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Possible to no till acres of new farmland?  RSS feed

 
Scott Stiller
Posts: 294
Location: North Carolina zone 7
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Hello friends. I have several acres that are a power company right of way. They agree not to mess with it as long as I maintain it. The area is very hilly, and loaded with rocks. I have been thinking of planting some kind of cash crop there next spring and I'd like to do it no till. Anyone have thoughts on this? This land has never had anything done to it and I'm not sure where to start. Thank you all.
 
Steve Farmer
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Location: South Tenerife, Canary Islands (Spain)
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forest garden greening the desert trees
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Is every inch right of way or do you just need to keep clear defined driveable passageways and working areas around equipment?
 
Scott Stiller
Posts: 294
Location: North Carolina zone 7
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It's split up. There's a half acre then a driveway. Then 1/3 acre then another drive. After that it's about an acre and a half of scrub.
 
Cristo Balete
Posts: 428
Location: In the woods, West Coast USA
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I ran across this YouTube video on a community garden, Edgewood Garden, of hugel mounds made of wood chips. I think they should have done 50/50 manure and wood chips, as they found out in some updates of the video. The wood chips were absorbing the water with the nitrogen and some plants weren't getting nitrogen the first year. But that's to be expected. So if you have enough wood chips, mowed weeds to cover them thickly with, and manure to build the mounds, with a design that caught water, I think the principles and design in this video are very good. There's part 2 and several updates.

https://youtu.be/m_g_qKMl6hU
 
elle sagenev
Posts: 1275
Location: Zone 5 Wyoming
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I have simply broadcast sewn and harrowed. It has worked just fine for me. I'm a lazy farmer. Sometimes I don't even harrow.
 
Cristo Balete
Posts: 428
Location: In the woods, West Coast USA
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PS, about the wood chips, you want to make sure that the type of wood they come from does not have growth inhibitors, like redwood and red cedar.
 
Scott Stiller
Posts: 294
Location: North Carolina zone 7
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Thanks for the input guys. I like the swale, wood chip, and manure idea but that would take a ton of chips. I have a small chipper and I can put a lot of wood in it only to get a few chips. That's the only reason I've found wood chips to not be practical. I've even talked to local tree guys about dumping chips here with no success.
Broadcast seeding and harrowing sounds like a good idea except the "scrub" I meantioned is woody and really hard to deal with. I forget the name of the plant but it's something the power company planted to keep erosion down. It has such a tough and deep root structure I've had a tough time digging it out.
 
Cristo Balete
Posts: 428
Location: In the woods, West Coast USA
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Yeah, setting it up is a lot of work, but then you don't have to do much work for a long time. You could also just make raised beds of layers of manure and mowed weeds, maintain those as much as you can until you can find a source of wood chips to supplement. Grow nitrogen fixing cover crops of vetch, alfalfa, clover and chop and drop it.

Since you've got a lot of rock there, do you know how far down the solid base rock is? If it's solid, say, 6 feet down, you'll be limited to what you can plant there. Roots won't be able to go any farther, and trees will struggle.
 
Scott Stiller
Posts: 294
Location: North Carolina zone 7
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I should mention my property is a budding permaculture farm. On the main part I have traditional swale on contour and hugelkultures. I don't want to put the time into the right of way part because the energy company could say I broke the rules and spray round-up on it. I've terraced parts of it to stop the erosion and planted perennial crops there. After months of work with the power company's representatives eight guys walked right past my No Spray signs and we're going to destroy my work. Luckily I was out there and stopped them. For now I'm just looking for an easy way to sew some crops without putting a lot of time into it.
 
Cristo Balete
Posts: 428
Location: In the woods, West Coast USA
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Is it too remote from your house to put a couple of mobile PVC chicken tractors where they'd be safe from predators? Or borrow a couple of cows for a couple of weeks? You'd have to feed them, but it would avoid hauling manure. Hauling mulch is inevitable, unless you can grow your own cover crops.

Sounds like you need to mark out your territory so those utility people won't mistake your hard work for weeds, which Permaculture often gets mistaken for. You could pounds in posts or rebar, and run colored construction string (I've seen neon green and neon pink) to encircle your area, then put the No Spray on those lines. The string lasts 2-3 years.
 
