Question Soil treatment

Discussion in 'Other' started by Ash, Aug 26, 2015.

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  1. Ash

    Ash Valued Member Premium Member

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    Didn't know where best to post this but I couldn't find another thread of a similar subject to ponder the question:

    What's best to do to condition this thick, clumpy, solid black vertisol soil to support new tree planting and growth?


    With one hack at the ground with my pick I get this big chunk.

    It's amazingly congealed together like a soft rock and requires a lot of manual work to break it up into a manageable crumbly soil to support root growth.

    So far I've given each hole I dig a good dose of gypsum clay breaker to help create some openings for future root systems. Is this right to do?

    Also, with this type of soil, does it need a lot of fertiliser to get trees, especially fruit trees, going well in it?
     
  2. Ken W.

    Ken W. Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    Vertosol soils are generally fairly fertile and considered to be some of the better agricultural soils in Australia. They are a self-mulching soil (sometimes referred to as self-cultivating) - as the soil cracks it takes in organic matter from the surface and incorporates it into the lower levels. The increased organic matter taken in then causes it to swell as it becomes wet causing a turning effect of the upper levels. This is evidenced by the surface mounds and resulting depressions commonly called melon-holes. Having said that, they are also a very difficult soil to work as they progress through their cycle of wet bog to dry bricks. For cultivation purposes the window is very narrow. However, in your case for permanent plantings, it is a matter of reducing the impact of the swelling/contraction nature of the soil. To do this, I'd suggest digging your planting hole as large as you can and backfill with organic matter such as compost or rotted manures and some coarse sand. Over time this will stabilise the soil and form better aggregation in the surrounding soil to allow for better drainage and moisture retention. Over the top of this (and as wide an area as possible) place a heavy layer of mulch to maintain a more constant moisture level which avoids the cracking cycle. Ideally, your fruit trees should be planted on a mound to avoid "wet feet" during times when the soil is boggy. Another consideration - but not necessary - could be to deep rip the planting lines of your orchard to break up compacted subsoil - this may or may not have an effect depending on your depth of soil.
     
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  3. Mark

    Mark Founder Staff Member

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    What Ken said... That's a really good explanation.

    That can't hurt either...
     
  4. Ash

    Ash Valued Member Premium Member

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    Nice, Ken. Thanks.
    This is info I found very hard to gather online, so this was very timely.
    I have been breaking up holes about twice to three times the size of the trees being planted, but I figure it may not be enough since I'm only doing it by hand/pick. I now appreciate that compost and sand would help with the consistency of the soil - I've only done some compost in each hole to date.
    It has such amazing consolidated nature.
    The work goes on...
    Thanks again guys.
     
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  5. Ken W.

    Ken W. Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    You're welcome Ash. What you are doing is better than just planting and hoping. Looking at your pictures in other posts it seems you have a bit of slope to your land so I wouldn't think that waterlogging is going to be a major concern. If I had to prioritise my previous advice :- 1. Organic mulch alone will accomplish the same result over a longer time frame. 2. Backfilling with composted organic matter. 3. As large a hole as you can dig. 4. Plant on a mound - doesn't need to be a mountain - just a few inches to get the feeder roots away from the potential waterlogged environment so they can breathe.
    I'll happily trade some vertosol for my sodasol :cheer:.
     
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  6. Ash

    Ash Valued Member Premium Member

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    Ah, sodasol. I looked into that. Australia has such a diversity between towns even within the same region. I have been through Inglewood a number of times for a coffee stop with good friends who live in Glenarbon and Goondiwindi, and I have lived in Gundy myself on the thick black soil that wreaks havoc on house foundations. Fortunately we lived in a newly built Queenslander with adjustable stilts. At that stage I only had time for a small vege patch, which only supported a rich crop of tomatoes in the spring.

    Thanks again for those tips. They are most appreciated. Even as black vertosol is considered "self-mulching" I'm not taking chances - I'll be hacking away at grass/weeds growing beneath the drip line and mulching for the hotter months. The soil dries out quite quickly that I have seen in the drier months - I am yet to see how damp it becomes in the summer, and by that stage I will be sure to mound each tree to avoid waterlogging.
    There is a slight slope on the orchard, and a steeper slope on the paddock beside it. I'll keep the paddock for natives and wood-producing trees.

    Looking across the paddock

    Looking along the orchard (east-south-west pano)
     
    Last edited: Aug 28, 2015
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