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anyone have experience with "groundhog" radishes in heavy clay dirt

 
Brice Moss
Posts: 700
Location: rainier OR
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my lawn is absolutely pitiful to the point where I'm thinking of buying a couple units of compost and tilling the crap out of it to get some water holding organic matter down into the soil. the problem is that I have heavy hydrophobic clay that is hard as cement in summer and sticky mud as soon as a couple drops of water hit

I'm still hoping to avoid breaking up what little sod I have so I was wondering if the groundhod raddish like these http://www.deerseeds.com/content/forage-radish-8-pounds-12-acre could do the job if I were to just spread a light coat of topsoil rake them in

anyone have some experience to offer?
 
Aljaz Plankl
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What is growing on that soil now? Do you cut vegetation?
 
Allison Rooney
Posts: 42
Location: Shields Valley Montana
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Yeah, what sort of grass do you have?  I have very very heavy clay soil, and have successfully re-vegetated areas of it by seeding perennial rye grass/orchard grass mix along with various clovers.  The clovers assist the grasses in establishing by producing nitrogen in the root zone, and creating spreading mats of vegetation to cover the bare soil.  You will need to provide supplemental irrigation to get this established, though if you plant the seeds now, before the fall rains come, not so much.  You can also plant in early spring during a dry spell to take advantage of spring moisture.  You'll have to mow once or twice during the first season of establishment to knock back annual weeds.  I've found that once the vegetation is restored, the soil is able to get into a somewhat normal state-- the thick vegetation will actually sequester moisture in the soil.  I have a 2nd year area of this "pasture" and have not provided any irrigation all summer to see what would survive, and how the plants would do.  They are doing great!  This is happening in Zone 3, high elevation arid rangeland in SW Montana, though we have experience more than our average 14 inches of annual rainfall the last two seasons.  I suspect you could use a range of native grasses as well, but I believe the key to a self-regulating pasture has to be clovers. 
 
Aljaz Plankl
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And also tell us what are your intention with that soil/surface. You want to grow something in it? You want lawn? Pasture?
 
              
Posts: 238
Location: swampland virginia
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I have some spots in the yard that might have an inch of topsoil over clay. Saint Augustine seems to sink its roots deep and find moisture. It likes to be cut high, it browns when it gets cold, and it is a runner, that will spread. Seems to be very drought tolerant when you cut it high. It grows best with lightly filtered sun (eastern part of virginia / north carolina border). You might try finding a grass that sinks its roots deep, and not watering it until it absolutely needs it (to encourage deep root growth). I have never watered my grass (and the few weeds) since I have lived here. A lot of the weeds have uses, so I do not worry about them. The other ones, I discourage, but that's a different story.

You might try lightly spreading wood chips on top of the grass and mulching the grass when you mow. A thin layered compost pile. Cutting the grass high helps hold in some moisture and dew. Some people use charred wood, sphagnum pete moss, vermiculite, perlite, to absorb water. I have not tried any of those yet, but have not had a problem with Saint Augustine growing into newly opened up areas or places I have put wood chips or mulch.

Sure others have more experience in the area.
 
Joel Hollingsworth
pollinator
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Location: Oakland, CA
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The bare soil might also benefit from some calcium, maybe in the form of gypsum. It's worth trying in a small portion of it.

I think woodchips would help clover more than grass, for what it's worth.
 
Brice Moss
Posts: 700
Location: rainier OR
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Plankl wrote:
And also tell us what are your intention with that soil/surface. You want to grow something in it? You want lawn? Pasture?


this area is my "ballroom" about 50 by 70 foot with pretty heavy sitting strolling and hanging out with my buddies kinda foot traffic
 
Aljaz Plankl
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What i am thinking about is the soil. How to build it. I would let vegetation grow as much as possible then leave it there for organic matter, which will fertilize and bring some life to the soil, including worms and other soil workers. But i'm not sure if this is an option for you.

There are some good tips in lawn care forum here at permies.

Maybe here is something interesting for you. Just as an idea, so you can look for more info online.
STEPABLES® are earth-friendly, easy-to-maintain perennials that take foot traffic. These little green heroes can liberate you from that not-so-green mower, cut down on the use of chemicals and create lovely beds of color! They also foster friendly habitats for all kinds of great beneficial critters. Smaller carbon footprint, anyone?
http://www.stepables.com/
 
Brice Moss
Posts: 700
Location: rainier OR
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I checked the designers manual and it recomends 4" of sand over the top to take care of heavy clay, but I'm afraid I cant afford that much I am considering spreading a mix of forage mix and perenial rygass seed then raking 1-2" of sand over it to keep teh bloody chickens from eating all the seeds
 
Joel Hollingsworth
pollinator
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Location: Oakland, CA
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It might be easier to make enough charcoal to help open up the clay, than to haul in enough sand.

I'm not sure sand will deter the chickens from eating the seeds. Seedballs might be more effective at that. If you don't care about purely organic methods, perhaps some generic grape drink flavoring powder would help, too: I hear birds hate the odor of concord grapes, which is the synthetic flavoring that would be in such a product.
 
Jennifer Smith
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Location: Zone 5
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I am having great results with spreading pulverised horse manure and sawdust on my lawn in a thin layer (barn scrapings)... when it rains we have green grass jump up in those spots and those are the spots where the horses have overgrazed. 
 
Brice Moss
Posts: 700
Location: rainier OR
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after a few recent experiences I'm begining to wonder if anything but the stewpot will deter my chickens from doing just about whaterver they like
 
                    
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I agree with the individual that recommended the addition of calcium in the form of gypsum because it can be obtained from local builders ...another awesome form of calcium amendment is egg shell that is finely crushed ...the very structure of the shell renders it useful in working its way through the clay ...the other quality of eggshell is its chemical composition which is a perfect balance of minerals such as calcium magnesium potassium etc ...and it is a renewable resource in our lifetime (in fact renewable on a daily basis if one was to invite local restaurants and/or bakeries to save their egg-shells) ...I know this works amazingly well and I know it can work for you if you allow it ...have fun 
 
Jennifer Smith
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Location: Zone 5
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My chickens love eggshells so much they will scratch all for it no matter how fine I try to crush, so I save up and put out where I want it scratched well. 
 
Pat Black
Posts: 123
Location: Northern New Mexico, USA
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brice Moss wrote:
I checked the designers manual and it recomends 4" of sand over the top to take care of heavy clay, but I'm afraid I cant afford that much I am considering spreading a mix of forage mix and perenial rygass seed then raking 1-2" of sand over it to keep teh bloody chickens from eating all the seeds



clay + sand = concrete. that would be a mistake.

you need organic matter. the grass & clover suggestion sounds good.
 
Jennifer Smith
Posts: 714
Location: Zone 5
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From all I have read the forage radishes are a good choice.  I look forward to my trophy radish sample.
 
After burning through the drip stuff and the french press stuff, Paul has the last, ever, coffee maker. Better living through buying less crap.
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