Author Topic: Need help with ideas to rejuvinate soil/field on the cheap  (Read 5467 times)

Offline 12th man

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Need help with ideas to rejuvinate soil/field on the cheap
« on: July 01, 2015, 02:09:53 PM »
Does anyone have any suggestions on how to rejuvenate a 3 acre field? It has been abused for who knows how long relying on chemical fertilizer inputs and insect/herbicide for conventional farm crops. Worms and insects have all but abandoned it. I have planted it in generic pasture seed, half this year , half last year. It is growing, but not by much.

I did a soil test - cheap ones you buy in the store - it says PH, and NPK is all good. But the only thing that does halfway decent are the weeds.

This fall I will go ballistic on a small area so we have a decent veggie garden next year, but it would cost too much to go that route on the whole thing.

Eventually half will remain pasture for ruminants, the other will be a mix of food forest, trellised apple, berry, and grape along with perennial and annual vegetables. I want to get as much of this in as soon as I can, but I don't want to loose it due to the current condition of the soil.

I am in western Oregon, and the I can irrigate the entire field year round.

Thanks ahead of time!

Offline keebler

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Re: Need help with ideas to rejuvinate soil/field on the cheap
« Reply #1 on: July 01, 2015, 04:22:19 PM »
try 10/10/10 in a small area see what happens. read directions for Sq footage per Bag.it's not to harsh I have a 7.3 acre field I did 22 bags on it--then 50 Lbs Kentucky 31 grass seed-absolutely wonderful looking . I am very pleased with my results.
Keebler
southern Va.

Offline Josh the Aspie

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Re: Need help with ideas to rejuvinate soil/field on the cheap
« Reply #2 on: July 01, 2015, 04:57:09 PM »
You could try fixing nitrogen into the soil with bacteria-inoculated clover, or drawing nutrients to the surface and breaking up deeper, harder layers of soil with comfrey.

Alternatively, you could try putting together a composting system that involves red-wigglers, then spreading the compost and any tea on the fields, mixed with a lot of water.

I haven't tried these methods myself, but they get talked about often.


Offline Marinesg1012

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Re: Need help with ideas to rejuvinate soil/field on the cheap
« Reply #3 on: July 01, 2015, 08:02:59 PM »
let the weeds grow and mow it, let that mulch down and eventually the weeds will be replaced with grass. mechanical grazing.

Bonnieblue2A

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Re: Need help with ideas to rejuvinate soil/field on the cheap
« Reply #4 on: July 02, 2015, 09:51:03 AM »
I believe the go to source on this would be Greg Judy.  Just do a search for his YouTube channel.  His farm name is Green Acres Farm.  He has a few books out there if your intention is to turn the pasture into quality grazing grasses.   

Offline outoforder2day

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Re: Need help with ideas to rejuvinate soil/field on the cheap
« Reply #5 on: July 02, 2015, 10:18:49 AM »
If this is a field that's dead due to normal farming practices, you might want to try compost tea to give the whole area a bacteriological boost. I'd also dump as much organic matter on as possible. As Marinesg1012 said, cut the existing stuff often to generate additional mulch.
Then, I'd look at spreading a good, varied, pasture mix on it next. A nice variety is key. You want to see what will stick as a pioneer species to kick-start the natural cycles again. I would also inoculate the mix, again trying to get as much life into the soil as possible.

Offline Cedar

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Re: Need help with ideas to rejuvinate soil/field on the cheap
« Reply #6 on: July 02, 2015, 10:39:19 AM »
We are not far from you and trialing mineral salts this year. We are getting good results with one application and I am a week overdue applying the next. We plan on applying once a month. Our hay man has the most magnificent fields ever, and turned us onto the mineral salts. Our land had not been well cared for in nearly 20 years in regards to that.

I would also lime. Most fields in western Oregon need it due to the amount of rain we get.

Got a dairy nearby?

Sow your pasture seed in October. Let the rains and Mother Nature deal with it after that.

Your soil may be our infamous Willamette Valley clay... you may have worms and wildlife in the soil but especially with the heat they will be lower. Somewhere on TSP I have an interactive map to see what soil/s you have on your land. I think I recall I have 12 types here at our farm.

Identify your weeds. Often they will tell you more than any kit can. Such as Sheep Sorrel LOVES acid soil. Stinging Nettles are on damp, very fertile soil. Handpull Tansy Ragwort. Not all 'weeds' are bad either. ID them, many are beneficial for our wildlife, such as birds and butterflies
https://uswildflowers.com/wfquery.php?State=ORE

If it is fenced, you might put in geese or other poultry. Sheep will help too.. here they are eating what used to be a plague of Ollaxis Daisy in our fields here here.

Cedar

Offline 12th man

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Re: Need help with ideas to rejuvinate soil/field on the cheap
« Reply #7 on: July 05, 2015, 04:44:11 PM »
WOW, thanks for all the advise.

We do have a dairy close, but I don't know if I could get anything, and if I could don't think the wife would allow the odor. the liquid stuff stinks pretty bad.

