• Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
permaculture forums growies critters building homesteading energy monies kitchen purity ungarbage community wilderness fiber arts art permaculture artisans regional education skip experiences global resources cider press projects digital market permies.com private forums all forums
this forum made possible by our volunteer staff, including ...
master stewards:
  • Nicole Alderman
  • r ranson
  • Anne Miller
  • Pearl Sutton
  • Mike Haasl
stewards:
  • paul wheaton
  • Joylynn Hardesty
  • Dave Burton
master gardeners:
  • jordan barton
  • Greg Martin
  • Steve Thorn
gardeners:
  • Carla Burke
  • Jay Angler
  • Kate Downham

Permaculture project in heavy clay and student's budget

 
Posts: 8
1
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
hi folks!  I'm a student who has been lurking this forum for ideas and tips.  I have a Permaculture project that is very open ended and I was hoping to get some guidance.

I have a similar situation to https://permies.com/t/26116/Heavy-Clay-Soil with medium dog activity, erosion, and patchy grass, on a hill.  The soil is so hard that I resort to stabbing it with a screwdriver to make a break and that sometimes doesn't work.  I am composting but I'm not sure if the nutrients are getting in past the hard crust... If that makes sense.

 I'm trying to do a hugelkultur type thing, but in a subtle way since the landlord is allowing but suspicious of gardening activity.  (so I'm thinking, a deeper dig but less rise, coffee grounds covering all the compost, etc)  I don't have a lot of money so my idea is scavenging fallen branches, grass clippings, and compost, putting them in the ground, adding bait shop worms, and transplanting wildflowers on top from the nearby field.  My goal is to restore this area for bees and small animals.

Do you think this would improve the nutrients in the soil?  Is this Permaculture? Any ideas?  Thank you so much for reading, my class wasn't really thorough and I don't feel sufficiently informed 😥
 
Posts: 423
Location: Portlandish, Oregon
30
forest garden fungi foraging
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Sounds like permaculture to me! I can definitely relate to your situation. This is the first year on a new site for me and I also have hard heavy clay. Mulch is your friend! What you are doing sounds like it will work but clay soil takes time.
 
gardener & hugelmaster
Posts: 1877
Location: mountains of Tennessee
731
cattle hugelkultur cat dog trees hunting chicken bee homestead ungarbage
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Sounds like an excellent start towards an excellent goal. I can relate also. One step at a time, one day at a time is how I get it done. Welcome to permies.

edited to add this soil building info.
 
pollinator
Posts: 1303
Location: Virginia USDA 7a/b
304
hugelkultur forest garden hunting chicken food preservation bee
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Pretty cheap intervention is to add dolomitic lime or gypsum. Lime adds calcium/magnesium which tends to leach as it holds less well than aluminum and iron and a few other things. Over time it can react with sulfates to make gypsum, which is durable and breaks up the clay. Or you can just add gypsum, even from old wallboard! Doesn't take a lot. I have a friend that got several drywall sheets getting torn out and a bunch of scraps. Bashed them up and put them under wood chips. They really made it fluffy in a year.
 
steward & bricolagier
Posts: 5819
Location: SW Missouri
2583
goat cat fungi books chicken earthworks food preservation cooking building homestead ungarbage
  • Likes 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi Starlie! Welcome to Permies!
My opinions on what you have going:
The more mulch type stuff you can dump on the soil, the happier your worms will be :) Go for red wigglers at the bait shop, not night crawlers, more worms per dollar, plus if you lose a few big ones to birds etc, you have lost a major % of them, where if you use smaller worms, you can lose a few and still have good breeding stock. And breed they will!

If your landlord is suspicious, skip the branches, get smaller mulch, will look less obtrusive. If you are trying to hide it, and it's difficult to dig, I'd not even try to dig down to hugel it, I'd dump on top of the soil mulch and worms and add flowers. Add some deep rooted plants to it too, they'll help break up the soil. A bag of blackeyed peas from the grocery store might do well, or whatever beans would grow in your area (you didn't say, my guess if you have clay that bad is someplace south-ish, if not, find beans that grow well your climate, a cheap bag from the grocery store goes a long way!)

Walking in your area and looking for flowers that are seeding is a fun exercise, learn what's blooming and come back and gather seeds when they are ripe, add them to your piles. Something will love it there! And you'll learn more about the local flowers, so when you move to a better place, you have knowledge you can use to do better.

