Question for the soil experts

October 1, 2008

Categories: Growing Daffodils, Soil

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Short of getting a soil sample analysis, can anyone give me some guesses about the following situation?
I have an area at the top of a slope that has been covered with a woodpile for over 10 years. The logs on the bottom layer that touch the soil have largely decomposed and I am going to throw them away as I clear off the rest of the pile. The soil surface is nice and dark and humusy from the decomposed wood. Yes, I also plan to wear gloves as it looks like ideal brown recluse breeding territory.
Would this be a good spot to plant daffodils? Or do you think it would be too rich? Or maybe too depleted of nitrogen from the decomposition process?
Any success stories for similar locations?
Bill Lee

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One response to “Question for the soil experts”

  1. Keith Kridler says:

    I’m not really a soil expert but we use a lot of mulch.
    Plant material that decomposes naturally releases about the same macro nutrients into the soil whether it is the leaves, limbs or trunk. The more green leaf matter the higher the initial nitrogen in the pile.
    You need air and moisture for the many organisms that break down these logs so they tend to break down from the bottom of the pile upwards.
    Since the wood pile has been there 10 years I would expect the first four years or so the layer right under the pile would have been low in nitrogen but by now there is a balanced community living there and as the organisms die they have released as much nitrogen into the nearby soil as they are using.
    Approximately for every 100 pounds of dried plant material that decomposes you release upwards of 2 pounds of sulfur so compost is normally acidic. When you burn plant material this 2% sulfur combines with oxygen and you release it as SO2 and the ashes are alkaline. You could burn some of the wood, probably about as much weight wise as has already rotted and add the ashes to the soil. You would want to burn in another area as you will sterilize or kill the organisms right under the burn pile because of the heat and destroy some of the humus also where you burn.
    We are busy right now mulching the fields with two year old chips that we get from tree trimming companies. Depending on the time of year the trees are chipped will determine how many leaves were mixed in and this affects the initial amount of nitrogen in a truck load.
    I like to apply a thin layer of mulch every other year over the daffodil growing areas. You tell by the weed growth after the daffodils die down as to the levels of nitrogen/nutrients in the soil.
    Keith Kridler Mt. Pleasant, Texas