Preparation for planting

Soils The physical condition of a soil is very important to any gardener as it will largely determine how much work is involved in growing plants, vegetables, ornamentals and lawns. The chemical condition of a soil is important too, but it is generally easier to add more fertiliser than to change the physical structure. Sandy soils have a large proportion of larger soil particles compared to clay soils. They are therefore well aerated and drain easily but they require more frequent watering. Sandy soils are easier to dig and are therefore called " light " soils. Because sandy soils are composed of larger narticles they do not retain plant ltrients as well as soils composed finer particles. Therefore they e easily leached by water draining downwards. Sandy soils usually require more fertiliser applied at frequent intervals. Clay soils are composed of fine particles which mean that they have smaller pores for aeration but they retain water and plant ltrients better than sandy soils. lay soils are termed heavy beuse they are more difficult to ltivate, they become sticky when wet and hard when dry. The proportions of sand, silt and clay in a soil will determine its texture. Loams are intermediate in texture and generally ideal for growing plants of all kinds. When moistened, clay soils can be squeezed into a ribbon by hand while soils with a fair sand content will crumble and feel gritty.

Organic matter Plants and animals, after they die, are constantly being broken down in the soil. Billions of microorganisms in the soil use organic matter as food and they, in turn, release valuable nutrient elements which can be taken up by plant roots. As a source of plant food organic manures are not as important as inorgmic fertilisers, but it is the soil humus, the cement which holds tiny clay particles together, which is vital to the formation of well structured soils. Humus holds clay, silt and fine sand particles together to form crumbs of soil. Larger pore spaces form between the soil crumbs which improve soil drainage and aeration. Heavy clay soils which have good physical structure normally contain high levels o organic f matter and calcium. These both help to bind the clay particles into aggregates, which improves aeration and drainage. Roots can move into the soil and take in nutrient elements held by both the clay particles and the organic matter. The humus particles, like the clay particles, are very small and are also able to hold plant nutrients on their surface. In sandy soils organic matter plays an important part in retaining both soil moisture and soil nutrients. Sandy soils which contain little organic matter are 'easily leached, and dry out rapidly. Organic matter decomposes at different rates, depending on the amount of fibre in the material, the type of soil, the soil temperature, and the soil moisture. In light sandy soils, alkaline soils, and

soils which are under continuous cultivation, the rate of decomposition is faster than in heavy soils and in acid soils. Cultivation increases soil aeration and hastens the oxidation of organic matter. Decomposition is also faster at higher soil temperatures.

Digging the garden
Digging breaks up the soil and improves drainage, aeration and root penetration. Vegetable roots are deeper than many people realise (page 3 3) and heavy o r compacted subsoils will restrict root development, and growth generally will be poor. Manures and other organic matter can also be incorporated with lower soil layers. This in effect will deepen the surface soil. When digging do not bring subsoil to the surface.

vertically, not at an angle, and turn the spit over with a quick turn of the wrist. Never dig when the ground is sodden. Compost or manure can then be spread on the soil surface. 2. Double Digging-This is the method most commonly used to break up land which has not been previously cultivated, or to improve heavy subsoils. There is

Plaiiz digging.

There are three principal methods of digging a bed prior to preparing for seeding or planting. 1. Plain Digging-This is sufficient on light, well drained soils, or soils which have been deeply dug during the last two or three years. All beds for annual crops should be dug over each year. It is important that each spit be completely reversed. Insert the spade Double


little to be gained by double digging sandy soils unless the subsoil is heavy. The soil is worked to a depth of two spits of the spade, the practice is also called half trenching or bastard trenching. Heavier soils should be double dug every two to three years. The first spit is removed and taken to the other side of the plot then the second spit is forked up and compost or manure incorporated. 3. Trenching-This is a laborious operation in which the ground is cultivated to a depth of three spade spits, about 450 mm. Only very heavy soils normally require trenching for annual crops. However, it is well worthwhile working soil deeply when perennial crops, such as asparagus, are to be planted. Strip the cover of grass and weeds off the first section of the plot for a metre or so and dig out the first 150 mm of top soil in a strip about 600 mm wide ; place this soil at the other end of the bed. Dig out the next layer of soil to a dewth of 150 mm. but only take a Grip about a 306 mm wide. Place this also at the other end of the bed, but apart from the topsoil. The subsoil at the bottom of the trench can be forked over and organic material incorporated with it. On some heavy soils sand can be added to improve the condition of the subsoil. The step of the second layer can now be dug across, and then a second trench opened up, the top soil now being placed in the first trench. The soil from the first trench is finally used to fill in the last trench. 1t is important

