Advance Help with soil / strategies / sheet multching

oregondaveMarch 2, 2014

I really lucked out on my property, this is my first year: Zone 8b, 4 flat acres 70% southern facing and an Artesian well 3gpm. Unfortunately, my soil is nutrient deficient. Some highlights from my soil lab result: Ph 6.0, E.C. .36, Nitrogen: 0ppm, Phosphorus: 15ppm, Potassium, 97ppm. 60%sand 20%Silt 10% clay. So far I've only spread woodashes/lime to adjust my PH.

If I plant anything, it grows a little bit then turns yellow and dies, except summer squash grows excellent (no idea why).

What I want to do is sheet mulching. I have been building my compost pile since the fall. So far I have 6 cubic yards. I have 3 cubic yards of horse manure. And I have about 3 cubic yards of cardboard, and a few bails of straw.

My question is how thin can I spread this out? My strategy is to have a small garden (1000 sqft), and then try to cover the rest of the acres (174,000 sqft!) with the thinnest sheet multching I can get away with, and then plant a cover crop on that, then expand my garden to the next year. My cover crop will be black eyed peas from the grocery store, Barley, Winter Wheat, seeds from any bumper crop, and comfrey. I am on an extreme budget.

My concern is that I don't have enough compost/manure/cardboard/straw to cover everything 6". I was hoping I could get away with 1/2"? The only other idea I can think of is that every other 5 sq ft I build a thick sheet multch, then plant Comfrey in the middle with black eyed peas around it. Then till that in the fall. Kind of like "soil rejuvenation islands" all over my property. ?

Building compost has been a problem on a large scale. I do not have access to rotten food from restaurants. I do have access to horse manure. I do have access to cardboard. I have oak trees. I also have a few cubic yards of aged pine needles. Collecting kitchen scraps is a joke because of the area I need to cover, but I still throw it onto my newest pile. Hugalkulture is to labor intensive (I plan on buying a backhoe some year, but not now). All of this amounts to less then 10 cubic yards since fall. I can make about 1/3 a cubic yard a weekend. Buying compost is going to be about $600 for 20 cubic yards and I'd like to avoid that. I have been experimenting with shredded cardboard and Urea with good results. Another idea is just to spread 16-16-16 over my field, if you think that is a better idea. Or both.

So, how far can I stretch everything to the barest minimal for the biggest bang of my efforts? Thanks in advance!

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wayne_5 zone 6a Central Indiana

I see that you want a small garden. Also you have about 4 other acres. Are you in a wetter coastal area or a dry area? If in a wetter coastal area, would you have slugs with all that mulching?

I would take care of the garden area first with more inputs ...with that low of a fertility level. My first choice is to lightly work in those amendments in the late summer or fall, but I suppose you are set on deep mulching which might work out ok.

It looks like you will need to add some nitrogen to get your soil's boiler fired up. Yellow leaves on veggies likely is due to almost no nitrogen. Squash may fare better because they tend to have more far ranging roots.

This post was edited by wayne_5 on Sun, Mar 2, 14 at 15:04

    Bookmark   March 2, 2014 at 2:58PM
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I would just concentrate on the garden area and mow the rest until I could really do something with it. A thin layer of mulch does little except help unwanted plants grow, while mulch mowing the area will add organic matter to the soil as well as help some in that unwanted plant growth.
Your garden, with 60 percent sand, probably will drain really well so getting adequate levels of organic matter in that soil, to help retain soil moisture, is essential. Few of us have access to what you list either but oregondave indicates you may be in Oregon and the times I have been there I have seen a lot of trees that produce a lot of leaves that are one of the best sources of organic matter there is.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2014 at 6:47AM
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I agree, sheet mulching 4 acres is not really feasible. You have a perfect situation to create a permaculture, however.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2014 at 7:01AM
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