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ideas for rock ground needed

 
M Taylor
Posts: 8
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So here is my situation. My "yard" has large areas of what I thought was compacted soil. Today I decided to implement one of the ideas I picked up from the forums and began digging some holes with the intent of filling them with compostable material. I wanted to encourage worms to help break up the compaction. I knew that I had lots of subsurface limestone throughout the property (digging holes for tree transplants in other areas has been an adventure). What I found today was that the "compacted" areas are actually places where the rock starts only an inch below the surface. From what I can tell it is fairly solid down over a foot (that's where I gave up digging). I would really like to avoid renting a mini-backhoe or something similar to excavate the entire area (it's about 1000 square feet). So here are my questions:

1. will tree roots break up this much rock if I chip out several holes and plant from seed?
2. does anyone have ideas on how to get green manure crops to grow with only an inch or two of clay topsoil? Would it even be feasible to try and build up topsoil?
3. does anyone have another idea for rocky areas like this in lieu of planting? The ground is fairly flat and sits on the north side of the property between the house and the street.

I'm south of Dallas, TX in the transition area between zones 7 and 8 with about 36 inches of average rainfall. Thank you in advance for any ideas.
 
Case Smithey
Posts: 9
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I imagine you could build up some organic matter. I have used thick layers of straw, leaves, and manure and compost to build up on top of my very heavy clay areas.
 
Craig Dobbelyu
gardener
Posts: 1415
Location: Maine (zone 5)
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chicken food preservation forest garden hugelkultur rabbit trees
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I think you may be best off if you just haul in the Organic matter and start layering it on thick. Buckwheat does grow pretty well and fast so it might be worth a try as a cover crop/ green manure. I had some areas of a hillside that were erording down so I threw the buckwheat on top. They only grew a few inches before flowering. My guess is that that area is almost solid clay and the plants just couldn't get a good foot old. I'm planning on layering on a good deal of hay and yard waste in the fall and planting the buckwheat again in the spring. That should prove to be a better outcome. Hopefully. Shallow rocky ground is tough to work with but not impossible. Good luck
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9435
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
163
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I ended up excavating a lot of rock out of my clay soil and replacing it with wood. But if the rock you're talking about isn't limestone pieces embedded in clay, but instead is a layer of solid or nearly solid limestone, putting material on top is probably the thing to do, but you'll have to put it on very thick. I tried putting mulch over the top of my rocks and it didn't work once the weather got hot, the plants died. 6 inches isn't enough, I think it needs to be a couple feet or more thick, like hugelkultur. That's what I might do if I were working with a rock shelf, build large hugelkultur on top of it...
 
M Taylor
Posts: 8
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Thank you for the quick replies. I get the impression from observing other areas in the yard that the rock is not a solid shelf but a thick layer of limestone "sheets." It does slough horizontally, but is pretty tough to chip through vertically. I like the hugel idea. I don't think I can build up more than a few inches of topsoil on top of the entire surface rock area as it would raise the ground level above the top of my concrete foundation. The hugel mound would let me build up a bed over smaller areas in the locations away from the foundation.

Does Hugelkultur work if you aren't able to bury the wood? I've been wanting to try some hugel beds, but haven't yet started any. This may be a good place to start.
 
Nicole Castle
Posts: 151
Location: Madison, AL
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Sounds like my land... half rocks, half dirt and some places where the dirt is mighty thin over the limestone bedrock. Nonetheless, the acres of established large trees show that the native trees, given time and no doubt lots of failures, can find a way to survive, but this is many, many decades of growth. In many places the roots are well above the soil line, seeking air, but limestone is also soft enough that I imaging the tougher trees break it up pretty wood.

What I have done is create raised beds for my annual vegetables. Elsewhere, I have planted as many natives as possible and mulched heavily with composted leaves, courtesy of the city mulch pile and time spent picking out shredded garbage. The local worms LOVE this stuff and are pulling it into the soil very quickly. In some places, I mulched in the fall and by spring the soil was much improved. (In our climate, the worms are busiest in the cool part of the year.) Since the mulch is decomposing so rapidly, there really isn't any building "up."

If you have just one area like this, that might be a great spot for a grassy play area or another outdoor space for humans. I built a shed over one particularly bad spot, and I have a whole spot where even the weeds don't want to grow that I haven't figured out what to do with.

You haven't mentioned what you really want to do with this spot. It might be easiest for you to decide what you want to do and a couple of alternatives, and then see if there's a way to get there in an amount of time you are willing to spend waiting on the project.
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9435
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
163
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Here's another idea for gardening on rocky ground: http://www.texascooppower.com/texas-stories/nature-outdoors/keyhole-gardening
 
Patty Hankins
Posts: 2
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The free on-line film BACK TO EDEN shows how to gradually create a garden even from rock by calling landscaping companies to dump the wood chips (free and they like to not have to go to the dump) on your property. You can plant your cover crop on your thin layer of soil and then spread the woodchips. Just keep spreading the woodchips as they are delivered (my brother has 20 acres, and the local electric coop that needs to trim branches away from power lines has delivered over a dozen free truckloads of woodchips so far) and they gradually decompose and create topsoil: the woodchips usually contain the right ratio of leaves to create perfect compost. You can also spread compost or other organics on top of the woodchips
and then when it rains the undersoil receives compost tea. BACK TO EDEN is free to view on the website, or you can buy the DVD to support the movement, which is international. I actually started a BACK TO EDEN garden on an empty lot at my church in Oklahoma City, and we have good veggies even in this current drought.
 
Morgan Morrigan
Posts: 1400
Location: Verde Valley, AZ.
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probably not rock, but caliche.

you can punch holes thru it with pool acid, or hard labor.
pool acid just leaves muck, not soil, so you will have to replace it with dirt.

raised beds are the way to go here....
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