Win a copy of For the Love of Paw Paws this week in the Fruit Trees forum!
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
permaculture forums growies critters building homesteading energy monies kitchen purity ungarbage community wilderness fiber arts art permaculture artisans regional education experiences global resources the cider press projects digital market private forums all forums
this forum made possible by our volunteer staff, including ...
master stewards:
  • Nicole Alderman
  • r ranson
  • Anne Miller
  • paul wheaton
  • Jocelyn Campbell
  • Mike Jay Haasl
  • Burra Maluca
garden masters:
  • James Freyr
  • Joylynn Hardesty
  • Steve Thorn
  • Greg Martin
  • Carla Burke
  • Dave Burton
  • Pearl Sutton

Dry, alkaline and rocky soil

Posts: 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hello everyone!

It has been a year since I have started looking for my piece of land to start my permaculture project and I think I have finally found it. It is located on an east slope of a mountain range (elevation just some 300 m), facing south. It is surrounded by oak trees from each side so no winds and it is large enough for me (12000 sq. m), BUT... The soil there is very very poor. It is light brown in color, roots only go some 5 cm deep, it is very alkaline (over 7,5, somewhere reaching 8!), dry and very rocky! 50% of the mass is stone, sometimes 60%. You basically cannot dig a hole using shovel, you have to use pickaxe, if you want to do it effectively (see attached picture). The area is well known for growing grapes as this is a very good area for them (dry and hot) and of course I would grow them, but I don't wish to have a monoculture of grapes.

So my question is, what would you do? Would you buy this land and try to improve the soil conditions? If so, how? I think this is what permaculture is all about, isn't it? Improving the soil? But how to best do this on such large scale? Green mulching? If so, which plants? What fruit trees or shrubs to plant? What plants with deep roots can survive such conditions? Thank you!
[Thumbnail for IMG_8604.JPG]
the land surronded by oak trees
[Thumbnail for IMG_20160722_162903.jpg]
Posts: 4697
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Lantis: Sounds exciting.

When I get a new field, I tend to take the approach of leaving the soil exactly like it is, and finding plants that grow well in it. The mass of soil is huge. It seems hard to add enough stuff to the soil to change it in any significant way. But it's trivial to plant seeds from hundreds of species to see what thrives in this year's growing conditions. Perhaps your field is best suited to growing weeds for free range chickens... Something is already growing there. What? Which ecosystem services are they providing? What's edible to humans? To livestock? Are there closely related species that could be expected to do well nearby to where their kin are already growing?

I have one field in which I only grow squash. That's the crop that thrives in that field. I have one field that can't support trees. So I let the field tell me what grows well there.
master pollinator
Posts: 11384
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
cat forest garden fish trees chicken fiber arts wood heat greening the desert
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
That land looks quite healthy with a thick cover of grass and those good looking oak trees.  I would be mostly concerned with the availability of water rather than the current state of the soil (which looks pretty great from the photo of the grass and trees).  I'd start with looking at the contours and designing based on those - are there some areas where extra runoff can be concentrated to grow a larger variety of plants?  What sorts of things are you hoping to include in your project - a kitchen garden?  Livestock (what kinds)?  Food forest?  As Joseph indicates, there may be a good number of plants which will grow fine without improvement to the soil -  though most will need irrigation - and there may already be some edible and useful plants growing.

Posts: 88
Location: Castelo Branco, Portugal
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
That soil looks normal regarding rocks to me, it's those stones by meteorizing that will also feed your plants. If you dig with a shovel how deep can you go?
If there aren't any boulders there and if you are in love with it (and there is a way to get water) buy it! Go with your instincts. Everything you see now as an eventual problem is workable and changeable so no worries there.
Posts: 2698
Location: Central Texas zone 8a
cattle chicken bee sheep
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I agree that's it's a good starting point. I'm on a slope also. With a slope you will have rocky thin areas along with deep soIL areas. It's a matter of finding the good soil. Areas where water congregates after a rain is likely where the deeper soil beds are. sediment is dropped there when carried by the rain.

Most peeps say to watch and study for a while. Follow the raindrops,  see where they go. The mistake is saying "I want this here, and that there". If you observe, it will become obvious where to do what.
And inside of my fortune cookie was this tiny ad:
Switching from electric heat to a rocket mass heater reduces your carbon footprint as much as parking 7 cars
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
Boost this thread!