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Author Topic: Where to start with an overgrown paddock  (Read 13987 times)

okyko

  • Joined Jun 2013
Where to start with an overgrown paddock
« on: June 01, 2013, 12:39:04 am »
Hi guys n gals, Im new to the forums here after having read many informative posts, I finally have a question.

I have a 2 Acre paddock in Lingfield in Surrey, its all clay, so stays very wet on top, there are ponds around and most of the neighbours say its a high water table, but I dug 3 meters deep to install a sewage treatment plant and a 25 meter borehole, it got nothing but harder all the way down to crumbly "shale"?

The paddock has been left overgrown for about 4 years now!! There are a lot of water reed type grass clumps except around the base of the 3 mature trees growing there, I assume because the tree roots are taking care of the water. I would like to plant it, Im thinking with mainly fruit trees, in the hope that they will also help dry the soil a bit, and provide some deliciousness, rather than draining it.
It is all level ground but fairly rutted and uneven due to the overgrowth.

Where do I start? and am I thinking along the right lines by planting fruit trees?
After flailing it, should I mulch mow, plough, harrow rotovate etc etc..

Basically Id like to achieve some nice fruit trees, veg,  a bit of meadow, keep some bees, eventually some chicken and a couple of sheep perhaps. The paddock is next to a barn that I am converting to my house, so it is just personal use, no commercial intentions.

Any beginner advice would be very helpful. I want to start right!  :tree:

-Y



spandit

  • Moderator
  • Joined Mar 2013
  • East Sussex
    • Sussex Forest Garden
Re: Where to start with an overgrown paddock
« Reply #1 on: June 01, 2013, 12:49:19 am »
So you want to live in an Enid Blyton book? :D


Pear likes damp, heavy soils as does willow and alder. Not sure apple will thrive.

Are there ditches that need digging out?

You have very similar aims to mine, I look forward to seeing the more knowledgable replies!
sussexforestgarden.blogspot.co.uk

colliewobbles

  • Joined Mar 2013
  • South Norfolk
Re: Where to start with an overgrown paddock
« Reply #2 on: June 01, 2013, 12:53:40 am »
I may be wrong so check with others more knowledgeable first, but perhaps a couple of pigs  :pig:  :pig:  to clear it first?  Then you could fill the freezer and your land would be nicely turned over and ready for whatever you wanted to do next?

Donna

okyko

  • Joined Jun 2013
Re: Where to start with an overgrown paddock
« Reply #3 on: June 01, 2013, 01:12:37 am »
Enid Blyton -  Beatrix Potter -  who's counting :) yes I know its rather an Idyllic sounding aim, but its a small enough patch that I feel I could do most of the things Id like and actually be able to manage it. It would be great to have something that was a good investment, that I can feed my family well with and have some high value crops I can sell in the local farm store for fun and pay for a bit of the upkeep, I dont know.. Walnut, Cherry, Plums.. I have no idea what grows well in that soil yet and is a worthwhile investment for future. Its exciting though.

There are no ditches that need digging, theres one at the north side of the paddock but it seems fine.

Im not a fan of pigs  :pig: but the idea of using animals to do the hard work is one that I welcome, I need to re fence though, I had 4 sheep in there, then there were 2, then one, finally tracked them all down. but they have been recycled now  :yum: I dont have the time to look after livestock at the moment or until I actually finish converting the barn and living there. All this time Ive been going through planning, If I had planted when I bought the place it would be going great guns by now! :innocent:

henchard

  • Joined Dec 2010
  • Carmarthenshire
    • Two Retirees Start a New Life in Wales
    • Facebook
Re: Where to start with an overgrown paddock
« Reply #4 on: June 01, 2013, 10:29:21 am »
The way I would approach it is as follows.


Top it hard with a flail mower a few times to get it back into some sort of condition.


The rushes can only be permanently controlled by draining which you don't want to do; but you can kill the worst clumps off with Glyphosate.


Then rotavate/harrow the worst patches/rough areas and reseed those areas. Then Plant your fruit trees next planting season.


After that use a selective weedkiller to control any bad weeds that re emerge next year. Once they have been knocked out you should be able to maintain it without weedkillers by topping etc.


As I say just how I would do it!

spandit

  • Moderator
  • Joined Mar 2013
  • East Sussex
    • Sussex Forest Garden
Re: Where to start with an overgrown paddock
« Reply #5 on: June 01, 2013, 12:59:52 pm »
The way I'm planning on doing it:

Get the paddock topped and then lay out tree planting membrane a few weeks/months before planting the trees through it - should weaken the grass enough for the trees to get established without using chemicals
sussexforestgarden.blogspot.co.uk

okyko

  • Joined Jun 2013
Re: Where to start with an overgrown paddock
« Reply #6 on: June 04, 2013, 10:10:45 pm »
Hi guys... thanks so much for the tips,   Henchard, its not that I dont want to drain, rather that I saw the mature trees doing a good job of keeping the rushes away, so my thinking was more trees = fewer rushes and if I planted as orchard I was hoping this would take care of most of it, Id certainly rather not use chems where at all possible.