not to disturb the sequence of soil layers. If the beds are to be used for asparagus or rhubarb, add generous amounts of organic manure and a complete fertiliser. Beds are best dug over in the autumn after the summer crops have been harvested. Lime and manure or compost can be applied a t the same time and the bed left in the rough until required. The rough surface will reduce run-off and erosion. Rotary cultivators can be used to bring the soil to a good tilth for planting but they should be used in conjunction with digging or ploughing.

able amounts of water from the subsoil and thus dry out soils which might otherwise be too wet for spring cropping.



Building up the soil
Few soils are just right for gardening, they may contain too much clay, and be too sticky when wet and too hard when dry, or they may be very sandy and require frequent watering and more fertiliser. But both the physical and the chemical nature of soils can be changed by the addition of ameliorants and fertilisers. Ameliorants include mineral materials, such as lime, gypsum, vermiculite and even sand, and organic matter including animal manure, compost, green manure and peatmoss.

Lime and gypsum Calcium can be added to the soil either as lime or gypsum to improve the structure. Lime is added when soils are too acid. Gypsum, is used to improve the soil structure when the soil reaction (pH) is satisfactory. A good dressing is from 250 to 500 g per square metre but on very heavy soils this dressing must be repeated for a number of years to have an effect. Green manure crops I the home gzidener is unable to f obtain supplies of animal manure, green nure re crops should be S o w n on empty vegetable beds

Choice of crops Both cereals and legumes have their place for use as green manure. The cereals include oats, barley, wheat, ryecorn, and millet. The legumes include tick beans, lupins, peas, broad beans, and vetches. Legumes have the advantage that they fix nitrogen from the atmosphere which can then be used by the following crop. However cereals add more fibrous material which will not decompose as rapidly ; often mixtures of both wet and sodden. I f soil f o r n u a ball o f types of crop can be used. Heavy nzud in your hand ( a b o v e ) it is too wet. I f soil crumbles easily but will benefit largely the retain the f o r m of your hand when addition of big amounts of fibrous squeezed ( b e l o w ) then the soil is in an material. ideal condition. t o work. Prepare a good fr seed bed, im and apply aboult 30 grams of superphosphate t o the square metre. Also use 30 grams of sulphate of ammonia if a cereal crop is to be sown. Seed of cereal crops can be broadcast at almost 40 grams to the square metre and legumes at about half this rate. Green manure crops may require an initial watering if the autumn is dry, but thereafter no further attention is usually required. Legumes are best turned in at the flowering stage ; cereals can be allowed to seed as they will then provide more fibrous material. Crops can be chopped during the winter. Besides the UP with a 'pade and worked in. leafy material which is turned is necessary to this added under, the plant roots add a con- microbes to break siderable amount of fibrous matter matter- A light watering and open up the soil and subsoil. sometimes During the winter, green where a large bulk of fibrous manure crops prevent excessive material has been added it may be leaching of plant nutrients on light necessary provide nitrogen soils by taking up these materials for the micro-organisms ; add for their own requirements. These t c 20 grams of sulphate of nutrients are then released to the ammonia the 'quare metre. soil in the spring when the c r w has rotted down. Green manure crops with deep root systems, such as barley, can remove consider-












C o r t ~ p i ) . r 11cjcip.c I I I I ~ T : hc propcjrly c.ot~,str-ic(:rc~ci hr-c,iil< c / o w r i o,:qn/iic rc,tr.sfc, ~ / ~ t ro n for-t~~'l~icl~ ~t is easy to h a ~ ~ d l e .

