Re: Soils

Paul Krombholz wrote:
> If the soil ... is low in humus, you can improve it by adding peat
> or dried cow manure or dried leaves and composting it in a covered, plastic
> storage box for about three weeks at room temperatures.  That is all the
> time it takes to break down all but very resistant organic matter.[...]
> I do not believe that all the organic matter has to be composted
> so long that the soil has the appearance of fine black loam without any
> visible remanents of leaves, stems or other plant parts.

Wouldn't the choice of material used for composting make a pretty big
difference? For example, you can take a walk through the cedar and fir
forests here and find old logs in various stages of decomposition
on the way to becoming forest dirt. When you dig up a scoop of ground
where a log had been 20 years ago, you find a reddish, crumbly soil
usually well inhabited by ants and various worms and bugs. To me, it
looks like it would still have cellulose in it or whatever is left
after wood has decayed for several years. Maybe Charley Bay can tell us
more about this stuff. In other forests, under spruce trees for example,
you find a different kind of dirt with a heavy layer of spruce needles
over it. Dig down and you find a black, porous soil with quite a few
old needles in the top layer. I imagine this stuff would be fairly
acidic. The acidity probably has a factor in what organisms live in it
and how quickly it breaks down and ultimately what kind of things it
might be good for. In a deciduous area, I usually see grass and
depending on the terrain, the soil from those deciduous leaves looks
pretty well composted; not much leaf remnants. No doubt oak, poplar
and maple forests all have different kinds of soil, eh?

Now good old bovine manure has to be pretty well the same everywhere;
I mean the basic cattle diet doesn't vary too much: clover, alfalfa,
grass and grass seeds of various types (grain). Somebody in Texas
and somebody in Finland should be able to compost cow manure, add 
sand, clay and egg shells and come up with a pretty reproduceable 
aquarium mix.

The other thought that popped into my head as I envisioned our mad
scientist cum aquatic plant gardener in his kitchen was an image 
of a large plastic tub with egg shells and bovine byproduct in it, 
merrily composting away. Of course, in order to achieve maximal 
productivity, it needs to have a nice, fresh supply of oxygen so 
you need to stir it up once in a while. I bet it has a pretty distinct 
tangy smell. Sorry... I guess I just haven't gotten over Halloween 
yet. ;-P [hee-hee-hee]

Steve :-)