm
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snottiegobble says...
I have just looked at our Coles kitty litter & it is "natural clay" so would that be bentonite? If so I will double Pussakins`( Nero`s) ration & use it already fertilised. BTW Nero gets to walk around the garden on a leash, spends his morning in a pen & the rest of the time indoors. He is quite happy & so are we because we have birds, lizards, & frogs & our cat doesnt annoy the neighbours!
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5th November 2010 8:30pm
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Mags says...
Thanks for the links, Amanda. Will read in-depth later. I too have copious amounts of woodchip (and am awaiting another delivery) as I was told this and sheep manure are the best! Oh well.
Snottiegobble - how I wish the cat owners round here were like that - up to 7 different cats using our garden as a toilet, etc :-(
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6th November 2010 10:41am
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snottiegobble says...
Yes Mags exactly! For some reason they think they have the right to let their cats wander into other peoples properties just because they climb & dogs dont.
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snottiegobble
Bunbury/Busso (smack in the middle)
6th November 2010 9:34pm
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amanda says...
We get quite a few cats deliberately dumped here...they then go feral. It is frustrating because we have made a conscious decision not to have cats on our block - nor do our neighbours have them. I have 3 ferals on the block at the moment and now I am lumped with the heartache of how to "get rid of them"...
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amanda19
Geraldton Mid West WA
6th November 2010 10:00pm
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amanda says...
Mags - in one of those links it mentions that sheep manure makes the soil more water repellant. I have found this to be true also. I just thought of it now - as I have been using pig manure recently and realised it doesn't do this at all - it's been great.

Only problem is it can be a bit smelly if not aged enough!
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amanda19
Geraldton Mid West WA
7th November 2010 5:03pm
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Mags says...
This is just so confusing, as I see people with healthy, productive gardens with rich soil and they swear by sheep (or chook, mushroom) manure! Haven't seen any pig manure advertised. Must keep a look out for it; or buy a pig?!!(Hey, it may even deter the cats! Speaking of which, I can't imagine letting my beloved dogs roam around, not knowing where they were or if they were upsetting neighbours, etc.)
Thanks for your advice again.
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Myjoe
 
8th November 2010 10:57am
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amanda says...
Hi Mags - I was just thinking that with the new water restrictions - that water repellance issues will likely get worse for many folk in the south-west?

It might be ok for your situation - it's a bit different for me here as my garden has no protection from the winds and is a very big garden (so I can't afford to be very generous with water) If you are adding clay - then this will solve may problems anyway.

It's just good to file away the info so that if you do have problems you can fix. :)
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amanda19
Geraldton Mid West WA
8th November 2010 11:25am
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Mags says...
Thanks Amanda
And I think I have it bad here in my little suburban garden!
Just bought two types of cat litter, so I shall see how that goes first.
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Myjoe
 
8th November 2010 12:28pm
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snottiegobble says...
Amanda, some shire & city councils have cat traps available on loan. (Well they do in Vic) Once you catch your feral cat you just ring up & someone comes to take it away & deal with it.

I am also finding that sheep manure repels water once its allowed to dry out.
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snottiegobble
Bunbury/Busso (smack in the middle)
8th November 2010 4:23pm
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amanda says...
Cool - thanks snottigobble - feral cats are so destructive :-( This water repellancy thing is a pain hey. I must have spent $100's on wetta soil - but the effect just doesn't last.

I have one veg bed I did in sheep poo and one in pig poo - that's when I noticed how different they were with water repellance.

The woodchip around my fruit trees has been a problem also. I might try composting it off a bit first next time.
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amanda19
Geraldton Mid West WA
8th November 2010 7:26pm
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Rahaidi says...
This has always worked for me. Add your layer of manure around your fruit trees then add on top of that a layer of good size pebbles. As I live along the coast I get good size limestone rocks and rubble that I simply put on top. Test it out it works. When you hose in the water does not run out/down but instead runs straight in. Lift the rocks and feel the soil and it will be actually be throughly wet. The rocks will be your mulch and protect the soil from being water repellent as the soil is protected by the wind and extreme temps here in Perth.

Simple methods are always the best and this is one of them. If you want to add more manure/compost down then simply take the rocks out temporarily and put them back in once your annual soil ammendments are done.
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Perth Western Australia
8th November 2010 7:47pm
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amanda says...
Hey thanks Rahaidi - that's an interesting method to try! I guess white/pale rocks would stay cooler also.
I have been using shade cloth on the ground and this has been really helpful also.
I will try your method around a couple of mine also.
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amanda19
Geraldton Mid West WA
9th November 2010 10:08am
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Ruddy says...
The purist and cheapest quality of bentonite clay in granulated form(easy to spread) can be purchased for about $50.00 per 25kg from any good commercial winery supplier.
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Ruddy
Bunbury
11th November 2010 5:35pm
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Itdepends says...
I wouldn't say it's the cheapest- it's also sold as a stock feed- around $12-15 for a 25kg bag. You can get it at Wight and Emmet (in Bunbury)

To be honest- I used to add it to improve the sandy soils around here- but ended up taking out a dozen trailer loads of my vege garden sand/compost by hand- and replaced it with that Harvey loam that City Landscaping have got. (Don't get excited Perthies- "City" Landscaping is also in Bunbury).

You got much of an orchard/garden Ruddy?

Daniel
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Eaton
12th November 2010 12:06am
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snottiegobble says...
Clay as stock feed for which animals Daniel? How much do City Landscaping charge for the Harvey loam in a 6x4 ?
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snottiegobble
Bunbury/Busso (smack in the middle)
12th November 2010 2:05am
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Itdepends says...
Generic stock feed- mainly cattle I think. Quote below from first google hit I got (Riverina feeds)
"Fine bentonite is useful as a binder in pelleted feeds.

The granular form of bentonite is recommended for use in meal forms of cattle and sheep feeds. Granular bentonite will not contribute to the level of fines in the feed."

RE Harvey loam- A 6x4 trailer load was around $55 when I got them. Basically slightly cheaper than what you'd pay for bulk manure- but won't break down. Once it's in- your done. It's a clay loam- If I did it again I'd probably mix 2 or 3 parts loam to 1 part gutless sand. Worked out well for me- even though I got a dozen trailer loads- they're very close to where I live. You're a bit further out of town- I'd suggest checking it to see if you like it and ordering a truck load (depending on how much you need of course).
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12th November 2010 10:22pm
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snottiegobble says...
Thanks itdep. I am really keen to get some because I reckon that when mixed with potting mix it will conserve most of the liquid fertilisers that normally get washed away each time the pots are watered.
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snottiegobble
Bunbury/Busso (smack in the middle)
13th November 2010 2:14am
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Aileen says...
Anyone gardening in Perth sands may find my new blog useful.

http://wahorticulture.wordpress.com/

I'm not selling anything its educational only.
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Aileen
Perth
21st November 2010 10:08am
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amanda says...
Hi Aileen - what a great idea! I wish your blog was around 5yrs ago when I started my garden here - it would have saved me much heartache finding those things out the hard way!?
I look forward to joining in too :)
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amanda19
Geraldton Mid West WA
21st November 2010 6:24pm
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Rahaidi says...
Aileen thanks for your link. Good read and all of it makes sense for us here in the Perth coastal sandy area. Look forward in your blog updates.

With regards to using Bentonite clays, does anyone know whether the GinGin red loam mix that the landscapers sell contain any of this stuff ?

If so it would be alot cheaper to mix in with the existing sandy soil to get the same effect in binding the soil together and keeping the moisture in...
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Perth Western Australia
25th November 2010 11:58am
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Jimmy says...
Nope, green life soil co have a website and their mixes contain the sand remedy that they make.
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Jimmy
Perth
25th November 2010 12:08pm
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Itdepends says...
I'd say those gin gin red loam mixes have a smattering of loam- but the one's I've seen look to be mainly sand/compost/mulch mixes.
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27th November 2010 3:25pm
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Simon says...
Just thought id give everyone some info about bentonite clay and a two thumbs up rating.

Bentonite Clay increases the water holding capacity of the sandy soils, by changing its structure to be more like a loam soil. If you could imagine sand being small inert particles that hold little to no water then by adding clay the gaps between the sand are filled by the finer clay particles, in turn slowly the water from soaking through. It also help prevent water repellency issues because the clay attracts water molecules.

Once mix using a rotary hoe it will remain in the soil for ever. It is important to mix it in throughly and should only be done dry.

You can buy Bentonite Clay from us for $15 per bag for 25KG. www.sustainableoutdoors.com.au which is a lot cheaper than other competitors on the market.

We recommend using no less than 2.5Kg per m2 but a better rate would be up to 5Kg per m2.

This really is the best soil amendment which you can give to your garden before anything else.

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Simmo
Fremantle
7th February 2011 9:33pm
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snottiegobble says...
Thats interesting stuff Simon. Would you deliver, say to a nursery?
Even for kitty litters thats cheap!
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snottiegobble
Bunbury/Busselton ( smack in the middle)
8th February 2011 1:36am
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snottiegobble says...
Hang on buddy! My wife pays $4.70 for 10kg at Coles so amounts to $11.85 for 25kgs.
You will have to sell 25ks for $10 in bulk orders to win us over!
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snottiegobble
Bunbury/Busselton ( smack in the middle)
8th February 2011 1:47am
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Razza says...
Perth gardeners, heres a tip, go to Miln Feeds in Welshpool and you can get a 25kg bag for just $10...easy.

By the way the Bentonite they sell there is of the calcium variant.

This bentonite stuff (essentially clay) is a winner for those that have sandy soils. For those in Perth thats like most of us. We don't hear much of this soil ammendment as what we get from the media alike is mostly information regarding what to put in for clayey type soils over east. Not often you get much information for what to do for our natural sandy soils.

You don't have to use much. What I do is to splatter the powdered stuff around the top of the mulch and water in. Best thing that I have done for the garden. Better still as its a soil ammendment it doesn't leach out of our sandy Perth soils. Its clay based so its naturally a soil wetter. Infact the Munns wetta soil stuff they use is infact this stuff that you get at Bunnos. However I wouldn’t put a lump say on your turf as it would bake it. Its better if you put a little in instead and often.

Another tip for your compost is to add a handful of Bentonite to it and watch it bind up. Good stuff and should be promoted more alot more for Perth gardeners. All you have to do is the fix your top root zone layer (40cm) with soil ammendments like Bentonite, zeolite and spongolite and your garden will be doing well.

In gist what you're changing is the soil structure from sandy to somewhere loamy by simply adding clay. Once you have that then nutrients won't leach out as much and worms will come in and do their business..win/win.

I'm a convert, albeit for a couple of years since using it. I haven't seen my palms, fruits trees and plants go so green with little fertilizer.

All this information can be searched at another forum site called homeone. Look for an author called Fu there under Bentonite or zeolite and spongolite. Also do a search for what molasses can do for the garden. So simple and yet effective and relatively inexpensive!

The old addage..feed the soil not the plant...
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Perth
8th February 2011 11:58am
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snottiegobble says...
Stick around on the forum Razza, youre good value!
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snottiegobble
Bunbury/Busselton ( smack in the middle)
9th February 2011 1:01am
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Charles cant spell says...
Indeed, sensible useful advise that local is hard to find, cheers Razza.
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Charlesstillcantspell1
Perth Innaloo
9th February 2011 2:26am
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Lucifer says...
Many thanks to everyone that has contributed to this thread, very informative.
Two brown thumbs up.

With the info here, green thumbs soon... hopefully!
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Lucifer
Perth
11th February 2011 5:53pm
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margdi says...
I have just been advised by Watheroo Minerals (they mine the bentonite) that Milne Feeds, corner Welshpool Rd and Leach Highway have in bulk and also 25kg bags for $15. Price has gone up.
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digiom
Perth
23rd March 2011 4:33pm
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Jimmy says...
Ok, so is spongelite or zeolite any diffrent or any better?

I have added Sodium Bentonite to my veg patch about an inch thick and rotary hoed in.

No real diffeance noted other than if i walk on it, my feet stick to the ground.
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Jimmy
Perth
24th March 2011 4:36pm
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adamus says...
Well, Bentonite is clay. You can also use clay found on the side of the road, and slake it down , and then pour it on the sand to transform it into friable soil. Bentonite has no real goodness to it, it's just like the "basic" clay. Red clay is full of goodies, and using it to make sand clump allows the goodies to be used by plants.
Slaking is drying it out completely, and then rehydrating it with a lot of water to make a thin soup.
A soup of a little fire-ash, a little clay, and a half cup of Molasses will send your plants into rapture. Make a mix of ten parts water to one of the mix, and you won't know yourself.
A pottery club or shop often has old clay they can't use for throwing pots anymore, and usually happy to give you a bit. You don't need much.
Hope this helps.
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adamus
Armidale
24th March 2011 5:27pm
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Julie says...
adamus, we don't find clay 'at the side of the road' in Perth. The name of the thread is 'Gardening in Perth Sands', and that is just what we have - sand.

There may be clay loam in the hills, but I don't know if anyone is selling it. amanda said (some time ago) that she got some clay(?) from a brickworks. Don't know where they get it from. Anyone know?

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Julie
Roleystone WA
24th March 2011 8:19pm
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adamus says...
That's why I suggested a pottery club. So there.
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adamus
Armidale
24th March 2011 10:37pm
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Itdepends says...
Local landscaping mob down here in Bunbury had Harvey river loam for a while- basically a clayey loam. I gave up on my sand- took 12 9x5 trailer loads out of the vege garden and replaced it. Now I'm adding gypsum to get a good crumb structure- and loving it.
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24th March 2011 10:49pm
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Liane says...
Was at woodvale fish & lily farm today, they had bags of zeolite (10kg) and spongelite (15kg) both for $16 each. Woolworths has 15kg bags of clumping kitty litter (bentonite) for $5.75
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Liane
Perth
18th April 2011 11:02pm
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Jimmy says...
Biojohn has 25 Kg for $20 in Belmont for zeolite.

It's taken 6 months and multiple rotary hoeings but i'm starting to really like the bentonite.

Will zeolite as well be better? or is that just overkill?
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Jimmy
Perth
19th April 2011 11:39am
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Original Post was last edited: 19th April 2011 11:39am
Brad says...
very different function (I'm guessing you know that). bentonite (clay) modifies soil structure and water holding. zeolite (rock mineral) can be thought of as a permanent fertilizer (depending on your definition) as it helps provide access to nutrients to plants roots. supposedly you can get by with less traditional fertilizers with it in your soil.

I can tell a sandy soil that will benefit from bentonite really easily. its not obvious to me how to tell without a chemical analysis whether zeolite will make much difference for you.

one downshot to the new location - rocks and rotary hoeing don't mix. but the soil is sandy (and rocky)
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Brad2
G Hill,Perth
19th April 2011 4:59pm
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Jimmy says...
use a hire rotary hoe :)
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Jimmy
Perth
20th April 2011 10:40am
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Michael says...
Hello, I am moving a guava tree from a nearby suburb to mine. I have looked on the 'web' and can't find anything about how to prune and move the tree. I am hoping that someone out there can email me with some deatils and ideas. Last year I moved four roses and only one of them survived this shocking summer, so my track record isn't the best!! Many thanks, Michael
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Michael23
Canning Vale
23rd April 2011 4:22pm
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Julie says...
Michael, I suggest you put this in a separate thread. You might get more responses.
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Julie
Roleystone WA
23rd April 2011 6:34pm
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Brad says...
@jimmy (and others) re zeolite. http://www.zeolite.com.au/products/agriculture.html

what I didn't find, is how to know if your soil needs it
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Brad2
G Hill,Perth
25th April 2011 9:53pm
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Cat says...
I have started making a slurry of a handful of clay from pottery use mixed in a bucket of water. I let it sit until the clay dissolves and the water goes all clayey then pour that around the base of the fruit trees and where I plant veges etc. Less labour intensive than applying clay to all that useless sand.
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Cat4
Swanbourne
26th April 2011 5:00pm
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amanda says...
This was in the weekend paper (I haven't looked at it and don't know anything about it - just thought I would add it to the "archives" here..)

www.soilsolver.com.

Julie - the local brick works digs up the clay from large deposits in the wider Gero area...usually on a farmers land or such. I am still a bit surprised that it hasn't turned up, for buying by the trailer load etc, in landscape supply places where they sell soils, gravel etc...
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amanda19
Gerladton. Mid West WA
2nd May 2011 4:19pm
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snottiegobble says...
Its actually www.soilsolver.com.au but but isnt it expensive for something just dug up & transported?
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snottiegobble
Bunbury/Busso(smack in the middle)
3rd May 2011 12:14am
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amanda says...
Probably SG... Cat's got the right idea tho' (as I had a lot to do I borrowed a cement mixer to make my clay slurry..worked a treat!)
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amanda19
Gerladton. Mid West WA
3rd May 2011 6:45pm
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Charles cant spell says...
I should have a better handle on Soil solver soon, Gavin is going to have a bed in the community garden next to me. The comittee had a chat to him the other day (which i was late for), but on previous communications the scieince of belnding the quarry granite dusts, and other mineral suplements sounded quite rigorous. I would imagine its a similar product to Sand Remedy. Yes snottie I agree they are all costly, but if a cubic meter of garden soil from green life cost $120 I guess you can charge a fair price for someing that will ammend your own soil effectively. You then add organic matter and manures as appropriate and required.
There is a lot more in Soil Solver than just benonite and that costs about $400 a tonne direct from the supplier.
So they are all costly but it is a business and some the products are actually just what we need and there is now a demand for this stuff so I guess it wont be cheap.

Also people have been very conditioned to look for cheap rather than economical, the two are not the same, hopefully the days of buying cheap short term consumerist unnecessary crap imported from china from Bunnings are coming to an end. Rant rant :)
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Charlesstillcantspell1
Perth Innaloo
4th May 2011 3:30pm
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amanda says...
Yea - penny wise, pound foolish maybe CCS..? I reckon I have spent a very tidy sum on "soil wetters" over the last few years... :-( and they are not even a permanent remedy like a clay...
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amanda19
Gerladton. Mid West WA
4th May 2011 6:11pm
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Jo says...
Just wanted to thank all of you for the discussion going on here! It is SO hard to find good information that relates to super-sandy coastal Perth soils!!!

I don't know whether someone still wanted to hear about experiences with Sand Remedy, but I've used it. I can't really give a great deal of feedback because my soil situation is thoroughly unresolved and I've only done little bits and pieces of trying to fix it, when I can. So in combination with doing the job properly, this product may well be magical, but I wouldn't know because that isn't my situation. :)

I will say that when I've potted up plants and added it to the mix, or planted in the ground and added some, they do seem happy and the planting mix definitely has a different texture than without it.

Like others, I had also experimented with the kitty litter option, but it's fantastic to learn that clays can be bought from stock feed suppliers, and rock minerals/zeolite from fish supply places!!! I would never have learned this another way. Other times when I've done searches for garden amendments I haven't found info like this.

THANKS!!!!