Compost A garden compost heap will provide an inexpensive supply of valuable organic material and is a convenient method of disposing of vegetable refuse from the garden and the kitchen. Leaves, old garden plants, lawn clippings, and kitchen refuse (provided it is not fatty or greasy) can be used. Do not compost diseased plants, they may carry over diseases which will cause trouble again next season. Composting is simply providing ideal conditions for bacteria and fungi to decompose waste plant

material and animal manure and release plant foods in a readily available form. These same processes also take place when green manure is dug into the soil. Composting breaks down organic wastes into a form which is easy to handle and easy to work into garden beds. Compost heaps must be properly constructed if the process is to be efficient. Heaps of waste vegetable material thrown on the ground decompose slowly and attract flies. Rain will also wash valuable plant nutrients out of the

pile and it will have little fertiliser value. Heaps about one metre square and a metre deep work very well and are a good size for most home requirements. Start the heap with a layer of manure or old compost placed directly on the ground (select a dry area) and then add from 150 to 200 mm of waste vegetable material. Cover each layer with 20 to 30 mm of animal manure and then a thin layer of soil about 10 mm deep. Sprinkle each layer with lime. If animal manure is not available add 10 mm of blood and bone or alternatively a handful of 1 : 1 superphosphate and sulphate of ammonia. Organisms which require oxygen make the best compost, therefore it is important to ensure that air can get to all parts of the heap. This can be done either by driving a stake into the pile and making a ventilation shaft or by completely turning the heap every two weeks. Turning is the most effective, and the most laborious method, but it brings material from the outside of the heap into the centre where it will break down quickly. Fresh piles heat up in a few days and cool down after a week. After turning, the pile will again become hot. Heaps will not vork efficiently if they are too wet or t o too dry. Keep the pile covered and add water as required. Depending on the amount of turning, good compost can be made in two to three months. An undisturbed pile takes u p to six months to break down waste material. A wooden bin, or a series of three bins is ideal for composting. The front boards should be removable so that material can be easily handled. Large plastic or wire mesh " bins " without a base and covered with a lid are excellent for making compost in the small suburban garden. When the compost becomes



A rrseful compost bin for the back yard. One bin (centre) can be used for new material, the other (right) can be worked and turned regularly and the third bin ( l e f t ) can contain the finished compost ready for the garden. Each bin measures approxinzately 1 m x 1 m x 1 m, and are corisrructerl from 40 n7m by 150 m m planks.

crumbly it is ready to use. Sieving may be necessary to remove sticks and large pieces of unrotted material. Spray around the heap regularly with household fly spray to control flies in the summer. If an open heap is used, cover the sides with a layer of soil.

Manures and fertillisers
All plants need certain essential nutrient elements. The elements carbon, hydrogen and oxygen are obtained by the plant from air and water. The main ones which the gardener must supply are nitrogen phosphorus and potassium. Nitrogen is an essential part of protein and the green leaf pigment, chlorophyll. It is required in greater amounts by leaf crops than fruit crops, in fact excess nitrogen will reduce the yield of fruit. Plants which are short of nitrogen become yellow and stunted. Nitrogen is supplied in a readily available form to plants by fertilisers such as sulphate of ammonia, nitrate of soda, and urea, and in a more slowly available form by blood, and blood and

bone. Nitrogen is also contained in animal manures and is fixed in the nodules on the roots of legumes, such as peas and beans. Plbosphorus is very necessary for the early growth of plants. It ensures good root development and increases fruitfulness. Most Victorian soils are deficient in phosphorus. Superphosphate, which contains phosphorus in a readily available form, is used in greater quantities than any other fertiliser. Phosphorus is also contained in a slowly available form in bone dust and blood and bone. Potassium is essential for growth and development of the plant and is taken up in large amounts from the soil. Root vegetables in particular respond to potassium fertilisers. Vegetables deficient in potassium are usually of poor quality and texture, and more subject to attack by diseases. Deficiencies of potassium occur in southern high rainfall areas, and as a general rule complete mixed fertilisers containing potassium should be used for vegetables south of the Divide. Sulphur, calcium and magnesium are also needed in fairly large

amounts but they are usually present in good supply. However they do get into the soil in other materials, such as lime (calcium), gypsum (calciuni and sulphur), dolomitic limestone (calcium and magnesium), superphosphate (some sulphur and calcium as well as phosphorus) and sulphate of ammonia (sulphur as well as nitrogen). Seven other elements are also required in very small quantities, these are the trace elementsboron, copper, iron, manganese, molybdenum, zinc and chlorine. Most soils contain adequate amounts of trace elements and they are supplied in animal manures and -compost and also some are applied indirectly in fungicide sprays. These include copper (Bordeaux), zinc (zineb) and manganese (maneb). Chlorine is almost always present in sufficient amounts in the soil. The availability of nutrient elements may be upset by changes in soil acidity. This means that although the element is present in the soil it cannot be used by the plant. Organic manures and fertilisers are generally relatively slow in action and are applied before the crop is sown or planted. Artificial fertilisers are used both to supplement organic fertilisers as base dressings and to supply plant food during the growth of the crop when a rapid response is required.

