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Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Soil. Armored and :)

Not covered soils have erosion. That's one of the big reasons dirt grows weeds first thing.

Dunes move, right? To stabilize dunes one plants what? Grass.
But dunes have their own reason to move, and that's a different type of the eco system I do not have, so I'm not going to talk about it here.
I have different type of soil where erosion takes top layer and not much grows, at least it grows not the stuff I can eat. I'm not a big fan of bindweed... it is not poisons to humans per say, and one can eat it. Bad part about it seeds live in dirt for 20 years and germinate and hard to get rid off.
Trust me I seeded bindweed mites on it, and many other things. Hard weed.

Bindweed is one heck of an armor, it is very hard to get rid off, and it gets soils covered and it sits in solid clay 1.5 feet to 2 feet deep (we did dig a hole once, so I know 50cm deep root system when I see one :) in solid red and gray clay).

If soils need armor and I do not not like bindweed what do I do?

I place another organic armor. Bindweed does not go away, but it likes sun light. If I take sun light it is under the cover.
Mind you I did have bindweed to go through over 1m tall mulch pile. I have some very advanced  bindweed.
I put  cardboard, mulch and let it be for a year, decompose, after that put more mulch, feed fabric on top, mulch. It looks all right, still builds soils and weed fabric keeps bindweed under. Why did not I do cardboard? It does decompose too fast, so I simply need to get more time to cover that bindweed aka solarize and have time for other projects, just too large of a scale.
The tough soil armor plant was solarized by black plastic for 2.5 seasons. Plastic was off, bindweed was up in 3 weeks. Ok that's tough armor. Because nothing lived through solar and heat damage that long and sun and heat can do a lot of damage (not much grows on those hot dunes... right?)

So what do we learn from soil armor?
First soil even in the dirt state wants that living armor. It will build it if any opportunity given and will grow weeds. Some are not native invasive and will form mono culture.
That's the first stage of soils and it develops it's own food web, after all weeds put out in roots exudates  and feed those critters that come for it (aka cakes and cookies the plant makes to attract the life forms that feed the plant).
Meaning a field of weeds. Others will come, tougher and form clusters in mono culture or will have no chances depending on what competes.
Some weeds are annuals. What do they do? They come, build roots and tops over distresses dirt. They are frozen, soil is covered in snow and tops remains.
Looks like garbage, right?..
I've mentioned before one needs to change how do they SEE things... We see garage, but what these annual weeds did? Better to say what did the root system of the dead plant does? It exists there, decomposes and it brought organic material into the body of the dirt. It just laid pathways there for something else to grow...
Dead roots make pathways.
Perennial roots do that too, because roots regenerate, kind of like leaves...
I mean you did hear plant grows need roots from gardening granny maybe...

Native prairie pasture is what we have native. Ground dogs and voles make pathways, not much trees, but there are some near water. Higher in mountains we have trees that grow in... rock.

Everywhere native soil has armor. So it does not erode. When it looses armor we have...
It does end up as impressive as this Dust storm 1-12-2014 in Colorado USA visible from space...'s Senior Meteorologist Jon Erdman suggested that the storm was able to "loft dust easily" partly due to the extreme drought in southeast Colorado and other parts of the Southwest United States.

I mean this photo shot from an airplane does not look like a good weather... There are a lot of similar photos in news articles if one pulls google phoho search.
Eastern CO is conventional farm and ranch land. That kind of a thing does look like a seriously bad weather and someone lost a lot of top soil and someone got a lot. It looks more like Saudi Arabia... but that's on other side of the planet and CO not used to be Arabic desert type of a climate.
I mean landscape under it is not sandy desert, that not supposed to be happening.
It is happening all over North America, it is happening all over the world. Dust storms.

Conventionally farmed land does not have soil armor, it has nothing living to keep the soil after the crops are taken in autumn here winds come.
When we get 60+ miles per hour winds in winter and spring my top soil just goes...
When it's gone it's gone, fertilized my neighbor far far away down wind... maybe made to mountains fertilized them... It is all good, but my little piece of land does not make soil at that rate.

