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Looking for advice for preparing soil for seed mix brocasting  RSS feed

 
Posts: 47
Location: Funny river, Alaska
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I am trying to prepare roughly 3 to 4 acres of my land for seeds. I don't want to rototill the land. Right now I'm  about halfway through cutting the trees down to make way for all the seeds. I live in Alaska and it's a very thick black spruce forest so when what's left after I clear the area is a ton of stumps flush with the ground and moss that completely blankets everything else. I have until about may to start brocasting my seed mixes. I've been burning the trees and saving the ashes in 5 gallon buckets to use later as a fetilizer. ( I have pretty acidic soil) I am ok with spending a Little money on 10 yard loads of topsoil to scatter around but I would prefer to do it as cheap as possible.
 
pollinator
Posts: 330
Location: SoCal USA
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I wonder if a chipper/shredder to chew up the smaller bits of tree to make mulch would help? Create a decent layer to insulate the soil and start breaking down as fertilizer next year? 3-4 acres is about 150,000 ft square, at say 2" of top soil that would be over 900 yards of soil. So I would skip on that 

What kind of seeds are you planting in the spring? Could you mix in plants that are nutrient accumulators? Then chop and drop if they are crowding your target crops. I plan to buy seeds for several tree species and plant them along with clover for the trees that aren't black locust.
 
Dylan Kirsch
Posts: 47
Location: Funny river, Alaska
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Your right I think I'm definitely going to have to skip buying loads of top soil. Even though I was only gonna do a half inch or less. The reason I initially wanted to use topsoil was because I wanted to make sure that most of the seeds germinated. I think I would be better off renting a wood chipper to mulch the branches and small stuff as long as I can mulch them into fairly fine particles, like the size of dimes or peanuts or smaller. I may still buy like 30 yards of topsoil to mix with the mulch to hel get things started. So far the seeds I have saved up for summer are a 50# bag of oats 50# bag of barley, 10# of white clover 50# of red clover 10 # of feild peas 5# of alfalfa  25# of sunflower and like 6 little seed packets of bee attracting wildflowers for Alaska. I plan on getting alot more seeds including trees fruit trees Berry bushes comfrey and various other things I have a list I'm working on. I also think that I'm gonna start most trees and bushes in pots so I have time to decide where I want to put them and also to make sure they get a good start.
 
pollinator
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The key is to get good seed to soil contact, which normally would involve some sort of no-till drill or perhaps a roller that would press the seeds down onto the soil surface.  Just broadcasting them by without any sort of follow up may not assure such contact.

Is there any way you could create some sort of drag harrow that you could pull behind a vehicle?  There are all sorts of them available if you wanted to purchase one --- some made of chains, some made with spring-loaded teeth . . .  the basic idea is that you hook it up and drag it behind your truck or ATV (or whatever) and it scratches the seed down into the soil surface as you drag it over the land.  I've seen people make a simple drag using a section of heavy chain-link fence with a couple of concrete blocks tied to it to weigh it down.  Or perhaps an old set of mattress springs.  Anything like that that would scratch up the soil as it bumps along behind an ATV.  Google "Home made harrow" and see what you find.

A similar idea would be one of those sod rollers that you rent at a rental yard.  They are basically a beer keg sized barrel that you fill with water to give it weight, and then you roll it around to push the sod (or seed) firmly down.  If you were enterprising, you could make one yourself using a 55 gal. drum and some sort of axle.  Just roll it behind an ATM as you drive around your land scattering seed. 

A second idea is to use livestock to stomp the seed down.  If you could run a herd of cattle through your space, they'll sufficiently stomp the heck out of your land and push the seeds down into firm contact with the soil.  That might be far-fetched for you, but it's a way to get an appropriate amount of soil disturbance to jumpstart a pasture.

A third idea would be to make seed balls by pressing the seed into moist clay-y soil and roll the soil up into seed balls.  It's an old permaculture technique --- again, Google it and you'll find all sorts of links showing you how it's done.  I'm sure that there are threads on this forum that discuss the merits of seed balls.  Basically, you get great soil to seed contact because the seeds are already rolled up into the soil, and then when you broadcast them, they tend to melt down onto the soil surface after a good rain, thus "planting" the seeds under a thin layer of soil. 

Fourth, a similar idea: if you are planning to buy top soil, why not take the time to mix the seeds in with the top soil and wet the whole mix to make a kind of soil and seed slurry,  I'm not exactly sure how you would easily distribute it.  Do you have access to an old manure spreader?  Honestly, buying top soil is one of the least permie ways of going about things.  I could see you doing that for something like a raised-bed garden, but not for a large area like a pasture.

My last idea would be to just get out there with a rake and do what you can to scratch the seeds into the soil.  Perhaps you can't do the whole 4 acres that way, but I'll bet that you could do quite a bit, particularly in the areas that are more suitable for planting. 

Best of luck.

 
Dylan Kirsch
Posts: 47
Location: Funny river, Alaska
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Those are some good ideas Marco. Thanks. I think I'll try a few of those ideas as an experiment and see which one works best.
 
gardener
Posts: 4890
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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Dylan Kirsch wrote:I am trying to prepare roughly 3 to 4 acres of my land for seeds. I don't want to rototill the land. Right now I'm  about halfway through cutting the trees down to make way for all the seeds. I live in Alaska and it's a very thick black spruce forest so when what's left after I clear the area is a ton of stumps flush with the ground and moss that completely blankets everything else. I have until about may to start brocasting my seed mixes. I've been burning the trees and saving the ashes in 5 gallon buckets to use later as a fetilizer. ( I have pretty acidic soil) I am ok with spending a Little money on 10 yard loads of topsoil to scatter around but I would prefer to do it as cheap as possible.



hau Dylan,  As has been mentioned, using a chipper/ shredder is highly recommended for this sort of land. I also like your wood ash idea for reducing the acidity. With moss on the soil you really don't need to do much seed prep.
While it is a normal accepted method, soil contact is not as necessary as many think, what is more important is consistency of moisture during germination (this is actually what soil contact does for seeds). The roots will head down naturally and they will weave into the moss substrate as they head to soil.
The moss will be used as both a matrix and food supplier by the plant roots as the sprouts get established. This is exactly the same as how seeds establish new plants in natural peat bogs. 

