Upping my OM: cornmeal and peat moss

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Dargin
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Upping my OM: cornmeal and peat moss

Post by Dargin » April 23rd, 2020, 11:04 am

Hey, all.

Last fall I managed to mulch a lot more leaves then in previous years; super happy about that. Now I'm trying to better define my OM plan for the year, based on my resources.

KH. Already started.

I have 100lbs of cornmeal.
My initial thought is to do about 5 apps at
10lbs/k. 3 apps in spring, 2 in late summer. Already did one app. The rate seems ok (low end) based on what I've read, but the frequency is based solely on me wanting to have 4 more fun things to do this year. Any cons to doing it this way?

I also have enough peat to dress the whole lawn with a 1/2" twice. Can this be done twice in a year, or is this dependent on watching to see how well/quickly the peat integrates into a given soil? Not sure if I can trust me eyes on this; if this practice could lead to any soil stratification issues?

Appreciate any advice. Thank you.

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andy10917
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Re: Upping my OM: cornmeal and peat moss

Post by andy10917 » April 23rd, 2020, 11:18 am

You'll have to use your optical receptors for this. The corn is fine. The peat moss at 0.5" is a little heavy (don't want the grass crowns buried). I'd do 0.25" twice as often to tart, and see how it goes. Peat moss occasionally is hydrophobic at first, and you don't want a hydrophobic "mat". See how it goes and adjust as you learn.

Dargin
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Re: Upping my OM: cornmeal and peat moss

Post by Dargin » April 23rd, 2020, 1:02 pm

Thanks a bunch, Andy. I'll shoot for a 1/4 inch.

That hydrophobic matting effect is certainly a concern. I've never actually top dressed a 1/2", just to be clear, unless you count a covering for a reseeding that didn't go so well...big surprise. Salvaged some of it with a gentle hand, but the whole top layer upheaved and landed wherever it wanted after a heavy downpour, floating seedlings and all. I've since learned how to better handle that scenario; a dusting of peat and a light showering of water, multiple passes, until it takes. Much easier than I was making it out to be.

In this scenario i'll go it slow with a 1/4 inch dressing, and I'll monitor until i can no longer see the last app, then repeat. Will check back to relay how it's going.

Side note: got some free OM in the form of 5 dead birds in the last month. Thought it might be the apocalypse at first, but after finding a couple spare wings I'm leaning toward serial killer cat.

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Dchall_San_Antonio
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Re: Upping my OM: cornmeal and peat moss

Post by Dchall_San_Antonio » May 3rd, 2020, 12:20 pm

Peat moss is an entire depleted organic material. It has no food value for the microbes in the soil. I would cut my peat moss budget to zero and spend that money on more corn meal. Peat moss only has value as a micro mulch. But if you're mowing the grass high (highest mower setting), then the benefit of the extra shade from peat moss is about zero.

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andy10917
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Re: Upping my OM: cornmeal and peat moss

Post by andy10917 » May 3rd, 2020, 3:10 pm

Peat moss is an entire depleted organic material.
No, it's not. It is later-stage, but it has a ways to go before it becomes Humate, which *IS* end-state. Being closer to end-state than corn meal, it is a better supplier of organic matter, which is what the OP asked about - not nutritive value.

Just like money, it's not what you make, it's what you save that is important. OM provides exchange sites, which means that more of the nutrients that we apply do not quickly leach out of soils. There are many members that apply nutrients year after year without significant measurable progress in soil test levels, due to low OM and TEC levels.

I believe in organic/natural additions to the soil as important, but I also believe that KEEPING them needs to get a share of importance, too!


Dargin
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Re: Upping my OM: cornmeal and peat moss

Post by Dargin » May 3rd, 2020, 11:42 pm

Thanks for chiming in guys, always enjoy your insight.
I actually went with corn meal, and the 10lb/k rate after reading some of your posts, Dchall.

Totally fine admitting that i may not have exactly the right idea, but my intention was -pretty much- in line with what Andy said. The corn meal was chosen solely as a very effective way to get the herd churning. I viewed the peat as a way to slowly develop a more stable/lasting physical improvement to soil structure as it works itself in. I assumed better nutrient holding power and, where I may be off, even better oxygenation in the root zone as a result of peat, but thinking more, maybe the corn meal has a better effect on the latter? I need to do a lot more reading, as probably evidenced by now, but that's been my line of reasoning thus far.

