• Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
permaculture forums growies critters building homesteading energy monies living kitchen purity ungarbage community wilderness fiber arts art permaculture artisans regional education experiences global resources the cider press projects digital market permies.com all forums
this forum made possible by our volunteer staff, including ...
master stewards:
  • Nicole Alderman
  • raven ranson
stewards:
  • paul wheaton
  • Jocelyn Campbell
  • Julia Winter
garden masters:
  • Anne Miller
  • Pearl Sutton
  • thomas rubino
  • Bill Crim
  • Kim Goodwin
  • Joylynn Hardesty
gardeners:
  • Amit Enventres
  • Mike Jay
  • Dan Boone

Newbie Homesteader Questions  RSS feed

 
Posts: 7
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Please forgive me if I am posting this in the wrong section as I am a newbie here at the forums among other things including homesteading and permaculture and so on.

The new homestead is 1.3 acres with dwellings pretty much center of the property with wooded areas along the northern and eastern boundaries. Sparse very tall pines on the southern border and southwestern corner.

The southern border is the highest elevation of the property and slopes down from the southwestern corner to the northeast corner and water run off is in torrents when it rains.

I've had to lift a shed in the backyard 4" in the front and 6" in the back, to raise it up out of the water torrents to slow down the rotting process of the floor joists. It has damaged about an inch into the joist at this point, but hopeful that will slow now that I have raised it up out of the waters path for now. I have also dug in a trench around the upper side to divert the water flow away and away from the structure.

My soil is purely sand (Zone 9b Central Florida) with the top quarter to half inch or so is more like powdered sand.

When it rains, I have water flows over most of the property and it doesn't stick around or soak in at all, just runs off and moves the sand down the property. After it rains I can move a quarter inch of top powder sand and it is nothing but dry sand underneath. Very little grass (plenty of weeds) growing but not much else grows as far as vegetables go. I have hundreds of wild blackberries coming up on the property as well as some wild grapes and the pine trees seem to do very well though.

I've installed a garden which I enriched with "dirty" mulch (a lot of dirt mixed into the mulch) just to get my vegetables to grow more then two inches in a month. Once I added the mulch, they shot up 2-3 feet in less than a month. Sadly it was too late for the corn as it tassled and none of the ears produced at all. (lesson learned for the next growing season to not plant in the sandy soil here without serious enrichment first).

Having watched many of the video's on creating hugel beds and swales, I have concerns using them due to risk of possible sinkholes developing from water soaking into the ground too much, since there has been a history of sinkholes in the region (including my area) and with me being a newbie to the area, I definitely don't want to cause one nor have the property or neighbors properties become a total loss either.

I do have plenty of log material to do hugel beds however as seen in one of the attached photo's. The other photo shows how much slope there is in the property where I installed the temporary garden.

Any ideas or helpful information greatly appreciated.

Thanks!
Img3.jpg
[Thumbnail for Img3.jpg]
Shows how much I had to build up the north and east side of the garden per the ground slope
Img2.jpg
[Thumbnail for Img2.jpg]
Logs for possible hugel beds in background.
 
steward
Posts: 8019
Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
299
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Welcome to permies.com, DeWayne.

That looks just like I remember Florida "soil" looked like.
A lot of good compost mixed in will help it retain water (and nutrients).

Without a lot of organic matter in it, water and nutrients will soak through it like a sieve.
Three inches of rain, and an hour later it looks like you're in the middle of a drought!

 
pollinator
Posts: 1453
Location: northern California
64
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
First thing I would do is to dig a test hole, or several, around the property, especially where you see water running or standing after a rain. It shouldn't do that in a sandy soil like you describe. I've seen a sandy site near Gainesville suck down four or five inches of rain in a summer storm of a couple hours' duration; no puddles, and certainly no runoff! Something tells me there's a hardpan of clay or maybe limestone not far down. If you find it less than three or four feet down, you may want to see how deep it is and punch through it wherever you intend to plant a permanent tree.
I would consider biochar as well. That soil and climate will cause amazing quantities of mulch, manure, and any other organic matter to just disappear, and you will always have to be importing it in quantity from off site, indefinitely, if you want to see an impact on soil fertility and moisture holding capacity. The biochar process locks some of the organic matter up in a more durable form so it's effect will last much longer.
I would guess the sinkhole issue is a larger-scale problem, either natural or perhaps exacerbated by groundwater withdrawals, and that swales, hugel beds and the like on little over an acre isn't going to impact it much.
 
