Permies likes soil and the farmer likes Sepp Holzer never uses lime permies
  Search | Permaculture Wiki | Recent Topics | Flagged Topics | Hot Topics | Zero Replies
Register / Login

(the sound is wonky for the first 20 seconds)

daily-ish email

micro heaters

rocket mass heater


permies » forums » growies » soil
Bookmark "Sepp Holzer never uses lime" Watch "Sepp Holzer never uses lime" New topic

Sepp Holzer never uses lime

paul wheaton

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 14198
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
Most conifer forest land has a pH of 4.5.  Most garden plants prefer a pH of 6.5.  Some plants prefer a pH of 7.0 or higher.

I want to ask him some more questions about this, but asking questions is kinda tough.

I think one of the first things he does with confierous land is the hugelkultur stuff.  I think the act of digging into the deeper soil brings up a higher pH - so that is an instant help.  Next, I think that composting all of those trees in the hugelkultur raises the pH a lot - mostly because compost tends to end up at a pH of 7.0.

Next is water.  Sepp is keenly aware that water saturated soil tends to have a lower pH.  So his hugelkultur beds are dry at the top and wet at the bottom.  So stuff that prefers a higher pH also generally likes drier soils.  And has a lovely home at the top of the beds. 

sign up for my daily-ish email / rocket mass heater 4-DVD set / permaculture playing cards
Brenda Groth

Joined: Feb 01, 2009
Posts: 4432
Location: North Central Michigan
interesting, we have large areas of acid soil on our property, however there is an area that is quite is where we have done a lot of burning of brushpiles..we tend to use this soil in areas where we need more alkalinity..

we also use carbon from our wood boiler and bury it for alkalinity..however ..we do occasionally have small scraps of drywall that we incorporate into our compost pile..which also is basically is a natural mineral that can be reincorporated back into the a small rate..


Bloom where you are planted.
Susan Monroe

Joined: Sep 30, 2008
Posts: 1093
Location: Western WA
While compost (natural compost) can help to ameliorate soil pH, it can't do everything.  It especially can't provide minerals that are simply not available by any means.

Lime is more than a way to raise the alkalinity, it is CALCIUM, and sometimes (dolomite) includes a fair amount of magnesium.

You can raise the pH to whatever you want, by applying certain chemicals, but if the the soil is short of calcium, it needs calcium, and until that calcium is supplied, the soil is out of balance.

Does Holzer have any kind of scientific documentation for any of his theories?

paul wheaton

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 14198
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
A lot of university research has been done on his farm.

As for calcium - some plants like calcium more than others.  And in some places on his land, he encourages plants that have deep tap roots and are calcium accumulators (like comfrey).

Bruce Weiskotten

Joined: Mar 12, 2009
Posts: 5
Remember he's breeding 4-20 varieties of worms which balance soil pH by excreting CaC (calcium carbonate) so there may be no need to spread lime especially if you have to hike each bag up the mountain in a ruckzack. 
Not to mention, how far are the Dolomiti? Much of the alps is limestone type rock.
paul wheaton

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 14198
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
Yesterday somebody asked about wood ash - apparently he uses some of that.  That would raise pH quite a bit.

Bruce, what more can you say about the worms and the ph?  Are you saying that these worms raise the pH only because there is limestone down deep, or would they do it with other subsoils too?
Bruce Weiskotten

Joined: Mar 12, 2009
Posts: 5
Worms will always balance out the pH towards neutral and they are net producers of Ca.
The lime in the parent material of the soil is more of an after thought.
Bobby Smith

Joined: Aug 16, 2012
Posts: 18
What about eggshells added to compost? How much does this add calcium? In KNF farming there is a method of adding brown rice vinegar to eggshells to remove the calcium and then using as an amendment.
Paula Edwards

Joined: Oct 06, 2010
Posts: 411
You should feed the eggshells back to the chicken and I think you would need a poultry farm to get sufficient egg shells to change your soil.
There is one thing what I always wonder in my H├╝gelkultur beds: How do you get the right amount of NPK? As for the acidity I have a test kit which might be accurate enough, but I think of purchasing a NPK test kit to know weather I shoul throw some lime in or blood and bone and the like.
This is when you build your soil rather then using the soil directly (many people don't have really soil on their land) then you don't really know what you get.
Paulo Bessa

Joined: Jun 15, 2012
Posts: 330
Location: Portugal (zone 9) and Iceland (zone 5)
He says he doesn't use lime, because he lives in the Alps, which are rich in limestone.

Conifers make soil acidic, while compost from broad leaves slowly tends to bring back the pH to 6 or 7. So basically either you correct the soil with lime or add large amounts of organic matter.

Since he is not growing conifers and his soil is already rich in lime, and he is also adding plenty organic matter, I guess he already has the soil around pH 7, so he doesn't need to add any lime.

You can do this in your own garden too (no need for lime, only organic matter), but what if you live in a cool and wet climate with a very acidic soil like me? Even after adding compost, the rain could make the soil slowly acidic again.

And yes, dry soils (like deserts) tend to be more alkaline, while wet soils acidic (like peat).
Ashes also make the soil alkaline, but can make it too much, if you use too much.

Our projects:
in Portugal, sheltered terraces facing eastwards, high water table, uphill original forest of pines, oaks and chestnuts. 2000m2
in Iceland: converted flat lawn, compacted poor soil, cold, windy, humid climate, cold, short summer. 50m2
Paula Edwards

Joined: Oct 06, 2010
Posts: 411
What is so bad about using lime or dolomite?
James Colbert

Joined: Jan 02, 2012
Posts: 233
Paula Edwards wrote:What is so bad about using lime or dolomite?

It is an input. Personally I am trying to use a minimum of inputs. So if I have acidic soil and lots of conifers I can make hugelculture beds which are very productive and buffer the acidic soil. The solution to many soil problems is organic matter. Too much salt, organic matter; too acidic, organic matter; not enough fertility, organic matter; too much water, organic matter; too little water, organic matter. Organic matter is derived primarily from carbon in the air. Carbon you don't have to buy. My goal is for my only inputs to be seed and perhaps broad spectrum stone.
Paula Edwards

Joined: Oct 06, 2010
Posts: 411
I think you could throw in concrete rubble as well, that is an input too, but it is readily available for no money.
Maybe you have to give your kids a hammer and pay 50 cents per pulverized bucket of concrete rubble.
winston wilcox

Joined: Sep 07, 2012
Posts: 13
I just found this video! Its a little hard to read the subtitles at times but its awesome! Might belong posted somewhere else but its relevant .

Its a tour / interview with Josef Holzer!
subject: Sepp Holzer never uses lime
Similar Threads
Paul Wheaton's hugelkultur article thread
questions about planting potatoes in hugelkultur
cast iron skillet 49er

more from paul wheaton's glorious empire of web junk: cast iron skillet diatomaceous earth sepp holzer raised garden beds raising chickens lawn care flea control missoula electric heaters permaculture videos permaculture books