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fixing erosion/drainage on a bare field from logging

 
Posts: 2
Location: Michigan
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Hi all!
I've been reading a bunch of info on here over the past few months. Its SO much info to take in. The soil making thread was great, I learned so much I forgot it all!
our main goal is to make our land happy after the loggers left.

We have about 3-4 acre 'landing zone' that is pretty much bare. There are a bunch of woody bits around that we want to collect/ need to move off the main area. I want to collect some rocks from the field. There are some partly hidden that will be like treasure to dig up!
There is also a general down hill slope to the area. Currently since there is just about nothing there our primary concern is erosion.
We need to put something at the "ends" of the field to stop the rain from washing away any thing we do up field. There are two lower spots on each side of the field that acted like driveways.
I've sorts of did a bad paint sketch of this area. The tan outline is the rough edges of the field area with trees around it. The larger blue areas are will the water currently puddles. the puddle in the top area is half in the forst and half in the field. basically in some really deep ruts left from equipment. This one takes very long to absorb and its always a little mucky.

our soil is kalkaska sand http://geo.msu.edu/extra/geogmich/state_soil.html
Eventually we want to make the area a meadow for pollinators, with various grasses, wildflowers, maybe shrubs.
There are a lof of root balls available to us and various lengths of trees that fell in a windstorm 2 years ago.
I've read a lot about swales and am still confused by them.

Would using the leftover wood and root balls to create ridges like the purple lines on my drawing work? The purpose of this would be to slow the water draining. We also are thinking about getting 10 yards of topsoil dumped in the area since we lack anything but sand to add to the wood. We would use a large log as the base then build the piles form there.
I know that we need more organic material to make the soil better but we don't want to add anything yet because it will all go downhill.
after making these piles I want to toss some sort of cover crop or veggie seeds on them to get some roots going to hold things down. We would need something that can grow in just so-so soil. We have no irrigation to this area. We want to prevent wild raspberries from taking over the area also.
So after a few years taking the woody mounds and flattening them to spread out the soil. Then at this point adding in compost and starting to create the meadow. At this point we will still need some sort of more permanent water directing plan but I see that as still in the works as we observe any water flows with the first plan.
I can also use some of the boulders as needed that we have around the property.
For moving the larger logs and root balls (some over 6 ft wide) and also dirt moving we are considering renting a backhoe.

Any thoughts on this plan? We really are new to all of this and have a lot to learn and know we will learn as we go. Main lesson learned so far, everything will take 3 times as long as we plan for it to take!
land1.jpg
[Thumbnail for land1.jpg]
land sketch
 
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I had this problem earlier in the year, and I just used winter rye to reseed the area.

Broadcast winter rye seed at a rate of 100 pounds to the acre ($36 per acre roughly) just before a predicted good soaking rain. Emergence on winter rye is really quick so it will establish roots and keep the soil from eroding. Later, with chop and drop you will get nitrogen in the soil and soon the soil will be stabilized. You can toss in 15 pounds of clover and 15 pounds of timothy to the acre if you want an ideal mix that will give you nitrogen fixation while you are at it.

It sounds overly simple, but there is no need to overcomplicate this. Mother Nature hates bare feet in Michaigan and soon will spread vegatation over bare earth.
 
Amy Joy
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That does sound pretty simple.
I still want to move rocks/ dig them up so we will need to do that in the field.

We want to make the logs/root balls decompose quicker though,
Wouldn't burying them help that happen?

I saw somewhere else spraying a fungi slurry onto stumps and logs help them decompose. maybe we will make a pile and spray that?
 
Travis Johnson
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Amy Joy wrote:That does sound pretty simple.
I still want to move rocks/ dig them up so we will need to do that in the field.

We want to make the logs/root balls decompose quicker though,
Wouldn't burying them help that happen?

I saw somewhere else spraying a fungi slurry onto stumps and logs help them decompose. maybe we will make a pile and spray that?



Burying them will do the opposite. After a few inches of depth there is no oxygen so there is no way for the stump to start rotting. The best way to get rid of logging debris is to just burn it. It depends on the laws of your state though. For instance, I live in Maine, so I can burn stumps, but it is illegal to burn stumps in Vermont. The key thing to keep in mind is, stumps and logging slash burn for a long time. The best thing to do is wait for the first snow of the fall that will likely last awhile, then burn the pile. Here in Maine, no permit is needed for that, and it gives it months to safely burn.

I plan on doing that this fall with the logging slash left behind by some logging I did this winter. I will use the biochar and ash for fertilizer.
 
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Interesting issues
 
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Use whatever logs you have to make dams with holes in them you want to slow the water down as much as possible and still let it drain. You slow it down so it can't take as much soil with it.
 