P.S. I have cats and I'm responsible with them, I don't let them roam around fighting at night time, and of course they're kept healthy and vaccinated and desexed and everything. But I just hope non-cat owners realise that to keep cats from lounging around in other people's yards a little bit is pretty much impossible. Unless you keep the cats indoors, or in little cat "playgrounds". It's just my opinion -- and I totally respect anyone who has another view and does it another way -- but to me, with cats being the really intelligent, agile, explorer-type creatures that they are, those options just seem more unsatisfactory than the alternative of having the kitties do the occasional poo or wee in someone else's yard. I mean, they even cover it up! It's manure, y'know! Soil amendment! Isn't that what we're talking about....? :) :) Granted, my cats do seem to go in my own yard far more than anyone else's... I wonder if some cat owners have a less-than-ideal yard setup, and it encourages pooing and weeing in other yards a bit more? I don't know.

Some dog owners or non-pet owners seem really intolerant of cats, but cats are a heck of a lot quieter to live near than most dogs and many humans, :) and have a ton of other advantages....?? I tolerate barking throughout the day, on and off, as well as loudish parties and barbecues, music, overhearing conversations and arguments, babies crying, noisy equipment and machinery, people's eucalypts dropping endless mess into my yard, and just all the other everyday little annoying things that come with living near others... and in return, my neighbors are okay with an odd poo or wee, which is always covered up by the kitties. :D

Haha anyway, as a cat owner I apologise for this factor on behalf of all cat owners... :) I do understand how it must be annoying. I just thought that might clarify how the cat owners sometimes view it, and why they don't "stop their cats coming into other people's yards"... because in many cases that is totally impossible, if you want your pets to have a normal cattish outdoorsy life.

There are some methods of making cat-proof fencing, but the cost can be prohibitive as well as the fact that other structures around a house and yard can allow the cat to get onto the house roof, which renders the fencing useless. Believe me, we tried -- we love our cats so much and are very protective, and we wanted them to be able to play in our yard, but no-one else's. But unless you can enclose your whole yard with a moat, Nazi concentration camp barbed wire fencing, or a huge medieval-style citadel wall, and have no decent-sized trees, the cats find a way. In many cases it's about as practical and do-able as stopping your kids from playing in the backyard, because you don't want any noise to ever annoy the neighbours. :)

Haha anyway, thanks for listenin', and again for the great discussion and information here. :)
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Jo19
Perth
21st May 2011 4:27am
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snottiegobble says...
Sorry Jo. but I disagree with you! We are cat owner ourselves. & we care SO MUCH for our cat & the environment that he has been taught to walk on a leash. As a result he never gets fleas, worms, scratches & bites from other cats & we will never find him squashed or injured on the road. After his daily walk round the property our cat is happy to stretch out in the sun or sleep in the loft of his cat Hilton until afternoon when he has the run of the house. Because of this we are delighted to see many birds, frogs & skinks in our garden & we know that our cat will never be responsible for their demise. It is totally unfair for other people to have to tolerate visits from cats that are natural killers of wildlife!
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snottiegobble
Bunbury/Busso (smackin the middle)
21st May 2011 8:10pm
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Jimmy says...
cats make great cray bait.
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Jimmy
Perth
23rd May 2011 12:17pm
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Jason says...
I've had a couple cats as a kid but now that I'm old and realise how destructive they are I wont have one again. If I did it would have to live in a proper cat run in the backyard or inside and be taken out on a leash like Snottie's. But really just because cat food is made from fast becoming extinct fish's and etc etc I can't see myself having another one.

Dogs are the same thing, just make more noise and eat larger wild life. I found a Koala with no head, no bones or insides laying in the windbreak the other day, with one of his arms laying somewhere else. And another dead one a few days before that, probably a neighbours dog got a taste for Koalas. But I don't have the will or a gun to go shooting peoples pets so not much I can do about it. I just wish they would be more responsible with them or get a more ecologically sound pet like a Guinea Pig or a Rabbit or a Snail or something :0 even a real Pig or a mini horse :p. Whatever, just not something that's from the top of the food chain and shouldn't exist in large numbers
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Jason
Portland
23rd May 2011 1:03pm
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Original Post was last edited: 23rd May 2011 5:55pm
snottiegobble says...
Very true Jason, but dogs by law are not supposed to run free anytime & because they dont climb should be easier to contain. Cats, on the other hand are the only pets that are free to roam, damage peoples gardens, crap in kids sandpits & purposely annoy cats that are contained as well as their owners. All that on top of the environmental destruction they cause feral & otherwise.
Jimmy, I saw crates of netted Aust salmon ( tonnes of them) loaded onto trucks at Hamelyn Bay this time last year & inquired what they were for fearing they were for catfood. No they were for craypots so dont talk to me about crays!
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snottiegobble
Bunbury/Busso (smackin the middle)
23rd May 2011 3:19pm
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Jimmy says...
yep they stopped using non fish baits as the japs mandated it.
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Jimmy
Perth
23rd May 2011 4:42pm
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amanda says...
I admire cats - but I won't have them again myself, either :-( if they aren't eating the birds then it's the lizards. They are not to blame - just doing what nature intended them to do.
You can satisfy their prey drive without letting them 'roam' to do it.

Some breeds of dogs have a very high prey drive - eg: with sheep dogs it's a 'herding drive' - with other breeds it's a hunting/kill drive...
You don't use a border collie to hunt pigs, for eg? We have a Staffy with a hunting drive for small animals that run....eg: rabbits and chooks. She is not evil - she just has that particular drive. It means that she can never be around cats n chooks etc, for eg, because I couldn't trust her to contain herself. So she is kept away from temptation, and we try to satisfy her drive thru' play.

So why leave a cat around birds/temptation etc..?? Why are cats allowed to do what dogs are not allowed to get away with? A dog that kills a cat can be destroyed by the council.. but what about a cat that kills a bird...?
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amanda19
Geraldton, Mid West WA
23rd May 2011 9:56pm
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Jo says...
I think I can understand how y'all feel although I feel differently. Hmm... ours don't seem to get birds... they have bells on them so I don't know if it's that, or they're just not skillful enough. They come and show me whatever they do get, and it gets tossed around the kitchen. >:(

This is weird... a lot of these behaviours seem kinda foreign to me...? My kitties do have a good sized backyard and don't go beyond often... I wonder if that's a factor.
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Jo19
Perth
24th May 2011 7:17am
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Jantina says...
Have to agree with SG, Amanda and Jason Jo, I do like cats and always had them as pets as children but many many years ago made a conscious decision not to have any more because of the environmental damage they do (and not just killing wildlife directly as Jason pointed out). We don't have a dog either but we do have lots of kangaroos, potaroos and betongs etc that have mostly been reared as orphans and love some human interaction (mostly of the food kind!).
I certainly wouldn't expect you to get rid of the cats you already have as I understand you love them, but as Jason also pointed out there are lots of other aminals that make good pets so perhaps when these kitties go to heaven you might consider another sort of pet.
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Jantina
Mt Gambier
24th May 2011 10:07am
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shelly says...
Hi there, does anyone know where you can get a terracotta or clay made worm farm. I know it's going to be more expensive but I am trying to keep plastics out of my garden and vegie patch. Also my worms won't die off as fast in the hot perth summer if they were in a terracotta worm farm. Thankyou in advance for any information .
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shelly1
belmont
24th May 2011 11:54am
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snottiegobble says...
Jimmy,I suppose that doesnt include whale meat! Anyway we (Sea Shepherd) stopped em killing whales this year!

Shelly, I think you will have to buy a large square terracotta pot & use old fridge trays lined with fly screen to allow aeration & drainage.
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snottiegobble
Bunbury/Busso (smackin the middle)
24th May 2011 11:27pm
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amanda says...
Hi SHelly - maybe you can some old bathtubs from the salvage yard. Have u tried googling (terracotta worm farms)? I have never seen them.
I put bales of straw around my bathtub - for insulation and to make it look a little better.
It's propped up on reconstituted limestone blocks (cheap) to keep the drain hole clear (use flywire in that)
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amanda19
Geraldton, Mid West WA
25th May 2011 9:16am
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Mick says...
Hi there instead of using 'kitty litter' from Coles why don't you try this product, it works for me.Soil Solver is a blend of clay and minerals that provide a complete and balanced range of nutrients needed for plant growth.
As the changes to the soil are permanent, it is the most eco friendly product on the market as each application is a lasting improvement to your soil health. Higher rates bring a greater result.
Soil Solver is a natural-ingredient based product created by soil solvers soil expert, Gavin Davis (Ph 0428 352 026).
Gavin has blended several natural compounds, clay and rock minerals, to created what’s needed in WA’s sandy soil for great garden plant growth.
Yes, you can put in a bag what you need in your garden sand to allow you to create a great loamy soil.
22.5 kg bags Now Available.
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Mick9
Perth
13th June 2011 1:57pm
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Aaron says...
Hi Mick,

Sounds good! Where can I get some of it and how much does it cost?

I'm in Ballajura.

Cheers!
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Perth NOR
13th June 2011 3:18pm
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M Nash says...
I was in Perth for the first time not so long ago, I could not believe just how much sand there is and just how deep it is.
It amazed me looking at various road works,, Mountains of sand. Over here it would be mountains of clay (On the East)
I had some thoughts when looking at peoples gardens over there.
How does the sand hold anything you put into it considering it is bottomless?
If you had bed rock a few metres below, Sure you could change to sand over time.
I figured that raised garden beds with introduced soil would be the go and a perforated plastic sheet under them to slow down the leaching?
As for tropical trees? I considered that the poor buggers have just got to keep on feeding the sand for ever amen.
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MNash1
Terranora Northern NSW
13th June 2011 3:40pm
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Brad says...
I presume from Gavin's phone number in the previous post...

M Nash - pretty much. if you don't develop humus, everything keeps disappearing forever
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Brad2
G Hill,Perth
13th June 2011 3:42pm
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Original Post was last edited: 13th June 2011 3:44pm
M Nash says...
It a fantastic problem and I dips my lid to all the sand gropers
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MNash1
Terranora Northern NSW
13th June 2011 3:52pm
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snottiegobble says...
Yes M.Nash , Amanda, Charles C S, & I are recognised "poor buggers"! :)
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snottiegobble
Bunbury/Busso (smackin the middle)
14th June 2011 12:34am
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Jimmy says...
Is soil solver better than bentonite?
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15th June 2011 10:13am
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Charles cant spell says...
Soil Solver is a natural-ingredient based product, as above its a blended of several natural compounds, clay (off his farm) and rock minerals, it is also albrect balanced as far as I am aware. So yes it should be far more balanced and better than bentonite. So you do the sums, price bentonite + rock dust, price soil solver, if you are not paying to much for Soil Solvers blended product then it would be a good option, else blend it yourself, it wont be as good but it will certainly do the job.

It comes down to this I think, soil solver creates a mineral based soil mix, whereas bentonite just adds water/nutrient holding clay (long 'sticky" or 'electron charged' colloids with organic matter. So if you go bentonite and rock dust you need lots of organic matter as well, more so than you would if you went soil solver.
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Charlesstillcantspell1
Perth Innaloo
15th June 2011 11:04am
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grub says...
i live on a sandy hill and i used a product called sandy remedy formulated for our soils ,i also used bentolite clay on my mangoes here the link http://www.gardenersdirect.com.au/commerce/search/products/?product_id=SR001&merchant_id=2135
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15th June 2011 3:46pm
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snottiegobble says...
Grub, 16 square mtres for $50. Do you think it is good value?
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snottiegobble
Bunbury/Busso (smackin the middle)
15th June 2011 11:58pm
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grub says...
grub says...
gidday snottie i never looked at
it like that but now you mention it the .think the lable sucked me in lol,but the wetting agent is still working after 12 months and a long summer
the bentolite clay was $25 for 40 kilo's diffently a better deal
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16th June 2011 5:32pm
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mono says...
love of garden
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mono
perth
20th June 2011 12:40pm
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mono says...
I picked up Bentonite and zeolite from Mirco Bros Shop. found them at www.mircobros.com.au they have everything
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mono
perth
20th June 2011 12:43pm
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Jimmy says...
Price?
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20th June 2011 1:20pm
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mono says...
25kg Bentonite was $18 and 10kg Zeolite was $14
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mono
perth
20th June 2011 1:29pm
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Liane says...
From memory the 16sqm for soil solver was only if you treated to 10cm down, so you actually need about 3x that if you are doing it properly (to 30cm deep).

Add some eco-prime mineral rock dust to the bentonite/spongolite/zeolite mix and I think you would pretty much have the soil solver.
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Liane
Perth
26th June 2011 8:26pm
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Simon says...
Sustainable Outdoors also sell bentonite for $18 per 25Kg bags, plus a special offer of buy 10 and get 1 FREE. We recommend using 5 Kg per 1m2 which must be mixed to a depth of 25cm throughly. See our web site for details.
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Simmo
Beaconsfield
27th June 2011 9:32am
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Original Post was last edited: 27th June 2011 9:33am
Jimmy says...
5Kg per meter, thgat would turn it into a swamp !

I put about 1 Kg per meter and its too boggy.
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27th June 2011 2:15pm
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Simon says...
It all depends how deep you are mixing it. If it's only on the surface than I agree 1kg would be enough. At 5kg/meter this ratio has been worked out to be mixed in using a rotary hoe to a depth of 25cm as this is where the majority of the roots are. If you think of it like creating a sponge layer on the surface which will slow the water down as it moves through the soil profile, the longer you can hold it in there the more time the plants have to absorb it.

To answer your comment directly, if 1Kg was too boggy, you didn't mix it well enough. its like building a brick wall, you have even layers of bricks and cement layer by layer. You can not just put some cement down and throw some bricks on top and expect a brick wall.



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Simmo
Perth
2nd July 2011 11:09am
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Original Post was last edited: 2nd July 2011 11:17am
Gus says...
Great thread everybody.
With the help of Peter Bennets book and reading through this post several times, even a novice like myself is starting to get a vague understanding of why my sand is such a black hole.
All the nice dirt I have been adding just seems to disappear.
What to do first is still something that I am lost on though! I don't want to end up with a clay pit rather than a sand pit
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Karrinyup
10th September 2011 11:46pm
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Brad says...
gus feel free to contact me via my first name at anize dot org and I can put you in touch with some people that have built productive gardens from sand pits
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Brad2
G Hill,Perth
11th September 2011 8:42pm
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woonellup says...
as a farmer with experience with spreading clay on to sandy soils, this is what we get recommended as farmers, and do.
spread enough clay for the clay content of the soil to be at least 5%.
in a square metre of sand, this will take 5 kgs of pure clay that is 50% will take 10 kgs and so on.
the other part you need to be aware of, is the low Calcium content of clays, and this can cause a calcium deficiency in sandy soils.
the high magnesium content of almost all clays makes them sticky when wet and very hard when dry.(if your clay treated soil is hard when dry, you will have a calcium deficiency. I have proven the link with soil tests on my farm)
a clay with the right balance between Calcium and magnesium will be soft and porous. this has happened on my farm when I add calcium to my clays soils. When you have the correct balance, you can dig dry clay with a spade, I know, I have clays I can do that with, and they do stand out in the crop.
kitty litter is a "clumping clay" and its purpose is to stay clumped when wet.
to do this, the calcium has to be removed and salt added. I have clays on my farm that are like this, and they will not grow anything. I will let you make the connection.
as to the amount of clay you can add to sand, 15 to 40 kgs is what us farmers use with a clay content of about 30%
this causes no problems when mixed in to the top 100 mm.
making sure the Calcium to Magnesium ratio is right will allow you to easy put on this amount and more.
this will eliminate most of the problems you have with sandy soils.

just need the correct balance of minerals to top it off. Out of interest, I have looked for anything that will supply a correct blend of the necessary minerals and the more I looked , the less I found, so the more I looked. Seems the soil scientists have gone on holidays, my view anyway.

Google loam or loamy soil and see what you get? Very interesting and any product you buy , the seller should be able to answer the questions from you search.
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jerramungup
13th September 2011 1:29am
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Jo says...
Amanda, Can I ask how deep you dug your clay in? I am guessing you had to dig it very deep to provide nutrients and water to the roots of your fruit trees? 20 tonnes must have been some dig
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13th September 2011 9:05am
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amanda says...
Hi Jo, I was lucky in that my orchard was started from bare earth - so I had a mate with a front end loader spread it around. I spent a further 6months adding manure etc - and then had a tractor - with a big rotary hoe attachment- mix the lot - including lots of gypsum and super phos (as clay will bind phosphate - so it must be added on virgin soils - which mine was - and both contain calcium)

Rotary hoes don't mix all that deep. My aim is to "hold up" the water, organics and nutrients in the top soil for longer - most of a trees feeding roots are not that deep.

I don't muck about with the sub soil - EVER....

Now when I need to add clay I use about 10kgs in the wheel barrow, soak it in water overnight and make it into a liquid that I pour around my trees - then water in. I have just used 10kgs between 2 or 3 mature trees - out to just past the drip line. It's the most sensible way to do it - and it doesn't add too much at once.

I then see how it goes for awhile - letting the worms and manures do their thing and adding more the next winter if I think it's needed. It's a soil conditioner more than anything.

Slowly but surely...then u won't end up with a sticky mess. Good soil takes time and patience :)

I have been fully surprised at just how much clay my sandy loam will happily soak up though...
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amanda19
Geraldton. Mide West WA.
13th September 2011 9:27am
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Jo says...
That is fantastic info Amanda.

I am going to mix some clay into my sand and see what I come up with. Good advice to do it slowly to avoid trouble.

Thanks again
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13th September 2011 9:35am
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Nick says...
Hi guys, I know Im not from Perth but I need advice on what to do with my sand. It seems that even though I give my plants in the greenhouse a massive water, the water just passes through and when I dig a few millimetres deep the soil is bone dry! :( I know I should add some kind of organic matter but I dont know what to do with the young plants in smaller pots.
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Nick T
Altona, VIC
16th October 2011 3:20pm
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humusbeings says...
I was told by someone who knows their stuff the other day that the bentonite used for kitty litter is likely to have a lot of bad salts in it as it is a sodium bentonite... maybe check the labels before using it. The soil additives will be more reliable and safe to use, though.
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Humusbeings
Fremantle
16th October 2011 3:26pm
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amanda says...
I heard the same about this too humusbeings (love the name BTW!) and also with some of the granular wetting agents...? I think you would need to look up the MSDS to find out this info..? Many don't tell u though :-(

Sodium is not so bad - in that u can at least flush it down and away with a good heavy soaking (on sand based loams)....unlike chloride :-( Perhaps it's best to apply these things in with the winter rains...