Organic manures and fertilisers
Organic fertilisers include animal manures, composted vegetable material, green manure crops or prepared animal and vegetable byproduct materials. They supply small, but useful amounts of plant food which are not readily washed from the soil and they help retain water and plant foods in the soil.

Animal manures Well rotted animal manures will supply nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium to vegetables in a

readily available form along wit11 other essential elements. Animal manures vary in the amount of plant food which they contain, as this can depend a great deal on the animals' own food and the amount of straw bedding or litter mixed with the droppings. Animal manure containing a lot of straw material can starve the vegetable crop for plant foods, especially nitrogen, because the vegetable crop must compete for the available soil nitrogen with the micro-organisms breaking down the straw. Extra nitrogen fertiliser should be added if the manure contains a lot of unrotted straw or buzzer chips. Animal manures should be supplemented with superphosphate.

Organic by-product fertilisers By-products of animal and vegetable origin also provide a valuable source of plant food. These materials include blood and bone, bone dust, wool waste and hoof and horn. Blood and bone is possibly the best known of these materials. When it is applied to the soil it breaks down to supply nitrogen and phosphorus. The blood is acted on by bacteria and other

Cabbage showing leaf symptoms typical

micro-organisms which release nitrogen in a form which can be taken up by the plant roots. Blood and bone contains no potash. The slower availability of both the nitrogen and phosphorus in the blood and bone means that less is lost by leaching.

Pre-plant dressings of blood and bone or similar fertiliser give a good steady release of plant food. This release may not be rapid enough to keep pace with the requirements of the crop and it must be supplemented with quick acting artificial fertiliser. Blood

Some organic manures and fertilisers
Manure or fertiliser Approximate nutrient content expressed as Nitrogen (N)
Animal manure* Cow Fowl

% of the element

Phosphorus (P)
0.4 1-6 0.4 0.7 0.4 10.9 6.1 5.2

Potassium Q
0.5 1.0 0.5 0.1 0.5

1.0 2.1 0.7 1.1 1.8 3.0 6.0 4.0

Horse Pig Sheep Prepared fertiliiserst " ne dust

Blobod - and bone

.. ..

Blcrod and bone and Potash 5 : 1


The nutrient content of animal manures will vary according to the animal's diet and the amount of litter or bedding present. The analysis of prepared organic and inorganic fertilisers is published in the Victoria Government Gazette.

and bone is used to supply part of the nitrogen and phosphorus in a number of mixed garden fertilisers to provide a nutrient source which is released relatively slowly.

ammonia make soils more acid. ing fertilisers are muriate of potash Nitrate of soda (16%N) is more or potassium chloride (48% expensive than sulphate of potassium) and sulphate of potash ammonia but because all of the (42% potassium). Potassium nitrogen is already in the nitrate fertilisers are generally applied to form the response by the plant is vegetable crops in complete rapid, even in wet and cold soils. fertilisers. Sometimes it is necesIt has no acidifying effect but is sary to apply putassium as a side Artificial fertilisers dressing with nitrogen to maintain Artifkial fertilisers are manu- very soluble. Urea (46%N) when added to a balanced fertilier. factured from naturally occurring Potassium is not as readily minerals or they are synthesised. soils is rapidly converted to amThey provide plant nutrients in a monium carbonate and the leached out as nitrogen but is not more concentrated and more nitrogen is then converted to held in the soil as firmly as phosreadily available form than organic nitrate. Urea is very soluble in phorus. However one pre-plant sources. general the response water and is also used as a foliar application is usually adequate. to applications of artificial Fertiliser mixtures fertilisers is quite rapid. Phosphorus fertilisers Most gardeners find it more conSuperphosphate is the main phps- venient to use prepared fertiliser Nitrogenous fertilisers in s ~of ammonia(21%N) ~ phatic fertiliserItused ~ Australian mixtures than to mix their own. I ~ is ~ ~ contains 9'4% Mixtures containing only the three still the most widely used nitrogen phospholus and but major plant nutrients, nitrogen, fertiliser in this country and it is used in many mixed fertilisers. The about % is availab1e ed phosphorus and potassium are to leach nitrogen is present in the am- the plant. It is known as Complete Fertilisers, but m0nium form but it is also conthe soil and pre-plant a ~ ~ l i c a -other complete fertilisers are verted to nitrate by soil bacteria. be sufficient to last the marketed which contain trace the crop. High elements as well as the three major It is soluble in water and can be life leached out of the soil, therefore superphosphates 'Ontaining l8 elements. Some of the latter mixhosphorus are if large quantities of nitrogen are 20% p tures are water soluble, and when required they are best applied in sprayed onto foliage are excellent for correcting a variety of nutrient small lots as side dressings. Potassium fertilisers Regular applications of sulphate of The two main potassium contain- deficiencies.


