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building soil on sand  RSS feed

 
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yes- the cottonwood is in the same genus as the poplar in the original posting. But a river bar has a higher water table and different nutrient availability from the pine woods, so it's a different situation. Just as you say tho. learn fro observing natural succession. And then we work out ways to accelerate it. Like my friends who raise hogs, get paid for that work, and the hogs spread the nutrients and work 'em in.
Bayberry is a great plant for sand, (and California Wax Myrtle at least has fruit that chickens love as well as the wax-covered berries same as the eastern Bayberry (same genus) AND is an actinorhizal nitrogen fixer, but I don't know an equivalent plant for the mid-continent. (if that is where the original poster is located) I would not be surprised if there is some such shrubbery.
NB: "Bay" can be true Bay (from Mediterranean Europe with spice leaves and toxic fruit) is not the same as California Bay/Oregon Myrtle/Umbellularia (with leaves that can be used as a spice or can give or take away a headache when crushed and inhaled, and edible "nuts" (after roasting or other processing to neutralize toxins) In English, any tree/shrubbery with smelly ovate evergreen leaves tends to get called "bay" so bay ware, when in doubt use Latin.
I figure if you're trying to accelerate succession, it does behoove one to get a soil test from a good organic-ag oriented lab and get the micronutrients checked and do what must be done to provide such for the garden space if nowhere else. One friend noted that the finer you grind rock (ie nutrients) the more expensive it is. But if you get grit (ie "1/4 minus" or "quarry fines" ) of an appropriate rock (ask your friendly community college geology instructor or other geo geek if you aren't) and get the stuff in a pickup and hire a crew to grind it finer and distribute it in the garden zone with some added nutrients. Around here we hire chickens and turkeys for that work.
If your soil does not have the water table high enough to grow big-ass cottonwoods- well, maybe on sand you dig trenches and do the reverse hugel and bury dead poplar logs with appropriate fungal inoculation and that can help hold moisture, hitting peak a few years after initial burial. And use tree chip mulches on top.
Just curious about the corn on sand- did you use any of the traditional Hopi or Dineh sand-grown corn varieties or just regular?
 
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Location: NW Florida
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Hi Pamela,
It's so amazing how microclimates are. You live so far from me and yet we have very similar seasons and issues. I live in NW Florida, close to the coast, in sands and pines. I have a mild winter, never below 15 degrees, and a triple digit summer. When it rains, it is usually a severe storm, and when it doesn't the sand gets hot and dry really quick. I have no budget for massive amounts of soil amendments or anything extreme. So getting anything to grow besides bramble blackberries has taking a lot of strategy. I do think not having a tiller has worked in my favor, too. I split my year into different growing seasons and split the yard/garden area to match. During winter most of my growing moves to the south side of the house and I grow spring/fall greens. I grow short season veggies from Feb to June, and then again Sept to Dec. I dont ask anything to grow well during July or Aug, unless its in the shade (North side of the house). If I'm not growing, I'm not watering in competition with 100 degree heat. Then I started with raised beds and containers, since I wanted immediate results. After about 18 months my original raised beds section is now ready to become a row crop field. I used large fresh wood chips in between the raised beds, and cardboard, wood chips, straw, hay, manure, compost, leaves and whatever else I could get my hands on inside the beds. Whenever a container veggie was done I would just add it's dirt to a raised bed. That's probably a no-no, but it seemed like no matter how much compost or mulch I put in my beds the ground level would sink back to original height. And even with mulch it seemed like the top was always dry. But if I would dig down about 6 inches, there was a definite difference in the amount of moisture. Plants with deep roots did fine, plants with shallow roots showed stress (folded or wimpy leaves, puniness). I built a plastic lined puddle-pond for my mint plants and a few other water lovers, and have drip trays or liners under all my pots to keep them hydrated. I'm still working on expanding my growing area, (it's a slow process) and it's not the traditional garden image, but I am able to produce food in an otherwise awkward growing area.
 
Posts: 88
Location: BC Canada Zone 5&6
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Sounds like you get a better growing time then I do Diana. Sounds like you e doing great job to take advantage of all 4 seasons.
I will be starting again this year to build up my soil in various places. I too get triple digits in july and Aug but I must simply water and keep saw chips on it to keep it from drying out.
My growing season is April/May through to Oct.

I have decided to lay down popular and burn it. Cover with my chicken and goose manure. I will have lots from the coop and goose pen this spring.In a year we hope to get a dexter cow. Manure will come quick then. I will also add hay mulch and soe sand and clay. Maybe get my hands on some horse manure then put black plastic over it and allow the summer heat burn out all the weeds and with luck grow orchard grass this fall.
Also hoping to get into growing mushrooms and that will give me lots of mushroom compost.

As for my garden we are actually experimenting on 3 different watering systems with the rain gutter bucket method.
It will be interesting to see how it all comes together. Fun learning.
 
Rick Valley
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I am curious Diana, as to whether you have ever gotten a soil test done by a lab service which understands organic farming and makes appropriate recommendations? I have always been low-income due to a terrible addiction to living simply, but I made the mistake of not doing this once and it cost me years of fruitless work. The soil test finally gave me the clue that nitrogen was low and phosphorus was high, which was unexpected due to the soil type. Not that that might be your problem, but I thought I understood the soil type and the geology and all of that. I know from my first outing into planting my own garden (11th grade) that there's good clay just across the line in the Valdosta GA area. Do you know what sort of sand you have? (quartz or coral/limestone?)
Pamela- do you have an idea about what burning the poplar will do? Actual charcoal (what people have begun calling "Biochar" to sound scientific or just use an extra syllable or something) can be combined with compost and it is a great compost and soil additive, being fairly stable and increasing nutrient storage in soil. Just burning in a trench will not produce much charcoal though because the carbon will combust and depart as CO2 into the air. You'll be left with a small amount of mineral ash. Any organic matter in the soil will likewise be burned up. Using poplar for mushroom logs will produce better material for composting and growing plants, as will burying dead wood and giving it some time. (gardening will still be possible above the wood, as hugel kultur fanatics will tell you) Chipping the poplar and using the chips on top of the garden soil will likewise encourage fungal growth and enrich the soil while keeping soil moisture in. Horse manure is great, but sure, there can be seeds in it. Sounds like you do have some seed eaters handy though, and they happen to be compost makers too. If you have a spot for the chickens to be where there is slope, then you have a set-up opportunity for a chicken compost system. They will happily earn their keep doing this. You just design a system where you dump material in at the top end and remove it at the bottom end. In between, the chickens are constantly turning it all to get things to eat out of it: sprouted grain that you add each day, some sort of crushed rock grit (pick rock with minerals your soil needs) kitchen scraps, green leaves or grass clippings, rotten fruit from the market, and yes, horse shit with seeds in it. They'll find all the seeds and mix the rest in with everything. Anytime you do some layers in the compost pile, take a wheelbarrow load or two from the bottom end of the coop and it will up the function of your compost dramatically.
 
Pamela Smith
Posts: 88
Location: BC Canada Zone 5&6
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Thanks rick for the suggestions. I am currently researching how I could make biochar from the poplar.I know putting it in a trench and burning it is not the way.
I was going to lay black plastic down for the summer.A friend who is an organic farmer does this. it gets hot enough it actually burns out all the seeds and weeds quite deep.
My chickens use to free range all over the property but they always end up at my door waiting for me to feed them and of course making a mess so we have a 1 acre area set up that is fenced for them to free range.
They get nothing but the best. Free range in a forested area, fermented feed, fodder, pumpkins, left over greens and veggies and so much more. All organic as well. If I ever get enough of a stock pile I will take it to their area to churn up for me.
We do have a wood chipper and all the poplar smaller branches have already been done as you mentioned. That much I do know. The bigger ones have been kept to turn into biochar. If you go up the post you will see I have dismissed my original idea as a hugel. On my land it would turn into a mess with gohpers, moles, voles and ants hence why I am looking into biochar.
 
