The attached image shows the soil test results for four different sites on my property. Site #1 is where there were some existing native Ginseng along with Black Coshosh and ferns. Site #1 slopes generally south but is kind of a ditch, which I suppose is why it's okay that it doesn't slope north. It has a lot of Poplar trees, which is why the test results seem to be ideal. The other three sites slope north, but don't have the Poplar trees that site #1 has. They are shaded by mostly Maple trees and a few White Oaks. I bought seeds from this site last year and planted them mostly in site #1 since I knew the conditions were good there. I put some test seeds on site #4 and they actually look better than site #1 even though the soil test results would not lead me to believe this would have been the case. The #4 site three leafers are darker green and have no leaf spot, whereas the ones at site #1 have a little leaf spot and are a somewhat lighter green. My questions are: How much potash should I use to get site #4 to be more ideal and what else could I do before planting there this year? Should I do anything to site #1 or are the test results good enough for those plants I've already put there? Also, why would the plants look better in site #4 than site #1? Could it be that the tops would look good, but the roots not end up being that great in a few years? Any advice is much appreciated!
Looking at the soil test as an old country boy and what little experience I've had on the farm, the best recommendations that I could give, and this is a generalization. I would say to bring your Phosphorus levels up and your Potash levels only slightly. You need to make high additions of Gypsum to get the PH levels a little higher as well. Adding balanced fertilizers will take the PH down slightly more so probably 3 times as much Gypsum as the rest of the fertilizer additions should be about right. You could translate this to 10/10/10 with two to three times as much Gypsum. You could leave the Nitrogen completely out of the mix. Go to a good farm store that handles fertilizer sales and show them your soil test. They can fine tune this. Good luck with the planting.
Looking that soils report, I think that your #1 soil sample has a pH of too high -by a little bit. The Scotts/Davis book recommends a pH of 4.5-6.0. On a positive note, your Ca is great!
The samples #2,3,&4 all have great pH, however your Ca is very very low.
Having said all that, those great Ca values in your site #1 perhaps are making the difference there in what you see. I certainly wouldn't add any lime -as it boosts Ca as well as pH. Since your Ca is really good there, I'm not too sure wether I would boost the soil much a'tall. If anything, I would look at the micronutrients and myrochozzal communities and add that if found lacking.
Putting down pellitized gypsum is the way I have gone with my low Ca values. Interesting that you r values are very similar to what I have had in my patches. I atributed my loweer Ca values with the previously understory growth, which we have removed. I have used the pelletitized lime, as well as pelletitized gypsum to enhance the low values. Incidently, both the lime and gypsum are considered organic, not a complex chemical fertilzer, thus giving you a truer growth method to the wild-sim that most of us are attempting.
Another soil amendment I have chosen to use is a seaweed deritive to boost the mnicronutrients. I use this as a spray, applied as my soil analysis indicate. Which is to say that I do serial analysis's, and go from there.
Since you are using the NC Dept of Ag's resources [as am I] then doing serial analysis isn't costly, unless you are submitting these in the dead of winter, which NC Dept of Ag has recently started charging for.
Thanks Whitjr! Yea, I plan on getting some gypsum put down on the low Ca sites. I kind of thought sites 2-4 would need it even before I did the soil tests since there are only a couple of poplar trees, which I believe contribute to the Ca content over time. I'll look into the seaweed/micro-nutrients suggestions for site 1 as well. Thanks again!
Site 1 with the high Ca content is probably 85% or more shade because it's kind of a ditch with lots of poplar. The other sites get a little more sun (although I think it use to be more shaded because there are big rhododendron and mountain laurel around), but is on the north facing slope and the trees are mostly maple and some oak. Thanks for the info on what website to check!
On your 3 sites where the PH is a bit low, and Calcium lower than your best site...
You might consider using a very good organic product - BoneMeal.
It will boost calcium, and phosphorus (which is very beneficial for root development) and it will also raise the PH some (bone meal has a PH around 12.0).
The NPK makeup of Bonemeal is 4-12-0 for regular stuff, but you can get it that has been processed by steaming and it will be more like 1-13-0.
When you get your PH right, but want to continue to boose calcium, change over to Gypsum. Gypsum will add Ca without changeing PH.
Lower PH is supposed to be better for disease resistance, Higher PH worse...
In your location where you have the best calcium levels but higher PH, I would strongly suggest that you plant then thinly there. Space them out well. For example in a 4'x4' area I would plant 8-10 seeds, and then skip 4' over and make anotehr 4x4 location and plant another 8-10 seeds.
When you plant them too thick and have a year with lots of rain (like this one), disease will give you a good routing. Spreading them out more like wild seng grows is the best defense against disease.
Thanks TN! I did plant some last fall in the high Ca place and was concerned about all the rain we had, but the three leafers seemed to have done okay. I planted most of the 8 oz I bought in that little area, but they only came up sporadically, probably because we had chickens get in there and scratch around quite a bit. I ended up taking care of that problem before they spouted by using a couple of 150 ft rolls of netting to fence off the area. I may plant some more in there, but will take your advice and space out where they didn't come up, leaving some open barriers to help avoid disease.
That rododendron is the reason for the low pH, and low Ca. mPlanting around that may be counter=productive to your intention to grow 'sang. I'd get it out of your planting areas, and then adjust soil as needed.
I like fresh egges as much as anyone, however letting them scratch around your plantings may not result in the amount of three-leafers you want either.