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Hillside destroyed by animals. What to grow now?  RSS feed

Posts: 2
Location: Virginia, USA
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I am moving into a very neglected homestead.  Here are the details in bullet form:

-Property is on a moderate hillside/slope
-House is at top, 3-stall small animal barn/stable at bottom of hill (used for horses in the past, maybe?)
-Barn was most recently used for hundreds of chickens--WAY too many--who were allowed to "free range" outside of barn, within electric fencing
-NO grass or organic growing matter exists inside the fencing, and it is in a slope.  It is SOLID mud.
-We are approaching our last frost date soon, and I want to plant something as soon as possible
-Grass grows on other areas of the hill, just fine, but maybe a cover crop or something different is better
-Not sure what will be in that area long-term--I am still creating my permaculture map of the property, but I need to get something there, before the spring rains cause serious erosion
-The mud is really disgusting and unnatural, as the rest of the property has lush growth

Help!  What should I plant?

I can post pictures, probably this coming week.....
Posts: 516
Location: Missouri Ozarks
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For a quick cover, I'd throw out a mix of wheat, oats, and turnips.  All three ought to be available at a local feed store, I'd think.  You don't have to buy the "seed" versions of the grains, for what it's worth.  A bag of regular ole' whole oats will germinate just fine.  My local feed store sells purple top turnips in bulk for $2.00/lb. or thereabouts; a pound of turnips goes a long way, but at that price you can afford to seed heavily.  You may well need to go stomp around the mud a bit to mash it all in, so the wild birds don't come and feast.

Edit: the linked "purple" was put there automatically, not by me.  It has nothing to do with my suggestion.
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Location: USDA Zone 8a
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Welcome to permies!  

Here are some threads that might help:



master pollinator
Posts: 2168
Location: Toronto, Ontario
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Hi Heyruthie. Sorry to hear about the overgrazed hillside.

I would look to nature's first responders. What are the pioneer weeds in the area? It is my opinion that you might want to get living root masses onto that hill as soon as possible, for fear of losing your hillside to erosion.

If you're pasturing animals, I would put the area into regenerative pasture, using your pioneer species and green manures, as well as any livestock-specific forage you can use.

I would also have a comprehensive soil test done. Check to see, even just with a shovel, and with your eyes, how much organic matter is present in the soil. Look at the particle size. Are they all tiny and the same size?

Without knowing the specifics, I think a number of things might be going on considering what you've told us. I think you might want to drop at least three inches of organic material on that spot, and amend with the rock dust that best suits your soil's needs. If it was calcium, which is common in certain types of water-impermeable clay soils, I would suggest gypsum grit and dust.

I would then broadfork it in. You could probably till it in, as a one-time deal. If you have no soil life to kill, there's no problem inverting the soil structure, as it's just dirt. Tilling it in will put those amendments into your soil, getting them to changing its composition faster.

Another thing you could do is make compost extract. Bryant Redhawk has a number of useful threads on this site concerning soil life, and at least one goes in depth into how to make decent compost extracts to inoculate prepared dirt to become soil. Where available, some people use a dilute raw milk solution, and I have heard that this increases soil life and the amount of sugars in the grasses, but I don't know how it stacks up against a good compost extract, or even EM solutions.

Any other information would be helpful to focusing our responses. There are some very knowledgeable people on this site that would be happy to offer suggestions.

But good luck, and keep us posted.

Posts: 640
Location: Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada
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Ideally you want your animals up high so their waste streams / nutrient stream are distributed via gravity...

Anyway to your immediate problem. I take it that you're about to receive a substantial amount of spring rain. This is just a guess. Anyway, I'm thinking that you have all this anaerobic mud and compacted soil, possibly on clay. The chances are that this stuff is high in Nitrogen, and low in organic matter. As an immediate measure I would seriously consider getting hold of some round bales of hay (spoiled is fine) and rolling them out onto the bare earth like a thick blanket. It will shield the ground from the spring rains, and hold the moisture so that whatever you do plant has a chance to get established, and prevent this stuff from turning to concrete as the summer progresses.

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Nick beat me to it. A mulch will give immediate short term remedy. You can throw seeds down and put the hay on top. Hay should hold the ground and seeds will grow thru it for the permanent solution.

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