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swale dry compacted sandy hill?

Posts: 120
Location: Essex, England, 51 deg
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How to improve the production of my sandy hillside? I'm in the driest county in England. Lots of rain this winter as usual, the mud is only just drying up now with recent sun and a halt to the winter rains.

I enclosed pigs on a 50ft sq, 20 deg sloping, grass paddock, 50ft uphill of the key point (clay and wet all year) and downhill of my native 25yr woodland, with a stand of veteran lime and sycamore at the top of the paddock in question

The pigs rooted all the grass, thistles and nettles over the winter. Its like a ploughed (plowed) field now.

The bottom of the slope, on the lower fence line, where I fed the pigs, run-off collected and they poached the top foot of soil to mud soup.

Interesting point: I dug a hole to test and underneath that poached layer was dry sandy sub soil that the water had not penetrated.

The slope now is muddy for the lower 6 ft, then a nice looking dark drained soil, then the upper half is light dry compacted sand with areas that the pigs have rooted down making a very nice crumb tilth.

Downhill of the lower fence a mass of nettles flourish with the pig manure run off and I have planted the fence line with fruit trees and berries.

A swathe of great mullien (verbascum thapsis) have self sown into the upper slope, the pigs didn't root this up, the only plant they didn't.

I have now excluded the pigs from this paddock and want to plant it up with edibles. I would like root crops eg; carrots, parsnips which I think would do well in the sand, potatoes and getting some fruit/ chestnut trees in. I expect I might choose to run the pigs back in the paddock eventually.

How best to slow the run off from the hillside and improve soil moisture at the upper slope? Swale? Make a berm above the fence line with the ditch up slope? Then another ditch at the top 20ish ft upslope?

If if held water over winter that would be an advantage to save labour if and when the pigs do return in winters to come: as I was running water in from outside the paddock this winter. I have a natural pond and 4 ft ditch that holds water in the winter just slightly lower down the hill in the adjacent paddock.

It's only me and a spade, so I might just plant it up with potatoes as is. A concern is that the upper slope does get very dry in summer. I tried digging in a fruit bush last summer and it was like concrete.

Shall I get digging?

I don't like that guy. The tiny ad agrees with me.
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