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How to prepare sandy land for the establishment of a food forest

 
Aaron Hartwig
Posts: 5
Location: Uruguay / Switzerland
forest garden hugelkultur urban
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Hi Everyone.
we are located one mile close to the ocean and our property has a one metre layer of sand with tough clay underneath, wich gets hard like rock when dry.
as you can see on the foto, The land is overgrown by sturdy grasses, dollarweed, wild scrubs etc. Actually its very beautiful. also we have a little "native"  forest of acacia, pine and shrubs located on the highest and dryest part of the property. Strong winterstorms destroyed a lot of our acacias, so weve gotta do here something too.
Right now, we spend only 3 month a year here, later on we will live here completely.
I would like to estasblish a food forest here and prepair other spaces for future vegetable beds by building up soil.

One of my Ideas was to do thick sheet mulching with woodchips and letting that settle for 1-2 years.
One question here is if i should start removing the grasslayer including the deep sturdy rhizomes before the sheet mulching. ( that would be a hell of work)
i i would do all thst digging, it would be easy and not expensive to order some loads of acceptable soil to mix into the sand.
Of couse id prefer to just sheet mulch thickly.

Second thing id like to start already is of coure to plant some trees for the food forrest. ( weve got somebody here who can water them during the year)
how would you prepair the food forest area?

Third thing is that actualy i was thinking to place the food fores on the lowest part of our property becaus it has more water.
But then there is the acacia and pine area on the highest part of our property. here something needs to be done anyway. Now a lot of light comes in due to wind damage.
together with the light also the weeds start moving in.
Would you start a food forrest in here?
Would it make sense to sheet mulch here too?

We are located in Uruguay and its not so easy to get cartain plants in our short time frame.
Actually the offer is very limited.
( i started by bringing some non seeding comfrey roots)

Looking forward to hear from you guys, thanks a lot in advance.

Greetings from Uruguay

Aaron
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wild weeds here
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pine and acacia area
 
Michelle Bisson
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Posts: 145
Location: Quebec, Canada
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If I were you, I would start with drawing a map of your property and map in the different features you currently have and what you currently would like to do in the different sections.  Then share this drawing on the forum.  Since you seem to have a "large" piece of land, you might focus your attention in the next year or so on one part of the land and then expand out.
 
Aaron Hartwig
Posts: 5
Location: Uruguay / Switzerland
forest garden hugelkultur urban
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Thank you Michelle. That sounds logic.  I will take some time for drawing a map....
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
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Posts: 8970
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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Some food growing there already - Dollarweeds are edible:  http://www.foragingtexas.com/2006/03/dollarweed.html
 
Aaron Hartwig
Posts: 5
Location: Uruguay / Switzerland
forest garden hugelkultur urban
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Just had some in a veggie pan Nice, with a strong taste. To eat it like spinach is a bit too intense for me.
 
Thekla McDaniels
gardener
Posts: 1519
Location: Grand Valley of Colorado's Western Slope
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Hi Aaron,

Welcome to permies!

I agree with the request for a sketch or map of your place, and if you can include it, the slope, and if not differences in the soil types, then different existing plant communities.  More photos would also be helpful.  You mention wind damage, is there evidence of continuous wind, or was it blow down from a single event?  A photo from a distance of the area where there is wind damage would help, if you don't know how to read that.

What was the winter kill you mention?

I think wood chips would be a good idea where ever you want to concentrate your efforts in the future,  Since you have clay underneath your sand, and it looks like you have a thriving plant community, I don't know that you need to import soil as much as get the clay from below coming up into the sandy layer. 

My first thought on your question about digging out the rhizomes and tough grasses is "don't do it".  The rhizomes may be stabilizing the sand/soil, the grass is keeping the surface covered, the existing plant community is feeding the soil food web.  If you can begin to enhance the conditions in the soil for those soil micro organisms, they will take care of the rest.

Most trees want higher ratio of fungi to bacteria in the soil, but without more information, it is hard to know, how to advise you specifically.

good luck with your project
 
Aaron Hartwig
Posts: 5
Location: Uruguay / Switzerland
forest garden hugelkultur urban
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Thankyou Thekla for your advice and information.