Rick Valley
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Pamela, your chickens have it really good to have so much ground to cover! I last had chickens in a situation where if they ranged far all day they'd start nesting in hiding places and sleep on people's porches, which is messy and some intolerant types really hate roosters crowing outside their bedroom window. So the chooks spent until early afternoon in a small coop and a yard big enough they weren't on top of each other, with abundant fruit & scraps and hay and garden weeds) and then got out AFTER they had laid. Then they were too excited hunting bugs and eating old nuts and oyster shells crushed in the driveway to scratch away all the mulch around the fruit trees. That system yielded weekly compost materials (nice dark soil from the yard and mucky straw from the coop) But it did not have enough slope to deliver the dark soil to one end; instead, I just buried eggshsells and tossed garden weeds in and then dug out craters here and there, ot fill the wheelbarrow for the compost which process was always of interest to the chooks because of all the worms that got turned up.
I visited Tom Ward once up Wolf Creek and he showed me a charcoal kiln he'd rigged, just a big sheet metal box he'd filled with Manzanita wood, and after getting it burning we pulled the lid on and covered it with earth to weight it closed. Not a super yield of char, but worth the time & fire hazard reduction. Quite a bit of art to it, with such simplicity. Tom said yields varied considerably, even after practice, because so much depended on building the fire so it powered the char part of the burn, and knowing the instant to "put the lid on" and shut the air off.
I'm wondering if you've seen any mushrooms associating with the poplar- I've always seen mushrooms seeming very important in sandy soils, and there might be some clues there for allies in your quest.
 
Pamela Smith
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Location: BC Canada Zone 5&6
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Rick, I currently have mushrooms that sprout up all over our acreage but i do not think they are edible. We have not seen any growing on or around the few poplars we have.Our land is 97% coniferous trees. I hope to change that as well one day
We do want to get into growing mushrooms but that would be under controlled conditions in a building in a substrate not in logs.
Thanks for the idea with creating biochar. Sounds like a similar idea I want to do. I will experiment and see if it is worth doing. I hate to waste wood especially when our heat out here is wood.
Our chickens are locked up all night, come home to eat and sadly lay all day so they are let our for breakfast and left in their pen until mid morning before they are let out to free range. Most lay in the am but some as late as late afternoon.
Pullets are left in the pen around the time they should be laying to get them use to laying in the coop. The odd one will decide to lay in the bush.
 
Pamela Smith
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We have talked about adding charcoal to the soil. I was watching this series of films of people reenacting how people lived/worked on a farm in the 17th century. Video 9 touches briefly on how to make your own charcoal. Interestingly they do not talk about charcoal for the soil but for industrial uses. There use to be a person that would travel around from place to place that specialized in producing charcoal. With this knowledge I am going to research further but here is that video for those who are interested.




 
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Hey Pamela,

I live in West MI, in the middle of an 18 acre plot. It's half pine barrens, and half early Pin/Red Oak forest. The only non-forested land I had was my front yard, so I started, like any idiot gardener who knows nothing but what the big box home improvement center tells him, by ripping the sod out and tilling. By doing that I pretty much destroyed any of the topsoil I had, and it was all sand from there. I became savvy to permaculture the next year and continued to try every method possible. Like a lot of other replies here have stated, the best solution for me was creating deep dug out hugel beds and heavily sheet mulching on top. Being that I live in a forest, I mulched mostly with leaves, which take two years to break down, so it has been a slow process. I tried the Sep method of high, heavily sloped beds, but found that does not work with sandy soil. The water runs off, and all the soil and sand ends up sliding away with it. So I ended up going with with small mounds, and they are proving to be much more effective at retaining the water and building the soil. The only inputs besides leaves have been whatever compost I can create with my kitchen scraps, a 50 lbs. bag of composted chicken manure, and my own urine. 4 years in, and I can say it's really starting to come alive. I set up a drip irrigation system, but don't have to use it too heavily as my soil seems to retain moisture pretty well for being mostly sand. The mulch, the couple of inches of organic matter on top, and the rotted pine trees at the bottom seem to be doing well for me.

I have faced a few issues that you should be mindful of:

1. The first year of sheet mulching I had a serious slug problem.
It's something to be aware of, I got it under control by building habitat for the reptiles, and amphibious that eat them. Having rocks, decayed logs, and moist areas for them to hide worked extremely well for me.

2. Greens and shallow rooted vegetables did terrible.
The one thing I decided to grow in more rich soil with heavy organic matter has been my greens. I find in sandy soils they just perform poorly and taste pretty bitter. So I just built a couple of raised beds for my spinach and lettuce for now. There's no crime in traditional raised beds while you work, and wait patiently to build the rest of your soil. For my raised beds I laid about a foot of duck litter and leaves and then filled it up another foot with organic potting soil that I got for next to nothing. A 2 foot raised bed is ambitious and expensive, especially when you are just growing greens, I did it for ease of gardening and aesthetics, so you can easily do a bunch of 8 inch raised beds for your greens.

3. Leaves are my best friend in the garden, but traditional composting methods and thinking won't work.
Leaves are probably the easiest organic matter to come by for most people. If you have access to hardwood leaves from neighbors, grab all you can get, and pile them in your most walked upon paths. After the season is through you'll find the leaves to be broken down as if they were shredded. At the end of the fall, just throw all the crushed leaves on top of your beds for the winter. After winter is through you'll find most of the leaves to be pretty much composted. If you just throw whole leaves onto your beds, or into a compost pile, it'll take forever to break down. By using them as your path mulch, you break them down just by walking on them. You can use them for chicken bedding as well, but leaves and manure really don't mix well. I personally found this method most efficient without having to purchase or spend time with a leaf shredder.

4. Most gardening advice doesn't work with straight sand soils.
I find most advice online, and in books, speaking to the folks with heavier soils. And it makes sense, most farms that exist today, exist because all the sandy soils couldn't sustain farming after the farmers depleted the top soil, and were abandoned to the states. There's a lot of advice geared towards helping drainage, and aerating soils. None of this really applies for sand as it is itself an ingredient used for aeration and drainage in potting soil recipes, focus almost entirely on building your organic matter, and do everything you can to stop erosion.

One last thing, if you can find rotted pine logs, the kind that's soft, that's a great medium to grow in. I found a ton of it and used it for all my hugel beds. I didn't have the patience to use hardwood, or fresh logs. It'll create a nice sponge on the bottom of your beds, you could also use it to mulch. Acidity might be an issue in some cases, but I haven't found it to be for me.

Overall it's just a matter of patience and getting organic matter on top and below your soil. There's more than enough advice on this thread to keep you busy for a few years. Just know I feel your pain and know your struggle too well

Happy Growing!!

Jonathan
 
Rick Valley
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That's a great story Jonathan, thank you! I have also noticed snails and slugs thriving around piles of autumn leaves, and like you found the herps great allies in controlling the mollusks. For me the best herp habitat features are small piles of sticks and some black plastic for heat gain- helps the snakes be active. Have you found any nitrogen fixing plants that work well in your systems? Have you tried combining leaf mulch with animals for faster soil production? I am once again finding myself working on sandy soil due to a new love who lives by a creek in an area with sandstone geology. She grows terrific carrots in her sand. It seems like alders and Eleagnus are going to be good allies for nitrogen fixation. She already rakes all the maple leaves off the county road and ditches, and keeps a big flock of chickens.
 
Jonathan Rivera
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Rick, I haven't tried black plastic, but the concept definitely sounds like it'll work. A pile of darker rocks would also work really well at collecting heat. I have sticks, rotting pine, rocks, and the like, and there's no spot in my garden that isn't 40 feet from the forest. I also have a perennial herb area that is shaded in the afternoons. It's a breading ground for all sorts of creatures. Anytime of the day, I can usually spot frogs hanging out on the Rhubarb leaves.