Sounds like a fun project! Keep us up on it! :D

 
pollinator
Posts: 207
Location: Western central Illinois, Zone 6a
87
hunting trees solar wood heat rocket stoves ungarbage
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I'm with Pearl on this. Scavenging local flower seed is a great way to save money and add plants tht will do well in your area.
Plants in the dandelion family are good for breaking up hard dirt, and there is a variety to choose from. I found a new one this year that I don't recall seeing before. Already collecting seeds to add to my wildflower areas.

Grass clippings or hay mulch could also be an option for decompacting the soil. I have a higher clay content in my soil and I have been surprised at how fast it softens up under a good thick mulching of grass clippings.

Good luck and be sure to post updates and pictures!
 
Posts: 25
4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
If your soil is heavy clay because you live in a desert, then a small hugel is the only way to go to begin with. I've never used a shovel on my property. Instead of hugels I dig swales, fill them with organic matter, and keep plywood boards over top of them so the city doesn't hound me. If you catch a good sale, 2 cu ft of wood chips can cost as little as two dollars per bag. I harvested a lot of wildflower seeds this past rainy season, so I mix those in there as well. I also scatter birdseed to encourage fertilizer donations and the distribution of yet more seeds. Clay takes time.
 
pollinator
Posts: 161
Location: Zone 7a, 42", Fairfax VA Piedmont (clay, acidic, shady)
28
forest garden fungi urban chicken woodworking homestead
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Starlie, I have used manual tilling (hoe, pickaxe, broadfork), compost from the store, and lime/gypsum inputs on a very hard clay to grow ryegrass and Korean Lespedeza.  I also tried mechanical tilling but the soil was too hard for that to really break it up.  Now I'm tilling the cover crops into the soil, broadforking some more, and adding thick wood chips mulches, with the hope they break down enough to grow something edible next spring.  Any N sources you can add help to break them down, as do mushroom slurries.  Picking up leaves and grass clippings from neighbor recycling may help to add organic matter (though the grass could contain herbicides).

Mechanical core aeration was helpful, but costs money to rent an aerator.  I heard good things about white clover, but so far the Korean L has come in best on the real red clay areas.
 
Starlie Scarborough
Posts: 8
1
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Shawn - thank you for the encouragement!  It's much better to start now that I'm sure I know what I'm doing.

Mike - thank you so much for the warm welcome 😊

TJ - that is so cool, thanks for the info!  It's also really funny because one of the teachers of this class talked EVERY day about a drywall project he was doing and never mentioned this.  I'll be able to teach him something.

Pearl - thank you!! I was curious about the red wigglers because someone else had said they weren't strictly native, but I didn't think it would hurt to add worms because... Worms good right??  I'm going to get some today.  

Caleb - thanks for the tip!  Sounds like they're mowing the grass outside and they always trash the grass clippings so I'll have a bunch.

Jincy - good tips, we're in this together.  It sucks we have to hide what we do -.-  I do have a little bird feeder but I haven't had any takers yet.  The hummingbird feeder gets way more action.  Maybe they'll come with the flowers.

Josh - it's more of a pale grey or white clay... I bought tons of white clover and they didn't come up until months later when I was spot composting/coffee grounds scattering.  Hopefully they keep coming.  I don't think I can get away with tilling but I have had luck whacking it with a claw hammer!  


So thank you to everyone, your advice and encouragement really got me off the couch and into the ground.  I picked up a bunch of sticks on the road, mushy blossoms in gutters, and grass clippings.  I dug a hole with a claw hammer, screwdriver, and finally shovel... Did the water test to show it is mostly clay, partial sand, and almost no organic matter.  I also buried some ripped cotton fabric, compost, and watered it with half full water bottle litters I found.    Then I covered it up and it's almost flush with the ground!  Today I think I'll look for flowers to transplant or try to find seeds? However that happens?  I'll keep you updated!
IMAG6991.jpg
[Thumbnail for IMAG6991.jpg]
IMAG6996.jpg
[Thumbnail for IMAG6996.jpg]
 
pollinator
Posts: 2066
Location: 4b
484
dog forest garden trees bee building
  • Likes 5
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I wouldn't add any kind of worms.  If you make the conditions right, worms will show up on their own in droves.  If the conditions aren't right, the worms you add will die anyway.  Mulch, mulch, mulch is your friend, along with anything organic you can add.
 