Some fertiliser mixturesfBrand name or description Approximate nutrient content expressed as % element NPK ratio Nitrogen
Pivot 5 : 8 : 4 Hortico Vegetable Planter and Feeder Hortico Plant Starter Gro-plus Complete Plant Food Comvlete 5 2 and 18 . Top Brand Complete 5 1 and , Pannifex Vegetable No. 4

8.0 6.6 3.5* 6.8 5.8 6.4 6.5 6.5 3.8 5.0

4.0 2.51 5.0 4.0 6.0 7.0 6.5 3.0 10.0 18.0 5:s :4 3:7:3 4:4:5 4:7:4 6:6:6 3 :6 : 7 5:7:7 5:7:3 8:4:10 20:5:18

5.0 3.0* 3.5* 4.2 5.5


2.5 5.01 5.0* 8-4 20.0

Pannifex Vegetable No. 5 Pivot Complete 2, 2 and 1 J ' Aquasol

A complete list of registered fertilisen sold in Victoria is published annually in the Victoria Government Gazette. Part or all of the nitrogen as blood and bone. $ Potassium present as sulphate of potash. 7 Proportions by weight of superphosphate, sulphate of ammonia and muriate of potash.



The Victorian Fertilisers Act Two simple methods of banding fertiliser requires that the amounts of the three basic fertiliser ingredients beneath a drill or plant row present in fertilisers to be expressed as percentages of the elements nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) in the order NPK. Experimental work at the Vegetable Research Station at Frankston has established that an N:P:K ratio of 5 : 8 : 4 is the most economic for root and leaf vegetables where no animal manure is used while 5 : 6 : 2 is best suited where fowl manure has been applied. We have generally suggested 5 : 8 : 4 for leaf stem and root crops. Other suitable commercial base fertilisers for leaf stem and root vegetables includes Horitco Vegetable Planter and Feeder ( 3 : 7 : 3), or Gro-Plus Complete Garden Food (4 : 7 : 4). Open up a drill deeper than the drill Spread the fertiliser in a band o n the bed seed will A number of companies market in which the in a band be sown, spread s~irfaceand forme aplant over the feris set in the the fertiliser along the drill, tiliser band. T h mixtures with equal proportions of push the soil back over the fertiliser centre of the bed above the fertiliser N:P:K such as 6 : 6 : 6, which is and firm it down. T h e n open up a band. seed. T h formulated by mixing five parts of shallower drill f o r the contacting e seed is sown without the superphosphate with two parts of fertiliser. Applying manures sulphate of ammonia and one part and fertilisers of muriate of potash. NPK for garden use are of the " low Organic manures are best applied 6 : 6 : 6 is quite suitable for most analysis " category and it is con- some time before the seed-bed is leaf, stem and root vegetables. sidered that fertilisers of this type prepared. Beds can be manured Summer growing crops which are more suitable for home garden in the autumn for crops to be *t fruit or pods, such as beans use than most of the "high planted the following spring. ~d tomatoes grow best with mix- analysis " fertilisers offered for Stable manure and compost can be res containing less nitrogen such sale. spread at about 3 kg to the square Distinguishing names of some metre and fowl manure at up to as NPK 3 : 6 : 7. Soils north of the Divide (zones 2 and 3) complete fertilisers commonly 1 kg to the square metre. generally have good reserves of used for fertilising vegetable crops Very fresh manure must be potassium and a fertiliser contain- still contain figures which are not applied well before planting as the ing only nitrogen and phosphorus directly related to their percent- young seedling roots may be burnt. such as NPK 5 : 7 : 0 is usually ages of NPK. The figures used in Fresh manure can be used on satisfactory. the names of these low analysis established crops but it should not Perennial crops such as Complete Fertilisers correspond to touch the plant. It is best to mix asparagus and artichoke benefit the mass of superphosphate, sul- manures from several sources from annual dressings of phate of ammonia and potassium rather than use them separately. . 4 : 10 or similar fertiliser as salts which they contain, in that Manure which contains a lot of gen erally P tends to accumulate. order. Thus a 5 : 2 : 1 Complete weed seeds should be composted to IIigh analysis fertilisers such as Fertiliser contains 5 parts of super- kill the seeds. ot 800 (NPK 8 : 11 : 10) phosphate, 2 parts of sulphate of con tain almost twice as much N, ammonia and one part of potas- Base-dressing P 2md K as " low analysis " fer- sium salts by mass, and Complete Commercial arti6cial fertilisers tilisers such as 4 : 5 : 5 and con- Fertiliser 5 : 1 : 1 contains 5 parts are applied either before planting aLyuently should be used at half of superphosphate, 1 part of sul- or when the crop is planted. A phate of ammonia and 1 part of good practice is to dig over the the rate. Most mixed fertilisers packaged potassium salts by mass. bed and spread half the fertiliser

