Soil/mulch/nitrogen, etc

March 11, 2009
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Categories: Fertility, Fertilizing, Growing Daffodils, Hybridizing, Soil

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1. Thanks to Keith Kridler for much level-headed discussion of soil problems and his experimentation on various aspects of them. This type of sensibly controlled experimentation should be supported by ADS, I think. Bill Lee’s problem with infertile soil after adding woody mulch (like sawdust) is a classic example of what happens when the carbon/nitrogen ratio in a soil gets out of kilter. The oversupply of woody material generates an increase in the soil microorganisms that break down the material. The increased volume of microorganisms feeds on nitrogen, thereby decreasing the amount of nitrogen available to plants. This under-availability continues until the woody matter has been broken down. One might ask whether additional nitrogen or liming might ameliorate these conditions.

2. Keith’s frequent mention of the necessity for soil analysis should be heeded. Acid soils generally inhibit the availability of major rpt major nutrients to plants. For example, the availability of phosphorus is highest at pH 6 to 7. In my area, soils tend generally to be acid. Liming is necessary to bring pH up to about 6.5 or so.

3. Many times, perhaps most times, there are no easy or simple explanations for how our daffodils grow and bloom. Soils are complex systems, with nutrients, microorganisms, pH and other factors interrelated in ways we do not fully understand, at least in their effects on daffodil culture. Add to that the effects of weather, and it is hard to find the silver bullet that guarantees large , colorful blooms on long stems. Well-designed, controlled experimentation can help, but I don’t see much of that going on, even at the land-grant universities where it ought to be happening. I guess that leaves it up to us, doesn’t it?

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