Which soil to use?

Discussion in 'El Natural & Low Tech' started by bugs, 23 Sep 2007.

  1. bugs

    bugs Member

    Messages:
    356
    I'm struggling to determine the most appropriate and safe soil substrate...

    On one hand I could just take a spade to my back garden, getting below the surface layer in a relatively untouched part of the garden. However, my garden used to be a river bed and is therefore quite sandy and stony. Whilst I believe the soil does not need to be rich in fertiliser, I think my "soil" (I use the term loosely) is too devoid of any goodness.

    That leaves me trying to identify a suitable alternative (in a bag!) I'm thinking John Innes Cutting Compost (as I believe it does not have any added ferts); however, it does contain Peat which could be a problem.

    My latest thought is pond soil...

    Would be grateful for thoughts, feedback, and experience.

    Cheers
     
  2. Ed Seeley

    Ed Seeley Member

    Messages:
    3,262
    Location:
    Nottingham
    I'd go with your back garden soil. Former river bed should be pretty good stuff really. You may want to do a quick bottle test just to be sure that it doesn't contain too much Organic waste that could cause problems.
    If you buy some soil then Pond soil would be very safe option and if you want to go with John Innes mixture I'd go with the seed stuff, but it'd probably be very like your sandy garden soil....

    BTW decided on your cichlid tank yet? (or are there two Bugs??)
     
  3. bugs

    bugs Member

    Messages:
    356
    Bottle test? How does that work?

    Long story... Wife struggles to buy me a birthday present... Wife ends up giving me money... Wife then notices that the Juwel Lido is back on sale... Wife suggests changing my current tank to the Lido... Wife (and I, to some extent) lament the amount of time and money I spend on maintaining my current 60cm planted tank... I start talking about the EI Natural method as a possible re-design... I then start talking about making the transition and the need for perhaps a second tank to temp home the fish... I'm then vocal about perhaps getting a larger tank, especially as EI Natural will take less to maintain... I then mention Cichlids (I'm either plants or cichlids when it comes to fish)... Wife likes the idea of cichlids... I'm vocal about cichlids needing perhaps an even larger tank... This morning, I successfully convince wife that long term a 4 foot monster of tank built in to an alcove in our dining room is the way to go... I'm undecided on Cichlids v. EI Natural planted, therefore, short term I plan to change my current tank to EI Natural and see how I get on... I'll decide what goes in to the monster tank nearer the time (which is a way off)...

    The dream is realised... whoa ha ha ha ha ha...
     
  4. Ed Seeley

    Ed Seeley Member

    Messages:
    3,262
    Location:
    Nottingham
    Well you get a nice tank out of all the to-ing and fro-ing!!!! I'd honestly go for Tanganyikans if you go for hard water cichlids. Much more intersting than Mbuna! And you can always put a few plants in too!

    As for the bottle test, basically it's putting some soil in a bottle or other container, adding water and then testing the water to see what's come out of the water. I'm not totally sure whether people stir up the soil when mixing or not, personally I would as it should encourage anything in the soil to dissolve into the water.
     
  5. quatermass

    quatermass Newly Registered

    Messages:
    14
    Location:
    Livingston, Scotland
    John Innes number 3 is what Diana Walstad recommends.

    Well it's what I use and can't say I have any trouble.

    I once tried Pond soil sold at a local Williamson Garden branch. But it took a long time to settle down and after re-reading the bag label discovered it had been sterilised!
     
  6. bugs

    bugs Member

    Messages:
    356
    Re:

    I'm back searching for the perfect soil. If I lived in the states it seems Home Depot sell cheap soil that is apparently what most people use. Meanwhile, here in the UK...

    I looked in to JI No.3 and it seems that it is sterlised :(
     
  7. bugs

    bugs Member

    Messages:
    356
    Is "Peat Moss" the same as "Peat"? I think not but Diana Walstad specifically says to avoid Peat Moss in her book...
     
  8. aaronnorth

    aaronnorth Member

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    3,955
    Location:
    worksop, nottinghamshire
    i think it is, why did she advise going against peat moss?
     
  9. quatermass

    quatermass Newly Registered

    Messages:
    14
    Location:
    Livingston, Scotland
    Re: Re:

    Not the end of the world if you use this.
    You can easily make it unsterilised of course. :)
    Collect outside rain water that's been left outside a few days and pour it over it?
    Pour a bottle of Waste eating bacteria and one like Safestart, One and Only, etc.
    Rub your hand through outdoor soil then stir up the sterile soil with your hand.

    I bought a bag of JI #3 Soil-Based Compost in the UK made by 'J. Arthur Bower' and this recipe is sold by lots and lots of gardening soil companies here in the UK. so it's easy to find.