roots by rain or irrigation water or when insufficient plant food is applied when the crop is sown. are Nitrogen side-dressings especially necessary for leafy vegetables. Frequently potassium fertilisers must also be applied as sidedressings while the plant is growing to supplement the initial base application. This is usually necessary on sandy soils during the cooler and wetter months. It also balances heavy applications of nitrogen fertiliser. Apply 30 g of muriate of potash to two metres of row with each alternate nitrogen sidedressing.

over the area and then work up the seed bed mixing the fertiliser with the top soil. The other half of the fertiliser can be applied in the rows close to where the seed will be sown or the plants placed. Open U a drill row just a little P deeper than the seeding depth and distribute th'e other half of the fertiliser along this drill. Push about 50 to 80 mm of soil over with the back of the rake to cover this fertiliser and then open up another drill where the seed will be sown. Alternatively all the fertiliser can be broadcast but less benefit is obtained than when part is applied in bands. Applying too much fertiliser, or placing it too close to seeds or plants can affect seed germination and damage young roots. The quantity of fertiliser required will depend on the natural fertility of the soil, and the amount of manure or fertiliser used on previous crops. Commercial application rates range from 100 to 1,000 kg of fertiliser to the hectare that is up t o 100 g to the square metre. A vegetable garden 10 m by 5 m and growing two crops a year would require 10 kg o complete fertiliser. f Side dress crops liXe tot~lntoes y disirih~rtingfertiliso b Gardeners are dealing with T a k e care t o keep the fertiliser off the leaves.

Foliar applied fertilisers Foliar applied fertilisers are a convenient way of supplying nutrients small amounts of fertiliser in while the crop is growing, and like small plots and too much may be side-dressings they supplement applied. 'Therefore it is best to pre-plant applications of fermeasure out quantities for given tilisers. Commercial liquid ferareas. tilisers are NPK salts which are Side-dressing readily dissolved in water and are Side-dressings are applications of immediately available to the plant. fertiliser made to growing crops. Other plant nutrient elements, Keep the fertiliser off plant leaves including the trace elements, are especially if they are wet. Side- sometimes included in soluble dressings are necessary because fertiliser preparations. soluble fertilisers applied in preA well known commercial foliar plant or base-dressings can be fertiliser contains NPK in the ratio washed out of the reach of plant 23 : 5 : 18 along with trace



rltlg arorrt~d tllc plant.

elements. It is dissolved in water at the rate of 1 gram per litre and can be applied to the leaves and watered around the roots. These fertilisers can rapidly correct nutrient deficiencies because they are readily taken up by the plant. Liquid fertiliser solutions can also be prepared by dissolving urea in water at about 30 g in five litres of water. Sulphate of ammonia and nitrate of soda sohtions will burn leaves but urea can be applied as a foliar spray.

