More soil building on the Fanny Farm

26 01 2018

I always try to source my materials as close to home as possible, and sometimes that can be frustrating…….! My ever so knowledgeable neighbour told me some months ago that Dolomite was locally available, and dirt cheap at that. Of course, he has about seven times as much land as I do, and when he buys some, he gets, well…  seven times as much as I need.. and it comes by truck of course, and all I wanted was one ute load. So I rang the guy who runs this enterprise, and the dolomite saga began…

When I first rang him, it was “next Monday”. Luckily I rang first, and I got “sorry, there’s no one there today, but on Wednesday…”  Sounds like Tasmania all over.

Anyhow, I eventually got my Dolomite. The depot is inside Ta An’s ‘sustainable’ plywood factory (!) whose trucks drive past my shed at least four or five times a day, and who knows how many during the night. The place never seems to stop with logging trucks going in the forest, as well as out. Don’t ask, I don’t know, and it could only occur in Tassie!

I had been on that road once before with Glenda many years ago while we were still investigating which part of the Huon we might choose. We only had a tourist map, and we somehow got lost in among the forestry roads that criss cross this logging area, and they weren’t on the tourist map, and I still didn’t have a GPS. We eventually saw signs pointing to Geeveston, and at least I knew where that was! We even drove right past this place, not realising of course that one day we’d own it…. The poor little hire car took a pounding on the incredibly rough roads, the sort that shake the fillings from your teeth. So I knew what I was in for, except that an unloaded ute with 65psi in its tyres was even worse….


3m high mountain of Dolomite

I eventually found the mountain of Dolomite waiting for me, and the biggest front end loader I’ve ever seen, designed to fill trucks for Matt’s place, not a one ton ute! The machine has a weighing facility, so the operator knew how much he was serving me, and I got 1400kg for fifty bucks…… which in the shops might buy three or four 20kg bags. Let me tell you, I’m getting my money’s worth out of those old utes…

Rather than going back the same way with a now overloaded ute (they’re



only rated 1300kg max) I opted to do the loop back through Huonville which is farther, but with way less than half the distance of rough gravel road. By the time I got home, I had less than 1400kg anyway, because even at just 60 km/h, I was donating acid rectification material to the whole Huon Valley as it flew out the back..! It’s just like flour in texture, and any wind will blow it away. Nonetheless, the car still looked way down on its haunches by the time I had it parked in the middle of the next half of the market garden.


My wwoofer Nathan and I spread the entire load over the area to be worked, and now it just needs more compost to be worked in to finish the job, if the job ever gets finished….

Dolomite is an anhydrous carbonate mineral composed of calcium magnesium carbonate, ideally CaMg(CO3)2. It’s used to modify the pH of acidic soils like we have everywhere (mostly) throughout Australia, but here in particular. It’s why apples and cherries do so well here, they love acid soils, as do most berries like strawberries, blueberries and blackberries. The problem with acid soils is that they dissolve the nutrients you want in your veggies, and until you rectify the pH back to normal, adding those nutrients is a waste of effort……  but we’ll get there.

Rome wasn’t built in one day, and neither was the Fanny farm.


My new pump in action, watering in preparation for the three day heat wave about to hit Tasmania



4 responses

26 01 2018
Andrew Ellis Jeeves

Mate, have you checked your Calcium to Magensium ratio? If you add too much Mg relative to Ca you can increase the tightness (compaction) of your clays in the summer (dry) and their sogginess in the winter (wet). Have you seen road makers on the roads adding lime/dolomite to harden the local clays to improve the road base? You might be doing the same thing! You may already know this, of course! You may need to change your pH with Lime not Dolomite. Of course in a humid climate (where evaporation is relatively low) you will find it is very hard (and expensive) to get your soil above the natural acidity of rainwater (5.6). It is usually better to focus on improving biological activity, knowing that as this improves the acidity in the rhizosphere will change (where it matters) but the overall soil acidity in a soil test or using a probe will not be much above 5.6. And, if your available Ca is less than about 1,000 ppm, biological activity will be very suppressed, so focus on liming or dolomiting (only if you need more Mg!) to get your Ca up towards 2,000ppm, remembering that lime is ground up rock and it can ONLY be made available by the activity of microbes (etc), i.e., biological activity – a bit of a circular argument here. Remember, it is ALL the cations you need (not just Ca or Mg) to replace the H ions on your clays. So: forget pH, focus on biological activity, and: what is your most limiting factor? It could be compaction/soil structure not nutrients (therefore aeration and/or increasing biological activity), it could be Ca:Mg ratio, it could be low available Ca, it could be organic matter… So, aerate, worm juice, green manures, animal manures if available (or chicken/pig tractor), judicious use of appropriate fertilisers and make sure trace elements are OK in our old, skeletal, eroded soils (low B means low Ca uptake by plants even if it is there and very much impacts on fruit quality, etc, etc. Anyway, good luck.

26 01 2018

No, I haven’t tested my soil, but I’m relying on my neighbours who have done tests, and tell me the soil is actually Mg defficiecnt. Ironically, so was the soil in Cooran where I came from….. I’ve used Dolomite on the other side of the chook run, and it’s doing very well, certainly not clumping or compacting

Matt next door reckons decades of sparaying apple orchards with Sulphur has caused the leaching of the Ca and Mg through Sulphuric Acid creation. That’s what he was told anyway.

26 01 2018

Silly question, but,your neighbour buys semi loads of the stuff, in some of your posts you are using another neighbours loader to move/dig/spread dirt etc.

Was it not possible to buy some off your neighbour next time he got a load?
Or was time a factor?

I admit I have at times spent more than normal to get an item I was desperate for that day as tomorow or next week would cost more in lost production etc.

26 01 2018

He used ALL of it himself……! besides, I wasn’t ready for a delivery.

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