On that large a scale, I think you plow with specialized rigs.
Rippers, large discs, moldboards, subsoilers...
Having double dug one flower bed (for a friend) two years ago in
the worst sort of compacted clay soil, I could not imagine doing it
for acre+ plots without a small army of people who were desperate
for work (ANY sort of work) and plenty of money.
Pat in Plymouth MI ('someplace.net' is comcast)
Any technology distinguishable from magic is insufficiently advanced.
Even when done by machine, the soil eventually recompacts if you don't
add organic matter - or at least that is my experience. And if you do
add it, and it is brown, it will reduce N. If it is green, it will
disappear quickly. What improves the soil permanently is patience and
the usage of mulch and crops that break the ground or otherwise help a
large earthworm population.
A dandelion taproot can go down five feet, and the first foot of that
channel probably remains open one year in heavy clay (I am guessing.
My parents have heavy clay and I have seen channels in their soil).
If I were to try loosening one acre of clay I would probably start by
getting a few loads of free woodchips or leaves from the utilities,
and spread it six inches thick in the fall. I would maybe mix in grass
clippings on part of the area to see whether that helps (not for
nutrients but to speed decay and feed earthworms. They need nitrogen
too). Next I would make sure that there are earthworms every few feet
or so to speed colonization (they don't migrate much by themselves,
and if the soil was degraded they would not be there). In the spring
(or summer if the mulch is still too heavy) I would try a variety of
crops that are known to help break the ground: clover or other green
manure, mache, chicory, potatoes, you name it, and see what works
best. The next year I would use what worked best, and perhaps start
adding nutrient-rich matter, such as manure. One would still have to
occasionally plant a cover crop to keep the soil loose.
Dale McSwain wrote
> Having done my share of double digging...
> I would like to know if anyone else does this
> on a larger scale basis. Say an acre or more.
> Is it practical on a larger scale? If so how?
Try to hire somebody to go over your acre with a chisel plow.
The very best single thing you could do is to get loads of manure (horse
is best, but cattle is also really good) and spread it as thick as you
can. If it is mixed with straw, that is even better. What I get is
already aged enough that it is filled with earthworms; if you are that
lucky, all the better because that gives you the best combination you can
Ideally, you'd add both the manure and more organic matter. If you do
spread all this six inches thick (manure and chips/other organic) as
suggested above, you should be well on the way to the best soil you can
imagine. Keep in mind that the earthworms are going to be doing the bulk
of your work, though all the other critters certainly do their share as
well. Organic (manure and vegetative) and earthworms are the key.
If you are lucky enough to have a stable near you, you will likely find
the owners will be very happy to find someone to take the manure and
bedding. Many have equipment to load it for you; even if they don't
charge, it would be appropriate to give something for the gas for the
equipment. We live in the Portland, Oregon, area where they sell dump
truck loads of "zoo doo" . . .
"ZooDoo is available for your yard or garden! The Oregon Zoo and *******
Landscape Supplies are selling commemorative ZooDoo. Each dump-truck load
can be delivered to the anyone's home, garden, or farm and contains some
genuine Packy poop."
What a campaign! Get rid of your waste and get paid for it. For those of
you who may not know, Packy is the zoo's lifelong and famous elephant,
born there. The zoo is famous for its elephant herd and many subsequent
births. (Haven't tried "zoodoo" but might this next year depending on
what happens with the horse manure source and hauling.)
You might be surprised at what you will find available once you start
searching. Be sure not to overlook the obvious; I walked into the
mechanic's office one day to pick up my car and realized they had horses
(it finally clicked!) and was able to haul beautiful fertilizer a much
shorter distance than I had planned for steer manure. Better yet, this
particular source was extra rich and was supplemented with oak leaves from
nearby trees and, best of all, dozens (or hundreds!) of earthworms in
every shovelful. As long as there are horses and cattle around, there
will be ample fertilizer. Since most people take top care of their herds
(one animal or many), the end product is quite nutritious (soil speaking)
with all the grain and good quality hay/grass that goes in the front end.
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