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Livestock & leaves help improve Vermont soil.

I have clay--anaerobic, stinky clay. Vermont's glacial deposit--rocks and boulders with hard-packed clay. No wonder my well is 450 feet deep with barely a trickle. Water can't get through it to the aquifer....

Building the soil

I started with free planer shavings and sawdust from a local wood working shop. We just kept bringing in loads of it. Then leaves, lots of fall leaves along with wood chips from the local tree trimmer, and manure--any kind I could get my hands on. We got donkeys and pigs. They both poop in their own designated toilet areas, making it easy to scoop up and pile on the leaves and shavings that I want to compost.

Then the poultry came. They are great little rototillers for sure. The birds have a shavings-filled dropping pit that I scoop out with a manure rack into five-gallon buckets. When it's full, it goes right into the middle of the shavings pile to compost.

I have spots now that are a foot deep with a nice fluffy compost and clay mix. It's wonderful stuff--I have comfrey taller than I am.

Some areas still need help. I planted the mangle beets, comfrey, pinto beans, sunchokes, sweet clover, buckwheat, squash seeds, a good pasture mix, and any kind of seeds that will grow there that I can get for free. The top layer of clayey soil is very fertile. It's composed of leaves and dead plants compacted on the clay. I had some tested and almost everything was medium to optimum except for the sodium (Na) that was 859.0. Average levels in Vermont soil are 20.0. Not sure what that means but ferns and nightshade grow well in it. (Nightshade I pull out.)

If you have muck, shovel it into your garden and enjoy instant decomposed fertility. Really great stuff. I'd rather have clay than sand. All I needed to do was get some of the water to drain. I trenched a nice little creek, with a small "duck puddle." I still have to shovel out the clay buildup every few weeks, but it is getting better with all the roots growing and adding life to the area. Part of my land is classified as "official" wet lands, so that area I don't mess with. Besides, I want the water to stay there and percolate slowly through the ground to my well.

BY JOYCE SABO

VERMONT, ZONE 4
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Title Annotation:The garden
Author:Sabo, Joyce
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Date:Feb 28, 2012
Words:402
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