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Scott Martucci
Posts: 8
Location: Boonsboro, Maryland - Zone 6b/7a
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My family and I have recently purchased a small 3.3 acre property in central MD which has previously been used as pasture for cattle. The property has no trees and we will be moving in this spring. We intend to immediately begin development of a kitchen garden just outside the kitchen door and observe and plan the rest of the development for a while before we begin any other work. I would like to be able to develop soil across the property with minimal work over that time and am wondering if this would be something I could do. Rather than mow the rest of the property as "lawn" I was thinking I could plant some kind of grass/legume/wildflower mix which only requires chopping periodically and will work to improve the soil over this time. Does anyone have anythoughts on what type of mix might be good for something like this or even if this sounds like a reasonable approach?

Thanks for any help you might be able to provide.
 
Daron Williams
pollinator
Posts: 169
Location: Olympia, WA - Zone 8a/b
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I'm considering something similar for my property - I have 2.86 acres and most of it is overused old pasture and hayfield. I have been planning a seed mix that includes nitrogen fixers such as clover, lupin and some native to my area (Washington state) but I'm also including some shrubs and trees plus some flowers and edible perennials. One plant I'm including after doing some research is diakon raddish. It forms a long root and if you don't harvest it the raddish will decompose over winter and help create soil.

For my place I'm planning on mulching an area each year in the spring and then broadcasting a seed mix in the fall and the following spring. I will be expanding to a new area each year and repeating the process. But you might not need to mulch first depending on the seed mix you are using and your other goals. Later I will go back through and establish fruit trees and other edibles as part of a long term food forest project.

I'm also planning on making seed balls before I broadcast the seeds. If your not familiar this involves mixing the seeds with clay and compost to form small balls. This gives the seeds some protection and since I'm planning on broadcasting into mulch it should help overall germination. It might be helpful for your site and can be done fairly quickly - I'm going to build a hand crank powered mixer using a 5 gal bucket.
 
Scott Martucci
Posts: 8
Location: Boonsboro, Maryland - Zone 6b/7a
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Daron Williams wrote:I'm considering something similar for my property - I have 2.86 acres and most of it is overused old pasture and hayfield. I have been planning a seed mix that includes nitrogen fixers such as clover, lupin and some native to my area (Washington state) but I'm also including some shrubs and trees plus some flowers and edible perennials. One plant I'm including after doing some research is diakon raddish. It forms a long root and if you don't harvest it the raddish will decompose over winter and help create soil.

For my place I'm planning on mulching an area each year in the spring and then broadcasting a seed mix in the fall and the following spring. I will be expanding to a new area each year and repeating the process. But you might not need to mulch first depending on the seed mix you are using and your other goals. Later I will go back through and establish fruit trees and other edibles as part of a long term food forest project.

I'm also planning on making seed balls before I broadcast the seeds. If your not familiar this involves mixing the seeds with clay and compost to form small balls. This gives the seeds some protection and since I'm planning on broadcasting into mulch it should help overall germination. It might be helpful for your site and can be done fairly quickly - I'm going to build a hand crank powered mixer using a 5 gal bucket.


Do you mow the area you are seeding? How often? I like the idea of adding clover as that would also allow me to introduce bees for a honey yield. Thanks for the info on your setup.
 
Bryant RedHawk
gardener
Posts: 2394
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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The best method for building soil is to seed a mix, Use brassicas, cereal grains, legumes, alfalfa, rape, daikon radish, clovers, and other deep rooting plants.
Once these are growing well, you can periodically chop it down and let it lay. If you do you will find that the items like clovers will come up once the tall plants have been cut down.
The rape and daikon, once topped, will rot in the ground and create nice open areas as well as humus to the soil. With in a year you should see large increases in worm counts.

Building the soil is very easy so it can be done just about anytime. Usually the first thing to take care of is water management, so that nothing washes away in heavy rain events.
Once the water management is completed, you now know exactly where the best places for trees and other plants are and it becomes very easy to make those decisions.

Redhawk
 
Nick Watkins
pollinator
Posts: 38
Location: Akron, Ohio
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There's great advice in this thread already; but if you're looking to buy a pre-made mix to broadcast, take a look at Shooting Star's list of mixes for different soils and situations: http://www.shootingstarnativeseed.com/shooting-star-mixes.htm.
 
Daron Williams
pollinator
Posts: 169
Location: Olympia, WA - Zone 8a/b
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Scott Martucci wrote:Do you mow the area you are seeding? How often? I like the idea of adding clover as that would also allow me to introduce bees for a honey yield. Thanks for the info on your setup.