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I've read a lot about swales and am still confused by them.


A swale, by definition is a ditch dug on the contour, meaning that it is level all across the slope, and the mound below it on the slope is the loose excavated material from the ditch.  If the water is moving in the ditch, then it is technically not a swale, it's a drainage ditch.  Think of the land directly below the mound on the downhill side of the swale to be a dam, and the ditch is a pond.  You need to have places that are not mounded, so that if the swale fills above the ditch to the level of the base of the mound, that it does not wash away the loose excavated material that is mounded up on the downhill side.  These places are called spillways.  Sometimes these spillways are armored with stone so that when the spillway is spilling over, it doesn't erode.  It is usual practice to have another swale in line downslope so that the water from the spillway is captured in the next swale downslope.  A swale acts basically like a long pond that is designed less to hold standing water for a long time (like a regular pond) and more to infiltrate water into the slope's surface, and thus sub irrigate the land downslope from it.  It is also designed to grow trees, and shrubs, which are placed either on the mound, or on the downhill side of the mound (or in really super dry areas with fast draining soils, in the ditch).  A swale system has to be super well designed if it is not going to have stabilizing perennial plant systems, as these are eventually going to hold the whole landscape system together.  


Would using the leftover wood and root balls to create ridges like the purple lines on my drawing work? The purpose of this would be to slow the water draining.  



Yes.  To give another way of looking at it, a drainage ditch is always off contour, even slightly and that is how the water flows instead of infiltrating.  If you have a log pointing downhill, in any degree at all, it will allow water to flow along it, acting as a drainage ditch.  A series of logs laid across the slope, as I think you are indicating, will have a similar effect as a swale (acting as little dams and slowing the overland flow of water, and having some of it infiltrate) as you guessed and as Zach confirmed.  Lay out the logs so that there are spillway gaps between them, so that they do not build up too much water and then end up moving in a huge rain event.  On steeper slopes, you can also drive small stakes on the downhill side of the logs to stabilize them in the short term.  plant stuff on either side of the logs.  There is a permacultural saying about water catchment that says to slow it down, spread it out, and sink it in.  That is the goal.  That is what a swale does, and what a log across the slope does.  A single rye, clover, or timothy plant will act as a micro version of this as well.  Every plant, rock, log, or root cluster that is on there is going to slow water, particularly if logs are laid, like swales, across the slope.  The more long term you water storage landscaping is in place, the better.  So I wouldn't necessarilly flatten the land out in the end, unless you have some reason/plan to do so.  You do not have to dig swales, you can just use your debris which will eventually create small rotted longish mounds across the slope.


I hope that clarifies what a swale is.  :)  I think you already knew deep down, since you mentioned how you wanted to place the logs.  Your permie brain is working great!


I have wild raspberries growing in dense but small patches in my grassland.  They are not going to be easy to keep away in a bare and recovering area.  Having net roots, they are good at doing the job of soil stability, and they are tasty.  Sometimes it's better to let nature do it's trick, but they are difficult to walk in.  Roses can do the same type of thing and have tasty rose hips, but are also thorny and a pain to deal with sometimes.   But allow them later as your system develops and they will not be able to take over all the niches.  They will just be in small beautiful groves.          

If you are looking to create a natural meadow where this logging landing was, then I would start with the grassland plan that Travis laid out, and lay out the logs as you were thinking.  It will get things at least partially stable on the surface.  After you have the grassland with nitrogen fixers also in place, you can broadcast a wildflower mix.  Don't expect all the seed to germinate and produce flowering plants the first year.  You may have to do it several years in a row depending on the impacted soils you are dealing with.  

You can cover stumps, logs, and roots, with heaps of sticks, leaves, and branches.  This allows oxygen to somewhat be there, but also deprives the items of drying by sunshine/wind.  Fungi will naturally accumulate where things are kept moist and dark.  This will rot the woody material in time.  Plant shrubs and trees around these nutrient sinks.  I would just leave them there to act as nature would like, they are great habitat for birds and other beneficial creatures.

I have to disagree with Travis with burning being the best option for your woody debris.  From what I have learned in my conversations with modern foresters around my area, is that the more debris that is left, scattered, in the forest, the better for the landscape.  This will encourage fungal growth, and create a lot of micro habitats for myriad living beings.  It will look ugly for a short time, but as the plants recover the landscape, you will notice that you will have gains in diversity where this debris is laying.  You can lay this all strategically so that you can walk more freely in the meadow without worrying about tripping over anything.  The swales can be your primary paths, for instance.    

I would broadcast the grass/clover mix on the area, and lay out the logs and such, and worry about adding soils later, by wheelbarrow where you think you have the most stability.  
 
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