I just dropped the price of
the permaculture playing cards
for a wee bit.

 

 

uses include:
- infecting brains with permaculture
- convincing folks that you are not crazy
- gift giving obligations
- stocking stuffer
- gambling distraction
- an hour or two of reading
- find the needle
- find the 26 hidden names

clickity-click-click

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Sand Mulch over clay loam creating an artificial soil horizon  RSS feed

 
William Schlegel
pollinator
Posts: 165
Location: Montana
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forest garden trees
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I garden in a shallow clay loam in Ronan Montana. In soil science class years ago I learned that it takes an awful lot of sand to alter a soil. So I buy mine from a local farmer around 8 to 10 yards at a time in big loads.

This has worked out pretty well over the years and I've kept doing it and have had at least 8 loads delivered since 2011.

I tend to leave the sand mulch in place for a couple years but I got to tilling last fall and realized it can be tilled at least shallowly without destroying the sand rich layer.

I've also theorized that it holds heat better than the clay rich soil below. Thus allowing me better success with melons.

Anyone else try using sand as mulch for clay soils?
 
Gilbert Fritz
pollinator
Posts: 1423
Location: Denver, CO
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I have not but am interested in this topic. Native tribes used this technique; they would garden in areas where there was a deep sand layer over clay. This allowed them to grow crops in dry areas by storing water.

Do you notice water storing effects?
 
Joseph Lofthouse
gardener
Posts: 2698
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
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bee chicken food preservation fungi greening the desert
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My grandfather gardened in some of the heaviest clay in our area. He amended with sand on a routine basis. I love growing in clay-ish soil. Having 6 to 8 inches of sand on top of the clay would be a dream.
 
William Schlegel
pollinator
Posts: 165
Location: Montana
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As far as water storage goes I am uncertain. I have a well and water fairly heavily. I seed right into the sand layer and vegetables germinate just fine. In the fenced garden I built the raised beds out of the sand. I often water with soaker hoses in the paths and water until I see the wetting front reach the center of each sand bed. Sometimes I run a sprinkler as well.

I do get too much sand in some crops especially when I run the sprinkler. I may grow future greens in a sand free area because the clay soil doesn't add grit if splashing happens. The depth of my sand layer has varied from 1 to 6 inches. I looked up my soil recently on soil web and it averages about 7 inches deep for the top horizon. I suspect some areas have far less depth from their higher clay content and poorer tilth. Their is an old google earth image of my field plowed up with light spots where the soil is thin. I would like to add sand to that entire thin area over time I bet as little as an inch of sand would create a noticeable improvement in the shallowest soils even tilled in but 4 inches of sand would really clinch the deal.

One of the last things I did last fall was to till up an area that hadn't been gardened since I spread out two sand piles in 2011 The spots where the sand piles sat appeared to be pure sand even after tilling but the areas around them where I spread the sand in thinner layers seemed during and after tilling to be a sandy topsoil with great tilth to rototill in. I had a great squash patch there in 2011 and since it was recently grass I will probably grow squash or corn again.
 
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