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Advice for poorly drained soil

shawn waterman
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I'm looking at a piece of land in the finger lakes region of New York. The land was pasture 100 years ago and is now forest. I'd like to use permaculture practices to develop this land, but am concerned with the quality of the soil

It's volusia channery silt loam. I've pasted its description from the USDA soil survey below. Any input would be appreciated. Thanks!


Landform: Drumlinoid ridges, hills, till plains
Landform position (two-dimensional): Footslope, summit
Landform position (three-dimensional): Base slope
Down-slope shape: Concave
Across-slope shape: Linear
Parent material: Loamy till derived mainly from siltstone, sandstone, and shale or slate

Properties and qualities

Slope: 3 to 8 percent
Depth to restrictive feature: 10 to 22 inches to fragipan
Natural drainage class: Somewhat poorly drained
Capacity of the most limiting layer to transmit water (Ksat): Moderately low to moderately high (0.06 to 0.20 in/hr)
Depth to water table: About 6 to 18 inches
Frequency of flooding: None
Frequency of ponding: None
Available water storage in profile: Very low (about 1.9 inches)

Interpretive groups

Land capability classification (irrigated): None specified
Land capability classification (nonirrigated): 3w
Hydrologic Soil Group: D

Dave Burton
Posts: 1026
Location: Greater Houston, TX US Hardy:9a Annual Precipitation: 44.78" Wind:13.23mph Temperature:42.5-95F
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Hi! Welcome to permies! As you start to grow more things on the land, you will be able to change the soil's composition. Roots from plants that grow on the land will push the soil apart, and as you prune the plants the roots will self-prune as well. Similar things happen in the natural cycles of deciduous trees. Incredible Amzing Leaf Mold can do an amazing job to develop soil when left to its own devices.

If you need more convincing that things will grow in your area: please do a search on the Plants For a Future Database.
Bryant RedHawk
Posts: 1733
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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With only 6 to 18 inches to the water table, it probably isn't that the land doesn't drain it is more that it can not drain. Plant covers and what ever else you desire to grow and they most likely will grow fine. Lay down some compost then cover with mulch and as these layers are taken into the soil it will improve. Roots improve the soil through their entire life cycle, decaying forest litter also improves the soil. If this land was reclaimed by mother earth as you state, the soil is not in such bad shape, after all, it became forest again so you know things will grow there.

In permaculture there is no "bad soil" there is soil that needs tender loving care. By careful use of the land to grow your desired plants, applying cover crops and composting and mulching, you will be stewarding the land back to really good health.
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