Looking to add organic matter. Any suggestions on the cheapest way to add tonnes of good organic matter to the soil?
I'll toss out a few thoughts...Try your local green waste recycling center. Place an ad in the newspaper/Pennysaver or advertise/look on Craigslist.com. Talk to local farmers about hauling away some of their spent crop materials (look out for unwanted seeds or plants, depending on what you intend to eventually do with your land). Talk to your local city or county ag departments, or call colleges and talk to their ag departments, or places like fairgrounds (think used litter from corrals, pens and chicken coops). Scout out private homes that have lots of fallen leaves and offer to clean up and haul away the stuff for free. You might also think about getting someone else to splint an order or soil amendment with you, so you can order in bulk and get it cheaper.
Being in the north your county or township may have a leaf collection program. If so, contact your county clerk for the name of the person in charge of the program and tell them that they can dump what ever number of loads (what you think you can handle)in a given area on your property each year. 1-2 acres can probably handle 8-10 loads per year.
Google "how to compost leaves" with the quotes to get exact 'how to' information. If you just let them set with a large tarp over them to keep them from blowing about they will naturally rot down into beautiful compost that can be used anywhere and in any kind of garden.
In addition to other ammendments I provide for my soil, last year I went and picked up many loads of free mushroom compost(O.K., it's referred to as "spent mushroom substrate" until it's been composted)from one one of the mushroom farms around here. One farm utilized horse manure in their mix, one chicken manure, and one no manure. I chose the one with chicken manure. Lots of it, free, it's already cookin' when you get it, and spectacular results.
Consider a season of cover crops if you can afford to not produce anything on it. Depending where you are you can get two crops of buckwheat to till under plus a winter cover crop.
1 to 2 acres is a very large area to haul in material and spread by hand. (I've tried it.) It's why farmers invented manure spreaders. It would require a mountain of compost to cover a garden that huge.
Whats the goal, are you intending to plant vegetables, corn or what is the intended use?? Is there any thing growing on it now? Do you need to do it all at one time or can you do part by parcel?
Buckwheat is a good green manure crop but doesnt add much carbon, it is a succulent and mostly water, it does take up a good wamount of P and releases that to a usable form as it rots. Winter rye can reach 4 feet tall and produces much below ground growth to add a good amount to the soil, also can act as a weed suppressant. Bean or peas can be a good plow down. Old round bales of straw or hay can be unrolled to rot.
Leaves are good stuff. i gather many leaves ll over and run thru a shredder to make leaf mold, it would take a huge amount to cover 2 acres!!
By hand? Oh my, yes that would be a chore! I have the benefit of a large dump truck and a wheel loader and it was still quite an undertaking.
We built compost bins out of pallets free from hardware stores and building supplies, and filled them with any organic matter we could get our hands on, free for the hauling or from our property: leaves, fish plant waste, seaweed, horse manure, kitchen scraps etc. Made compost. Spread it in the spring.
Then we made two new gardens, four and two years ago, each ~4000 sq. ft. First I cleared the woods, then paid a guy with a machine to haul out the stumps, level the ground, and dig trenches. We filled the trenches with free organic matter (same as above), layering with the dirt that had been taken out, planting a cover crop on top. The idea is not to fertilize soil that will be permanent paths anyway. These new gardens were planted the following spring and are producing abundantly.
This method may sound expensive and labour intensive and it is, but only at the very beginning. Once established it is almost 'free', almost no maintenance, no inputs, almost no watering necessary - the organic matter holds water well. All paths are mulched with sawdust, wood chips or eelgrass (also free), so not much weeding either. It looks very clean.
So we're back at fancifowl's question.
Thanks for the tips folks.
I'm planning on primarily growing tomatoes, melons and veggies for personal use and the farmer's market. There is a cover crop planting on the land right now and I would like to plant at least one acre for the coming season.
BTW, does mushroom compost add a lot of salinity to the soil?