Anyone add boron to their soil

Discussion in 'Planting, growing, nurturing Plants' started by Flatland, Nov 9, 2015.

  1. Flatland

    Flatland Member

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    As the heading says does anyone add boron to their soil? If so how, and how much? Mainly thinking about in the vegie garden. I've been reading at lot about boron deficiency lately. Some people clam it is a major cause of arthritis. Australia is one of those places that is on the whole deficient. My soil test said my land was boron deficient and nothing needed to be done about it. The soil test i had done was done by an independent company that is supposed to be the best in Oz, but I found some of its comments strange. Boron, magnesium were both low and the comment was don't worry about it.
     
  2. songbird

    songbird Senior Member

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    i've never seen symptoms of boron deficiency here and after reading about it i'm wondering how effective any amending would do on a large scale if the basic soil is alkaline. you'd also have to amend for that...

    my guess is that for veggie plots you may want to set up your plots add your organic amendments and then test that soil specifically and amend only that area as needed.

    for boron itself the rate of application (it being a trace nutrient) is fairly small amounts so not that bad if needed, but that again depends a lot upon the area and pH and if you also have to amend for pH. which for larger areas is not always worth it...

    so, um, it depends. :)
     
  3. mike

    mike Junior Member

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    You have to be very careful with boron---you need extremely low amounts and over use is worse than being deficient.
     
  4. Pakanohida

    Pakanohida Junior Member

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    It's just not worth it.
     
  5. Flatland

    Flatland Member

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    My soil is neutral. Smack on 7 so it is not a PH problem. I have read that beetroot is something that needs boron to grow well and apart from that it is just this thing of Australian soils being very deficient. In reality Ozzie soils are deficient in just about everything.
     
  6. Mirrabooka

    Mirrabooka Junior Member

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    As Steve Solomon would recommend, get a soil test. If there is a deficiency, amend.
     
  7. Bryant RedHawk

    Bryant RedHawk Junior Member

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    Boron amounts present in the soil are directly proportional to the amount of organic matter.
    If your boron is low then you can be fairly certain you have low organic matter as well.
    The first thing to address is the organic matter level, once that is up some you can add boron by using
    household borax (like 20 mule team brand).
    Apply household borax at a rate 1 tablespoon borax to 12 quarts of water.
    This amount will treat a 100 foot row of vegetables or 10 square feet of soil. Apply two times 2-3 weeks apart.

    It isn't uncommon for soil testing labs to discount many of the trace elements as not important, however they forget the vital role these trace elements play in overall soil health. Borax is cheap, easy to apply and worth the effort, but I would apply it only where I needed it.
    Mostly because it would be time consuming to treat a lot of land.
     
  8. Flatland

    Flatland Member

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    Thanks Bryant. My soil is very definitely deficient in organic matter. It is almost pure sand to which I am adding lots of horse poo and doing chop and drop of anything I have. I have borax so i think I will add that as per your amounts. I think with my soil leaching of minerals is going to be a big problem for some time until I can get the organic matter up. At least that was one thing that the soil test said i should do. I actually think that the money i spent on the soil test was pretty much wasted because the results I got back were. Yes things are low but ignore them and just add super phosphate (Australia's cure all)
     
  9. Bryant RedHawk

    Bryant RedHawk Junior Member

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    If you can add some small amounts of clay to your sandy soil it will improve faster because the humus you are adding will be able to hold in the building soil.
    I have been amazed at how many countries have bought into the Monsanto type thinking, just keep killing the soil and it will get better is not a viable methodology.
    Any time you add any chemical fertilizer you kill the microbiology of the soil. Do it enough and all you have is DIRT.

    If you can get it fresh, seaweed (just about any species) will do wonders, it will raise the micro nutrient levels, it will add trace minerals and it will add humus.
    Your on the right track, just keep plugging away at it and you will see the turnaround.
     
  10. Flatland

    Flatland Member

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    Because we had building work done we have a pile of subsoil. This is a yellow clay. Would this be suitable to dig in? How much should I am to add? Can I be lazy and just put a layer of the clay on top of the sand? If it do just put a layer on will it get washed down into the sand? Could it act as a mulch or would it stop water getting through?
     
  11. Bryant RedHawk

    Bryant RedHawk Junior Member

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    I would try to work it into the sand instead of letting it lay on the surface. I would work that subsoil in by the shovel full since building good soil is very much like baking a cake. The better each ingredient is incorporated before the wet ingredients (in this case water) the better and faster the batter comes together and the lighter the cake is when done.

    Clay is hydroscopic and it will grab and hold on to water but it does not let that water pass on down very well. This is why it is such a good amendment to sandy sols, where the sand is open even when wet which allows free water to pass right through the matrix, clay molecules swell when the water is adsorbed and that action plugs up the holes between molecules so that free water simply can't pass through a clay matrix. When you mix the clay with sand the clay coats the particles of sand and that is what allows the amended soil to hold on to water and thus improves both the holding of water and the holding of organic materials you add to the matrix, the clay acts as a glue, holding on to both water molecules and bits of humus (organic matter). Once you have these actions going on, then bacteria and fungi have places to live and the formation of living soil will take place.

    True soil is a wonderful living organism full of microscopic life that supports macroscopic life such as insects and worms, all the organisms live a symbiotic life each one supplies items the others need to survive and thrive. The challenge of sandy soil is to make it hold as much humus as possible, so you have to change the matrix so it can hold on to humus for an extended period of time. Once achieved all other amendments will only continue to improve the condition of the soil.

    Here's to great success in your endeavor.

