Dec 14, 2018

Questions about the Saltiest Layer of Soil, Topsoil


Edited: Dec 14, 2018

Does topsoil have more salts than the subsoil below, even in organics sometimes? Does tilling the top layer of soil release more salts than tilling the same amount of subsoil? If anyone has any thoughts or info, it would be greatly appreciated. I am working on a no-till project with sunflowers, mustard seeds, and peas and am trying to figure out if tilling just the top layer of soil, barely breaking into the subsoil, is enough to release excessive salts possibly. More context: my concern is the topsoil and subsoil (6-8 inches down) primarily, both of which are very dynamic and complicated regions.

This YouTube video will probably say what I want to say, better than I can express in a post here. "No dig garden fifth summer: veg, fruit, flowers, intense cropping and easy weeding." Such wonderful variety with very simplistic methods. He doesn't seem worried about salts in the soil.


US Cooperative Extension programs often have in formation online, if Canada doesn't have a system similar to Cooperative Extension in the states of the US. I searched keywords "cooperative extension soil salt" and found " How to Neutralize Salt in Soil" -- Hunker and " Soil Testing: Soil pH and Salt Concentration" -- University of Georgia Extension in the results.


I did a different search about extension in Canada and found " The beginning of the end: The demise of cooperative extension in Canada" -- Cornell University, 2011 If Canada doesn't have the service, there's a good chance that a paper from a US extension university has something online, if you search your topic and the keyword "cooperative extension"


Just some fast and raw thoughts on the matter. I have an extroverted intuition that sometimes drives me wild with information, ideas and options. So I don't mean to be short or abrupt in any responses. But I have to limit myself or I'll be writing pages for hours. 🤣🤣

Dec 29, 2018Edited: Dec 29, 2018

That was a wonderful video by Dawding. I particularly liked what he had to say about compost and his greenhouse. You perhaps may have overwhelmed me, but that's perfectly fine as long as you are willing to wait a bit for my response lol. I also took some time offline for the holidays. I had to mull over what you said for a few days. I found the Georgia U article to be very useful, particularly the fact that as salts are washed out pH increases generally, so heavy rains means increased pH from whatever it was before. The Hunker artilcle also managed to be useful despite some flaws (red clay is not completely inhospitable to plant life and can even host mushroom forming fungi). I particularly liked Hunker's note on particle size, with clay describing very small particle size. I don't know why I didn't assume so before. It makes me wonder how sand particles compare to clay particles... The "cooperative extension" article gave me some shocking context cues. It's a little longer so I'll have to come back to it later. From a summary I read though, the relegation of the " Extension to the academic hinterland of ‘service and outreach" is most shocking, as I have had rednecks attack me like dogs online for supposedly hiding my resources from them since I am an academic. I was somewhat unaware of the severity of the situation, particularly the impact of the lack of farmers. Anyway thanks for the help @Local Fixx. I really like your style man no need to excuse yourself lol *My apologies for name calling as well. While these people did attack me for my academic privileges and I feel they were rednecks, one of them actually had really good questions despite being racist and making cavil statements, and so seemed to have potential to actually become a decent person... If you must know more, just know I do not wander into any of Curtis Stone's commentary sections nor live chats anymore LOL

Dec 29, 2018Edited: Dec 29, 2018

Came back to "the beginning of the end" article. Well holy fucking shit. That article was fucking crazy. I don't mean that in a negative way I don't think. Did you read it? Dense, but well worth it. I donno if you assumed I was in Canada though, I am from the USA to clarify. This article, I donno how to even comprehend it... It's correct, the USA needs major changes in regards to our agricultural sector of things. These implications in the article amplify that notion greatly though, beyond anything I could ever say. Sorry I'm kind of stuck on the word "amplify" right now lol. This article kicks ass, dumbass USA's ass that is. It basically is saying to us to "be better" lol. They right though. Our agriculture has been going downhill economically and resiliency wise I think, and it sounds like it's going to get worse, looking at Canada's recent model anyway.

OK. don't know where I got the idea that you were in Canada. I'm more of a big picture guy who gets into the weeds (details) if I think they lead to another big picture. My main interests are in minimalism and simplicity. Doing the most with the least. But I like to see what others are into. I like simplicity similar to what Dowding has accomplished. He has a general process for compost and a few bins with compost at various stages of progress. He does so much in such a small space. Glad you liked the stuff I referenced. Was hoping you would.


