[nafex] Soi pH & depth, and (seasonally high) water tables...

Steven Covacci filtertitle at gmail.com
Sat Jan 7 11:57:53 EST 2017

Re: Soi pH & depth, and (seasonally high) water tables.

Thank you very much for your insight! I hope that this is a topic that will
benefit plenty of other reading – and who will later look these up.

Individual replies as follows:

@*Alan*: It is interesting to to now know that 'excessive drainage improves
fruit quality'. I've had in the past on this point with Cliff & Mr.
Lehman.. I now remember finding that the fruit of persimmon trees growing
in wetlands usually tasted worse than those found growing in uplands. If
the water table is 24” to 36” below the surface (“seasonally” – whenever
that is), I wonder if that's going to result in subpar fruit. Secondly, yes
– the alkaline soil I'm describing a pH that is in the low 7's; nothing
like 8 or higher. This is good to know that chestnut and paw paw would be
able to tolerate that. I hope that mulching with vegetation, like Lee and
Mr. Lehman mentioned, could make it so that they would thrive in low 7's.
I'll look out for the condition of larger trees on the site. As per what
you've noted and what has just recently been suggested to me by Ron Power –
I'll make an inventory of what trees are on site so that I'll have
something less vague to report next time I visit a property. Lastly, I did
not consider that poor drainage might result in free standing trees being
blown over more than shallow soil (upon bedrock with fissures into which
roots might anchor themselves).

@*Betsy*: Thank you for saying so! My intention is to combine permaculture
(with emphasis, for the most part, Northeastern edibles... persimmon, paw
paw, eastern prickly gooseberry – which is excellent, red mulberry – which
I've yet to try and am told is excellent) and meadows/woodlands native
plants (uncommon in my area... narrow-leaf fireweed – and purple milkweed &
Indian paint-brush.. if I end up on calcareous bedrock); to fence about 20
acres of it, or however much I can at that point afford to fence – deer
browse is a major issue out in Northern NJ. I did not know that
Cornelian-cherry dogwood could tolerate a pH as long as 5.0; I hope this is
the case. However, in their natural habitat, they are found on calcareous
roil – which, does not necessarily prove they need it; the CaCo3 may just
be conferring an advantage as far as drought-tolerance. I've seen it
growing in city parks on construction-fill soil, so it's probably not as
much of an issue as I was initially considering. I'm curious about the
comment regarding long-term pH management; I almost think this means that,
with the right approach, I can get a lasting effect – perhaps with shells?
Certainly, rain pH has a major impact.

@*Lee*: It is useful to know that values differ based upon soil type (sandy
vs clay), and specifics re: the liming material, as according to available
tables. I just don't yet know if adjusting the pH high will be required.
The soil on one site is pH 5; so far, if I'm not mistaken – it seems that I
wouldn't have to adjust the pH for paw paw, persimmon, apple,
Cornelian-cherry, etc. Maybe I would however for apricot. And if it's just
a bit under, which I don't know that it is as of yet, to know that the use
of organic materials can allow more flexibility in pH is good news. You
mention that the most important consideration should be water drainage. By
this, I hope that a seasonal water table (“for short periods”) 24” to 36”
below ground-level would not mean that this site has what would, therefore,
be characterized as poor water drainage. The soil is described as
moderately well-rained; but again.. seasonally high water-table will mean
mesic soils at times, I suppose.  Regarding wood chips, I very much agree;
it wouldn't tie up nitrogen because the roots will be far below the soil
line.  It might only effect surface sowing of seeds; acid-tolerant species
would recruit well, but alkaline-dependent species would not, which is why
some apply sulfur to wildflower meadows, as many of the native species of
flowers/grasses will germinate better than the alien invasives.

@*Mr. Lehman*: I will definitely pass on any property that features a soil
that would require extensive alterations, and as such -- on a continual
basis. I'm just stuck on whether I'd have to make any alterations at all to
a soil which is slightly above 5.0 on the surface and maybe just about 5.0
in the subsoil for the crops that I'm focused on; persimmon, paw paw, etc.
I hope to find something more pH neutral, but does it sound like 5 is very
low? I have a (not-too-sophisticated) electronic/battery operated soil pH
tester; received it as a gift, recently. It's green with two metal prongs –
called “Three-Way Meter”. If you think it's likely effective, I'll bring it
with me, now that I have it; not sure if it would be valid. Regarding
acreage, that would probably make the best sense. I'd have a few dozen
acres of woods, and start with clearing only 3 acres or so. The property
will dictate this, depending on how much is already clear, if it's not all
wooded to begin with. With regards to digging in soil with stones: I tend
to plant seedlings/rootstocks that are pencil thin or so; then later graft
when they've grown larger, after a few seasons. Since I don't aim to dig
them out later, what would be the down-side of having a lot of stones in
the soil in this case? I don't see myself selling bareroot fruit trees;
perhaps I'd sell potted perennials and container-grown tree seedlings that
are not much grown.

@*Rivka*: It would be good to know that lime would not have to be applied
annually; I wish that using limestone (dolomite) gravel would work and
stones pressed into the ground, for a one-time application. You make a good
point, which might answer the question I just posed for Mr. Lehman: if
there are plenty of stones in the ground, tilling the lime (crushed
gravel?) into the soil would be difficult; I thought you just put it on top
and press it in – but I now realize that won't get it deep enough into the
soil. I'm hoping that the “Three-Way Meter” that I have will be a good
preliminary test of pH; then I'll have an official test sample taken
through the county extension. Would the effect of ash wood raining the pH
be permanent, or does this effect dissipate?

Thank you for all of the very substantial replies.


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