I made the colossal mistake of allowing my neighbor to drive his tractor cultivator over an acre of my land. It has been ripped up thoroughly. After beating myself up over what I had done, I am resolved to repair and prepare this area for planting vegetables this spring. I am in the southeast, the soil is red clay and was covered with grass and weeds, it hasn't been planted in a few years from what I gathered from the previous owner. I have access to fresh and old manure, straw, grass clippings, leaves, pine straw, newspapers, etc. The land is shaped like an amphitheater with a total of three levels gently sloping towards the "stage." Anybody have a recipe that will get some good yields?
This may not be so colossal a mistake if what he did was to loosen up compacted clay. But that clay will easily recompact if you there isn't some organic matter in it. The best thing would be if you could spread 3 or 4 inches of that manure, straw, grass clippings and leaves and have him make another pass with the tractor cultivator. Or disk it in. Even if it is not disked in, you may have enough earthworms on the land that they will come up and snatch leaves to pull down into their holes and munch them at their leisure. Have you looked for worm castings?
What weeds were growing on it? If you had a lot of dandelions and wild garlic, that is an indication of soil compaction, and comes the fall, you may want to seed it with a tillage radish cover crop.
Have you thought of terracing this amphitheater with hugelbeds? If last month's ice storm dropped as many branches where you are as it did where I am, I'm sure you have plenty of neighbors who will be glad to give you their downed tree limbs. The only thing left is to pile some of that clay on top. When I pile my clay soil on top of the hugelbed, I try to add a good bit of sand and biochar to it so that it won't dry out to an adobe floor tile on the first sunny day.
As far as what to plant now, we still have a good two months to get a fast brassica or potato crop in before the weather gets too warm. This unusually cold winter, compared to the last few, has everything delayed. My crimson clover is just now starting to come in well and the plum trees are a month behind last year.
posted 4 years ago
Alright, John Elliot! Thank you for restoring some confidence to a rookie farmer....
The soil doesn't seem to be heavily compacted and should respond well to your suggestions. Not a lot of dandelions and wild garlic. I was thinking I would get some manure on it and work that in while loosening the big chunks and then layer some newspaper, litter, and straw.
We had a couple of hugelbeds at our old place in So. California that produced really well for us. We will definitely incorporate those into the new farm, it is indeed an ideal setup for those.