I used a granular "eco-friendly" wetting agent last year (from Bunnings - can't remember the name) and had lots of problems with leaf margins burning - so I don't use it anymore - and the trees are better for it :)
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amanda19
Geraldton. Mide West WA.
16th October 2011 5:22pm
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Ben says...
hi guys i've had a quick read through some of the posts if anyone wants to know where there is a spot to get some white clay try down waterworks rd off armadale rd in forrestdale there is mountains of it there which got dug out of champion lakes the gate is open most days and there are often motorbike riders in there. ive got soil at home that didn't take water but we've recently bought a sheep manure bagging business and i tried some of our product on my front verge, i used the fine broken down sheep manure which i collected off the floor where we bag up i found it quite amazingly to be just like a soil wetting agent after i spread it across my verge i hosed it in as it bubbles up like wetting agent then just soakes into the ground and now about 3 monthes on my soil is still very accepting of water and the grass is growing very well there and has never grown there before.if anyone is interested in purchasing some sheep manure i have 100 litre bags of clean manure for $15each and can deliver free 10 bags or more in Perths south east metro area. send me an email if interested at Barbwire99@live.com
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Ben11
Forrestdale near armadale wa
16th October 2011 6:43pm
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woonellup says...
clay high in magnesium and low in calcium will cause some water logging.
add calcium and your soil will be less hard setting and more friable, the soil you need.
Soils that have naturally occurring levels of clay up to 20% will not have a drainage problem unless the calcium level is low.
I have many areas of clay soils on my farm, that have been made more absorbing of the rain and much better draining.
This is all related to calcium levels.
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woonellup
jerramungup
18th October 2011 8:43pm
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woonellup says...
you need calicium in the soil for the salt to be leached away, and perth soil are actually low in calicium amanda.
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woonellup
jerramungup
18th October 2011 8:59pm
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Itdepends says...
Calcium improving clay soils? Or gypsum (clay breaker, calcium sulphate) improving clay soil? Just wondering because you could add calcium as dolomite or ag lime and I haven't heard of that improving clay soils.
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19th October 2011 12:17am
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amanda says...
Hi Itdepends - some folk need to use Ag lime as they already have too much magnesium in their soil. Too much Mg causes problems like compaction and ponding. Have a read of the "soil wetting agent" topic - towards the end - Speedy explains it better than I can...he has sodic clay soil and higher Mg levels.

woonellup - yes that's true - I use liquid gypsum - mainly in summer. Have to be careful tho as I can induce an iron deficiency problem if I over do it.
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amanda19
Geraldton. Mide West WA.
19th October 2011 10:28am
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Frank says...
I was not aware of using liquid gypsum can cause iron deficency problem.

I am more of an indoor plant user who I go to http://www.gaddysplanthire.com.au/ for advice and tips
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7th November 2011 12:12pm
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amanda says...
Hey Frank - it's called Lime-induced chlorosis - and can be a problem for those living on top on limestone soils too... :-(
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amanda19
Geraldton. Mide West WA.
7th November 2011 6:29pm
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Nick says...
Hi everyone, I need a bit advice for my soil- it is quite loamy luckily but it seems that once it has plants in it in the greenhouse it becomes super water-repellent (BTW I admire all the people here with sand who've still made great gardens because Ive experienced the annoyance of sandy soil!). I originally blamed it on the fact that the soil was exposed to strong sunlight so I dug in some poultry manure and mulched with sugarcane. It worked for a while but it reverted eventually despite the fact I kept all the plants well-watered- I would let the plants dry up a bit between waterings so they would become waterlogged. The only way water would penetrate would be if I scraped up the top soil, but I dont want to have to do that often. Also it seems the plants outside which are mulched with woodchip have great soil (does the sugarcane contribute to the problem?!?). Ive got some nice crumbly homemade compost and will have some great woodchip mulch by tomorrow- could that help??
Any helps appreciated :)
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Nick T
Altona, VIC
19th November 2011 7:32pm
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Wazzbat says...
Hi Nick. I have found sugarcane mulch to add to the organic matter of the soil as it breaks down and actually act to help the soil retain moisture. I do think though, that sometimes the water struggles to penetrate the mulch itself if it has been down for a little while and hasn't broken down enough yet. This is where weeping hose type retic underneath the mulch would probably work better than sprinkler type retic.

Where I put the kitty litter in a few weeks back, I have noticed the soil has become very much less sandy. I mixed it in with Rooster Booster and cow poop and now it is like thick black clay. Looks very healthy for the plants.

Don't expect results over night. I have been working on my soil for a couple of years now and am just starting to see results now. Worms and food scraps make a big difference also I think.

Good luck!
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Wazzbat
Vic Park WA
19th November 2011 11:12pm
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Brad says...
mulch mulch and mulch.
you'd have to see the site to get exact, but: soil can be hard to re-wet once completely dry. if this happens, you want regular slow light waterings for a while and (In Perth) sometimes soil wetter (is basically like detergent as the sand is coated in oil); compaction (you walking) can get rid of air pockets that water used to seep in; clays can bake out in summer and become rock hard - water will run off on slopes; and probably other reasons

mulch helps all of these and provides cover for soil organisms to do their work while it breaks down and feeds the soil. compost is great if you want to feed soil and plants but mulch on top
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Brad2
G Hill, Perth
20th November 2011 11:45am
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amanda says...
It's frustrating isn't it Nick.. :-( Can you get hold of some clay? (or soilsolver) I still have spots that need more work. If I let them dry out for too long they become re-repellent and I need to scratch the surface too.

It's almost like it has some kind force field!? lol. I often wonder if it builds up some kind of static electricity when it gets dried out...

In his book "Gardening Down Under" Kevin Handreck (CSIRO soil guru) explains that adding large amounts of organic matter to sandy soils can make them water repellant too - due to the waxy residues produced as the OM breaks down.

He recommends 10-15kg of clay/sqm and mixing it in the top 10cm of sand (roughly a 20% ratio) so 1 part clay to 3 parts sand. Then add lots of compost. Compost is great/better if u can make enough of it...you will be able to form humus much quicker. Humus is what our sands badly need. Clay protects humus. Humus improves soil structure.

Wazzbat - u are going well! :) I have used sugar cane mulch in my tomatoe patch this year and I am finding the water doesn't seem to get thru it either (and I have thinned it right out as well)...? I am thinking it's too fine cos when I use very coarse/large straw stems I don't get this problem.

If I could get motivated I would like to make a leaf litter compost/mulch. Forests don't seem to water repellent..?? ;-)
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amanda19
Geraldton. Mide West WA.
20th November 2011 11:56am
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Brad says...
careful guys. nick is in vic, despite the thread title and he said he has loam
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Brad2
G Hill, Perth
20th November 2011 12:11pm
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Brad says...
as for leaf litter stuff: my pile of mainly eucalypt detritus chucked through a mulcher, turned into rich black twiggy soil improver in 6 months. all i did was throw some blood and bone as i made the pile and cover with shadecloth and let sit all winter.
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Brad2
G Hill, Perth
20th November 2011 12:13pm
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Nick says...
Unfortuantely only the few areas where ive worked on for a while have loamy soil- all the rest is shocking sand... (couldnt be bothered making a thread for gardening in Melbourne sands Brad :P). I finally got the mulch today and just remembered I have a leaf litter pile (hits face with palm). The leaf ltter is mostly maple leaves from my neighbours and its rotting nicely in the shade with a bit of soil and plenty of water after about 5 or so months (I got some nice fat worms in it too but the birds thought itd be funny to dine on them..).
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Nick T
Altona, VIC
20th November 2011 3:36pm
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amanda says...
Nick - is the water repellant soil in your greenhouse? Is it in pots or in the ground?
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amanda19
Geraldton. Mide West WA.
20th November 2011 5:35pm
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Nick says...
amanda, it seems to only be in the greenhouse- even my sandiest area outside absorbs some water! Im thinking of putting the sugarcne mulch in the compost, tilling (is that the right word?) the topsoil in all the pots, adding some good homemade compost (maybe a bit of leaf litter) then adding some coarse mulch. Ive also made some whitewash for shading the greenhouse so hopefully that will take care of the strong sunlight! :) Oh, and would it be okay if I gave my lychee some of that compost- I really dont want to kill another one..
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Nick T
Altona, VIC
20th November 2011 6:10pm
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amanda says...
Ok - so it's the potting mix Nick? If so - I must admit that I have had problems with many potting mixes - even the "premium" ones. I suspect there is too much woody stuff in them..? I was flooding the tree sacks (in my green house too..) only to find they were not wetting evenly. Same in my salad garden where I used all potting mix (and pig poo)

I can literally 'flood' my salad garden too - the water soaks in no problems - but when I scratch the surface it's only wet down to about 5mm. Is this the problem u are having too..?
Stuffed if I know where all the water goes!? :D It must have express channels somewhere??

(and the cheap potting mixes are just full of sand to make up their bulk) :-(

I actually added clay to them too :D
I mulched them with sphagnum moss (not wood chip) and leaf litter. I try not to let them dry out too much now. The tree sacks have excellent drainage - with holes all under and around/up them (from Daleys :)

I only give the slow growing sensitive subtropicals (eg: lychee!, jaboticaba, longon) blood and bone now - about a heaped teaspoon every month and seasol. So far so good..

I don't know if this helps...

(i have actually bought some compost to fix the salad garden - even after claying it - it's still too hard core)
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amanda19
Geraldton. Mide West WA.
21st November 2011 12:35am
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Nick says...
Yeah its always the potting mix but the thing is, I pot them up into normal garden soil, the loamy stuff I was talking bout (I personally dont see the point of spending money on potting mix), and after a while the repellance starts! It must be something in the greenhouse that causes it because my potted plants outside are fine (ive concluded its the sun and heat exposure?) Also I do know where the water goes, all over the greenhouse floor! :(
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Nick T
Altona, VIC
21st November 2011 7:23am
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amanda says...
That's weird isn't it Nick? You would think that they would be better off in the greenhouse!? Is it a glass one or a shade house one?
Are there any little flying insects living in the soil in there?

I don't know, apart from suggestions above.. :-(
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amanda19
Geraldton. Mide West WA.
21st November 2011 10:40am
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Nick says...
Thanks for all the information amanda :) Its a plastic greenhouse and the only creatures in it seem to be thousands of ants (and the "friends" they bring). Ill try the compost and mulch method and if that hasnt worked when I come back from holidays Ill try some clay- when would be a good time to apply it?
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Nick T
Altona, VIC
21st November 2011 4:24pm
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B.Rise says...
I've lived most of life in Perth on the empty sands and thought I might contribute my "tuppence worth." Frm AGWA info:
"The hydrophobic compounds (waxes, alkanes, long chained fatty acids) that are left behind in the breakdown of organic matter are a major cause of water repellence in non-wetting soils." Their solution is to add clay in order to change the soil structure - and it undoubtedly works, just as wetta-soil works. However it has the same problem: what you add will wash away!. Although it is the breaking down of organic matter that seems the cause of the problem, it is the lack of biological activity that actually allows the creation of the impermeable layer. Creating a healthy environment for earthworms, mycorrhiza and beneficial micro-organisms is the way to provide a long-term solution to the problem. Rule number one: a healthy garden is a complex ecosystem. Make sure that the compost is properly matured, keep it (and organic mulching materials) slightly away from stems and have fun! Your water repellency problems will be but a distant memory.
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BRise1
near Geelong, Vic
21st November 2011 6:23pm
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Nick says...
Thanks for that valuable info B.Rise, the compost im adding at the moment has plenty of worms and at least there arent any birds to eat them all in the greenhouse. Whats your soil like in Geelong? Ive been to a few properties and theyve all been clay!
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Nick T
Altona, VIC
21st November 2011 6:28pm
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amanda says...
So true B.Rise. Can't wait until they come up with the "waxy residue eating" bacteria they are working on! :)

The trouble with a lot of Perth and north is that it is very dry now...and many people have changed to drippers these days. Drippers will allow deep vertical watering but poor horizontal watering in sands.

We need more moisture to keep the biological activity going and encourage more fungi too. If I could afford to run impact sprinklers in my garden beds, thru summer, then my problems would be a lot less.
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amanda19
Geraldton. Mide West WA.
21st November 2011 7:49pm
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woonellup says...
drippers were designed for clay soils.
add clay, you will need 5% and then the water will travel sideways, have seen it happening and also been told about it.
if your sand is dry, its because you have low or no clay.
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woonellup
jerramungup
1st December 2011 2:34pm
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B.Rise says...
To Nick - the soil here is, as you would expect, heavy clay. Interestingly the gardening advice is similar to that for Perth: add heaps of organic matter! In sand, to build up the soil and limit the drainage; in clay, to break up the soil and enhance drainage. Isn't nature wonderful? Alternatively, as one mate says, just garden 'above the ground.'
To Amanda - I agree with both of your points. However, I will add that I found it possible to successfully grow flower gardens and edible plants on minimal water (hand watering only) in Manning and Doubleview by creating micro-climates and experimenting with different composts. Keep up the fun!
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BRise1
near Geelong, Vic
1st December 2011 3:39pm
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amanda says...
Thanks B.Rise - the problem is that I am semi-arid and Perth is not :-( Same sands - but it's a very different climate. I am far beyond the "Water Corp" suggestions :)

Not trying to be "special" - even the qualified folk here are struggling with the same problem. Would just like to nail it. U never know - our climate may catch up with Perth in the future...seems likely as WA dries out more every year.

The only thing that works definitively here is an actual physical barrier - like wooden boards, large upturned pots etc, on top of the soil/mulch. The soil (even with the clay, mulch etc) never becomes water repellant under these things. The soil is totally protected from the ultra hot and drying winds and the sun.

They are just not practical tho...many heads are always better than one - maybe someone else can imagine a barrier that I can't right now...?

Rocks maybe - but they would get pretty hot? Plastic is yukk. Shade cloth too porous (tried that)

Maybe the Drought Shield spray should be applied to the soil...? Now there's a thought...
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amanda19
Geraldton, Mid West WA
2nd December 2011 9:50pm
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Peter says...
Maybe plants have to be grown in 1m long tubes prior to planting in the ground to train the root system to get very deep. The soil temperature in 1m depths should be moderate enough and hopefully they spread from there.
I have not long enough experience to say if it works, probably plants with taproots are more suitable than shallow rooted plants with this system, but you never know.
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Peter36
Perth
2nd December 2011 10:47pm
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amanda says...
Thanks Peter...but here's how it works: I hold the hose on an area for a good 10-15 mins at good pressure...the water soaks in no problems...then I scratch the surface of the soil and only the top 5mm is wet - It's bone dry underneath..?

So where does all that water go..? Why is the surface wet - but underneath not..?

I just don't get it? :-( Does anyone else have this problem..? Is this classed as water repellant - or is something else at work...? (I thought water just ran off the top of true water repellant soils..)

(ps - slow drippers do overcome this...they are great for natives etc - that root deeply and have far less nutrient needs...but fruit trees are not quite the same - and all the goodies/food is the top soil...if I can't wet it right thru' then they aren't getting what they need I guess...)
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amanda19
Geraldton, Mid West WA
3rd December 2011 11:59am
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Original Post was last edited: 3rd December 2011 12:20pm
Nick says...
Ive got the exact same frustrating problem, apparently soil like ours over time develop thin "passages" where the water passes through, leaving the soil around it bone dry (if that makes any sense :P). I did a little experiment with a pomegranate seedling grown in a plastic food container and it confirmed that- the water would drain easily but only the very first and last centimetre of soil would be wet!
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Nick T
Altona, VIC
3rd December 2011 1:33pm
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amanda says...
That's a good point Nick...little channels in the soil that drain it away...even when I use a sprinkler I have to let it run for 1-2 hours...and that just seems so wasteful..? (these areas have been clayed also)

I also suspect the type of wood chip I have been using is not helping things and I am beginning to wonder if wood chip is not such a great idea in a semi arid zone...my understanding is that it needs fungi to break it down and that's something I have precious little of for 9 months of the year.

(The areas without the woodchip are a fair bit better - hence my suspicion..)

I get so disheartened by it...I am watering every 2 days at present (35knot desert winds and 35oC + everyday for over a week now) and I go thru the same thing every 2 days..?

This can't be right, surely, guys?
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amanda19
Geraldton, Mid West WA
3rd December 2011 7:15pm
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Brad says...
amanda: ever tried to get one of these guys to call you?
http://www.beyondgardens.com.au/
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Brad2
G Hill, Perth
3rd December 2011 8:01pm
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Original Post was last edited: 3rd December 2011 8:02pm
amanda says...
Hey thanks Brad :) It's sure worth a try!

I do know that Julie Firth (a well known arid zone permaculturalist) is also working on the same problems...so I guess I am not going crazy..?

She didn't have any stone fruit trees growing - so that should have told me volumes...perhaps there really is a limit to what you can grow in a marginal climate, on poor sands, despite microclimates etc...and I am there?! :-O

I don't like admitting defeat....but I am thinking I may have to in some cases :-(

Ironically - things grow well down on the Gero 'flats' - they have that red-dirt...should have imported that hey Brad...
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amanda19
Geraldton, Mid West WA
3rd December 2011 8:25pm
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B.Rise says...
After the "Gero Flats" comment, I'm not sure just where you are located in Geraldton. I had been guessing that you are on sand very near the ocean.
Firstly, the description of your watering and the behaviour of the water sounds exactly like typical water repellancy: it looks like the water is soaking in, whereas it is actually running off. It can take a while to find out exactly where it is going. As an interesting aside some ancient Mediterranean civilisations actually used this property of their soils to engineer run-off into underground storage systems.
Your "wondering" about using stones as mulch sounds likely: the soil under stone mulches stays quite cool and the mulch does reduce evaporation.
Secondly, one of your comments really caught my attention - referring to the strong winds in the area. Winds will do more to destroy most plants than mere drought and might explain some of your difficulties. Wind-breaks are essential in your area of the world.
Thirdly, if you are trying to grow stone-fruit in the area it might be worth checking out the particular varieties chilling requirements. (Permies are likely to be managing their properties by giving preference to "best suited" plant types). If you are keen and would like to do some historical research I believe there was a fellow called James Lander who, in the late 19th century, had a successful orchard in the Northampton area using some seemingly unorthodox methods.
I hope this is of some use.
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BRise1
near Geelong, Vic
15th December 2011 7:55pm
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amanda says...
Thanks B.Rise....clever idea about the run off...!? It's true then about the wind :( My garden is only 6yrs old max - so the trees are getting there - but still a way to go b4 they are doing what I need. I have planted varying levels from groundcover to trees. We are on the top of large sand dune 15kms north of town. Ex farm land - so very exposed.

I do have windbreaks - a huge one around my orchard. They have to be extremely strong to handle the wind and often fail. It's not good for the plants or the soil. Such is life :)
The large grevillia ground covers have been really great for protecting large areas of soil.

Will have a look into Mr Lander...thanks for that :)
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amanda19
Geraldton. WA
18th December 2011 5:22pm
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amanda says...
Hey Brad et al...I think I may have solved the problem! I got annoyed and decided to go all out with the clay and just dumped a few big buckets of crumbled clay onto a small test bed - and blasted it in with the hose....

Have been away for a week and just put the sprinkler on it (so it's been dried right out) - and hey presto - the water soaked in no problems!! Yay!

I must have needed a hell of a lot more than what I thought (maybe adding it as a liquid diluted it out too much? or made it too fine?)

The bed is good - not sticky/clayey at all.

