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Author Topic: Growing Vegetables on 3 Acres of Compact Clay Southern Lincolnshire  (Read 2600 times)

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RichardY

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Hello,

I was wondering if anyone could advise me on what to grow on 3 Acres of compact clay. The land has been left uncultivated for sometime with just grass + ragwort growing on it (previously had just wheat year after year) , the land is also quite exposed to strong winds being a very flat area of southern Lincolnshire.

Does anybody have suggestions on how to improve the land or what will grow on it, as is, other than corn? I was thinking of looking to order a tonne of compost/manure/peat perhaps to work in to the soil or lay on the surface. What sort of seeds would be the cheapest in bulk?

My Goal would be to grow a variety of vegatables mixed around, mostly for exercise and to develop a more hardy character in myself. I was thinking of a 500 investment including seeds and soil. I have access to a small yamaha tractor(Only has a Cutter for Grass) I don't mind doing some major landscaping with a spade if it helps with drainage/Shelter for plant/Raised Bedding . The area also has to look tidy and not really like an allotment, maybe more like a garden of eden. Any Ideas? Please and Thank you.


whitehill1

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Hi

welcome to the forum. first select a small area to grow veg as start. make a plan to have few fixed beds. create paths first ..so that you know where to dig for growing.

Aunt Sally

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Welcome to the forums RichardY.

3 acres is a huge plot of land for veg growing.  Enough space for 48 full sized allotment plots  :ohmy:  It's more a small holding. 

Is it your land or rented ?

 
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RichardY

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Hello Sally,

Thank you for the welcome. The land is owned by my parents, there is an additional 2 acres but that has some trees on it Populars, Silver Birch, Apple etc, the land was bought over 5 years a go. The other 3 is unused we had made a few enquiries about using it for horses or sheep but nobody seemed that interested, perhaps because of the facilities.

AlaninCarlisle

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Good luck. We have a 3 acre field too that is home to our Shetlands. It has never in living memory ever been anything other than pasture and like your land is compacted clay although there is a loamy covering of about 9 inches. My solution has been to fence-off about half an acre from the Shetlands to use as an orchard, to house a polytunnel and an adjoining veg garden. The rest of the half acre is kept mown in summer and my wife uses it as an agility training course for our three dogs.

The thought of trying to do anything with the remainder of the field other than use it as pasture puts me into a cold sweat  :ohmy:

Yorkie

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As the land has been grassland for some time, bear in mind that it is likely infested with wireworms - these attack spuds in early years.

For bulk seed orders, look at Kings seeds or Moles (I think).

As others have said, start small.  If you simply rotavate the grass, it's likely to regrow from the roots which have been chopped up, so consider how you might best clear the grass first.  On that scale, weedkiller (glyphosate) is likely to be the only viable solution, perhaps applied with a backpack sprayer.
I try to take one day at a time, but sometimes several days all attack me at once...

AlaninCarlisle

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Just to add a little to what Yorkie has said. Once you have applied Glyphosate or whatever to the initial patch for cultivation, expect an ongoing problem with dormant weed seeds for years to come. In my case it's buttercups, both the creeping variety and the upright ones. I'm now in my fifth year of cultivation and the weeds are slightly easing off, well at least the deep-rooted perennial ones are!

Aunt Sally

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Have you heard of forest gardening?

It's a method of growing food in a very natural way but it needs a lot of land, which you have, and would also make use of the treed acres too:

https://www.earth-ways.co.uk/resources/what-is-forest-gardening/#.VrEoOqinzMI

http://www.edibleforestgardens.com/about_gardening

RichardY

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Thank you for the advice. I know the land has a lot of horsetail weed as well. I thought oneway of getting around that might be to build raised beds (Maybe out of Pallets + Plastic Sheeting?) and Irrigate. I heard that potatoes can manage in clay soils and aren't too effected by weeds, do carrots do well in clay soils?

If crops are effected by pests are they generally ok for personal consumption or livestock feed?

I haven't heard of forest gardening as such, but have talked to a person on Vancouver Island Canada about permaculture and they mentioned incorporating tree's is a good way to go. Willow seems to grow well in the soil where I live. Ideally I'd like things that grow quickly useful "weeds" basically, except perhaps things that don't grow well together. I found it interesting how a lot of the forests in Portugal were growing Eucalyptus and basically killing all the native species of plant, a few of the farmers I spoke to were not happy at all.   

John

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I would look at this as a long term project - it could take 5 years to get the land in good heart.  Just off the top of my head thoughts for you

You must clear the ragwort for starters. There are specific controls for horsetail (see Weed Control - Horse or Mare's Tail - Equisetum Arvense

Think about growing comfrey - you can start with just a few dozen root cuttings and multiply 20 fold in the second year from root cuttings, see Comfrey

If you've got any chicken/turkey units locally, you may be able to get hold of masses of used litter which will add fertility and humus. Also any local stables with spare horsemuck - as much as you can get.