So what do we do?

We tried to mow the pasture high for 2 years, it made whole whooping 1/4 inch or 2.5-3mm ground cover.. Yeah...

But there was a chunk I left not moved, covered with weed cheat grass (aka brown top), annual grass that reseeds itself at crazy rate, a weed... that one I left so up wind dry lot does not bring me goat heads wee and other weeds. And it held them. And neighbors grazing animals did help a lot to manage the weeds and the wed=eds seeds as the result.

So that soil did have a lot of armor, still it has built 2 inches of organic material and did give habitat to field mice an rabbits (aka kept them away from the house and eating my plants). Also soil there was a lot better. Soil temperature was lower...
I got a hold of more wood chips, they are similar carbon, if I get green trees chopped even better, so I got a hold of that and applied that on the ground 2-3 inches thick. At some places even thicker, I added where I could more.

Having high winds I did learn one thing, wood chips do not fly that much, they are uneven, they have texture, they keep the soil moist and they decompose. This is all good.

What I observe is that in new orchard wood chips level soil temperatures, my trees are sleeping even if it's unusually warm winter, and some bushes with less cover on the ground I have budding and confused because we get -15C and snow in May... budding berry bushes in January in climate like that means one thing... no berries.

Armored soil turn out it does perform better. Can not grow armor, HOA wants to mow, so can not leave field of dry grass. Can bushhog it, but still it erodes.
What I can do is cover with free delivered wood chips. Lots of them. And they do not fly that much.
I'm not tilling that into the soil, so I do not rob nitrogen. Instead when that's on top I have a sponge that will soak all the snow slowly. And it all will melt slower. Then when temperatures fluctuate over 20F or more during the day (50+ day and to single digits night) I gave frozen water in wood chips, it kind of acts as snow armor.
It means my plants roots do not have freeze damage. And it also helps them to sleep and weather that crazy inter out... they are cold enough and they tell the top 'do sleep now'.
My chickens... pullets molted in mid winter in December-January... they were NOT HAPPY without feathers. And I was not that happy either because I supposed to have eggs and molting 'porcupine looking' chickens do not lay, they grow feathers instead and cranky, at least tailess rooster is.

Lesson learned, armored soil is the way it supposed to be, when I did see it on other side of the planet the worst thing for us was snow-less winter, we were guaranteed to have crops damage.
I did learn that hungry lesson well.
So when I could get a hold of soil armor in any form here on the other side of the planet I did.

I'll be using also cover crops as living armor and see how that goes. I tried clover in beneficial weather in April-May. Did not take. And birds helped a lot to make it expensive bird seed. I had very very poor germination because birds were hungry and ate the seeds, they came scratching and digging for them. Did not see that coming.

But got free wood chips. And it does this:

Soil is moist under them.
Can not grow soil armor, ok, find it, bring it, load it.

What does happen in summer with not covered soil? We are in desert. And why I replaced rock with mulch?

Here are the facts:

140F soil bacteria is dead.
130F means 100% of moisture is lost through evaporation and transpiration
100F 15% of moisture is used for growth, 855 is lost through evaporation and transpiration
70F 1005 of moisture is used for growth

One can water their garden a lot here in summer and they do and soil gets very hot (black dry garden soil... compost bought at $5+ a bag... and lot of it... very expensive dirt). Plants do not grow because its too hot.

My covered with wood chips garden on the other side grows tomatoes bushes at 85-90F... Its nasty hot but it does grow. Well... lettuce bolts :) super fast.

This is above 85F outside, and these are digging for active biology in soil

back pasture is bone dry solid up there. When it's 70F it looks like below. See the picture?

And that's so called salt grass over eroded pasture.
That is short term living armor. I just need more of the same.
and I can not get soil temperature to drop for long enough for ground covers to germinate.
With wood chips now I can bit by bit.