Posts: 1791
Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even distribution
44
forest garden solar
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I am really interested in Florida soil.
The easiest "fix" would be to cover everywhere with nitrogen-fixing plants, dutch clover should be in the mix.
The best solution would be to get your hand on some bio-char.
Mulch is almost pointless, because you will have to import it ever season. and on a larger scale that is expensive.
You can also plant drought tolerant cultivar/species.
If you can dig 4ft and hit the sub-surface water table you would also use it to continually water your garden, I would not recommend this though.
Now that it is "winter" plant a few daikon radish, they might help with the sheeting that you mention.


 
DeWayne McElwee
Posts: 7
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thanks for the welcome John.

The free mulch (well other than my costs to drive there and back) has been worth it to get the plants to grow and thankful I am now harvesting tomatoes, some bush beans and onions for the time being.

You are right about heavy rains and then looking like a drought shortly afterward though.

The garden I have installed is probably going to be a temporary thing, until I can get a better handle on how to proceed, design and install hugels, swales into my future food forest here on the homestead.

There is going to have to be many many many cubic yards of organic materials brought in, that is for sure. It will be a "labor of love" so to speak.

The photo below shows that I cut swales into the garden originally, but opted for the above enrichment instead.
img003.jpg
[Thumbnail for img003.jpg]
Original swales cut into garden before I decided to enrich the soil.
 
DeWayne McElwee
Posts: 7
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Alder Burns wrote:First thing I would do is to dig a test hole, or several, around the property, especially where you see water running or standing after a rain. It shouldn't do that in a sandy soil like you describe. I've seen a sandy site near Gainesville suck down four or five inches of rain in a summer storm of a couple hours' duration; no puddles, and certainly no runoff! Something tells me there's a hardpan of clay or maybe limestone not far down. If you find it less than three or four feet down, you may want to see how deep it is and punch through it wherever you intend to plant a permanent tree.
I would consider biochar as well. That soil and climate will cause amazing quantities of mulch, manure, and any other organic matter to just disappear, and you will always have to be importing it in quantity from off site, indefinitely, if you want to see an impact on soil fertility and moisture holding capacity. The biochar process locks some of the organic matter up in a more durable form so it's effect will last much longer.
I would guess the sinkhole issue is a larger-scale problem, either natural or perhaps exacerbated by groundwater withdrawals, and that swales, hugel beds and the like on little over an acre isn't going to impact it much.



Alder, I did dig a 3' hole near the well/pump house and there does seem to be a "clayish" thin layer near the surface just under the powdery sand on top so that must be why it just runs off instead of soaking in. Underneath the clayish layer it seems to be a sandy loam but I never hit any limestone even at the 3' foot level. Maybe because we are at about 300' above sea level.

When I make my swales it should act as a dam when I turn that clayish layer over and on to the other side of the swale to help it retain and allow the moisture to soak into the soil better so that will be a win/win.

Just last week I watched a video on how to make my own biochar so I will be adding that to the mix as well.

I do think that adding the free composted mulch from the landfill will be a good thing, at least in the beginning to get things moving better.

Better safe than sorry, so that is and was why I wanted input on the sinkhole issue before I began adding the swales and hugels. That eases my mind and I can start moving forward now.

I do thank you for your info and advice with my issues here on the homestead.
 
DeWayne McElwee
Posts: 7
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

S Bengi wrote:I am really interested in Florida soil.
The easiest "fix" would be to cover everywhere with nitrogen-fixing plants, dutch clover should be in the mix.
The best solution would be to get your hand on some bio-char.
Mulch is almost pointless, because you will have to import it ever season. and on a larger scale that is expensive.
You can also plant drought tolerant cultivar/species.
If you can dig 4ft and hit the sub-surface water table you would also use it to continually water your garden, I would not recommend this though.
Now that it is "winter" plant a few daikon radish, they might help with the sheeting that you mention.




