How to improve large parts of soil

Discussion in 'Planting, growing, nurturing Plants' started by dutchy, Jul 3, 2014.

  1. dutchy

    dutchy Junior Member

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    Hi there,


    I'm currently working on two permaculture designs here in The Netherlands, northwest Europe. These are my first two designs. the properties are about 1,5 hectare each.


    In both designs i'm encountering the same problem. Both properties are recently bought and mistreated for decades. Year after year it was used by a the farmer that intensively produced corn, potatoes and occasionally used it for pasture. The (in one case sand, in the other case clay) soil is in very poor condition because of fertilizers and pesticides. One property is just bare soil, the other one is currently pasture.


    Basically we have to start from scratch, without any organic matter. In both designs a large part has to be transformed in forest. How can I start planting trees? While designing I want to advise on this and I have to keep an eye on the money. I dont think trees wil grow in this poor soil, so I dont think I can just start planting. What would be a good and preferably cheap methode of improving the soil conditions to start a food forest? Do I really need to bring in a lot of organic material such as compost?

    Thans for your answers!
     
  2. Terra

    Terra Moderator

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    Grow your organic matter onsite , Use what grows well locally a mixture of legumes and tall species include deep root species to slash and break down improving the soil , deep rip on contour or prefer (Keyline Ripping) , get hold of and spread some animal manure if possible , start at the top of the slope and work your way down slope as resources allow .

    With Trees find Local pioneer species to start with , what grows on roadsides will give you clues . Here after the big bush fire there was incredible regeneration of bushland the dominant pioneer species was Acacia Pycnantha which grows for a few years then gradually thins out as others become dominant , also sheoaks both these came up a foot apart in many areas . The same system will happen anywhere in the world , what does nature do after big events this will help you select trees to start with .

    Once you have pioneer trees going you can plant others .

    Most cost effective way for large area revegetation is direct seeding , however you will need to control grass and pasture for this to be effective so probably not applicable to your sites .

    Tubestock can be established using the (Long Stem Planting ) technique on your sandy property , on the clay property planting into deep rip lines will help them establish both these techniques drastically reduce the need for watering in the dry season .
     
  3. dutchy

    dutchy Junior Member

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    That was very helpful Terra!
     
  4. sweetpea

    sweetpea Junior Member

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    dutchy, collecting local, native nitrogen fixing annual seeds mid-summer is easy as they usually grow along the roadside. There ought to be purple vetch and the like. I prefer annuals so you can change your mind if perennials get too invasive and are too much trouble to maintain. I have some perennial grasses that are a real pain, and often compete with my plants.

    I "grow my own" mulch by mowing the weeds, hopefully before the seed heads get to be too big, and making lasagna layers, as they call it. One layer of manure, one layer of mowed weeds, a thin layer of rock dust/sand/powder (granite, basalt) then repeat until you get a shovel's depth of it. I live in a rural place and so I know there is no way to get rid of "weeds". I use them in very thick mulch, maintained at a shovel's depth over rows, or just around plants if there isn't enough to cover the whole row. Finger depth if that's all you've got to start with.

    Ask your neighbors to give you their leaves (or go get them yourself, they will love you for it) and their grass mowings. always drive around with big plastic garbage bags and a rake to gather up leaves when you see them.

    Spreading manure is extremely helpful, but it can get into the soil faster if it is mulched over. with leaf/weed mulch.

    Start a compost pile that is out of the sun, so it won't dry out. When spreading compost, do it thickly and then cover it with mulch so it won't dry out. Dry soil and dry soil amendments can't keep the soil bacteria alive that you are trying to build up. Soil critters like it rich with organic matter and moist conditions.

    Be careful of trees and shrubs that might have growth inhibitors in them that will compete with your plants. Not that you have these, but red cedar and redwood trees and coyote brush are notorious for stopping other plants from growing around them. Eucalyptus, while it has a reputation for the oil being an issue, is excellent when leaves are composted. Pine trees are a real pain to live around, they constantly drop needles, sap onto decks and tables/chairs, hover flies hang out underneath them, their roots are very shallow and will mess with foundations and driveways. If I had a choice I would get rid of my pine trees.

    When you say "plant trees" do you mean fruit trees or landscape trees?
     
  5. linasteve

    linasteve Junior Member

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    You can first check for the quality of soil and know which plants can grow well in such type of soil. You can also improve the soil quality by adding organic soil conditioners like nutritious cocopeat. I read a good piece of information about how to improve the soil quality at https://issuu.com/bioactivepeat/docs/5_simple_ways_to_improve_the_qualit

    I hope this information will be somewhat useful to you.
     
  6. dutchy

    dutchy Junior Member

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    Thanks, very helpful! One question. If i sowed my nitrogen fixing annual herb, should I mow it later in the summer? For example before seeds are formed?
     
  7. rmcpb

    rmcpb Junior Member

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    I would say, Yes, so you are using it as a green manure crop.
     
  8. songbird

    songbird Senior Member

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    or just mow part of it leaving some seeds for later regrowth. depends upon what you want to happen. : ) often it is good for various animals/insects to leave refuge areas unmowed so their children can survive.
     

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