After topping the field, I guess I should leave the cuttings down to rot and mulch? then harrow to level the ground , Id like to improve the clay a little if possible.....

HenLivingstone

  • Joined Jan 2013
Re: Where to start with an overgrown paddock
« Reply #7 on: June 06, 2013, 01:58:09 pm »
Okyko, it sounds like you have similar aims to us.  We've just taken on 8 acres and are shortly letting about 6 out for horses grazing to tenants, and planning to plant about an acre of mixed coppice (hazel, willow, sweet chestnut, any other ideas?) and an acre of orchard in the late autumn/early winter.  Our fields don't sound as bad as yours, but still rather tussocky and damp.  We've topped one area - largely to prevent the creeping buttercup from seeding - and are leaving the planned orchard/woodland area alone at the moment to see if we can get some hay off it before the autumn.

I'm planning on locally improving the soil with compost where we plant each tree.  Wider soil improvement is largely going to be surface level or just below, so my thinking is to improve local to each tree and loosen the ground to let the roots get established, and then top mulch under each tree to fertilise/suppress grass and weeds - rather than deep ploughing and adding tonnes of material more widely.

okyko

  • Joined Jun 2013
Re: Where to start with an overgrown paddock
« Reply #8 on: June 08, 2013, 09:57:57 pm »
Hi Hen, yep, sounds much the same... I was wondering about ploughing, theres such a lot of growth, mostly rushes  and nettles now, in my novice thinking I would like to top it, let it mulch down a bit then was thinking by ploughing it would just help improve a bit, surely that grass will rot and develop the soil(anyone got any thoughts on that?) theres already a skinny layer of top soil. I was thinking of digging planting pits for the trees every 4-5meters  by hand (not by drill).  For the soil mix of the pits
use the top soil that I dig out and mix it with 20% (by volume) decomposed cow manure and 20% leaf mulch.  I think It would be a good idea (if easily available) to add 10% sand to the mix. Leaving it raised a little and planting the tree at about ground level to the regular paddock. between rows I thought to dig trenches with a fall starting at 10cm, ending at 30cm over about 100m, which I would then link to a new pond.
Once I start the build on the barn, if I have left over hardcore I can rent a crusher and use it to fill the trenches and grass over them. Id like to use simple methods where possible, let nature do as much of the work for me.

My question is, once I top the field is it worth ploughing over or am I wasting my time?

Still playing with tractors

  • Joined Jul 2012
  • Cumbernauld
  • You can never have enough HP
Re: Where to start with an overgrown paddock
« Reply #9 on: June 12, 2013, 01:10:15 pm »
Flail,subsoil, plough, power harrow, and plant or seed simples!

Anke

  • Joined Dec 2009
  • St Boswells, Scottish Borders
Re: Where to start with an overgrown paddock
« Reply #10 on: June 12, 2013, 04:23:04 pm »
Okyko, it sounds like you have similar aims to us.  We've just taken on 8 acres and are shortly letting about 6 out for horses grazing to tenants, and planning to plant about an acre of mixed coppice (hazel, willow, sweet chestnut, any other ideas?) and an acre of orchard in the late autumn/early winter.  Our fields don't sound as bad as yours, but still rather tussocky and damp.  We've topped one area - largely to prevent the creeping buttercup from seeding - and are leaving the planned orchard/woodland area alone at the moment to see if we can get some hay off it before the autumn.

I'm planning on locally improving the soil with compost where we plant each tree.  Wider soil improvement is largely going to be surface level or just below, so my thinking is to improve local to each tree and loosen the ground to let the roots get established, and then top mulch under each tree to fertilise/suppress grass and weeds - rather than deep ploughing and adding tonnes of material more widely.

Horses won't do the ground any good....just more buttercups.

Backinwellies

  • Global Moderator
  • Joined Sep 2012
  • Llandeilo Carmarthenshire
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Re: Where to start with an overgrown paddock
« Reply #11 on: June 12, 2013, 04:32:09 pm »
Not sure ploughing a wet clay field with little top soil is a good idea.......... you could make matters worse.

Check acidity levels.  liming can reduce acid liking weeds... and improve soil condition.

I have seen a field local to here which was covered in rushes .... ploughed up and reseeded .... a year later ...... a field of rushes again!
Linda

Don't wrestle with pigs, they will love it and you will just get all muddy.

Let go of who you are and become who you are meant to be.

http://nantygroes.blogspot.co.uk/
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okyko

  • Joined Jun 2013
Re: Where to start with an overgrown paddock
« Reply #12 on: June 13, 2013, 08:45:06 am »
These replies are like buses nothing for ages, then three come along all at once... actually if they were really like buses I guess theyd be big, red, badly driven, hot in summer & cold in winter, and the one you just waited half an hour for would zoom right by without stopping..

Random bus rant over... Brewster, your meerkat reply is the kind of answer I was looking for ... nailed it! Thank you..

Anke, Im not planning to keep horses, too much care involved.

Backinwellies,  I hear what youre saying there, but Im not intending to just plough it over and leave it, as I described in my earlier post, it would be then planted up as an orchard, with some simple surface drainage ditches between the odd row to take care of the water logging, and the fruit trees will take care of the rest.
Im 100% sure that if I turned the soil over and just left it the rushes would be back with a vengence!