I am going to try this in my veg patch now - just to make sure :)
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amanda19
Geraldton. WA
24th December 2011 11:33am
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snottiegobble says...
Sounds good Amanda, unfortunately what clay there is round here is actually coffee rock, kind of inpenetrable without a pick axe!
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snottiegobble
Bunbury/Busso (smackin the middle)
24th December 2011 3:41pm
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John says...
Stumbled across this looking for some Bentonite.
So - to summarise what I have seen... I get some Bentonite (will probably try local stockfeeds), spread over soil (trying to get around 5%), turn in, add zeolite (rock minerals), water well, then keep my fingers crossed?
Does that sound about right?
I have been slowly trying to improve my soil but it just goes back to sand whenever I turn my back for a few minutes...
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John49
Perth
24th December 2011 6:35pm
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Wazzbat says...
So far, where I put the kitty litter (bentonite) is going well for me. Worms seem to like it, plants seem to like it, water seems to like it - all good.
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Wazzbat
Vic Park WA
24th December 2011 10:00pm
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amanda says...
SG - what's coffee rock? Must admit I did get quality clay (for house bricks) It's crap to work with until it's weathered in the sun and rain - after that it becomes fairly brittle. My stock pile has been in the open for 4yrs now. The top layers crumble really well.

Sounds good John. U need a fair bit in our WA sands - and u need clay to hang onto the organics too. If u read this whole thread u will pick up some interesting tips :)
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amanda19
Geraldton. WA
24th December 2011 11:46pm
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Wazzbat says...
Coffee rock is rock hard clay which is a dark coffee like colour. It is a nightmare when you are trying to dig and you come across it. Dynamite struggles through that stuff.
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Wazzbat
Vic Park WA
25th December 2011 10:00am
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snottiegobble says...
Yes Wazzbat, & some of it is nearing the stage of becoming real rock, maybe in about half a million years it will be!
I will have to continue persevering using bentonite & wetting granules.
" Come on puss, drink some more water!"
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snottiegobble
Bunbury/Busso (smackin the middle)
25th December 2011 9:49pm
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amanda says...
Does it go soft when wet SG? In hindsight I wish I had done what Brad suggested and imported some of the lovely clayey red dirt from around here - even if it just made up a new topsoil of 10cm it could have made a big difference.

Next time I will know! :)
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amanda19
Geraldton. WA
26th December 2011 11:16am
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snottiegobble says...
Coffee rock takes some soaking & the stuff I am familiar with has layers of different colours that vary a lot in texture so it could never be used for pottery.In the Otways, Vic it lies under fine grey sand, one hell of a contrast!
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snottiegobble
Bunbury/Busso (smackin the middle)
26th December 2011 2:46pm
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maria says...
I bought some bulk clumping kitty litter to mix into my sandy backyard prior to laying lawn. Only problem - I have just realised that it is attapuglite clay, not bentonite. Does anyone know if it will do the same job?
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maria8
Geraldton
26th December 2011 3:38pm
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John says...
Anyone have a recommendation for a good place to get some rock minerals from?
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John49
Perth
27th December 2011 12:19pm
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Jim says...
Here is one place that will deliver

http://www.gardenersdirect.com.au/commerce/search/products/?product_id=EG0004&merchant_id=2135
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electra
Fremantle
27th December 2011 1:56pm
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John says...
BTW - I can tell you that Wesfeeds in Bentley does not do Bentonite. Will report back when I find somewhere close that does.
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John49
Perth
28th December 2011 12:16pm
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John says...
Ok - found two local Bentonite suppliers.
Milne Agrigroup in Welshpool does 20kg bags of calcium bentonite for $15 each.
Bio-John in Belmont does 25kg bags for about $20 (I think it was $19 plus GST) each.
I went with Milne - will let you know how I go.
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John49
Perth
28th December 2011 4:50pm
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Original Post was last edited: 28th December 2011 5:42pm
snottiegobble says...
Woolworths in Eaton sell 15litre bags of kitty litter for $5.80. Presuming litres are the same as kgs in this case, its quite a good buy, or is it?
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snottiegobble
Bunbury/Busso (smackin the middle)
28th December 2011 7:08pm
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Humusbeings says...
Sustainableoutdoors.com.au has bentonite. Its worth it. Kitty litter is not the right stuff to use
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28th December 2011 10:49pm
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snottiegobble says...
Humusbeings, why is kitty litter bentonite not the right stuff to use??
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snottiegobble
Bunbury/Busso (smackin the middle)
29th December 2011 1:45pm
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mono says...
Mirco Bros has Bentonite 25kg for $18.20 including gst.
Check there website out.
mircobros.com.au
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mono
 
29th December 2011 4:31pm
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snottiegobble says...
Someone please tell me what is wrong with using Kittylitter bentonite in the garden??
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snottiegobble
Bunbury/Busso (smackin the middle)
30th December 2011 5:55pm
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John says...
If Mircos were closer to me I would have gone there.
I would think that Bentonite is Bentonite (whether it be sodium/calcium etc) - so if you can get it cheaply marketed as kitty litter -why not.
The Woolworths near me only had one type of Bentonite kitty litter and that was $10.99 for 7kg (called Catsan clumping clay fyi).
Still waiting on my stuff (Zeolite and rock minerals) from Gardeners' Direct. According to their email it should have been delivered yesterday or today (Thursday or Friday)...
BTW, they sell the exact same Zeolite as the fish place for almost exactly the same price.
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John49
Perth
30th December 2011 6:50pm
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snottiegobble says...
Thanks John. Thats interesting about the Catsan clumping clay, it may have some chemical or mineral in it to make it clump so not worth the risk anyway!
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snottiegobble
Bunbury/Busso (smackin the middle)
1st January 2012 3:06pm
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John says...
No snottiegobble - I can tell you that the bentonite is naturally a real clumper. In fact, Milne uses it as a binder for their stockfeed (I asked why they would keep it since I didn't think livestock would eat lots of clay).
I spread mine on my lawns and if I walk on it when there's any moisture at all around I end up with clay an inch thick stuck to the soles of my shoes!
BTW, having an issue with Gardeners Direct - will let you know how it goes.
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John49
Perth
1st January 2012 8:57pm
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Original Post was last edited: 2nd January 2012 12:54pm
snottiegobble says...
Thanks John, interesting info!
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snottiegobble
Bunbury/Busso (smackin the middle)
2nd January 2012 9:21pm
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Jimmy says...
The clay is to bind up diarrhea in pigs mostly.

Let us know about Gardeners direct.
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3rd January 2012 12:36pm
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Jim says...
Hi John

I'm sorry that you are having problems with Gardeners direct. I only have used them once, and the order went smoothly.

As Jimmy has said, please let everyone know how they handled your issue.

Jim
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electra
Fremantle
3rd January 2012 8:00pm
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John says...
Ok - the problem with Gardeners Direct was that they put my order through incorrectly - charging my credit card 10 times what I had ordered. As soon as I made them aware they were very apologetic and offered to refund the entire amount. I agreed with them that a refund of the excess and a 50% discount on the purchase was more than adequate. All was sorted with everyone happy.
So - all's well that ends well and I would use them again without hestitation.
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John49
Perth
5th January 2012 10:53am
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snottiegobble says...
An extra zero can really fire us up cant it? Do they dispatch further out do you know?
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snottiegobble
Bunbury/Busso (smackin the middle)
6th January 2012 4:05pm
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John says...
It all depends on where the zero is - and whether its coming in or going out!
Best thing to do is contact them direct if you are unsure about delivery to your area.
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Perth (Wilson)
8th January 2012 5:57pm
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Jimmy says...
Mircos sell both sodium and calcium bentonite, they just buy whats cheapest on the open markets.
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10th January 2012 2:14pm
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sandy says...
Hello,
I have just used a product better & easier to get than Sand.R..

made by Sand & Seeds called SAND-FIXA
also heaps cheaper & comes in a good range of sizes.
URL sandandseeds.com.au
Made here in perth , they also sell Australian Native tube stock all Disease & Dieback FREE
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sandy11
carlisle
16th January 2012 12:50am
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sandy says...
Hello
Bentonite is great for perth soils, but on its own it is not enough.
As sand has no structure the clay(Bentonite) is unable to hold the sand together enough to hold both moisture & nutrient.
You need to use a combination of minerals. See SAND-FIXA

ALso yes Bentonite comes in a few grades, the cheaper versions are usually of the calcium variety which is fine if you want to alter the ph balance of you sand...you need to check this
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carlisle
16th January 2012 12:58am
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Joy says...
I have been using soil solver to add clays, silts and rock minerals to my beachy sandy garden to create a true soil, for over two years, and was so impressed with it I took a job with Gavin to help him market the product. I found it is easier to mix than a plain bentonite clay powder, and much MUCH easier than lugging bags of cat litter home to have it delivered to your door!Increasing numbers of professional landscapers are choosing it, particularly after they have seen the long term benefits to the soil structure. Check out the web site www.soilsolver.com.au
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Joy Ross
 
18th January 2012 7:00pm
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Original Post was last edited: 28th January 2012 10:17am
John says...
Well - looks like some people have realised they can get some free publicity for their products here...
I don't mind, so long as it is helpful.
Sandy (very appropriate name) - your website is completely useless.
Joy - yours is better but, while I am no chemist I am pretty sure that sodium (Na) is not the same as salt (NaCl) so that sodium bentonite is not salty clay.
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John49
Perth (Wilson)
18th January 2012 9:13pm
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nick giancola says...
Hi Guys
I have been reading all these technical analasis of soil conditions etc etc.
From our familys experiences in this country [60 years] and backyard growing of a vast range of fruit and vegetables
the tried and proven method is PLENTY of SHEEP manure and or COW MANURE dug in deep before you plant.Our soil here is shit! but with regular animal manure it will be improved, and of course plenty of water! PS i am of Italian decent, which does not make me an expert but it HELPS. Cheers!
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nick giancola
perth wa
18th January 2012 10:55pm
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nick giancola says...
sory
got carried away, regular feed of NPK BLUE does not go astray
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nick giancola
perth wa
18th January 2012 10:59pm
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Mike says...
There are some places with rich soils derived from young basalt,good alluvials and a few other good soils like some black soils.Most soils however are old,leached,low in humus and low in most nutrients.Even manure can't supply the fullrange of nutrients needed for fruit trees to thrive.
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Cairns
18th January 2012 11:12pm
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Charles cant spell says...
NPK is not a solution nor is it remotely helpful for the ground water or soil life. Try your best to avoid concentrated man made fertilisers. Without good soil, as you say its gutless shit, very little of the NPK blue you are puting on actually gets to plants, most leeches into ground water and water ways.

While it looks like the old market gardeners knew what they where doing (as they grew stuff) it was at great waste and destruction, pooring copious amounts of water (3-4 waterings a day) and NPK blue onto straight sand and growing veggies is not healthy or ecologically freindly. :) Rant over.
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Charlesstillcantspell1
Perth Innaloo
19th January 2012 8:44pm
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amanda says...
I am with u CCS. Stick them in your compost first perhaps. Wilson-John...sorry to say - but chloride is chloride....and sodium is sodium. Doesn't matter what shape or form they come in (natural or synthetic) - it's all the same when they get into the soil and dissociate into the ions of Na+ and Cl-

This is partly why some synthetic fert's are so damaging - especially in certain soil types 9but maybe not yours Mike :)

U can grow anything if u chuck enough water and fert's around the place...is that ethical growing tho...?

If u use sodium bentonite - I would recommend some gypsum and a very good flushing (in WA sandy loams) to leach out the sodium.

Chloride is quite different and much more difficult to remove...(note: not chlorine)

This is the reason we use potash and not muriate of potash now (K2SO4 vs KCl) It pays to read the label of synthetic fert's and understand exactly how they may affect your particular soil. With organic fert's this is not such a drama.

(ps - do agree tho Mike - the only high nitrogen organic fert's I am aware of is hair and feathers...?)
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amanda19
Geraldton. WA
19th January 2012 11:03pm
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Original Post was last edited: 19th January 2012 11:07pm
nick giancola says...
Hi Guys. I would like to put in my 2 bobs worth. I am 57 years old and my dear ol father [italian] always had a large vegie patch in his back yard here in WA. He never used any chemicles or sprays on his crops [i reckon the original GREENY] any way he started off with a very sandy patch of sand and added Sheep Manure all the time, after a few years the soil was perfect for growing ANYTHING! I beleave that organic
fertilisers are the way to go ,
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nick giancola
perth wa
20th January 2012 12:00am
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Mike says...
Amanda my natural is derived from weathered and highly leached metamorphic parent rock and has numerous nutrient deficiencies.Vegies do ok with manures and mulch.Fruit trees from places dominated by rich volcanic soil and alluvials do need a modest input of NPK (none with chlorides and low N) in order to grow and fruit properly.I rarely water only during very dry weather.CCSS you may be surprised at how much P and K is intercepted and held in the organic component and clay portion of soils.Poor farming practices that are over-applying and not responding to specific plant reqirements or soil deficiencies are a real problem.When you look at or are involved in ground water quality monitoring and stream fish and invertebrate assessment it isan eye opener.Heavy metals and pesticides are bad news and detectable problems still need big inputs.Only a small proportion of NPK generally seems to make it to watercourses or can be found in groundwater.It doesn't wipe out soil fauna/flora which is artificial anyway in the places we grow stuff.
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Cairns
20th January 2012 1:23am
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Mike says...
That was a bit much.Gardeners contribute very little to excess nutrients and bad water quality.Excess clearing of native veg. especially around streams would contibute as much to poor water quality as anything else.Heavy mulching with all trimmings, grass and lots extra can minmise fertliser needed to very small amounts and make it last longer.It can't always provide key missing elements in your soil.
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Cairns
20th January 2012 6:38am
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amanda says...
That's true Mike. And it does depend on how time poor people are, unfortunately. I guess I could spend a lot of time calcining bones and grinding them up, for P & Ca...but I am lucky enuf to be a stay at home Mum...

Almost every summer the Swan river suffers from toxic algal bloom due to a lack of flushing and run off of fert's from the many flash riverside properties. Now the river dolphins have some awful skin condition too...

Farmers are more on the ball with specific nutrients...it costs them a bomb in fert's otherwise - so their soil AND their crops are tested at various stages of growth, every season.

According to the CSIRO guru (Handreck) good manures contain all the trace elements needed for plant growth.

Many "deficiencies" are just due to poor soil husbandry.

I agree with something Speedy pointed out a long time ago...put the specific things/synthetics you need into your hot compost first. It makes sense and is far safer this way.

In some parts of Perth the water table is very, very shallow...our bore only went down a few meters in Dianella. Perth is mainly sand - not clay - so nutrients leach extensively.

Fruit trees are hungry...and u are taking away from the soil every time u pick a crop. I try other methods to correct deficiencies, pH etc b4 I reach for synthetics. They are my last resort. Nitrogen is my biggest need in my impoverished sand.

But personally, I have always felt that loads of organics and very, very careful use of synthetic fert's have a place in my garden...

Loads of organics help to Buffer the synthetic fert's....this is very important. I would never recommend synthetic ferts to be used without organics, myself. It's a sure way to trash your soil.

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amanda19
Geraldton. WA
20th January 2012 12:26pm
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Glennis says...
I dont live in WA but i use this stuff . It might be useful .
http://www.nutri-tech.com.au/products/humates/nts-liquid-humus.html
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brisbane
20th January 2012 1:22pm
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woonellup says...
sodium bentonite clay will cause your ph to go up as it contains sodium and magnesium, but little calcium.
this completely screws up your Ca/Mg ratio, meaning your plants struggle.
This means your sandy soil will have high Mg and Na, not a good thing for plants.
all our dam banks do not grow anything on the subsoil clay that is bought to the surface. this is the same reason, i.e. high Mg and low Ca.
alkaline soils come from high Mg and high Na levels, (and sometimes high K levels) with low Ca levels in the cat-ion exchange.
The Ca/Mg ratio should be 5.6 to 1. When you have this in a alkaline soil, the ph will be 7.5 and you will get the best trace element uptake.
This can be improved by increasing the trace element minerals.
I have seen this done on a Perth soils and acid loving plants are growing great.
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woonellup
jerramungup
21st January 2012 4:29am
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amanda says...
That's strange woonellup...I have two piles of deep subsoil clay (from brickworks) for "claying" in my garden - and it's a common agricultural practice for WA farms with water repellant sands - recommended by CSIRO and the Agriculture Dept?

My brown clay is slightly acid - and my pink clay is slighty alkaline.

I cannot grow much without the addition of a lot of this clay. It works brilliantly, here.

I agree the Mg and Na in excess are a problem tho. I won't use sodium bentonite because I already have a salinity problem here.

The appropriate clay can add a vey long term supply of potassium to sandy soils. Not all clays are the same tho are they...
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amanda19
Geraldton. WA
21st January 2012 10:38am
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amanda says...
It's interesting - cos' now that I think of it - 2yrs ago I stopped using a Granular wetting agent (from Bunno's) that looked a bit like kitty litter actually...I was having real problems with leaf scorch. A forum member (Dekka I think) alerted to me re: this type of wetting agent (in another thread somewhere) and I stopped using it. It was stated to last up to 12 months.

I don't have leaf scorch problems now...I had forgotten all about this - now I am wondering what was actually in that those wetting granules...?? Hmnnn.
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amanda19
Geraldton. WA
21st January 2012 10:47am
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Mike says...
Amanda poor husbandry is probably responsible for many deficiencies especially with antagonistic effects.The mulch I use is from plants grown on soil deficient in Fe,Mo,Mg and other nutrients like my soil so the deficiency doesn't get addressed.I can almost see the roots 'snapping' to get at fertliser with these nutrients in when applied.....like a hungry dingo on a T-bone.The plants respond straight away.
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Cairns
21st January 2012 12:50pm
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amanda says...
That's a really good point about the sources of mulch we use Mike. And then follow on effect is that our food we grow can end up deficient in these minerals too?

I understand what u are saying (like the hungry dingo reference! lol!) I have to 'tweak' things here n there too - there is nothing else for it sometimes. I don't feel bad about this at all. I know I am using these extras appropriately - and I am sure many folk here are too.

The vast majority of my mulch comes from outside - but I am thinking there may come a day when I won't be able to afford this anymore...such is the cost of manure, straw and bark chips these days!!?

Even now I can't afford to spend as much on manure as I would like :-(

That's one thing I like about making my own Biochar...U can pick up massive loads of free wood on roadside collection days and make your own soil conditioner! I costs nothing to make once you have your set up.
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amanda19
Geraldton. WA
21st January 2012 2:06pm
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nick giancola says...
Hi Guys.
Our soil here on the coastal belt,ie from the coast to approx 20ks inland is not soil But dry sand that does not allow water to seep in.Forget all these fancy soil conditioners and the like. You need to turn SAND in SOIL. The way to do it is to dig in sheep and or cow manure into your beds all the time you prepare the beds for planting, you cannot pot in too much and there is no smell or flies.
I started off with sandy soil and over the years have developed a Soil that even TV gardeners would be proud to have.My recipe for Perth soils is plenty of sheep and or cow manure dug in regular and regular feed of NPK blue and heaps of water and you will not be far wrong with any tree or vegetable.
AND NO I DO NOT SELL THESE MANURES.Heh!
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nick giancola
perth wa
21st January 2012 2:17pm
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woonellup says...
for a start I am a farmer, and I am telling my experience with soils. Remember if I don’t get it right, I don’t get paid!!
I am not say don’t use clay, in fact the opposite. I am saying get your clay content to a min of 5%, and that takes 10 kgs of a good clay.(10% will be better) Silt content is also important in your soil, and some clays are low in silt.

some clays have more Ca then others Amanda, but all clays I have seen are Ca deficient. sodium bentonite is gross deficient, and the3y try to get around it by recommending very low rates, rates that are not enough to make a difference. I saw some clay trials the other day, and they went to a rate of 50 kgs per sq m. A bit more then 2 or 5. One of the reason is the lower clay content. Half the clay content , double the rate.

