Nitrogen immobilization-can I reverse it?

Discussion in 'Planting, growing, nurturing Plants' started by Squishysquashy, Apr 13, 2017.

  1. Squishysquashy

    Squishysquashy New Member

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    Hi, I'm new here, but I need help! I have a business making backyard (or front yard) vegetable gardens and teaching about growing food. It's my first year doing this as a living, but I have been growing food for several years. I have clients with raised beds and other clients with in-ground beds. I think raised beds are too high input unless they are your only choice, but that's what people want. The in-ground beds look great and are productive. The raised beds are sprouting, stalling out, yellowing, and dying. I am fairly certain that the compost I brought in was very unfinished. It is largely wood-based, and is causing nitrogen lock-up. Not even the beans are growing. Is there any way to turn this around? A better question, is there any way to turn this around quickly and get my plants some available nitrogen? It seems like everything I put on there to try and fix it is being used up so quickly that the plants aren't getting any.
     
  2. Ian

    Ian New Member

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    I am no expert, but the best way I found to add nitrogen is lots of greens, ie lawn clippings, and the like
     
  3. Squishysquashy

    Squishysquashy New Member

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    That's the problem, every form of nitrogen I put on there gets used up so fast by the microbes that the plants can't get any. At least that's what I think is happening... I have read that too much fresh green matter worked into the soil causes a temporary nitrogen immobilization as well. I wish I could know how long it will take to fix this.
     
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  4. Ian

    Ian New Member

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    I wish I could help more, however, I did some research and people suggest adding Urea, but I cant see anything that will correct the problem in the short term, other than dig it out and mix it with some different compost, Good luck
     
  5. songbird

    songbird Senior Member

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    time may be on your side. eventually things may settle down and
    the plants will be able to take up the N.

    i have sometimes planted into areas where i've mixed too much
    C and the plants didn't do well at first, but after some weeks
    they caught up and did ok.
     
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  6. Terra

    Terra Moderator

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    You could try a thin layer of fresh chicken manure mixed into the top 100mm this could provide a long term slow release of N , I use chickens on incredibly thick mulch have a look at my pics in the thread (link below) the constant mixing of their manure by the chickens provides enough N to break down enormous quantities of organic matter .

    Fresh manure is not usually ideal due to health reasons but of course with strategic planting harvest can be 12 weeks plus away

    http://permaculturenews.org/forums/index.php?threads/selecting-a-property.16017/#post-123061
     
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  7. Bryant RedHawk

    Bryant RedHawk Junior Member

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    First off, the growth characteristics you describe don't really follow a lack of N. What you might find works best is to make some mineral adjustments instead of throwing more Nitrogen at the problem. Mn and Mg are necessary for nitrogen to be taken in by plants, there is a nitrogen pump effect that only occurs when the trace minerals are in correct balance with the available Nitrogen. Also check for K, Ca and P levels, they should be there and if not, you are going to see plants that grow, yellow and look burnt. Wood chips used in compost don't suck all the Nitrogen out or even bind it up, they do limit the number of Nitrogen eating bacteria that can grow because wood chips are more fungal food than bacteria food. Once you get the trace minerals in order then the approach Terra mentions would be a great way to continue on.
     
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  8. mischief

    mischief Senior Member

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    I was going to say "Use watered wee at 1 part to 15 parts of water", then I read Bryants post and thought that that is actually a very good point .

    Not everybpdy has chicken poop to hand and your own wee is self sterile. ie, you cant poison yourself or infect yourself with your own liquid fert.
     
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  9. Bryant RedHawk

    Bryant RedHawk Junior Member

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    I will add this here since the op mentioned buying compost.
    Every type of compost that I've found offered for sale does not test out to be compost but rather slightly decomposed mulch.
    Another way to look at these products would be unfinished compost that is lacking bacterial components, since microscopic examination has shown none of the products I've tested contained any bacteria, this means the samples were not compost. Compost contains many bacteria and fungi along with springtails, protozoa and ciliates. In other words, compost contains the microsphere needed for healthy soil.

    If you have to purchase "compost" do take the time to actually turn what you bought into real compost prior to using it for more than a mulch since it most probably does not contain any microorganisms that actually make up true compost. If you have some worm castings and or manures you can add to the store bought product, you can fairly quickly turn it into compost. (I've even tested "composted manures" available in bags at stores and findings were that it was just aged manure, not composted manure.
     
  10. songbird

    songbird Senior Member

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    Bryant, i've had enough bad results from bought compost
    that it is pretty likely i won't ever bother with it again.

    if anything make sure to inspect what you are buying before
    it gets delivered and used. i'm still (6 years later) picking
    pieces of plastics, glass, metals, etc. out of gardens where
    i used some.

    as for diversity of life in most compost. sure, i would agree,
    it's not done in most places in anything other than piles of
    materials that may get mixed a few times and sprayed with
    water, but beyond that i wouldn't expect much diversity from
    municipal compost.

    if you can get it for free or nearly so it can be the basis for
    the rest of those soil creatures. mixing some of your local
    garden soil with the compost you get helps, but i figure that's
    just what happens in the gardens anyways. :)
     
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  11. HermesTheAlkahest

    HermesTheAlkahest New Member

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    Wood will lock out nitrogen as soil life focuses on breaking it down before making N available. I would pull the top foot out, and use it as mulch on the in-ground beds, and replace top foot with a good soil blend, and amend properly with a standard OG fert (like a 6-2-3), and add trace minerals: on my farm I use a 2:1 ratio fert:mineral. Having wood chips in lower part of bed can actually help by adding air pockets and 'sponging' water. Make sure beds drain properly too, as symptoms you describe potentially sound like anaerobic activity. Wood in compost can be very suspect depending on sourcing: many trees produce compounds hostile to veges, and may have pesticide/fungicide residue. Only source compost that is fine particulates and manure based preferably(suitable others includes things like rice hulls, straw, certain leafs, and easy to break down carbon sources): being fully finished is not necessary in most cases. I source turkey and cow manure compost that stinks big time with unfinished urea, but is black and fine. Grows great WITH the right fert/mineral blend. Compost may not be necessary if you are using commercial soil blends for gardens, but its critical in all aspects of my op unless I grow cover crops pre-planting. I do side jobs for clients with raised beds and get great results, and top dress 4-6" manure compost a year with fert/minerals.
     
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