I guess the next question is timing, I need to flail now regardless, but then should I do the rest right away, Im guessing as a general rule the fruit trees need planting in winter, and Im contemplating the benefits of covering the field with plastic or some other material, as I believe this kills off weeds etc, alternatively I heard that crops like beans or peas have deep roots, which I could plant up, harvest then cut down leaving the roots to rot in situ, I guess the idea being that they help break up the clay for the fruit trees later...

Bloody hell this topic is bigger than I thought... I would go for some kind of training etc, but ive found in life that training is often better once you already have experience of the job in hand.....

ferretkeeper

  • Joined May 2013
  • Carmarthenshire
    • Brecon View Farm
    • Facebook
Re: Where to start with an overgrown paddock
« Reply #13 on: June 13, 2013, 12:40:24 pm »

Anke, Im not planning to keep horses, too much care involved.

I guess the next question is timing, I need to flail now regardless, but then should I do the rest right away, Im guessing as a general rule the fruit trees need planting in winter, and Im contemplating the benefits of covering the field with plastic or some other material, as I believe this kills off weeds etc, alternatively I heard that crops like beans or peas have deep roots, which I could plant up, harvest then cut down leaving the roots to rot in situ, I guess the idea being that they help break up the clay for the fruit trees later...

Bloody hell this topic is bigger than I thought... I would go for some kind of training etc, but ive found in life that training is often better once you already have experience of the job in hand.....

I think the advice about horses was to HenLivingstone, I was going to say the exact same thing - worse thing to put on the land is horses, they'll poach it and won't eat everything. Try sheep! But have good fencing!

And liming might help in both cases!

Yes bare root trees (cheaper than pot grown) should be planted in their dormant season, which is good, gives you time to get ready and you'll be planting at a quiet time. Make sure you order in plenty of time.

Fruit trees, any newly planted trees in fact, will benefit greatly from having a metre of ground cover fabric or similar around them, they'll establish far better with no weed competition for a few years.

Be wary of digging a hole for planting and it just being a sump - the drainage channels will help and should be done in advance of planting to help the soil drain a little first, give the trees a chance!

Choose your rootstock carefully, go to a good nursery and let them advise you on local conditions, varieties that do well etc.

I would say get the surface of the field sorted asap too, deep ploughing should not be necessary. Top it by all means and leave the clippings to add to the fertility of the soil. I would also recommend pigs to do the hard work for you (biased!) no machinery or fossil fuels required, no chemicals either, they'll eat the roots of everything so weeds don't come back, manuring the whole field will be good prep for the trees and you'll have something nice to eat too.

Maybe then harrow after the pigs, reseed and roll the ground level. 

Or you can use several plants to help improve the structure of the soil first in the newly pig ploughed field, eg. legumes fix nitrogen, so peas, beans, clover. Plants like comfrey bring minerals from deeper down with their big tap roots, then you harvest the leaves, several times per year if you like, and mulch with them, amongst other things. Other green manures would work, and could even be kept going under the orchard, it doesn't have to be just grass. In fact the more flowering plants the better for your bees! Although grazing animals would eat the flowers :(

Also sheep can damage trees, young ones would need to be well fenced individually, and I'd go for half/full standards, ie clear trunk to a certain height. My sheep strip bark off all the trees in our fields when they fancy it.

Geese make great lawnmowers under trees, although protect young trees and cut off low branches as they can also do damage.

Lots of ideas, no right or wrong way as such, HTH

Helen
breconviewfarm.co.uk Rare breed, free range.

okyko

  • Joined Jun 2013
Re: Where to start with an overgrown paddock
« Reply #14 on: June 14, 2013, 06:53:04 pm »
Hi Helen,

Thank you, some great ideas, I like the thought of the comfrey, ive heard its a bit hard to get rid of once established, for the very reason of its deep roots, am I mistaken? is there a way round that?

I was going to dig the planting holes by hand, and fork the sides of the hole, or run a mini rotovator over them so theyre not smooth, - is that good enough? any better ideas?

Im not a huge fan of pork, but I sure dont mind using animal power instead of man power or diesel, I guess i can see if any local farmers want to let their pigs on, anyone have experience of this? do I ask for money or is it a case of a favour for a favour?
Otherwise plough it is.
I like the idea of flowering plants under the orchard, I imagine it will look beautiful as well as serve the bees :)

Im not planning to keep any grazing animals for a while, until Ive finished (started!) the build on the barn and am then able to look after livestock as necessary.

The land hasnt been "worked" for a good many years now, the previous owners just kept it mowed, as far as I understand clay is normally very nutrient rich, however I need to take a sample, is it better to use a lab or is a  DIY kit enough? I drilled a borehole, couldnt get any more than 24 feet then the tube kept bouncing off the crumbly grey shale below, still, got plenty of water, but its high in Iron and pseudomonas, but otherwise very good, the psedomonas was a concern, but apparently it can also  suppress plant diseases by "protecting the seeds and roots from fungal infection". needs more investigation, I think ill do a couple of soil samples, one mixed with the borehole water..

 

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