    [​IMG]
    Large pic: http://mytriops.com/mypics/john_innes_3.jpg

    OPPS: this bag indicates that the Loam part is sterilised. Of course the rest of it isn't...
    I hope you've not read that bit and thought all of it was sterilised?
    Easy mistake to make. :D

    See this picture of the back of the bag.
    http://mytriops.com/mypics/john_innes_3back.jpg
     
  10. Ed Seeley

    Ed Seeley Member

    Messages:
    3,262
    Location:
    Nottingham
    When they say sterilised it's almost certainly very far from it! As far as a gardener's concerned it means that there won't be any weed seeds or similar, not down to a bacterial level. And as soon as it's removed from the steriliser it will soon be contaminated by bacteria again. It's probably best that you use sterilised loam IMO.
     
  11. bugs

    bugs Member

    Messages:
    356
    Many thanks for the info, in particular photographing the bag Q - above and beyond (but much appreciated).

    Diana says to avoid Peat Moss because: "The acidity of peat moss may bring heavy metals into the soil solution"
     
  12. quatermass

    quatermass Newly Registered

    Messages:
    14
    Location:
    Livingston, Scotland
    Exactly Ed my thoughts too. Soil that is 100% sterilised is in effect dead and you can't grown anything in dead soil. Plants need bacteria and fungi in soil to break down minerals into a form they can consume.

    Though I suspect they probably do irradiate the Loam, by the time it's transported and mixed with other soil, grit, containers, it'll have picked up billions of nice yummy fungi and bacteria spores. 8)
     
  13. Ed Seeley

    Ed Seeley Member

    Messages:
    3,262
    Location:
    Nottingham
    Normally soil is heat sterilised rather than irradiated like frozen food and I bet a fair few bacteria will survive the heating process anyway. Personally I just shoved some nice loamy garden soil in the tank I used and wasn't too worried about its source!
     
  14. Brenmuk

    Brenmuk Member

    Messages:
    198
    Location:
    Peterborough
    I have used John Innes seed compost (mainly because there was some lying around which was being used for seed germination) and so far it seems to work fine. However looking at the a web site with the John Innes compost range explained the seed compost is the least fertile
    http://www.gardeningdata.co.uk/soil/john_innes/john_innes.php

    John Innes No3 looks like it is the most fertile so maybe that is the better choice.

    I would not worry about the peat content acidifying the water because as you can see from the link there is ground limestone added which will ensure a neutral to slightly alkaline ph. When I tested the seed compost out in a coffee jar (1" of soil, 1" of gravel, filled with rain water and left to settle for a day the ph came out at neutral).

    When potting soil bags say they have been sterilised I assume they have been heat treated to kill off terrestrial weed seeds and pathogenic fungi/bacteria etc but as Ed Seeley & quatermass point out the potting soil will soon be reseeded with all sorts of bacteria/fungi from air/water and any surfaces it has been in contact with between it being sterilised, packaged and you buying it.
    As an aside I'm not sure exactly how loam and peat are sterilised I assume it is by heat as irradiation surely would not be that effective - only penetrating the surface of the peat/moss. I have seen programmes where they have sterilised loam by putting it into a large rotating drum and passing hot air through it. Commercial potting compost on the other hand is sterilised in those huge steaming hot compost heaps - I get a wiff of the councils heap as I drive to work in the morning :rolleyes: .
     
  15. bugs

    bugs Member

    Messages:
    356
    Thanks for all the info. I originally thought about using seed and cutting compost for that very reason. Quoting Diana Walstad's book again:
    I'm still tempted to simply dig some soil from my garden. I have areas that I know have not had anything added (e.g. compost, fertilisers, etc).
     
  16. SuperColey1

    SuperColey1 Member

    Messages:
    2,668
    Location:
    Lincoln UK
    Reading the above I'll clear a couple of things up within it.

    It says that several manufacturers use the same recipe when in fact they dont. There are many John Innes No3 which is a trademark but it applies to the ratios of nutrient within it and not specifically to the type of ingredient that supplies the ingredient.

    For example one company may use pure cow manure in a lower ration whereas another may use "mushroom compost with rotted chipboard within it". They would use it in different ratios to achieve the same result.

    Sterilised soil is indeed fed into a hopper and then it is basically burnt to remove the organic content within it. unsterilised soil will contain glass, metals, litter, weeds, stones. This is fed into a hopper which then goes into a rolling barrel which removes stones, glass etc. Then it is heat treated to burn the weeds, roots and all moisture and it comes out as a fine(ish) powder. Then it is mixed with all the other ingredients. The JAB one you have there will have gone through this process and any manure content will be the mushroom/urea/chipboard type.

    AC
     

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