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Greg B Smith
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Last Sept we purchased 5.5 acres of the most beautiful, professional grade of clay you have ever seen! I am talkin the real deal here! LOL. I decided to remove trees from an area of 75 x 75 for a garden spot next to the house. The previous owners kept all the leaves raked and the lawn neatly clipped so there is less than an inch of topsoil over the entire area. This summer as I was searching for ways of gardening more natural and stumbled into permaculture. I would have probably done something other than take out 40 mid to mature trees for the garden otherwise. But anyway here we are.

I am trying to scorer all the bio material I can to amend the soil. I have a local tree service just down the road a mile or so that has delivered about 10 loads of tree litter that is well shredded. I have been collecting leaves from piles around the place and intend on collecting many more form the road side as they start to fall here in a month or two. Most people here burn or bag all there leaves and discard them so they will be easy to come by.

The soil is nearly unturnable. If it is dry, you can barely break it with a pick and if wet you cant get it off the shovel. I have decided to sheet mulch in place. The problem I am having is finding green or high nitrogen sources. I live in an area that has lots of horse farms but they all seem to use Grazon in their pastures so those are off limits. I will be starting on a chicken/rabbit coop shortly after the garden is up to par so the nitrogen will be produced on sight for next year but as of now that project is on hold.

If I use a combo of green leaf litter (hard and or soft wood) from the tree company and mix it with dry leave and pine needles will this work? The tree trimmings have small wood chips (3/4" or so) mixed in with the leaves. How will these affect next years veggies? I live in the heart of cotton land so cotton seed meal is relatively cheap here so I could use it as a N source. Lime as far as I know is a must here. Our ph here is usually around 4.5-5.5 when left untreated. I have soil samples submitted but am waiting on the results.

So what do you do when trying to reclaim large areas of topsoil? both for short term veggies in zone 1 and long term overall health of the soil in the other zones? BTW the reason we removed the trees was for sunlight. All but a small yard and a 3/4 acre pond are wooded with all the original under story removed. My entire place looks like a manicured bare soil park. It is really sad to watch it rain and see what little topsoil there is run into the pond.

Thanks for any help you can give.
 
John Elliott
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Greg B Smith wrote:

The soil is nearly unturnable.

So what do you do when trying to reclaim large areas of topsoil?


You don't turn it, you build new topsoil on top of it. Your description now makes me feel fortunate -- I have 6-10" of what might be called topsoil on top of my "bright red Georgia clay". I built my new topsoil up the way you are doing, by taking all sorts of organic material and letting it decompose on top of the clay.

One thing you have to realize is that in the hot and humid South, topsoil doesn't stay around for long. The only way leaf litter can keep up with the decomposition rate of organic matter in the top soil horizons is to be deep in the forest. Areas that are cleared of forest are very slow to grow back, and in a dry year (like this one) the soil organic matter is losing ground. If you have trucks delivering wood chips, horse manure, and similar items, just keep them coming. If the horse manure undergoes a few months of fungal decomposition, the Grazon in it will also be undergoing breakdown. Also accept drywall scrap and work it in. Drywall (gypsum) is calcium sulfate and it is an excellent soil amendment for clay.

Mostly what you need is time. I started 6 years ago, and I still have areas that need work, but I have turned the corner and much of my garden now has decent gardening soil.
 
Alder Burns
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On an area that small, you will be able to make a significant difference with cycling all of your own manure and urine back into that site, as well as that of any other people and pets attached to you. There are plenty of resources about how to do this safely. Especially if you focus on smaller areas and composts, this will make a lot of difference and your nitrogen situation should improve dramatically. I would not be afraid of horse manure dosed with chemicals....just pile it, water it, and let it compost. Perhaps you can inoculate it with mushrooms or whatever. Provided the chemical in question is an organic (speaking chemically....that is, a compound of carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, and such like, rather than heavy metals, radioactives, etc.) then there is some fungus or bacteria or combination thereof that will break it down. Even if you do this for non-food crops you are still improving your site.
 