For my intensive vegetable beds, I usually have enough of my urine to provide all the nitrogen my plants need. I know there are a lot of people that may not be keen to the idea, but it works wonders. Sand is actually a great growing medium if you can keep the plants fertilized and watered. I find there's no source of nitrogen cheaper or easier to apply I usually dilute it 20/1 and even then have to be careful not to over fertilize. So for my vegetables beds, I haven't used any nitrogen fixers besides beans and peas. In my perennial areas I use a lot of white dutch clover and lupines. Eventually I'm going to try to convert an acre of a white pine stand into an orchard, I plan on doing that incrementally by clearing out rows and getting lupines established first. They seem to do really well in pine barren soil, as it is their native environment.

Although I have 18 acres, I'm still located in a city with zoning restrictions on animals. We had chickens until my angry neighbor called the city . When we had the chickens, I did try using leaves as bedding, but it didn't really react the same as straw. I would think the excessive manure inhibits the natural fungi communities from doing their job, but I may be wrong there. What sort of system does your "new love" have in place with her chickens? Is she using them to break down and "enrich" all those maple leaves?
 
Rick Valley
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Bummer that there's not allowable animals in yr. city. Most Northwest cities now allow a small number of almost any small breed, but not, alas, roosters. (gender prejudice!) Using our own "wastes" certainly does close the loops, and the plants respond well. We have mild winters here in the PNW, but the nitrates in urine can cause uptake of excessive water=less hardy plants. So in the winter/late autumn my vitamin P goes to help speed the brown leaves on their way in the cycle. (did you ever see in one of the early color-cover issues of the Permaculture Activist my friend Elaine Meyers' article "Pee in the Garden" her "on the napkin" type calculations that indicate we each pass on enough nitrogen to supply the USDA rule-of-thumb 200/lb N per year to the amount of sq. ft. it takes to feed us? God planned it for us!) Sophia does not do much poultry management; there is a coop re-design in progress with inclusion of a larger area, and I'm introducing ideas that will help get better yields from the birds' behaviors; I'm sure she'll cook something up out of the options. (I've also donated more fencing and T posts) We're also working with an ominous cut bank as the creek meanders closer to the house, and doing some riparian work that entails deep soil improvement, dropping sections of the bank/terracing, adding meanders and lots of vegetation. Sophia has been coexisting with beavers for years, and they're helping. In this situation, the sand is tricky- roots don't necessarily go deep in packed, nutrient-poor sand, and a 7 foot cut bank can move quite fast when the creek is high. Burying wood is one tactic we're trying in this regard. Sophia is literally learning from the beavers how best to place dormant willow cuttings.
Lupines are terrific N fixers; have you found any woody ones that work in your zone? I've seen acres of glacial outwash sand lands in SW Michigan that are covered with Autumn Olive; I know from experience that that shrubbery makes great compost, mulch, and as a companion speeds the growth of trees. It's so hated I fear using the name, but I've made an awesome meringue pie with the fruit, it's good firewood, and here it's not illegal. (here we hate Scot's Broom, which is great on sand too, altho with fewer uses, but better wood) I must go now- I'm off to Michigan this evening for my younger brother's wake, and there's a list to tend to.
 
Pamela Smith
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Location: BC Canada Zone 5&6
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Jonathan, I planted an orchard on what is gravelly sand and the fruit trees are growing great. What I did was dig a hole and filled it with lots of mulch, Rotted wood chips and hay about a foot or so deep with calcium, kelp etc. Then planted the 2 year old bear root fruit trees into that. Of course I covered up with more mulch and then the sand on top of that then a wood chip to hold moisture. 2 years later and everything is growing great. Problem is I put the trees to low into the hole because it sunk deeper then I calculated and the graft is about 6 inches below the level of the land so I have to watch not to cover the graft. So the 2 new trees I will do this year I will fill and place to give me my foot of mulch but leave the tree above ground level so it will not sink so low below the level of the ground next time.

The rest of the orchard I filled up last year with my compost,about 6 inches thick or so. It should give lots of nutrients around the trees. This year I plan on putting black plastic on it for the heat of the summer to cook this mulch to be sure it is well rotted, seeds are gone and ready for a good base for planting in the future if I need to.

We did the same for our vineyard. Filled the rows with deep mulch and then planted our vines. They too are growing well.

As for sand , water and plant growth. Well as mentioned when I started this thread. Hubby insisted on tilling my mulch into the sand in the garden before I plant. After 3 years it was still all sand. Water would just run off and or drain away to fast. Last summer was hell. It was our hottest summer yet. temperature in the 3 digits F around 40c. Even though I had put tons of wood chips around all the plants the water would still just run off or disappear so fast. I spent so much time watering. Ended up with a great garden but so much water wasted.

This year we are simply doing the rain gutter bucket system. BUT I have a couple acres I want to build soil up on the sand so I can plant some crops one day. Hence why I was trying to figure the best way to do that. I got it figured out now or at least I hope. I will be starting this spring and we will see how it goes over the next few years. Thanks for sharing by the way.
 
Jonathan Rivera
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Pamela, glad to hear you've had some good success overall. Send us an update on how it goes this spring! I've attached some before and after photos of my garden. I did forget, I tilled in some composted manure the first year, and I was able to snag a few yards of composted wood chips (as seen on the tarp in the second photo) last year. I applied that as a top layer mulch pretty much throughout my garden areas. Hoping for the best year yet, can't wait for spring!
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2012: You can see the the right half of the garden was straight sand the first year. The rest had a little bit of organic matter in it.
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2015
 
Rick Valley
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Most everyone recommends not planting trees into mulch or filling the planting hole with organic material at the same time as planting; one way to avoid planted trees sinking is to do the buried wood in a star pattern w/o filling in the center, so that the main roots are buried in straight native soil. amendments go in trenches that stretch away from the tree between the roots and feeder roots will grow into the organic debris as they wish. The usual mulch "donut" can go on top of the soil around the tree. I also make sure to add compost and rotting wood in all areas that get buried wood- speeds up the process. One way I successfully created planting holes for trees on disturbed and compacted ancient clay ultisol* Then, we soaked the wood with compost activator #1 (AKA, "vitamin P") added a small amount of compost, and covered the wood with "dynamic accumulator" trimmings- comfrey leaves, scots broom (Cytisus scoparia) trimmings, leafy black locust branches, bracken fern, etc. (emphasis on using local "invasive weeds") Then we replaced the turves, upside down. We made repeat visits, adding trimmings like English Ivy and Himalyan/Armenian blackberry (AKA "Burbank's Curse") during the dry summer when they crisp up and would not root and grow, and add more "vitamin P" about 2-4 times a year and more scythings and trimmings anytime we worked in the area. After 2-3 years we found it possible to chop it all up with broad hoes, pull b the chop back and plant grafted fruit trees (on M111 semi-dwarf rootstock) use the chop for the top 4-6 inches of cover soil, place a new cover mulch, and have the trees survive with 3-4 irrigations the first summer. (when we don't have rain) It's easier than trying to do it in just one initial planting/mulching event with weekly watering all summer for several years after, and we had better trees in the end.
* (a word with the "sol" suffix describes a soil type- an "ultisol" is an ultimate, poorest, leached-out low nutrient soil. Australia is full of them, and perhaps this is a reason permaculture arose there.)

YO! Permies! y'all want my mega-compost article about how to make beaucoup compost in small-farm quantities w/o using petrochemical slaves or destroying your back? (and it's also very appropriate for making compost which is balanced towards the mycorhizal end of the compost spectrum rather than the bacterial)
 
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I am reading this, thinking about the sandy soil we have. Think beach without the ocean. Pure sand. I planted my first year, new ground garden last year and it was a dismal failure. First Noah's floods deluged us for several months, then the water turned off and the summer heat fried everything that managed to survive the floods. Then we got Pharaoh's plague of grasshoppers and the rabbits finished off what the grasshoppers didn't eat.