Don't just grow veg - think about free-ranging poultry. I'm convinced the sustainable answer lies in mixed units.

Invest in a plough / rotavator attachments for the tractor. 3 acres is a bit beyond a Merry Tiller.

Deep rooting herbal leys or green manures to help break up the clay.

Check the pH and nutrient levels. Acid clays are sticky and adding lime to increase the pH helps them break up.
See Compost, Fertiliser, Soil Improvers and Improvement and specifically Garden Lime - the Vital Fertiliser!

What's the drainage like?

Unless you're full-time on the plot, break it up into manageable sections.

Pigs are great for breaking new land up - might even make a few bob but you'll have to make sure they're well secured, housed and comply with regulations.

Would you swap for 3 acres of stony hillside in Wales? :)

Willow biomass could be worth looking into

Wind - only real long-term answer is wind breaks, consider productive hedging - elder, blackthorn, Farleigh damsons, dog rose, hazel, rowan, hawthorn. Some for you, some for wildlife. Fast growing conifers - leylandii - have a bad reputation but they grow very fast and shelter whilst your permanent hedge grows. Then they can be cut down and used as firewood or chipped as mulching material

If you want to grow spuds look at Sarpo Mira as a first one. It's a tough thug. Blight resistant and seems to suffer little from slug and worm. The foliage drowns out weeds and the yield is huge. Drawback is not everyone likes the flavour/texture although we love them for mash and slow cooks like hotpot.

Hope that sparks some approaches for you - good luck

Check out our books - ideal presents

John and Val Harrison's Books
 

Beekissed

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Hello,

I was wondering if anyone could advise me on what to grow on 3 Acres of compact clay. The land has been left uncultivated for sometime with just grass + ragwort growing on it (previously had just wheat year after year) , the land is also quite exposed to strong winds being a very flat area of southern Lincolnshire.

Does anybody have suggestions on how to improve the land or what will grow on it, as is, other than corn? I was thinking of looking to order a tonne of compost/manure/peat perhaps to work in to the soil or lay on the surface. What sort of seeds would be the cheapest in bulk?

My Goal would be to grow a variety of vegatables mixed around, mostly for exercise and to develop a more hardy character in myself. I was thinking of a 500 investment including seeds and soil. I have access to a small yamaha tractor(Only has a Cutter for Grass) I don't mind doing some major landscaping with a spade if it helps with drainage/Shelter for plant/Raised Bedding . The area also has to look tidy and not really like an allotment, maybe more like a garden of eden. Any Ideas? Please and Thank you.

Funny you should say that, as you might want to look into the Back to Eden method, which is supposed to be very effective in amending hard pack clay soils.   I started it last year for my hard pack clay and it's already making some lovely new topsoil for us to plant into. 

Here's a link to a movie on the method and there are other vids on YT where people are doing it more large scale:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OiGof48XVCQ

RichardY

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  • Location: Lincolnshire, Fleet
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Really like the idea of comphrey to help break up the soil and act as a green manure. The land itself does get waterlogged from time to time and does break into large cracks sometimes in the summer. The water table is also very high in the area and the land is borderd by drainage dykes/ditches. There are also some hares in the area and they have killed a few trees(they're quite tall). 

The wood mulch looks quite good, unfortunately there are very few trees in the UK in my opinion. I have seen wood mulch/chipping used on tomatoes in a polytunnel Canada, but it might have badly effected them turning the leaves purple, the wood contained Cedar so maybe acidic? I heard pineneedles are sometimes not good because of the tanins?

Horse manure shouldn't be too hard to get hold of. There's also an industrial turkey farm and abattoir about 30miles away, is there much different qualities of manure?

Are there such things as detailed soil/native flora maps of regions? A lot of the Fens where I live is silt soils, are there known deficienes in minerals (as a rule of thumb), I read grapes require Boron fairly often, although I wouldn't try to grow grapes given the climate.     

John

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Yes you can find soil maps but they don't drill down far enough. Besides, previous use of the land effects things. Invest 20 in a test kit and get the NPK & pH - mostly micro-nutrients will be corrected by adding varied organic humus. Don't get tied up in details and over-thinking - I'm reminded of an allotment holder applying seaweed spray to try and recover her cauliflowers.. stunted and starving they were planted 6 inches apart. Get the basics right first and then worry about the unusual.
See the articles on fertiliser / manures I linked to earlier for comparisons of different manures



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