• Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
permaculture forums growies critters building homesteading energy monies living kitchen purity ungarbage community wilderness fiber arts art permaculture artisans regional education experiences global resources the cider press projects digital market permies.com all forums
this forum made possible by our volunteer staff, including ...
master stewards:
  • Nicole Alderman
  • raven ranson
stewards:
  • paul wheaton
  • Jocelyn Campbell
  • Julia Winter
garden masters:
  • Anne Miller
  • Pearl Sutton
  • thomas rubino
  • Bill Crim
  • Kim Goodwin
  • Joylynn Hardesty
gardeners:
  • Amit Enventres
  • Mike Jay
  • Dan Boone

Healing heavy clay soil in Montana  RSS feed

 
Posts: 85
Location: Missoula, MT
22
chicken forest garden hunting
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hello,

We live in Montana and recently did a simple soil test.  It returned:

pH: 7.3 (alkaline)
Nitrogen: depleted
Phosphorus: sufficient
Potassium: surplus
We have heavy clay soil.
Growing Zone: 5b

We have several large hugel beds for vegetables and rotational grazing fields over several acres.  Alpacas (and all camelids) cannot eat high-nitrogen plants or they get sick, so no clover cropping the fields. 

How would you heal this?

I see that urine, diluted, provides a good 10:1:4 NPK ratio as fertilizer but with our high potassium I'm nervous.  I think I read that potassium keeps plants from accessing nutrients in the soil.

Recommendations?
 
pollinator
Posts: 227
Location: Stevensville, Montana; Zone 4b
31
food preservation forest garden hugelkultur
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hey,

I have super heavy clay soils in Victor and had really good success with turnips as a cover crop. They punched right through the soil and are now just acting as a sort of inground compost. I also used clover so that doesn't help your situation. I would just get as much organic material as possible; leaves, straw, manure and seed whatever you want into that.

Anybody using gypsum to help soften up their clay soils? I haven't done this, but have heard it works after a few years of application.
 
pollinator
Posts: 1799
Location: Toronto, Ontario
120
bee forest garden fungi hugelkultur cooking rabbit trees urban wofati
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi Jesse. Welcome.

I would look at the following thread:

https://permies.com/t/67969/quest-super-soil

You should be able to get what you need there. I am thinking that if you had paddocks kept away from your sensitive animals, you could heal those paddocks with whatever it was it needed.

I would identify the pioneer species native to your area and rely on those. Find out what the natural nitrogen-fixing bacterial host plants are, which plants have good, deep taproots for breaking up hardpan, that kind of stuff. I would also suggest you talk to other people in your area that have kept alpacas. They might have regional insights.

Specifically to your potassium issue, I would pay good attention to what RedHawk has to say about compost extracts. If you are able to increase your soil's vitality, the naturally present soil life will deal with the excess potassium, as I understand it.

-CK
 
pollinator
Posts: 459
Location: 18 acres & heart in zone 4 (central MN). Current abode: Knoxville (zone 6 /7)
44
bike books dog urban
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
We have heavy clay soil in our gardens and improved it through the addition of much organic matter, including manure, used stable bedding, and compost (ordinary and vermi-), plus cover crops.

Cover crop is a state of mind. Any plant that will grow could theoretically be a cover crop -- it just has to catch sunlight and build organic matter. Even the grasses or whatever that is growing there already (provided it's not something nasty like bindweed etc.) could work. You could let the field grow out, knock the plants down in a non-till fashion (rolling, crimping, whatever you like) and leave it to regrow. Selected species can be quicker. Turnips worked well for us, too, but the feed issue didn't exist for us, and buckwheat sometimes does well but is a bit up and down. Even corn is a possibility -- it produces lots of organic matter and has an extensive root system. As long as you leave it in the field, you shouldn't be depleting anything.
 
gardener
Posts: 4862
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
557
books chicken dog duck fish forest garden fungi homestead hugelkultur hunting pig
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Jesse Fister wrote:Hello,

We live in Montana and recently did a simple soil test.  It returned:

pH: 7.3 (alkaline)
Nitrogen: depleted
Phosphorus: sufficient
Potassium: surplus
We have heavy clay soil.
Growing Zone: 5b

We have several large hugel beds for vegetables and rotational grazing fields over several acres.  Alpacas (and all camelids) cannot eat high-nitrogen plants or they get sick, so no clover cropping the fields. 

How would you heal this?

I see that urine, diluted, provides a good 10:1:4 NPK ratio as fertilizer but with our high potassium I'm nervous.  I think I read that potassium keeps plants from accessing nutrients in the soil.

Recommendations?



hau Jesse, Let me start with the grazing animals, the grasses you want are mid protein range, so you can use;

•Brome
•Orchard
•Timothy
•Endophyte-free Fescue (Short Fescue, not long or tall fescue)
•Winter Wheat
•Bluegrass
•Bermuda
•Millet
•Sudan Grass
•Bahia Grass

Now to heal the land, simply grow the pasture grasses for the pastures, you can add daikon radish, turnip, buckwheat, and hairy vetch as well. These will respond well to breaking up the heavy clay and once you roll the tops down, the grasses will come back and the other items will rot (top and root) thus adding humus and clay crumbling humic acid to your soil, this will start turning it into rich, black soil within a year of starting the program. The animals will poop and pee as you move them around these amendments will be spread around too.
The soil will improve simply by you using it to pasture your animals and rotational grazing will do wonders in a very short time.

As you work the land with the animals and grow the pastures, that K will even out all by itself, don't fret over the soil test, it does not account for the fact that you are using the land for animal raising.
If you are worried about anything let it be the pH, that can be adjusted or you can let the pasture grasses do that for you, either way working the land is the best way to get things headed towards balance, which is where we want everything anyway.

If you would like more specific help, I am a pm away.

Redhawk
 
I agree. Here's the link: https://richsoil.com/wood-heat.jsp
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
Boost this thread!