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Growing local

Hi Everyone,

I need your advice. We are thinking to move. One thing we want to take into consideration for choosing the place to move is if the soil is good for gardening. I hope to grow avocado and all other good fruit trees and vegetable. So how can I work it out if the soil is good enough for my gardening? Is there any organisation who can do the soil testing and give me a good interpretation of the test result?


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There are any number of 'soil testers' but I'd think it may be better to check out the neighbourhood of where you intend to move to. What is growing there? What used to grow there?

Also drainage, of course...if growing many tropical/sub tropical fruits. Slopes are great for fruit but not so good for vegetables.

Another way is to go to a community market, like Caboolture (Sundays), and ask the stall holders where their stuff is grown.

I'd also think water and irrigation should be considered. Here, in Beachmere, most of my garden water comes from a bore. Price of the water you use  is important I suggest. So are there water tanks collecting rain water? How much would they cost to install them if not?

Avocado  do not like heavy clay soil  so need to find a place that does not have lots of clay or do some major earth works  and i think there are mapping of what types of soils are in areas  but that would only be a guide to start looking.

Did see that 2 houses built close both had soil test done so would they be collecting all this information from each individual test.

Thanks Dave and Jeff. One house we are looking at now is at Park Ridge and the next-door neighbour has mango, persimmon, orange trees, macadamia nut and a few common trees like lime. Did not see avocado there. The soil looks like sandy soil and relative flat. Is anybody familiar with the soil of Park Ridge?

Yes Joe,
I live at Park Ridge. but my soil is very poor. It is sandy and very shallow. That is why I grow most of my veges and trees in containers. The soil is only around 300 mm deep and is hydrophobic because it has very little organic matter in it. Under the shallow sand is a layer of grey clay of around 100 depth and then sandstone. It is no good for growing anything. I grow in pots, old baths, wheelie bins, above ground beds and mix in plenty of well aged manure and compost. It has taken me a long time to build up my soil, but I still have trouble if I try to grow in an above ground bed as crops like tomatoes get nematode root knot infestations. my advice is to steer well away from Park Ridge!!

 Nematode root knot infestations  have a look at row by row garden show on youtube they plant a cover crop of mustard  and that is quickly dug back in the soil  to fumigate  and also crop rotate so the next crop  does not harbor the Nematode root knot.

Thank you very much Roger. 

And I thought I had it bad, Roger!

I've been growing on my patch for 10 years while I enrich the sand at my feet. What was there runs down at least 5 metres -- being an aged sand dune.

Vegetables and herbs I can now grow, but fruit trees still struggle. Around town, pawpaw, mulberry, mango and citrus do well -- as do some Macadamia Nut trees -- but the soil isn't deep enough for so many species. I have a pomegranate that is so slow it must be  biblically disposed.

I've enriched the soil with layer upon layer of grass clippings  and it is now an active black -- but there is no way I can envisage it being orchard friendly as it simply isn't deep enough.

But then I can pump up plenty of free water from the aquifers below.

I'm not a fruit eater but I reckon bagged fruit trees would be a great use of space which would enable you to pursue a big variety of species. While I'm no orchardist, I'd also keep my fruit trees shoulder height short for easy maintenance -- especially against fruit fly.

What fruit trees I have I keep short although the mulberry on the footpath is allowed height because it truly is a neighbourhood fruit tree and offers such deep shade for parked cars.

The best soil in Brisbane --a rich, red volcanic type --is probably under all that housing in Redlands.It was Brisbane's food bowl until being developed into housing. 

From my experience,  there are also  the rainforest areas, especially around the Glass House Mountains, Maleny and Wamuran. Closer in, on the northside -- there is good soil in the Nundah/Banyo area and along Kedron Brook. Newfarm has some good soil patches (it was Brisbane's first farm) as does Sandgate and Deagon. There is even good rainforest soil here along a gully parallel to the coast  between two ancient sand dunes but it gets waterlogged.

A good example of 'soils' is the Northey Street City Farm which has been a project making the best of what was a poor soil profile.

Of interest would be places that historically were market gardens like Sue's Corner -- which used to be a large Chinese market garden.

Here's an image of one such garden below :
View from Waterworks Road over Chinese market gardens along Ithaca Creek. Water tower in distance on Paddington Heights. (Description supplied with photograph). The gardens and fields can be seen in the valley over the fence in the foreground. Houses and the water tower are visible in the far distance.

Historically, vegetable growing in Australia has been dependent on Chinese, Greek and Italian migrants So chasing that history will point you to good pockets of soil now under residential blocks as I describe here.

FYI: there is a large market garden at Settler Way, Karalee. Soil looks delicious.

Thank you very much Dave! This is very valuable information, which can help us to narrow down the search areas. We will spend some time to visit some house for sale especially open inspection on the weekends in the areas you mentioned. I am sure we will find one suitable for us, especially we are not in the hurry.

Deep soil testing will be a great advantage for fruit trees. Especially if you tell them you want to grow fruiting trees, then they will detail specific levels of the mineral elements or lack thereof.
If you are buying an empty block of land with reasonable soil, you can add about 20cm of tree mulch or good solid mulch, choose your mulch carefully. That will slowly rot down with the aid of maybe rock dust and preferred fertilizer. As it rains the good mulch water will go down into the soil.
You can then plant trees into pouches of composted soils.
This will aid your tree growth for years to come. I wish I had the opportunity to do that on our place.
Good luck on your search.

Good advice! Thank you Christa. 

I'd like to chuck my 5 cents worth in, as I hope it's a different way of looking at things.  

Dave grows well on very sandy soil.  He learned to enrich it and pick the right plants. He does well. I've been there. 

Roger grows well in crap sand and then clay and rock.  He learned to grow in raised beds and plant the right plants in the right ways. He does well. I've been there. 

I have 3 cm of soil and then shale.  It's rubbish - the right trees will do okay in it though.  I've been working on enriching the soil for years with compost and organic matter as well.  I grow veges in raised beds and aquaponics. I do okay.  

There are spots like the glasshouse mountains that have amazing soil.  Even then, I suspect they have their challenges like drainage in heavy downpour rain and the like. 

My point is that you need to adapt to your site.  It won't adapt to you, so don't fight it.  Choose plants that do well there.  If the soil is poor, grow in raised beds or containers.  If you have drainage issue, research swales, berms and drainage solutions - or again, go up.  Growing in raised beds is one thing that most of us do, in one shape or form.  

Hope that helps. 

Good point Andrew! I did try to add a lot grass clippings to one area of my backyard. It only temporarily improves the soil and only on the top layer. After the grass clippings decomposed the soil back to what it was. This effort would not help much for the fruit trees. That is why we hope to find a place with a good soil if we can. As Dave summarised, there are not many places in Brisbane area with good soil, it will not be easy to find one suitable and affordable for us. We will keep looking and, in the meantime, I will try to work with my soil, not try to change it.


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