Short: We bought 40 acres of land which had been recently clear cut last September (about 35 acres is cut) ... we want to transition this property into a place where we coppice, pollard (with existing stumps), have a small vineyard, hops, berries, fruit, nuts etc. What would be the best way to do this without animals (as it is currently a remote property)
Details: A big concern we have right now is ground cover, right now there isn't any but there is fungal life found under the de-thawing logs ...
What would be the best course of action to preserve the fungal network? And, is it something we should be concerned with?
Originally we were going to broadcast white clover / daikon over the whole property at 10lbs/acre and mix in about 25 different herbs / pollinators but this would be feeding the bacteria in the soil and the fear is we loose the fungal network.
There is a secondary goal of the chosen ground cover and that is to keep ticks (which are horrible here in NH) to a minimum by keeping the cover low to the ground. Going with a prairie grass would mean lots of ticks in our case.
Right now the soil is covered in some tree debris and wood chips from the cutting. The master-plan is being developed now as the snow is starting to melt and we can see if water flows match up with my models (so far they do) and where the old hardwood stumps are.
This year the some of the access and several support systems will be put in place with the ground cover and some bare root fruiting trees / shrubs. We also plan to manage any regrowth we don't want this year by hand since there are still stumps in place.
How to Use Cover Crops and Other Techniques to Increase Beneficial Fungi Populations
An equally important step is to ensure that mycorrhizal fungi survive through winter and early spring. The kinds of mycorrhizal fungi that support many garden crops aren’t capable of living and reproducing independently of their plant partners. In a carefully weeded and fully harvested garden, mycorrhizal fungi numbers can decline for lack of live roots to colonize. Douds advises avoiding empty beds by keeping plants, whether food crops or cover crops growing at all times. (See The Best Summer Cover Crops for ideas.) In fall, plant rye, oats or, Douds’ favorite, hairy vetch. All of these plants have extensive root systems and readily harbor mycorrhizae. Rows of perennial onions and strawberries can also serve as reservoirs for overwintering fungi. Orchards don’t require the same attention, but buffer strips of a grass-and-legume blend will help retain a mix of fungi.
Douds sows hairy vetch in September while his garden is still producing, targeting areas where the soil is accessible, such as under and around tomato plants. The following year — usually late May when the hairy vetch is in full flower — he chops the shoots and lets them lie on the soil’s surface. Wait until the hairy vetch is in full flower; cut it too soon and it will re-sprout as a “weed,” but cut it too late and it will produce seeds, which can be problematic. Douds then transplants his tomatoes, peppers and other vegetables into the hairy vetch mulch.
Since learning about mycorrhizae’s reliance on live plants for winter survival, Mother’s Editor-in-Chief, Cheryl Long, has grown a thin strip of perennial alfalfa along the edges of her garden paths. “It doesn’t take up growing space, and during summer I cut it for protein-rich poultry feed,” Long says.
Many gardeners know that over-fertilization can be harmful, but they may not be aware that phosphorus builds up in soil more readily than the other two elements in common fertilizer mixes (nitrogen and potassium). Under a regimen of frequent, well-intended application, phosphorus can reach levels that actually discourage the formation of mycorrhizae. Phosphorus is the middle number of the N-P-K percentages shown on fertilizer products. Choose low “P” numbers unless a soil test has shown your soil is low in phosphorus.
There are many types of white clover. I personally use Dutch white clover as it is a perennial, low growing, can handle high traffic and is higher than most low growing legumes in nitrogen fixation. I use it on my farm between my 4 ft beds. My tractor, sprayer and me walking on it doesn't hurt it after it's established. Only in the dry hottest months does it die back some. I'm in zone 8b so it even grows well in winter here but not knowing your zone I think there in NH it should do well except in snow. Its roots won't die but will die back but come back early spring. But I would ask local extension office of your state's ag college which clover would be best for you, but I bet they will say about the same as I have.
40 acres is far too large to put down a layer of wood chips unless you had access to ever tree trimmer in a 50 mile radius. But every little bit helps, so if you were able to put the word out and give access to local arborists that they can dump for free, you'd be able to get something.
Nature abhors a vacuum so something will certainly cover that land. As important as the ground cover would be to get something to graze the ground cover. Yes, by doing so you will create conditions better suited for bacteria than fungi, but with all the dead tree roots already underground, I don't that that the fungal community will suffer too badly. By grazing it several times during the growing season, you'll feed the soil (all types of microbes, including fungi) with the plant sugars, and you'll build soil organic matter (as plants sluff off excess root mass).
Best of luck.
"The rule of no realm is mine. But all worthy things that are in peril as the world now stands, these are my care. And for my part, I shall not wholly fail in my task if anything that passes through this night can still grow fairer or bear fruit and flower again in days to come. For I too am a steward. Did you not know?" Gandolf
Diego Footer on Permaculture Based Homesteads - from the Eat Your Dirt Summit