Low npk: recommended organic and inorganic solutions

Given the soil i plan to plant plum on in a month has very low NPK(according to my store-bought soil test “HoldAll”), what organic and inorganic solutions would you recommend, if any?
PH appears to be 5.5-6.

organic id use blood meal / urea. urea works quicker. any synthetic nitrogen fertilizer will work. i like urea myself. works nearly as fast as the synthetisc without the salts in it.

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Depends a little on the soil. The conventional wisdom is that you should automatically plant in whatever soil you have without amendment.

I wholeheartedly agree, assuming that you are planting on the agricultural research station of a land grant university.

First, get the ph right. Try and get it a little over 6.0 at least.

Otherwise I would say be very conservative about amendments. Forgo them altogether if the planting soil is reasonable. The top dressing should be heavy with organic mulch. Within reason that mulch can be pretty darn rich. The actual planting soil, not so much.


A nice deep layer of compost is a good add for most situations.

I make my own, but when I don’t have enough… I use a product called Black Kow, composted cow manure. It has a NPK stated on the bag of .05 .05 .05.

Very dark, rich looking, no manure smell, smells like compost, nice and clean smell. You can get this at Lowes or HD. Checked Lowes online 5.28 per bag and the bag averages near 50 lb.


I have created many long raised beds here on my place, tilling first, and adding lots of compost, then raking it up into a raised hill/bed, and then cover with deep mulch. Everything grows very well.

Where I planted blueberries, I added lot of peat… native soil (mostly clay), compost and a lot of peat.
Working well so far.

To add more NPK and boost trace minerals… I use mostly blood meal, bone meal, epson salt, green sand, gypsum. Those and my own homemade compost, grows most things exceptionally well.

Good Luck !



This year I am composting differently
I’ve been dumping all my food scrapes in a bucket with a lid so it is a anaerobic environment

I think the tea will be good for the plants
Before I just composted ,
but I have been putting stuff in the house in a cardboard milk container , and folding shut
not wanting to bring it out each time I filled a bucket stuff looks good for plants
(so it was a accident )

Next I want to buy some of those Micro organisms people use to make it even better
Maybe even use some that are aerobic , and need oxygen…

I meant to add it turns to slop pretty fast so to harvest some tea
could also do this during the winter , and dilute to add to garden,

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See this about adding amendments: https://s3.wp.wsu.edu/uploads/sites/403/2015/03/soil-amendments.pdf
Here are some more myths: Linda Chalker-Scott | Washington State University

i agree. im going to reduce the mulch i use as its to the point everything is almost too vigorous now. everything in moderation. :wink: its easy to add to soil but imppossible to take back over amended soil. ask me how i know? :wink:

You wanna know how I know you have clay soil? :wink:

I have sand. And lots of rocks. Anybody want some rocks? The sand can’t retain anything, there are no nutrients to drain but if they were, leaving the hose running would do it.

Which leads to this:

Not if you have sand. For trees and bushes I do $100 dollar holes, huge excavations that remove tons of rocks and then the holes get filled with at least 50% organic and the existing sand. I have access to 10+ years old horse manure, a virtual mountain of it at a horse farm that is cured enough to support earthworms. The improved soil retains a ton of nutrients while still draining fantastically and staying fluffy; I have pulled without digging 12" dandelion roots without breaking them. Because my soil is sand roots are not hindered to go off and explore into the yonder; the cherry root sprouts I’m potting are far away from their initial holes.

But the most significant bit and the reason you don’t do these on clay soils without thinking long and hard about drainage is that my sand soil will let any excess water go away; clay will create a bath tub effect liable to drown trees in record time. It is easy to do a one-size-fits-all edict “you should automatically plant in whatever soil you have without amendment” but there is more to it than that.

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killed my 1st 2 apple trees by trying to plant in ground even with perlite and compost mixed in. now all my trees are grown in mounds or raised beds. only Ribes, cane fruit, aronia, serviveberry ,rhubarb, mtn. ash and honeyberry grow good in flat soil. would love me a good pile of that mineral rich sand you have there. :wink: hey lets trade!

That’s the problem, there is no such thing as mineral rich sand as far as the micro nutrient plants need go. They do have most excellent drainage though. Besides trees can be random and die for no apparent reason.

Sand is very bad at holding plant minerals. Most of said minerals are positively charged and attach to negative charged soil. Organic and clay soils are negatively charged, their ability to hold nutrients is superior. Sand is neutral, as such nutrients just leach through unhindered.


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i meant mostly for drainage. i add azomite occasionally for micros though probably not needed with my clay. funeral homes are a great place to get granite rock dust. i hit them up occasionally.

[quote=“TNHunter, post:4, topic:38072”]
To add more NPK and boost trace minerals… I use mostly blood meal, bone meal, epson salt, green sand, gypsum. Those and my own homemade compost, grows most things exceptionally well.

Good Luck !


TN Hunter Pleasse let me Know What is the Amount of each?
I know Black Cow is a Steely Dan Song on album Aja I didn’t know it was about manure ?

Tubig What is your Soil like ?
British Columbia IS it peat like soil? I assume .

(quote of DON1357
> Most of said minerals are positively charged and attach to negative charged soil. Organic and clay soils are negatively charged, their ability to hold nutrients is superior. Sand is neutral, as such nutrients just leach through unhindered

About the soil being to Heavy of clay
I also Agree with the Negative positive particle thing of clay
I looked into it when I thought my garden was to much clay
(a raised bed dumped there) ,
but that was just because the soil was to compact for Pots so plants just grew fine.

