Soil and Compost forum: 2.5 acres of sandy soil

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Somerset, Texas, zone 9b
nezihv
Jul 4, 2017 1:16 PM CST
Hello all, my name is Nezih, I am an exchange student from Turkey which is studying in San Antonio, Texas.
I need a lot of help about the new land I am about to purchase so here I am. Thank you in advance for all the info.
I have been growing cherry tomatoes, herbs and some other stuff in 5 gallon buckets on the balcony of my apartment for the last few years but I have no experience on land/soil.
Soil on this property has some grass on it(most of it is weed I assume) and lots of ant colonies. It is also really sandy.
My target is to be a part time urban farmer as soon as possible. I will be farming on about half an acre to start with and expand it to 2 acres if I need to.
There isn't a restriction on the land by the way so there is no limit on what I can experiment, other than money issue :)
Purchasing enough top soil to cover an acre is out of my price range.
I also do not want to use chemicals unless there is really no other way around

What would be yalls opinion on turning this soil into something worth growing on?
Thank you again for reading this long post :)

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Name: Cindy
Hobart, IN zone 5
aka CindyMzone5
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Shadegardener
Jul 4, 2017 3:37 PM CST
I would start with some shredded bark/tree trimmings from local tree maintenance companies. Sometimes they're looking for a free place to dump it. It could be spread a couple of inches thick over your first 1/2 acre. Leave it in place to decompose for as long as possible. Or plant a cover crop that can be dug in to benefit the soil. Your county extension agent should be able to recommend good varieties for your area. Your first priority will be to get the soil in good enough condition to support vegetables or fruits. Can you get a soil test done to see exactly what nutrients you might be lacking in the soil? You don't have to amend with chemical fertilizers unless absolutely necessary.
Only when the last tree has died and the last river has been poisoned and the last fish has been caught will we realize that we can't eat money. Cree proverb
Name: Heath
sevierville TN (Zone 7a)
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plantcollector
Jul 4, 2017 4:44 PM CST
If you live near a city that has fall leaf colluction. That usually will drop off truck loads for free. You will have to wait till fall. Till then if you can find somebody with a farm to get some animal by-product.
Somerset, Texas, zone 9b
nezihv
Jul 6, 2017 10:44 AM CST
Thank you for the good ideas!
I still live about an hour away from the land, I am moving in next week. First thing I will do is going to be the soil test to have a better understanding of what I am going to be dealing with.
I already checked the city branch which takes care of the 'mulch operation'. They were giving away free mulch 2 months ago and there wont be any more free mulch probably until the end of summer he said. At the moment they are selling it for $0.234 per pound.
There are some posts on craigslist, offering free mulch but they don not specify what kind of mulch it is. Would hard wood mulch decompose enough in about 7 months? I believe if I spread it in July, I will have time until March so would 8 months be good enough?
For animal manure, I was planing on building an "eggmobile". Portable shed for chickens to live in, and I can move it around in every couple of days. Would about 20 chickens be good amount? or I would need more 'goodies' than that? lol
Name: Cindy
Hobart, IN zone 5
aka CindyMzone5
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier
Shadegardener
Jul 6, 2017 10:50 AM CST
You might also want to check with some the local tree maintenance companies - folks that prune/remove trees - for mulch. It might not necessarily all decompose by the time you're ready to plant but you can move it out of the way. Don't till it into the soil as it will use up the nitrogen in the soil to decompose. Chicken tractor is a good idea but might not supply all of the nutrients you need. Definitely do a soil test with a local county extension office. They might also make recommendations for soil amendments. You could do a little research on non-chemical amendments to use based on your test results.
Only when the last tree has died and the last river has been poisoned and the last fish has been caught will we realize that we can't eat money. Cree proverb
Name: stone
near Macon Georgia (USA) (Zone 8a)
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stone
Jul 9, 2017 2:33 PM CST
The most important issue... Is rainfall.
You average like a foot of precipitation less than here, and our droughts are fearsome!

I'm in the sandhills, and the sand is a hundred foot + deep.

