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rehabilitating rock hard pasture

 
Brian Karlsen
Posts: 16
Location: pietermaritzburg, South Africa
bee chicken forest garden
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I will hopefuly be closing on a piece of land next month it is sloped land and from abusive grazing has pretty much no topsoil and spars grass. sheet erosion has striped the topsoil that i presume has now made its way down to the ocean the subsoil that the grass is now clinging to is rock hard like concrete.

I have no acces to heavy machinery or tractors at this point and am looking for options to fix this land the slope is around 1300ft from the top end to the seasonal stream at the bottom.

ideally id like to rip it with something like a yomans plow to get the water and air into the soil and not let it just run down the landscape taking the soil with it and maybe put in a few swales to slow and sink anything that does run off.

I was thinking about a spiked lawn airator to start opening up the soil would this do the same thing effect as the ripping for the first go anyway? i figure it would be cheaper for the first stage while im still waiting for my first income from the land to start buying things like tractors.

Secondly would be the swales being hand dug they will take a while to get in so im wondering where would it be most beneficial to start mid slope fron the bottom up or from the top down my plan eventually is to have swales every 80ft with fruit and nut treas on them separating my pastures for my cows and chickens.
 
Mike Cantrell
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Location: Mid-Michigan
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If it's going to be a bit before you've got heavy equipment, then I'd wait. Wait till you've got the right tool for the job.

In the meantime, why not mullein (mullein makes lots of big fluffy protective leaves) to start restoring organic matter? It favors poor soil, really poor soil. The poorer, the better. It'll seriously grow on gravel.

And then, while your mullein is putting a layer of organic matter on top, daikon radishes can be digging deep for you.
 
Casie Becker
pollinator
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Location: Just northwest of Austin, TX
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Brian Karlsen wrote:
I was thinking about a spiked lawn airator to start opening up the soil would this do the same thing effect as the ripping for the first go anyway? i figure it would be cheaper for the first stage while im still waiting for my first income from the land to start buying things like tractors.


Are talking about a machine aerator? The best ones remove a plug of soil and leave it laying on the surface to break down. Just forcing a spike into the ground is far less effective.
If you're talking about a hand tool I would suggest it wouldn't be any more work, and would be a more versatile tool, to use either a garden spade or a broad fork. They would also be useful in loosening the soil ahead of a shovel when you make your swales.

Brian Karlsen wrote:Secondly would be the swales being hand dug they will take a while to get in so im wondering where would it be most beneficial to start mid slope fron the bottom up or from the top down my plan eventually is to have swales every 80ft with fruit and nut treas on them separating my pastures for my cows and chickens.


As far as I can tell, the best strategy in most cases of water control or infiltration is to start from the top and work down. If you're lucky, as you work your way downslope the water infiltration from above will have already started to improve the soil conditions below. Every improvement makes it easier to work the soil.
 
Brian Karlsen
Posts: 16
Location: pietermaritzburg, South Africa
bee chicken forest garden
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Sounds intresting but how do i plant thoes? Its a loy of holes to dig in 27 acres
 
Shawn Harper
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Location: Portlandia, Oregon
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Geoff Lawton - Gabions

The above website might be a good low-tech solution for now.
 
Brian Karlsen
Posts: 16
Location: pietermaritzburg, South Africa
bee chicken forest garden
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Casie i was thinking about making one up with a spiked roler and then either draging it up and down by hand or hooking it up to the towbar on my truck and driving up and down the field i have seen some rolers made localy that take plugs our made to go behind quad bikesi think that might be the way to go.
 
Steve Hitchen
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Location: Yorksire - North England
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So - some thoughts.

You don't say how large your land is, so I will guess it's the size of a medium field.

First off- don't even bother with the lawn spike or the yeomans plow for something like this on hard compacted ground - it's bad enough doing this in regular soil - especially with the lawn spike.

Your first steps depend on how much muscle effort you want to put in, and how much money you want to get out.

Putting in some greenery would be the first thing - mullien, radishes, maybe some clover and some would be a good start - it will start getting some structure into the soil but, much more critically, will slow the erosion by slowing down the water. depending on the situation wth fences and predators, I would also be tempted to run some chickens onto the land after a few weeks - leave them wild but clip their wings. They wil loosen up the soil, add dirt and keep down any pests from your new shoots.

Depending on how much rain you get them swales and berms might be useful. Take a "splitting approach" - either split the ground in half or into thirds, and put swales through those lines. Next year, add a couple more, and then a couple more etc etc.