All clays are different, and unless they have been tested and the right minerals are added, you can run into problems.
I have been helping a friend in Perth with her garden, and the last experiment I did was putting about 20 kgs of clay, with the necessary rock minerals added for a another small veggie patch.
So far, excellent and the only organic matter was a light mulch on the surface. I am sure it will get better with time, as other areas I have treated for her.
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woonellup
jerramungup
21st January 2012 4:17pm
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amanda says...
woonellup...it's not so much about what the clay does and does not contain. The point of adding clay is to vastly increase the ion exchange capacity of the sand.

WA sand has next to zero exchange capacity, it is majorly porous. It is impoverished. It is water repellant. It is severely lacking in organic matter.

Yes nick - we can all add tonnes of manure and grow..I agree...but it's like chasing your tail..without the clay content - your sand will not "hold on" to this organic matter. As soon as you stop adding it...within a year or two you will back to square one.

I cost me $50 today to 2/3 fill the back of my Hilux with ultra-degraded pig poo. I manured about 12 of my 80 trees with this...do the math?

This organic matter will vanish and need to be replaced in around 4 months...because that is what happens in sand - with no clay content.

woonellup - you need to understand how the H+ ions work here. And that is what soil pH is all about.

I don't agree with some stuff u are saying here at all, no offence.

So, u are a farmer - what's your 'take' on organic matter?
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amanda19
Geraldton. WA
21st January 2012 11:21pm
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woonellup says...
Hi Amanda
What I say, is what I learnt and found to work on soils I manage.
A lot of stuff from when I first started farming I found did not make any difference.
In some cases, soil test results from ;bare clay(hi Mg, low Ca) to almost ok clay, to loaming great soil and sandy stuff that battled, all got the same recommendations when the tests results came back.
I felt time to go look elsewhere.
What I talk about here is what works.


Your comment about ion exchange capacity is repellent, but with tests before and after, not a great difference, unless you apply high rates of clay, talking here of 20 plus kgs of 50% clay with a good ion exchange capacity. The 2 to 5 kg rates people talk about just get diluted too much, and if a lot of organic matter is dug in, can be waxed up as well.
What I mean by “wax up” is the result of organic matter breaking down is wax. If your soil stays wet, the microbes will break the wax down. Let your soil dry out, and you are in trouble.
I have seen it happen in Perth gardens. Organic matter is great, after you have at least 5% clay and 5% silt content in your soil. More clay is better, in fact 10% for both would be much better.
Just read a article in this week’s farm papers, and a there was a story about another clay trial, with rates to 50 kg’s per sq/m.

With higher clay rates, I feel you do have to worry about the Ca/Mg ratio as you will find the Ca level low. This does stop the soil from being productive, heard about it as well and seen some pictures from people using hi Mg/Na clays, then wonder why the plants will not grow.
I personally have never had this problem as I have always made sure the Ca level is good, both farm and garden.

I do understand the basics about H+ ions.

As for agreeing with what is said on many sites, and what people are doing, I am horrified most of the time.
This is further backed up with people who I come across with my work. They tell me what their garden soil is like and doing, and I tell them what they have been doing often.
One follows the other I have come to see.

Personally, I think the huge push with organic matter if more the problem for sandy soils then a solution.
If you need wetting agents, the system is wrong, pure and simple.
Clay will hold the water and minerals in the soil much better than anything else. organic matter, as you alluded to is gone in a few months, gone into the rivers, hence the poor water quality in Perth’s rivers.

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woonellup
jerramungup
22nd January 2012 3:19am
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amanda says...
Hi woonellup, ah - that makes sense now - if u go back to my post on 24th Dec - I pretty much have found the same thing - so we are on the same page here :)

I also agree that too much organics can also be a problem in sand....I have found that manure from horse and sheep aggravate the problem, cow a little less so - but pig manure to be excellent. I think this is likely due to the digestive systems of these different animals and how "thorough" they are? Maybe diet also.

I have also found the "standard" recommendation for a thick layer of wood chip to be the worst thing for aggravating repellancy. It really only breaks down in the winter period when it is soaked..then yes -the waxy residues build up over a dry summer. Dripper irrigation means much of the mulch stays bone dry too.

I am actually going to trial much larger chunks of wood (as a "mulch", around my fruit trees) this season. I have many critters that this would suit (loads of native cockroaches, slaters, for eg, they play a big role in semi-arid zone recycling of nutrients) My reasoning being - the chunks would provide shade for the soil, they allow the valuable leaf litter to settle - and not blow away, they protect the soil from the wind, they can be easily removed for manuring, weeding - and then put back. They would break down so slowly and not contribute to the wax problem..they would save me a lot of $ in mulch.

What do u think woonellup? (we have half Perth rainfall, hotter temps, stronger winds) I passed on the idea of rocks because I am concerned as to how hot they might get. Living mulch has been difficult with the amount of wind blown weed seeds invading.

I am also very interested in Biochar - as it also "holds onto" ions etc, also..

Mg is also a problem, in excess, as it causes soils to collapse and compact easily - which only aggravates water repellancy. Some of the previous research re: Mg/Ca research is being reviewed now though...

I find getting my soil to form a good "crumb" structure the hardest thing of all. It takes time for the clay and organics to settle in...I farm worms, for the garden, to help with this part. It needs patience and care and minimal digging/interference.

Too much clay and organics can also "hold up" the Na in the topsoil - the beauty of sand is it's flushability -and our scheme water is Class 3 saline here :-( But then organics and clay help to buffer pH etc. It's a bit of a conundrum isn't it!? ;)

(ps - applications of gypsum will help to displace the Mg - and the Na - from the clay..)
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amanda19
Geraldton. WA
22nd January 2012 1:06pm
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Original Post was last edited: 22nd January 2012 1:10pm
Wazzbat says...
As a back yard novice, I have found that water is retained better and plants have grown better in the areas that I have added clay in the form of kitty litter. No science or analysis - just observation.

Based on this, I would say that adding bentonite clay (which is what the kitty litter labelled the product as) along with organic matter, is better for the soil and plants than just adding organic matter.

Sure, my soil might do even better by neutralizing the soil by adding other elements or by using a balanced clay product but I have found the kitty litter to be a very cost effective way of improving my soil.

I can't afford sand remedy or soil solver or such products at this stage at least and until I can, I will continue to use cheap forms of bentonite clay.

That's my experience so far?

I guess my point is, that adding "bad" clay is better than adding no clay at all in our sandy Perth gardens. We all need to try and use less water and this is the best way to do it in the gardens. Along with good mulching practices too.
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23rd January 2012 8:54am
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amanda says...
That's good to know Wazzbat - did u have any problems with your leaf margins burning with the kitty litter?

(A relative has that awful Bassendean sand (in Rivervale)..even my sand here is better than that..not all sands are the same hey!?)

Gypsum is a wonderful natural product and is just as useful in sand as it is in clay - have u tried it in your sand?
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amanda19
Geraldton. WA
23rd January 2012 10:52am
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Wazzbat says...
No burning that I've noticed?

Havent tried gypsum yet?
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23rd January 2012 2:53pm
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Nick says...
Agar agar which is derived from seaweed is used as a wetting agent, does seasol do a similar job?
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Nick T
Altona, VIC
23rd January 2012 10:02pm
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amanda says...
Nick/Wazzbat - Nick - I tried Agar Agar and it's pretty gluggy stuff..? I am not sure if Seasol would be 'strong' enough to use as a sole wetting agent..?

Wazzbat - if you are not having problems then u likely don't need gypsum..but just for interest/in case - it is good for displacing sodium from sands, it's also a source of calcium without the Mg, and without the pH changes of lime...which makes it very useful. Being calcium sulphate - it is also handy for the soluble sulphur part, in sands.
The older gardeners often call it a "soil sweetener"..? :)

U can overdo it in sand tho...much lighter applications than in clay, I have found..
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amanda19
Geraldton. WA
23rd January 2012 10:53pm
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amanda says...
woonellup - are u still there? I decided to check out the kitty litter at the supermarket today - and only saw an attapulgite clay one...I found this reference...

http://www.attapulgite.org/adsorbent.html

It does contain Mg - and aluminum too..

I tried to research more about clay, in general, a long time back in this thread..but there are many different types and even the research indicated that we don't know all there is to know about clay yet.

I have likely been lucky with my clay. Is it worth getting a source tested (if u are going to use a lot) do u think? And what would u test for?

I also found a bag of paper-pellets (kitty litter) - recycled, no additives or chemicals - I am going to see what the worms think of them? ;)
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amanda19
Geraldton. WA
23rd January 2012 11:07pm
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woonellup says...
Hi this morning, have some free time so will put my view about some of these posts.

Amanda, gypsum was toxic to my soil and never made any difference. In fact more like made it worse.
Reason, with every Ca comes a “S” and very much in excess. The “S” being negative, leaches out of the soil, with Ca, so no extra Ca permanently in the soil.

Clay will not hold Na in the soil, low Ca/high Mg will. With your comment about clay holding salt and gypsum, just what I would expect to hear under this situation.

Since I have been using Ca on my clay soils(no “S”) , things have really changed. First time I did this was almost 30 years ago.
Gypsum is a salt, not a soil amendment product.


Wazzbat, yes clay will retain water, but kitty litter is chemically made as a kitty litter, so no Ca in the product. With your soil being Ca deficient, it will create problems, and have heard of it several times and also in trials. You will regret adding kitty litter one day, but then you may not realise it as you have not used , say soil solver, with has a soil friendly mineral balance. This include our soil most deficient mineral, “Ma”. Seen the results and worth the extra money as you will get 100% of the soil minerals requirements, so only need a high nitrogen source such as chook poo.
To mmake the comment you cant afford sand remendy or soil solver, have you tried them according to manafucture instructions?
If not, you really cant not make the comment you can not offord them.

Do not use gypsum, any advice in my view is very flawed, clay treated right, and from what I can tell only soil solver meets that basic test. Sand remedy has gypsum in it, and low rates do not cut it.
Farmers spread from 15 to 50 kgs per sq metre. The reason clay costs so much , is advertising and bagging, so buy bulk, helps overcome some cost. All this free advertising for kitty litter is great for a product not suited for sands, but makes other brands that are genuine “soil amendments) more expensive.

Again I will say investing money in clay,( instead of toxic gypsum) will give you a permanent improvement, especially if you buy a product that has all the soil science done for you.

I have done quite a bit of testing on clays and its clay and silt content that count, with a CA/Mg ratio of 5.6 to one. Is the best. Any other product will not do what clay will do.
You will need at least 10 kgs of any product, and if the source you are using stops growth, then you have a problem.
If the clay has aluminium, steer clear and the solution is Ca, not gypsum. This will lock the aluminium out of the soil soluble part.

I would like to add, lime will not raise the ph of soils very well and when above ph 7.5, does very different things to you soil then what you say Amanda. If Ca is responsible for the high ph of our sands, then explained a ph of 8.5 when pure lime has a ph lower than that.

High ph comes from
• Mg, 1,4 times the alkaline of Ca
• K, about 2 time more alkaline then Ca
• Na, the grand daddy of them all about 4 times more alkaline the Ca. ( the reason for this danger comments on some Na based cleaners)


See the attached picture’s a friends house where soil solver was used on unimproved road verge, with chook poo and some sea weed extract.
No organic matter added and no fertiliser bar the chook poo.
Second picture, about a month later.


Pictures - Click to enlarge

Picture: 1

Picture: 2
 
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woonellup
jerramungup
25th January 2012 10:28am
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woonellup says...
Google APAL ( http://www.apal.com.au/), Albrecht,( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Albrecht, http://www.healthyag.com/albrecht.html) claying sandy soils,( http://www.agric.wa.gov.au/PC_92461.html, loam soil or loamy soil.( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loam)
I find most of what said what I have found on my farm, hence the soil model I use.
I have found applying lime after claying to be beneficial. Not normally recommended and have heard of problems with high Mg levels after claying.
The Albrecht model is the only soil test that comes back , with different recommendations for different soil, and would tell me good paddocks from bad paddocks every time.

The west Australian test came back almost all the same recommendation. This was bare clay, nothing grew right through to very sandy infertile sands!
note the correct spelling of albrecht
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25th January 2012 11:20am
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amanda says...
Lot's of info there woonellup! What a great post :) Just a quick note: Does gypsum deserve that bad a rap? My impression was that it is highly water soluble and dissociates into Ca+2 and So4-- The calcium can then bind to the clay particles by displacing sodium (flocculation)...and the Sulphur (which is needed in fairly decent amounts (espec in sand) is then readily available in a form the plants can use?
I wasn't saying to use gypsum in place of clay though :-(
It was info from Kevin Handreck (CSIRO) that I gleaned this info from..?
(incidentally he also recommended an application of P when adding clay - especially with virgin soils?)

(yes agree that low Ca/Mg will result in high Na in clay soils but I don't have clay soils - and I wasn't really referring to using in lime in a pH>7.5 situation..?)

My sand is a little different to Perth sand, I admit, it is calcerous based (limestone bedrock) and soil testing has shown my Ca/Mg ratio is fine, my pH nearly neutral. So a different scenario perhaps..? Apologies for being a bit sceptical previously. It takes me time to work things out in a way I can understand them ;-)

Also my scheme water has tested highly saline (and yes - alkaline therefore) and "hard" - which is almost it's saving grace maybe? (and likely why I don't need/ever apply Mg) and we are next the ocean. In effect I am constantly adding Na to my soils every time I water them :-(

Flushing helps push it down and out of the drip line - but in dry times/sudden heavy rain it can wash back in again? So I use liquid gypsum (not heavily) once or twice in the summer (thru fertigation) and have had no problems - only a temp Fe chlorosis when I overdid it once or twice. I let the rain do the rest in winter and reverse mulch, to some extent, to assist.

I loved reading your post woonellup - every bit of useful info helps and that was heaps :) thanks for taking the time. It's a topic that interests me immensly and perhaps you should go into business helping people in Perth to understand these things? It could make a huge difference to the environment!

I guess it is dangerous for me to make assumptions based on my sand - as compared to Perth sand do u think? (I would not like to give anyone bum advice)

I have loved my experience with (real) clay...it's been back breaking getting it out there..but the benefits have been astounding for me (here)

I should get my source tested - you have got me curious now! (came from the brickworks - but it's what the farmers use here)

Maybe some of the bulk landscape suppliers would be interested in supplying a quality clay from somewhere?

(ps: woonellup - do u have any interest in Biochar?) (also - do u have time for us ask u more questions?)
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25th January 2012 12:00pm
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Original Post was last edited: 25th January 2012 12:14pm
Mike says...
I am a gypsum sceptic as well after naively using it with abandon as a clay breaker.It did not work of course even when I upped the rate.The tees seemed to suffer.A number of authoritative references advise that gypsum use can lead to Fe,Mg and Mn deficiencies in plants.
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25th January 2012 7:29pm
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amanda says...
Hmnnn Mike...maybe it's better just to stick any gypsum in the compost where it can form calcium humate instead!?

I haven't seen the need to use it on my patch this summer, so far, so I am hoping that I have solved most of my problems through overhauling my retic issues. Fingers crossed! :)

It's been a long time since we have had someone like woonellup on the forum - who has specific advice and experience for Perth sands....as Don Burke says: WA sands are unique and challenging...!
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Original Post was last edited: 25th January 2012 7:48pm
Diana says...
Gypsum does not work on all types of clay (it works well on mine). See gardening Australia fact sheet:

Heavy sticky clay soil is difficult to cultivate. The traditional method of breaking down clay is to incorporate lots of organic matter into the soil and to add gypsum, a powdery natural mineral (calcium sulphate). This changes the soil structure from big clods to a fine, easily worked texture which makes gardening easier and improves drainage. Gypsum also releases minerals within the soil structure from the clay particles so that they become available for plant nutrition. It is important to use natural gypsum, not the white builder's gypsum, for this purpose.

However, not all clays respond well to gypsum. To find out which ones do, a simple test known as the Emerson Dispersion Test can be done.

EMERSON DISPERSION TEST: Drop a piece of dry soil aggregate, about 6mm across, into a glass of rainwater. Don't move the glass - just watch what happens to it after an hour and then after 24 hours. If it slowly disperses into the water, first forming a halo of clay particles around the aggregate, it will respond to the addition of gypsum to the soil. If it does nothing at all in the water, it would be a waste of time adding gypsum to the soil as it won't respond. The greater the cloudiness of the water and the more rapidly it develops, the greater will be the benefit of adding gypsum to the soil and the higher the amount needed.

If you have soils which respond to the Emerson dispersion test, add gypsum at a rate of 0.5 - 1kg per square metre, digging it in well. Read the label and stick to the recommended amount. Too much gypsum will spoil the soil structure and a slurry may result.

It's a good idea to add lots of organic matter as a mulch after digging in the gypsum, or to grow and dig in a green manure crop.

REFERENCE: Handreck, K., Gardening Down-Under, CSIRO Australia 1993.
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Mike says...
Quite a few coastal parts of NQ including Cairns northern beaches are on old dunes with issues very similar to those of Perth sands in this thread.Applying vast amounts of mulch and truckloads of soil rich in clays seem to be stategies used.
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amanda says...
That's true Diana :) But bear in mind we are talking about sandy soils that we are adding clay to here...and also how gypsum works in purely sandy soils - (with no added clay)

woonellup suggests getting the right clay to start with (as we are "importing" it here) - then there shouldn't be the need for gypsum to start with...(have I got that right woonellup?)
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25th January 2012 10:59pm
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amanda says...
Also - I posted this ages ago..but should include here maybe? The fat lines are Stimulation and thin lines are Antagonism.

I just post it so that we can see that there is more to adding fertilisers that perhaps we realise...?

Mike u are exactly right about the effect of gypsum (= calcium) on the Mg, Mn and Fe! U can see the antagonistic effect in this chart...
I think it's a brilliant piece of work? (IMHO):)

(ps - in the double arrows eg: Phos and Mg - they are mutually stimulating..)
also note that sulphur doesn't even need to be there..?
Pictures - Click to enlarge

Picture: 1
  
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amanda19
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25th January 2012 11:41pm
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Original Post was last edited: 25th January 2012 11:50pm
amanda says...
Also Mike - I appreciate the Cairns sands may have similiar challenges - but the rainfall of Cairns compared with Perth is drastically different. This has implications with Na build up.

And even their scheme water is likely vastly superior to ours :(
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woonellup says...
Amanda,

Have time when I don’t have time, but do like the debate and discussion.
If your ph is about 7, your calcium levels should be about right, so don’t actually see the need to add gypsum.

