• Post Reply
  • Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic

in need of some serious help

 
jesse foster
Posts: 16
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
i just moved into my new home on 1 acre in the hill country of central texas, and i am confused on what to do. please help

my soil is mostly clay, and after about 6 inches it turns into rocky clay. i was trying to clear out an area for my annual beds, and attempting a double dig. i ran into rocks the size of golf balls all the way up to football size. i know the wisdom is to lasagna garden to improve my clay soil, but dont i first need to remove all the enormous rocks that will eventually interfere with root growth? i mean, 6 inches isnt very far down until the roots will meet some large rocks.

i also want to establish multiple fruit trees (maybe 20) in different parts of my yard using a good amount of biodiversity in my planting around the trees. but if the soil is full of rocks, how are my plants and trees going to survive? will the roots find their ways around the larger rocks and be okay?

so my questions are...

1. for my annual beds, should i double dig and remove the larger rocks first, then sheet mulch? if so, how deep should i remove rocks?

2. for my fruit trees, do i need to roto-till a large area, remove the large rocks and lay tons of organic matter down so that come winter the soils a bit better? im just worried about the huge rocks interfering with growth... maybe some how just adding organic matter will do the trick over a longer period of time?

i appreciate any help, i need it. thank you
 
Alder Burns
pollinator
Posts: 1321
Location: northern California
42
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Unless the soil gives way to solid bedrock within a few feet down, I think trying to get rid of the rocks is a waste of time and effort, unless you need rocks for some other project. The roots of established trees and even annuals will find their way into lower layers through the gaps between them. And the bulk of the roots of most plants is in the topsoil anyway.....especially your veggies. So I would say build UP the beds for your veggies, and get holes just big enough for the roots of your trees when you plant them, and maybe mound up a bit for these too....especially if you've got bad drainage (does water stand in a hole overnight when you fill it?)
What is growing around you? Is it basically forest or woodland with good-sized wild trees of any sort? That's a good sign that the hardpan/bedrock is far enough down to enable growth. If it's barren or grassland, then the rock might be an issue.
 
jesse foster
Posts: 16
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
there are trees all around me, even on my property. i probably have 100 trees, but they are all native like mexican persimmon, mesquite, live oak, crape myrtle etc... the drainage isnt bad, it will definitely soak in overnight no problem. perhaps ill raise up an area for my trees as well to give them a decent start to establish some roots.

this is good news though. if i were to raise UP my annual bed, how high do you think would be adequate? i have about 3 inches of soil top soil, then a couple inches of clay, and then rocky clay after that. would 24 inches be good or should i go higher? id like to set them on contour berm and swale style. thank you much.

 
John Elliott
pollinator
Posts: 2295
76
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
First question: do you have a lot of mesquite on your property? If you do, it is an indication that the rocky clay underneath is fractured enough to let roots penetrate through. There are some mesquite species that can send down roots 200' in search of water. If you clear out the mesquites, maybe your fruit trees can grow in succession after them and take advantage of whatever tillage the mesquite has done with its roots.

If, on the other hand, you have a bunch of grasses and short-rooted weeds, then things are going to be more problematic. You may have to start with what you have and build the soil in the upward direction. There are some plants that can force soils open. When I lived in Las Vegas, I had a hardpan of caliche about 3-7 feet below grade, but there was this one mulberry on the property that had managed to bust through and send roots to the water table below. Kind of amazing to see a mulberry tree thriving, with no irrigation, in a climate that only gets 4" of rain a year.

As for the annuals, you can grow a lot of vegetables on just 8" of topsoil. You're not going to get nice radishes and carrots, but you can get some nice lettuce, cabbage, kale, okra, squash, tomatoes, peppers, etc. If you single dig it to get rid of the golf balls and larger, you can have a nice annuals bed, especially if you amend on top in a lasagna garden fashion.



 
jesse foster
Posts: 16
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
there are a number of them. that isnt a bad idea about using current trees as nurse plants, but shade is too valuable here and i have so much land that id like to fill up.

i actually just moved from vegas. we had an amazing 20 year old fig at my house, produced hundreds of pounds with little water. just a good microclimate i suppose. i certainly dont miss that heat though, at least here we get some rain and clouds int he summer

root veggies are some of my favorites, so i guess i need to figure out how deep those veggies send their roots down. or i can just work my arse off and go down about 12 inches first, remove the large rocks, and then build raised beds about 24 inches above that. that should do the trick.

then on the other sections, i can designate that to non root veggies that you mentioned, and not have to pull up all the rocks. thanks for your advise, just thinking about it a bit with some others input helps clear my mind. appreciate it.
 
S Bengi
Posts: 1355
Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even distribution
8
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
You live in a semi-arid area dont do raised beds, all the water is doing to drain to the lower elevation, which would be good in super wet PNW or the swamps of FL, but never good in the SW.
Not only do raise bed drain the water away it also has a higher evaporation rate.
Due to your shallow soil you are going to have to plant the stuff in 1 inch depression
More like 2inch, in the center the soil is 5inch deep and the 1nch that you remove you can put at the edge where the soil will be 7inch deep. that will also make the water "flow" to the center vs away at the edge.

6 inch of soil is more than enough for your veggies and 15ft fruit/nut trees, all you really have to worry about is mulching the soil to keep it covered.
On 1 acre you could plant 180 15ft trees plus hundreds more as a living fence.

Semi-Arid soil are supper fertile, filled with calcium, iron, etc.
And your soil have rocks so it is porous already , so all you now have to do is cut evaporation by mulching.
You can also use a living non-rooting vine mulch like grape, kiwi, passionfruit, wild/bitter melon have it run on the ground and keep the root well watered and fertilized. Each plant can "mulch" a 100ft circle.

Semi-Arid soils are not very forgiving to annuals so you might have to focus on fruits like figs and nuts like almonds vs lettuce and water celery.
If you really must grow annuals a aquaponic system might be a better option.
You can also build shallow "wet" swales and have the elevated dry area as catchment area for the depressed swales.

lasagna on hilly semi-arid soil will not improve the soil, it will prevent the roots from going deeper to access water. It will also prevent the water from soaking in deeper and thus the water to stop at the paper and "run off" to the edge where it will be further from the plant roots and closer to the soil thus evaporate faster

If you have the machinery and money and time then add the organic matter, but you dont really need it all you really need is mulch to cut your evaporation rate.
 
  • Post Reply
  • Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic