Building topsoil

Discussion in 'Planting, growing, nurturing Plants' started by fourth, Jan 20, 2012.

  1. fourth

    fourth Junior Member

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    I have some land that has patches where it looks like the subsoil is exposed in my vineyard. I have a lot of options available to me but was curious as to how you would go about correcting this.

    Environment : 940m elevation, 800mm rain (consistent per month), basalt soils (with lots of little stones). Located in the southern highlands.

    Purpose : Used as a vineyard, was abandoned. Vines alive but unhealthy (no fruit set this season in this area). Area affected about 1.5ac.

    Condition : Native highland grasses with spotty coverage. Hillside with slight incline. Irrigation present but not currently functional. Possibility for minor erosion. Dam present so irrigation possible at some point. Vines leaves yellowed, most likely due to nitrogen deficiency.

    I have been investigating solutions, but so far have no concrete plan. Idea's include, a quick application of chook poop, followed by use of broadcasting a covercrop. I'm not sure which cover crop to use, nor how I can get it germinated without tilling.

    I would say getting carbon\organic bulk in to the soil is more important up front. I have also considered using straw mulch below the vines which would help with moisture and as it breaks down, adding N.

    Please go easy. First time 'farmer' here! :)

    Thoughts? Can this be done as no till?
     
  2. purplepear

    purplepear Junior Member

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    G'day forth - I'll have a go.
    I would not use the chook poo first up but if you have access to the stuff then get it composting with some other organic matter for application later.
    question - is salinity an issue here? This will determine what action you will take.
    question - is compaction an issue? aeration needs to be done carefully, especially if there is a chance of erosion.

    Mulch and cover crop is the answer in the first instance. Consider Buckwheat and as a cover crop and plenty of what ever mulch you can get your hands on easily.
    If you can get cow manure in piles and add earthworms they will do a great job in earth repair and something suck as diakon radish may follow to break the soil up and allow organic matter to penetrate the surface even more than the worms allow for.
    enough for now - where are you from?
     
  3. lisa mahon

    lisa mahon Junior Member

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    Building topsoil

    I'd also use mulch and underplant with hyssop, umbrefellia family to attract beneficials like alyssum, carrots, parsnip and nitrogen fixers like winter annual clover. If the nitrogen deficiency was very severe I might add very little dynamic lifter. Chook poo should be well composted before adding. It might be worth a soil test to see what else is lacking.
    Bromley Organics
    Lisa Mahon
     
  4. pippimac

    pippimac Junior Member

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    purplepear's got great advice as usual but I'll suggest something he's really not into: I'd get a lab soil test in autumn. Just one, to get a clear picture of what's going on.
    There's quite a few organic and biodynamic vinyards over here and I assume it's similar over your way (The Southern Highlands, NSW, right?) People doing lots of interesting things.
    Here's a few things I'd thing about:
    Broad beans. I plant them in the autumn here; they create heaps of carbon if lthe plants are left to mature. Harvest some beans young, leave the rest to dry for falafel and next year's seed, cut down the plants and leave them there.
    Clovers. Tall, short, red, white, there's a clover for every occasion! White clover's low- growing, good for paths etc. Maybe run the mower over it to maximise nitrogen release.
    Comfrey and it's bee-crack cousin, borage. Speaking of bees, what's your pollination situation? The vinyards over here plant phacelia, buckwheat and sweet alyssum, which attract all sorts of insects. Comfrey and buckwheat mine phosphorus, which Aussie's generally very low in.
    Any arborists and such in your area? I've finally found an outfit that will drop me truckloads of chipped trees for free. As long as it's dumped on the surface and not dug in, where there'll be pretty serious nitrogen tie-up, it's wonderful stuff for retaining moisture and building soil.
    How old are the vines? I imagine if you build up the soil, irrigation shouldnt be an issue, especially if they're for wine.
    It's an exciting project, please keep us uodated!
    And I was typing when Lisa posted...
     
  5. purplepear

    purplepear Junior Member

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    just for the record Leila - I am not against soil tests but against people who say they are necessary to build soil. If you have the money to waste then by all means - it keeps people employed. Just be advised that the advice you receive may well be full of ideas that will destroy bat habitat and cost massive transport of resources in fuel to get to you when local organic matter will do the job if at a slow rate. But then that slow solutions fits with permaculture principals.
    Broadbeans would be great if there is enough soil fertility to get them going and water to keep them going and comfrey may not be best for an area that will be required for another purpose later.
    Chipped trees would be great if you can get them, or spoiled Lucerne on even wheat or oaten straw or pea straw or seaweed (not too much) it is a matter of seeing what is a waste in you area and turning it into a resource.
     
  6. S.O.P

    S.O.P Moderator

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    Agree with purplepear definitely. No magic ingredient, get everything you can, consider what you have and the ratios, pile it on and let nature do the work.

    or, growing your own organic matter (already stated by purplepear).

    One thing I will state (as an edit), is that Borage is no bee-crack in my area. Europeans are few and far between. The best bee plant I have, directly competing with Borage, is Basil. Our local bees, Blue-banded and Native (including European) go mental for Basil flowers.
     
  7. pippimac

    pippimac Junior Member

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    Thanks for the clarification about soil tests Mark, and apologies for being a bit presumptuous:think:
    I suppose with comfrey I was thinking of having it amongst the vines permanently, I think I need to get a better mental picturee of fourth's situation.
    I've always considered broad beans to be incredibly tough plants, but my environment's pretty forgiving.
     
  8. matto

    matto Junior Member

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    Hi fourth,
    you should try and catch any runoff that is still happening. Placing some straw bales or facines made from bunches of wood on contour across the area at various stages will keep what you have where its got to be.
    These facines (https://www.wsdot.wa.gov/publications/fulltext/Roadside/SoilBioEng.pdf ) can be made from lengths of wood bunched up and tied together with wire and staked into the ground. Kunzea would probably work well in your area, and any acacia's or other pioneering species that have a good seed set. Trying to jump start succession will mean introducing some beneficial bacteria. I wonder what effect incorporating cows rumen will do, many of their gut flora is what is in the soils as well. Could be smelly... Im looking into Indigenous Microorganisms at the moment, culturing from healthy areas of the land around you.
    Is the area close to the vineyard? could be that the whole area has very thin topsoil. Let everything grow for a bit, allow the succession to begin naturally. and return it to the soil.
    Do you have sodic soils? will applications of gypsum be handy before any OM goes down.
    Try some foliar sprays on your crops to see if you can fix any deficiencies. Try to get some nitrogen fixers into your lay.
    This is a pioneering project, good luck and keep a record for us.
     

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