As for the sulphur being used by the plants, yes but at rate many times less then calcium, hence the over load of sulphur and in your soil.
The result is you get a yield increase for the year, use a lot more calcium then sulphur, but then the negative sulphur leaches with, you guessed it, calcium.
That’s why there is gypsum deposits, and not sulphur deposits.
If you want to add calcium, use lime, you may find better results, about 10 grams a sq/m.
If you need sulphur, use it at about the same rate.

Yes clay is great, and part of the reason you are having great success, is you seem to have ok calcium levels.

Mike,
use lime to break up clay, I have transformed rock hard bare clay to clover , still a long way to go, but I have clover, the power house of our agriculture system.
Start with 500 grams per sq/m
Then add about 100 every year after that till you have a friable soil, you should be able to dig it in summer.

Amanda,
try lime in the compost, unless you are deficient in sulphur.

Diana, the chemistry for gypsum does not add up.

Lime works many times better, and last longer, the only reason you need more, is plant use and the calcium does leach further into the soil.
Gypsum works in the lab in a test tube, but not in the soil where the sulphur can leach, taking the calcium with it.

Amanda,

Almost all clay is Ca deficient, so added lime is needed, never gypsum, ever and ever.

Na build up occurs on soil with higher levels of Mg, hence the high Na in the surface and subsoil clays on my farm.
Gypsum cost me $000’s and lime has transformed my clays, just need the funds to keep adding lime.

I agree most people add more fertiliser then needed, mostly because they have water repellent soil(sand) and fail to correct that first.
Wetting agents are not the solution, just treating the symptom, for a profit, and not for you.
Was taught that organic matter equals water repellent soil, 40 years ago.
I think most people have heard the comment, “the wetting agents don’t work like they used to”

Maybe you should send a soil test to APAL and find out what you really have.



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26th January 2012 2:52am
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amanda says...
Just about ready for bed woonellup..but I would love to get my hands on u next time I get to Perth!? :) There is so much conflicting info out there that it's not funny really. U can see from this thread even...?

I have had to teach myself basically. There is no soil science help around. It's been trial and error and a damn hard path, to be frank. It's also why I have gaps in my knowledge.

Had my soil tested - but there was no help to actually Interpret the results? (and yes - I went to Landmark, CRT, the Horticulturalists etc..)

The water tester only wanted to sell me a magnetic thing to put on my mains pipe. It was so very frustrating.

I am from a science and biology background - so the combo of the soil chem and the soil biology is really interesting to me - and I just don't get to meet other gardeners to explore this with..?

I feel strongly about good soil husbandry. It's what the next generation will inherit from us, after all.

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26th January 2012 3:47am
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Original Post was last edited: 26th January 2012 5:44am
amanda says...
ps - there is still so much to learn about soil science I feel? We haven't even touched on the microbial and fungal portion here...which is massive in a healthy soil.

EG: How do they change all of the above? What do they actually do?

EG: to see a wood eating fungi growing in my mulch, here, is pretty exciting stuff, for me. I need these guys desperately. I even steal some from other places to innoculate my mulch with :) A forum member here made me go and find out about this stuff they did me a big favour. I learnt a lot about fungal ecology from that..

The hypotheses is out there about WA sands - that they support more bacteria than fungi...so maybe there is a long way to go yet? We don't know all the answers and I would challenge anyone here to say they do..?

When we use fert's with abandon..we can destroy all this life - much to the detriment of the soil (thus the plants) ...and the overall environment.

WA sands (at least) are poor in this soil flora/fauna.

I try very hard not interfere with the actual ecology of my patch to be honest. I put up with lots here - big centipede and spider bites, kamikaze breeding birds, wasps by the 100's, snakes, bugs by 1000's in summer..etc. Mike - I have more bugs here than in Cairns? It's amazing for a semi-arid zone.

It's all ok if they are not causing any problems in the garden? Why kill them? I also get loads of beneficial insects though? That is not a coincidence.

It's interesting to hear what molasses can do for your soil (thanks Speedy!)Molasses is cheap as chips ($2/2L)

Have a look at supplying ready carbs for your soil fauna. Ask questions here on this forum...?

I am an ex-scientist - that's it. I don't put a label on my gardening style at all. I am pretty organic - but not strictly. But once u get a handle on the basics - it's very easy to take it from there.

I would hazard a guess here - that when u see the garden of your dreams - it's because the person who grew it has actually taken the time to learn the fundamentals...?

A wise person once told me "I don't have all the answers - but Nature does"...? I have never forgotten this :)
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26th January 2012 6:23am
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Original Post was last edited: 26th January 2012 6:37am
Mike says...
Amanda the NQ coastal sands in the 450km from Townsville to Port Douglas are very different from those of the SW.They do however have saline groundwater,almost nonutrients, strong water repulsion,very low oragic content and a 6 month dry season with very little rain.
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amanda says...
Ah. Didn't know that Mike.. :) Saline water is a PITA...it can really complicate soil issues can't it.
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26th January 2012 3:34pm
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Mike says...
Amanda, friends of mine who are even keener gardeners than I battle the same problems spoken about in this thread 1000's of km away.They try very hard to get their soil right so the fruits of their labours can be enjoyed.
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amanda says...
There are keener gardeners than u Mike!? (big grin here! :) Yea - one thing I have learned (the hard way) is that each patch - whilst having very common problems - is totally unique and one-size does not fit all.

My most powerful first-up gardening tool is simply Observation...!? ;-)
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26th January 2012 4:09pm
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Rahaidi says...
Thanks to all for all this info. I have been following these discussions for awhile now and have appreciated all your comments and findings. There seems to be a lot o science involved in getting Perth soil right. If only Perth gardeners knew the wonders of soil amendments that would save a lot of outlay towards wetting agents, fertilisers and even the old african black beetle on the lawn problems (when infact its not them at all). I too have been conned in all this and with experience have reverted in getting the soil right in the first place.

There should be more push towards using the right clays as soil amendments for Perth gardeners. I wished I knew all this from the start. I have had a lot of success now using soil amendments (clays, humates). All this with good layer of composted coarse mulch from the loppers (mulch net) put onto annually has worked wonders. Soil profile is now really good. A lot of earthworms underneath all the material. After each layer of composted mulch, a handful of clay is thrown on top.

Keep up the good advice and tips guys!
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26th January 2012 7:13pm
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amanda says...
That's good Rahaidi :) Maybe this winter you can get to a natural bush reserve and poke around for some wood-eating fungi - they will love your coarse mulch! (they "eat" dead wood - not living BTW)

I usually take an icecream container (as the light can kill the filaments) and very carefully dig them up with a spade...then I bring them home and bury them under my mulch.

It seems to work ok - as they pop up every winter for me now.
The work these guys do is worth gold, in the garden - but I would need help from one of the more experienced forumites to explain the ins and outs there! It's a big topic.

I totally agree with you also - that's why we need more people like woonellup getting out there and educating. It's something I would love to be able to do, myself :)
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amanda19
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26th January 2012 7:56pm
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woonellup says...
amanda, i have a video of a advanced soil course, also some books.
all the people you went to, i walked away from many years ago

as i said, send a soil to APAL, you will not regret it.

i dont feel working with soil is that hard, since albrecht model came to my life.

some nice rain here in perth, just enough to cool the air.
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27th January 2012 12:53am
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amanda says...
Hi woonellup, thanks for the tips and links - I will have a good look at them :) Also - when they talk about clay "sub soil" - I am using 100% clay (u could do pottery with it) - apparently this can bind the P up quite a bit (Handreck) so I did provide an initial application of super phos (and I had soil that had not been farmed in at least 20yrs)

I feel I am a little luckier than Perth perhaps - because I have that bright yellow "brickies sand" as my sub soil - and it seems like it has some clay content perhaps..? It was used for our house pad - sets like cement - but re-wets no problems at all.
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Geraldton, 400km North of Perth
27th January 2012 9:24am
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woonellup says...
yellow sand does have clay, just missing the minerals
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27th January 2012 9:41am
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snottiegobble says...
Yeah I agree! had a heap of yellow left over from a project & decided to do a face sculpture in it. I was amazed to see it still there 6 months later. Now we know what sand sculptors use!
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Bunbury/Busso (smackin the middle)
27th January 2012 1:49pm
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amanda says...
woonellup - do u have any thoughts on the actual size of wood chip mulch to use? The local arid zone permie also suggests a slightly thinner layer for here...to allow any rain penetrate (our showers often brief)

I am also going to test out much chunkier mulch than what is the standard type. The local supply is tree prunings (also see below) put thru a huge mulcher machine. I am finding it is too mixed with very fine bits/dust that makes water difficult to penetrate also? I am not happy with it anyway.

I like big, more uniform, bits as I notice the valuable leaf litter collects around them and doesn't get blown away - but also allows for the soil to be shaded and protected. It also provides a great home for my vast number of native cockroaches that feed on decaying wood -and a part of the nutrient recycling system.

Also - I notice that the Ag Dept suggests certain woods increase water repellance too...I am pretty sure that my local chips are mostly banksia and acacia. It seems they may be offenders in this too... :-(

Have u also found that sheep manure can increase water repellance? (another factor the AG Dept mentioned also) I have pig poo to be much better in this regard?

Let's hope that the work they are doing on finding a bacteria, that breaks down these waxy residues, pans out :)

Certainly I have found, here, that I have needed a great deal more clay than what has been suggested too?

And it's in weather like this week that the clay really makes a difference also...the beds I have really loaded up with clay are doing really well at keeping the plants happy in the unbelieveable heat.
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27th January 2012 7:50pm
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amanda says...
ps woonellup/Perthites - just for interest - I also have sub surface retic in my orchard (the pipe is covered with a geotextile membrane (so no root invasion) and I have found this to a god-send in summer (also have top-side retic)

It's something I would consider outlaying money for in my next garden, without a doubt. My orchard trees are not even wilting at day 4 of 40 oC plus! They never do.
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27th January 2012 8:08pm
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woonellup says...
hi Amanda, not really a mulch specialist.
I will say, have a look at your bush and recreate that, like nature meant to happen. branches on top and finer material at the bottom, some from break of the wood above.
sheep manure is bad for water repellent build up and I have experienced that myself.
I believe we already have the microbes that break down the wax from organic break down, it just needs a wet soil to survive, hence the correct clay at the correct rate so that your soil stays wet, meaning the microbes stay alive.
farmers use up to 50 kgs per sq metre. this clay based product will also contain silt as well and that’s a natural part of soils.
I think clay needs to be 10% with a similar level for silt. you will find this also from goggling loam soils etc.
that would be a 20 kg rate for a product that is 50% clay and 50% silt. Finding a product to fit that spec could be hard, hence the high rates farmer use to get what they want.
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28th January 2012 5:18pm
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amanda says...
ah woonellup! If I only I had this info 5 or 6yrs ago...what a lot of trial and error you could have saved me!? :)

And yes - my soil/clay/mulch combo comes alive in winter and looks great - it's just such a short wet season here though - and then there are many months of inactivity.

Last winter was the best in a long time and the sub soil actually got a good soak for the first time in a few yrs. It's made a huge difference.

I wonder how long it will take my worms and soil microbes etc - to actually turn my current mix into a good loam?

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amanda19
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28th January 2012 7:22pm
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amanda says...
If u are interested woonellup - this is what I started with..and now today (5yrs later) I don't think I could have achieved this result without clay to be honest... :)
You can see how sandy it is :-(

It's even helped certain types of natives too.
Pictures - Click to enlarge

Picture: 1

Picture: 2
 
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amanda19
Geraldton, 400km North of Perth
29th January 2012 7:38pm
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Nick says...
Wow that soil looks extremely sandy! The pictures remind me of when Gardening Australia shows the transformation of a garden (hint hint) :)
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Nick T
Altona, VIC
29th January 2012 9:33pm
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amanda says...
lol...thanks Nick :) But I honestly don't post the pics to show off or anything - more to inspire others that anything is possible...especially when u get the basics right...?

My husband works FIFO so I have done all of this on my own. Carted the clay, the mulch, the sleepers, laid the retic etc. I have rarely been able to afford outside help. But it has been ultra-rewarding now that I see pics like this for myself!?

I had never laid any retic in my life b4 I came here, for eg...? Never had a wastewater treatment system, never grown fruit trees (only veg) never lived in a "droughty" + sandy climate. Never owned my own land b4.

Had to "study" heaps! Windbreaks, salinity, retic, fert's...? We all have the ability I feel..?

U need to be fit though and have the time. Money can be limiting factor too.

I think I have mentioned this b4 though (and I am sure woonellup would agree here?) * Get your soil tested *

It's worth every cent. As K.Handreck states - without a soil test: "it's like driving at night with no headlights"..?

And I even got my water tested too...and that was a disturbing revelation on its own :(

Once I understood these results - things/problems made a lot more sense, here. I stopped losing plants (I would calculate my plant losses in the $100's of dollars - over the acerage?)

Highly experienced gardeners may not need soil testing tho..? Would be interested to know about this?

Forums like this are valuable also. U are in the right place ;-) There are some very talented people here...
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amanda19
Geraldton, 400km North of Perth
29th January 2012 10:43pm
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amanda says...
PS - I am also being very brutal in this current heatwave..in my established native garden beds..the plants that are now dying - may stay dead - I am not going to interfere now.

So far it's only the Hibbertia scandens and the wormwoods dropping off the perch.

There will be more I suspect..I am going to push the unreticulated plants to their absolute limits here. If they can't make it - they are no good to me...and I can't recommend them to my friends (who keep asking me about "tough" plants?)

I like to see the limits of plants...often the labels are far too "positive" IMHO... :-/
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amanda19
Geraldton, 400km North of Perth
30th January 2012 1:37am
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amanda says...
also - the IN-puts into what u see there are high and that's on-going. Yes I have 75-50% less rainfall than Perth - but u may all looking down the barrel of high water costs too guys - and soon, I suspect?

It costs money to desalinate water..? How many millions/billions to set up the desal plants in Perth recently? U will see it in your water bills soon enough?

All good if u only have 100sqm to water ..or a good quality bore perhaps..?
I wont grow stone fruit again..it's a luxury in our climate I feel? In fact - I won't be growing any fruit trees that needs a high input again...(unless I can afford an exclusion orchard)

Personally - I am going to change my taste buds..? :D

It's perhaps time that west aussies looked to different food crops..? A big break away from tradition perhaps...

(ps - yes I know that's not a positive outlook at all. I hope I am proved wrong tho...I just don't think i will be tho :) WA is getting hotter and drier...the population is exploding...why do we need a de-sal plant to start with? U have to ask yourself that question really?)
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amanda19
Geraldton, 400km North of Perth
30th January 2012 5:14am
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Original Post was last edited: 30th January 2012 5:22am
Concerned Citizen says...
Be aware that woollenup sounds a lot like Gavin from Soil solver dot com dot au. !!
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30th January 2012 1:24pm
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amanda says...
Oh. That's interesting Concerned Citizen..? If that's the case is it "right thing to do" for someone to declare a commercial interest on a public Forum then?
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amanda19
Geraldton, 400km North of Perth
30th January 2012 1:31pm
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snottiegobble says...
Woollenup has a lot to offer WA`ers in advice so I dont care if he has a commercial interest! He also has a user ID & says where he comes from!
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snottiegobble
Bunbury/Busso (smackin the middle)
30th January 2012 3:16pm
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amanda says...
That's true SG :) And I am thinking a little bit of that product in the top inch or two of my tree sacks might also help with their water repellance also?

(having some problems with this on day 9 of heatwave - despite daily waterings?) It's premium mix - but I am still not convinced it's as "premium" as I would like ;)

Not sure I want to risk it with my heavy clay.

I wonder if anyone has used it in pots..?
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amanda19
Geraldton, 400km North of Perth
31st January 2012 8:45am
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amanda says...
PS: We planted out some flower seedlings 2 days b4 the heatwave hit (for my 8yr old)

Half went into a garden bed of potting mix, manure etc - that I had treated with a great deal of clay. It has direct sun for around 5hrs.

The other half went into a Jumbo sized strawberry tower and have been under the verandah (loads of light but no direct sun) with potting mix and compost only.

Despite daily waterings: we have lost about 60% of the the seedlings in the strawberry tower - and NONE in the garden bed...?

I am going to have to experiment with clay in pots now (or even a soil solver type product) as I am very surprised by these results, myself...?
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amanda19
Geraldton, 400km North of Perth
31st January 2012 8:18pm
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Original Post was last edited: 31st January 2012 8:20pm
Gus says...
That is really interesting Amanda.

I wonder if the clay perhaps has temperature moderating qualities beyond its water retention?
Maybe just the act of being planted in the ground as opposed to being in a pot helps to keep the roots cool. I know above ground pools tend to heat up a lot more than below ground pools as they get "zapped" from all angles and don't have the insulation to protect against temperature fluctuation.
Might me interesting to do some pots with clay and other without and see if there is a difference?
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Gus8
 
1st February 2012 11:35am
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amanda says...
Maybe Gus..? Being seedlings (the small 8 cell punnets) they would have only the small root system they came with..so no way to access deeper moisture in either case really..?

The strawberry tower is huge..(about 60L) with those "pockets" all around/up the sides? So pretty minimal soil exposure to the air? No direct sun - but the air temp/wind very hot.

I certainly will have an experiment :D Very nearly lost my brand new special pomegranate due to the rubbish potting mix it came in...grrr...
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amanda19
Geraldton, 400km North of Perth
1st February 2012 1:50pm
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Gus says...
What is a strawberry tower anyway?
Are they just like those ceramic pots with holes in the sides?
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Gus8
 
2nd February 2012 8:47pm
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amanda says...
Yup Gus :)
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amanda19
Geraldton, 400km North of Perth
2nd February 2012 8:59pm
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Anthony says...
I've got bentonite clay prety cheap from Mirco Bros, as well as Zeolite.
Works great in sandy soil if you dig it through, really bulks up Perths gutless soil, retains a lot more water too.
Doesn't need a lot to make a difference.
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Anthony7
Munster
22nd February 2012 12:42am
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snottiegobble says...
Amanda,those strawberry towers are so completely unnatural when you think about it. The depth is too great for water to remain near the top even with a full tray.
Remember that the ground, although it dries out & the surface is hot under the sun,it gets cooler with depth. Strawberry towers,(in fact all pots to a degree) dont allow that coolness, have far greater evaporation so need watering much more often! Er! I lost strawberries the same way!
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snottiegobble
Bunno &amp; Busso ( smack in the middle)
22nd February 2012 2:45pm
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amanda says...
Yea that's probably true SG...I was also a bit slack and didn't seal the tower either (terracotta)...I'd better remedy that next time... ;)

It would look good as a succulent tower perhaps... :)
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amanda19
Geraldton, 400km North of Perth
22nd February 2012 6:39pm
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snottiegobble says...
Now that sounds interesting How about hen & chickens all the way up with a dragon in the top bit?
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snottiegobble
Bunno &amp; Busso ( smack in the middle)
22nd February 2012 6:42pm
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John says...
Any suggestions for a decent supplier of pea-straw or lucerne straw for adding organics/nitrogen to a vegie patch?
I am looking at about a trailer-load worth.
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John49
Perth (Wilson)
27th February 2012 10:58pm
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snottiegobble says...
John, I have used peastraw & ended up with a million field peas sprouting so dont use it with seedlings in mind. lucerne on the other hand is most beneficial, but quite expensive! Sometimes you can pick up 'spoiled hay' very cheaply & its worth leaving the city to visit a few farms that cut their own hay!
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snottiegobble
Bunno &amp; Busso ( smack in the middle)
28th February 2012 12:30am
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John says...
Thanks SG but I can't just go wandering the countryside asking random farmers for leftover hay - although it sounds like a nice drive, if rather Quixotic.
I used 'garden straw' previously and got a pretty decent crop of wheat (I think). No big deal - just turned in. I think pea shoots would be even better as a green manure.
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John49
Perth (Wilson)
28th February 2012 9:05pm
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amanda says...
Let your fingers do the walking John? :) Quokka may have contacts - but u can also Google suppliers...
But - if u get pea straw - make certain it has no double gees though. Different crops can be suspectible to different weeds due to the area, climate, time and weed sprays used.

