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Slope in MN--need help

 
Jen Van
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I desperately need help with our slope. Long story--short as possible:

--Bought house with sloped lawn yard (even the grass hardly grows among water drainage paths on slope); very poor soil, etc.

--I've been working uphill to get buckthorn treated (left in roots) and pulled garlic mustard and now have many natives growing. Have planted small trees all along and up and down slope (and with that slowly eliminating lawn and created mounded areas and small swales to slow water).

--But have one "hole" right in the middle that seems to grow nothing. Have amended the soil some. Tried various natives by seed which died soon after sprouting and tried native bare roots and they too died. This hole is right where all rain water and snow melt seems to run past from north west and east of us. It also seems to be a wind tunnel that heads south down into woods and blows plants and soil constantly. In addition, I have a herd of deer that browse and bunnies but am seeing some success at keeping them at bay for a while by using a motion sensors sprinkler. I'd love to make terraces but am the only one working on a .58 acre yard with little money and a four year old in tow.

--Possibly important to note is a circle of cedar mulch where my son plays with logs and finds frogs etc...and the circle is just above the "hole". Could the cedar oil or the nitrogen from mulch / rain runoff be killing the plants I'm trying to grow? Or is it my neighbors pesticides and fertilizers or is it just a bad effect of soil erosion?


--I amended the soil again and am now trying small forsythia plants and a creeping juniper. But afraid that those too will die..

ANY help is appreciated. Any ideas would be helpful.

--Jenny in Minnesota
 
John Elliott
pollinator
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Jen, you might have a patch of dirt that is infected with a soil fungus like fusarium. It can stay in the ground for years, attacking whatever you plant, until you plant something that is strong enough to kill it. Tell me, was there a lot of garlic mustard growing in that area? Because mustard is one of the few things that can compete with fusarium, and in large quantities can kill it off.

I'm pretty sure my property was infected with Fusarium when I bought it. It took an eggplant seedling all of three days to croak when I tried it the first season. But as we say in permaculture, "the problem is the solution", and to get rid of your fusarium, you're going to need to plant it with mustard and then turn that under in the fall. The sulfur compounds in the mustard, which are responsible for its sharp flavor, are what can kill off the fusarium fungus. Since I seeded my whole garden to mustard and disked it under, I have had minimal problems with it. It hasn't gone away completely, but I have it definitely under control. If I see it starting to reappear, I get the mustard seed and sprinkle it around for a spot treatment. I lost some beans and tomatoes in a new bed I put in the side yard, and so it's now been seeded with mustard for a treatment.

While the roots of the mustard plants will knock back the fusarium some, and it makes a good companion plant to keep other plants from being attacked, you really need to disk the tops under to get the full effect. If you want to give your juniper and forsythia a fighting chance, get a bag of mustard greens from the grocery store, blend them up with some water, and use that as a root drench.
 
Jen Van
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Thanks John! I never thought of this! Is it similar to snow mold? I will read more about it and take your advice. Doubt the mulch play circle directly uphill from the "hole" helps... Thanks so much for your reply!
 
Jen Van
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Also--no--garlic mustard is/was nowhere around the patch.
 
S Haze
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Location: Southern Minnesota, USA, zone 4/5
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duck forest garden trees woodworking
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What part of the state are you in Jen?

It's been very wet here lately and if you combine that with heavy soils it really makes it hard for many species to get established and conifers don't seem to grow naturally very well here other than cedars or junipers on well-drained and open hillsides.

If you could post a few pictures that might help others assist you too. Good luck!
 
Jen Van
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We are just west of the twin cities in Minnetonka. Wet--indeed! I'll try to post pics...am not tech savvy at all!
 
2017 Appropriate Technology Course at Wheaton Labs http://richsoil.com/pdc
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