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Preparing the soil (new forest garden/orchard in bad soil ...)

 
Stephen Mayer
Posts: 10
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So I've been reading about afforest and about how they make initial soil amendments based on testing, followed by intensive planting, mulching and watering to create a forest that apparently grows extremely fast and establishes itself within several years. Their claim is that they can grow a 100 year forest in 10 years. I would love to do this on my property. However I have some questions and I'm curious if anyone here can help:

1) In preparing the soil for planting what do permaculturalists normally do?
2) I suspect that there is something wrong with my soil because everything I plant is failing to really thrive. Growth rates are stunted or extremely slow. Perhaps this is because it is heavy clay? Or I'm missing some soil nutrient/mineral?
3) Organic matter is low in my soil ... its really just a heavy loam/clay. This is really common in the Nashville area apparently.
4) We get plenty of water ... so I'm not super worried about there not being enough water in the soil. Combination of covering with mulch/wood chips and the heavy clay content just stores water like crazy.
5) Currently the area has a mix of grasses ... trees prosper around the outskirts of the area I want to plant (though they don't tend to get very tall and tend to have a lot of fungus growing on their bark)

Here's what I'm doing thus far:
- Bringing in TONS of organic matter via wood chips from local tree companies.
- New plants are heavily mulched with wood chips to hold in water and bring added organic matter. Worms now abound in these areas.
- Soil testing ... this is next. I want to know what's wrong, specifically, with the soil (aside from the obvious)
- Considering building swales/water works to make sure there is enough water in the forest garden area. Without a top covering the ground does dry out fairly fast. On the flip side, it rains frequently in my area ... so not a huge problem right now.
- Based on soil testing, top dressing the area with fertilizers ... perhaps manure of some type (will need to look for local sources)
- Since the soil is shallow, considering bringing in loads of top soil. I figure trees will do much better if there is at least 6 inches of decent top soil on top of the 6-8 inches of clay that exists right now.

Any input you all have is GREATLY appreciated.

Thanks,
Stephen
 
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