Cristo Balete
Posts: 428
Location: In the woods, West Coast USA
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You probably know you can drag big loads of mowed weeds on a tarp pretty easily. Using an 8 x 10 tarp, load it with whatever you've got, and it ought to slide pretty easy, even over some rocks. If you need to take it up a hill, try to drive above where you need to take it, and drag it across or downhill. I line the back end of a pickup with an 8 x 10 tarp, load it with mowed weeds, get it as close as possible, pull the tarp out of the truck, the whole thing lands on the ground, stays together nicely, sometimes tying two of the back corners together, and it's easy to move. If it's green weeds they will be heavier, so adjust accordingly. But I think one tarp load is equal to 7 or 8 wheelbarrows full. That size load I can spread thickly 3 feet wide, 20-30 feet long.
 
Scott Stiller
Posts: 294
Location: North Carolina zone 7
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I like the way you think Cristo.
I can put together a chicken tractor pretty easily. I could gather some some weeds and pile them up then plant into them next year.
I have some year old cow manure. Not as much as I would need but enough to mix with weeds and a few wood chips for spring planting. The timing of this is my next question. Should I mix all this stuff together and put out the rows this fall or wait until spring? Same question with the chicken tractor.
PS. Someone give Cristo an apple please.
 
Kittum Daniel
Posts: 40
Location: NE Oklahoma
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Scott Stiller wrote:Thanks for the input guys. I like the swale, wood chip, and manure idea but that would take a ton of chips. I have a small chipper and I can put a lot of wood in it only to get a few chips. That's the only reason I've found wood chips to not be practical. I've even talked to local tree guys about dumping chips here with no success.
Broadcast seeding and harrowing sounds like a good idea except the "scrub" I meantioned is woody and really hard to deal with. I forget the name of the plant but it's something the power company planted to keep erosion down. It has such a tough and deep root structure I've had a tough time digging it out.


I wonder if you could go over the woody scrub with a brushhog. I have had some luck in wet weather with pulling brush out of the ground with a brushog. The trick is simple - find a brushog with really dull blunt blades- select a very low gear for the tractor and run as low PTO speed as you can get away with. When the blade hits some tough brush, the brush tends to wrap and tangle about the blade rather than shatter off. Before the brush can get loose of the blade, the upper part of the root is yanked out or at lest yanked loose. Then wait about a week or ten days and do it again. If the results look good, let the brush wither and dry out then hit again with low ground speed and full PTO speed to shatter, bash, and hammer the brush into rather small pieces. Be aware of flying debris doing this!
 
Scott Stiller
Posts: 294
Location: North Carolina zone 7
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That's darn innovative Kittum! I'm going to have to try your idea,
 
Cristo Balete
Posts: 428
Location: In the woods, West Coast USA
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Scott,
Should I mix all this stuff together and put out the rows this fall or wait until spring? Same question with the chicken tractor.


I like to have manure and weeds in place, so when it rains all the good stuff goes into the ground where I want it. The nutrients in the manure are breaking down as we speak, better to have them where you need them. They should still be there come planting time. But you'll want some fresh as well. Plant an annual winter mulch crop you can chop and drop, a mix with some nitrogen fixers in it.

I don't know how tough your winters are, but as long as the chickens have a safe place at night, and it's a decent day, they could hang out during the day in one of those PVC domes, fastened to the ground. And you probably know that raccoons and such can reach through 1" chicken wire and grab the heads of the chickens, so it takes some anticipating clever predator tactics.

You can drag manure on a tarp too. Pretty much anything, branches, bags of stuff in much bigger loads than a wheelbarrow.

And probably the best rural-living lesson I've ever learned is Never Put Off 'Til Tomorrow What You Can Do Today.

 
Cristo Balete
Posts: 428
Location: In the woods, West Coast USA
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The heavy duty tarps work best, and save money. The kind I can get are brown on one side and silver on the other. Or if you have something covered with a tarp and it's beginning to leak, use that as the dragging tarp, put the new one back over the item. Those cheap blue tarps fall apart too fast, and I hate the way the blue fibers hang around forever. Heavy cotton tarps do not slide as well as the heavy duty plastic ones.
 
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