Mineralized Topsoil Journey
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Old 09-03-2010, 07:50 PM   #1
mike2lane
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Mineralized Topsoil Journey


I have been paralyzed for fear of choosing the wrong topsoil (does it have peat? does it have manure? is it fertilized? oh my!), so I have decided to STOP THINKING and just buy what they had at Lowe's. Here I will post pictures and description of what I am doing. If it is an abject failure, then everyone will know how/why.

I bought 2 cubic feet of Timberline topsoil @ $1.35/bag. Here's the soil:
http://db.tt/x5eRBLo

I decided to use a wheelbarrow, so I could easily skim off the excess water by a simple tilting maneuver. I bought a new one at Lowe's ($85) and scrubbed it with plain hose water. I added the two bags and filled with water. I then took my hands and moved it around to assure it was properly agitated (admittedly, I felt like I was working on a grammar school art project, lol) Here are pictures of mine soaking, as instructed in Step one of the MTS thread:
http://db.tt/Q3DMrCL
http://db.tt/V1qa24z

I know it says to wait a couple days, but I am too impatient, so I am going to drain and refill tomorrow morning. In the meantime, I am off to purchase a tarp and a chicken-wire sieve.

Michael

P.S. I am in Miami, and the wet season is in full swing until November, so I expect the drying stage to be especially 'trying.' If I cannot get through a day without rain, I may move the whole project into my garage.
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Old 09-03-2010, 11:16 PM   #2
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Hang in there I'm going to start on my soil Sunday also in spite of the rain. I also went out and purchased timberline from Home Depot. The drying part will be a trick though.
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Old 09-05-2010, 03:38 PM   #3
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Today is step 2. I took a little fish net and skimmed pieces of bark off the top and then drained most of the water. It seemed like the water was more like mud than water, and made me wonder if I was dumping out the good stuff??? I guess that's what makes this a journey, lol.

Next, I took a 6x8 ($5 @ Lowe's) tarp and used the straight end of a steel bow rake to spread out the soil. Here it is spread out in the Miami sun:
http://db.tt/5hPci5T
http://db.tt/wieFZ8V

Here is a close-up:
http://db.tt/92qjM2H

Since the water from the top seemed to contain suspended soil in it, I chose to put the mixture on the tarp while still pretty moist. It might take a day longer to dry, but, hey, this is the important part when the mineralization takes place anyhow. Here is the runny part I am talking about:
http://db.tt/IsXFlq4

I'll check back in when it is dry.
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Old 09-06-2010, 01:18 PM   #4
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@ Pickled_Herring: Well, the wet season does not disappoint. We got a downpour for about 3 hours last night. How'd you guys do up in Boca?

I'm thinking that to have the topsoil spread out like it is, well oxygenated in the rain, might help the mineralization process (so long as the rain is not polluted :0). After about 15 minutes of rain, I went out and covered it with another tarp. Now this morning, as usual in zone 11, the sun is out, and the day is beautiful. I hate it, and I love it, haha.
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Old 09-06-2010, 04:32 PM   #5
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Why don't you just routinely cover the mud with the second tarp every night? Doesn't most of the rain come at night? The rain isn't going to do any harm, other than preventing you from ever drying the mud out. In fact you could even rely on the rain to do the soaking part of the mineralizing - lazy man's mineralizing?
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Old 09-06-2010, 05:12 PM   #6
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Mike,

Looks like your doing a great job so far.
I havent gone this route yet but may have to.
So im going to be watching this thread closely.
Love the step by step progress with pictures.
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Old 09-08-2010, 06:33 PM   #7
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Hi Mike it seems like it hasn't stopped raining here. I put an empty 55 Gallon tank outside last Wednesday and it's almost full today just from rain water. It's hard to believe that they still have us on water restrictions. Anyhow did you notice a lot of cypress mulch mixed in with your topsoil? I think that I'm going to run it through some strainers as soon as it dries out a bit. There's way too much wood, mixed in, for my taste.
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Old 09-08-2010, 11:03 PM   #8
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You should strain it anyways, rather you think it has too much wood or not.
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Old 09-08-2010, 11:28 PM   #9
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Hi Hoppy and Sean. Thanks for the support. I did take Hoppy's advice to cover it every night, but....... of course the rain has decided to start falling during the early afternoon off and on every hour or so for the last 2 days. I have still not had the soil dry once. (Sigh)

