Dry alkaline rocky soil

Discussion in 'Members' Systems' started by Lantis, Jul 22, 2016.

  1. Lantis

    Lantis New Member

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    Hello everyone!

    It has been a year since I have started looking for my piece of land to start my permaculture project and I think I have finally found it. It is located on an east slope of a mountain range (elevation just some 300 m), facing south. It is surrounded by oak trees from each side so no winds and it is large enough for me (12000 sq. m), BUT... The soil there is very very poor. It is light brown in color, roots only go some 5 cm deep, it is very alkaline (over 7,5, somewhere reaching 8!), dry and very rocky! 50% of the mass is stone, sometimes 60%. You basically cannot dig a hole using shovel, you have to use pickaxe, if you want to do it effectively (see attached picture). The area is well known for growing grapes as this is a very good area for them (dry and hot) and of course I would grow them, but I don't wish to have a monoculture of grapes.

    So my question is, what would you do? Would you buy this land and try to improve the soil conditions? If so, how? I think this is what permaculture is all about, isn't it? Improving the soil? But how to best do this on such large scale? Green mulching? If so, which plants? What fruit trees or shrubs to plant? What plants with deep roots can survive such conditions? Thank you!
     

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  2. 9anda1f

    9anda1f Administrator Staff Member

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    Hi Lantis,
    Beautiful property, wonderful oaks!
    I think the quickest way to soil health includes both plantings and animals. We have had great luck here with alfalfa (lucerne or Medicago sativa) and chickens. Add some goats and rotational grazing (goats followed by chickens a la Joel Salatin) and your soil building will be accelerated while you transition the grassland bacteria-based soil into forest fungal-based soil. The chickens/goat will help "process" the grasses to make planting green crops easier.
    Similar soil/climate to ours here in the US. Do you have access to salsify (Tragopogon porrifolius)? Deep roots (edible), copious flowers and good biomass overall. They grow wild here and are great for breaking up the hardpan alkaline soils. We also use black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) as a quick growing, nitrogen fixing support species that coppices well and provides an excellent, dense, rot resistant wood.
     
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  3. songbird

    songbird Senior Member

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    i hope it can work out, but without being there and talking about
    many issues i don't know if i can say go for it or not.

    hot and dry climates are tough and take some time to develop
    topsoil (for garden areas) and will not grow a lot of organic
    materials easily. it is also hard to work when it gets so hot.
    deep mulches to hold moisture work, but they are not easy to
    get set up if you have no materials and have to bring everything
    in. elemental sulfur may help for the garden beds establish a
    lower pH, but life and a soil community will also do that. worms
    will like protection from the heat.

    water supply is key. what rights do you have and is there water
    available that you can actually use? rainwater is good to work
    with, terraces and such to hold the topsoil in place and to help
    redirect flows may be key, but other aspects are what the rains
    are actually like and if you'll be able to collect enough if that
    is what you need to do.

    other things are like what is around that you may be able to
    draw upon for organic materials and help. how close to a town
    or market, etc.

    is it a wine-making area already? takes some time to get a
    vinyard/winery going. 3-5 years to a first harvest, a lot of work
    takes some pretty deep pockets IMO to do it or a real passion
    and a lot of patience... :) implies a lot of equipment and
    buildings and a cellar if you plan on doing it on site.

    i wish you good luck for whichever way you go.
     
  4. Grace Pignatello

    Grace Pignatello Member

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    I agree 100% with 9ANDA1.
    My soil is clay with rocks in the desert. For a garden do a key hole with a berm. Toss seeds on, cover with mulch (straw, hay, leaves, ect) Let it take root, and toss some more seed. You can do seed balls for better production. But they can take time to make. My clay will stay wet on top for 5 days using this method. Introduce worms when you can. If you wet the ground you will be able to dig it easily or make digging with a pick easier. You can try tossing some veggie seeds once the cover crop has been established. Do a little at a time and in season for your climate. They will grow when they are ready. The birds will eat some but leave their droppings. If the birds eat everything, make a simple frame to keep them out. Or pile dead branches on the bed. If you don't have water or seeds, just do the key hole, cover with whatever you have and let the weeds grow. Chop in drop. This will heal the earth over time. The weeds that grow has the nutrience the ground needs. Chop and drop brings the minerals back to the ground in an usable form. Earth worms also help with this. Get the cheapest and poorest land you can and leave the rocks. Lol, I know it sounds crazy, but it works! May your adventure bring you happiness.
     

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