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Dchall_San_Antonio
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Re: Upping my OM: cornmeal and peat moss

Post by Dchall_San_Antonio » May 5th, 2020, 2:37 am

Hey Andy. When I read 'organic matter' I interpret that to be microbes as they are more important to the soil health than the solid, relatively depleted materials. I'm not sure soil chemistry tests do a great job measuring biology. That's the genesis of my statement that corn meal is better than peat moss.

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andy10917
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Re: Upping my OM: cornmeal and peat moss

Post by andy10917 » May 5th, 2020, 8:25 am

David, the method used to determine the organic matter present in a soil sample is not a chemical test. It is a physical test called "Loss on Ignition". It is actually pretty good at measuring the mass of the biology as a component of the soil. It works by first drying a soil sample to 100C degrees to remove water, and reweighing the sample. Then the sample is raised to a temperature level that will drive off ("ignite") any Carbon based material as gas. It is then reweighed, and the difference in weight is determined to be the organic matter that was present. This is the decaying Carbon-based material, the biology, etc.
Soil is composed of living organisms, water, carbonates, carbon containing material, decomposing matter and much more. To determine how much one of these soil components make up the entire soil mass, the LOI procedure is implemented. Initially, the researcher will take the mass of the sample prior to LOI and then place the sample into a heating device. Depending on what the researcher is trying to determine in the soil, the temperature of the device can be set to the corresponding temperature. The soil sample is kept at this temperature for an extended period of time after which it is removed and allowed to cool down before re-weighing the sample. The amount of mass lost after the LOI treatment is equal to the mass of the component the researcher is trying to determine.
We can't consider the biology (which is the microherd) without considering the fact that the microherd needs both a home and a source of food. Decaying material provides both, and later-stage material is better at providing both food and a home for both bacterial and fungi than earlier-stage material like corn-meal, which is primarily food for the bacterial component. Later-stage material is also denser in Carbon, which is needed to hold nutrients and prevent leaching of nutrients.

Don't get me wrong -- I'm not saying that corn-meal and other early-stage material doesn't have an important place. But when a soil has a low-TEC, it's time to supply it *AND* homes for the microherd to thrive -- it's not as simple as just provide food, It's vastly complex to build an environment that is more than feast-or-famine. The OP of this thread was asking about building that environment because the soil test indicated that the TEC was not supportive of a good biology/microherd, and the OM% indicated that the Carbon and decaying matter was at the root (no pun intended) of the issue.

I don't think our goals are mutually-exclusive, at all. But I do disagree with the concept that eliminating later-stage material to low-TEC and low-OM% environments (like peat moss) in favor of more early-stage material is wise. I've just seen too many soil tests that show that applied nutrients in soil (both "organic"/natural and synthetic) are gone a year after application, and when the nutrients are gone, the biology/microherd needed collapses with the scenario.

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Dchall_San_Antonio
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Re: Upping my OM: cornmeal and peat moss

Post by Dchall_San_Antonio » May 5th, 2020, 12:32 pm

There's a lot to talk about, of course, but three things come to mind for now.

Number 1: I'd really like to know what the mass of the microherd is versus the mass of the organic TEC solids (as opposed to the clay elements of TEC). It doesn't seem like the ignition test can separate the two.

Number 2: Remember that grass sheds some of the roots every year, and those roots become organic/temporary TEC solids. Those replenish themselves in healthy turf.

Number 3: The OP is in Worcester, MA. MA has a sandy part and a non-sandy part. If I'm not mistaken, Worcester is near that border. In Florida they say that the sand eats organic matter. Is there any amount of peat moss that could provide sufficient TEC in sandy soil?

Dargin
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Re: Upping my OM: cornmeal and peat moss

Post by Dargin » May 10th, 2020, 9:00 am

Over my head here, but been doing some reading.
Would some sort of analysis of isolated polysaccharides possibly give an indication of the mass of the microherd vs TEC solids? Based on the ratios of varying types of amino acids, monosaccharides, etc... found.

Way off?

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andy10917
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Re: Upping my OM: cornmeal and peat moss

Post by andy10917 » May 10th, 2020, 9:12 am

Don't know - I know of no commercial mass-production tests at reasonable cost to estimate the mass of the microherd. What's possible in the lab doesn't mean that it can be done at-scale, reliably.

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