On the acidity of the soil, hard wood ashes do the best job of bringing acidic soils towards the base end of the spectrum, cedar and pine ashes will tend to slightly raise pH but not as fast or as far as hardwood ashes, the main thing to do is get your seeds growing so you can start the succession process moving along.
If you haven't thought about it, I would recommend using some blueberries and service berry bushes to help out, since they like the acidic soil. Once they are established you can use them as sacrificial burns to raise the pH slowly and that will move you along the succession path too.

Redhawk
 
Dylan Kirsch
Posts: 47
Location: Funny river, Alaska
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No problem David, thanks.

Bryant, I have service berries growing out there now and they seem to be doing good. There are native blueberries in the area and i plan on transplanting some to my property. Our spring/early summer weather usually is very dry as far as perception yet just under the moss, stumps and roots the the clay soil I have is completely saturated with water. It turns into soup on top of the frozen ground 1 to 3 feet down until the ground completely thawed. Even though the ground gets over saturated with water The very surface with the moss and roots can be bone dry. Considering that my whole property has gravel and sand about 5 foot down I wonder  if I could drill holes with my hand auger  till I hit gravel then fill the hole with something that could drain water even if it were frozen. Also do you have any recommendations on what I should add to my seed mixes or things I oughta grow out here?
 
Dylan Kirsch
Posts: 47
Location: Funny river, Alaska
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Percipitation*
 
pollinator
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Location: Wisconsin, zone 4
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Dylan, if it's easier for you, in the future you can edit your old post to correct spelling and other minor errors, rather that making another post.
 
Bryant RedHawk
gardener
Posts: 4890
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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Dylan, your soil is almost tundra like so yes drilling holes with an auger would help drainage. What is going on there is a thin "topsoil" with a clay barrier layer that prevents water from being able to drain downs, so what it looks like is a swamp or brush marsh.
The fastest and cheapest way to improve this type of soil is to use a sub-soiler to fracture the subsoil and allow air and water channels to the gravel layer. Since that would require the  sub=soiler plow and a tractor your idea of using a hand auger will be the best fit substitute, just drill fairly close together holes down to the gravel layer, this will act a lot like the sub-soiler but also allow you to use woodchips for filler, then plant into that, or you can use compost or near finished compost, potting soil with no fertilizer, just about any organic materials will work to replicate (on a larger scale) daikon radish, rape being planted then chopped and dropped with the deep root then decaying in place.

Mosses are good indicators of very acidic soils, they can be planted through or they can be turned under and then planted over, either works nicely.
I am not familiar enough with your area to make specific plant recommendations, so what I will suggest is to use naturally occurring plants or plants that will thrive in your conditions (lots can be found with internet searches or checking with nurseries/ colleges that are nearby).

The more varied your plantings are, the better and faster the soil will improve without major expenditures of money. Wood chips are super for adding humus and helping fungi to grow, both of which will help increase the pH of the soil, it just takes a year or two to see large improvements.

Redhawk
 
Posts: 328
Location: SW PA USA zone 6a altitude 1188ft
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Just some ideas, I'll let you decide on suitability.

If you have a chipper there, when you're finished use it to blow seed. Maybe mixed with manure or topsoil. Mixing might make it easier to broadcast. Wear a mask!!!

What about seeding by aircraft. Make a number of passes and just dump your seed out the window. Maybe with a helper dump seed out both sides. Take into account the direction of the wind.

It's been posted above and I repeat. You don't need the seed covered. I planted a bag of Mustard seed, last year. I hand sowed the seed and didn't even roll it in. A light covering might help, but not necessary. I've hand sowed lots of grass seed over the years. I usually cover that with mushroom manure, but I've also tossed straw about over it. If you do it when you can expect light rain all the better. Doesn't HAVE to be an everyday rain.
 
John Duda
Posts: 328
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Use a leaf blower to blow the seed, up into the air slightly.

Remember the plants you want to grow have made it thru millenia on their own. You just need to broadcast it. It's done the rest on its own, quite well.
 
Dylan Kirsch
Posts: 47
Location: Funny river, Alaska
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Thanks for the tip todd,.

John, I agree. I have to remind myself that these plants have been doing their thing with out our help their entire existence.thats really the core element of permaculture isn't it. To work with nature instead of against it. To guide  or help it rather than control or contain it. Iusthave to find the right spiecies for my area. And even possibly form some custom fit landraces.

Bryant, I I imagine that the location of these holes would have a significant impact on their effectiveness. Do you have any recommendations on placement in relationship to the plants and trees to be grown?
 
Bryant RedHawk
gardener
Posts: 4890
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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I would try to space them about a foot apart in a grid pattern for maximum effect, further will work too but it will take longer for the soil between to get "conditioned" from the leaching effects.
 
Dylan Kirsch
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Thanks Bryant I gotta say you've been real helpful to me and I really appreciate it.
 
Bryant RedHawk
gardener
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Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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Thank you for the kind words Dylan, glad to be able to help.
 
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