Lupin straw is another option.
Plain straw is high in potassium..not nitrogen.
Never buy "meadow hay" for garden mulch...you will live to regret it usually..it's full of all things "meadow" :D
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amanda19
Geraldton, 400km North of Perth
28th February 2012 10:52pm
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Julie says...
Feedman in Kelmscott have oat and wheat straw for $9, barley straw for $10.

Any views on which might be the best buy?

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Julie
Roleystone WA
26th March 2012 8:28pm
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Itdepends says...
Whichever is the cheapest (wheat straw) and has the least number of seads. Stay away from anything marked as hay (contains the seed heads) and have a look at the bales - see if you can see any seed heads.

Personally- I'd use the wheat straw
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26th March 2012 9:15pm
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amanda says...
It's Official WA! We have the "worst water repellant soils you can find" (according to the experts...) So what do we do about it?

For me, I am red-loaming everything right now. Found a 'clean' source of quality red-loam ($10 cubic metre - cheap!) with a pH of slightly acidic (perfect for our alkaline sands)

This pic is one veg patch that had a heap of organic matter (OM) from spud growing - and it became shockingly repellant over it's fallow summer.

I threw in heaps of worms and put 1 cubic metre of red loam over it (> 1 tonne) which sealed it right off then started watering it...

It took 2 weeks for the OM underneath to get evenly moist and stay that way. I then scratched in dynamic lifter, a few bags of compost, and a lot of fine cocopeat thru the 2 inches of red loam on top, only.

I am ready to plant now - so I guess we will see how it goes..? Lots of good stuff under this loam too.

I have put red loam over everything in my garden that is water repellant and that I suspect has a load of O.Matter that is far too high for sands...

Interestingly - I am finding that my own observations regarding the size of our mulching materials does matter...A LOT.

We are now being advised to avoid straw and hay becuase it aborbs the water, prevents percolation to the soil...and then the water evaporates off in the heat..

Wish they had told me this 5yrs ago...grrr!?

I would lay money that the next big advice will be to embrace liquid feeding, in repellant sands, like compost tea, seasol, recycled water, fish emulsion etc...?

Pictures - Click to enlarge

Picture: 1
  
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amanda19
Geraldton. 400km north of Perth
9th April 2012 9:25pm
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amanda says...
Here is the before and after, and another great link...so gutted I missed these guys in Gero last week somehow.. :-(

http://beyondgardens.com.au/index.php

Pictures - Click to enlarge

Picture: 1

Picture: 2
 
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amanda19
Geraldton. 400km north of Perth
9th April 2012 9:32pm
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Brendan says...
Is that at your place amanda? I can't see any pegs/stays along the garden edges?, I thought it may need some support like mine :-)
Pictures - Click to enlarge

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Brendan
Mackay, Q
10th April 2012 9:27am
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amanda says...
Hey Brendan...I trenched these ones into the ground so they are strong. They are not very high - and the sides will flex enough to get the wheelbarrow over them if needed.

I'd like much taller ones tho...self wicking would be good too..
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amanda19
Geraldton. 400km north of Perth
11th April 2012 10:37am
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Brendan says...
Hey amanda, who wiped out the passenger tail-light and back panel on the ute? :-)
The other half I presume? :-)
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Brendan
Mackay, Q
12th April 2012 7:13am
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amanda says...
Cheeky Brendan :) I had to match it up to the front one... ;-)
You know - I would design this veg patch so differently in hindsight now (although I do have the luxury of space here)
I had to take down part of the fence to get the truck in...but wow - it was so much easier than wheelbarrowing that lot in!
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amanda19
Geraldton. 400km north of Perth
12th April 2012 9:14am
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snottiegobble says...
Whats the other side of the ute like Amanda?? :-)
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snottiegobble
Bunbury/Busso
12th April 2012 11:39am
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amanda says...
It will be good by tomorrow morning SG - my cute mechanic has it right now.. :D
Brendan - what did u fill your beds with at the bottom?

It's interesting as I was reading recent info that suggested raised beds are NOT the go for sandy soils...rather that the beds should be sunk deeper into the ground....this has got me thinking as to how this could be done sensibly?!

This is not new - as apparently trench-growing is already being used in the dry Middle East areas.

Looking much further into the future of our semi/arid zone gardens - they might look pretty alien to us...?!
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amanda19
Geraldton. 400km north of Perth
13th April 2012 7:09pm
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Brendan says...
Hi amanda, I threw just about anything in the bottom of the garden first, namely old dead coconuts & fronds :-) I've also added el-cheapo potting mix, SAND, compost, and Wayne has delivered heaps of 'garden soil'. (in his ute).

That brownish colour in the pic is coco peat, I bought about 8 x 90L blocks.

What is that 'stuff' in the back of your ute? And if you buried mulch, don't forget about the C/N ratio :-)
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Brendan
Mackay, Q
14th April 2012 7:04am
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Original Post was last edited: 14th April 2012 7:08am
amanda says...
Coco-peat a good idea Brendan - it's got great staying power. That's called 'red loam' in the girl-truck ("ute"..pfft!? :) Not sure why they call it loam as it has no organic matter in it at all.

It's more like a clay based sub-soil and comes from certain areas in WA. This lot comes from a farm about 50km away. It's very like the yellow-sand that is used for house pads and brickies sand?
Except it's more acidic (yellow more alkaline) and contains different minerals (hence the colour) red dirt contains more iron for eg.

In areas where there is natural red dirt - there can be a lot growers as it's far superior to sand (it will contain the necessary silt and clay particles)

Some of the best growing areas around Geraldton are now under hobby farm subdivisions - but - most of the growing is taking place under acres of poly-tunnels too.

Still can't plant patch...waiting till we slip under 30 oC and get some of that stuff u all call rain! ;-) It's looking very grim this year.
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amanda19
Geraldton. 400km north of Perth
14th April 2012 11:29am
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Mike says...
Amanda the word loam is just about having the ideal sand to silt to clay content ie 2 to 2 to 1 which on average is best for plants.The humus content is often higher in loams than other soils.
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Mike27
 
14th April 2012 6:41pm
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amanda says...
Was just doing some research for kim in the jaboticaba thread re: water quality results for Perth and WA in general.

It was hard going because most references are with regard to "Human needs" - not plants as such.
Anyway - I did find some bits n pieces that can make a start on the issue at least:

The TDS (total dissolved solids) of many of Perths water supplies (up to 2009) is almost at the limit of the 500 mg/L recommended by WHO (for humans) the levels for plants are much less (as they have no kidneys :)

This is from a Dept NSW water site:

"Water containing a TDS level of over 500 mg/L is unsuitable for irrigation of many plants and
tastes unpleasant to drink. Some of the maximum levels of TDS which different plants can
tolerate are in the following table. Due to the sensitivity and tolerance of different plants to
TDS, plants can be used as indicators of soil salinity"

0 - 500 mg/L
Humans
Lettuce
Potatoes
Peas
Celery
Sweet corn
500 - 1500 mg/L
Mulberry
Apple
Cauliflower
Cabbage
Tomato
1500 –
3500 mg/L
Poultry
Oats
Wheat
Rye
Lucerne
Millet

It's not a great table atr all, and I have just copied part of it. There may be better ones out there - I will post if I ever find one :)

In the Mid West (here) our TDS hover at the 1000 mg/L mark which is limit for human consumption - and also classed as HIGH salinity for irrigation purposes. :-(

The Water Hardness also has a direct bearing on the buildup of sodium in the soil. A high level leads to increased salinity build up.

In Perth - in the summer time - more water is drawn from underground sources (like Gnagara Mound etc) this water needs all sorts of treating before consumption (whereas the Hills Dam water does not)

It would be intresting to have the tap water tested in winter versus summer - in regard to Fruit Tree Thresholds.

Don't be fooled sandgropers - this is not an issue on the radar of eastern states growers.
I just bought Annette McFarlanes new book ("Organic Fruit Growing") and I majorly dissapointed to see that she doesn't mention salinity issues with any of the fruit trees....
She's based in Brisbane - maybe that's why.

I hope our own Sabrina Han can bring out a book for us West Aussies that addresses these issues for us, specifically, and in relation to our sands. It's long, long overdue I reckon?

Has anyone else found this kind of reference book for WA gardeners...?
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amanda19
Gerladton. 400km north of Perth
23rd April 2012 1:58pm
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Nick T says...
Just bought a 9kg bag of kitty litter for $7! It's only black and gold brand but it says that it's 100% bentonite and that it's safe on the garden, hopefully it'll fix my hydrophobic soil!
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Nick T
Altona, VIC
28th September 2012 3:39pm
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Joy Ross says...
Hey Nick, well done for trying to amend your soil. Bentonite clay is often only a temporary fix for hydrophobic sand as it is less stable in soil than kaolin clay - not only according to gardeners feedback, but also according to years of data from scientific trials run by University of WA, SA and CSIRO to mention a few (simply search on the internet for more information about it) Sodium bentonite in kitty litter contains salt, which will eventually leach out and depelete your plants and micro organisms of calcium - which is already lacking in our sandy gardens. The bentonite clay will hold onto more water - anything is better than just sand - but not all of it is available to plants. You will also need to feed the clay with cations otherwise it will take them away from the plant until it is "full".

The only claying product with kaolin is soil solver, which also includes rock minerals as well as enhanced calcium. It costs as little as 80c per kilo delivered. In trials it is getting much - much better results than any of the bentonite claying products - sodium or calcium bentonite. On farms they can more than double their crops. I have a letter from a scientist at CSIRO, Dr Margaret Roper, who says that she recommends kaolin clay and lime because it has been shown to better overcome water repellency by several scientists, and her own research showed an increase in micro-organisms in the soil that break down water repellent waxes. You need over 5% clay - a sprinkle will not do it. Sodium kills them. Professor Bob Gilkes at UWA is satisfied that the many trials that have evidenced that kaolin clay is better for ameliorating water repellency and creating stable soil do not need repeating - the results are convincing. Unless you believe the scientists or compare results for yourself you will never know how amazing the difference using the right clay with balanced calcium and nutrients from rock minerals can be!
You need to ask who are the people that recommend sodium bentonite aka kitty litter - and what are their qualifications? Have they tried kaolin clay?
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Joy Ross
Perth WA
10th October 2012 3:39pm
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Gus says...
Great info Joy.
Will the clay affect the ph levels of the soil?
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gus
innaloo
10th October 2012 7:45pm
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amanda says...
Well guys..I am testing calcium bentonite and have had a rise in pH from 6 to 7.5 in my test patch. On Kitty Litter - I would be very careful guys!! It's sodium bentonite...

When I first started my garden in Geraldton I used a lot of the Munns "Wetta Soil" product...it wasn't labelled as bentonite back then (and I probably wouldn't have cared then anyway..I just trusted the packet..)
I had major dramas with margin leaf burning in the warmer months...some of you will remember all this...

After Dekka mentioned the problems with some "wetting agents" I stopped using it and got the red clay from the Brickworks...it took two summers but it fixed the leaf scorch problem - and also weird nutrient deficiencies I was having)

It turns out that Bentonite has a very high CEC and is very greedy with water and ions...holding them tightly to itself...when u put this together with a salty water supply and then some nice drying hot easterly winds - the plant can't get hold of the water etc that it needs...and thus you start to get leaf scorch...
This is exactly what was happening to my fruit trees in Gero...
(and the "wetting agent" part didn't work very well - and only "lasts up to 12 months" as it says on the packet...so u have to keep reapplying it anyway!! So not a permanant solution..?

I would never stick kitty litter on my soil (it contains high levels of sodium) and I am waiting on the testing of kaolin versus calcium bentonite b4 I put anymore bentonite on my sand.

As it is the bentonite doesn't 'smudge in' like a good clay, for this purpose, should.

I wouldn't wish the problems I had on anyone - so I hope no one else is having those dramas too :-(
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amanda19
Leschenault (160kms south of Perth)
14th October 2012 1:48pm
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Joy Ross says...
Thanks Gus, It depends on the pH of the clay! Generally sandy gardens tend to be on the acid side due to the prolific use of OM and a lack of calcium. With clay amendments, there is more of a buffer to keep the pH within the parameters of good levels.

Trevor Cochrane has just posted his clay tests on the Greenfingers facebook site and they are worth a look. They follow what the scientific trial results showed - that bentonite can suppress the growth of plants and a significantly better result is achieved with kaolin. Yes, the soil can look wet with bentonite, but it is not necessarily plant available water that you are seeing! It follows that the nutrients in the water solution are not reaching the plant either. Trevor thought the results would all be very similar, and he is astonished at the results. Good on him for making such an effort, interested to know if anyone else has ever done a comparison between the different types of clays?
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Joy Ross
Perth WA
15th October 2012 6:05pm
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Original Post was last edited: 15th October 2012 6:06pm
Julie says...
So where can I buy kaolin? Don't remember ever seeing it for sale.
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Julie
Roleystone WA
15th October 2012 8:24pm
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Joy Ross says...
Good point Julie, the product is called soil solver and should be available in your local nursery. You could check the web site to find the nearest one. Just search on the product name.
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Joy Ross
Perth WA
15th October 2012 11:52pm
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amanda says...
Here are some before and after pics of my new home/garden (only 4 months in so far - but I am pretty excited with the progress) - which also has/HAD water repellant sand...I think I have finally got the problem licked!? :-)

Thanks to the old "try, try and try again" - and some inspiration and ideas from Michele and Dario at Jetto's Patch (find them on FaceBook! They are awesome growers and great folks)

This is what I have used in every single bed/planting:

Pig manure, woody soil conditioner, rock dust, lucerne hay, Roosta Booster, Soil Solver (as discussed above) worms

They are watered with bore water - non saline but has iron deposits.

These first pics are of the "orchard" - I have used (as elsewhere) a big variety of different mulching materials that I put together myself...
Bark - all different sizes and types from soft paperbark to large hard bits of banksia bark. Leaves - anything I can get my hands on... :)
Bit's of hay, chaff, twigs etc

So far I think that the three things that are the success story for this grey-sand are this:
keep the soil covered with any kind of plant you can (even if they are weeds...) I have planted loads of herbs like thyme and oregano etc - to fill in many gaps for the time being. Even small flowering plants help.
Using much bigger bits of mulch (than regular woodchip..) and having a large spread of sizes and textures and materials - but - keeping it thin (one layer here)
Soil Solver. Claying works wonders...I haven't used the amounts stated in the bags here tho - mainly because I can't afford to - but also because I want to go slowly - personal choice.

To be fair tho - I have access to a bore - and I use large volume retic heads to wet the entire bed....this means that the soil can be densely planted - but also it is more biologically active throughout...

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amanda19
Leschenault (160kms south of Perth)
25th January 2013 12:19pm
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amanda says...
in the above: pic 1 shows how I have done the mulch and let the weeds also help out, pic 3 was taken in Nov 2013. Pic 4 was clearing the area and pic 2 taken today.

This is the before and after in the lemon tree bed (lemon hacked on 01st Dec...) and today...

I have used many curcubits around the place also - to rapidly cover up the bare soil before summer...this has kept it cool and shaded - another way to help beat water repellancy


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amanda19
Leschenault (160kms south of Perth)
25th January 2013 12:31pm
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Original Post was last edited: 25th January 2013 12:33pm
amanda says...
and finally...the jaboticaba/blueberry bed....(there are more beds on the go though...?!)

This was where the chook pen was - I added some sulphur to the mix here.

I gets shade from mid afternoon on. There is corn on the south side. I planted a watermelon plant here - to help cover up the soil again..it's gone ballistic and doing a great job - and the b/berries and Jab's just seem to love it!?

They are lovely and healthy now - without any additional effort from me...I am really thrilled...
(pic one taken 01st Dec 2012)

PS: I also use alot of the very FINE COIR that comes in the dry blocks...as a "soil conditioner" - the soil is lovely and 'fluffy' and the worms love it too...there is plenty of coir mixed into the soil with these guys here for example...
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amanda19
Leschenault (160kms south of Perth)
25th January 2013 12:41pm
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Original Post was last edited: 25th January 2013 1:32pm
amanda says...
I so hope these pics help others battling with water repellant sands....but I can really appreciate the benefits of shade and shelter now also....it has been a revelation to me how rapidly and well all of these plants have grown in a milder climate...

We are averaging 15 oC overnight and around 30 oC in the day...sometimes warmer and/or cooler...I have alot of mature Agonis (willow myrtle) here (which can be planted under, luckily!) and also Jarrah, Banksia and Tuarts (large) on the outer areas of our 1.5acres...
So wind is not an issue and there is plenty of shade/relief from the afternoon summer sun...IMHO - I think this is really important in many areas of Aust.

You can always open up canopies to let more light thru (we have done a massive amount of this here..)

How they will go in winter will be interesting - but the rains will be great for the soil microorganisms at least!?

This garden will keep changing and evolving over the years - as I replace temporary plantings and plant more fire retardant trees and plants that attract the beneficial insects also...

I am also trying to design and plant appropriately to reduce the mosquito population...


It's probably no surprise that many folks are struggling to grow much in Perth - given that the many of the 'burbs these days have no room for the trees that are so desperately needed - in order to moderate the climate to start with..... :-(
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amanda19
Leschenault (160kms south of Perth)
25th January 2013 1:03pm
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VF says...
Great effort Amanda, looks like you're already starting to reap rewards. Thanks for sharing your journey and pic's with us.
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VF
Wongawallan
25th January 2013 7:32pm
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Brendan says...
Good stuff amanda, as you know, mulch is the answer, not only in sandy soil, but it works on clay soils too (with gypsum :-).
Only problem I can see would be the tree roots pinching a lot of nutrients from the garden & soil?
You've done well!
(btw, don't think that pic 3 was taken in Nov 2013, lol!)
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Brendan
Mackay, Q
26th January 2013 8:54am
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amanda says...
hehe...a bit ahead of myself there Brendan :) I would say the banksias will cark it as time goes on - they loathe fertilisers and high nutrient loads (which suits me as the fruit trees will then take over...they are the nursery trees" for the time being..)

