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Where to begin?

 
Allison Taylor
Posts: 5
Location: Upstate SC
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We just purchased 13 acres of land that was logged earlier this year. We first looked at it mid-summer and it appears nothing has tried to grow in the churned soil - at all. It appears some meager efforts were made to cut the land so the soil wouldn't completely erode, but this was an exceptionally rainy year (100 yr average is about 45 inches, we were in the mid 50's by June). The 1/2 acre pond on site is now a red mud pit from all the sediment. I've just never seen land sit that long, relatively undisturbed, and not grow something of significance - weeds, brush, anything. I don't even know where to begin to heal this parcel, but I know it can be done with some thoughtful planning and hard work. Any suggestions for land that is stripped bare?
 
Adam Klaus
author
gardener
Posts: 946
Location: 6200' westen slope of colorado, zone 6
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I would spray Pfeifer BioDynamic Field Spray, available through jpibiodynamics.org
This would inoculate a healthy diversity of soil microorganisms, which would help to establish a good microbiological basis for future plant growth.
On a cost per acre basis, I think this will have the most bang for your buck.

I would also pull a soil sample from any area you plan to do more intensive horticulture of any type. Get a M3 analysis from LoganLabs.com This will let you know the mineral content of your soils, and if there are any glaring inbalances you need to correct for optimal plant growth, once plants start returning.

Right now, I imagine you are dealing with compaction as the primary deterrent to plant growth. Ususally there is an ample seed bank laying dormant in the soil, so once your conditions are right, plants should germinate and grow on their own. Time will heal the compaction, particularly if you are in a region where freezing heaves the soil over winter. Sharing your regional location is very helpful for us to give the best possible advice, please do in your profile.

Once you see life returning to the land, you could seed deep rooted plants, like chicory, plantain, red clover. For now though, sowing seed over acreage isnt cheap, and if the conditions for life arent right, it wont grow anyways. So I would start with the BioDynamic spray to help enliven your soils, which will slowly reverse the compaction, and restore the proper conditions for plant growth.

Welcome to the forum, and more importantly, welcome to the journey! It is harder than you can imagine and more rewarding than your wildest dreams. good luck!
 
R Scott
Posts: 3306
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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Check the pH, too.
 
Allison Taylor
Posts: 5
Location: Upstate SC
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Adam Klaus wrote:Right now, I imagine you are dealing with compaction as the primary deterrent to plant growth. Ususally there is an ample seed bank laying dormant in the soil, so once your conditions are right, plants should germinate and grow on their own. Time will heal the compaction, particularly if you are in a region where freezing heaves the soil over winter. Sharing your regional location is very helpful for us to give the best possible advice, please do in your profile.


I didn't even think about the amount of compaction that occurred. I'm still confused how the land got so torn up. I know logging involves cutting trees and then removing the stumps, but this land looks completely scraped off. I have one panoramic picture on my phone that shows the extent of it, but I can't figure out how to upload it. The property is in Upstate SC, so we don't really have any freezing here - frost line is something like 8". There are haphazard ridges and swales all over it now. We had talked about smoothing it out, but that means more heavy equipment, more compaction. I know we have to do something to stem to flow of sediment into the pond; however, I'm pretty sure anything that was living in there has been suffocated by now. On satellite maps it used to be dark blue with plants all around, now it looks like the rest of the lot - clay.
IMG_1491[1].JPG
[Thumbnail for IMG_1491[1].JPG]
Banks testing the shoreline
 
Michael Cox
Posts: 1592
Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
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I think you need to resign yourselves to doing some immediate earth works to prevent more catastrophic erosion. Get some swales cut on the contour to intercept and slow the surface water runoff. You want the water to soak in to the soil rather than run on the surface.

Yes you may get some more compaction, but you will be saving your top soil and any remaining fertility. Compaction can be broken up by careful later plantings of deep rooted crops (daikon radishes spring to mind).