I'm going to mow it before I place the mulch but then my plan is to not mow it afterwords. My aim is to start the succession to a forest so I want it to grow up as a mix of shrubs with some scattered trees with the spaces filled with smaller plants. Overtime a low level canopy should start to fill in but it will look very much like a young forest - kinda like a savanna but without the grasses. I'm trying to mimic what the regrowth after a major disruption event would look like here in Washington. I might go over the areas with a scythe once a year to cut some of the non shrubs and trees. This would be done to encourage root growth and build up organic material to help build my soil. Some of the tree species will be coppiced and the cuttings will either be used for hugelkultur beds or just left on the ground as habitat and for soil building - same with some of the shrubs. Later on I will plant additional trees and start to shift the overall plant balance more towards taller fruiting species with fruiting shrubs around the trees and also smaller edibles in the alleys between the trees (using some of Bryant Redhawk's methods!). Since I want the forest to produce a lot of food I will be keeping it more open than a natural forest in my area would be but it should still provide good habitat and it will also be bordered by a native forest (zone 5) so I can have the best of both worlds.
 
Bryant RedHawk
gardener
Posts: 2394
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
192
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Daron Williams wrote:
Scott Martucci wrote:Do you mow the area you are seeding? How often? I like the idea of adding clover as that would also allow me to introduce bees for a honey yield. Thanks for the info on your setup.


I'm going to mow it before I place the mulch but then my plan is to not mow it afterwords. My aim is to start the succession to a forest so I want it to grow up as a mix of shrubs with some scattered trees with the spaces filled with smaller plants. Overtime a low level canopy should start to fill in but it will look very much like a young forest - kinda like a savanna but without the grasses. I'm trying to mimic what the regrowth after a major disruption event would look like here in Washington. I might go over the areas with a scythe once a year to cut some of the non shrubs and trees. This would be done to encourage root growth and build up organic material to help build my soil. Some of the tree species will be coppiced and the cuttings will either be used for hugelkultur beds or just left on the ground as habitat and for soil building - same with some of the shrubs. Later on I will plant additional trees and start to shift the overall plant balance more towards taller fruiting species with fruiting shrubs around the trees and also smaller edibles in the alleys between the trees (using some of Bryant Redhawk's methods!). Since I want the forest to produce a lot of food I will be keeping it more open than a natural forest in my area would be but it should still provide good habitat and it will also be bordered by a native forest (zone 5) so I can have the best of both worlds.


Definition of Savanna or Savannah: a mixed woodland grassland ecosystem characterized by the trees being sufficiently widely spaced so that the canopy does not close.
The open canopy allows sufficient light to reach the ground to support an unbroken herbaceous layer consisting primarily of grasses.
Savannas maintain an open canopy despite a high tree density. It is often believed that savannas feature widely spaced, scattered trees.
However, in many savannas, tree densities are higher and trees are more regularly spaced than in forests


You can not have a savanna without grasses of some sort, a savanna is spaced trees with grass land between and is grazed by animals.
If you want to let natural succession take hold then you need to simply leave it alone until the growth is at the point of becoming as you want to keep it, then you do disturbance to maintain that point of succession that you desire.
What you are describing here is part of succession but without grasses being present it would be a mid-stage forest prior to stem exclusion (thinning) and before canopy closure.
This is a more post savanna stage like or pre Forest stage.  
Most food forests are set up for mid-stage succession and then held at that point by disturbance when required.

In Washington State, the main disturbance models are fire and flood, which means the conifers are more suited to natural succession than say hardwoods which are not as fire tolerant.

If you haven't yet, I recommend you get a copy of Restoration Agriculture by Mark Shepard, it will help you tremendously with your planning and execution of your described project.

Redhawk
 
Daron Williams
pollinator
Posts: 169
Location: Olympia, WA - Zone 8a/b
23
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Bryant RedHawk wrote:
Definition of Savanna or Savannah: a mixed woodland grassland ecosystem characterized by the trees being sufficiently widely spaced so that the canopy does not close.
The open canopy allows sufficient light to reach the ground to support an unbroken herbaceous layer consisting primarily of grasses.
Savannas maintain an open canopy despite a high tree density. It is often believed that savannas feature widely spaced, scattered trees.
However, in many savannas, tree densities are higher and trees are more regularly spaced than in forests


You can not have a savanna without grasses of some sort, a savanna is spaced trees with grass land between and is grazed by animals.
If you want to let natural succession take hold then you need to simply leave it alone until the growth is at the point of becoming as you want to keep it, then you do disturbance to maintain that point of succession that you desire.
What you are describing here is part of succession but without grasses being present it would be a mid-stage forest prior to stem exclusion (thinning) and before canopy closure.
This is a more post savanna stage like or pre Forest stage.  
Most food forests are set up for mid-stage succession and then held at that point by disturbance when required.

In Washington State, the main disturbance models are fire and flood, which means the conifers are more suited to natural succession than say hardwoods which are not as fire tolerant.

If you haven't yet, I recommend you get a copy of Restoration Agriculture by Mark Shepard, it will help you tremendously with your planning and execution of your described project.