When I dug that orchard I didn't come across one single root from that Jarrah tree...I am now told that their roots go deeper...I guess it must be so as under that big netted structure are 20yr+ fruit trees - 3 x plum, 3x apricot and a peach and nectarine - all growing like mad and fruiting really well....? (I only gave them a few handfuls of roosta boosta - as I need to do some serious pruning in there soon)

Just behind and to the side of that is a loaded fig tree, 2 olives, mulberry, mandarin, quince and orange tree...!? Very crowded but all doing really well..

I am beginning to think that we have a hell of alot more leeway with planting in and around mature trees (depending on the tree type tho, maybe?) it's as thick and lush here as any tropical garden..?

It's a self-feeding/recycling system also though...all the leaf litter etc stays here - the previous owner planned this - she was organic - and used mainly sheep poo...
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amanda19
Leschenault (160kms south of Perth)
26th January 2013 1:34pm
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amanda says...
This is the original "soil" - from our firebreak, BTW! Sigh...another sand dune for me :D
(previous owners did well to get this place up and running!?)

The other pic is the soil from where the previous owner had the veg patch...(has an old spinach plant) - this patch is next on my hit list for renovation - so it will be interesting to compare down the track.

There has been additions of OM and bentonite clay here - but it's still water repellant and gutless.

It can be done Westralians! :)



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amanda19
Leschenault (160kms south of Perth)
28th January 2013 4:00pm
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Brendan says...
Wow amanda, that's shocking 'soil'! Can you buy/borrow a load or two of 'garden soil' to mix with it? We can finally buy decent garden/top soil up here, I think it's $25/cu.m. plus delivery. Ask around :-)
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Brendan
Mackay, Q
29th January 2013 10:18am
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Jantina says...
Amanda I have just finished watching a DVD with Josh Byrne on Perth soil. In it he converts a run down garden with "gutless" soil , weeds and a few trees into a thriving fruit tree/vegetable garden/native garden/chook run with dripper irrigation to water the lot. So inspirational it almost made me want a little house block !
It is in a set of 3 DVD's called the Down to Earth Gardening Box (don't know if you can get it seperately).Maybe you have seen it, anyway I thought it was great.
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Jantina
Mt Gambier
29th January 2013 11:50am
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amanda says...
Lol...Brendan this is what Perth and surrounds is made of! It's the Swan Coastal plain "Bassendean sands" - renown for their water repellancy etc.

But - with the right treatment they can be made into something good. The trouble is that there is still some conflicting information out there.

I am following my own path to some degree, now. But I also look carefully at what others are doing - that have fantastic gardens here...

I have always wondered why forest floors are not water repellant here...and after seeing the "forest floor" type of method working extremely well for some other people - I have adopted the same. It works.
So does some clay (but other folks are not necessarily using clay - but I am not that patient - clay will speed things up greatly)

It's only early days yet - but to think that I could go from that sand to an already productive, chemical free orchard and veg garden in 4 months is the proof of the pudding...

And not one single element deficiency in sight...one of my gardening Holy Grails! :D

(ps - thanks Jantina! Will ask around for that :)
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amanda19
Leschenault (160kms south of Perth)
30th January 2013 11:24am
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Myjoe says...
Amanda
That is an amazing transformation; If I didn't read of all your hard work and experimenting, I'd say you'd moved!! And, Brendan, our "soil" is worse than that! We have been talking about getting a load of soil solver delivered and just spread it round. We've been trying for 6 years and it's still basically sand.
If anyone would like a job (seriously) of helping transform our suburban 1/4 acre block, please let me know. It's getting a strain now and it's an embarrassing eyesore; we just need it blitzed so we can then enjoy the pottering in our dotage!!
Once again, amazing work Amanda. Thanks for sharing the pics.
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Myjoe
Perth
3rd February 2013 1:36pm
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Original Post was last edited: 3rd February 2013 1:38pm
Joy Ross says...
Hi Amanda, that looks great, so satisfying to get results isn't it? Myjoe, you could get a landscaper to create you an easy care garden, or if you are on a small budget Gavin Davis (of Soil Solver) will rotary hoe and blitz your garden for you. He is the owner of 'Old Smokey' the rotary hoe seen featured on My Garden Your Garden on Channel 7 - and before that it had a starring role on Greenfingers! Why don't you give him a call? He rotary hoed a small vegie patch for me just before Xmas(I designed him a new bag recently and look after his web site too)I have no water repellency any more and it is a very productive garden. See my pictures of just a few of my healthy vegies. It also got rid of the nematodes, so I can grow tomatoes and eggplants without the damage to their roots.
Interesting what you say about forest floors Amanda, they are particularly fragile soil types which rarely last longer than a season once the trees are removed. A garden made of 'organics with sand blend' still loses moisture speedily to gravity and needs constant replenishment.
Adding Soil Solver is not only a faster result to create a fertile soil, it creates a more resilient soil base, particularly for growing vegetables or other exotic plants. If you reach the magic 5% kaolin clay content (recommended by Dept of Agriculture, see their web site) the capillary action caused by the small spaces in the soil holds the water in the soil longer and stops gravity pulling it down. Also, you need far less organics and manure because the nutrients are held in the soil too. IMHO the recommendation to add lots of organic matter to sand - as in more than one handful of compost per plant - is like adding a whole cow to your plate when you only need to eat a small steak and then letting the rest rot away so you can keep the bones!! Better to add some kaolin clay which gives the soil a stable and strong foundation, just as building a house with double brick makes a more insulated and sturdier house(also made using kaolin clay!!!!).
One of the (many) differences between the types of clay, smectites (aka bentonite, montmorillonite, cracking clay) and the kaolin in Soil Solver is the shape of the clay particle. Kaolin is roughly oval, whereas the smectite is cup or saucer shaped. This means smectite clay particles hardly have any surface area to make contact with humus and sand, and when they shrink and swell as they get wet and dry - the particles float away and can then very firmly stick to another particle of smectite - they "spoon" very firmly to each other and can cause a water barrier. Kaolin easily forms a stable ped of soil. This has been demonstrated many times in clay trials at universities in SA and WA. Having given up on smectites for this reason, I have played around with varying amounts of Soil Solver over the past four years. I now just add 15kgs per sqm without mucking around.
It is very cost effective compared to buying the recommended rates of bagged soil improvers - which would cost $40 per sqm. Great stuff, but it needs adding frequently as it quickly disappears!
In my garden I now just add Soil Solver once, then just a handful or two of good quality compost per plant every few months. I often use blood and bone for my vegies too.
Mulch is very important don't you find? I throw all my garden and kitchen waste back into the garden (bury it for the worms) and also have trees for dappled shade. This year I have also added a 'bought' mulch and now find my garden is very happy with watering twice a week.
This is all a huge improvement compared to the sand patch that my garden was. We all tread our own path in our gardens, and hope this inspires some of you to give growing vegies another go.
Happy Gardening everybody.
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Joy Ross
Perth WA
3rd February 2013 3:37pm
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Myjoe says...
Hi Joy
Your message brought great hope and joy (sorry!) to me. Will contact Gavin; that sounds exactly what we are looking for (we were talking of hiring a rotary hoe!)

And thank you for all the other information you provided too; it certainly did inspire me.

Thanks to everyone on here who generously give their knowledge and time freely to help those of us who are more horticulturally-challenged!!
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Myjoe
Perth
4th February 2013 10:51am
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Simmo says...
If anyone is interested Sustainable Outdoors sells Bentonite Clay of $22 per 20kg bag. They have rotary hoe's for hire and can even install it for you. They have information on their website.
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Simmo
Beaconsfield
4th February 2013 11:35am
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Joy Ross says...
You are welcome Myjoe, it has certainly changed my garden for the better, and it is like a little miracle to me. Sandy conditions are very challenging - especially if you come from a lovely loamy Devon garden as I did. It can make you despair, but it is not YOU that makes it difficult, it is the lack of a true soil in sandy gardens. Once you have that - and add mulch and water a few times a week - you will have a productive garden.
If you can keep it up organically all the better for the environment. I let the insects have 10%, and if they get greedy I squash them!
I now have to learn how to dry some of these cherry tomatoes and put them in olive oil and herbs in jars. It is today's task. Wonder what Amanda is doing with her Zucchini glut - might need some tips on that too.
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Joy Ross
Perth WA
4th February 2013 12:32pm
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amanda says...
Haha Joy Ross...some got donated to the senior citizens down the road, also to my friends, made loads of lovely pickle and am about to try cooking stuffed zucchini... :)

Not quite what I meant about the forest floor thing tho Joy...more to do with the way in which we mulch - eg: the materials we use and their size, shape, breakdown ratio etc...and then the shade, wind and water erosion protection.
My "forest floor" is not a natural one - as it gets pig poo and chook pellets etc.. ;-)

I am just hoping that if I take the 'best' aspects out of successful systems then I may just have a win :)

Simmo - did you know that bentonite NEVER becomes a part of the soil profile/crumb..? To my mind - that is a soil "amendment" not a soil "improver"... I am not at all happy with the way it is performing in my garden beds that I have tried it in...and the same plants reach wilting point much earlier than in the kaolin clayed beds....???

Myjoe...thank you :) And yes - I have moved house...but I still have similar problems with the sand...! I am winning the battle this time round though...and so will you :)

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5th February 2013 5:52pm
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MaryT says...
Amanda and Joy Ross my favourite zucchini recipe is Basil and Zucchini soup (google it); it's yummy and you can make a ton of it and freeze it.
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MaryT
Sydney
6th February 2013 6:56am
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Joy Ross says...
Hi Amanda, pickle hey? I have stuffed one that was hiding and became a large marrow.
See my pic of the very pretty and prolific grape tomatoes - grown from seed from one that I bought a few years ago and now they just pop up all over the place. And my new basil and sweet pepper, and miniature chilli bed. Powered up by blood and bone mixed in the handful compost - still very low rates due to the 'improved' soil. Must be enhanced soil after all that.
You are definately onto a winner with your garden Amanda. I am so glad that you understand about the kaolin clay particles and how they disperse through the sand and then form peds of real soil. Keeping the soil alive by looking after the micro organisms is the way to go and you are certainly doing that.
When we were at the Royal Show in the Habitat Garden I met one of the scientists who researched the behaviour of different clays in field trials out Esperance way over ten years ago and it was great to have a long yarn with a fellow soil obsessive. I have read all those trial results, so it was like meeting a long lost friend! He asked if soil solver dispersed or slaked, and I thought a little about how it behaves when I am digging it in and said it does both. He told me that is an indication of the very best clay for soil and that not all kaolin clays do that. v. interesting. Could be why your farmers clay was so hard to work with. Did you ever test for that? Anyway,good to know these scientific things in my view, and not have to keep saying it works like magic!
Thanks for the tip MaryT, particularly good as I have masses of basil too, so I will give that a try tonight. Never thought of combining them. Also have loads of Cherry Guava's and chilli's which may combine as a chilli jelly perhaps? Or I could go out transforming another bit of the garden. :)
Lovely cool weather, good for the worms.
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Joy Ross
Perth WA
6th February 2013 9:23pm
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Joy Ross says...
Hi Amanda, pickle hey? I have stuffed one that was hiding and became a large marrow.
See my pic of the very pretty and prolific grape tomatoes - grown from seed from one that I bought a few years ago and now they just pop up all over the place. And my new basil and sweet pepper, and miniature chilli bed. Powered up by blood and bone mixed in the handful compost - still very low rates due to the 'improved' soil. Must be enhanced soil after all that.
You are definately onto a winner with your garden Amanda. I am so glad that you understand about the kaolin clay particles and how they disperse through the sand and then form peds of real soil. Keeping the soil alive by looking after the micro organisms is the way to go and you are certainly doing that.
When we were at the Royal Show in the Habitat Garden I met one of the scientists who researched the behaviour of different clays in field trials out Esperance way over ten years ago and it was great to have a long yarn with a fellow soil obsessive. I have read all those trial results, so it was like meeting a long lost friend! He asked if soil solver dispersed or slaked, and I thought a little about how it behaves when I am digging it in and said it does both. He told me that is an indication of the very best clay for soil and that not all kaolin clays do that. v. interesting. Could be why your farmers clay was so hard to work with. Did you ever test for that? Anyway,good to know these scientific things in my view, and not have to keep saying it works like magic!
Thanks for the tip MaryT, particularly good as I have masses of basil too, so I will give that a try tonight. Never thought of combining them. Also have loads of Cherry Guava's and chilli's which may combine as a chilli jelly perhaps? Or I could go out transforming another bit of the garden. :)
Lovely cool weather, good for the worms.
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Joy Ross
Perth WA
6th February 2013 9:53pm
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MaryT says...
Looking good, Joy Ross. You obviously look after your plants and that is always good to see. I have tons of basil too and that soup is a great way of using it up.
Chilli jelly? Yum
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Sydney
7th February 2013 4:56am
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Ray says...

I'm brand new. this looks very interesting hope to meet you all soon.
Cheers,
Ray.
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Ray10
Osborne Park
23rd February 2013 11:37am
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Anonymous says...
Hi everyone

Anyone got worms in their garden? I haven't since we demolished the old house, but even way back when I only had a very few. BIL only has a few, too, and he does loads of composting etc, that you'd think would give good conditions. Someone else has only started to see them in her garden since she started using castings from her worm farm, so must have accidentally introduced them. (Apparently it is a myth that they won't live in the garden - if you give them good conditions, apparently they'll be fine.)

I've tried to locate a supplier of native earthworms (native to Perth sands, that is) with no luck. A worm lady I spoke to also said not to expect to make a lovely worm habitat and have them just appear in the garden - they have to come from somewhere, which makes sense.

Anyone locally got native worms in their garden? Don't worry, I don't want to steal them, just wondering if we actually have many here.

Ta
MJ
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12th April 2013 3:00pm
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kim says...
I had the same issue MJ, but since I started growing some fruit trees just over a year ago, I now have worms in my garden. They probably came from the mulch or potting mix or even came from the nursery trees. I now see worms whenever I dig slightly into the mulch around the trees.

The worms seem to be plentiful in the mulch, but not in plain sand (I dug a small hole yesterday to throw in some fruit scraps and didn't see any in the sand), but I know there's heaps around my trees,which are all mulched.

To increase the population, i'm sure someone's here (Amanda??) mentioned using fine eggshells - apparently this helps them reproduce???
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perth
12th April 2013 5:08pm
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amanda says...
I have a rather large native earthworm here (15kms north of Bunbury) it has a neon blue stripe down either side of it's body and goes nuts when u disturb it..very strong vigorous worm..

I have alot of trees and dark, damp spots with loads of leaf litter..they seem to like those spots the best...

(not me for the egg shell tip tho..)
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12th April 2013 6:09pm
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Anonymous says...
Amanda, that is a very cool sounding worm! Are you the Amanda from Geraldton? Are you settled in?

Kim, thanks for the tip. We've always got oodles of eggshells. Worth a try!

Ta
MJ
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12th April 2013 6:36pm
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amanda says...
Yes- the same Anonymous :) It's beautiful here - very happy thanks. Gardening/growing down here is so much easier - should've moved years ago ;)
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13th April 2013 11:11am
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Trev says...
I just moved to kalamunda a few years back, and boy do you appreciate the soil up here, the soils on the coastal plain are lifeless unless you put a lot of effort into improving them. The soil up here is more clayey/gravely and also most houses have established trees reducing the effects of winds and harsh WA sun. We have fig trees stone fruit and citrus trees which grow by themselves apart from some watering in summer.
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hills
27th August 2013 11:37am
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Liz says...
Shelley - Re. Terracotta worm farms, Kim Lyons http://www.kimlyonspottery.com.au/ or another potter might make one for you.

Kim makes a lot of the terracotta bird baths etc available at Dawsons, Zanthorea etc. I contacted him a while back about getting a replacement top for a birdbath which had got broken, and he was quite happy to do that, so he'd probably be happy to make a terracotta worm farm - might give him an opportunity for a new product line! :-)

Liz
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Liz
Perth (Thornlie)
1st November 2014 1:06pm
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Dv says...
Hi,
Would like to buy a tonne of Calcium bentonite but only need half really.
Wondering if anyone interested to go half with me. I enquired today, a tonne cost $250 not including delivery. I live in ATWELL. Let me know.
Dv
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Dv
ATWELL
24th February 2015 12:55am
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Original Post was last edited: 24th February 2015 12:54am
Perth Gardening says...
Hi guys,

To 'improve' a sandy soil you would need about 30% clay in volume in the first 300-400mm of your sandy soil - that represent about 1 cubic meter of clay/ 10m2.

I'm not too sure about the price of the clay this days but this will represent a large investment in terms of carbon emission (transport) and money (labour to mix it within, material price,...)

the results of such an action will not be an immediate action, it will takes decades before micro organisms within the soil actually aggregate the sand, clay and organic matter to make a 'good soil', in the mean time you will need to water your soil much more due to the clay holding on to the water much tighter then sand reducing the water available for the plants...

What if instead of following blindly the commercial pitch of the clay company or the people having interest in this or that soil improver you were to re-think your garden and try to work with native or water-wise plants?

At Perth Gardening we can provide experts advise on gardening solution that are both cost efficient and water wise - http://gardeners-perth.com.au

Thibaut
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Perth Gardening
Perth
24th February 2016 11:38am
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Addsy says...
If you are looking for clay, don't forget to check on Gumtree - People doing excavations in the areas of Perth with clay soils give the stuff away for free by the trailer load.
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Addsy
Perth Hills
2nd August 2016 6:11pm
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Joy Ross says...
Hmmm… agree totally that the way to go is to select native plants to reduce water use - but some of your facts are not correct, Perth Gardening? I have used kaolin clay products for many years in my garden and find them really worthwhile. 5% clay content is shown in farming and garden trials to be a big improvement in wettability and crop increases in size and quality as a result. https://www.agric.wa.gov.au/mycrop/diagnosing-water-repellence
Adding food for the soil – organic matter such as compost or manure - as well as clay stimulates a massive increase in soil organism activity and the building of soil peds follows very soon after - provided of course that the clay material is clear of pests and diseases. Which is why you need to be careful about excavated soil because free 'fill' might contain toxins, poisons,or even 'die back' and it would be sensible to get it tested before using it for growing vegetables. Also, don't fall into the trap of using cheap sodium bentonite - it introduces salt to the soil which will really hold back the growth of plants for the long term. Soil Solver Clay Plus is used by many professional landscapers and gardeners to convert bare sand into a more water efficient loam soil, with an immediate and permanent improvement. There are thousands of ways we can garden, and in my experience mixing in at least 5% kaolin clay and re-mineralising soil is one thing that is proven time and again to really work, especially if you want to grow fruit and veg. You only have to do it once!


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Joy Ross
Perth WA
3rd August 2016 11:10am
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Baby Bales says...
Anyone tried the Baby Bales? New to the market and perfect for mulching small gardens, strips, planters and pots. Easy to stack and store - little mess, 100% recyclable.
Lucern hay, Pea, Wheat and Barely straws all loved by the garden. Barely Straw used to inhibit algal growth in small ponds.
Also ideal for small pets ... Baby Bales of Oaten Hay very popular.
Locally grown in the Avon Valley - weekly deliveries to Perth. TEXT 0438537171
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Baby Bales
Lathlain
15th January 2017 1:04pm
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