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Amending Sandy Soil  RSS feed

 
Steph Range
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Hello to all!
Knowing that this is such a great resource, We are in need of some help! We live in central coastal Portugal, zone 9. We are setting up an herb/tea and honey company on our 3.5 acres of land. However our soil is not so much like soil. Picture are below to get an idea. It is almost as barren as beach sand with the exception of moss, acacia and pine growing in it.
We need to amend it in order to make it fertile and not drain so quickly. We are planning to do some hugelkultur with tree stumps (it is all we have), however we need some amendments for the "now". Bill Mollison's books, a Designers Manual, states Zinc Sulphate 2:1 with lime at 1g/m2 should be used for coastal sandy soil. We were planning on adding the zinc sulphate + lime, kaolin clay and manure- which we would rototill together. Afterwards we would add some earthworms to accelerate things. Then in August we would plant Clover and Buckwheat as pioneer plants via seed balls. We would let them grow through part of the rainy season (rainy season here is fall-winter) and chop and drop a few weeks before spring, to be used as a green manure. Hopefully by then we would be able to plant our herbs and some trees.
We would really appreciate any input and comments on our planned amendments.
Thank you in advance permies!
 
Michael Vormwald
Posts: 154
Location: Central New York - Finger Lakes - Zone 5
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The simple answer to improve all soils is organic matter...and lots of it. Compost, manure, grass clippings, leaves.... and/or in some cases, lots of mulch to keep the ground covered. You can also grow the green manure crops and chop and drop to enrich the soil. The increased organic matter will enable the soil to retain more moisture.
Resist tilling as it can be counter productive.
 
S Bengi
Posts: 1357
Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even distribution
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Whatever plants you have growing now I recommend that you dont cut/prune/kill them.
I would plant 30lbs of dutch clover per acre twice in the rainy season for a total of 60lbs per acres.
If you are lucky maybe 5lbs per acre will actually grow so this is not overkill.

Whenever you do cut the grass, set it at the highest setting leaving at least 3inches of growth 6inch would be best.

When it comes to amending the soil: straw, woodchip, sunken hugelkultur, swales, biochar all work wonders.
Increasing the Mg to Ca ratio in favor of Mg will make your soil more "sticky" and retain more water.
I can only assume the Zinc Sulfate has a similar function so why not stack them.

Do not plant in raised hugelkultur instead aim for a level or sunken hugelkultur
 
Dave Burton
pollinator
Posts: 1026
Location: Greater Houston, TX US Hardy:9a Annual Precipitation: 44.78" Wind:13.23mph Temperature:42.5-95F
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To get resources to amend your soil, it would be best that you contact any lumber companies, arborists, or municipal government offices to see if you can get their organic waste. Lumber companies and arborists (if they are not selling the woodchips themselves) would probably be happy if you relieved them of the burden of so much wood that they do not want. This wood would just be another business expense for them- holding it, shipping it, disposing of it. On the municipal government, you could ask them for dates and locations of when they will be trimming trees and other flora beside power-lines and ask them nicely for their wood. On the other hand, you could ask the municipal government about taking other people's organic waste from whatever receptacle they are storing it in; the only thing to worry about is that you do not know what your neighbors have been doing their land, and you might take the risk of importing their toxins onto your land. You can talk to Starbucks and ask for their coffee grounds for free. You can ask local grocery stores for their food that has gone to waste and see if they will let you have it for free. You can ask your neighbors and nearby farms for their organic waste. Maybe, just maybe, if there is not one already present, you could advertise your place as accepting organic waste and let the people come to you to fertilize and build your soil. I would just be concerned about others not knowing what makes wastes "organic" and "nonorganic". That might be a problem.
 
Steph Range
Posts: 12
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Thank you all for the responses.
S Bengi, if you don't mind me asking, why do you recommend not cutting down the acacia and removing the current plant life? And what form of Mg would be best used?
Thank you for the input
I will see if i can talk to a local lumber company. Would using coffee grounds make the soil too acidic however?

 
Dave Burton
pollinator
Posts: 1026
Location: Greater Houston, TX US Hardy:9a Annual Precipitation: 44.78" Wind:13.23mph Temperature:42.5-95F
109
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I did a quick search on the Internet for what coffee grounds do to the soil, and this is what it came up with.