@Pickled_Herring: Oh man, it's been ridiculous. I think all this Atlantic activity making its way to us from west Africa is causing it to feel more like a rain forest over here. I guess we shouldn't complain; it could be a hurricane Insofar as the wood chips, yes there are quite a few in there. I will definitely run it through a sieve (if it will ever dry!) I will be happy to get 25% of the original weight back once it's mineralized.

As the journey now stands, the topsoil is still laid out, covered in a tarp, which the lawn company saw fit to uncover and scatter with grass clippings today. No doubt my lawn guys think I am batsh*t crazy now, seeing how mad I got over a tarp covered in mud (and they are probably right, all things considered). I am trying to remain steadfast, but all this rain and other drama is really starting to frustrate me. I just keep telling myself how much work this will all save from not having to dose for years.
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Old 09-09-2010, 12:23 PM   #10
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Yeah I should have strained this soil from the get go. I didn't realize how much cypress was in there and I thought that what was in there would float to the surface. It didn't. The wood is holding the water and keeping the soil from drying out. It's doing a great job of that which is why its so popular down here and used as mulch. I think I will pick up 2 more bags of soil today and strain those and start over.
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Old 09-09-2010, 07:12 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hoppy View Post
Why don't you just routinely cover the mud with the second tarp every night? Doesn't most of the rain come at night? The rain isn't going to do any harm, other than preventing you from ever drying the mud out. In fact you could even rely on the rain to do the soaking part of the mineralizing - lazy man's mineralizing?
Im down with this lazy man mineralizing, If I leave the tarp uncovered the nightly sprinklers get it pretty wet. Then it dries in the day.
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Old 09-10-2010, 12:21 PM   #12
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I got basically the same topsoil. I dont remember the name but it was organic, no fert's or peat (at least, it did'nt say it had them in it). I forgot to get chicken wire but I had a roll of window screening left over from another project, so I strained the soil through that. Just a note to anyone reading this; find chicken wire! Although the screening gets ALOT of the other debris out of the soil, it takes FOREVER to do. Anyway, I ended up with a large bucket full of, what looked like, coffee. After it soakes for a day, and then dryes for a day (or so), I strain it again and start the process over. I would add pictures but, they look exactly the same as the ones above.
How many cycles of wet, then dry, do you guys thing it's going to take to "mineralize" the soil?
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Old 09-10-2010, 03:45 PM   #13
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when I did mine, I went through the wet and dry cycle until the soil does not smell too "awful" when soaked. This took about 4 wet dry cycles.
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Old 09-10-2010, 04:01 PM   #14
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You REALLY want to take your time with mineralizing the top soil. If you rush it and leave organics in the mix you can end up like this:

http://s36.photobucket.com/albums/e1...t=DSCN0332.flv


http://s36.photobucket.com/albums/e1...t=DSCN0333.flv


My system only took a couple weeks to turn into a death trap. When I tore it down I dug through the soil and found lots of small pieces of wood I missed by skimming the top while it was soaking.

I replaced it all with Soil Master Select and never looked back. The tank was transfered to a 40-Breeder a year later with the same inhabitants/plants/substrate and is running really well.


Just my experience with MTS.
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Old 09-10-2010, 10:23 PM   #15
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When you say "small pieces of wood", how small are you talking about? Like I said, after my soil dryes, I rub the chunks through the extremely small holed window screen, before soaking again. I just got finished doing it, at a matter of fact. Before I added the water, I noticed very small, thin pieces of wood in it. These pieces are thinner then a sewing needle, and about half the length. I cant imagine that these size pieces would cause too much of a problem but, you never know. I'm hoping they will ALL disappear with further screening.
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