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Growing on brookston clay

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I am living in an area that has a plethora of brookston clay. I have been looking at a small piece of land (4 acres) that is in a good location for creating a possible small town community permaculture paradise. My concern is just finding out it is brookston clay. My desire is to create a wellness sanctuary with forest gardens and eventually a cob living space.

Trees, herbs, fruits, veggies.....what is possible with brookston clay? Is this worth even considering?
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Hi, I am not particularly familiar with "Brookston" clay but have dealt with clay in general. My little place has an acre that is all clay. The previous owner used the property as a construction dumping ground for clay and a bit of gravel. I have about 18" of clay sitting on top of otherwise great soil. It's enough were I can't grow much. The grass has been slowly chewing it up and breaking it down and the clover has been adding nitrogen to the soil. I don't do much other than mow it. The ground cover has been getting thicker each year. You really can't tell now that there is clay unless you dig. I think what you need is a "green manurer" strategy. You need to add fresh top soil so try growing it. There are lots of plants that are known for that purpose. Buckwheat is a great example. You grow it as much for adding to the soil as you do the buckwheat. I think you would mow it down before it seed though. Otherwise it gets difficult to mow. If you do grow it out bees LOVE the flowers and the seeds are yummy for people. There is a variety of "clay eating" buckwheat out there. I found it while googling but I don't know much about it. So yes, you can work with clay soil but you need to add the right soil amending plants and have lots of patience. Hopefully some of the more experienced people on this board will give you more plant species to consider.
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Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
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Welcome to permies Lisa
I couldn't find anything online actually describing 'Brookston clay'.
Is it a particularly...challenging...clay?
Without knowing more I second Andy's suggestions, adding 'clay-breakers':
plants with penetrating taproots such as comfrey, daikon, dandelion and so on.
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Hi Lisa, welcome to Permies!

I will not be the strongest voice here on the growing part of permaculture, as I don't grow things directly myself as much as I used to, but I stay up to date on the matter fairly well.

For those following this thread, there is a fair amount on the "web" about "Brookston clay" (referenced as Bc on soil and geology maps) but most of the available information is directed more toward academics and soil/geological sciences. If you google:

define "brookston clay"

this should get you some rather heady reading.

My concern is just finding out it is brookston clay.

Try contacting your local agricultural extension agency for your region, and/or a local colleges earth sciences department for soil testing and analysis. The should be able to give you assistance in better understanding you local conditions. Soil maps can also be of assistance.

As for building on clay laden soils, you will have to really understand the types and conditions, as well as, the nuances of the specific type of architecture you wish to facilitate. Remember your 6Ps: Proper Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance.

Your actual location and photo will always help folks here help you. Hope this all helps.


Lisa Mar
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Thank all of you Permies for the replies. They were very helpful

Buckwheat, comfrey, dandelion....those are all great!

I spoke with the local conservation office yesterday. They are offering incentives for people to naturalise their outdoor areas. They would cover the areas that I want to recreate a natural area. We talked mostly about planting a forest. I would be able to choose what types of plants/trees are put in.

In this area b. clay is thought to be a hinderance. There is a lot of agriculture in the surrounding areas. Mostly there are tomatoes, vineyards (on the wine route), orchards, but A LOT of greenhouses.

I have never lived in an area where soil was such concern. Growing up in Appalachia it always seemed....there is Earth and it was all good! Different place and this is new to me.

Thanks again all. Will keep watching the thread.

Ruth Stout was famous for gardening naked. Just like this tiny ad:
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