New life in an old field??? Trying to revive the soil.

Discussion in 'Gardening' started by radams, Jan 20, 2015.

  1. radams

    radams Out Of The Brooder

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    Im working on reviving an old field that has been covered in cedar for about the past 40 years. It has very shallow topsoil with an abundance of sandstone. I want to plant something something this spring that will produce high biomass and will attract beneficial insects. After much research I have determined that buckwheat seems to fit that requirement. Have any of you used buckwheat for green manure to aid in soil building? I wont be able to fully work the land for about two more years so I am doing all that I can now to prepare the land for free ranging the poultry, goats and possibly a pig or two using paddocks. I have 15 acres to work with and I want to maximize the relationship between land, animals and plants to accomplish most of the work for me while I am working overseas. Any advice for cover crops or anything natural will be greatly appreciated.
     
  2. ChickensAreSweet

    ChickensAreSweet Heavenly Grains for Hens

    Last edited: Jan 20, 2015
  3. radams

    radams Out Of The Brooder

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    Ive already missed the fall planting but I will be back at the property in about a month so a spring planting would work out beautifully. Ive read that the buckwheat should do well for a spring planting and go throughout the summer and even re-seed itself for next season. Hopefully I will be able to plant a winter rye in the late fall/early winter this year also. The property is in northern Arkansas and the winters are not normally too harsh.
     
  4. radams

    radams Out Of The Brooder

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    Thanks for the link. According to the information presented in the article it should be planted well before the threat of first frost so that there is ample time to mature and develop seed. It seems to be a more northern crop and Im wondering if it will produce in the southern states. Our summers can get pretty hot and humid and according to the article the crop does best in a cool, damp environment. I wonder it it will have time to reach maturity if planted in the early spring in Arkansas? Does anyone out there have experience with this in Arkansas or surrounding states?
     
  5. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener True BYC Addict

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    Buckwheat is a fast growing, tender green manure crop. If you don't want it established as a weed, cut it down before it blooms. You should be able to get 2 or more crops in in a single season. I think it's about 6 weeks from planting to bloom time. I think you'll see a much faster soil improvement by implementing a heavy mulch. There are some studies that indicate that green manure crops aren't the great soil improvement method that we've always thought them to be. Obviously, if you can't get your hands on enough mulch to cover the area to a depth of at least 6" then green manure crops are the next choice. Or you could do a combination. Are you going to use this as a field/pasture, or are you planning to garden on it? What is your long range plan? How wet is it? What is the pH? Some other crops which may be better for your uses are: field peas, hairy vetch. Instead of planting buckwheat in the fall, a planting of winter rye would give you more organic matter, and prevent erosion over the winter, where buckwheat will die at the first frost, and is very poor at erosion control. Your best bet would be to contact your county agricultural extension, describe your project and ask for recommendations. They can help you with advice specific to your growing area.
     
  6. radams

    radams Out Of The Brooder

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    The first area that I will be working on will be the area that will be around the house. I was initially just testing different things to see which one grows best and has the best return of mass. The area is way too large to sheet mulch as we are talking acres of coverage. I am using a wood chipper to mulch all of the hardwood im clearing that is too small for firewood and spreading it over the area. I will be gardening but it will be in raised beds mostly until I can improve a larger amount of the soil. The long range plan is to develop the area for free ranging of the goats, pigs and then chickens to work the soil for the next rotation of planting cover crops for the livestock. I will be having 5 one acre paddocks for rotation (more if needed).
    It is perfect already for acidic soil loving plants and I plan on taking advantage of that. The pH now is sitting at 5.7 - 6.3 across the area. Im planning on utilizing different crops depending on the time of year and soil conditions. My main concern isnt so much the acidity, but more the amount of rocky soil. I would like to add more soil on top without having to bring in dump truck loads. I also realize that I will be picking up rocks for the next several years. I did this for many years a a kid at home so I know what lies ahead.
    I had considered hairy vetch but thought that it would be a better choice for late fall. After hearing your suggestion, I read more about the hairy vetch and learned that it is sometimes combined with winter rye for support. Great idea and thank you for the suggestion. I am also wanting to attract bees to the area, hence the buckwheat. I heard that when it blooms it is a very good source of pollen for beneficial insects. I know there are better choices for attracting the insects, but most dont improve the soil as buckwheat does.
    I will contact the county extension office before purchasing or planting to get their input on what is best for the area. I will be much better off getting their advice than just taking a shot in the dark. I have to keep reminding myself that Im not the first person to try this and should always get others experiences and lessons learned so I dont duplicate mistakes. Thank you for your suggestions.
     
  7. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener True BYC Addict

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    I bet your extension has someone on staff who can give you a specific planting schedule to accomplish your goals. Sounds like you know what you're doing, in that you've already tested pH. Buckwheat makes a dark honey with a bit of a strong taste. I like the flavor of it, but some folks are put off by anything that doesn't look like the bland stuff from the grocery shelf.
     
  8. radams

    radams Out Of The Brooder

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    I know what you mean about the bland stuff from the grocery. I keep telling my wife, who is a born and raised city girl, that the meat we buy has no taste except for the seasoning we put on it. She has never had real pork, chicken or fresh eggs. Shes in for a treat! I love the dark honey and hope that I can get a hive of my own, but the bee keepers around me have tried and lost entire colonies several times to weevils. The keepers I know have all given up. I cant wait to get the little farm up and running...it has been a dream of mine for the past 25 years but it was hard to keep a farm while being on the other side of the world. I will contact the extension office before I get back home and get a head start. Thanks again.
     
  9. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener True BYC Addict

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    BTW, we like pictures. It would be great if you included a few before, during and after pics on your thread! Let's see what that soil looks like. almost as good as touching it!
     
  10. radams

    radams Out Of The Brooder

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    I will add pics as soon as Im back there. Im still overseas at the time and planning on getting back home by mid February. Im sure that the areas where I cleared the cedar thicket are all grown up again. It sometimes feels like an up hill battle. Everything I try to accomplish during my 2-3 months home ends up reverting back during the 3-4 months Im away. At least this time I will be getting some beneficial crops growing and not growing weeds and briers. I take pics to refer back on also. It helps to see that there is actually progress to keep me motivated during the set backs.
     

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