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Old 04-12-2012, 02:19 AM   #1
Stevo2569
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Default Soil additions

I've seen alot of threads lately asking what fertilizers and other additions to add or create planting soil with. Over and over I've seen advise for fertilizers, minerals and other additions to be used. I have not seen anyone recommending a soil analysis to determine the PH,NPK of the specific soil. Why is this? Everyone's soil is different. You can't just add fertilizers and minerals and expect it to have the same composition as someone else who added the same stuff. By no means am I a professional gardner, but I would like to think I know enough after several years of gardening and research on and off the Internet from very reliable sources.
It's kinda like brewing water. You wouldn't suggest adding a bunch of stuff without knowing what you are missing or needing for that particular brew. Plants are the same way. Most plant species require a specific recipe for success. Ph, Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium. Just like in brewing you don't need a water analysis to make beer but, you wouldn't go adding a bunch of salts and minerals without having one either. Plants(hops) will grow just about anywhere without a soil analysis but I wouldn't go adding a bunch of fertilizers either.
FYI most gardening shops will do soil analysis for FREE. Lowes and Home Depot sell a kit for around $10 to determine Ph, NPK.
From my research hops want a ph of 6.5 to 7.
7 being neutral. Obviously they require nitrogen but, this is where my hop knowledge is still in process. I assume they like a medium to medium high level of nitrogen? But too much N will burn them up. It's a lot harder to remove N than add it. Also I assume the same for Phosphorus( medium to medium high levels). Too much P can hurt although hops are more tolerant than some other plants. Too much Potassium is fine. The plant will use what its wants and leave the rest. Other minerals might be needed (magnesium,manganese,iron,zinc,calcium, lime) to correct ph and help plant growth.
This is some of the info that I have learned. If you have anything to add or correct me on please do.
Not my sole sources but some that agree mostly.
Nitrogen
Phosphorus
Hop Ph NPK

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Old 04-12-2012, 04:30 AM   #2
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I would not waste my time with NPK soil tests. N is available in the atmosphere as well as through additives to native soils. Manure is an example. Rain will leach a lot of it out. Most of the time it is not going to make up a huge amount in native soils. The common toxic elements present in native soils include salt from pour draining soils like clay, alkalinity and compaction. So if you do native soil tests, then the only issues you should be concerned with are the salt readings, the ph and the soil texture type. The additives that contribute to salts can be leached out over time.

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Old 04-12-2012, 04:31 AM   #3
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Growing plants, of any kind, takes patience. I was very impatient when I first began growing hops and that was even after earning an Agronomy degree (should have known better but I've got a really hard head). Many eager growers seem to try one product (fertilizer, insecticide, soil mix etc.) and give it a few days to work. If no results have occurred, an alternative is imposed on the plants. A few days later the next concoction is used and so on and so on until the plant gets so overwhelmed with what's going on that it finally gives up and refuses to grow properly.

What I've learned over the last 30 or so years is that all this stuff takes time to figure out. Even by educating yourself through books, articles, conferences and the like, there's nothing that matches your personal experience as to the knowledge you obtain from your own personal efforts and observances when growing plants as long as you've been guided by some solid, factual information. The internet and forums such as this one can be a double-edged sword at times because many seem to be looking for a quick fix to a problem that has VERY many variables and it's sometimes difficult to answer a question thorough enough due to time constraints and perhaps the occasional influence of alcohol (yeah I'm guilty too)!

Soils and soil fertility are probably one of the most misunderstood or maybe overlooked of all the variables that pertain to raising a crop. Lots and lots of chemistry involved that can make your head spin. I know and understand the basics enough that I may side-dress with a little 10-10-10 from time to time, but the 'go-to' compound is compost. A well balanced compost will help you build your soil to the point that you don't have to worry about fertilizer (that's just me talking). But if you have good soil, you have everything just about licked. One of the biggest problems is that maybe your latest fertility program didn't produce the results you were looking for. So you try something different the next year and it works better. That's great, but did you take into consideration the weather during those last two years? How did the plants go into their dormant period? Were they stressed, or was this only their second or third year growing? I don't have a lot of time any more to to check all the 'how too's and what for's' but I do have a pretty solid knowledge of plant growth in general and just tend to roll with it. Nature is not perfect so you'll have a few leaves that turn brown or a couple bugs that do some munching but a little stormy weather doesn't mean that your whole crop is a failure. Some years are better than others and some folks will have better harvests than you. The world's not coming to an end and there's always next year (I live close to Cleveland so I hear that a lot).

I try to help folks out on this forum with the little knowledge that I've gained over the years hoping that they won't make the same mistakes and false assumptions that I've made over the years so take it with a grain of salt if you will. But just try to inform yourselves with as much factual info as you can like Stevo has done and don't quit there. Read as much stuff as you can get your hands on. The information from the universities near the hop growing regions is a great start. From there, you have to try to apply that information to your situation, soils, climate and so on. It can get real confusing but you just have to try to draw similarities from the various sources and see what works for you. Sorry for the blather but I had a little time tonight. Happy Growing!!

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Old 04-12-2012, 01:18 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by badbrew View Post
I would not waste my time with NPK soil tests. N is available in the atmosphere as well as through additives to native soils. Manure is an example. Rain will leach a lot of it out.
Agreed but, most manure compost contains 0.5% N. Not near enough for almost any plant.
Quote:
Originally Posted by badbrew View Post
The common toxic elements present in native soils include salt from pour draining soils like clay, alkalinity and compaction.
Yes and most of these toxic elements are an indication of Ph imbalance.

@ everyone. Mentioning this for those who don't know.
In addition you can raise ph about a point with a 1/4" of lime over and mixed in to the soil surface. Granted in will take a while, up to two years to fully absorb. Ph is too high, Usually from someone over liming. I've never had this problem but I've been told to add fertilizers high in Ammonium sulfate or Sulfur-coated urea.
With most synthetic fertilizers, they contain fillers as well as nutrients. For example 10-10-10 contains 10% N, 10% P, and 10% K, as well as 70% filler including but not limited to iron and urea. This filler adds necessary elements as well as helps to not over or under fertilize.
Almost any professional grower will recommend a soil analysis to assess the deficiencies and abundances in your garden. Most of those growers that state that you don't need one are those that were taught by their grandaddy. Like I was at a very young age. But what worked for grandaddy's garden won't always work for your garden.
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