We got 9 8-yard loads of pine shavings from a horse event center and spread it on the garden this fall. Then we got 3 feeder pigs and turned them in the garden. We were able to gather leaves and toss leaves in the garden too. The pigs have dug up roots, briar bulbs and roots, they have pooped all over the place and I hope they have made improvements. The pigs go to freezer camp this month and then I'll smooth out the pits they have dug and remulch. Wish me luck for the second year!
 
Rick Valley
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Sand is very interesting because, at a certain micro size, the molecular attraction in the silicon dioxide is strong enough that the sand grains are basically permanent. They'll be part of a beach, then a dune, then a sandstone, then a gorgeous sandstone arch, then windblown pitting your windshield, then a sand bar left in a stream ad infinitum. and water percs right thru, carrying away everything soluble. It's pretty identical to growing plants in a glass (silica) of water, only the glass doesn't hold water.
We all like pigs because they are cheap to feed- they eat about what we do, and will dig it all in, which equals organic slime which does hold water and nutrients. And we look for ANY plants in the ecology that survive on the sand, and encourage and use them. Fungi are allies in this too- the mycelium penetrates between the sand grains, equals more organic slime. Any disturbance of the soil which doesn't add organic material- carbon and micronutrients- will expose these to oxidation and leaching, so it's best to avoid such useless digging. And anything we can do that adds new minerals is A GOOD THING. This is why I have said things like "look for a different geology and get some of it" "get a pickup load of clay" and "feed mineral grit to yr. chooks", ie, if I was trying to homestead on sands near Arches National Monument near Moab Utah I would take any excuse to make a trip to the LaSalle Mountains which are a more recent volcanic geology (not dawn of the dinosaurs sandstone like Arches) and grab me some of that good stuff while on my ski trip or whatever. Every little bit helps when you're flat broke! If you're keen on information from the dawn of permaculture there's good stuff about working with sand from Permaculture Western Australia folks; they are on some very old sand, some of them, and have a problematic climate as well. I am just back from a trip to the Bay Area, and I visited Van Damme State Park in Mendocino and got to see the Pygmy Forest which is on flat, upraised beach benches which have had their sand leached in place for 2-5 hundred thou w/o inputs. Ther native American solution was to do controlled burns to enhance the huckleberry crop: the heather/blueberry family does well in poor soil because they have big allies in fungal circles. I was intrigued by the aromatics in the green cones of the Gowen Cypress trees- seemed a valuable oil? An 80-yr-old Gowen Cypress might be 3 ft. tall, and a half-inch in diameter. Not far away, on the same bench, a German woman had a gorgeous homestead with an awesome garden, but I didn't have time to chivvy her out to talk about how she did it, but it was evident she'd taken time. On Sauvies Is. near Portland OR I had my first nursery plot on dredge spoil from the Columbia River, some was pure sand. I started by buying two semi loads of dairy manure solids and interplanted with Robinia and Eleagnus, both invasive weeds. (and nitrogen fixing- rhizobial and actinorhizal respectively) and both yielding nectar, and high-value timber and fruit, respectively. I had to irrigate for years, but now it's a self-governing agroforestry system yielding bamboo products, (poles and edible shoots especially) timber, and nectar. In retrospect, the $300 (in 1980 $$$) for manure was a VERY GOOD investment.
 
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TO: Pamela Smith
FROM: Eric Koperek = erickoperek@gmail.com
SUBJECT: Building Soil on Sand
DATE: PM 6:00 Thursday 10 Mars 2016
TEXT:

(1) Your question answers itself. Build soil ON sand (not IN sand). Do not try to mix sand with organic matter to make soil. Earthworms dislike coarse, sharp sand and greatly favor soft, moist organic matter. You need to encourage earthworm populations so GROW CROPS ON TOP OF THE SOIL, NOT IN THE GROUND = make permanent raised beds and fill with compost, manure, or any available source of organic matter. You may have to seed your raised beds with common earthworms to "jump start" your soil.

(2) How do you farm without dirt? Answer: Make your own soil. Find the cheapest source of organic matter and use it to fill permanent raised beds. Ideal raised beds are 3 to 4 feet wide x 2 to 3 feet deep x any convenient length. raised bed depth is critically important. You must have at least 2 feet of "dirt" in order to hold sufficient water and nutrients for sustained crop production. Don't make raised beds too wide or you will not be able to comfortably tend crops by hand. 5 feet wide is the maximum practical bed width for hand cultivation. 3 foot wide beds are most convenient. Cover beds with hoops and spun bonded polyester fabric, mosquito netting, or closely woven cheese cloth to keep out insect pests. Use plastic sheeting or glass panes to provide frost protection as necessary.

(3) Forget about the rest of your property (for now). Concentrate all of your labor and resources on building raised beds for your crops. Dealing with the rest of your land is another battle. Fight 1 war at a time. First, you need to feed yourself so build as many feet of raised bed as possible.

(4) Since the Middle Ages, Austrian farmers have been growing bountiful crops in abandoned quarries, sand pits, and other rocky places (because the land was free or cheap). All you need are leaves or some other source of organic matter. Anything that rots makes good soil. Just pile it up and plant in it. Common potatoes or sweet potatoes are good first year crops because they do not require highly fertile soil. Keep adding organic matter continuously, year-by-year, season-by-season, crop-by-crop. Haul and spread organic matter rather than plowing and cultivating. Rely on earthworms to till and fertilize your soil. Raised beds filled with organic matter typically contain 1 million earthworms per acre = 23 worms per cubic foot of dirt. 1 million worms per acre produce 2,000 pounds = 1 ton of earthworm castings per day during the growing season = a vast amount of free organic fertilizer. Feed the worms and they will feed your crops.

(5) Dairy cow manure is ideal if you can obtain it in quantity. Just fill up your beds and plant. Most (but not all) crops can be grown in either fresh or dried cow manure. Cow manure does not necessarily need to be composted before use. (I learned this in India where many gardeners grow flowers, fruits, and vegetables in raised beds filled with dried cow manure).

(6) If you cannot build raised beds then dig planting pits every 12 to 15 feet apart. Each pit should hold not less than 2 bushels = 16 gallons of compost or manure = about 54 pounds dry weight. In the center of each hole bury a 6 to 8 quart un-glazed clay jar up to its rim in compost or manure. Fill jar with water up to the brim. Cover water filled jar with a lid or tile. Replace water daily as water level falls. Plant 4 squash, cucumber, pumpkin, or melon seeds close around each jar. Thin to the strongest seedling. You can use the same method to grow tomatoes, peppers, sweet potatoes, beans and other fast-growing crops. This ancient Chinese agricultural technology is more than 2,000 years old.

(7) I grew up on a small truck farm comprised mostly of raised beds, about 25 acres of crops. The beds are built of stone walls and filled with tree leaves, stable bedding, and cow manure. These beds have been in continuous production for more than 400 years. After tax farm income averages $4,000 per acre. This really works; just keep building more raised beds each year.

( Always keep your beds mulched year-round. Never leave the soil bare. Apply mulch at least 8 inches thick because it will settle to around 4 inches in depth. Pull aside mulch just enough to set transplants and seeds. Once plants are well established, pull mulch close around plant stems.

(9) Ignore weeds unless they become too dense. Smother weeds with a handful of mulch or cut with scissors or pruning shears. Ideally, you want about 5,000 weeds per acre = approximately 1 weed every 3 feet. Weeds provide food, shelter, and alternate hosts for beneficial predators and parasites that keep crop pests under control.

(10) Mix equal parts by weight of cow manure and water. Soak 1 hour only then strain to avoid clogging irrigation system. Apply liquid fertilizer to growing plants only. Never apply soluble plant food to bare soil. Use this poor man's "miracle grow" to fertilize any commercial vegetable or flower crop.

(11) I used to live in northern Saskatchewan on the Canadian Shield = a giant slab of granite = very little or no soil. I made my garden by piling up reeds and aquatic weeds. Each potato plant was fertilized with a handful of fish or moose bones. USE CHEAP, LOCALLY AVAILABLE MATERIALS. Work with what you have close to hand.