Soil acidity and liming

Liquid manure Liquid manure can be prepared by soaking a kerosene tin (20 litres) measure of fowl manure in a bag suspended in a 200 litre drum of water. This concentrated A good maintenance dressing o f lime is an amount equivalent to the tnass of sulplzate o f ammonia applied solution is diluted with eight times months before the winter rains.each year. Lime is best applied in the autrlmn the volume of water and applied liberally around the plants. Do not available to plants in acid soils, alkalinity is described by a scale splash the liquid on leaves. while manganese-and an element ranging from 0 to 14, the pH scale. Liquid manure is best applied not required by the plant, pH 7 is neutral, less than 7 acid when the soil is moist after water- aluminium-can be released in and above 7 alkaline. Most ing or after rain. Use a weaker such amounts that they become garden plants thrive when the soil solution for younger plants. toxic. is between pH 6 and 7 and grow Alkaline soils, and these include reasonably well between p H 5.5 Starter solutions Starter solutions are liquid soils that have been overlimed, and 7 . 5 , the usual range for fertiliser mixtures applied with the will lock up phosphorus, together garden soils. planting water when-seedlings are with the trace elements, iron, The tolerance of various vegetable transplanted. The soluble phos- boron, zinc, manganese and crops to soil acidity is shown in the table on page 24. Slightly tolerphate is readily taken up by the copper. Very acid soils also retard the ant crops will grow quite well in young seedling and promotes the rapid growth of young roots. Any growth of soil micro-organisms soils of pH value up t o 7 - 5 profertiliser which is readily soluble including those which break down vided there is no deficiency of in water can be used and com- organic matter and the bacteria elements such as manganese. which fix atmospheric nitrogen. In mercial mixtures are available. acid soils, the growth of the potato Regulating soil pH scab organism is suppressed and it Measuring soil pH is only a start is best not to lime heavily if to estimating the amount of lime potatoes are the next crop. On that a soil will require to reduce the other hand, in soils on the acidity. Soil type has a marked alkaline side of neutral, the club effect on lime requirements-much Most vegetables grow best in soils root fungus, which attacks more lime is needed to raise the which are neutral or just slightly crucifers will not thrive, and lim- p H of peat or clay soils than is acid. However, many soils, ing will help suppress this disease. required by sandy soils. In southespecially in southern Victoria, are ern Victoria regular applications naturally very acid and this acidity The soil pH of lime are advisable to bring the must be corrected by liming. The range of soil acidity and acidity to the desirable level. Soil acidity affects plant growth mainly by its influence on the availability of plant nutrients. Phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, 1 and molybdenum become less -Acid Neutral Alkaline - -+

Tolerance of vegetable crops to soil acidity Slightly tolerant
(pH 6.8-6-0)
Asparagus Beetroot Broccoli Brussels sprout Cabbage Cantaloup Cauliflower

Moderately tolerant (pH 6.8-5.5)
Bean Capsicum Carrot Cucumber Eggplant Garlic Horse-radish Kohl rabi Parsley Pumpkin Radish Squash Tomato Turnip

Very tolerant (pH 6.8-5.0)
Chicory Endive Fennel Potato Rhubarb Shallot Watermelon

When lime reacts with nitrogenous fertilisers the nitrogen is lost to the at'mosphere. Therefore apply lime to vacant beds some weeks before applying fertilisers, preferably two or three months. The best time to lime is in the late autumn or early winter. The bed should be roughly dug over and lime broadcast. Although some lime is carried down into the soil by rain it is advisable to work the lime into the top soil.