I had thought about buying red wriggler worms and putting them out there to recolonize, does anybody have thoughts on that?

Offline TheRetiredRancher

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Re: Need help with ideas to rejuvinate soil/field on the cheap
« Reply #8 on: July 05, 2015, 05:33:45 PM »
You need organically in the soil before the worms will live or stay. Work on mulch/compost. Jack talks a lot about adding molasses to soil to kick start the microorganisms. Dried beet pulp and dry molasseses can be bought at feed stores. This might be the cheapest additive. Then plant some good long taproot plants that do well in your area. Leave them in the ground and mow or graze the tops off.

Offline bdhutier

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Re: Need help with ideas to rejuvinate soil/field on the cheap
« Reply #9 on: July 06, 2015, 12:04:21 PM »
I'm dealing with appx. 1/2ac of bulldozed ground up front, with around 1.5" of clay dirt (not topsoil) on top.  This patch is between the house and the road, and we haven't had a doggone thing grow on it in three years from drought.  I've had great success with:

a. Micro-swales to capture, slow, & hold water.
b. Leaving it alone to do its thing.  it's been around 14-18mos, and the weeds are starting to thin and be replaced by edge trees and native grasses. 
c. Since I live in south Texas, and the patch's proximity to the house, I run grey kitchen sink water out to an entrapment area I dug on the highest spot, which I drain to a series of micro-swales covering about a 30'x30' area.

The growth from this area has creeped out to about a 1/4ac, since there's ground cover holding in moisture.  The bride isn't liking it too much, since she grew up in a subdivision culture.  But she's noticed the 10" peach cuttings I put in around March are 4' tall now.  At least I get credit for that!

I guess the biggest issue is your time frame.  If you can wait, your local ecology will do an outstanding job of reclaiming and healing the ground.  If not, you'll have to muscle it.

Offline Josh the Aspie

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Re: Need help with ideas to rejuvinate soil/field on the cheap
« Reply #10 on: July 06, 2015, 04:04:41 PM »
Regarding your worm colonization idea:

Red wigglers are actually not an in-the-soil worm.  They're tiny worms that live in leaves, grasses, etc.  They're an on-top-of-soil composting worm.  You'd use them in a moist (but not wet) loose style compost made up mostly of grasses, leaves, and shredded paper.  They do smell if you get them too damp, but the liquid that comes out the bottom is great liquid fertilizer.

If you aren't used to composting, and odor is a concern, then this probably isn't for you, particularly if your area freezes in the winter.

http://www.gardenguides.com/80915-build-red-wiggler-composting-bin.html is one variation on a red wiggler bin, if you're still interested.

Nitrogen fixing clover is inoculated with bacteria that add nitrogen to the soil.  If you want to get a bacterial culture going, that'd be a great option to put in between whatever deep-root plants you use to break up and add carbon to the soil.  Based on what others said about worms needing bacterial culture in the soil, I'd think that would help bring burrowing worms (like nightcrawlers) back into the pasture area.

Oh.  If have a fence, or are planning to put one in, you might consider giving any critters you have now, that live off of feed of some kind instead of grazing run of the area.  Chickens scratch up the ground and self-till their own droppings in.  Many breeds of dogs love having a big dog-run and now you get use out of their dookie instead of cleaning up after them.
« Last Edit: July 06, 2015, 04:22:45 PM by Josh the Aspie »

Offline r_w

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Re: Need help with ideas to rejuvinate soil/field on the cheap
« Reply #11 on: July 06, 2015, 08:16:54 PM »
What kind of weeds?  That will tell you a lot about what you need. 

Mowing helps. 

Chicken tractors are AMAZING at kickstarting soil biology.  Our ground around our house was dead for years until we ran chickens, ducks, and rabbits.  Now it is clover and wildflowers and grass--just awesome pasture mix and we didn't sow any of those seeds. 

Offline mxitman

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Re: Need help with ideas to rejuvinate soil/field on the cheap
« Reply #12 on: July 06, 2015, 11:55:47 PM »
I've done a bit of work in this area, I'm just north of you in WA, have 12 acres in E.WA near Wenatchee that i've been doing a bunch of pasture improvement on. And I'm currently working on my pasture at our new place as well, I only have around 3/4 acre here that's in poor shape.

I've dug several test holes to understand my soils/structures first. What I've been doing is a multitude of things, mostly as mentioned before...Organic material as much as you can get.

For me that's wood chips and leaves, I have a small wood chipper/shredder that I use, I pull it around the pasture and basically clear brush from the woods and run it through, then move it and do it again. I found I get better results leaving small piles of chips say 3-4' across and 6-12" deep then I would get spreading it out thin or piling it up 2-3' high.

I then take my compost which I've gotten really good at Geoff Lawtons method and I mix in a 5 gallon bucket to each pile of wood chips, I then add in a handful of my own seedmix, which is a mix of perennials, legumes (clovers,beans peas),turnips,oats,mustard,alfalfa,medic,vetch plantain,chicory,daikon, buckwheat...all sorts of things I can't remember right now... probably around 50+ varieties ... ;D I then let nature and my chickens take it's course.