ERIC KOPEREK
 
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Location: Melbourne Australia
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A technique that has been popular in Australia is the "No Dig (till) Garden. It should work on sand (or anything else)

This is a recipe for a No-Dig Garden as developed by Sydney gardener Esther Dean in 1970’s which is basically a garden above ground made up of layers of organic matter that rot down into a nutrient-rich living soil. It is much like making lasagne adding one layer upon another until the desired thickness.

It is the perfect solution to tough or poor soils and can be created on virtually any surface, be it rocky soil or heavy clay, even over lawn and concrete, and eliminates the need for any backbreaking work.

No-dig gardening is like composting. You need a good mixture of carbon materials in the form of straw, and nitrogen in the form of manures. Water each layer lightly, because the garden needs to be moist to function properly.

Step 1
Mark out the area and edge it with bricks or any material that will contain the soil when it is built. Four square metres is a good size to start, but this can be expanded later.

Step 2
Cover the entire area with wads of newspaper a good half centimetre thick to smother any weeds. Overlap the pages so there are no gaps for weeds to grow through, and avoid using as much coloured print as possible. Water the area newspaper well so that it starts breaking down immediately.

Step 3
Cover the area with pads of lucerne hay, which will break down easily. This could be substituted by pea-straw or crop-straw like rye or canola, whatever is cheap and available. Crop-straw is usually less expensive than lucerne or pea-straw, but is lower in nitrogen. Water the straw lightly.

Step 4
Next apply a layer of organic fertiliser. Chicken manure is excellent because it has high amounts of nitrogen, which helps the breakdown high carbon materials, but any farm manure will perform the function.

Step 5
Add a 20-centimetre layer of loose straw.

Step 6
Add another layer of manure and again water lightly. Of course you can create as many layers as you like.

Step 7
Finally, you will need some good compost to plant the seeds and seedlings into. If there is enough available, the whole surface area of the garden could be covered with compost to about 10 cm. Alternatively pockets of compost can be created for planting so that it can support a new plant while the new garden is breaking down.

Some people like to leave the whole bed until it has broken down, but it is not always necessary. Initially it is better to grow established seedlings in a new no-dig garden rather than direct sowing. The best plants to use are potatoes and the shallow rooted plants like brassica’s, lettuces and cucurbits. and even some annuals and perennials.

Once the garden is more mature it is much easier to establish the deeper-rooted crops when the soil has broken down.

Instead of manure, the mix could be boosted with blood and bone, which is high in nitrogen, calcium and phosphorous but low in potassium, so supplement the mixture with about 10% of sulphate of potash, or even woodash.

Worms are an essential part of the no-dig garden, and will invade the area naturally and are necessary to aerate the layers.

The bed will break down into a nutrient-rich soil, so it will need to be kept topped up with fresh layers of organic matter. Why dig a garden the conventional way when there are millions of worms willing to do the work for you.
 
pollinator
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i have posted this story elsewhere on permies. when in india i planted into straight sand subsoil on 5 acres. trenches were made between coconut trees and i spread on the earth on the upper side so that it was 6 to 8 feet about 4 inches thick of subsoil. (sand was on the surface as well)

i planted 10 different items including a spinach they have which is nitrogen fixing, a lot of corn as the farmer wanted corn for his animals, tomatoes, eggplant, 5 or 6 different medicinal herbs.

i have used only microbe teas in a lot of plantings in the u.s. but wanted to put up a baseline so i used compost on about 50 feet. it was coire and broken down cow manure, maybe one inch thick. there was what they called a failed monsoon. almost no rain. mainly slight drizzles. one time for 45 minutes about 1/2 way through the growing period there was 45 minutes of rain where we had to leave the field or get wet. I doubt there was 2 inches of rain during the whole growing season. i was actually surprised that the plants even germinated. because there was no rain, i put on the microbe tea with watering can every 7 - 10 days for the first 6 weeks.

they germinated and grew well. the microbe tea we used in this case is what they use in a lot of india. it is called givumreitum and consists of 2 kg of cow dung, 1 gallon of cow urine, 1 kg of lentil flour (or another legume) and 1 kg of molasses balls. you put this into 100 gallon drum, stiir for 3 days 2 times a day and then use the next day after you dilute it 10 to 1. if you cannot use it all that day, then feed it with more of the initial ingredients.

Microbe tea can be made from weeds growing on your plot, stinging neetles, comfrey and many other things.

the baseline test (with compost) grew better for about 2 weeks and then the microbe tea caught up (i Used microbe tea on the test area as well).

the scientific basis for using only microbes comes from Elaine Ingham where she states that every soil has everything the plant needs. what the soils lack is microbes. See her video The Roots of Your Profits - Dr Elaine Ingham, Soil Microbiologist, Founder of Soil

Foodweb Inc

Oxford Real Farming
 
charlotte anthony
pollinator
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i have posted this story elsewhere on permies. when in india i planted into straight sand subsoil on 5 acres. trenches were made between coconut trees and i spread on the earth on the upper side so that it was 6 to 8 feet about 4 inches thick of subsoil. (sand was on the surface as well)

i planted 10 different items including a spinach they have which is nitrogen fixing, sesbania grandiflora, a nitrogen fixing tree, a lot of corn as the farmer wanted corn for his animals, tomatoes, eggplant, 5 or 6 different medicinal herbs.

i have used only microbe teas in a lot of plantings in the u.s. but wanted to put up a baseline so i used compost on about 50 feet. it was coire and broken down cow manure, maybe one inch thick worked into the soil. there was what they called a failed monsoon. almost no rain. mainly slight drizzles. one time for 45 minutes about 1/2 way through the growing period there was 45 minutes of rain where we had to leave the field or get wet. I doubt there was 2 inches of rain during the whole growing season. i was actually surprised that the plants even germinated. because there was no rain, i put on the microbe tea with watering can every 7 - 10 days for the first 6 weeks.

they germinated and grew well. the microbe tea we used in this case is what they use in a lot of india. it is called givumreitum and consists of 2 kg of cow dung, 1 gallon of cow urine, 1 kg of lentil flour (or another legume) and 1 kg of molasses balls. you put this into 100 gallon drum, stiir for 3 days 2 times a day and then use the next day after you dilute it 10 to 1. if you cannot use it all that day, then feed it with more of the initial ingredients.

Microbe tea can be made from weeds growing on your plot, stinging neetles, comfrey and many other things.

the baseline test (with compost) grew better for about 2 weeks and then the microbe tea caught up (i Used microbe tea on the test area as well).

the scientific basis for using only microbes comes from Elaine Ingham where she states that every soil has everything the plant needs. what the soils lack is microbes. See her video The Roots of Your Profits - Dr Elaine Ingham, Soil Microbiologist, Founder of Soil

Foodweb Inc

Oxford Real Farming
 
Posts: 631
Location: NW MO
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Pamela Smith wrote:I will be sure to add some clay to my trench pile. Clay is usually filled with many nutrients too. Thanks for the reminder.


You need to add a lot of clay to the sand. It's not the nutrients in clay that you need as much as the clay you need to build good soil. Good soil is made of clay, sand and humus. Humus is the dark organic matter that forms in the soil when plant and animal matter decays. Humus contains many useful nutrients for healthy soil.
 