Greg B Smith
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I is my understanding that Grazon can last for years in the soil and still do damage to crops. It passes through the animals or resides in the hay/fodder and remains unchanged through normal composting. It can be broken down by exposing it to UV and also some types of fungus but both take considerable time and would not be usable in a garden for some length of time (time unknown to me but seem to be years from what I have read. This is based on the limited reading I have done. You guys may know of different ways to make it available for use faster. If so please post some links. I gave up on it when I ran across the above info. Some state it can cause fruit abortion in concentrations of as little as 3 ppb. That's not much. If usable I will have free access to literately tons of it that is within a couple of miles of my house.

As far as the fresh tree trimmings, Does anyone know how long it takes to compost to the point nutrients (nitrogen) are available for veggies? I have lots of things I can mix with it that are well inoculated form pond silt to leaf litter from the woods to help speed along the process. As John said above things compost here quickly. If I let is sit till next spring and add a nitrogen source (bone meal, cotton seed meal, fish, etc.) will I be able to grow greens and veggies next spring/summer?

Thanks for the help.

 
John Elliott
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Greg B Smith wrote:I is my understanding that Grazon can last for years in the soil and still do damage to crops. It passes through the animals or resides in the hay/fodder and remains unchanged through normal composting. It can be broken down by exposing it to UV and also some types of fungus but both take considerable time and would not be usable in a garden for some length of time (time unknown to me but seem to be years from what I have read. This is based on the limited reading I have done.



If you have read any of paul stamets's work on mycoremediation, you will notice that he creates conditions that cause a population explosion of the fungi. Yes, Grazon could last in the soil for years if the soil fungi had to put up with droughts and nutrient limitations and temperatures outside of their optimum (generally 10-30C, depending on the species). Fungi grow best in 100% humidity, good access to oxygen, and a little bit of nitrogen (maybe 1/10 of what plants need). I would imagine the fastest way to treat the horse manure would be to layer it 50:50 with wood chips, water the pile daily, and give it some 1% urine in water once a week. A perforated PVC tube at the bottom of the pile with an aquarium pump to introduce air into the bottom of the pile wouldn't hurt either.

I get tree trimmings from the local electric company when they do their annual line maintenance, and after 3 months of cool fungal composting, it makes great soil amendment.

If I let is sit till next spring and add a nitrogen source (bone meal, cotton seed meal, fish, etc.) will I be able to grow greens and veggies next spring/summer?


Yes, but I wouldn't buy bone meal. Just ask you local BBQ joint if you can cart off their garbage for them, and throw that on the pile.
 
Greg B Smith
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I have not read any of Paul's work but after searching a little found some more info on it. So it now looks promising. White rot from downed oaks for an inoculation mixed with half hay/manure and half wood chips. One thing I found referenced that I never could find instructions for was "spore broth". I probably need to order one of his books. Got a suggestion for one of them?
 
Hans Harker
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Have you come across this: http://www.permies.com/t/7378/plants/soil-building-daikon-radish ?
 
John Elliott
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Greg B Smith wrote: One thing I found referenced that I never could find instructions for was "spore broth". I probably need to order one of his books. Got a suggestion for one of them?


Spore broth,as an inoculant, is pretty easy to make. The crude way is to go on a mushroom hunt after a heavy rain and whiz them up in a blender with a lot of water. Pour that on what you want to inoculate and you can kickstart the fungal activity. Being a scientist, Stamets would not go the crude way, but would identify and quantify on every step of the process (i.e., identify each mushroom down to genus and species, know how much nitrogen and phosphorus is in the broth, etc). Don't be fooled into thinking that you have to order this spore broth from far away. You want fungi that are endemic to your area, the ones that have evolved to your climate and environment.

Before you buy any of his books, check him out on YouTube, there is a wealth of information there.
 