I thought the Canadian article was saying they needed to be more structured, as in the US. Not that the US was lacking. Extoxnet, etc. There are a lot if US extension resources.


I was watching road rage videos yesterday, so I have an awareness of society that I did not have before. In short, there are some crazy f**kers out there. As you say, avoidance is the best remedy. Peace and take care.

Dec 31, 2018

I see where you are coming from on this, @Local. While I also greatly appreciate minimalism and simplicity as a scientifically minded person, I have to say that simplicity isn't what I always strive for. As Dawding would say, I am among the huge crowds that "make gardening complicated." However, this is only because I have learned that reductionism, and fundamentalism, are dangerous manuals to operate one's life by, and its much better to be in a complex position where you risk contradicting yourself than being in a simple position where everything is easy and correct all the time. Really, if you are truly someone who wants minimalism and simplicity, you would be a reductionist NPK farmer, destroying the environment. I donno what this movement is truly about, I think it is attempting to appease to an older audience, @Local. An audience that is used to farming being simple or else nonfunctional. I think you and I are ones to shoot for that dynamic excellence that can be obtained in gardening, which definitely implies simplicity, but also complexities. For instance, making compost teas which unlock certain nutrients and boost plants during a certain stage of growth is a complicated science, probably more art than science, yet it is well worth it for those of us that want the reward of extra yield and tasty quality. I get it though. I'm a problem I realize. But that's the thing. I feel like people are always trying to make gardening super simple, but it's not. It's relatively simple I suppose, but it requires education to be successful repeatedly. While Dawding and his no-dig fans are always emphasizing how simple it is to throw down seeds into their churned foodstuffs (to avoid slugs in their wet environment and feed the soil food web), I realize it is almost never that simple and I try to tell people that. I feel it is of utmost importance for people to have realistic goals in their gardening, and to realize they're going to suck for a while because organic gardening is actually not very simple. Dawding does not emphasize this realism enough. I still like his videos a lot too is the thing, but I am somewhat cautious around this sort of "simplicity movement" in the field of agronomy, as it includes fundamentalist NPK farmers who are primary contributors to ecological destruction around the world. Nobody has ever fertilized an old growth forest, sure, but veggy productiion is not that! Okay I'll finally wrap this up, I see what you are saying with ending up writing pages lol... Funny that you thought the article was aimed at Canada. In the abstract, it actually is suggesting to the US to change our ways before we fail like Canada. Despite our many Extension programs we actually have very similar problems to y'all. The article is actually very well written and is indeed caught up on contemporary issues w/ university evolution and farmer evolution. I am particularly interested in its information on farmers shifting from asking Extension for help to going directly to the research source the Extension office would be using to help them in the first place. Farmers are starting to act like scientists (good ones, that is, that look into sources beyond what they are told). Interestingly I've been watching some of those videos too. I feel like youtube recommends the same thing to people lol... Depending on what's trending or whatever... I agree, there are some crazy ass people out there and ya gotta watch out... Donno if I've seen better proof of the statement "anger is temporary insanity" lol

Johnny Cakes, I was trying to find a comment I thought I saw here about companion planting. I don't present information because I endorse it, just that I find it interesting and relevant. "Why I Don't Promote Companion Planting" You Tube; Migardener Thought I'd go ahead and post it here, Instead of making a new comment.

Ah yes, MIgardener, the man who has a channel just to shit all over beginner gardeners lol. I donno, I think companion planting points to a legit concept. It's not necessarily about plants communicating in the same language such as human beings, but rather than they interact in such a way that benefits both. Sad how much he rips on the lack of evidence... There is some, but very little of it. I think we should encourage studies of this thing rather than discourage. Chef's clover experiment shows perfectly well how companion planting works, even though Luke clearly cannot appreciate the nuances of a three way freeway going on down there...

