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New land, sandy soil and techniques

 
Posts: 9
Location: Michigan
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Hi everyone!

Been quite a while since I've been here. When I found this wonderful place I was still trying to figure out how to get my family out of the city and onto some land.

About six months later and we're now living in our new house on 2.5 acres. It's a few hours away from where we were, so we didn't really get a chance to fully check everything out until we moved in but it checks off most of the stuff that was on our list. It's in a very small rural area, has a well, and a good chunk of land.

It turns out that our entire property is basically completely sand. I haven't had it tested but I would say it's at least 80%. I have read numerous ways of improving the soil and some of the things that we will be doing along the way are these.

I have started composting all of our food waste, along with leaves and all the other things in the yard. I kept all of our cardboard and will be laying that down and putting organic matter on top of it.

My main question is this. The back half of our property is probably waste high with "weeds". It will probably snow within a week or two but I am wondering if I should do something with the weeds.

I came across this video and think this is a pretty good process to follow. It's not very clear in the video but I think he just flattens all of the weeds and then plants the seeds or seedlings in the middle. I considered just mowing down all of the weeds and leaving them in their place so they can break down over the winter, but I'm not sure that's even necessary.



I also just recently watched the back to Eden gardening documentary and will be incorporating that, eventually. It just seems like that won't produce immediate results, a few years at least.

My current game plan is to just wait till spring, lay down the cardboard over the weeds, then throw down some of the soil I made at our old house (coco coir, worm compost, and perlite), plant some seeds, then mulch it. I probably only have around 20 sq feet of that soil though.

Another idea I had was to 'cut' the soil I made with the sandy soil.

My original idea before we moved was to just till a bunch of organic matter into the soil then plant and be on my way, but have come to understand that the act of tilling alone destroys something like 30% of the micro biome, so I'm looking for a more sustainable method.

My main concern is being able to have enough usable area to provide at least the majority of our produce next year, as cheaply as possible.

I'm new to all of this and have only had one garden, and that was this year, it was definitely successful.

Anyway, thanks to whoever takes the time to read this. I'll definitely be frequenting this forum now.
 
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Posts: 2184
Location: Ladakh, Indian Himalayas at 10,500 feet, zone 5
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I dunno, I'm not an expert, but if you already have the cardboard, I would put it down now rather than waiting till spring. It'll get soaked and decompose a bit all winter and give you a little head start. If you can cover it with a huge amount of mulch now, too, that would be great -- 6 or more inches of wood chips, a foot or a few feet of autumn leaves, or whatever you can get. If the waist-high weeds are perennials that send up strong shoots in spring, it's possible they could come up through or around a single layer of cardboard, so multiple layers, overlapping so they don't have gaps, and then covered with deep mulch will really help to kill all those weeds and turn their remains into good soil underneath. They and their roots can improve the soil, provided they die and don't come up and smother your garden.

And since you have some excellent soil but limited amounts, I've read that you can mulch thickly over the cardboard and then plant your transplants into gaps, using your good soil. Scrape away the mulch in the spots where your plants will go, stab down through the cardboard a couple of times to make a hole, fill the gap in the mulch with your good soil, and plant into it. The plants will spread their roots through the good soil and down into the natural soil while the mulch all around prevents weeds, preserves moisture, and gradually rots down and improves the soil.
 
Posts: 26
Location: Vanuatu
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A bit of advice. You can take it or not. Start slow. Don't try to do everything the first year. Expecting to grow most your own food the first year, especially since you are starting with sand and weeds, is too much. You will get further along in the long run if you do small steps first. I speak from experience lol.
 
Posts: 65
Location: moscow ID
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well,
sand... first reaction is ...organic matter, organic matter, organic matter. but it also depends on slope, aspect, snow accumulation and wind. where's the water table, have you dug deeper than 2 feet? there are a lot of things to consider, lots of ideas, or potential suggestions, did you do a hand texture analysis (ribbon test)? and i'd check it at different soil depths. look at your property, where is the water, where does the snow build up, how does it drain? where does the sun not shine? You'd be surprised at what you can learn from looking at your "new world' just by watching and observing. Cheers to your new move. It is an adventure and it takes time to learn a new piece of land. I'll try to keep tabs on this post.
Cheers.
Patrick.
 
