• Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic

Advice on sandy soil please...

 
Jim Lea
Posts: 114
Location: Southern Sierra Nevada's
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
We have been on our 20 acre lot now for 8 months and have decided that we are ready to start with our first projects. Enough observation I say. We have finalized where our house and animals are to go and are going to start with some huglecultur beds and some fruit and nut trees. But our soil (if that is what it could be called) here is coarse sand in most places.

Here is my question to all of you. If you had to choose a pioneer grass or grain to start converting the sand to soil. That is to say buid organic matter what would you choose to plant first. Think very HARDY stuff. It will not be easy on them. I'm not talking about in the huglecultur beds or in the tree holes. I'm talking about broadcasting seed in sand to start repaying and holding things in place so future things can someday grow in soil.

My signature should give our vitals here, but I'm sure I missed stuff. Also I only have this little phone (off grid here) to use for this site so please go easy on me if I don't type flowery elegant posts... I don't have the thumbs of a 13 year old. Also auto correct sometimes makes me look like a moron if I don't catch the corrections. Oh yeah. I have read Motions book, have Holders ordered, have into RMH book, listened to dozens of hours of podcast of Pauls, have drawn up up a detailed CAD drawing with contours compassion rose with wind fire etc. I'm not saying all this at all to be boastful but to let you know we are trying to do this right the first time. I know we won't get it right but we will try none the less.

Best regards and thanks,

Jim L
 
Jim Lea
Posts: 114
Location: Southern Sierra Nevada's
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Just a bit more. Right now I don't now the soil ph. Will test soon. I can get some good soil from from under the scrub oaks that at some point will have to be pulled up for driveway access and such unavoidable things. It seams to be top grade stuff. I bet on the acid side though. I intend to use this "high grade" stuff to build our first HK beds. I see mycelium under the oaks. Hopefully it will eventually aid other new plants with nutrient exchange.

Wind is a pretty big issue here. I do have tall pines to use as wind blocks. In other areas I will use sunchokes for blocking. I hear Paul talking about them sometimes taking over... have any of you experienced this. Should I be woried? Mollison mentions using them with out any warnings. Thoughts?

Jim L
 
Travis Philp
gardener
Posts: 965
Location: ZONE 5a Lindsay Ontario Canada
8
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I'd go with buckwheat for your sandy soil, with a clover understory. You may want to think about making seed balls to cover the buckwheat depending on how dry it gets there and how many varmints are in the area who might want to eat your seeds. You may be able to get away with spreading hay or straw overtop of the plantings instead of the seed balls, if thats a better option for you.

Sunchokes can get pretty rampant but I've seen plots that were controlled well. One guy had a square plot of em, and he'd till the edges every year to set the spreading plants back. I'm not sure how the other person controlled theres. Harvesting them helps with control but I'm told that once you plant em, you're probably not going to be able to get rid of them.
 
Jeanine Gurley Jacildone
pollinator
Posts: 1422
Location: Midlands, South Carolina Zone 7b/8a
17
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
We are (were)pure sand here. After 8 years here my sand is finally turning to black earth. It would have happened A LOT SOONER if I had known about hugelkultur. I did not learn about this until last spring and it has taken less than one year to convert a section of sand into rich black earth using hugelkulter principles.

I did not build the large hills. I don’t have the equipment or the logs. Mine are at ground level or even a little sunken to trap water. And I just gather fallen limbs and twigs. I top it off with whatever trash or compost and leaves that I have because I don’t have a large supply of dirt (topsoil).

Let me tell you, if I had known how good this worked years ago I could have saved myself a lot back breaking work, money and time – and had a lot more food to show for it.

If you just put a bed here and a bed there they will start to affect the surrounding soil as well. So far I am seeing about 3-5 feet from the edge of the bed that the soil is retaining more moisture –even in a drought.

As for sunchokes: I am trying to find some now as I finally decided to grow them. I may not eat them but I figure they will have the following benefits. 1. Flowers for pollinators, 2. Green stalks and leaves for working back into my soil, 3. Animals can eat both the foliage and the tuber, 4. If I am in a pinch or the food supply runs short I should always have food – might not be what I want but it’s better than nothing.
 
Jim Lea
Posts: 114
Location: Southern Sierra Nevada's
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Good stuff Travis and Jeannie!

Travis, any thoughts on sowing both at once? Or brodcast buckwheat then clover or fetch etc? Can both be put into balls with same result? Lots of questions... frost sensitive?

Jeannie, I'd be interested to see how your chokes do and what you experience. I may just go for it. We have chickens and heritage turkeys that would love them I think. Plus here I have need of site specific wind breaks. The area that I want to establish the first fruit trees is a bit exposed. I'll use taller HK beds (5-6 feet) to help with wind, but suspect ill need more of a break.
So encouraging to of your success with sand and HK beds. Fun and exciting stuff!

