I have recently come across a little over 10 acres of overgrown area/old Christmas tree farm.
A little background of the land:
20 years ago the land had been farmed for corn and beans and then was never tilled again once the Christmas trees were planted. The only thing on the ground has been wildlife and nothing has been sprayed. The ground has not been tilled in 20+ years but it is very compact. I dug up a few clumps in various spots and found 4-5 earthworms in each shovel scoop.
The end goal here is to be a fully no till organic garden.
We are currently having the land cleared but all material will be left. They are grinding a big portion of the trees down flush with the ground and leaving the chips and shavings on the ground. 5 years ago we had an entire portion of the land mulched down and brush regrew on that 3 acres.
My plan is to get cover crop in there (I know its already getting late) but it will be better than nothing.
My question is what should I do with all of the brush from the brush mower and tree shavings/chunks from the land clearing?
Scrape it all up and compost it? flame it for biochar on the top layer of the soil? Let it sit and broadcast my cover crop seeds into it and then rake it some what for better seed-soil contact?
here are a few pictures of the matieral/land I will be dealing with and doing my best to incorporate it back into the soil. And as quickly as possible to have a few acres ready for next spring.
I do have a brush mower and a tractor. Any tool recommendations would be appreciated as I am trying to gather as much knowledge and tools as I can this fall/winter.
I had a few acres cleared using a forestry muncher a few years back, and it will take a while for all that woodmulch to break down, especially if there is any cedar in there. Probably a couple of years.
That said, one of the best ways to build soil is to leave it in place and let it break down. Maybe there is no need for a cover crop if it is doing the same function - building soil and preventing erosion. Bush hog a couple of times per year to add more organic matter to the surface.
I did not have much success getting seed to germinate with the mulch in place, and if you rake the mulch off with the tractor, my experience was that a fair bit of topsoil will come with it.
If you don’t want to wait that long/need to get the garden going sooner than that, you could plant the garden into the mulch in the back to eden style.
“All good things are wild, and free.” Henry David Thoreau
Location: Central Texas zone 8a, 800 chill hours 28 blessed inches of rain
posted 4 months ago
What USDA zone is the property and when is the first freeze normally? There was a thread recently with a similar situation. Someone asking what should be planted in a newly cleared field. Travis suggested rye grass seed, which is cheap and grows quickly. Other options are winter wheat, oats, winter clover, or a mix of brassicas.
I would not rake up the chips at this stage. I would throw cheap seed out before a hard rain and let the seed settle through the chips to the soil. I always like the idea of biochar, as I think it last longer in the soil, but it will require gathering it, charring it, and rebroadcasting it. That is a lot of work when the chips will do a lot of the same, with no work; but are consumable over a period of years. Biochar works best when one has large format waste they need to break down or dispose; not when needs a lot of handling.
Use a small seed. broadcast it before a good rain. Hope for the best; and get a green cover in for the winter. If winters are short or mild, you might try a larger format seed and disking it into the soil, but I have not had a lot of experience with disking. Not sure how it would work with heavy shred on the ground. Either way, something is better than nothing, but I would not put a ton of money into seed for now.
I would use a mix of cereal grains and some clovers (crimson, white, yellow) and simply plant through what is laying on the soil.
Don't forget that all that ground up stuff is going to 1. keep moisture in place. 2. provide a home for a diverse microbiome of many desirable microorganisms and macro organisms. 3. planting through will provide some support structure for the newly sprouting seeds so wind won't blow them down.
4. rain leaching through the chips will help loosen the soil which you have indicated is compacted, relieving the compaction is the first step in soil rejuvenation/regeneration. 5. planting through requires less energy than removing the ground up wood bits.