Mike Barkley
gardener & hugelmaster
Posts: 1877
Location: mountains of Tennessee
731
cattle hugelkultur cat dog trees hunting chicken bee homestead ungarbage
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
One idea I forgot to mention is peanuts. If they grow in your climate they are an easy way to start breaking up hard clay. Just poke a hole in the ground every foot or so & drop a peanut in. When they are eventually dug up for harvest add a lot of additional organic material. I think they make a good looking ground cover too. Your landlord may disagree.
 
pollinator
Posts: 202
Location: Southeast Arizona, Latitude 31, Zone 8A, Cold Semi-Arid, USGS Ecoregion 79a
115
forest garden foraging trees books wofati food preservation fiber arts medical herbs solar rocket stoves greening the desert
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I'd be very interested to know more about growing peanuts in this way, Mike. Do you know of good resources for seed peanuts and more information? I see that Baker Creek carries them, and I've had good luck with them over the years. Thanks!
 
Mike Barkley
gardener & hugelmaster
Posts: 1877
Location: mountains of Tennessee
731
cattle hugelkultur cat dog trees hunting chicken bee homestead ungarbage
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
a peanut source

Based on research by & strong recommendation from the university ag department I've only tried this particular variety. That company does have other varieties. I would suggest finding a variety known to thrive in your area.

I was a little shocked to see how few peanuts arrived for the cost. Was not a problem because the first crop more than broke even plus had many left over to plant the following year. After the second crop one could have a huge supply of seeds if desired. They grow well here. No effort after planting & that is about as easy as planting can be. Bugs & disease don't seem to be an issue.

This year I dug up & flipped over a row of lawn sod. Hard clay soil underneath. Planted peanuts & oats together. Both grew. Oats were short but produced some oats. Peanuts are still growing strong. This fall I will harvest them & add organics to the soil. Will plant daikon or other tillage radishes over winter. Then potatoes next spring. Work in some more organics when harvesting those. Less lawn & more garden with minimum effort.

I found a few interesting peanut websites a few years ago. Lost the links in the great computer crash of 2016. Mother Earth News did have some basic info. From my limited peanut experience (4th year) there is no need for any fancy technical info if they grow in your area. Poke a hole in the ground & drop a seed in. Cover. Walk away until fall harvesting. I think it's that simple unless for a commercial operation.
 
Beth Wilder
pollinator
Posts: 202
Location: Southeast Arizona, Latitude 31, Zone 8A, Cold Semi-Arid, USGS Ecoregion 79a
115
forest garden foraging trees books wofati food preservation fiber arts medical herbs solar rocket stoves greening the desert
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
That's great, Mike, thank you! I love SESE, too. Since we are so short on water here, I did some research on drought-hardy peanut varieties the other day, as well as on slightly earlier-producing varieties, since -- at least if I can find a variety that's both drought-resistant and earlier -- that would really cut down on needing to irrigate with extra collected rainwater before our summer rains start.

I read that Early Spanish White is, as you might think, earlier-producing: more like 100 days. Reimer Seeds carries that, although I don't know anything about them: http://www.reimerseeds.com/early-spanish-peanuts.aspx. Baker Creek carries White Spanish Pearl, but that says 120-140 days: https://www.rareseeds.com/white-spanish-pearl/.

I read that the crop scientists are working on drought-resistance, e.g. this pretty recent study recommending the variety N12006ol (which I haven't been able to find for sale, unsurprisingly): https://dl.sciencesocieties.org/publications/cs/abstracts/58/6/2607. I'm working on getting full text of that if possible to read more about other results and varieties tried.

I don't know of anyone growing peanuts around here, but since cotton and pecans are grown on a large scale here, it seems like we ought to be able to. I'll keep my eyes peeled and get a local variety if I can and otherwise probably try several available varieties (like that Tennessee Red Valencia -- 110 days is pretty good! -- and others from SESE) and aim for a locally-successful landrace like we're trying to create with our tepary beans, cowpeas, and squash.

Thanks again, Mike!
gift
 
Common Weeds And Wild Edibles Of The World (HD video)
will be released to subscribers in: soon!
reply
    Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic