Here is the link to my original thread. https://www.selfsufficientculture.com/threads/gardening-on-really-poor-soil.832/ Now for the follow-up. Recently I had a friend visit who I hadn't seen for several years. She's a scientist, a forensic ecologist! Now there's a mouthful! We took a tour around my garden because things were not adding up for me re all the tests and experiments I've done. The first thing my friend talked about was the relationship between ants and earth worms. Apparently its either one or the other, they don't cohabit very well in the soil. Here of course it's ants, many types invading every nook of soil and eating everything thats not clear of the ground (including the house!). They steal the compost before the plants can make use of it in the soil. My friend explained the difference between when ants and earth worms eat plant matter otherwise known as organic matter in the soil. Worms eat whats infront of them while creating a channel through the soil. Everything goes through their digestive system and comes out all mixed up as castings which hold a good amount of moisture as long as it is covered with other soil or mulch. Ants, on the other hand, selectively eat the organic matter in or ontop of the soil and separate the fibrous cellular material from the waxy outer layer which repeals moisture off the leaves and stems. They digest and utilise the cellular material but deposit the wax as lining around their tunnels through the soil and in their nests. My soil is made up completely of small crumbles or beads of hard soil that water does not penetrate. Its completely hydroscopic (it repells moisture). There is so much wax in my soil, it coats every bit. My area has a lot of a particular type of gum tree Eucalyptus Grandiflora or Spotted Gum, a large drought tolerant gum tree that hosts white ants easily and delivers a toxin to the soil via the bark and young dead leaves that prevents competition under the tree. So it hosts the white ants which eat all those dead leaves that fall in thick drifts every dry season. Plus every second year (this year) the trees shed their copious bark in great long shards of leather type material that litters the ground for months. Finally the bark dries to a crisp and decomposes whereupon the ants take over thereby adding yet more wax to the ground. WOW!!! Now I understand! So this is what I am trying to grow a garden in. And of course the top soil is only <>10cm thick under which is yellow schist rocky clay that also repells moisture mainly because its so hard packed. No wonder I've been failing to make sense of the tests and experiments I've been doing. "Soooo how do I fix this mess?". "Not easily" she said. I could poison the soil to kill the ants but that would also prevent any earth worms living in it for years and any of the other miriad of biological live important and necessary for organic gardening. Or I could embark on a program of adding particular organic elements such as copious fresh cow manure and weed teas. The fresh cow manure has an acid in it which acts as a wetting agent bit for my soil I would need to add in the ratio of 50/50 which is a LOT of fresh cow manure and really heavy as well! Weed tea also creates an acid that acts as a soil wetting agent but more slowly as it doesn't have the huge volume of organic matter that manure provides. If I was much younger or had help, I would attempt to get a load of fresh cow manure. Although finding organic manure would be next to impossible since it would have to come from a dairy farm. But once rain starts again, the weeds will grow profilically and I can use them along with a small amount of cow manure from the adjoining beef cow farm over my back fence. I can make weed 'tea bags' each with a few cow pays in as well and soak those in a big blue drum then water that onto my gardens. So that's my next set of experiments all set out for the coming year. It was great to have my friend visiting right when I was giving up on the gardens completely. This gardening game here is too hard for me now that my arms don't work so well anymore. But if the weed tea works, I'll scale up the whole thing. I'll start with just the few new beds I started this season in the new food forest area. My soil in new raised beds. A new vegie bed in food forest. Plants grow well first year. When I set out the area for my new shed early last year, I got the excavator driver to set aside all the top soil. It was my intention to do this work during winter of 2018 bit I got sick and only now getting back to it. I make berms and swales or beds along the contours using the saved soil. To each tractor bucket of soil I add 20% soaked coconut coir fibre, a bit of compost, various other components (whatever is laying around really) along with organic pelletized chook poo fertilizer, minerals, trace elements, then hoe it through. I've been waiting for rain but couldn't wait any longer to begin planting. With the drought biting so hard my horses have run out of grass so they are getting soaked hay each morning. The soak water goes on a garden bed. You can see the results in the far right photo! Excellent growth! Hay has a lot of sugars in it which have to be removed by soaking for older horses otherwise they get diabetes just like people. But the sugars are excellent food for plants. A win, win really! This soak water can sort of be compared to weed tea. It's not quite the same but close. With weed tea, the plants are soaked until they rot away to make a rich fertilizer whereas the hay soak water just has some sugars in it. Bit considering that I only pour the water through the hay for a few minutes, its a quick way to add nutrition to garden beds. And utilise the water as well. In the photo showing my new fruit tree raised beds, I've thrown the shower runoff hose onto it to utilise that water as well. No wasted water at my place!