According to GardenWeb, coffee grounds are acidic before the brewing process occurs, and after brewing, the coffee grounds are pretty much neutral.
Here is a link to what they had to say about coffee grounds for further information: http://faq.gardenweb.com/faq/lists/soil/2002015354019975.html
 
allen lumley
pollinator
Posts: 4154
Location: Northern New York Zone4-5 the OUTER 'RONDACs percip 36''
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Steph Range : In many places in Spain and Portugal, the natural growth of plant life is too cluttered and unkempt to the natives eye, and they will go in and remove
everything down to the bare dirt ! We can not speak for the common practices in your area, but IF you find yourself in such an area you may find that your neighbors
are uncomfortable with anything but the Scalped look !

Acacia are indigenous to the entire Mediterranean basin area and have adapted to the soils and have relatively low water requirements I Think , To protect
what top soil you do have, make sure that you will have lots of ground cover before you consider removing anything ! Also investigate nitrogen fixing plants with low
water requirements ! For the good of the Crafts ! Big AL
 
Wayne Mackenzie
Posts: 109
Location: Sunizona Az., USA @ 4,400' Zone 8a
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greening the desert
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I have 3 barrels of dry coffee grounds at all times. I mix them with aged horse manure (60% grounds) and spread it out about .25" thick before covering with wood chips. it's not perfect, but is dirt cheap & appears to be working well for my sand box.

Edit: I also throw in Marshall's (Our Rabbit) poop.
 
Dave Burton
pollinator
Posts: 1026
Location: Greater Houston, TX US Hardy:9a Annual Precipitation: 44.78" Wind:13.23mph Temperature:42.5-95F
109
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Here are some desert climate nitrogen fixers:

Acacias (easily grown, opportunistic species)

Bird of Paradise (Caesalpinia gilliesii) <-- latin name for clarification This plant is a tropical plant that is adapted to dry climates.

Palo Verde (nice green tree that produces edible peas)

Mesquites (has long tap roots with access to the lower and upper ends of the water table)

I found this out on:
http://www.elpasotwigs.com/highlight/rhizobium.html and Wikipedia
 
Steph Range
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Thank you Dave for all that useful info! We will try to talk to some local cafes about getting their used coffee grounds. It would be a good idea to mix the amendments with the manure and the coffee grounds.
Allen- there is no top soil over here on the land, if i could upload the photos i would show you. Neighbours have sold their sandy soil-just sand really- to cement companies because it is so pure and free of any organic matter. The only organic matter that has made topsoil is the moss in some small patches, Im not really sure how the pine grows so well.

We looked more into different green mulches- we're thinking of making seeds balls of clover, buckwheat, phacelia and fenugreek as pioneer species to accelerate the process.

Does anyone know any info about using Kaolin clay for sandy soil? I have a limited amount of info and am not sure if it safe to use or not.
Thanks to all!
 
allen lumley
pollinator
Posts: 4154
Location: Northern New York Zone4-5 the OUTER 'RONDACs percip 36''
58
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Steph Range : Koalin clay usually comes out of the ground in a very pure form, in some places in the world the bands or belts ( geologists call them plays )
can be a hundred feet thick or more. Check with your local potter, if you understate your needs a little, and show a little love for THEIR Crafts, They may well
admit that they have a local source that has been continuously used for generations!

Any one who works with Adobe/Cob can share the same or other locations, make sure they understand you are not just going into business for your self !

( Without lots of Organic material in your soil, by introducing clay you will be making Adobe/cob ) For the Craft ! Big AL
 
Andre Lemos
Posts: 56
Location: Castelo Branco, Portugal
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Hello Steph, i had the same problem as you last year and here are my ideas if i could do it all over:

1- buy tons of straw ( a 20 kg hay bale costs around 2.5€ in the village i live.) and spread all over the farm.
2- sow a heavy mix of legume/herbaceous seeds in October and let it grow.
3- No till.


Acacias are a big problem in Portugal, so you can cut, chop and spread them through your farm.
Allen said it all about adding clay in your sandy soil without organic matter so that's not a good idea.

I sowed tremocilha in about 3 ha and will let it fall to reseed in October so i can share some kg with you

Where are you guys located at?
 
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