You are correct S Bengi as to the importing mulch could get expensive. As I mentioned above, I am only going to utilize it (the free composted mulch) in the beginning stages (and for each new section I add) to get things moving in the right direction for fertility and moisture control issues as well as the biochar.

I have started my own composting area and have a very large and growing brush pile I have added too since it was here before I got here. All of which I'll be adding when they are ready to use of course.

I will definitely add the dutch clover to the mix. It will help the honey bee's as well if there are any around here.

I am unclear at this point as to how much biochar to use in the process. Just scatter it or does it need to be a solid layer of certain depth?

Thank you for your input and advice. I greatly appreciate it all.
 
S Bengi
Posts: 1791
Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even distribution
44
forest garden solar
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
5% bio-char is best. Just mix it in the top 12 inch anyhow you can, probably while planting veggies, over a couple years. Unless you have some heavy machinery.

Another idea is to build tiny swales/hugel on contour to slow water down, went you do have rain events, and also to grow your own chop and drop mulch.
 
DeWayne McElwee
Posts: 7
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

S Bengi wrote:5% bio-char is best. Just mix it in the top 12 inch anyhow you can, probably while planting veggies, over a couple years. Unless you have some heavy machinery.

Another idea is to build tiny swales/hugel on contour to slow water down, went you do have rain events, and also to grow your own chop and drop mulch.



Thanks, that is what I needed to know on the bio-char. I will be doing the tiny swales/hugels on contour and also the chop and drop methods as well.

I have plenty of brush to get started making my own bio-char in the near future, just need to get/find a couple of drums to make it in now.

 
John Polk
steward
Posts: 8019
Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
299
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
When adding biochar, make certain to completely saturate it before incorporating.
If it isn't full of water (or better yet, compost tea), it will wick away any moisture you or mother nature adds.

 
S Bengi
Posts: 1791
Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even distribution
44
forest garden solar
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
What John said is very important.
In fact to change it from char to bio char, you want to saturate char with water, nitrogen, beneficial bacteria and fungi. So think urine, worm tea, compost mixed with char, etc
 
Posts: 57
2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Alder Burns wrote: That soil and climate will cause amazing quantities of mulch, manure, and any other organic matter to just disappear, and you will always have to be importing it in quantity from off site, indefinitely, if you want to see an impact on soil fertility and moisture holding capacity.



Coming from a newbie..

Alder is right, that's esp. true here in Central Florida. I import leaves from neighbors and the parking lot @ my work. Every year I mulch with a huge quantity of leaves only to find by this time next year my soil still 'stinks' and I need to import more.

The important thing to remember is not to disturb the soil once you set up your garden and keep an abundance of roots in it year round under the mulch you do import. The past three years I thought I was doing it right by tilling right before the planting season. Little did I know I was exposing the soil biology to the sun and killing it off. So it didn't matter how many leaves I brought in - I was always starting over.

Without the till I've found Fungi growing, have tons of worms, and any time I move the leaves / straw to the side find TONS of little critters and even in the dry season (now) the sandy soil has a nice dark hue (due to moisture). I don't even really plant in rows any longer (except for pole beans, due to the requisite support apparatus) everybody just gets in where it fits in.

Also, I think it's important not to try to do it all at once. When you find something that works - double your efforts the next season or wait a few weeks to setup a new bed so you have staggered harvests in the same season.

The plot you have marked off is great with the exception that it's so wide you have to step on it to admire your plants. The 'swale' paths you dug help mitigate that but you might want to make the planting beds wider between them. I think you'll find that if you can reach from one path to the other you have too much 'swale' and not enough garden.

Also if you're having runoff problems (carrying off of mulching materials) keeping those logs in place around your garden will keep the mulch from running off with the washout. If you want to remove them for a hugel bed, setup some chicken wire/rabbit fence/welded wire to keep the mulch material from floating off.

In the end.. Whether you add compost, biochar or a thousand cubic meters of municipal mulch.. . . the only thing that truly brings life to the soil and sustains it is a variety of plant roots.
 