As for why there has been no regrowth - was this an old pine forest? I saw an area clear felled here in the UK where pine had been planted on a site of older deciduous woodland. It had previously been neglected and unmanaged so at the time of clear felling the woods were unthinned and incredibly dark. The seed bank had been almost wiped out by 50 odd years of total darkness and it took a long time for native species to start re-establishing.

Also, depending on the previous species planted there may be problems with aleopathic chemicals in the soils - some plants have hormones that prevent other seeds germinating to reduce the competition. Time and rainfall may help.

You can help get things moving by broadcast sowing some cover crop to stabilise the soil and add some organic matter and nutrients.
 
Allison Taylor
Posts: 5
Location: Upstate SC
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Michael Cox wrote:I think you need to resign yourselves to doing some immediate earth works to prevent more catastrophic erosion. Get some swales cut on the contour to intercept and slow the surface water runoff. You want the water to soak in to the soil rather than run on the surface.

Yes you may get some more compaction, but you will be saving your top soil and any remaining fertility. Compaction can be broken up by careful later plantings of deep rooted crops (daikon radishes spring to mind).

As for why there has been no regrowth - was this an old pine forest? I saw an area clear felled here in the UK where pine had been planted on a site of older deciduous woodland. It had previously been neglected and unmanaged so at the time of clear felling the woods were unthinned and incredibly dark. The seed bank had been almost wiped out by 50 odd years of total darkness and it took a long time for native species to start re-establishing.

Also, depending on the previous species planted there may be problems with aleopathic chemicals in the soils - some plants have hormones that prevent other seeds germinating to reduce the competition. Time and rainfall may help.

You can help get things moving by broadcast sowing some cover crop to stabilise the soil and add some organic matter and nutrients.


I think the owner did cut a few swales around the pond before he left with his equipment last week. I saw track marks this weekend that I didn't recall from a couple months ago when we first visited. My BF & I talked about cutting a few more in, then working from the top down to the pond in sections - smoothing and reseeding with something that will just hold the soil for now.

I don't know what the composition of the site was before it was logged. The area seems to be fairly well mixed pine and deciduous trees, but I can't be sure. There's a chance it could have been that dense at some point. The previous owner claimed he logged the site because his 'neighbor' was doing it and something about pine beetles. BUT the neighbor to one side is the National Forest and the other neighbor is 100 acres that he rents from an elderly lady for hunting. On satellite photos, neither has had any logging activity in the last couple years.
 
John Elliott
pollinator
Posts: 2355
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1) Get some tillage radish on that ASAP! It looks like my piece of Georgia clay when I first moved in. In summer it was as hard as concrete, and in the winter you would sink an inch into the clay.

2) Invite every tree trimming service to dump their loads on your property. Without anything growing there, there's no organic matter in the soil; without organic matter in the soil, nothing is going to grow there. You have to break this vicious cycle by actively transporting in organic matter.

3) If you want oaks on the property, now is the time to plant inoculated acorns. Let me know if you need more details on this technique.

4) Chicory, dandelion, and wild garlic will colonize this compacted clay we have. I can provide you with samples, but I don't have enough on hand to do 13 acres.

Just where in the Upstate are you? I might be able to come up and lend a hand.
 
Noah Jackson
Posts: 58
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There's so much you can start doing, by slowly building soil. It depends on your longterm vision of course, but I'd recommend starting by getting inspired with the essay we just published, called "Finding the Soil People."
http://forestvoices.org/farmblog/2013/11/19/finding-soil-people
 
Allison Taylor
Posts: 5
Location: Upstate SC
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Thanks for the tips everyone! On our last visit out there, the swales the last owner cut are holding up and the soil seems to have stopped sliding into the pond. We are looking at some small grading equipment to try to smooth out the mess. We figure we'll work our way from the top down, knocking down the ridges and planting as we go. I collected some soil samples to take to the extension office for analysis too. I've made a big reading list and reserved what I could at the local library. I should have a good grasp on the basics before spring.

 
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