Greg B Smith
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Voy Grabiec wrote:Have you come across this: http://www.permies.com/t/7378/plants/soil-building-daikon-radish ?
I had read that one before and again after you posted. Thanks. Will these grow here in the deep south zone 8 in the fall? Most of the green, radishes, turnips and the like only grow here in the fall/spring. Does anyone know if they will grow in shade or filtered light. I have a clay/gravel hillside I would like to plant them on but there are lots of hickory and oaks that cast shade for most of the year.
 
Greg B Smith
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John Elliott wrote:
Greg B Smith wrote: One thing I found referenced that I never could find instructions for was "spore broth". I probably need to order one of his books. Got a suggestion for one of them?


Spore broth,as an inoculant, is pretty easy to make. The crude way is to go on a mushroom hunt after a heavy rain and whiz them up in a blender with a lot of water. Pour that on what you want to inoculate and you can kickstart the fungal activity. Being a scientist, Stamets would not go the crude way, but would identify and quantify on every step of the process (i.e., identify each mushroom down to genus and species, know how much nitrogen and phosphorus is in the broth, etc). Don't be fooled into thinking that you have to order this spore broth from far away. You want fungi that are endemic to your area, the ones that have evolved to your climate and environment.

Before you buy any of his books, check him out on YouTube, there is a wealth of information there.


Thanks.

I watched a couple of hours of his lectures yesterday. I also found one of his books in pdf and read several chapters on composting. I skimmed around through the rest. He is very technical. All the composting in the book was based on straw and hot composting. The end result was a sterile media for growing mushrooms. I have an aerated static compost bin that can be passive or forced air already in place. It is great for leaf and soft litter but not so good on the wood chips form the tree service. Not to mention I need tons of finished compost to make a dent in this place. That is why I have resorted to composting in place with layering.

Thanks for the tip on making the inoculate. Now all I need is some rain. No significant rainfall here in over two months. That is rare for Mississippi. Once it starts to rain again, is there any special mushrooms to look for or to stay away from?
 
Bryant RedHawk
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hau, greg, Yes Daikon Radish will grow in the deep south, I use it along with Rape to loosen clay and inject humus from the decaying root once I let the hogs have at the tops.
Our Guinea Hogs don't particularly like the taste of the actual root of these two so it is working out nicely for us.
If you don't have Guinea Hogs, just chop the tops off after two or three months of growing.

The sheet mulching and mycoremediation will also help with increasing the surface soil, the rape and DR will help with the deep(sub) soil loosening, thus giving you a nice, deep soil to grow in.

Inocculation is very easy to do if you get rotting wood from a forest area, usually this wood will already have mycillium growing and decomposing the wood (look for white "threads" in the crumbly parts of the downed trees).
Simply putting this type of wood on top of the soil and then covering with other layers of mulch will go far in the way of getting spawn into your soil.
 
allen lumley
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Greg : For a good starter book from Paul Stamets I would recommend Mycelium Running ! Also note that their are several T.E.D. Talk type videos

he has made that are perfect while you are waiting for a trip to town to get the book (S) Link below :

https://www.ted.com/talks/paul_stamets_on_6_ways_mushrooms_can_save_the_world

For the Good of the Crafts ! Big AL
 
John Elliott
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Greg B Smith wrote: That is rare for Mississippi. Once it starts to rain again, is there any special mushrooms to look for or to stay away from?


Yes, we've had a dry summer here in Georgia too; my sorghum and okra look pitiful.

I like to collect boletes for soil inoculate. Most of them are mycorrhizal with trees and oaks just LOVE to have boletes in their soil. If there is any landscaping in your area with live oaks (or even deciduous oaks), this is the time of year to look for boletes under them after a heavy rain. Boletes have tubes instead of gills, so the underside looks like a sponge. We had a good 2" rain the other day, and the oaks at the local mall all have a good crop of boletes under them.
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://richsoil.com/email
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