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Rehabilitating Soils after a mono culture crop

 
David Castellan
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My wife and I recently purchased as small plot of land (4acres). We plan on constructing a home in the next 3-5yrs, but want to work the land a bit before we build. The land is in Southern Ontario, Township of West Lincoln (Zone 6a) I believe.

Currently 3/4 of the land had/has a soy crop on it. We are looking to plant a ground cover mix to help bring the soil back to a more natural state.

Any suggestions? Or direction to a resource I can use to help me out?

Thanks
 
Jordan Lowery
pollinator
Posts: 1528
Location: zone 7
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What are your main Goals for the future when you are there. Forest, pasture land for livestock, veggies, etc...? Depending on what my end goal Is that's how I would determine the first step, hopefully one that succeeds well along the path to your ultimate goals.
 
David Castellan
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Our main goal will be vegetable production. The land is zone residential, so even though we wouldn't mind some livestock, it will likely not be permitted (I haven't gotten that deep into the bylaws).

At this point I want to plant a ground cover to keep the soil protected from over exposure to the sun, and to bring some nutrients back to the soil. I hear clover is a good cover, but want to mix it up and get something hardy and stable.
 
John Polk
steward
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Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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I would say that if the land has had a monocrop on it for several years, the soil food web (SFW) is probably far out of balance. Each plant family has their own impact on the SFW. The wider variety of plant families you can use as a cover crop, the quicker/closer you can get to balancing the soil again.

Since soy is a legume, I would try to go heavier on the non-legume families. You still want legumes, but I wouldn't make them the predominant species. You would probably also want to have species that produce a large amount of biomass, as well as some good dynamic accumulators, and nature's cure-all: herbs. Grasses are some of the best accumulators of silicon.

Something like 'tillage radishes' (daikon) can be planted late summer/early fall. Early enough to mature before first heavy frost. They will die, and winter over. Let the roots (which may go 18-24 inches into the soil) rot in the soil the following year. Over-crop them in the spring with your next cover crop. As they rot in the soil, they will add organic material (deeper than you could have dug), and create pockets for air, water, and worms to add new life deep into your soil.

And, don't forget local wildflowers - they will attract most of the local pollinators - a win/win for the future (plus adding beauty).

If you will be absent for long periods, I would avoid anything that can grow out-of-control in your absence.
 
David Castellan
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That's some fantastic information. Thank you. I will see if my contact can get me that type of product.
 
Chris Kott
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Location: Toronto, Ontario
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I have lost the title of the post, but somewhere on these fora was a thread having to do with a novel use for raw milk waste. Apparently, an application of raw milk (any grade as long as the bacterial cultures are intact, but if from whole raw milk, diluted ten to one with water and applied to pasture depleted of soil health, usually by constant pesticide/herbicide application) can increase, if I read it right, the sugar levels of the plants growing there. This is apparently important in the short-term as grass-feeding insects will avoid healthy grass, as in grass with sufficient levels of sugars. This was measured in situ with a refractometer, that showed the readings going from a 2 to a 10 almost immediately. Various concentrations were essayed, and there was no difference in the refractometer readings from the 1:10 mixture than the undiluted raw milk applied to the pasture, which suggests to me that it is, in fact, the action of the colonizing bacteria.

-CK
 
Renate Howard
pollinator
Posts: 755
Location: zone 6b
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IMHO fish waste does the same thing. I had amazing results when I used to have 20 fish tanks in the house (raised tropical fish).

As for the farmland, I think you could probably start with some cane fruits now. They are a natural species that take over barren/open areas to reclaim it, and you can get a crop from them too that you can just swing by the property in season to pick.

One author said to create natural hedges of local fruit all you need to do is string a wire to serve as a perch for local birds. They'll land and drop seeds of whatever local fruiting plants they've been eating. Depending on what grows near you, you'll likely get cane fruits, black cherries, mulberries, etc.

My favorite cane fruit was the Japanese Wineberries that grew wild in Pennsylvania. I guess they're an invasive species but the birds were happy to plant them and they did the best in our climate and had the best tasting fruit, especially compared to the ones I bought which were either flavorless or bitter.

You might want to check the zoning laws for your property - where I used to live if you had 1 acre you could have poultry (up to 12, no roosters) and if you had 3 acres you could have hoofed animals. A pig or goat would make good use of blemished fruit or trimmings, and if you might want to fit one in you could start to establish forage for them now (sunchokes will multiply over the years, for example).

If you want to seed the land, you can do it conventional style - plow and sow the whole field with a custom seed/blend, or you can just scatter different kinds of seeds on bare patches and see what comes up in addition to the weeds. Weeds are good for reclaiming poorly used land, many have deep taproots that draw up nutrients and leave good amounts of biomass. For our pond I used native grasses, clover, some radish seeds, some field peas, and a wildflower mix - some I custom ordered in addition to what came as the mix. Buckwheat may be a good one to add in.
 
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