how to bring back life to a very depleated land???? –

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    For generations a piece of land in souther spain is been over and over plowed and depleated by monocrop farming( wheat)
    I’ ve got it recently and I have got the intention the give back to it what it has been taken. I would love to help it to became a mediterranean forest as used to be and to get my food from it.
    The land is very dry, however there is a history of an spring(lost now) next to the only tree that is still up.
    I would like to have guidence to knoe how can I start, what should I do to start with the process of bringing back the life to it.
    This year I dug a well 8 meters but unfortunatelly just dampness not actual water however I left it so it will be fill up by rain water so we will have some water for the dry seasson.
    The land is 8 Hect, upper part flattish and the rest goes down on a slope.
    What is the best sistem to start of, with this caracteristics, in this latitude, in your opinion guys?



    Water harvesting swales on contour would be a great place to start the restoration of your land and it is possible that recharging the ground water may even resurrect the spring that used to flow there. Do your best to keep every drop of rain on or in your land.



    I’d start with making sure the soil has appropriate amounts of organic matter, in every stage of decomposition. Also, however you do it, make sure the soil you have stays where it’s at, too.



    Hi Raul,

    I am new at this but from what I have learnt so far, here is some tips for you to start with:

    1) Get the plants back on the land to start the regeneration process:
    Find out what natural native plants grow in your area; you can take a long walk around in your neighbouring lands and take note of what is growing in the wild. If you can, gather seeds and other parts of the plants to propagate them in your land.
    Next you need to start the native plants at the start of the growing season (the rainy season in your area). If you managed to get seeds or other parts to plant, then use them. If not, you can let nature do it: use an Imprinting Machine. The plants should cover the whole land area.

    2) Restore the water catchment:
    You need a topographic survey of your land to work on the sloping contours of your land to catch all the rain and store it in the soil and biomass.
    Build water harvesting swales on your land contours and under any trees. If you have any waterways that run in the rainy season you must take a look at them and see if there is soil corrosion from the flash flooded valleys and streams. You need to slow the water down along the flood path and reinforce the damaged banks.

    3) Research the native plants and trees that can grow in your climate and soil and make a list of them.
    Find out how and where to get trees and plants to grow on your land. Some will be available in local plant nurseries and some you will have to start from seeds. You must research the Mediterranean biome to learn what forests grow where.
    You need to figure out what food trees and plants and what forest crop trees can grow there.

    4) Make a forest plan:
    Think of the whole system of the forest. How dense and diverse you want it to be? What foods will be grown for humans and animals and other creatures? What wildlife will be reintroduced? Think of the access to the forest in terms of roads, paths and landings.
    What buildings and facilities are needed? Will you be living there?
    What will the project benefits be to you, the community and the wildlife? What are the laws and regulations governing such projects?
    What is the project’s budget and how will you finance it? Who will help you do the work?

    5) Start the project.

    I hope you will find the tips helpful, I will be looking forward to your reply.

    Best regards,
    Seiffeddeen Keilani



    Plants tree…yesterday, like Larry said



    let animals graze on your land. they’ll poop, urinate, and stamp the ground into a dense matting that retains moisture, creating a rich fertile environment. in a couple of years, the land will be like brand new! best of luck, and here’s a reference:



    Would it be good to plant in the meantime a nutrient accumulator/groundcover?



    You’re in what’s known as a tight spot. You have inherited layers of neglect that will take time to repair.
    I would start with chickens and keyline plowing. Find food waste to feed them with, letting them live in the compost area. Move this area every few weeks. Plant weeds; weed trees, fast growing plants, invasive species even. All life is good!
    Once the land starts to come back to life, then start with the swales on contour and goats to eat the weeds you grew. Then plant whatever strikes your fancy and live with your place for a while; fall in love with Nuestra Madre.
    At that point, you and life will be good friends and you won’t need advice from an internet forum. Until then, check out Sepp Holzer’s project in Portugal.



    One thing I know has worked on severely overgrazed land here is you go to a neighboring semi- healthy property and mow a strip of land. EVERYTHING you mowed gets spread over a strip of barren land and left for 2 years. The recovery is astounding. Once grasses, shrubs etc. are established you can plant saplings between them without damaging the soil too much. Then you move on to what will fit into the system that is developing and provide you with food.

    Here this method is used on land so badly overgrazed the soil is compacted and there is NOTHING growing, its barren now poor soil. The better the condition of the ground the faster this method works from what I understand.

    Hope this helps.



    There are lots of good advice, I would say, get bugs or earthworms and start covering the ground with the cuttings from neighbours, i do it with mine. a few earthworms would reproduce very fast and you will start to get organic matter in the soil, plus it will make it soft and workable…
    I don’t know if you should start planting as of yet if your soil is as depleted as you say because the plants may have a very tough time to grow and they will use what little is left from the ground…
    while the soils is composting you can do the water swales…

    Good luck!



    Organic matter, add in earthworms, More organic matter, Manure, Water restoration. Good idea for the depression and fill with water. Find natural spring site, open back up and allow to fill naturally.
    Once you are set on those while matter is decaying, Find native plants, Native food sources, and Native growth. Begin restoring with plants make sure each has a bed of organic matter, organic compost, mulch etc and top soil. It will take time, but you can bring back what has been depleted.

    Please keep us posted on what your results are. Good or bad. Learning is the key to progress and restoration.