Jim
 
Travis Philp
gardener
Posts: 965
Location: ZONE 5a Lindsay Ontario Canada
8
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Jim, I don't suppose you have access to Bill Mollisons 'Introduction to Permaculture' book? It might be at your local library. If not I can type it out for you but thought I'd ask before going through with it. Page 136-137 outlines a fukuoka style grain crop system. I assume you could sub in buckwheat for any of the grains, as it needs even less nutrients than any of the grains listed in this method as far as I know.

What hardiness zone are you in? Buckwheat grows just fine here in zone 5, central ontario.

http://www.permies.com/t/1568/permaculture/Fukuoka-Bonfils-winter-wheat-method#30145" target="_new" rel="nofollow">fukuoka bonfils method

This might help you out too. Not sure if you can view video or not though...

fukuoka video
 
Leila Rich
steward
Posts: 3999
Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
88
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I'm interested in dry/sandy/desert environments and I'd be curious to find out your ph, since desert type areas are usually alkaline. What's your average rainfall and hottest/coldest temps? Probably insanely extreme.
I won't go round recommending plants, since my idea of 'hardy' would probably shrivel up in minutes!
 
Jim Lea
Posts: 114
Location: Southern Sierra Nevada's
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Travis,

I have Mollison book. I'll re-read the grains section. I assumed in my mind that that system would be for a partially developed soil. When I say sand I mean sand and gravel. I'll read and experiment though. Thanks for.the suggestion.

As far as zone Near here they say 8,9,10. Butttttt. We are in a canyon that separates us from them. I'll say this. We get lows in the winter to 10 f. Today it was 65 when the sun went down it dropped to 24 in an hour. As for summer it gets to over 100 . We have a 3 month growing season. Last June 1 it snowed. You tell me? It's a tough one to figure.

All that said I'm unsure what grain to plant. Never done them and ave read.very little.on the subject. One of lost. I think.we will be in the teens for sometime over night for some time yet. Will some grains hang out and do their thing when the time is right? Do I wait till last frost? Lost here...

Jim
 
Jim Lea
Posts: 114
Location: Southern Sierra Nevada's
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Leila,

Our temp extremes are summer to 100-105. Cool nights as soon as the sun drops. Winter lows are to 13 or below at times. Daytime in the 50-65 sometimes 70.

Wind is strongest starting now till late May. Wind to 20 mph sustained. That is measured with an anemometer not a guess. Humidity is low. Avg is (guessing) 25-45. I have humidity on the weather station but not sure of Avg.

As far as Ph. All I have at the moment is a ph probe... are they accurate at all? Feel silly for asking but have had it for ages. I could give it a try and share results. I'm real curious my self as it should be high but with the pine and oak it might mitigate the alkaline be more like 7. I have yet to send off for a soil test. Going to use aglabs. I like what they are doing and for some reason trust them. They follow Carry Reams footsteps.

Thanks for your interest. If I have missed anything here just ask ill try to get it to you. Frankly I can use some of the brains on this forum. This is a pretty daunting task here. Were are going to start small and slowly expand edge.
Funny, this weekend we both told each other that we are going to get slapped down hard by mother nature. We will have to observe and adapt. Going to be fun,hard,sad, and hopefully rewarding in the end. Is there an end? Hope not!
Jim
 
Leila Rich
steward
Posts: 3999
Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
88
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Sweet, Reams testing I've found a Reams lab and it's great not having to try and explain my organicness all the time! I think it's well worth finding out what's in your soil mineral-wise.
I've never used a ph probe, but I know home kits are notoriously innacurate. Got a local extension office? I think that's what they're called anyway...ph tends to be reasonably constant in geologically similar areas.
Your place sure sounds challenging! We have major gales here and they can really devastate plants, especially combined with heat and dry. Windbreak cloth really helps me.
Is your place/area in anything like its original state? Are there many local plant species you can encourage? It seems to me that many areas I've always thought of as arid and deserty, like Texas, used to be quite well watered and lush(ish) and people doing terrible/stupid things have wrecked the ecosystems.
 
Ken Peavey
steward
Posts: 2524
Location: FL
88
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I'd look to the surrounding area to identify what grows well. Clover does just fine in most places. Perhaps there is a vetch thriving close by. Talk to local hunters, see what they plant in their deer plots.
 
Isaac Hill
gardener
Posts: 356
Location: Beaver County, Pennsylvania (~ zone 6)
9
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Beach plums can grow in almost pure sand. Oikos has some nice varieties.
 
