Know Your Rocks
Knowing about the rocks on your farm can really help you to understand the mineral components of your soil. That mineral component is so important, but often overlooked as most folks go about improving their soils. However, it's the minerals that provide most of the vital elements needed for plant growth. So lets have a closer look at the rocks and minerals that you might find on your farm.
Rocks in General
All the rocks on our planet can be divided into three major groups.
Igneous - Rocks that formed from the cooling of molten rock either below ground (plutonic rocks like granite or gabbro) or above ground (volcanic rocks like basalt or rhyolite)
Sedimentary - Rocks that formed from the cementing together of cobbles, sands, silts or mud size particles into layers of rocks. Most of these are formed in the oceans on the margins of the continents where these materials have have washed from the land in rivers such as sandstone, shale, conglomerate or built up from the remains of animals like limestone.
Metamorphic - Rocks that are formed from the squashed and/or cooked (but not melted) remains of other rocks. These are usually found where mountains formed, continents collided, or close to huge masses of molten material. Rocks like schists and marbles, quartzites and gneisses.
All of these rocks are made up of a mix of common minerals: Quartz Felspars Mica Amphibole Pyroxene Olivine Calcite Plus, a splattering of minor minerals.
Here is a table of just a few of the common rock types
and the minerals they contain:
Rock type Rock Name Minerals
Igneous Granite Quartz, Feldspar, Mica
Igneous Rhyolite Quartz, Feldspar, Mica
Igneous Basalt Amphibole, Feldspar, Pyroxene, Olivine
Metamorphic Marble Calcite,
Metamorphic Schist Mica, Quartz,
Metamorphic Gneiss Quartz, Feldspar,
Sedimentary Sandstone Quartz, Feldspar, Mica, Clays
Sedimentary Shale Clays
Sedimentary Limestone Calcite
Once a rock is exposed to the weather it will start to break down "physically" into smaller grains, and "chemically" into different minerals. These major rock forming minerals break down into the following (lesser/minor) minerals. These are the minerals that you will find in your soils:
Original Mineral New Mineral Released Elements
Quartz Quartz Felspars Clays Potassium, Sodium, Calcium
Mica Clays Potassium
Amphibole Clays, Iron
Pyroxene Clays, Iron
Olivine Clays, Iron, Magnesium
Calcite & Dolomite Calcite, Calcium, Magnesium
What this means for you...
So, if you know that much, you can figure the following: If you you live in an area where granite is the dominate rock type (a rock containing quartz, feldspar and mica), you will find your well-developed soils contain quartz, grains, and clays. Less developed soil will appear sandy as the feldspars have not yet broken down into clays. The soil will contain potassium, sodium and calcium.
If your homestead is on basalt, you will have clay rich soils with loads of iron and magnesium.
The best way to find out what kinds of rocks you have in your area is to visit your national or state’s Geological Survey. To find those in the USA go here (http://www.stategeologists.org/). They will have maps (many online) and advice to help you discover whats under your feet.
What ever rock type you have on your farm will directly affect the type of soil you have to work with. With a little love and care, any soil can be amended with fertilizers and organic matters to create fertile, workable ground. It just helps to know what you are starting with!
(This here is a post from our old blog. I hope you enjoy it as much now, as when it was first posted 8/2014!)
I have always wondered how it is that some people have "green" thumbs and others don't. I use to have the blackest thumb ever, and it's unfortunate because I believe that Geoff Lawton had it right when he said, "You can solve all the worlds problems in a garden."
My favorite color is green. I love the book "The Secret Garden" so much that I read it 12 times in one year! I want to study herbal medicine. I think that plants are amazing, BUT... I kill them. Completely unintentionally. Nonetheless, I am guilty of plant murder by neglect on several counts.
It's Chris that is the grower. Of all of the plants that he has revived, I am ashamed to admit that close to half of them were my fault. (The other half he bought from nurseries at extreme discounts at the end of the season and they were half dead when they were purchased.)
The garden thrives with him around. As soon as he walks into the garden, the plants start humming with excitement. I love working with him in the garden, because I can feel a little of the humming crossing over. When he's there with me, I feel like I'm doing alright.
So we were in the garden together the other day, and it hit me. I now know how to get a green thumb!
How do you get a green thumb? You spend time in the garden!
... and prune the tomatoes! Tomatoes are full of green juice that turns your hands green after the chlorophyll has oxidized a bit!
All joking aside, spending time in the garden, whether you are pruning tomato plants or thinning carrots, or any number of other plant nurturing activities, will help you to develop your green thumb.
After learning all you can from books and blogs and neighbors, you just need to get out there and do it. When you spend time in the garden, you gain the necessary experience that allows you to "read" the plants and tell what they need. If you have questions, it really helps to have mentors, friends and a few really good blogs give you some support.
But the best way to green your thumb is to practice. Practice and don't worry about messing up. Just keep practicing! Just keep gardening!
Share a comment below on the green- or blackness of your thumbs!
Comfrey is probably one of the most talked about plants in permaculture plant forums, and it’s no wonder! This prolific plant is stout, easy to propagate and very useful. This little dandy is sometimes called knit-bone, because it is commonly used as a poultice to help heal broken bones. How cool is that!
In fact, since so much has been said, I won’t say too much my self, but I would like to point you to a couple of awesome resources on the matter!
First, there’s Paul Wheaton’s video, “Why Permaculture Folks Love Comfrey.” It’s a 10 minute video, where some permaculture experts talk about the awesomeness of this beneficial plant! Toby Hemenway, author of “Gaia’s Garden,” even calls comfrey the King of Permaculture! If you are even a little bit curious, about comfrey, I would check it out.
Secondly, I’m going to point you to the Plants For A Future Database (PFAF). They are a non-profit, research organization dedicated to researching and providing information on ecologically sustainable horticulture. They have been compiling a database for more than a decade. That database currently has more than 7,000 different species of plants. THEY ARE AWESOME!!!! PFAF lists 5 different species of Comfrey, edible, medicinal, and other uses for the plant, growing conditions, propagation techniques and more.
Here are some highlights from the PFAF entry on Symphytum officinale, or common comfrey:
For more on this highly beneficial plant, including toxicity information, check out the database at www.pfaf.org.
We’ll see you soon with another awesome Plant Profile from Haven Homestead!
Every one likes to see that beautiful dark earth when they till up their garden in the spring, but then they spend the rest of their summer pulling weeds, watering and fertilizing the bare earth around their plants. Then when autumn comes, people fill up their garbage bins with all of the fallen leaves, and leftover stems and dead plants.
Well, I'm here to tell you there is a better way. Mulch. Mulch makes everything better.
Lindsay Hodge is our resident Writer here at Haven Homestead. She keeps this blog, a GRIT blog, and writes other fun things too.