When I first started working at this property two years ago, there was a field where a previous tenant had dry-lotted several alpacas. It was packed hard, sandy, and barren. My boss put several trees on the field with a basin style planting. That fall I planted clover, winter peas and rye to try and get some vegetation going which worked well. Cut to this year and it worked SO well the whole field is chest high in clover, bee balm, and wildflowers. Of course that beats packed sand! My question is do I keep letting it go crazy or should I chop and drop the clover? As of now I have to wade through it to even get to my trees. Picture of bee balm/clover jungle to show you what I’m dealing with.
You can also roll it, if thats easier! Just make sure you reseed, if you don't get good regrowth. You need to keep living roots in the ground. A good mix of resseding annuals will help keep your soil extra healthy, and if it gets to crazy, just roll it to start again.
That's quite impressive. What are your plans for the field? Are you going to graze animals on it? Turn it into a food forest? Maybe a little bit of both?
Both chop and drop or rolling it are good ideas. Goats are also a pretty good animal for chewing down a high field, and the manure is spread out evenly in convenient pellets. There's so many options, based on what your goals are for the field.
That's an amazing job of remediation. You should be congratulated, Jessica.
Clovers, as I understand it, benefit from grazing. If there isn't a grazing or chopping of your pasture, the nutrient cycling will happen, but on a season to season basis. Grazing or chopping and reseeding or choosing perennial or cut-and-come-again self-seeding annuals allow you to accelerate that cycling.
But as Craig suggested, it depends on what your overall goals are. Could you tell us a bit more about what you're doing and what you're envisioning?
A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.
-Robert A. Heinlein
As of now no grazing aside from chickens and ducks. I don’t have fence for other livestock. I’m going to chop some and leave some as I can see them reseeding right now. There are deer and I think they may be grazing it. Several stalks look nibbled on and we have loads of deer which is why I have to cage the young trees.
The owners plan is for food forests. It’s a bit daunting as she’s got 5 acres planted, 8 swales and two fields planted with fruit trees but I am doing my best to move forward with permaculture principles! We’ve got turnips re-seeding themselves on several swales but there is a lot of grass on the swales which I’d like to replace with pollinators, perennial veggies and clover. She says she tried comfrey and it didn’t do well but I’d like to try again.
I would cut that field at about half height and let the stems fall where they will.
Doing that will induce more growth from the plants and get your soil level decay critters activated which will improve the soil even faster than it is improving now.
Rolling is one great option, but, as R. Steele mentioned, you might have to re-seed some areas or the whole lot.
Grazing is also an option, however, you already stated the case against that for now.
That leaves let it grow or half cut it as best option choices, since both will not require a possible re-seed.
Or as you mentioned, you could mark out squares and use a different method on each square and then pick the one that worked the best for you. (experimentation)
Thanks for all the replies! It’s good to get a little validation. Everyone but permies just think Im too lazy to shred. 🤨 I haven’t been to any design classes except watch a video course so I really only have my own research to go on. And this s a very daunting property for me with just a part time teenage helper and a low budget. I really appreciate y’alls input!
I'd spray it all with Round-Up, then plow it all under with a massive big 4-wheel drive tractor, then burn whatever didn't get plowed under, and pour salt on your field.
Wait? What? Sorry -- my evil twin highjacked my keyboard for a second there. What were we talking about?
Your amazing cover crop and tremendous progress in regenerating life to your field?
I'd run a bunch of cows over it and let them eat what they want. THEN I'd chop and drop what's left.
"The rule of no realm is mine. But all worthy things that are in peril as the world now stands, these are my care. And for my part, I shall not wholly fail in my task if anything that passes through this night can still grow fairer or bear fruit and flower again in days to come. For I too am a steward. Did you not know?" Gandolf
I'd wade in there with my scythe and whack everything at knee level. In a month I'd do it again. Then in autumn I'd undersow with a grass and forbs mixture, and scythe one more time but at ankle height.
Here’s a field that had dry-lotted horses on it for four years. Also sandy and bare. I spread rye clover and winter peas but not much of that came back up however it’s covered in bee balm and other wild flowers
bee balm is one of natures soil builders, it actually can mine minerals from deep down and when it dies back in winter, those minerals become part of the top soil by decomposition of the dead plant material rotting.
Primary succession plants coming into a field is natures way of improving soil, it just takes many, many years to do what we can do in one year.
Thank you I love it too! The bee balm is one of my of the things I feel so proud of. There was barely any when I started here and no red gallardia or pink primrose, those have both shown up since I started chopping and dropping ragweed and spread compost on the dry-lotted barren fields.
The Greenhouse of the Future ebook by Francis Gendron