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how to improve my soil  RSS feed

 
Posts: 148
Location: Huntsville Alabama (North Alabama)
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I am growing a variety of fruits in a suburban yard.  The top layer is a sandy loam found around old flood plains but under that is heavy clay soil with a lot of flint and chert. Some of it is the red clay and some is the yellow and dark gray clay.  In between these two layers is the remnants of a largely pine forest.

I have a lot of fruit trees already planted and want to move away from fertilizers and all other chemicals.  My trees include Asian Pears, Asian Persimmons, Goji Berry, Pawpaw, Jujube, plums, nectarines.  I am keeping them around 12 feet tall so I can grow them withing 20 feet of each other.  My bushes include blueberry, raspberry, blackberry, as well as kiwis, grapes and muscadine vines.  Through the years I have ran a buried  drip irrigation system to everything but now that many of the trees are well established I may only water during droughts.  My problem is these trees are not very productive.  The bushes and vines are still young and getting established.

Where I am heading:
I also grow a lot of pollinators to attract bees, wasps, butterflies, etc.  I collect clay to provide the solitary bees with material in hopes they build nests.  I have read abut companion planting but need to know what works in the North Alabama area.  Is there a way to use a companion plant to loosen up the hard packed clay?

My resources:
I am also growing mushrooms outside and inside.  I will soon start an aquaponics hobby as soon as i can finish enclosing a carport.  I would like to find ways to use these together and reduce wastes and quit buying something I can develop myself.  Does spent fungi and fish waste help in the composting?  There is a un-developed plot of land next door, so the smells would not be a problem.

I have access to all kinds of wood chips since I can provide the tree service groups with a large area to dump.  Since they dump while i am away it is often hard to tell what was dumped and by whom.  I do ask them to not drop cedar or walnut.  My neighbors all bag their leaves and put them by the road.  I have a small dump trailer and can get horse manure for free.  Mushroom spent blocks and decayed logs are also available.

My goal:
I want to get away from use of all chemicals in everything.  I have seen some of the E. Ingram soil science videos and want to learn about hot composting and compost teas but am unsure of how to apply these methods so it will do any real good.  I would appreciate any advice. 
Do I just treat the surface?  is there a way to get down into the soil and treat the clay (around 10 inches)?  I saw her mention rye grass that can grow roots down 10 feet and more.  Are there some plants that do well in North Alabama (Zone 7a) and can provide other benefits?


In a nutshell, I am working on my retirement plan on how to keep busy and hopefully engage with my neighbors who want to do similar efforts.  I want to start on the soil and composting this winter.

Thank you,
Dennis
 
gardener
Posts: 4891
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
564
books chicken dog duck fish forest garden fungi homestead hugelkultur hunting pig
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you might want to start by reading my threads on soils: quest for super soil  what we need to know about soil

Those two threads are based on parts of the book I am writing on soil improvement

Redhawk
 
pollinator
Posts: 1828
Location: Toronto, Ontario
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Hi Dennis. It's so exciting to hear about people's plans. I think you're asking the right first questions, and the first person to respond to your post happened to be exactly the person whose attention you want to grab. I haven't yet perused the second thread he mentioned, but it's now on my reading list.

What mushrooms are you growing, and what are you looking at in terms of aquaponics?

Also, in broad strokes, what do you contend with, climate wise, over the course of a season?

-CK
 
Dennis Bangham
Posts: 148
Location: Huntsville Alabama (North Alabama)
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Redhawk,
Thanks for the links to your threads.  I will start on them right away.  Want to be ready for spring.
Chris,
I am growing many different varieties of mushrooms outside on logs. Reishi, Turkey Tail, Lions Mane, Shiitake, Blue Oyster.  I also have some humidity chambers inside my shop where I am now growing Turkey Tail and Golden Oyster but will soon have Blue, King and Golden Oyster added.  I just finished up growing Shiitake.  I am feeding friends and neighbors well.  I will make medicinal tinctures out of a lot of this.
As for aquaponics i came across four food grade IBC totes (330 Gallon from a brewer).  THis is something I will start as soon as I finish my effort at closing in a lean-to metal carport.  I have come across some vinyl PVC sheets and 2 inch thick foam from an Aldi store being upgraded.  I figure if I do this inside I will have less problems with high/low temperatures. I expect I can keep it between 60 and 80F. As for fish I am still learning but figure tilapia and maybe catfish. Prawns would be nice. I would also like to see if I can grow micro-greens with the fish water effluent.    
I like to experiment and i like to evaluate a lot of different ideas so this looks like an ideal place to hang out.
 
Bryant RedHawk
gardener
Posts: 4891
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
564
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Sounds like you are setting up quite nicely Dennis. I love totes too.  For some great information on aquaponics you might want to check out this site; ecolonomic action team  There is a whole section devoted to all things aquaponic.
as far as the fish portion of aquaponic growing you can use tilapia (most used), catfish, bream, crappie (my personal favorite) prawns work very well too.
I like your idea of indoor growing in aquaponics, it will reduce the need for water heating and it should be easier to regulate.

Redhawk
 
Dennis Bangham
Posts: 148
Location: Huntsville Alabama (North Alabama)
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Redhawk.  When and where can I purchase your books?
 
Bryant RedHawk
gardener
Posts: 4891
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
564
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The book I am working on now will end up being the only soil book in print.  Once I get this one finished and to my agent I will let people know here on permies. 

I also have a book in the works on the connectivity of plant roots and how they communicate with each other, this one is waiting on my research to be completed enough to have merit for publication. It will most likely be two more years before I have enough data to begin writing it.

I should mention that there are parts of my research that I will not post. I do however post up what you might want to have to do your own research, if someone was to ask how to setup experiments, I could give suggestions.
University contractual obligations also prevent me from posting some information.

Redhawk
 
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