Next time it rains, get out onto the land and follow the trickles of water and see where they go. At the lower points, find some way of articially slowing that water down to get it to drop it's sediment. You could use hay bales, or dig pits and fill them with woodchip - either way it will slow the water ( good) and get it to drop it's load ( very good). In a similar vein, if you have a seasonal stream - are you in a position to put a low dam into it? This is very easy to do by hand - well - if it's a small stream - and very low cost. Again this will slow the water and get it to drop it's contents, while also giving you more water on your land ---- a LOT depends on local restrictions and geogaphy.


I think the key thing for you to be looking at - even more so than swales and berms - is some sort of "restoritive grazing" - combine the work that plants and animals will do for you in one go.

Steve
 
Brian Karlsen
Posts: 16
Location: pietermaritzburg, South Africa
bee chicken forest garden
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The land is 27acres total 2slopes going down to the seasonal stream that runs north south down the middleim planing to bring my dexter heard there as soo as its fenced as im currently paying rent to graze them about 20miles away ill also be running chickens in salatin style pens like i used to befor my current landlord decided he didnt want any animals on the land anymore they should help get things impruved aswell.
Im going on a small dam construction course put on by one of the government agencies in may so im going to wait till then before starting the dam. This year the stream hasent flowed yet and the rainy season is almost over due to the drought. Im hoping once i start having more topsoil acting as a big sponge letting it out slowly it will become a year round stream
 
eric koperek
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TO: Brian Karlsen
FROM: Eric Koperek = erickoperek@gmail.com
SUBJECT: Renovating Pasture with "Rock Hard Soil"
DATE: PM 7:21 Tuesday 8 Mars 2016
TEXT:

1. Hire a tractor to sub-soil rip your ground. You will need knives 3/4 inch wide by 12 to 16 inches long spaced every 2 feet along the tool bar. Start at the top of the hill and rip across the slope along contour lines.

2. Alternatively, hire a small trench digging machine and dig narrow trenches 4 inches wide and as deep as possible every 50 feet starting at the top of the hill and going across the slope following contour lines. You want a series of trenches from hill top to seasonal stream at bottom. Dig trenches across seasonal stream every 50 feet. Trenches in streams can be wider (12 inches) as desired. You can dig stream trenches with a back-hoe.

3. If you have no access to heavy equipment, start collecting all the rocks you can find. Dump baskets of stones along hillside contour lines every 50 feet starting from hill top down to seasonal stream. Rocks can be any size. Just dump stones on the ground to make low bunds = walls about 6 to 8 inches high. If you have enough rocks, connect contour bunds with vertical lines of rocks to make "waffle gardens". Squares of rocks reduce both wind & water speed thus reducing erosion and increasing local humidity. Seed drought resistant legume like Black Medic = Yellow Lupine = Medicago lupulina over land. For best results use pelleted seed. Legume will establish best along rock lines because of favorable micro-climate created by rocks.

4. Build check dams = weirs across seasonal streams every 50 to 100 yards. Dump baskets of stones on ground until weir reaches 3 feet high. If stream flow is very high, dig 3 feet into banks and 2 feet into stream bed to anchor weir so it does not wash out. This is called "keying". Make center of weir about 6 to 8 inches lower than the sides to create a spillway so water does not wash out check dam. Purpose of check dam = weir is to SLOW not stop water. Slow water drops sediment behind dam. Plant drought resistant trees or crops in soft soil that collects behind weirs. If available stones are small, use wire gabions to hold rocks so they do not wash away. Seasonal streams = wadis collect and concentrate water from a wide area, effectively multiplying rainfall by 10 to 20 times. Thus, 1 inch of water in the uplands = 10 to 20 inches of water in a wadi system.

5. For more information on old-fashioned biological agriculture please visit: www.agriculturesolutions.wordpress.com -- or -- www.worldagriculturesolutions.wordpress. com -- or -- send your questions to: Agriculture Solutions, 413 Cedar Drive, Moon Township, Pennsylvania, 15108 USA -- or -- send an e-mail to: erickoperek@gmail.com

end comment.
 
Juli Anne
Posts: 8
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We had nothing but cobblestones and an icky orange moss on our pastures when we moved to our homestead. I read 'One Straw Revolution' and decided to  figure out how to fix my pastures with mulching...but I had no mulch except the nasty pesticide and herbicide filled straw in our area. I bought a really nice scythe and cut or weeds down several times a year, leaving them in place. By the second year our pasture was growing grass and by the third year our invasive weeds were gone. This is the video showing my process with the scythe: 
 
I agree. Here's the link: https://richsoil.com/wood-heat.jsp
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