    Cheers,
    Redhawk
     
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2015
  12. songbird

    songbird Senior Member

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    if you have the clay available it doesn't take much added to help, but it is important to add it with organic materials to sand and not to just add it alone. you can even put it through the compost pile and that makes sure it gets broken up and well distributed with the organic materials. i would only use it on places you plan on actually gardening and will keep on working as if it is added to sand alone and it just sits you'll be likely getting some layers and hard areas.

    a 1-5% clay content is much better than 0. start with small amounts and see how it goes. do comparison plots. experiment. :) it can be a fun and muddy mess and there's always mud pies, mud baths, mud wrestling and mud fights... :) :) :)
     
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  13. Rylan Zimny

    Rylan Zimny New Member

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    I agree with previous posters, Sand does not hold nutrients well, as it has a low cation exchange capacity... but is great for veggies! Clay would be a great idea to build holding capacity for nutrients, but the issue is that your texture is sand, and for the sake of simplicity, adding organic matter (OM) is probably your best long-term solution. OM, if added as an amendment, will bring with it boron (from the tissue of the dead plant). OM management is part of a long-tern soil nutrient management plan anyway, so we should all be adding OM as opposed to expensive, labour intensive things like additional soil amendments, when possible.

    Remember those permaculture principles: "use small and slow solutions", "use and value renewable resources"" and don't forget one of Geoff's favourites "the problem is the solution". I would plant that area to appropriate speciation which will not suffer from boron deficiency, build OM with on site and off site sources (free of course) and plant some root crops that would love that space.

    There are also some plants you can use to scavenge for boron in the lower levels of the soil (beyond the usual 6" where we grow most of our veggies. This is why using a cover crop will be important for you at the end of the growing season. Get something in the ground, preferably with deep roots, to scavenge and hold onto boron (and other nutrients) until it is time to plant your productive plants.

    I might also suggest that you check and see if the type of test you had done was a "geochemical assay". The reason for this is that many local soil tests done are catered to conventional growers who are mostly interested in managing NPK and micronutrients as they apply to chemical fertilizers. A geochemical assay will analyze both positively charged and negatively charged nutrient and nutrient compounds in your soil so that nothing gets left out. I have seen geochemical assays done where the first 6" of soil were boron deficient, but the next 6" had plenty of leached boron. This type of information never shows up on conventional soil tests. That is also a good reason to use a geochemical assay, but you will pay significantly more. This is more of a one-time test, and common to new property owners and really good farmers in general.

    Boron is responsible for managing nutrient flow within the vascular system of the plant, and deficiencies will be different from crop to crop. Here is a good article on boron deficiencies as they relate to certain crops: http://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/__data/as...864/boron-deficiency-pastures-field-crops.pdf . Your soil test provider should be able to advise you on boron amendments, in fact, that is usually part of their role.

    To further clarify the excellent information provided by the previous posters regarding clay, the reason that clay is such a great thing for holding nutrients has to do with the plate layers (invisible to our eyes) that clay makes in the soil. These plate layers have both positively + and negatively - charged sites on their structures. Generally all soil materials and "ground" are negatively charged (think batteries, magnets). As similarly charged particles repel each other, some of the most important nutrients (in their plant soluble ionic state) will pass right through soil without being held (nitrate nitrogen, sulphur, boron, chlorine, molybdenum, and phosphorus). In order to hold these guys, we need to increase the amount of positively charged storage sites in our soil. We can do this by adding organic matter which is eventually turned into humus (100lbs of OM will create about 2lbs of humus). It is the humus, the beautiful humus, that has a holding capacity greater than any inorganic soil material (EC of about 300 in humic acid as opposed to 30 in clay, 10-5 in silt, 5 in sand).

    May wisdom guide your decision,

    Rylan
     
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  14. Flatland

    Flatland Member

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    Thanks to everyone for their helpful ideas.
    Yes the soil test was geochemical assay
    No the tester did not suggest anything other than adding super. I rang and spoke to him about the low mg and low Boron and was told in no uncertain terms these did not need to be attended to. Mg because the soil is neutral and i wasn't planning on having breeding cows on my land and boron because "It doesn't matter"
    I am adding horse poo as fast as the horse can produce it and i can age it.
    I will start adding clay (powdered) to my compost bin and see how that goes
    Plus i will start adding it to the vegie garden and where i plan to plant fruits come winter.
    Thanks Rylan for the boron link that answered a lot of my questions.
    Songbird I like the idea of mud pies. Always good to go back to your childhood
     
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  15. songbird

    songbird Senior Member

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    let us know how it goes. :)
     
  16. AngelaLyman103

    AngelaLyman103 New Member

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    Well i really don't know about this. Normally i would provide my soil with just N-P-K which were made from organic materials. I've recently heard about adding boron into compost, but what exactly should i use?
     
  17. Bindi Hill

    Bindi Hill New Member

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    I discovered potatoes with Brown Flecks (tasted terrible) and hollow turnips so put half dose (because I wasn't confident of the diagnosis) of Borax according to the directions on the packet. There was an improvement in a matter of a day or two in the health and vigour of the plants (beautiful symmetry of flowers and leaves). By Day 6 the plants appear to have run out of boron from the wilted appearance even though there is plenty of soil moisture. The growth rate has also slowed.

    Hindsight and further research tells me the central leader on the tomato plant dying and the growth of the laterals is also a sign of Boron deficiency due to its role in sap flow.

    I am now confident of the diagnosis and will be putting another half dose on (because I was happy with the plant response) and will repeat again if what I observe warrants it.

    Definitely wouldn't put Boron on without a soil test or plant symptoms due to the potential for toxicity. There are areas in Australia that are high in Boron.

    On the Dept of Ag maps say where I am is in the average risk for Boron deficiency. Must get around to doing a soil test.
     
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