Posts Tagged ‘Soil’

As you know, our beautiful Manly Vale Community Garden is an organic garden. You can eat strawberries straight from the ground, firstly ascertaining that a small child has not wee’d on them; feast on mulberries straight from the tree. No need to wash.

We use homemade ‘fertilisers’ like worm juice and compost tea; coffee grounds, compost and animal manures. We interplant and ‘mix it up’ to confuse the bad bugs and lovingly plant special flowers like calendula and marigolds to attract beneficial insects.

We even sacrifice our pristine park-like grounds to scruffy seed saving. Are we doing well? Yes you betcha we are.

But…. then there is Marketing. Unless you have hours/days to spare on Mr Google or are a biochemist/scientist, at some point you have to take your organic supplier at face value. Or if you are a tiny bit paranoid like me, you do your research.

Just because something is marketed as organic does not necessarily mean it cannot be harmful. A point in example is Spinosad, an insecticide, derived from naturally occurring beneficial soil bacteria,  for the control of caterpillars, fruit fly etc. Spinosad has been implicated in the world-wide widespread decline in bee colonies ie it  has been found to be toxic to bees.

(For more information – http://www.bigpictureagriculture.com/2012/01/honeybee-decline-story-spinosads-and.html. There are many articles out there).

Which brings me to slugs and snails. I rather like snails as does my blue -tongues, so never need to use any control apart from a ring of ash or egg shells around my seedlings at home. However not everyone is the same and I have recently come across an organic snail & slug killer.

Multiguard Snail & Slug Killer, guaranteed  not to harm you, your pets or wildlife. Sounds good? Yes…but.

It’s all a bit confusing really.

The main ingredient is Iron EDTA complex. Ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid,(EDTA) a synthetic fertiliser. EDTA is a chelate. I remember from my soil lectures, chelates are not a bad thing, definitely something that will help your citrus if needed. “A  chelate is a soluble, organic compound that bonds with metals such as Fe, Mn, and Mg and increases their solubility and, thus, their plant uptake.  In essence, what iron chelates do is protect the iron from precipitation to an unavailable form.”  http://www.harrells.com/blog/irony-in-iron.

However, EDTA has not been given organic status. In 2007, as a snail bait, it was not added to the US National List on the recommendation of the National Organic Standard Board  because, “Is not consistent with environmental and compatibility with organic farming OFPA criteria primarily due to the behaviour of EDTA in the environment and the toxic chemicals used to manufacture.”


More information can be found at


Reading further I found that EDTA is used for soil amelioration especially where there is lead contaminated soil. The conclusions (edited) from the book Soil Remediation and Plants: Prospects and Challenges edited by Khalid Hakeem, Muhammad Sabir, Munir Ozturk, Ahmet Ruhi Mermut, are as follows:-

  • Soil- applied EDTA can adversely impact soil enzymatic and microbial activities
  • At high concentrations EDTA can negatively affect soil fungi and plants
  • EDTA complexes are not easily biodegradable and may persist in soil for several months
  • The complex is not ideal in terms of plant uptake and translocation
  • EDTA salt can destroy the physical and chemical properties of soil
  • At higher rates, soil –applied EDTA can result in eutrophication because of excessive release of nitrogen from EDTA
  • EDTA can affect soil nutrients status due to unspecified co-mobilisation of macro- and micronutrients

Not a good look. Not to mention the reported cases of toxicity to dogs.

I’ll stick to snail-nibbled veggies, thanks.







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Great Information on soil health

Putting life back into Garden Soils


Rebuilding fertility and Soil Structure, to easily grow healthy plants & Vegetables

Use worm extract microbial fertiliser, organic and biology based. Use your “Worm Farms”.

Biology, is where the future lies in rebuilding depleted Australian soils.

We have the worst depleted soils on earth, in Australia, but they can easily be made fertile if you understand how soils work, and what controls soil fertility.

Basic Building Blocks you need to understand

A healthy soil is full of life both microbial and all sorts of little critters including important ones like earth worms

To Rebuild Healthy Garden Soil and Fertility.

The first step to rebuilding our depleted garden soils is rebuilding the microbial life that was once in our soils, we should be looking at our soils as the biggest asset we have in the garden, without healthy fertile soils you will never grow healthy plants and you will be treating the plants for the same problems every year. As gardeners we should never impose detrimental gardening practices on our soils. If you look after your garden soil the soil will reward you with healthy plants and fresh nutrient dense vegetables.

Do you have Worm in Your Garden Soil?

When you dig in your garden are you seeing earth worms, if not this is the first indicator of low microbe numbers, low soil fertility and soil garden health. It’s commonly believed that worms eat organic matter when in fact worms eat microbiology; these are the organisms that are breaking down the organic matter in the garden soil and turning it into humus.