Posts: 105
Location: Wisconsin Rapids, WI
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I too live in a total sandbox: less than 2 inches of sandy soil, then 35' straight down of sand. Land is also very flat in Wisconsin Central Sands. One saving grace: we have first water at 10 feet, so we were able to sink a sandpoint. You did not indicate if you were water challenged. I started small with a handkerchief of a garden. made raised beds and added as many leaves as I could. (like a foot or more from all my neighbors). one of my neighbors has horses, so we cleaned their barn in exchange for the manure. If was getting better, but still, the watering was a chore. I added blueberries, which I love. They like water, so I had a trench dug (30 ft X 4 ft deep and 4 ft wide). I placed tarps all along, but without sealing it: Blueberries do not like soggy feet. Another neighbor was excavating a pond and removed all the top soil, so I asked for it and got it (Score!) I placed that good top soil in the trench and diverted all the water from the rain in that trench. (we get +/- 35 inches annually, so we are OK). They kinda died until I also acidified the soil in the trench. (In the trench only. my PH is otherwise 6.5, which is still too sweet for blueberries. They are doing much better now. Back to the garden. Because of the sand, all the nutrients leave the soil very fast, even after buying all that straw. I build a compost tea barrel. It is just a plastic barrel, high on 3 cinder blocks. At the bottom, I installed a spigot, to which I added a garden hose. Inside the barrel, I have 2 bags of manure in these paint filter bags. I fill up the barrel and wait. The other end of the hose is hooked on the rim, so it does not leak until I lower the end. When I have good compost tea, I get to work watering. Then I add more water and do it a few more times. I have added chickens, so their manured sawdust is also added to the garden regularly. I now have a garden I can be proud of. Not too many weeds either, because the leaves are added all over the garden still, in the fall. In the spring, most of the leaves in the path ways can be composted in the compost pile or added to the garden. I have not tilled in 3 years now: I just part the leaves and plant.Some great plants are buckwheat for the bees: You can count of flowers for the honey bees about 35 days after planting. In the orchards, I can only get the soil good around the trees but dutch clover is also a favorite of the bees. I used to have a pretty extensive lawn when we bought the place. Not any more: Here, the lawn looks terrible as soon as summer comes unless you add bad stuff. It is easier to reduce the lawn than mow + fertilize + water. This year, I'm adding 30 comfrey plants: They need good soil, which they will have in the garden, but the yalso produce volumes of green leaves for tea, poultices and as a forage supplement for my chickens. Black locust Robinia pseudoacacia is a great leguminous tree that grows anywhere and is even invasive in some areas. For tubers, you can't beat Jerusalem artichokes [but deer love them too!]. courage! you can conquer that sand. slow and easy does it. Just start small and don't get discouraged.
 
pollinator
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Location: Meppel (Drenthe, the Netherlands)
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Hi Pamela,
I read almost all of this thread. Maybe all answers are already there. I just like to react too
My garden is on sand too. When this neighbourhood was built, first a layer of sand was brought up on the original sandy marsh land. But that was 50 years ago, during the years a layer of garden soil was builded up on top of the sand. Yesterday I dig a pit, so I found out the dark sand (mixture with garden soil) is about 20 cms (1 ft) deep, and then I hit the lighter, denser sand. In the pit I put cut branches and old newspapers and then I put the soil back on top. I watered it, but it still needs more water, I hope it will start raining soon
The most important I want to tell you is, what others told you too: add soil on top of whatever is underneath. I made a 'hugel' (of wood, compost and soil) on top of a paved part of my garden, so there are bricks underneath. I hope this will work. A photo is in this thread: http://www.permies.com/forums/posts/list/360/21211#451377
And do not forget: the climate is very important too, as well as what is in your environment. I have my garden in a small town in the eastern part of the Netherlands (N.W.Europe), a country known for its rainy climate.
 
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I know what you mean about sandy soil. Mine grows bahir grass ok, its not much good for the cattle but it holds thru the dry and kicks on after rain. To grow veg is another disaster altogether. One BIG advantage we have on sand is that its dead easy to dig and it turns to loam very well. Here's my "instructable" about using Chooks and free veg to make soil in a hurry.

Dig out a level trench in a straight line and as much on contour as you can, 2 - 3 shovels deep and 1m (36") wide ... or if you have short legs whatever you can straddle - this will be soon be your veg bed. Anything less than 10 m long is a bit wimpy, but length is up to you, has more to do with your landscape and gardening habits. Stack the dirt on each side, lay in some cardboard (protection) and lay plastic over it forming a 15 - 20cm shallow pool. Any plastic works it will not degrade underground, joins made by double folds work well. . Find some PVC pipe a bit longer than your trench is deep - 2" plus - bigger diameter is better. This - or they ... will be used to fill your trench with water and also tell you when you need to "water". Drill lots of little holes drilled for 15cm at one end. Wrap the end with shadecloth a few times so the plastic does not get damages by the pipe, and sand in the trench doesn't fill up the pipe. Pack around the pipes with small stones, then fill up the "plastic pool" you have made with your sand. You should still be at least one shovel depth below the surface! Use a slow hose to fill the trench. Make a note of how fast your water is flowing and how long it takes to fill. If you have badly behaved sand it might resist the flow of water thru it. Just keep an eye on it. If the water does not move through the sand fast enough you'll need to put round gravel along the bottom of your next trench, or just slow your hose to suit the water flow. You want to see water pooling evenly along the length of the trench. You can use a bit of rag twirled around a stick to measure how much water is in your trench pool at any time. Efficient watering without miles of tubes and bits that get clogged or leak. Nothing will evaporate and weed seeds willnot get a nice watering from the top to grow. Now fill 5cm more of your trench with your lifeless sand and any organic stuff. We dont want roots to go to CHOOSE>>

2 Choices: With or without chooks - WITHOUT. (Bad idea but I understand)

Now you are going to kick start your soil by growing your own compost. Throw in lots of seeds of anything that produces a lot of leaf growth. All the better if they are legumes. They grow fast because they have the perfect water qty available all the time. Water is constantly being wicked up through the sand. When they grow to a really thick carpet 15 cm high (about 4 weeks in summer) throw more seeds around and then throw in more sandy stuff. about another 2". You dont have to fully cover the old plants - they will keep the earth shaded a bit and keep out unwelcome competition.- of sand - Note you are still way below the old soil level. Good. Repeat this exercise adding whatever else you can find. Dont weed unless you have a really obnoxious plant growing. Put some old sacks and gloves in the car. Anytime you pass a field of cattle grab a sack or two of pats. Drown it in water for a week or three - smashing it up is good. That kills the weed seeds and makes a great, easy to add fertilizer. Over the non winter seasons you will have at least 4 crops of "compost". If you can put in a few inches of cow pats over winter, you'll feed all the little elves and fairies who will help you big time in the spring. Of course make your own piles of compost with whatever wlse you can get. But remember, animal dung is gonna have to show up sooner or later for you to get the best soil. Alternative ... worms, but ... not here, not now. Here's a tip. Never pull out the roots. I know its hard to resist, but as you keep growing stuff, use what grows above ground but leave the underground stuff to the fungi and soil biota. Just use a sharp blade to cut off the stuff you harvest, add some new compost and then sow again.

WITH CHOOKS and green grocers waste. Make a few roly poly hen hoops.

Over your trench, make a low slung half round hoop house. So that will be about 50 - 60 cm high and you can make it permanently shaped and easily ROLLED OVER by adding cross bits to the bottom. Cover sides and bottom with strong chicken wire. Dont skimp. Electrical conduit, Poly irrigation pipe with bamboo inside, whatever you can find, and make sure it has a bottom. We dont want chooks scratching up the sand of the trench or bad dudes getting your chooks. Add a longways center pole and one halfway up the side. Cut 40cm feeding flaps with bits of wood attached as weights. This will be your moveable chicken coop. you'll toss in HEAPS of old veg you collect from green grocers, through the flaps, cover one end with a bit of old vinyl sign and add an easy to get at removeable egg laying box - again with a lock down flap so only you can get the eggs.

The chooks will mascerate your veg, you will need to give them nothing more than some shell grit. Add chopped straw if its all getting a bit wet, but you really want a MESS. Overpopulate the enclosure. After everything is very messy - depends on population density, move them to a new Roly Poly hen House over more trench and repeat. Roll away the old coop, toss in a little of your sandy soil, and sow seeds. When the plants are young and juicy send in your chooks again. They will eat and scratch out your plants, make great soil and every time you add a little more sand, the water holding capacity of your soil will be huge and it will be very fertile. You can do this forever harvesting only eggs, or you can grow a real crop, leaving the remnant for chooks. HINT : Quit while you are ahead. Don't grow crops past the first flush of fruit. Leave the rest for the chooks. All crops get bugs as they get older.