If your sand is only a foot deep with clay underneath, you would be in good shape.
If you have caliche under an inch of sand, you would be in very dire straits.

There are varieties of desert vegetables that you could grow out there,but I think you should give up any plans of growing the traditional thirsty eastern crops.

There are seed sources that provide desert adapted varieties.... Good place to start from....

http://www.nativeseeds.org/lea...
[Last edited by stone - Jul 9, 2017 2:37 PM (+)]
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Somerset, Texas, zone 9b
nezihv
Jul 10, 2017 4:00 PM CST
I found a small stable which is owned by a person who is nice enough to "donate" horse manure. As much as I want. Daily. All I will need is a truck and a shovel, he said Smiling Now I am searching for the best ways to use this fresh horse manure or for the ways to age it successfully.
I am also getting ready to build a chicken tractor. From what I read, chickens eat ants(There are so many ant colonies on the land and so many sandspurs) which is going to be a win win situation for me.

Watering-rain should not be a problem if my calculations are correct. It cost about $1.25 per 1k gallons and I would need about 175k gallons to water 1.5acres 3inches deep so my waterbill would be around $250 which is not a huge problem to deal with just for the hottest months(I just have half of july and full august ahead of me).
I will post the soil test results here soon to get a better game plan. also I will try to dig a feet or two just to see what is underneath.
Name: stone
near Macon Georgia (USA) (Zone 8a)
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stone
Jul 10, 2017 4:13 PM CST
nezihv said:I found a small stable which is owned by a person who is nice enough to "donate" horse manure. As much as I want. Daily. All I will need is a truck and a shovel, he said Smiling Now I am searching for the best ways to use this fresh horse manure.

Watering-rain should not be a problem if my calculations are correct. It cost about $1.25 per 1k gallons and I would need about 175k gallons to water 1.5acres 3inches deep so my waterbill would be around $250 which is not a huge problem to deal with just for the hottest months(I just have half of july and full august ahead of me).


a small stable is unlikely to provide as much as you want.

At my house... I have 2 small stables I visit...
I dump the truckloads in overlapping piles where I'm going to plant... Alow the product to loosen the soil for a couple months.... Gradually remove most of the first load to other areas of garden as mulch... Turn sand where pile was... Toss more manure on top... Plant.

$250/month doesn't sound sustainable.

I have a well, and water vegetables when absolutely necessary, but I push the envelope on how little I must use.... And... Letting stuff die isn't the end of the world... So.... My water bill.... Might add a little something to the electric bill, but I'm still searching for better ways to get the sand to hold moisture.
Once the ground water is gone.... We're all gonna be screwed.
Let's try to make it last.
[Last edited by stone - Jul 10, 2017 4:15 PM (+)]
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Name: J.R. Baca
Pueblo West Co. ( High Dessert (Zone 6a)
josebaca
Jul 24, 2017 11:12 AM CST
Hello Nezih & Welcome!
I had the same problem as you but with clay. The advice you've been given is sound. I would only add that you have your water system put in to at least the valve(s) then have your feeder hose come up from there, that way you'll be able to run it where you'll need it.
If you plan out your garden first and consider factors such as sunlight hours/intensity, low/high spots and drainage/collection areas (the last two can be done by observing how rainfall impacts your property.) and get a comprehensive soil test from your local extension office (the best tool you'll have!), it will be so much easier.
I'm a believer in the organic approach, and shy away from chemical fertilizers and amendments. Manures and compost under a thick layer of woodchips will only get better and better with each passing season. Also you have enough room for a good sized compost area and enough trees to get started. Just keep in mind of the direction the prevailing winds come from and build your bin(s) leeward , it would be helpful if you also had a water source near it as well.
If you are concerned with the existing weeds you could start by putting a good layer of newspaper and/or cardboard down first, but it will not help with wind blown weed seeds, also , once you have these layers built up then after a good rain or two the soil environment will become less accommodating to fire ants (which you more than likely have).
My last piece of advice would be to get yourself a good broadfork (meadow creature is my choice) and next season start by using it to aerate your beds, this will allow the incorporation of your amendments to a deeper level. When needed, rake away the top layer of woodchips, put down more compost/manure, recover and refresh with more woodchips. You'll have a good indication of a healthy soil when your woodchips start to degrade faster.