Why do I not have worms in my soil?

The problem with modern gardening practices is the use of synthetic fertilisers and chemicals to make it easier to grow plants, when in actual fact these synthetic compounds that are added to the soil sterilize the soil and kill off all the microbial life in the soil. Once you kill off the microbes in the soil you will no longer have earth worms.

How does this affect my soil then?

The microbes’ job in the soil is to cycle the nutrient and minerals in the soil and to break down and shred the organic matter turning these materials into a soluble form for plants to be able to absorb through the root wall. So the life in the soil is making organic fertiliser for your plants to be able to grow. the microbes and worms also move these materials around in the soil taking it down deeper into the soil, opening up the soil so it holds more air and water and allowing plant roots to penetrate deeper into the soil profile to assess more water and nutrients when conditions are dry.

Are You Struggling with Soil Compaction?

The Cause

Both machinery and foot traffic cause compaction, but the biggest cause is long term and over use of synthetic fertiliser. Soil compaction and sterilizing the soil’s microbial populations is caused by synthetic fertiliser and chemical abuse to your soil.

Soil microbes live on each and every soil particle in a healthy garden soil and they open up the pore space between each and every soil particles; this then allows air and moisture to penetrate into the soil profile, the microbes and worms also take organic matter down into the soil profile , this helps to break up clay soils and adds organic matter to sandy soils  improving its water holding capacity this also allows the plants roots to go down further into the soil profile after these compacted zones are opened up by soil microbes.

Soil Ph.; Should I know mine?

Yes.  Soil PH is critical and basically controls the soil function,  as soon as your soil PH swings away from neutral and gets above 8 and below 5 your soil microbe start to go dormant, so once this happens your nutrient cycling stops, also mineral availability is at its largest availability at around PH 6.4, as your PH swings you also get chemical lock up in your soil, so the minerals and nutrients  are there but unavailable for your plants to use.

How to stop the nutrients and minerals from leaching or washing out of your garden soil

With synthetic chemical fertilisers over watering or heavy rain leaches or washes the synthetic fertiliser down through your soil profile and away from your garden plants and veggies. This chemical then ends up in our ground water polluting our natural rivers and dams, plus our drinking water supplies

In a healthy garden soil, soil microbes consume the minerals, nutrients and tie up chemicals already in the soil profile, these compounds are then contained in the microbes’ bodies until the microbe is consumed or dies, this stops the nutrients and minerals from leaching out of the soil profile with heavy rain or irrigation. This is the organic slow release method of farming that is sustainable, and this is why you can reduce your fertiliser inputs

How can I reduce the amount of water my garden requires? 

Microbes coat each soil particle with a mucus layer that absorbs water this retains more moisture in the soil profile, also because the microbes open up the soil and allow more moisture deeper into the soil profile more water is stored for your garden use, with far less evaporation and as the microbes take organic matter deeper into the soil profile the soil retains more moisture.

Is your garden under pest and disease attack? What about Biological Control?  

Synthetic fertilisers kill off microbes and increase compaction and swing your Ph from where it should be, so soils with low microbe numbers, will be unable to defend or out compete the diseased organisms, both bacterial and fungal, when they arrive in your garden, you are then forced into treating with more chemicals that also have a detrimental effect on your soil and microbe numbers.

The biology contained in worm extracts (worm wee and castings) as a bio-control helps to protect the seeds, seedlings and plants from both pest and disease attacks, by helping to increase plant brix levels and supply the nutrients and minerals in a soluble form available to plants, the microbes will also consume disease spores from the soil and crop, when in good numbers. Build the microbial life in your soil and they will build soil health. Rebuilding soil microbe numbers is the key to soil fertility, if you are seeing mineral deficiency or pest attacks on your plants and vegetables it can always be traced back to mineral deficiency in the soil, don’t treat the problem you see on a plant, fix the problem once and for all, by repairing the soil.

How do I break down the organic matter in my soil?

Organic matter is broken down by microbes and turned into humus or plant food, the soil microbes and worms will also consume and eliminate any disease organisms contained in organic matter or manures that you have put on your garden, but with synthetic fertiliser use and chemical abuse on your garden and soil you can kill off the microbe numbers and be left with organic matter and manures that contains disease spores that will attack the next crop planted in it. Organic matter cannot break down without decomposing microbes, so this organic matter will just lay on the surface of the soil.

By using worm extract on your gardens and plants you are replacing the missing species of microbe that have been killed off with the extra benefit of soluble nutrients and minerals in an easy to apply liquid.

By reducing synthetic chemical use and building soil health you can build microbe numbers and rebuild your soils for more sustainable gardening whilst reducing your costs.


Thanks Rose

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