I am going to send more detailed information on one of the areas that we plan to develop first, plus fotos soon.


As well I am about to draw a map and post it.

What do you think should I post it as a new topic?
 
Thekla McDaniels
gardener
Posts: 1519
Location: Grand Valley of Colorado's Western Slope
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Hi Aaron,

I think posting on this thread might be your best bet.  The others who have already looked, and have asked for the info, maps, photos will most likely get a notice that you have posted and then they'll come look.

Thekla
 
Michelle Wilber
Posts: 3
Location: Anchorage, AK
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You should take this advice with a huge grain of salt, because I am in Alaska and conditions are very, very different here....but I think you could do worse than a thick layer of wood chips, maybe planting some nurse trees in (things that would grow pretty well in tough conditions and start to get things going towards forest, nothing that would be too hard to take out later when your more favored trees are going good).  I started with an urban lawn - mostly mowed quack grass (lots of rhizome mat) with a few inches of soil and then silty sand, and clay in some areas at depth.  I planted fruit trees (mostly apples) directly in the existing sandy soil with manure and mulch thrown on the top and about 6 inches of wood chips starting 6 inches out from the trunks (away from trunks to discourage rodent damage).  We have short, cool summers, but even so the wood chips have broken down in the 8 years since and new leaves and chips have been frequently added.  The soil is much better, the trees are much bigger, but the quack grass still comes up.  If I could have done it, I would have laid down a foot or more of woodchips to more completely smother the grass and then in a year or so sheet mulched on top and planted trees through, being careful to not incorporate wood chips in the soil at depth, and compensating with nitrogen rich matter on the surface.  I imagine things would break down much more quickly there, especially if there is adequate moisture.  And yah, a plan...lay down wood chips if it is easy wherever you might have forest/path/garden/etc and then spend the year planning!  Mapping, designing systems...the whole process.
 
Bruce Kirk
Posts: 15
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Hello Aeron
I am an ecologist and permaculture teacher living in the sierras de rocha Uruguay. I am developing an education centre and I am working on various smaller projects which includes forest gardens and keyline designs so if you feel that meeting up sometime would benefit you in some way please let me know
Gracias
Bruce
 
Hans Quistorff
pollinator
Posts: 563
Location: Longbranch, WA
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Hello Aeron
I am on a farm that was established a century ago.  Half of it is sand and gravel deposited by glaciers and the other half is clay floodplain that apparently was in ancient times the bottom of a lake. These are some of the things I have observed and that you might look for on your property.
The rain that falls on the upper part of the property and the land beyond filters down slowly and come out at the boundary between the sand and clay. This is the most productive area for annual crops which are sub irrigated during the dry summer.
Most of the floodplain area was cleared for pasture a long time ago. As you mentioned the surface has to be covered or it bakes hard during the dry season. It is too soft for animals during the winter but just above it where there is a layer of sand is firm enough for animals in the winter but the steeper hillside they erode with their hooves.  I do nt have animals now so I mow the dry grass at the end of the summer before the rains trying to get most of the seeds to stay behind then use the stalks to mulch my gardens and berry vines.
Fruit trees that have a tp root  like apples and pears do very well higher up the hill because they can still reach water during the dry period. Shallower rooted stone fruit do better where they only have about a meter or 2 to get to the clay layer to get water during the drought. I have one grove of plums that is in the flood plain and it is doing quite well as I have removed most of the overstory that was shading it.
The native trees on the highest part is my zone 4/5 and the broken trees and branches are a source of firewood. They catch the rain and mist and filter it down to the porous soil and keep it from evaporating with the litter underneath.
Areas of grass that spread by rhizomes will take advantage of a wood chip mulch which smothers the grasses that spread by seed. But it can be taken advantage of but only if you are there to manage it. The roots will move up into the boundary between the mulch and the soil and can be more easily removed. But if the timing is wrong they will become such a thick mat that it is difficult to remove.  This is really not a problem under fruit trees for the most part they form a symbiotic relationship where both the grass and trees grow better unless the trees shade the grass out. Again the grass can be cut for mulch or used for grazing. Chicken tractors moved daily can make such areas very productive and can be seeded during the winter with annual seed plants after they have passed to produce more feed for the chickens or yourself.
 
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