My compost is also mixed with some vermicompost and biochar that I make too, adding the chicken droppings into the compost really helps out. And my new thing I just started doing is spraying comfrey compost tea, that stuff is so nasty smelling though...be warned if you make any... :o

Doing this all over, adds little oasis in the pasture for the good guys to hang out, and they start spreading out slowly. At my old place after 3 years doing a similar thing I had incredible soil and pasture going.

I second the chicken tractors as well. There are many options, all depends on your time of course and how much work do you want to put it. I think just running animals would be a huge boost if nothing else is done. Greg Judy's book is quite good and worth every penny IMO.

Offline I.L.W.

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Re: Need help with ideas to rejuvinate soil/field on the cheap
« Reply #13 on: July 13, 2015, 10:32:02 AM »
Staring with water:

Don't use municipal water. It contains chloramines in most areas now. Regulations have been tightened in most areas, forcing a lot of municipalities to switch from chlorine which gases off easily, to chloramines which better dissolve in water, lasting much longer. Plants and soil microbes don't do well with chloramine.

If you must use municipal water for irrigation, fill a 55Gal drum with water. To this add 1,000mg Ascorbic acid (Vitamin C crystals). That breaks down chloramine rapidly, some to chlorine which can gas off, and some to hydrochloric acid, which is dissolved and will not harm the plants. Run an aquarium air pump through the barrel for a few hours and you should have good irrigation water. This will be cheaper than carbon filters, as you can pick up 100+ Vitamin C Capsules (the gel caps that you can break open, not the chalky compressed tablets) for about $5. That will treat thousands of gallons of water.

Ideally, you'll have enough rainfall that irrigation will not be an issue for you. If you do irrigate, use pond or well water. If you don't have a well, it's worth surveying the watertable (just dig until you hit water, and the hole doesn't dry). It might be a few feet, might be closer to 20' requiring a hand auger with extension pole. If you have a shallow water table, it's easy to dig your own well. Check YouTube for a how-to video, there are dozens.

You may also be able to get rain catchment off of buildings and roads, diverting it to a pond.

Swales are very useful, but are covered extensively on these forums, so I'll leave you to look into that.

For pastures, there are a few "old farmer's" methods for determining if your watering is sufficient.
Look for fog. An a cool night, a good pasture will always be enveloped in a thick fog. If it's not, there's not enough moisture.
Also look for fireflies on warm nights. You won't find many in dry conditions.

Next, you can consider adding a carbon source to the soil to improve water and nutrient retention. Jack recently did a show on Bio-Char, which is well suited to this purpose. Alternatively, you can get a 50lb bag of leonardite which should be adequate to treat the entire area. These will also help with chelation of any residual chemicals which may have been applied in the past. 

Even pastures benefit from some mulching. If you have an old cement mixer (you can usually find electric models under $100), a mix of wet paper and sand (a 50/50 ratio) tumbled for a few minutes will give you an excellent mulch for grasses. It also provides fiber and grit for worms, encouraging their population growth.  Lay this down on the pasture at a thickness of ½-1. You don't need to do the whole field at once, so the cost and labor can be spread out over a long time. This will hold water at the rootzone of the grasses without depriving them of air.

Mow the area frequently, but at a 5-6" blade height. The clippings will provide further organic matter to the soil, while helping suppress some of the weeds, and encouraging the grasses. This will also favor taller, deep-rooted grasses over the invasive "lawn seed" which tends to creep into pastures. These deeper rooted grasses will have more resilience to sun and drought, faster growth and better nutritive value.

Offline 12th man

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Re: Need help with ideas to rejuvinate soil/field on the cheap
« Reply #14 on: July 14, 2015, 01:44:16 PM »
thanks for the advice. I do have well water and will watch for the 'fog'. You must not be from the NW, I've never seen a firefly.

I just listened to episode 1206 I think with Even Folds. Has anyone tried his Microbe treatment? I am going to start a new thread with this question.

Thanks again!

Offline PermacultureTrees

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Re: Need help with ideas to rejuvinate soil/field on the cheap
« Reply #15 on: November 15, 2015, 09:37:02 AM »
I can tell you what worked for our clay subsoil plot.

Sea salt applied by spray, one time at the rate of 1 teaspoon sea 92 salt to 1 gallon of water.

Raw milk sprayed on weekly for a month during spring at the rate of 1 gallon milk to 10 gallons water.

Cover crop in narrow and broad leaf plants. No less than 8 varieties during spring. Use a lot of clover, vetch, and cereal rye planted in the fall and rolled to the ground each year in latest spring to early summer. Broadcast summer seeds into standing growth first! You can mow it down if you do not have a roller or chain link fence to drage over it. Short visit from packed together animals is even better.

There years of this on a plot that had the top soil removed to bright red clay has changed to a dark worm filled soil that can actually grow things!

Seed can be bought here cheap: https://greencoverseed.com/