Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
posted 7 years ago
In my opinion, heavily compacted soils need to be disturbed.
The basic philosophy behind 'no till' is that tilling damages the SFW (Soil Food Web). This is true with repeated tilling.
However, heavily compacted soils have little to no SFW anyways, due to their compacted nature. Their structure does not support a healthy SFW.
I feel that an original tilling, to break up this lifeless soil (dirt) and incorporate some composted organic matter will actually bring life to it, rather than harming the life (that it doesn't have yet). An original 'ground breaking', with the addition of organic matter will begin turning that 'dirt' into soil.
The texture (sand/loam/clay) of the soil cannot be easily altered, but the structure (air/water pockets) can easily be improved by the additions of organic matter.
If you have dirt, you cannot hurt it, but can help it.
If you have soil, with a little help from you, nature can improve it.
What is growing there now? If you have some growth but it is really compacted, you can keyline/rip/subsoil to loosen it with net benefit to the SFW (it does break it up some, but the aeration makes up for it in time). If it is not growing what you want, then definitely do PROPER tillage with intense organic incorporation if you have the access to the equipment to do it.
If equipment is not an option, you can do tillage radish. It will work, but takes work to do by hand on a large scale.
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It would be good if we have a picture of the native grasses/vegetation and the climate – temperature/rainfall etc.
Here is my experience/thoughts for what it is worth.
Make seed balls/cubes with clay. Use a large variety of seeds – include trees (acacia almonds, native fast growing varieties etc), wild edible perennials (Taraxacum, sorrel etc) strong grains, ground cover crops (alfalfa vetch etc.) a large mix - you want to see what your land likes … some will prosper some will disappear … nature will choose – you want to develop/create a layer of ground cover and new soil ASAP.
If you have a small piece of land you can make the clay pellets by hand, use can use a variety of forms, or even a cement mixer – see Masanobu Fukuoka Videos.
In the rainy season, when native grass is about 2 – 4 cm high, you can scatter vetch just before a big rain storm – the ants cannot take the vetch (they cannot get a hold of it) – vetch is a very strong plant that is stronger than the grasses and will grow over it – vetch is not edible though.
You can use forage crops such as Pisum aivense or Pisum arvense (I am not sure of the names – one is a climbing bean – they are edible also by humans) – the forage crops will do many things – they will give you food, provide nitrogen, provide large biomass, and will re seed. They are scattered like vetch – they have the same properties.
For summer crops you can try scattering seeds salvia hispanica and other supper foods (quinoa, capers, amaranth etc) to see what will cover your land in the dry season without any watering – you should include these seeds in your seed balls/cubes.
You should become aware of the ants in your land – they are one of the greatest forces of nature – they at my land anyway – they can have positive effects (aerating the soil) or they can destroy your clay pellets by taking all the seeds.
These are some quick thoughts based on experience of the last 10 years – tell us what you think and keep us posted.
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