    HI Raul, cover that soil big time. Sun is drying any moisture that may happen to fall on it. Then keep covering it. Plant green manures and then slash them and leave them. At first you may have to buy in some hay to do the covering. This will keep the sun off it soil and allow moisture to stay – this is crucial to get soil organisms to propagate. The decaying matter will attract them and they will do the loosening and aerating for you for free. Next I would do observation to figure out the elevation sun paths frostlines etc get an idea of where might be good places for your home,sheds, dams etc and as has been suggested build swales so that you can begin to store water in the soil. While this is happening do the research into the types of ground covers, mid story and canopy species are native to your area and collect their seeds. You may have to make clay balls or start raising seedlings. Don’t forget to study the trees you want to have in there for foods to feed your self. As the ecosystem rebuilds you will have to experiment with the food plants to see which thrive and which don’t. Over time you will get a sense which types of plants do well.

    Define areas where it makes sense for your buildings and then start to build guilds of edible plants radiating from the buildings so that you don’t spend too much effort getting things you need often.

    What a fantastic project. You are learning from the basics and growing with the project. Please come back and keep connecting and sharing.
    Best of luck



    Hi there 🙂 Hemp and comfrey add a lot of good nitrogen and stuff (fertilizer) to the soil and I think they both have webby tap roots and both grow very quickly… they would help stop any erosion to help hold nutrients and water inside the property… both are pretty invasive though so I guess you would have to keep that in mind for the future…oh, and the hemp is good for thousands of things (fuel, clothing, hempcrete, etc) and both are invaluable for medicinal purposes … Best of luck to you and happy learning 🙂



    I’m not sure I agree with what Emmanuel is saying. I work at a horse farm part time and the ground is actually getting more and more tore up. It depends on the size of land too, I wouldn’t put too many animals on it. I know it’s often not a feasable option for people anyhow. We’ve got what I call “small scale desertification” on our farm, as mud gets stomped up and turned about, layers and layers of grass get pulled up and each year the “dry lots” grow bigger and bigger, just a dust pen for the horses, as the grass retreats. Urine, high in ammonia (depending on the animal) I would think.
    Someone else said cover it. I think that’s smart, the sun can’t be doing many favors at this point. I’d do layers of decomposing matter on it.
    This is just my opinion



    “The term ‘living soil’ is getting a lot of lip service these days, however a living breathing moving soil is a thing to behold and great to grow with. It just gets better as it becomes more alive. I’d like to try describing to you what this means.
    A living soil is comprised of a large variety of creatures, mostly microscopic and single celled. Part of this life is the plant itself but billions of life forms which support this plant and microcosm are arranged hierarchically at a level in the soil to which they have evolved for optimum survival and the wholistic function of their universe.
    There are multiple interfaces in the soil. There are millions of small pores throughout, millions of various particles interfacing as aggregate; sand, clay, silt, rock, organic matter, humus and thousands or millions of roots interfacing these.
    Besides these areas of contact or buffer, there are some broader distinct fields of transpiration between life forms which thrive within certain steadfast environmental conditions. This is why, as horticulturists, we may achieve living soil through minimal soil disturbance or no-till.
    To describe these fields, first lets talk about the soil’s surface. Soil scientists call this the detritusphere, not a very complex name when you consider what detritus encompasses. So here is where stuff falls; everything from leaves to poop and this is where the greatest velocity and frequency of decomposition occurs. The detritus is principally carbon based. The elements of oxygen, nitrogen, light and moisture combine with the microorganisms evolved to this environment to do their job of degradation through consumption. These organisms are specialized to use the components and fuel available in the top layer of the soil, let’s say the top one to three inches dependent on soil type.
    At a lower depth they would not function similarly because the fuel would be lacking. The material processed as waste by these microbes is then passed down to the next set of microorganisms evolved to process that modified substance.
    If the raw detritus is worked into the soil, without first being degraded by surface dwellers, then the subsurface microbes can become overwhelmed (if I can use such an expression for microbes) with the task and can easily use up any and all nitrogen at hand decomposing this organic matter, thereby depriving local plants of this nitrogen. This can result in what some refer to as nitrogen lock out or lock up.
    The next interface is where openings are created by earthworms, nematodes and other larger creatures, rather comically called the drilosphere by scientists. This is an area where some of the previously described material is conveyed by the bugs n’worms along with bug n’ worm poo and bioslime. The bioslime created is important for binding particles and contributing to aggregation. Obviously these create unique passage ways for certain sized organisms, air and water.
    Branching off of these passages and stretching into the entire area which we call our living soil is a myriad of various sized openings and caverns. This area is referred to as the porosphere. This is where the meat and potatoes of the soil grows, is stored and is hunted. It is this zone which interfaces with the roots, which as most know, is called the rhizosphere.
    Of critical importance is the conjoining matter, the particles or chunks which comprise the soil itself. These pieces once bound together by bacterial and fungal ‘bioslime’ is referred to as aggregated material and how they cohese is what forms the aggregatusphere (another complex term ;>). The aggregation is bound by fungal hyphae, roots and various gel-like polymers and carbohydrates excreted from plants and creatures alike.
    When the gardener/horticulturist first mixes their soil, they can have some pretty good control over the size of pores created, balanced with
    decomposed/aged/composted organic matter.
    The various sized particulate creates the multitudinous openings and caverns which make survival habitats for certain small organisms like bacteria and archaea and hunting grounds and habitat for some larger organisms like protozoa, nematodes and rotifers. These spaces flow with water and air allowing bacteria, archaea and fungi to mine the stored/sequestered nutrients, from vermicompost, compost, humus, clay/rock and other organic matter, which are then passed via the rhizosphere in a number of ways to the roots. There are miniature pockets of water bound to soil particles which are necessary to the survival of many microorganisms.” (microbeman)

    In order to create a living soil, it would be wise to start a worm farm and build or buy an efficient compost tea brewer. This will bring your soil; quite literally, back to life.

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