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Fixing my back yard  RSS feed

 
Jackson Vasey
Posts: 12
Location: CT. Zone 6a
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I live on 5/8ths of an acre, more than half of which is wooded. I have a small flat back yard, and then the woods start with a steep downward slope. So on the east side of the back yard I have the house, which is 2 stories high, and one the west side, I have the woods, with trees now hanging well over the yard.

For the last few years the trees have branched eastward over the yard, and the crummy lawn that was there when we moved in has pretty much disappeared, leaving a lot of exposed dirt. I think a lot of the soil has washed over the hill, as there's only maybe 2 inches of soil left before I hit clayish dirt and gravel, and with moderate to heavy rain I get puddles in the yard that take a couple hours to drain.

I'm having a tree service come in and prune the trees back to the edge of the bank (and remove the younger trees that are bent 45 degrees toward the east), and removing a big silver maple stand, and a couple of norway spruce.

So, to start getting to my point, I'm wondering if it would be smart to cover the back yard in a 4-6" layer of wood chips from the tree removal, and let the fungus/bacteria go to work building up the soil in the back yard over the next 2-3 years. I'm going to put some crushed stone along the back side of the house for a walkway, and probably will reserve some space for a fire pit once the trees aren't hanging over the yard.

After the trees are gone the yard will get 2-3 hours of sunlight in a day, so the best I'd expect to grow back there is a cover of clover.

So I was hoping to get some advice on the following:
  • Will this concept work to help rehabilitate the soil in my back yard?
  • Given the mix of trees I'm having removed, should I be particular about what chips make it into the yard? i.e. should I care whether the spruce chips make it into the mix?
  • Would it make sense to get a load of top soil over the wood chips, and plant clover in that, to try and feed some nitrogen to the wood chips below?
  • There is a brook at the bottom of the bank. Should I amend any top soil I add with some dirt I steal from down there? The brook changes course every time a hurricane passes through CT, so I could take dirt from where it used to be...
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    elle sagenev
    Posts: 1282
    Location: Zone 5 Wyoming
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    Perhaps I'm not understanding correctly but what would stop the wood chips from washing away like the soil?
     
    Zach Muller
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    Location: NE Oklahoma zone 7a
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    Jackson Vasey wrote:


    So I was hoping to get some advice on the following:
  • Will this concept work to help rehabilitate the soil in my back yard?
  • Given the mix of trees I'm having removed, should I be particular about what chips make it into the yard? i.e. should I care whether the spruce chips make it into the mix?
  • Would it make sense to get a load of top soil over the wood chips, and plant clover in that, to try and feed some nitrogen to the wood chips below?
  • There is a brook at the bottom of the bank. Should I amend any top soil I add with some dirt I steal from down there? The brook changes course every time a hurricane passes through CT, so I could take dirt from where it used to be...


  • If water is washing the soil away you might want to focus on slowing it down before you add anything to the soil, or else you will lose all of that too.

    It is usually not recommended to fertilize clover plants with nitrogen since they fix nitrogen, they thrive on low nitro soils. If you add nitrogen it may allow other plants to outcompete your clovers.

    If i were in your position i would consider my options for ways to slow the water down, add the chips and clovers and maybe some of the brook soil too, then wait and see how things take off.

     
    Blake Wheeler
    Posts: 166
    Location: Kentucky 6b
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    elle sagenev wrote:Perhaps I'm not understanding correctly but what would stop the wood chips from washing away like the soil?


    This was my first thought too.

    Try just planting the clover, let it get established, then throw a thin layer of wood chips down. The roots in the ground, and the "stems" of the clover growing up through the chips may help to anchor it in place. Just an idea, but it's gotta work better than wood chips alone. Not to mention you'll have an issue with erosion until you get roots in the ground to hold soil.

    Wood chips topped with soil for growing clover sounds like too much work to be honest. You don't put down wood chips so much for them to break down fast as you do for a slow decomp.if you really want to get nitrogen in the chips pee on them or something. One, it's easier, two, it's free and three, I find peeing outside liberating :p

    How steep is this drop off? If it's steep enough to be of no use recreationally why not plant some ferns on the slope? They should thrive in such an area. They'll spread out rhizomes to hold the ground, look nice (if you like ferns), and assuming you plant ostrich ferns you can eat the young shoots as well.

    Another crazy idea, but why not lay the trunks of the trees flat on the ground to serve as a makeshift terrace? Placed in the right spots it will help slow down any water and curb some of the soil erosion. You can also use them as "benches" around the fire pit you're wanting to build
     
    Zach Muller
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    Posts: 778
    Location: NE Oklahoma zone 7a
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    Blake Wheeler wrote:

    Another crazy idea, but why not lay the trunks of the trees flat on the ground to serve as a makeshift terrace? Placed in the right spots it will help slow down any water and curb some of the soil erosion. You can also use them as "benches" around the fire pit you're wanting to build


    That could be a great way forward without even chipping any wood. Maybe use some trunks as seating area and water interceptors, then make a hugel berm on contour with the rest. Then plant clover over everything as a cover crop. Maybe have some chipped for other mulching purposes.
     
    Blake Wheeler
    Posts: 166
    Location: Kentucky 6b
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    Zach Muller wrote:
    Blake Wheeler wrote:

    Another crazy idea, but why not lay the trunks of the trees flat on the ground to serve as a makeshift terrace? Placed in the right spots it will help slow down any water and curb some of the soil erosion. You can also use them as "benches" around the fire pit you're wanting to build


    That could be a great way forward without even chipping any wood. Maybe use some trunks as seating area and water interceptors, then make a hugel berm on contour with the rest. Then plant clover over everything as a cover crop. Maybe have some chipped for other mulching purposes.


    Not a bad idea. I don't know how tree services charge, but skipping the chipping part all together may even save you money. With the trunks being used for benches, and the smaller stuff used for hugel clean up would be quick and easy (as quick and easy as it could be). If you need chips you can always offer to let them dump a load on your property when they come.

    It kills multiple birds with one stone, will be easier for the company, easier for you, and can also p save you money...basically it benefits everyone involved.
     
    Jackson Vasey
    Posts: 12
    Location: CT. Zone 6a
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    Yeah sorry I didn't mean to imply I'd add fertilizer, I just thought that adding clover would help feed some nitrogen to aid in decomposing the wood chips, and leave a bed of clover after the wood chips are 'gone'.

    Anyway, I like the idea of using the logs to stop some of the erosion, as there seems to be one spot that's lower than everywhere else, and maybe that's how the water runs off. So maybe I can get the tree service to dump the large trunk sections in that spot, and double as a place to sit by the fire. For the most part they're only going to be chipping branches anyway, since they're supposed to leave the rounds for me for firewood (even the pine, which will go in the firepit and the wood stove). So I may just have them leave a big pile of wood chips for me, and use a bit once the clover is established, and spread the mulch elsewhere. I was just hoping to be able to use the wood chips they were making on my property, instead of having to order some later.

    I have a lot of trees going down the bank (which is at least 45 degrees in most places, steeper in others), with some pachysandra growing and some other ground cover. But there are bare spots, and I do like how fern looks, so I'll try and plant some down there (there's already a good amount of that where it flattens out by the brook).

    Anyway, thanks for all the feedback, I'm glad I asked, since I guess I was just hoping that the chips would decompose before the next hurricane came to wash it away. I was planning on using some of the wood from the tree service over the stump of the big silver maple as a hugel, to help hold the bank together once the roots have rotted. Plus it will open the canopy up so much I should be able to get some fruit trees in that spot.
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