My digging into sand has shown you can really move a lot quickly. Ponding water underground is easy. Watering by a letting a trickling hose hose fill your "ponds" over night, is something you may only have to do once a month even in summer. In a short time you will have worms queueing to get in.
 
Posts: 12
Location: Schofields, NSW. Australia. Zone 9-11 Temperate to Sub Tropical
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The best place to get workable advice on this problem is at https://www.findhorn.org/2008/10/the-findhorn-garden-story-by-the-findhorn-community/. This community was started on pure sand and has become one of the world's best known properties on how to build a productive community - and business on sand.
 
Rick Valley
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Yes, that's a good one! Buy the book- and the money will help grow more gardens on sand for someone else. All of the recipes, quite rightly, include bringing in nutrients. What each person on sand must do is decide what the best "bang for buck" is. It should be obvious that enhancing the microbiology is a good idea; with many, the inputs are both elemental and microbiological. Some people do this by bringing in animals (with their microbiological communities) and making a business of feeding them (bringing in nutrients) and using their behaviors to develop the soil and selling the surplus to keep the economics viable. Am I missing anything? Remember, we are thinking holistically in permaculture. It is certainly possible to build a garden on top of sand; it is possible to build a garden on an apartment balcony, or on a granite dome or on a roof. But very few people can afford to build a big garden in these circumstances. But my friends who are homesteading the sand hills in Michigan started with a small, built, high-input garden and hired hogs to build the rest of the homestead, expanding out from the nucleus. The fine points for all come in finding what is locally available that is going to accelerate the succession.
 
Posts: 602
Location: SE Ohio
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perhaps you could figure something like in this link?

https://medium.com/ted-fellows/how-to-grow-a-forest-really-really-fast-d27df202ba09

I didn't read through all the comments yet but from my little experience on the eastern shore of Maryland, sand is rather sandy and conducive to being sandy.

I would try to find someone who you can pay some gas money to drive out to a farm or mill etc and pick up loads of mulch, loads of manure, and so on. just lay it out and pile it up. do one section with a few layers and plant it heavy with cover crops.
as you are able, work out and get more area covered and planted.

when I was in Maryland there sure is a lot of monocrop land going on. I certainly don't see how it could hurt to try it the slower way and plant it up with lots of cover crops. either run it down yourself and plant again or find a critter of choice to rotate the area(s) and do that for you (plus add manure!).
 
Cécile Stelzer Johnson
Posts: 105
Location: Wisconsin Rapids, WI
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kadence blevins wrote:perhaps you could figure something like in this link?

https://medium.com/ted-fellows/how-to-grow-a-forest-really-really-fast-d27df202ba09]

Thanks for the link. I was suspecting that planting forests like they *normally* grow would be a good thing: with lots of trees in a small space to immediately maximize the amount of water conserved. The price of such an endeavor is what is stopping me. It might work to plant the trees in a flat helix, starting at the center and going around and around but close together rather than plant a tree here, a tree there. I can see that having a small area on the property planted intensely would be more beneficial than spacing the same trees over a larger surface.
Our laws do not allow it but it would be wonderful if we were allowed to grow *industrial* hemp. It is only because of the term "cannabis" applies to both the industrial hemp and the marijuana drug that our idiotic Congressfolks want to keep it as a schedule 1, not allowed substance. I called Milwaukee, asking them to deregulate that crop, but they won't. And it is not like we never had a whole INDUSTRY of ropes and cordages made of hemp. If we want all the great advantages of hemp, WE HAVE TO IMPORT IT! This is unreal!
In sandy soil, industrial hemp would be extremely beneficial because it grows higher than a person in just one season, offering huge biomass advantages. And it is not like other countries are not taking advantage of their ability to grow hemp: In modern times hemp is used for industrial purposes including paper, textiles, clothing, biodegradable plastics, construction (as with Hempcrete and insulation), body products, health food and bio-fuel. We are sitting on the sidelines while others are taking this market. It could give us a lot of jobs in the process, too. For more information, you can just look at the wiki link here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hemp
I'm totally opposed to monocropping, but to just improve the soil and prepare it for an eventual forest, it would go so much faster to grow hemp.

 
charlotte anthony
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Many states are revising their growing laws concerning hemp, also cannibus, including oregon, washington, i believe north carolina. have wisconsin folk check them out. where are you located cecile. there are lots of trees that would work, lots of grasses as well. that link for the really fast forest did not work for me.
 
Cécile Stelzer Johnson
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charlotte anthony wrote:Many states are revising their growing laws concerning hemp, also cannibus, including oregon, washington, i believe north carolina. have wisconsin folk check them out. where are you located cecile. there are lots of trees that would work, lots of grasses as well. that link for the really fast forest did not work for me.


I'm in the "Central Sands" of Wisconsin. 2"of sandy "soil", then 35 feet of sand straight down, first water at 10 feet. We usually have 35"of rain / snow, and I'm in the cone of depression of 5 High Capacity wells.
Yep, there are some trees that will grow here. Red oaks, AKA "scrub oaks" are all dying of the wilt. Because of that, we cannot sell it for people to cart it away, so I've taken to burying it. Maybe I can raise maitake mushrooms from them. I'd like to try! Jack pines are abundant. White pines grow well also, so do wild cherries, although they do invite tent caterpillars.. We are at the edge of the prairie, so there are a number of grasses that do well. The one that grows here, I don't know its name, but it is very soft and the deer love to nest in it at night. Come August, it is brown too. I'd love to have some black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia). It has beautiful fragrant panicles in the spring and some years, my honey bees would make a very clear honey that does not sugar, from it. It is considered invasive in wood County, which is across the road. In Portage, though, where I am, it is OK, or so some people say. When you need to get rid of it, it is near impossible to kill: the more you cut it, the more it comes from the roots! Apparently, some plants can be "native" AND "invasive".
I've called my legislators about industrial hemp but as long as it is a "schedule one", they say they can't do anything, not even a special permit. What a bunch of baloney! I figure, if they can't do anything, I'll find legislators who can!
 
Rick Valley
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So I just read that the War On Drugs, according to Ehrlichman (Nixon's assistant) in a recent interview in Harper's, was all about demonizing Blacks (heroin) and hippies (cannabis) since both groups were against the Vietnam war, so- there's the rationale out in the open. We'll see what happens in the next ten years: the medicinal qualities of cannabis in helping some serious diseases has helped people see that the Emperor has no clothes. Not that I think broadscale planting of annuals is all that great a panacea- I doubt huge acreages of hemp will make all that much difference in reestablishing forests and megafauna like Gaia needs.
It is amazing if Wisconsin allows counties to declare a native tree invasive. Especially one as useful as Black Locust; the fact that it comes back from the roots is an advantage, not a problem. It might be the educational system or too many years of lead from gasoline and paint lowering the American IQ, but people have forgotten how to girdle a tree to kill it. If you want to kill a Black Locust, or a Black Walnut, or many other trees that coppice or sucker when cut, girdle it and THEN cut it down the next year after the roots have been starved. Or perhaps it's the wood products industry that has convinced us that putting poisons in lumber so that the lumber is (sort of) rot resistant is a GOOD THING. I was watching as they dodged being sued for CCA (copper-chromium-arsenic) wood and deftly phased in Boron treatment without admitting that it doesn't last as well and people missed the information coming out that kids who played on playground equipment made with CCA wood had arsenic in their blood. So here it is: Black Locust lumber lasts better than Boron treated softwood, and it is stronger and prettier too. I wood think that if you had the acreage you could have a woodlot that included Black Locust, and have an annual cut of a couple to four acres and make that into value added cash income AND the nitrogen/cellulose/mulch you needed for your cropped areas. The black locust could be used for split timber posts, rail fences, baskets, firewood (more BTUs than mild coal, mind you) and can be cut on rotations of 10-20 years easily. Other trees that are also useful can be mixed in. Black Locust LIKES sand. Wisconsin had some folks working at WSU who had elite selections of Black Locust growing in test plots, including named selections of Black Locust from Hungary. (the nobleman who introduced Black Locust to Hungary is revered as having SAVED a deforested nation from poverty- the tree is the foundation of the country's bee keeping industry and furnishes about 25% of it's timber and a good deal of it's renewable energy. So B.L. has thorns- so do frikkin' roses! Locust smells at least as nice, and the flowers taste better than roses.
You have my deepest sympathies for being surrounded by deep sucking Big Ag water wells. That's no good. Won't probably change until energy prices rise a LOT.
 
