Friend of a friend has purchased a 2 acre plot in north central indiana. It is sand, not even a sandy loam.
Suggested two tacts: first, for immediate vegetable garden use raised beds. These he can completely control. Secondly, he start a long term soil regeneration program. This should include sowing organic matter (leaves; trees run through the chipper; manure from local farmers; etc). Need to find a ground cover too.
I have a similar situation. Sand sand sand, in west central michigan. A place aptly named "Sand Lake". My property is a lake of sand. What grows here naturally is black cherry, red maple, american beech, white oak, yellow poplar, and the red pine seeds itself from a previous plantation planting. Witch hazel, hop hornbeam, and prickly ash grows naturally in the understory. Some of these natural plants are mighty useful. Black cherry bark makes a nice medicine, and can be coppiced, bark harvested, and sold to herbal people. Red maple can make a nice syrup, but much less than sugar maple, and the wood is way softer and less commercially important than hard maples like sugar maple. American beech can drop some nice mast for wildlife, and nuts are edible, but they don't seem to produce every year, a nice timber tree, though. White oak is a great timber tree and a great mycorrhizal mother tree, the fungus helps feed the plants around the tree, also a great savannah system tree. Yellow poplar is very fast growing, and liable to produce thickets through root propagation; managing these thickets for growth will give you tall trees that make lumber which will not split, or a great source of hugel-building material. Red pine is great for posts, but it rots quickly if buried. Witch hazel and prickly ash are medicinal plants. Hop Hornbeam is a very hard fence-post and tool handle wood. All these trees will grow in sandy soil, in my experience.
However, I am replacing some of these trees in my own system. I am leaving almost all the oaks, and some of the beech, and planting chinese chestnut, siberian pea shrub, and saskatoon. These plants will be widely spaced so that this is more of a savannah-style orchard. I am also planting a dense windbreak of osage orange and korean stone pine. We will see what happens.
I have a south-facing hillside that is pure sand, we get 0.1 inch of rain and rivulets of erosion begin to form. I dug a series of tiny swales down this hill, which helps. Then, I asked my friend, who has horses, if I can have a few loads of manure. I spread the manure all on top of the soil surface about an inch or two thick, and then spread a ton of seeds; the Peaceful Valley Farm supply beneficial bug blend (although the only species which seemed to germinate were reglans, the clovers, daikon, red radish, and carrots. I think the daikon and the clover are the most important for soil building, and much cheaper of a mix). The manure was full of lambsquarters (edible, but full of nitrogen when grown this way, a little goes a long way in a salad), which grew tall, while the rest of the seeds took root underneath. I mowed down the lambsquarters right before they set seed, and underneath was a strong growth of daikon and clover. That hillside is never going to be the same, as a totally regenerative succession has begun in building up soil. I mow maybe twice a year; when I see something trying to get hold like spotted knapweed, I will mow the two times per year that the knapweed is in late flowering stage or trying to set seed, so that it does not reproduce and the roots will be exhausted. Into this I plant my chestnuts and other species, protect them, mulch them, and make sure not to mow them. I also have a ton of old wood lying around, placing this old rotten stuff on-contour helps with erosion and water infiltration, and builds soil, though it makes it hard to mow and control the knapweed. I'm hoping the knapweed gets out-competed by timed mowings and by improving the soil to the point it cannot compete with other plants. Again, we will see how this management helps, but I'm a believer in the horse manure and clover/daikon so far, as well as the on-contour little swales and rotten wood.
Good luck with the sand.
posted 2 years ago
Andrew, thank you for so prompt and detailed an analysis. It rings true too. Indiana is known for Oaks plus other hardwoods. We will work on designing a guild around those.
Again, thank you.
posted 2 years ago
Good morning Andrew!
"However, I am replacing some of these trees in my own system. I am leaving almost all the oaks, and some of the beech, and planting chinese chestnut, siberian pea shrub, and saskatoon. These plants will be widely spaced so that this is more of a savannah-style orchard. I am also planting a dense windbreak of osage orange and korean stone pine. We will see what happens. "
How did your Beech, Chestnut, Siberian pea and Saskatoon do in the manure-covered hill side?
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