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Posts: 3789
Location: Southern Illinois
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Earl,

Congratulations on the new land!  

I have a couple of thoughts and you can take or leave them as you think is appropriate for you.  I would be tempted to mow that vegetation very close to the soil surface.  It is a little late in the season to be doing much of anything as you are expecting your first snow soon, but I would think that if you are to get any type of decomposition you will want as thick a layer of organic matter as possible.  Can you gather up any leaves?  If so I would shred them (a mower works fine for this) and add them to the mix.  

Basically the answer to having sandy soil is to have as much organic matter as possible in the soil.  Winter, while cold, is not always dormant.  If you ground is not completely frozen, you may be able to get at least some microbial action action going and that will at least give you a leg up come spring when warmer weather comes round.  Moreover, it is always better to have some microbial action waiting for warmer action that to be waiting for warm weather to make conditions conducive to microbial actions.  So I would gather those materials ASAP and hope for the best.  Moreover, if you can get any sort of thickness to your organic layer, you may be able to insulate the ground beneath at least a little and prolong a period of microbial activity.  This can only help.

I know this is a lot of work to be doing right now, but if you start soon, you may be able to act before it is too late.

Good luck and let us know how things work out.

Eric
 
Posts: 78
Location: North Thomas Lake, Manitoba
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I'd suggest trying to step up your composting volume by collecting organics from away. In our area leaf bags have all been collected but there might still be some free leaves in your area. Talk to neighbours, nearby farms and nearby restaurants and coffee shops. If you're willing to collect consistently throughout the winter, you could have a mountain of finished compost in the late spring.

On a different note, I really like the YouTube videos produced by stefan sobkowiak. His permaculture orchard is grown in sandy soil and he's in a northern climate. He could be a good resource for you.
 
Posts: 9
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Hi. I also just bought a property on sandy soil. I would like to follow along here because whatever suggestions you get will be useful to me as well.

I am planning to put in some cover crops as soon as I create beds next spring. I'm thinking that most of next summer will be creating beds and cover cropping them to start building soil. I have also purchased a lot of perennial seeds. So I will start those next summer in pots I guess and then plant them in the beds once I chop and drop the cover crops in late summer/fall.
 
Patrick Rahilly
Posts: 65
Location: moscow ID
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Cover crops, awesome. But I’d think of them as ‘green manure’. Plan on a spring crop you plan to grow, chop rich (early/mid summer) and churn into the soil... you’d be surprised at how many ‘bulk’ seeds you can buy at winco or some other grocery retailer with open bins of beans (adzuki,mung,lentils,peas,garbz; oats, barly. Radish seeds) that are all sprout-able, think of them as a cheep green organic addition.
Also, if you would do a bit of research on charcoal. It’s easily made with a 55gal drum, and a little work, crud wood/pruning materials work great. Grind it up and mix into your garden area, you can add a fertilizer mix to the made charcoal if you want, but keep in mind most water soluble nutrients (n,k) will leach out without a covercrop to take it up.. But there’s lots of research available online regarding charcoal addition to garden areas to increase moisture retention, nutrient retention and beneficial fungal activity:
Bottom line, most soil problems can be solved by organic matter, organic matter, organic matter! There are multiple ways to build it up. Look at your environment, see what’s cheep and underutilized (waste) and take advantage of ‘free’. Of course there’s a little thought built into ‘balance’ decomposition rates, leaching, etc. but there’s always something for creativity and having fun. That’s my penny for now :)
 
Earl Edward
Posts: 9
Location: Michigan
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Wow thank you everyone for all the great replies. There's definitely much work that needs to be done. I ended up mowing a big portion of it, mainly just a path around the perimeter of the property. I also took the steps to seriously step up my composting.

I also ordered a chip drop but who knows if they'll even do it considering there's about a foot of snow. Then I'll have to study the lane and see what I can come up with in terms of water flow and stuff of that nature.
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