Cécile Stelzer Johnson
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Rick Valley wrote:So I just read that the War On Drugs, according to Ehrlichman (Nixon's assistant) in a recent interview in Harper's, was all about demonizing Blacks (heroin) and hippies (cannabis) since both groups were against the Vietnam war, so- there's the rationale out in the open. We'll see what happens in the next ten years: the medicinal qualities of cannabis in helping some serious diseases has helped people see that the Emperor has no clothes. Not that I think broad scale planting of annuals is all that great a panacea- I doubt huge acreages of hemp will make all that much difference in reestablishing forests and megafauna like Gaia needs.
It is amazing if Wisconsin allows counties to declare a native tree invasive. Especially one as useful as Black Locust; the fact that it comes back from the roots is an advantage, not a problem.


Broad scale planting of annuals is indeed a ruinous route. Thank you for the shoulder to cry on and for adding to my knowledge of the black locust and how this idiotic "war on drugs"(AKA "war on *people* who are automatically suspected of drug use") originated. You filled a couple of holes in my knowledge. These are the two ways I think I could improve my soil *quickly* to start the permaculture : Industrial Hemp and burying dead oaks. We have 7 acres, of which 2 are under irrigation for trees, bushes and bee forage. (At this point, nothing would be possible without irrigation, unfortunately.) That is why I'd like to get some industrial hemp, which might make irrigation obsolete if I laid it as mulch. I also have fruit trees in a separate orchard with clover under them as forage for the bees. With the house and a couple of buildings, that leaves 3 acres of forest, a lot of it this dying oak and also some poplar in a lower spot. We get a lot of mushrooms from the poplars (pleurotus / oyster mushrooms). I canned so many pints last year we often have mushrooms as the main veggie. I want to bury the oaks, log by log to grow maitake mushroom, but I still need to keep a forest canopy for that: Maitake does not like bright sunshine!
 
Rick Valley
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Yes- burying wood is an excellent way to go; permaculture icons Masanobu Fukuoka and the lesser known R. T. Mazibuko in Southern Africa both found that wood was the most effective way to add soil carbon quickly. The fungi inoculation is the way to accelerate a desirable additional yield. The fungi needs nitrogen, and so woody nitrogen fixers- rhizobial and/or actinorhizal, will accelerate the process. The genera of primary interest would be: Robinia, Cladrastis, (Yellow Wood) Maackia, Caragana (and possibly Gleditsia and Gymnoclados) for rhizobial and Alnus, Eleagnus, Myrica, and Shepherdia for actinorhizal N-fixers. Research these and pass the candidates thru the filters of shade, additional yields, problems (thorns, legal, etc.) and availability, and you'll have your system just about designed. Bite it off in chunks you can deal with in a year, set up a farm nursery, and away you go.
 
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I just got a plot at a community garden where half of the soil is sand. While researching, I learned that mycelium can "contain" sand and help it to retain water over time. That was just a few months ago. I found a soil amendment that inoculate mycelium. I've put it down and hope to have some better, no-till, soil in a few years.

 
charlotte anthony
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you can add microbes, either from EM and mycorhizzal fungi or from microbe tea that you ferment from weeds on the sand (ideally) and you will have great soil in the same season. see my story above for how it worked for me in just one growing season. i have a lot more of the these stories. you can also grow nurse plants like fast growing nitrogen fixing trees or pigeon peas to give some shade (and lots more) to the plants and take these out and use them for mulch once the plants do not need them.
 
Cécile Stelzer Johnson
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Rick Valley wrote:Yes- burying wood is an excellent way to go; permaculture icons Masanobu Fukuoka and the lesser known R. T. Mazibuko in Southern Africa both found that wood was the most effective way to add soil carbon quickly. The fungi inoculation is the way to accelerate a desirable additional yield. The fungi needs nitrogen, and so woody nitrogen fixers- rhizobial and/or actinorhizal, will accelerate the process. The genera of primary interest would be: Robinia, Cladrastis, (Yellow Wood) Maackia, Caragana (and possibly Gleditsia and Gymnoclados) for rhizobial and Alnus, Eleagnus, Myrica, and Shepherdia for actinorhizal N-fixers. Research these and pass the candidates thru the filters of shade, additional yields, problems (thorns, legal, etc.) and availability, and you'll have your system just about designed. Bite it off in chunks you can deal with in a year, set up a farm nursery, and away you go.


That is a lot of good information to digest. Thank you so much, Rick. Good idea to to "bite it off in chunks you can deal with in one year" too.[I tend to bite more than I can chew, then, of course, I can run out of energy and ... nothing good comes from that]. Well, we just got 6 inches of very wet snow here, (after weeks of mild weather) so between doing research and finishing the taxes, I've got my afternoon figured out, I think.
 
Cécile Stelzer Johnson
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charlotte anthony wrote:you can add microbes, either from EM and mycorhizzal fungi or from microbe tea that you ferment from weeds on the sand (ideally) and you will have great soil in the same season. see my story above for how it worked for me in just one growing season. i have a lot more of the these stories. you can also grow nurse plants like fast growing nitrogen fixing trees or pigeon peas to give some shade (and lots more) to the plants and take these out and use them for mulch once the plants do not need them.

Your microbe tea sounds a little like what I did in the garden with the big plastic barrel and bags of compost / chicken litter. Read above.
It is working really well with all the leaves I added to mulch crops. Not sure what EM is. I don't have all the terminology down pat yet, but I know that the stuff I have in the bag is pretty good: Last year, the crops reacted pretty well: I just added 50 strawberry plants and by the end of the season, they were huge and had many runners. Enough to take some of these runners this spring and add to the strawberry patch. Fermenting weeds on the sand, if I understand you well would be taking the weed-lings and putting them in water? How precise is the fermentation process, or shouldn't I worry too much about exact proportions?
 
Rick Valley
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Charlotte is used to saying "EM", but she apparently does not know that searching on it doesn't bring up "effective microrganisms". It's from work by a prof. Higa from Okinawa, Japan, who is also the inventor of Bokashi. I've seen people use Bokashi very effectively- it's a semi-anerobic ferment of organic materials in water. You can buy a gallon of EM water-based liquid online for $61 in the US. I'd make it myself. When these folks doing some very interesting work in the Cloud Forest in Ecuador told me what was in the brown liquid in the 55 gal. barrel I was ready to retch at the smell, but they took off the lid and it smelled like it would taste really good- kinda like partly fermented cider. . In the wiki on EM, they quote Prof. Higa as stating that one of the problems is that the results of using EM are not predictable. I think shipping gallons of clear liquid long distance is a bit silly- the folks I met in Ecuador do a good job and end up with a much bigger quantity. Let's see- what's 4 X 55 gal. X $61 + shipping? That's what they'd be paying if they were buying it ready-made.
 
Cécile Stelzer Johnson
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Rick Valley wrote:Charlotte is used to saying "EM", but she apparently does not know that searching on it doesn't bring up "effective microrganisms". It's from work by a prof. Higa from Okinawa, Japan, who is also the inventor of Bokashi.


Yikes, it IS expensive! Shipping this from Japan also leaves a big carbon footprint. Between the compost I'm making, the comfrey I'll be able to start using next year (30 plants I'm nurturing now) and my chicken litter, there should be a lot of good nutrients in my tea.
Thanks for the research, Rick
 
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