Alder Burns
pollinator
Posts: 1453
Location: northern California
64
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I think I recall some research claiming benefits to soil structure, moisture and nutrient retention from biochar at much higher percentages.....I think it was something like 25% by volume of a potting mix. In other words on a garden scale I think it would be quite difficult to have too much!.... When I was making biochar in Georgia, I would char all the junk paper that came onto the farm....it was much easier to crumble into a fine powder....Then I'd dump pee onto it until it wouldn't absorb any more and away to the garden it went.....
 
gardener
Posts: 4890
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
563
books chicken dog duck fish forest garden fungi homestead hugelkultur hunting pig
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Before I would become overly concerned with your creating a situation that could cause a Sink Hole, consider the nature of Sink Holes and the terrain they occur in. I doubt you would create a situation that could lead to a sink hole, most are formed by nature, however mankind can cause them by overly changing an area of karst terrain significantly.

Geologically speaking, a sinkhole is a depression in the ground which has no natural external surface drainage. Basically, when it rains, all of the water stays inside the sinkhole and typically drains into the subsurface.

Sinkholes are most common in “karst terrain.” These are regions where the type of rock below the land surface can naturally be dissolved by groundwater circulating through them. Soluble rocks include salt beds and domes, gypsum, and limestone and other carbonate rock. Florida, for instance, is an area largely underlain by limestone and is highly susceptible to sinkholes. This is the same geologic apparatus that creates underground caverns (Cave systems like Carlsbad Caverns).

When water from rainfall moves down through the soil, these carbonate rocks begin to dissolve, spaces and caverns develop underground. Sinkholes are dramatic because the land usually stays intact for a period of time until the underground spaces just get too big. In a Cavern system, you will find large piles of fallen rock under a dome, areas like that would become sinkholes if all the rock above had fallen in, leaving a hole at the surface. Or to put is simply; If there is not enough support for the land above the spaces, then a sudden collapse of the land surface can occur.

While collapses are more frequent after intense rainstorms, there is some evidence that droughts play a role as well. Areas where water levels have lowered suddenly are more prone to collapse formation. This is also the mechanism that occurs when a cavern is actually formed, prior to the draining of the water, all caverns were full of water. Only when the water recedes do stalagmites and stalactites begin to form from deposits of calcium carbonate, left behind from water penetration after the draining of the aquifer.

About 20% of the USA is underlain by “karst terrain” making it susceptible to a sinkhole event. The most damage from sinkholes tends to occur in Florida, Texas, Alabama, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Pennsylvania.

While sinkhole collapses are frequent in karst areas, there are a variety of other circumstances that can lead to such events. Many sinkholes form from human activity. Collapses can occur above old mines, from leaky faucets, when sewers give way, or due to groundwater pumping and construction.

Think about all the changes that occur when water-drainage patterns are altered and new systems are developed. And when industrial and runoff-storage ponds are created, the resulting substantial weight of the new material can trigger an underground collapse of supporting material.

Aquifer systems are another factor in sinkholes. The sediment above the aquifer system may be delicately balanced by ground-water fluid pressure, meaning that the water below ground is actually helping to keep the surface soil in place. Groundwater pumping for urban water supply and for irrigation can produce new sinkholes. If pumping results in a lowering of groundwater levels, then underground structures could fail and thus sinkholes can occur.

If you put in growing mounds, which are water absorbers, you would actually be in a position of most likely preventing a situation that could lead to a sinkhole since you will be holding water, not letting it fall through the soil. This would actually be a stabilizing effect to the sub surface.
 
Posts: 1442
Location: Fennville MI
40
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Something else to consider, in addition to swales on contour for slowing and spreading that water runoff, is to place some fencing (up here we call it snow fence) along your contours to capture the organic material being carried in that water.

The fence line will accumulate debris with no further effort on your part, creating a band of more fertile soil into which you can sow seeds that will put down roots and use the organic matter capture by the fence, and help catch more, and then provide more themselves as they cycle.

Such a fence will take a fraction of the time a swale requries to install, have zero risk of creating any kind of hydrologic problems, and capture organic material for you continuously, with no further effort on your part.

My Jersey sand bar is only a little tiny bit better than you describe They call this area a "pine barren" for good reason.
 
You firghten me terribly. I would like to go home now. Here, take this tiny ad:
Rumpelstiltskin ain't got nothing on this
https://permies.com/wiki/92731/fiber-arts/Homegrown-Linen-transforming-flaxseed-fibre
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
Boost this thread!