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Second problem area: low spot with no topsoil

 
Nicole Castle
Posts: 151
Location: Madison, AL
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My second problem area is a low, sloped area that is completely eroded of topsoil and is very rocky and acidic (5.0). Even few weeds -- creeping charlie and another I haven't been able to ID -- will grow here, although what is there is covers fairly well. Additionally, periodically the soil gets waterlogged for several days if we get a real good hard rain or during much of the winter. It's the lowest spot in my hilly neighborhood save for the wet weather creek (aka glorified drainage ditch) that it's next to. Giant ragweed grows in the ditch but not much else.

I would like to be able to plant a small stand of grain (perhaps oats or corn; would love quinoa but the elevation is far too low), or use the space for up to 2-3 large edible trees. I'd like pecans, but if the walnut didn't make it the pecans won't. The walnut and fruit trees upslope in the same poor soil are doing fine; I really think the problem is the periodically waterlogged soil. The area is a triangle about 90' x 40' with the long (~100') hypotenuse along the creek. It gets afternoon sun in the summer and mostly sun in the winter.

I have tried overseeding the area with ditch white clover to help build soil, but it won't take even though I have ample clover elsewhere. I also created a big mound and planted a walnut tree on it, but the tree rotted off at the base. (For the record, the tree was a gift and this is the only area I had for a large tree.)

I am currently considering have the area tilled and either incorporating some compost to help improve the drainage in wet times and water retention in dry times OR tilling and just seeding with another cover crop to see what happens, but if bermuda grass doesn't grow there you know you're in trouble. I'd rather not disturb the soil given the history of erosion problems, but I'm not sure what else to try. This slope appears to be stable now that I have addressed upslope erosion control.

Suggestions?
 
Tom OHern
Posts: 236
Location: Seattle, WA
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I would dig out the biggest rocks and put in micro-swales. You can use the rocks along with downed wood to help create channels for the water to pool around. Then plant dandelions. Why dandelions? Because they grow fast, put down a good taproot that will create organic material deep down and allow water to drain into the soil. The leaves will hold down the soil and prevent run off during the rainy season plus make a good layer of organic material on top. Once the soil is better established and holding more water, put in blueberries or some other shrub that will shade out the dandelions but will enjoy the acidic soil. To help the blueberries overcome the dandelions, come along every few days and pop off the heads of any dandelion flowers you see.

 
Nicole Castle
Posts: 151
Location: Madison, AL
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Tom OHern wrote:I would dig out the biggest rocks and put in micro-swales. You can use the rocks along with downed wood to help create channels for the water to pool around. Then plant dandelions. Why dandelions? Because they grow fast, put down a good taproot that will create organic material deep down and allow water to drain into the soil. The leaves will hold down the soil and prevent run off during the rainy season plus make a good layer of organic material on top. Once the soil is better established and holding more water, put in blueberries or some other shrub that will shade out the dandelions but will enjoy the acidic soil. To help the blueberries overcome the dandelions, come along every few days and pop off the heads of any dandelion flowers you see.


Hi Tom, thanks for the feedback. I really don't think microswales will help here. I do have a large swale upslope that traps almost all of the runoff now. The waterlogging problem is not surface water running downhill, but simply soil saturation as the water percolates down from all land above me, and in a really hard rain, probably up from the creek bed as well, since it also gets all the storm water runoff from the roads and ditches in people's yards. There simply no where else for the water to go except here until it drains into the creek.

Dandelions are an interesting idea if I could find bulk seed. I have plenty of them nearby and I let them go to seed, but they don't colonize this area. I thought dandelions would grow anywhere, but perhaps not. They are also a spring only plant here -- they dies off by about May, which would work for the spring storm season but I'd need a similar plant for the fall.

Speaking of swales: I appreciate the link. I have a 3rd problem area that I can't really explain in words, but it is still actively eroding, and one of my ideas was using a series of small planted swales -- not as small as the ones in the link -- to slow down the water. I'm glad to see that it's an idea that's been proven small scale.
 
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