Hope this helps and good gardening!
J.R.
Name: Sharon Rose
Grapevine, TX (Zone 8a)
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Altheabyanothername
Jul 27, 2017 8:20 AM CST
@nezihv. This might be a little late for you. I hope you did the soil test. You were given great advice. My concern which maybe nothing would be are you on limestone? I see good sized trees which is a good thing. The area where I think you might be is noted for limestone. Check with your county extension office.

Many blessings for your success!
I prefer to walk in the light, I prefer a world where people want to be kind and bless each other, I prefer a God who loves and shares so much that he gave up his only Son for me. I prefer to choose the God of Abraham. Let there be peace and let it begin with me.
Name: Yardenman
Maryland (Zone 7a)
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Yardenman
Aug 31, 2017 2:13 AM CST
Some suggestions. The manure should be piled for a year to decompose. You might want to try to collect tree leaves and grass clippings from neighbors to add to the manure pile. Manure and "green stuff" will make good compost eventually. Some people actually throw those away in bags at the curb.

You mentioned the local government giving mulch. Don't use it as mulch around plants. Add it to the manure pile. Lots of it. 3x as much as manure. In layers or mixed.

Pure horse manure is very strong and needs a lot of brown plant material to balance it. And a year at least.

Best of gardening to you!
Name: stone
near Macon Georgia (USA) (Zone 8a)
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stone
Sep 1, 2017 8:31 AM CST
Yardenman said:
Pure horse manure is very strong and needs a lot of brown plant material to balance it. And a year at least.


This hasn't been my experience.

I really wish that people offering advise would limit statements to their personal observations, and not make general claims.

In my area, horse poop isn't "very strong", and.... Might need time to allow the wood shavings to break down.... Not only isn't too strong, but very fresh product may rob the soil of nitrogen if turned under.

All my fresh horse poop gets used as mulch.... As soon as I can get it.

After holding moisture and preventing weed germination for a growing season.... It can be tilled in.... Or.... Added to. I often over-seed the horse poop, without bothering to till.



Name: Sharon Rose
Grapevine, TX (Zone 8a)
Grace of the Lord Jesus be with all
Daylilies Composter Cottage Gardener Hibiscus Enjoys or suffers hot summers Zinnias
Salvias Bulbs Amaryllis Lilies Clematis Region: Texas
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Altheabyanothername
Sep 1, 2017 9:32 AM CST
I think we can all agree horse manure would be great in this situation.
But ......
The South is different than the North because of the intensity of the sun. The heat generated from Horse manure is gone in less than a couple of weeks here. The clock starts the day the manure is created. Horses in this area are pastured, usually no enclosed barn. After a year in the pasture, you would not be able to find that pile of manure. Same goes for your garden. Nezihv is in a very sun intense area.
If the stable in the area does have a stall system there is a possibility that straw may already be mixed in with the manure. In this area the manure you pick up from horses although not old is usually garden ready the way stone suggests.
In light of these facts ......

I agree with stone as to how to use the horse manure. Thumbs up
Do not wait a year.

May Everyone's garden be blessed with success!
I prefer to walk in the light, I prefer a world where people want to be kind and bless each other, I prefer a God who loves and shares so much that he gave up his only Son for me. I prefer to choose the God of Abraham. Let there be peace and let it begin with me.
Name: J.R. Baca
Pueblo West Co. ( High Dessert (Zone 6a)
josebaca
Sep 1, 2017 12:58 PM CST
I, too agree with Stone. Even though I live in a 'high desert", we still have freezes and one particular year I planted artichokes which would not survive overwintering here. That is unless you use fresh manure for a hot bed, and the only locally sourced kind available near me is the horse...type. Smiling

SeniorSitizen
Sep 6, 2017 3:36 PM CST
Test your soil structure at the average root zone. Both of these soils are considered sand of the dozens of kinds/types of sand.
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