I thought It is best also to add something to clay soil to make those Nutrients available
I am asking , because it was long ago I read about adding negative charged Particles ?

Someone can explain the Dig a Hole Method , and fill with water , and see how fast (of time?) it drains method
to let you know if it is to much clay for planting tree’s.

Japanese Radish will break up soil also called Daikon Radish
(note do not let a marketer give it a fancy name, and charge you a bunch of cash
(saw that on a hunting forum for deer feed, with bulk Purchase to bad I do not have a FOID Card haha). )

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Adding organic material in the form of well aged compost would be the ticket.

For measuring soil drainage just google it. There are tons of pages out there showing the process. Don’t just check the top soil layer, do another hole a lot deeper to see what’s bellow there.

Trees actually like clay; as stated it has a good ability to hold nutrients. The problem with clay soils is that the mechanical structure of the soil makes it tricky to manage; do it wrong and you end up either drowning the plant or can’t get water to the root zone.

I understand I could just google, but I know people know here by Memory just bringing it up!
to remind them (I understand the bathtube effect of drownding tree’s )

I think it is if over 45 minutes the soil does not drain when filled with water , but this is by Memory
Not even sure what I would google to find the answer
(but it doesn’t apply to me so not going to waste a bunch of time trying to go on a wild goose chase with unrelated topics popping up on google.)
(it is easier to find in my email through articles If I look that’s where it’d probably take the least time.)

I’m not being snarky. Why spend time writing an essay for you on a basic set of instructions that are everywhere? Mind you; I already wrote essays for you on stuff that was not so easy to pull up.

No big argument from me. I have out-and-out fill dirt in my front yard. Mindlessly saying that I should just automatically accept that the first year without amendment is dumb.

Still, the basic principle of being very conservative about amendments is probably correct. You get about 90% of the benefits and 10% of the risks by plopping it on top as a very rich mulch. So why not?

Yeah I hate that when I add, a link, and someone asks same question
(referring to your Positive Ions in soil link)
Had a bad day that day couldn’t sleep, because sick all day (sinus infection)

I do too have a lot of time invested in the past of things I’ve read , and saved years ago
disappointing seeing that type of thing, over looked when I posted

You didn’t say how much time it takes for drainage
I guess it was easy to find ,
but I do not plan to have a resource for everything I bring up
just typing quickly of that test so others could go about it,.

With a shovel, auger, or posthole digger, dig
hole 18” to 24” deep. Hole diameter should
be a minimum of 4 inches. The diameter of
the hole should be uniform from top to
bottom with the bottom being flat.
2. Fill hole with water to the top and let stand
for at least an hour to pre-wet the soil.
3. Refill hole to within a couple inches of the
top. Don’t allow water to overflow the hole.
4. To aid in measurement, place a stick across
the top of the hole and use a ruler or
measuring tape to mark periodic drops in
water level.
5. Allow the hole to drain for at least one hour.
A longer period (2 to 3 hours) will give a
more accurate reading of average
percolation rates.
6. Determine average drop in water level per
hour and refer to the table below to interpret

How to interpret results
If water level in hole drops… Site is…
Less than one-half inch per hour Poorly drained and suited to wet site species
One-half inch to one inch per hour Moderately well drained and acceptable for many
species including wet site species
More than one inch per hour Well drained and suitable for all species including
sensitive species

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Wood chips where I live can often be had for free, and contain loads of K and adequate P, although the literature often advises that adequate P needs to be incorporated in the soil. However, in over 25 years of establishing scores of orchards in various soils in my region I’ve never encountered symptoms of P deficiency and from this and other literature have come to the conclusion that its importance is a horticultural myth based on experiments in artificial soil without mycorrhizae. Very little detectable P is necessary for trees to remain healthy and most soils have that.

If you aren’t of a weak stomach, the best available source of N, IMO, is your own urine which also has a lot of K and some P. Serve it to your tree diluted a bit and water it in and along with woodchip mulch your trees should thrive if you have well drained soil.

As far as synthetic N for trees, I’m partial to 90 day coated urea because you don’t have to worry about watering it in or burning grass and it’s a once and done job. Plus, it works like magic. It’s especially useful in sandy soils.

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It is just too much of a blanket statement. Think of just about any surgery; just because it could be done wrong doesn’t mean we should give up on surgeries altogether and forego all the benefits.

Take compost: There is somebody out there using manure instead of compost, or chiseling a hole in hard clay and filling it with compost, or using improperly cured compost full of seeds, or improperly cured compost with insect eggs in the hay, or compost from animals that ate large quantities of herbicides, or just had the absolute worst luck and the tree died for no good reason. No wonder it is easy to add to the idea that amending with compost is bad.

Me I know the source of my compost and if it is not cured to the point it has worms in it I prefer to take the manure and cure it myself. I also have sand/rock soil, I have 0 drainage issues so plant roots do go off into the yonder trying to reach the nutrients that get leached into the sand.

heres how i plant a tree here. i cut out a 4’ x 4’ piece of sod and flip it upside down back into the same spot. i cover that with 2 layers of 4’ x 4’ cardboard. push a 5ft stake through the center and into the soil at least 12in. i place my tree against the stake and bury the roots it in good organic soil. i then mulch with 4-5in. woodchips. water well. starts off the tree good then if you need to fertilize later, a sprinkling of 10-10-10 or compost covered with more mulch will do the job.

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