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begining farmers needs a basic soil mix that can be scaled up  RSS feed

 
Martin Bernal
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hello

I am starting a farm in Morgan hill, California. USDA zone 9A, the soil compassion that I am farming on is mostly clay. I am looking to make a basic soil mixture that will be used to grow vetables in. I want to do Hukulculture just not with mounds.

Some of the tools that I have to use. not to say that I don't have access to other ones
cement mixer turned soil sifter
cement mixer for mixing soil

resources that I have to make soil.
1 5 gallon  bucket of crushed egg shells I have been saving
lots of clay soil
worm composting bins ( 60-100 pounds of  organic stawberrys and juicing  leftovers once a week week.
cow manure (Manure comes from organic non GMO dairy feed corn silage, grain and alfalfa)

This land will be used to do swales with n the future, only looking to go maybe 4-6 inches deep.

Thanks
 
Chris Wells
Posts: 68
Location: Zone 2b, Canadian Rockies
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Start with an NPK analysis of your clay soil. No educated decision can be made until you know the state of primary nutrients. If you are going to be planting a considerable area, it would be worth getting a full micro-nutrient analysis as well.
 
Marco Banks
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Location: Los Angeles, CA
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Martin,

You want to dig the soil up, and put it into a cement mixer?  Why?

Permaculture mimics nature.  Nowhere in nature do you see soil pulled up, put into some sort of mixer with additives, and then dumped back out.

If you've got access to bio-mass like manure, juicing leftovers, strawberries, etc., then sheet mulch HEAVILY.  This is what you would see in nature: leaves falling from the trees and mulching the soil beneath.

I'm in the same zone as you, but 500 miles south and it sounds like we've got the same soil.  Clay is the foundation of good soil, but it needs carbon, so put down as much mulch as you can find.  Pile it high and thick.  Wood chips are the magic carpet that will turn that hard clay into black, rich soil.  You'll need to be patient --- mulch heavily and then let it lay for a year.  If you are tilling (or mixing with a cement mixer) you'll be destroying your soil structure.
 
Tracy Wandling
steward
Posts: 1676
Location: Cortes Island, British Columbia. Zone: 8ish Lat: 50; Rainfall: 50" ish; sand and rocks; well water
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You've already gotten two good bits of advice, but I'll add my two cents worth as well.

It is my belief (and observation) that you don't need to 'make' soil in the way you are describing - you don't need to mix it all up in a cement mixer, and you certainly don't need to 'sift' it (unless there are a lot of big rocks in it). Chunks of organic matter are fine to have in the soil. They hold water, break down slowly, and feed the soil organisms.

My garden beds are built over buried wood in 3-4 foot deep trenches, because we have sand, sand, and more sand (and rocks), and very little topsoil - maybe half an inch in places. The beds are topped with about 2-3 feet of basically mulch, made up of: year old wood chips (Scotch broom and alder), year old grass/weeds/leaves mix, with some sand and a little tiny bit of clay sprinkled in. So there is basically no soil in my garden beds, except what went in with each transplant. I have sprinkled on some rock dust and kelp, and buried some compost done in the kitchen scraps tumbler. The plants will be top dressed with more compost, and the heavier feeds will get special treats - coffee grounds, kelp, etc., and more rock dust mix will be sprinkled on, as we've had crazy unseasonable rain storms.

So, I would definitely get your clay soil tested, just to see what you've got for minerals in there. But as for mixing stuff up in a cement mixer, I don't think that is at all necessary. As Marco Banks says, just start laying on all of that organic material you've got - and it sounds like you've got some really good stuff - and I think it will be great! My veggies are happily growing in their mulch beds, and the mulch really holds the water well.

Good luck with your new venture!

Cheers
Tracy
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Happy veggies
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Yes, and more happy veggies. :)
 
chip sanft
pollinator
Posts: 427
Location: 18 acres & heart in zone 4 (central MN). Current abode: Knoxville (zone 6 /7)
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Based on my reading, clay tends to be high in minerals. But it lacks organic matter. You are well set to have good soil.

I like to run compost through worms in solid-bottom bins, which I dump out directly on the soil, keeping worms back for seeding the next batch as necessary. The worms seem to help a lot in working the soil. Sort of like an effortless broadfork.

One thing you didn't mention that might be helpful is rotating green manures. Depending on your finances, you can go with what your seed supplier has, or just do cheap and easily available (popcorn, buckwheat, turnips, rapeseed, etc. etc.).
 
Marco Banks
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Location: Los Angeles, CA
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Yes, you can keep worms in a bin and have them compost your kitchen scraps, etc.  This is good.  It will produce for you a wonderful product to use in potting mix or as dressing around growing plants.

Or you can dump 20 yards of wood chips on your land, and create a habitat for hundreds of thousands of worms to do the same thing.  It will take a few years, but eventually, the population of worms will be massive—you won't be able to turn over a spade without turning up a dozen worms. 


Why not do both?  In the long run, turning that hard clay soil into friable and crumbly black top-soil will need the efforts of all those wonderful worms. 
 
chip sanft
pollinator
Posts: 427
Location: 18 acres & heart in zone 4 (central MN). Current abode: Knoxville (zone 6 /7)
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Marco Banks wrote:Yes, you can keep worms in a bin and have them compost your kitchen scraps, etc.  This is good.  It will produce for you a wonderful product to use in potting mix or as dressing around growing plants.

Or you can dump 20 yards of wood chips on your land, and create a habitat for hundreds of thousands of worms to do the same thing.  It will take a few years, but eventually, the population of worms will be massive—you won't be able to turn over a spade without turning up a dozen worms. 


Why not do both?  In the long run, turning that hard clay soil into friable and crumbly black top-soil will need the efforts of all those wonderful worms. 


In my experience, by growing worms in bins and releasing them in large quantities, you can speed up the process a great deal and have a sizeable population in a year rather than waiting years. Our garden is seething with them.
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