Jan 1Edited: Jan 1

Not to be rude. Thanks for the source, that was very entertaining to watch. I just personally don't always find Luke's rants to be the most intelligible... I would be interested in what others have to say though. I think the controversy could spark up a good conversation lol. Or is that a bad idea? lol. I'd say post it

Jan 1Edited: Jan 1

A quick interesting update on the post at hand: from "Teaming with Fungi: The Organic Grower's Guide to Mycorrhizae"" by Lowenfels and Lewis... "Because arbuscular (endomycorrhizal) spores are abundant in the top layer of soil, when distubances occur, spores are often destroyed or displaced to deeper zones, where they may not be reachable by roots or root exudates, or their germination and growth may be delayed because of unsatisfactory soil conditions." Also, they previously mention that "with few or no spores remaining in the soil, reestablishing arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi through inoculation can take up to two months." I think those two pieces of information fit together nicely. I should have been more honest about my intentions with this post.* I am comparing my work with Curtis Stone's and many others' tilling of the top soil and application of fertilizers. In CS's most recent live chat (I know I said I don't attend but really I just don't comment)* he said he tills because no-till costs too much time and compost (aka money), quite stark to what Dawding claims. Of particular interest to me is CS's use of a low-till system/drillbit tool which just blends the top soil. Not sure how deep it really goes.* Another piece from the book, idk the quote but they say the plants that we are concerned with in horticulture primarily associate with arbuscular fungi... Over the other kind, ectomycorrhyzal which is more of a concern in silviculture (with trees). Of course there is much overlap, but it is interesting to note that as well, considering that disturbance of the topsoil will affect* arbuscular spore numbers. A note on arbscular fungi: arbuscular fungal spores are heavy, compared to their fruiting body having ectomycorrhyzal counterparts. This means they don't travel well (as in far). So if you destroy your arbuscular fungi, you'll have to reinocculate the field yourself. Better hope you've been visiting some place with plenty of arbuscular spores and then role around in your field lol. Or ya pots if you can manage lol. And you gotta have plants that associate with them there when you inoculate the soil, or else the spores will not hold on after germination... FINAL final note: certain plants release allelopathic exudates which affect the top layer of soil's fungi (both arbuscular and ectomycorrhizal from the studies I read in the aforementioned book), including mustards, radishes, and rapeseed plants. These chemicals can remain after the plants are removed and affect later crops. Okay seriously last note from the book, "excess phosophorus can be problematic for traditional organic farmers as well, who amend soils with animal manures that contain high levels of phosphate salts, often more than 1000 parts per milllion (which is so high that under natural condtions, soil amended with manure with still result in excess phosphorus 100 years from application). The use of phosphate fertilizers, manure-laden compost, and direct use of manures must be carefully managed to realize and maintain the maximum benefits provided by arbuscular mycorrhizae." In another novel by the same authors (I forget which right now of their trio) they mention that urban garden/projects often have 3x the fertilizer runoff that conventional farms do and organic gardeners are no exception to this. They also say that phosophorus is a limited resource and we will be out of it within the next 100 years. I feel this topic will become of utmost importance in coming years. My next question is, what's the difference between topsoil and subsoil? I like the detritus sphere mentioned in Chef B's book "The Medical Marijuana Growers Guide, "If the raw detritus is worked into the soil, without first being degraded by surface dwellers, then the subsurface microbes can become overwhelmed with the task and can easily use up any and all nitrogen at hand decomposing this organic matter, thereby depriving local plants of this nitrogen." This results in nitrogen lockout. I think this is an interesting note. Next @Chef describes how subsoil consists of the drilosphere where nematodes and earthworms are abundant. Then Chef mentions the porosphere where the "meat and potatoes of soil are stored." Literally, the zone where potatoes grows, as potatoes are famous for their ability to sequester large amounts of carbohydrates. "It is the zone which interfaces with the roots, which is called the rhizoshere." Finally, Chef mentions the aggregatusphere, where "aggregation is bound by fungal hyphae, roots and various gel-like polymers and carbohydrates excreted from plants and creatures alike." I feel he does a really good job describing this topic's sort of anatomy/physiology. I guess "topsoil and subsoil" are reductionist terms. It seems we need to understand the layering of the first 6-8 inches of soil as a whole more thoroughly. The detritus is the particular interest of this post, but the rest of the subsoil is tied in so closely with it that it needs to be discussed as well. *I gave up on trying to limit this post.*