Jim Lea
Posts: 114
Location: Southern Sierra Nevada's
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Leila, the land here is raw and untouched. I just learned today on one of Pauls podcast that confers are aliopathic. Kind of a bummer as I wanted to use some of the larger ones on the property as wind breaks. Not sure what to do now. We have quit a few. I did plant some black locust this weekend to start on that front... we have a bunch of wild sage also that I kind of see as a healing weed. Nothing to base that on, just my supposition. It grows in the most WaMu areas

Isaac and Ken, the plum suggestion, and the clover and vetch suggestions... Thank you both for the input. I'll look into the idea about talking to the hunters. Not many around. Some deer but not a lot.

Jim
 
richard valley
Posts: 240
Location: Sierra Nevada mountain valley CA, & Nevada high desert
2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Jim, I'm guessings, from where you are your sandy soil is alkaline, duff from pine/fir forest floor will help water retention and help bring your soil up. Do you have a well?
 
Jim Lea
Posts: 114
Location: Southern Sierra Nevada's
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
No well as of yet. The economy forced our hand and we moved our schedule for being here up by five years or so. As such we hope to have one punched mid summer. Till then its all about tuffing it out. Heck the pioneers did it. So did the Kaiwasu Indians here in this Canyon before us.
Our water consumption is ridiculous compared to the Avg person. Even a permie. 100% of our water is used first by us then ends up in the plants.
Curious why you ask about a well.
Jim
 
richard valley
Posts: 240
Location: Sierra Nevada mountain valley CA, & Nevada high desert
2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I was wondering what you were doing for water. Do you know where the water table is?
 
Shawn Harper
Posts: 360
Location: Portlandia, Oregon
7
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
First off I want to with you the best of luck Jim, sounds like a tough place. Also I would be interested in hearing how well it works for you. There is a area in south eastern Oregon with dirt cheap land and similar conditions to yours, i was think of picking up 20-80 acres if I could figure out a way to make it work for me. I would need a way to start the process that didn't involve me actually being there more than a couple weekends a year, as until it was slightly more fertile I would need to keep my day job. Clover was my first choose but I have been looking to see if anyone else ever had any luck with terraforming a high desert.
 
richard valley
Posts: 240
Location: Sierra Nevada mountain valley CA, & Nevada high desert
2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Jim, I've been there. I moved onto the upper ranch[ 6800ft] before I had a well, there is no county water out here. Our lower ranch also has a well and is at 4350ft. The same as where you are windy at times. You'll make it work. In the other thread you mentioned you have city water, are you on a meter?
How far down does the sand go, is there clay below that or hard pan?

At our place in Australia I put in rain gutters into a 5000gal tank.
 
Travis Philp
gardener
Posts: 965
Location: ZONE 5a Lindsay Ontario Canada
8
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Jim Lea wrote:Travis,

I have Mollison book. I'll re-read the grains section. I assumed in my mind that that system would be for a partially developed soil. When I say sand I mean sand and gravel. I'll read and experiment though. Thanks for.the suggestion.

As far as zone Near here they say 8,9,10. Butttttt. We are in a canyon that separates us from them. I'll say this. We get lows in the winter to 10 f. Today it was 65 when the sun went down it dropped to 24 in an hour. As for summer it gets to over 100 . We have a 3 month growing season. Last June 1 it snowed. You tell me? It's a tough one to figure.

All that said I'm unsure what grain to plant. Never done them and ave read.very little.on the subject. One of lost. I think.we will be in the teens for sometime over night for some time yet. Will some grains hang out and do their thing when the time is right? Do I wait till last frost? Lost here...

Jim


Hmmm sounds like a pretty tricky environment indeed. I don't know enough to advise on a climate with such temperature swings, except to suggest trying small plots of a few different types of grains and see what sticks?
 
Jim Lea
Posts: 114
Location: Southern Sierra Nevada's
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thanks Travis, we are kind of on the same wavelength. Just plant observe and adapt... we are prepared for setbacks. We call it the Grand Adventure. Having fun at it. Sort of a "Baby steps" thing if your familiar with the movie "what about bob". Ha!
Jim
 
Leila Rich
steward
Posts: 3999
Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
88
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I don't know much about allelopathy. Are you talking a mixed-species windbreak or all conifers?
We have large pine plantations here and nothing much else grows there; same with eucalyptus. I don't know about the effects of a smaller amount of conifers though.
Windbreak planting appears to be a real art/science and we spent quite a bit of time on them when I did my PDC. I was looking for for stuff on the 'aerofoil effect' etc, but it all got a bit technical for me! This link's a bit more my level http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/fr289
Mollison goes into plenty of detail.
As far as I'm concerned, just about everything that grows is good I'd observe the local plants that do well without coddling and focus on growing human food in very restricted areas where it's easy to get greywater to.
Are you familiar with Brad Lancaster's writing on dryland rainwater harvesting?
 
2017 Appropriate Technology Course at Wheaton Labs http://richsoil.com/pdc
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
Boost this thread!