I am currently considering several properties in a small mountain town in North Carolina. I'm looking for a biggish lot with a smallish house that is within walking distance of the main part of town. I've found several promising places -- some of which have extensive lawns that I envision converted to hugelkultur beds and bordered by a modest food forest. But I don't know what chemicals may have been used on those lovely lawns -- I could be dealing with heavy doses of pesticides and herbicides. There are other properties in town that are heavily wooded -- the soil is probably much richer and cleaner, but I hate the idea of chopping down healthy trees to plant carrots and corn. I'm wondering if I could clean contaminated soils using fungi -- as paul stamets has done -- and thereby solve my quandry.
Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
posted 7 years ago
Those nasty systemics like clopyralid are fairly uncommon here, as most NZers don't have such a 'thing' for lawns as many Americans do. How about testing? I'd only worry about the really systemic poisons, as soil should deal with nearly everything. Are there some properties that are, say, 1/3 forest, 2/3 open? If I had access to something like that, I'd be very happy. I see forests as a fantastic longterm asset: firewood, building timber, cllimate/rainfall modification etc etc. I wouldn't be keen on cutting down trees in order to grow a garden/food forest and I'd go for the more open/some forest. I'd be especially interested in places not obviously inhabited by retentive spray-fiends. Benign neglect is what I'd be after (outside that is, if there's a house involved, neglect can be an issue...)
I had a similar dilemma when I bought 20+ acres in north Georgia. I cleared some trees to make an access road and used some of the oak trunks for mushroom making (successfully). The problem with clearing trees, if they are fairly tall, is you have to clear a much wider area than the growing area to enable decent sun access (assuming you are on flat land). Having reached this conclusion I was fortunate to be able to buy adjacent sun exposed land where I do my growing and now I enjoy the woods for what they are.
As to the chemicals etc in the lawn, I have moved house several times and my solution was to add compost rich in worms. And for me, success was when I began to see many worms in the soil.
www.nu-trac.info - new life tracks – growing organic, conservation, self reliance
posted 7 years ago
Thanks for the feedback -- one of the properties I've been looking at has a huge front lawn with a border of trees that screen it from the road -- I keep imagining that lawn reinvented as hugel kultur beds. The back half of the lot is all forest -- great for cutting wood etc. The one drawback is that the lawn in front is pristine -- not a weed to be seen -- which is not the 'benign neglect' that I would find reassuring! So I'm pretty sure the soil is contaminated -- just now sure how difficult it would be to clean it up.
I would suggest to request a soil sample from the lawn on that piece of property and make sure to include pesticides, herbicides, and heavy metals in your analysis. I am also assuming you are accurate, those pristine, weed-free lawns are typically a nightmare of herbicides and fertilizers. Typically they have those "Tru Green" trucks in front of their homes applying those chemicals on a regular basis.
Make sure to also ask the homeowners how they maintain there lawns in a non-offensive way. Ask them about the steps they have taken to be able to keep such a beautiful pristine lawn, and what they would recommend doing. This way, they will tell you everything they have done and not feel like they need to keep any information from you as you are on their team.
Treehugger Organic Farms
We don't have time to be charming! Quick, read this tiny ad:
It's like binging on 7 seasons of your favorite netflix permaculture show