Okay, just an update: I found a great source on this topic. These folks organize soil layers by "topsoil" (top 6 inches) and "subsoil" (6-18 inches deep) for farming concerns. I was primarily concerned with urban farming in this post (and hence hard-pan soil), which concerns itself with the topsoil and subsoil. So, the urban farmers I know of recommend basically tilling the shit out of wet soil. This article states that this actually can relieve compaction at first, but not in the long run. So, while I can agree with urban farmers that turning a lawn (or moistened and compacted mineral soil) into a farm plot may be done with a tiller, tilling should be immediately stopped after the initial transition and deep rooted crops should replace deep tillage practices. Article: Definitely considering getting one of these soil compaction testers. Interesting stuff for anyone trying to garden/farm in an urban environment

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  • Hi all. This is a message to Chef's family who I assume might have control over this website now. Please inform everyone of the status of the website. I would appreciate being able to come back and post, but perhaps it is time to share my research with another knowledge data base. I currently have my research saved from this website but would recommend everyone save any posts that are of particular interest to them as well in case the site is suddenly shut down.
  • Hi all. Below is a recipe for a homemade organic pro-mix taken from SF Gate. I know Chef has passed but I think this is still an excellent forum to gather on and spread research with. I do think someone should comment on if this web page will exist for long though as well just in case so this valuable research is not deleted! I have back ups just in case but I'll make a seperate post for that. Onto the pro-mix recipe: 1/3 peat moss 1/3 perlite 1/3 organic gardening soil 1/4 cup garden lime per gallon of mix I have tried it and it works. Be careful if you have hard water, you will need to add intermediate chelators (AKA L-Amino Acids) to chelate the calcium, magnesium, etc in your water to prevent transpiration issues etc general salt issues that occur with mixing hard water and this fairly sweet and calcium and magnesium rich soil mix. I recommend going easy on the dolomite lime in general and also go easy on the peat moss, peaty soil is known to compact. If you are gonna be moving plants in pots add more perlite than peat moss because this will help with transpiration issues that come from compaction when moving potted plants around. You'll notice how good this mix smells and works for plants! You'll get very fast growing plants because this mix is focused on high porosity for a very high rate of transpiration and therefore plant mass production! Also note that this mix only feeds plants for a couple weeks and then you will need to add some salts for the plant and soil health. Adding a bit of organic matter to the soil eventually will be a good idea as well to continue feeding your organic base in the soil. I personally have a food web with springtails being consumed by a certain antonymous fungi in my soil I try to keep going. The springtails don't leave the pot and the fungi and springtails provide a ton of nitrogen to the plant, potentially CO2 as well! This cycle has successfully infected all the pots in my house interestingly. Sources: SF Gate Guide for peat moss pH balancing: Peat moss to perlite ratio (Also SF Gate): SF Gate's article on the disadvantages of soil-less media (similar to this growing medium (pro-mix) minus the organic gardening soil): SF Gate article on composition of potting soil (good place to start to understand potting soils which are often replaced by soil-less pro-mixes). Also ratios of stuff: On the springtail and fungi note, that is harder to source. The certain springtail eating and red hued mushroom producing fungi comes from Host Defence's Myco-Blend all purpose microbial and biostimulant inoculant and I think the springtails followed me via transporting the same compost over a long period of time. On the transpiration topic: Dr. B.C. Wolverton's book "How to Grow Fresh Air" explains that there is an equation that dictates how much air a plant is filtering dependent upon how much mass the plant produces. This has a lot to do w/ the soil medium. High porosity soil makes for the fastest mass production in plants. PS. If you have your own high porosity pro-mix or something similar please post it here. Of particular interest are environmentally friendly mixes, which the above mentioned mix is not due to the unsustainable peat moss component. Coco coir can be used to replace it (and is more environmentally friendly) but then potassium salts should be added at some point although I am less experienced with that mix so I don't know how soon potassium would be essential. I imagine co co coir may cause issues w/ pH because it may not be super acidic and so dolomite lime may need to be adjusted to lesser quantity per gallon. Also this mix may have too much calcium and magnesium due to coco coir and dolomite lime having so much of these elements. Maybe it'd be fine though. A good pH, texture, and an organic base, and magical things can happen with any soil mix basically.

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