Friday, March 10, 2017

Mining Dirt

"A", who also lives on Big Island,  wrote to ask me where I get my garden soil from. Quite honestly, I don't buy it. In fact, I'm quite leery about importing soil onto my farm. Bringing in soil could be introducing serious unwanted pests, plant disease, or weeds. I've already got enough little nasties to deal with and I surely don't need more! I've heard of other people who have brought centipedes, stinging caterpillars, little fire ants, and coquis to their places via soil and plants. I accidentally brought a coqui frog  on building lumber, though hubby and I spent several minutes hunting the buggah down that evening. While I will bring in the Kona mulch, which is raging hot and nasties can't survive the heat, I won't bring in non-heated organic matter nor soil. 

So, do I just create all the soil I need? Not hardly! It takes lots of time, effort, and resources to make garden soil. I simply can't do it, at least not enough of it. So where do I get soil? I mine it on my own farm. 

The above area that was mined is about 9' x 16'. It's a spot that is destined to be a parking spot for my truck. I could have simply leveled it out some, topped it with gravel, and parked the truck. But I looked at all that decent soil that would be going to waste. What a waste. So I decided to mine it instead. Out came the pick, o-o bar, and baby sledge. Over the course of several weeks I gradually worked my way. I'd remove rocks, scoop out the soil into waiting buckets, then return the rocks. As I worked, the hole behind me got bigger and bigger as the rocks weren't enough to replace the soil volume I was removing. In spots I dug 2' down, in others 3'. I mined quite a bit of soil, which went down to the gardens. Now I'm in the process of bringing rocks to fill in the rest of the hole. It will take me another couple weeks to finish this project. ....... Yes, I'm most likely crazy. But I did get quite a lot of soil added to my garden areas. 

This sounds like terrible labor, but I don't find it to be so. I only work about a half hour at a time, so it's a nice workout. No need for an exercise gym membership here!!! No need to pay to work out on somebody else's machines. No need to go jogging for half an hour. I can find plenty of good exercise right here on my farm. 

I've moved on from this driveway parking site and am now mining soil down in the dry river bed area. Lots of soil, few rocks, and not nearly the beneficial exercise. I'm currently mining soil for the new greenhouse growing beds. 

Yes, as a real estate agent once noted, my farm has deep soil. But it's all between a lot of rocks! 


  1. You create a fast-draining weed-scarce non-muddy parking spot for your truck, simultaneously disposing of a good quantity of volcanic rocks that will gradually compact with repeated parking of the truck, while gaining good quality dirt that transforms into soil as you blend in all those organic and mineral elements (coral crushings, et cetera). And you get the healthy exercise to boot! Triple Win!!!

  2. A cautionary tale: I was importing Kona mulch for awhile, until I brought in one load that killed everything I put it on. Not sure what was in it, but some areas still are not even growing weeds.

    1. Good advice. Personally I haven't had a problem....yet. I've picked up dozens of truck up truckloads and had 30 yards delivered, twice. To date, no problems. But since there is no control on what landscapers and owners can drop off, there's always the outside chance of some persistent herbacides getting into the mulch. Luckily, persistent herbacides are not as widely used here as on the mainland.

  3. I have spent countless hours separating rocks from dirt at my place.
    I think my family thinks I am crazy.
    The large rocks become retaining walls, small rocks crushed for gravel paths and the dirt for planting.
    I often use a coarse sieve to screen the small rocks out.
    I wish I had volcanic rock like you, instead of sandstone which produces such a poor soil for plants.

    1. You're not crazy at all! I admire you for putting in the effort. Of course I'm doing this all the time too.