Without adequate and efficient drainage no amount of soil preparation and fertiliser will produce good vegetable crops during the wetter months of the year. Fortunately many soils have good, natural drainage and no waterlogging troubles are encountered. But there are others that need surface and even underground drainage. Impervious subsoils, holIows and naturally low-lying ground adjacent to higher areas can all contribute to wet soil conditions. Good drainage ensures that after even a heavy rain the level of saturated soil is lowered below the rootzone within a few hours. Considerable damage can be caused to the roots of vegetable crops by waterlogged soils. The roots are, in fact, suffocated due to lack of aeration. Wet soil also restricts the activities of earth worms and useful soil micro-organisms. Water requires about five times as much heat to warm it as an equal mass of dry soil, therefore well drained soils will heat more rapidly in the spring and produce earlier crops. Surface drains Good surface drainage will prevent water penetrating into the soil and raising the water table, especially during heavy downpours. Beds should be built up to about 200 mm above the natural surface and the paths between the

Let tuce Oklra Onion Parsnip

,er beet nach

Chemical analysis is the only way to be certain of applying correct amounts of lime, but from 150 to 300 g to the square metre should be satisfactory on loam or medium clay loam soils. Generally, more lime can be used on heavier than on lighter soils, but care should be taken not to over lime. A good guide for a maintenance dressing is to apply a little more lime than the equivalent mass of sulphate of ammonia used each year. Forms of Lime The cheapest form of lime is agricultural ground limestone. This material consists essentially of calcium carbonate with some magnesinum carbonate. It is particularly suitable for sandy soils. Shell lime has the same chemical com~osition as a ~ r i cultural mouni limestone but is slow acting. Hydrated lime or slaked lime is also used for gardens. It consists of mainly calcium hydroxide and

in Victoria it is also sold under the trade name of Limil @. Hydrated lime is more rapid in its action than agricultural ground limestone and is suitable for liming heavy soils or soils which are very acid. However its effect is not as lasting. Burnt lime or quicklime consists substantially of calcium oxide and is particularly rapid in its action. Heat is generated when this material is wetted and therefore it should never be used t o treat lawns as burning or scalding will occur. Application of lime The rates of application recommended here refer to high grade agricultural ground limestone. Approximately 550 g of burnt lime or 750 g of hydrated lime are equivalent to a kilogram of agricultural ground limestone. The actual amount of any liming material applied will depend on the quality of the product.


outlet. Irregular falls may cause drains to silt up. Special narrow draining shovels, o r trenching machines will save a lot of hard work in digging out the trenches.

Placing the pipes or tiles The pipes or tiles are placed carefully on the prepared floor of the trench. The top half of the join between pipes is covered with 150 mm of 10 mm screenings, then the rest of the trench is filled with soil. This filling helps free water
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beds can act as gutters which should lead away from the garden area.

Underground drainage A few test holes dug to a depth of 1 metre, in which lengths of perforated down-piping or plastic drainage pipes are h e d for permanent observations, will soon show if underground drainage is essential. The water-table should be at least 600 mm from the surface. After heavy o r prolonged rainfall the water-table may rise, but it should return to normal again in 24 hours after the rain ceases.

titable drainage layout for the home Ien. A main pipe down a slope f r o m to bottom with laterals feeding into art angle.

Laying underground drains Slotted plastic pipe from 35 to 50 mm in diameter or agricultural tile pipes 75 mm in diameter are suitable for most situations found in the home garden. Slotted plastic pipes are sold in convenient coils which are easy to carry and lay. Plan the layout to get the best use of the drains. Pipes running across the fall of the land are very efficient and are f economical both in the amount o Tile or slotted plastic underground drainage pipe required and of the drairts shorrld be laid in a trencll cut o n sub soil, then covered labor required to install the system. or into theand top soil replaced t o with screenings surThe common method of drain- face level. ing a slope is to place the main drains down the slope in the low- to drain into the pipes without est part of the land and then lay impediment. subsidiary lateral lines across the A brick sump at the outlet is a f slope o land in a herringbone useful inspection point and will layout. The soil type o the area keep the end of the drain open. f to be drained and the steepness of If the outfall from the property the land dictate the distance be- is above the water-table it may tween laterals. Heavy soils may be directed from this point to a require spacings as narrow as 4 m. convenient stormwater drain or In sandy soils a spacing of 8 m pumped to a surface drain if a will often be adequate. suitable gravitational method can not be used to clear the area. Digging the drains I n land that has a clay subsoil, the trenches should be dug to the level of the subsoil ; if this level is less than 300 mm from the surface it is best to build up the topsoil into raised beds with paths between. Where there is a sandy subsoil, the drains are placed at a depth of 700 mm. The bottom of the trench should be firrn with a slight and cven fall towards the

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