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An experiment inspired by Paul Wheaton

 
George Collins
Posts: 88
Location: South Central Mississippi
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My wife recently built a house and forced me to move in with her. The low IQed rat that she hired to level the lot pushed all the top soil down a gully instead of reserving and replacing it like he was s'posed to. Now the yard consists, in large part, of large patches of rock-hard, bare-assed red dirt that when dry has a consistency only slightly more viscous than diamond. What's worse, when it rains, it turns into a substance only slightly less viscous than strawberry milk. The ol' double whammy-mammy in other words: I got a yard that is trying its best to go visit my neighbors and the only way to keep it from leaving is for me to put some roots down. And roots won't grow wuff-a-damn in the stuff.

So there I sat on my bucket full of sawdust wishing I could use an indoor toilet like all the civilized people of the world when I remembered Paul Wheaton once said (via podcast I think) that he thought that in such a yard he would like to see what would happen if one were to dig a bunch of holes, fill them with organic matter and let earthworms, Gaia, time, etc do their thing. I also remembered Jack Spirco reviewing a DVD about some dude over in Afica that did something similar and re-greened a stretch of desert. I thought to myself, well the Afican desert aint xactly SouthMississippireddirt but Brother wanted to see what would happen if . . .

Since erosion is also a problem on this patch of dirt, I combined a few different permaculturally type thingies.

First, I used my bunyip to find a contour line and dug a strategically placed ditch on contour.


Afterwards, the ditch was filled with a bunch of red oak leaves on top of which was placed a bunch of old cow manure.


The soil which came from the trench was then placed atop the cow manure and, ala the Harry Dodson duck-walk, was trod down.

The resulting berm is only three or four inches high. I plan to rerun the same play on contour every ten feet or so starting about 20 feet from the house all the way to the edge of the woods or road.

The reason that I post this is because Brother Wheaton expressed an interest in seeing what the results would be of doing something similar to what is now in my yard. I let y'all know how it turns out.

ps - the "Preview" function seems to be out of commission on both the trusty iPhone as well as the Big Daddy Mac. Anyone else having trouble with this feature?
 
branimir marold
Posts: 30
bee forest garden hugelkultur
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I think you did a hell of a job personally I try not to "damage" the soil if possible, but in this case I believe you had no other option ...

 
Jordan Lowery
pollinator
Posts: 1528
Location: zone 7
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I'd plant sweet potato and then let nature turn that clay crap to good soil.
 
George Collins
Posts: 88
Location: South Central Mississippi
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I'd plant sweet potato and then let nature turn that clay crap to good soil.


Plant music roots you say? I must confess, that thought never entered my brain. I can certainly think of no objection to doing so later in the year. And for a second confession, I have never grown a music root but my pappy has and back when he did so, he never planted in such poor dirt. Is the sweet potato known for growing in such extreme conditions?

And if they were to grow, the county in which I live has had the dubious distinction of having the highest deer population per square mile of the entire United States. Actually, the loathed-by-Mississippi-farmers F*$%ING deer is the reason Pops quit growing several crops including sweet potatoes and why he now encloses what's left of his garden within a 6' fence. The last time he had a garden that he didn't fence in, off'n the ~2 acres that he planted, we didn't get a single mouthful of food in spite of him killing 29 loathed-by-Mississippi-farmers F*$%ING deer in and around his garden plot.

And even if I could get them to grow in such dirt, and even if I could get the loathed-by-Mississippi-farmers F*$%ING deer to leave them alone, wouldn't I have to wait till warmer weather to plant them? And if I have to wait until warmer weather (which given the inevitable late frost can't be counted on until Good Friday) what should I do in the mean time about the extra-marital proclivities of my dirt? Mind you, South Mississippi gets 65 inches of rain per year and December through March is our monsoon season.
 
Charles Kelm
Posts: 170
Location: Western Washington (Zone 7B - temperate maritime)
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Sweet potato, daikon radish, field peas, buckwheat, rye, vetch, etc.
 
branimir marold
Posts: 30
bee forest garden hugelkultur
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George Collins wrote:
I'd plant sweet potato and then let nature turn that clay crap to good soil.


Plant music roots you say? I must confess, that thought never entered my brain. I can certainly think of no objection to doing so later in the year. And for a second confession, I have never grown a music root but my pappy has and back when he did so, he never planted in such poor dirt. Is the sweet potato known for growing in such extreme conditions?


they thrive on river banks where I'm from .. and I believe soil on river banks can't be so "rich" due to erosion .. imo for what is worth
 
John Redman
Posts: 196
Location: Perkinston Mississippi zone 9a
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Looking good George! This is my second season with permaculture in perkinston MS. Rusian comfrey will grow here let me know if you want a chunk.
 
Shailor Clark
Posts: 34
Location: Roanoke Island, North Carolina
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You should try mullein. It grows well in sandy and rocky soil, so I believe it would be able to help reclaim this land.
 
Ken Peavey
steward
Posts: 2524
Location: FL
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When I start a new leaf or compost heap it takes the worms anywhere from 1 month to a year to show up. This seems to be dependent on the moisture level of the heap.
 
Lloyd George
Posts: 159
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heck..you got lots of food off that 2.5 ac. 29 speedgoats! lol!
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
Posts: 4434
Location: North Central Michigan
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i think you are doing a wonderful job..congrats.

another thing I would try (although the wife and neighbors are gonna give you heck for it..

i sheet compost here..looks ugly as heck, but it sure does doe the job..find everything you can and toss it out on the ground..on top..don't have to dig it in but make sure it is heavy enough to not blow away so you might need to dampen it..

i use everything (and some people here will tell you not to use some of it..but I ignore them)..

some places if I have enough i'll throw cardboard down under it all, but ..some people say not to..you can shred the cardboard to make it work better, but I don't..

I use leaves, sawdust, woodchips, bark, weeds, household food waste including the stupid coffee filters from my husband's coffee ..yeah...they might look ugly and blow around but only for a short time..I also use the shredded junk mail..i shred it all..and sprinkle it in the other stuff and that will blow away so best to do it in the rain or just before.

don't put the latter on toooooo thick as it will glue together..but if it does..just fork it around a bit and redistribute it.

after doing this for a short time you'll find rich black soil..trust me.

I had a horrible area that when we moved here had been gardened to death by previous owners and had been tilled to a hard pan under everything else..and probably was full of chemicals from who knows what and who..however..

after just a year or two of throwing everything I could find..on the top of the ground..I went out there to turn it over to try to plant some tomatoes..using just a fork and a shovel, and it was so rich and black and full of humus..it was BEAUTIFUL..

so give everything a try..but do try this..and if the wife complains..just tell her to put up with it for a year or so and she'll see the blessing.
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