My New Field of Study: Dirt

March 11th, 2017

Like This Wasn’t Complicated Enough

The home-shopping experience is getting more complicated, which should not be a surprise. I know very little about buying houses (even though I should), I know even less about buying farms, and I overthink everything I buy. When I buy a pair of pliers on the web, I have to look at a hundred websites to make sure they’re the best pliers on earth. Imagine how bad it is trying to buy a house.

I did not know soil varies greatly over small distances. I figured you would have one kind of soil in one part of a county and maybe another kind in another part. I didn’t think different kinds of soil would be swirled around and mixed so every single farm in a county would have to be examined separately.

I found out about soil variations today. There’s a government website called Web Soil Survey, and you can use it to find out what kind of soil you have under you. You can look at very small areas, like 15 acres.

I found a nice farm with a green house. I checked the soil. Only about 30% of it is nice enough for the government to consider it farmland. The other part…who knows? The government divides things into “prime farmland,” “locally important farmland,” and…crap, I guess.

If I understand the soil report, I can grow 20000 pounds of tomatoes per acre per year, but it looks like I can only plant an acre or two. Hmm…I probably won’t need more than 3000 pounds for personal use, so maybe that’s okay.

I can grow 60 bushels of corn per acre per year. Whoopee.

I can’t grow watermelons very well, according to the government’s pessimistic report. Suddenly I really want those watermelons.

How do I figure out how the land itself affects the value of the property? I guess this is where appraisers come in.

I’m not interested in becoming a farmer, but what if that changes? What if I find out there is huge money in growing exotic artichokes or something? What if our economy tanks? What about the inevitable day when leftists exclude Christians from buying and selling?

I don’t know if I can accomplish anything with two or three acres of tillable land.

Can I grow anything on the remainder of the property? Search me. It’s something called “Arredondo sand.” Sounds like a paint color. What if I make the property a free dumping ground for horse manure for a year? Will that help?

The property next door is sitting on a pile of Kendrick loamy sand, which extends slightly into the lot I’m looking at. This extension is the fertile part of the lot. I can’t believe that guy got 100% Kendrick loamy sand! Lucky so-and-so.

For fun, I looked up the 300-acre farm my grandfather owned in Kentucky. Virtually all of it is prime farmland, which means plants grow like crazy. I didn’t appreciate it when I was a kid.

Sooner or later I’ll get the answer. It’s too complicated for me, but surely prayer will get the job done.

10 Responses to “My New Field of Study: Dirt”

  1. Cliff Says:

    You will know you’ve displeased god if you become a farmer.

    Just saying.


  2. Ruth H Says:

    That manure will work wonders. But you don’t have to do that. Mulching changes the soil, maybe not as the government sees it, but for your little garden plots it will.

    Any kind of sand will need organic matter added and that is what the mulch does. Look up the Master Gardeners in that area, they can tell you what to do to have a great yield of tomatoes.

    Has the owner had a garden? If so you are probably good to go with it. I LOVE gardens and gardening and I can’t do it anymore so have some fun for me.

  3. Steve H. Says:

    The previous owners had a horse or two. In Marion County, that’s considered “farming.” They didn’t grow anything. In fact, I didn’t see much in the way of crops up there, unless hay counts.

    I don’t think it will be easy or cheap to get 20 tons of manure!

  4. og Says:

    Actual horse farmers are always looking for places to get rid of waste. Cow too, and under certain circumstances, cow is better. Mushroom farms like Monterey mushrooms in Ocala cycle out their beds regularly, and used mushroom mulch is killer stuff.

  5. lauraw Says:

    I’m just getting back to the no-till kind of gardening after a brief mistaken hiatus. Never will go back to tillage again.

    If you have an adjoining part of your land that has some woods, especially lots of little saplings coming up that need clearing, and piles of leaves, you need not worry about the current condition of your soil. Just chip that stuff up and spread it on top of your garden beds. Best to double-dig a couple beds to begin with, of course. If you practice permanent mulching, you need never till again. Just keep piling on the rotted leaves and chips over time. Weeds become a rare item and a breeze to dispatch, too. And the soil becomes amazing.

    The Back to Eden video linked here kind of mirrors what happens to me when I stop tilling and just pile organic material on top:

    Unless you intend to practice commercial-type tillage, you should ignore what the government thinks your land is good for, ha ha ha. The only exception is something like an old orchard, which commonly has heavy metal concentrations from years and years of spraying antifungals willy-nilly.

  6. Juan Paxety Says:

    After mulching, go to the bait store and get some red wiggles. They are great for turning mulch into good soil.

    You might look a little farther north, around Palatka.

  7. Mike Says:

    If its an area where you’re forced to use a septic system the type of soil can make a huge difference in how well it works and where the local .gov will allow it to be installed and what type system will work in what soil types. Install and maintenance costs vary a lot with different soil types. Here the county health/environment dept has the power to stop you from building on your own land because they don’t like your dirt. Or your dirt will only allow you to have one bathroom etc. I guess this won’t affect you so much if buying existing homes but may be good to know about for future projects.
    Hope your search is fruitful!

  8. Ruth H Says:

    Hay that has gone bad, is a cheap and easy mulch. It can be used as a no till system. It is already starting to work itself into soil. You do have to till a garden first, make your rows and mulch completely between your rows and around your plants. That will cut down the weed problem. The next year you plant the between rows, you should not even have to till them. Then you mulch as you did the year before, you are making good soil as you go.
    Ruth Stout had a book out about this in the 1940’s. I used to have a copy, if I still did I would send it to you, but it’s long gone.

  9. Ruth H Says:

    Apparently I was wrong about when her book came out. It looked old when I got it.

  10. Steve H. Says:

    Thanks, Ruth.