Redhawk


Yup, I get that - I was more going for the image of an open forest. Savanna can help people see that image. Grasses are not a common plant in my area outside of the prairie areas which I'm not trying to recreate. I will be including some bunch grass because I have noticed that some of the wildlife I have on my property do better when there are areas of tall grasses.

For my area of Washington fires are naturally fairly rare. I'm originally from Eastern Washington where frequent fires were the historic norm but where I'm at now in the south Puget Sound area fires were normally spaced a hundred years or more apart. You are right about floods being a common disruption but my property is not in a flood area. Another type of disturbance that is common historically in my area is blow down from storms. This is essentially what I'm trying to mimic as I think it would be the most likely large disturbance for my location. Hidden Forest, The: The Biography of an Ecosystem by Jon R. Luoma is a fantastic book that covers some of the best research on my area and the forests that are dominate here.

Our natural disturbance cycle starts with hardwoods and then transitions to conifers - red alder, big leaf maple, cascara, and some others are common early growth with some Doug firs mixed in. This forms a mixed forest with some large trees but also open areas. Overtime, red cedar and western hemlock move into the area and close the canopy. The forests where I live used to be dominated by western hemlock and red cedar with some Doug firs mixed in. I'm trying to mimic the early stage that would feature red alder, big leaf maple and cascara. I will be including edible non-native species but in terms of structure I'm trying to mimic what a blow down would look like in the early stage.
 
Bryant RedHawk
gardener
Posts: 2394
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
192
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Very awesome project Daron,   Love the research it will certainly help you a lot as you reach that goal.

I too use blow down mimicry (chain saws are our friend for this)
My goals are divided by what we want for each part of the farm, I have some acres that will eventually look like they did back in 1845. (old growth hardwood forest with little underbrush)

Since those acres used to get blow down, that's the area that I am creating actual downed trees by using a cable and my jeep. The resulting pit and mound is how I get mineral mixing in my established hickory/ oak forest.
Over the last three months we have had winds in the 40-65 mph range, which have blown down several of the dead, standing trees.
These events have also created a lot of "widow makers" that I will have to get down safely.

We have segregated Buzzard's Roost into four bio areas, it is going to be a lot of work and spread over several more years to get near what we want it to all look like. 

Since I raise animals, I have a few acres where I am working towards the savanna model so the pasture will end up with more diversity than it has now.

Redhawk
 
Daron Williams
pollinator
Posts: 169
Location: Olympia, WA - Zone 8a/b
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Thanks Redhawk - I have read a lot of your posts about your work and I have been very impressed. I have learned a lot and I'm looking to apply some of your methods to my place.
 
Scott Martucci
Posts: 8
Location: Boonsboro, Maryland - Zone 6b/7a
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Thanks for all the replies everyone. This gives me something to look into. I am in a bit of a different situation I think than Daron. I am really just trying to start observing so I can develop my long term plan for the property but in the meantime I figure I can have some work being done to build the soil while also reducing the amount of work (mowing) I need to do. I was originally thinking a grass and legume mix but will go a little broader in my thinking and probably include something like daikon at least.
 
Bryant RedHawk
gardener
Posts: 2394
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
192
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hau Scott, If you have any questions that you don't want to put into this or another thread, feel free to purple moosage them.

Redhawk
 
Scott Martucci
Posts: 8
Location: Boonsboro, Maryland - Zone 6b/7a
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Bryant RedHawk wrote:hau Scott, If you have any questions that you don't want to put into this or another thread, feel free to purple moosage them.

Redhawk


Excuse my ignorance but I have no idea what that means.
 
Casie Becker
garden master
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Location: Just northwest of Austin, TX
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It's like site specific private messaging, but the staff is very upfront that if we were more interesting people they'd take the time to read all of our messages to laugh at them.

Click on the member's name next to the post and then look for the little maroon oval near the bottom left side of the profile screen. Click there and it opens a message screen.

Alternatively, if you look at the menu at the very top of the screen, there's another way to access the purple moosages. When you receive one there will be a notification highlight in that location until you check you moosages.  If you set up your member options properly, you'll also receive an email notification.
 
Michelle Latham
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Location: South Appalachia zone 7a
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Scott Martucci wrote:. Does anyone have anythoughts on what type of mix might be good for something like this or even if this sounds like a reasonable approach.


I had a similar approach to our property when we first moved. We picked a 3000 sq foot area and lightly tilled and raked some heavyroots and weeds out to loosen the acidic, cattle compacted, slightly clay soil . Then we spread a combo of buckwheat, rye, radish, daikon, sweet beets, and winter peas.
These were excellent at feeding the deer also.
We are into the second year since we seeded the area,  haven't touched the field, and have had continual growth since.
We may plant corn in the field this year, but we plan to reforest that area with Trees in a few years.

Good luck and enjoy the acreage!
 
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