I have been trying to make poor soil viable in a short time. So far, so good.
Started working one plot in '06. Finally had a tractor with a real plow and was given permission to use a piece of land that was very light sand and was growing milkweed and goldenrod. Plowed it myself a bit later than optimum. Had a neighbor harrow it for me as I didn't have a disc heavy enough to smooth out some pretty ugly plowing. Fertilized with triple 19 and put in a little sweetcorn, the rest got planted to buckwheat which got turned under before it set hard seed. That fall it got several loads of liquid manure which was plowed under and left to set for the winter.
The next year I did the fertilizer and buckwheat again but put in more corn. Had all we could eat and a lot to give away. Got two crops of buckwheat disced in and the soil was startubg to get some body to it. More manure and another fall plowing. Started chopping the cornstalks back onto the soil and turning them in as well.
During the winter a tree company brought me over 100 cubic yards of wood chips. In the spring of '08 I spread a lot of those and worked them in both with a tiller on the tractor and by plowing again. After the chips were spread, but before tilling, I put down a couple hundred pounds of urea so there would be plenty of N available to break the chips down. The landlady had a cow over the mushrooms that would pop up after any nighttime rain. She insisted that the mushrooms were causing fungus problems with her part of the garden. I did some searching and found nothing to corroborate that but she insists that was the cause. That year I also started growing vine crops and used more of the chips for mulch around the hills. Makes for more work early but once properly mulched there is about no effort expended the rest of the season.
That fall I made what was an error that came back to bite me the next year. I had access to mucho horse manure only 1/2 mile away. About 150 cy worth in all. LOTS of wood shaving bedding. Put it down, spread it as uniform as I could and plowed it under.
'09 started out full of hope and promise. The frost went out early, soil temps were up by the second week in May and I had a second plot to work. It was offered to me at the right time as the landlady at the first plot was (still is) getting wierded out big time. After a good start our growing season went downhill, cool and damp from late May into July. Nothing was growing good but the stuff on plot 1 was just terrible. Did some research and found N depletion, so much brown(the wood shaving bedding) was sucking up all the N so the plants were starving. By the time I figured that out and started a sidedressing program it was too late to salvage a lot. Pretty simple issue of soil chemistry and fairly easy to fix, as I see it. Not so according to the resident flake. I have driven the "life energy" from the soil and we need to ask "the spirits" what to do to correct that. When we get to the part about virgin sacrafices I'm outa there!
Not sure how much longer I can deal with what I consider crackpot science so I've got some feelers out for a different home for my efforts.
The soil has come a long ways in just a few years. There is almost nothing that is recognizable as wood matter in it now. It holds moisture much better and has "color" down to the tillage depth. When I started it looked like material from a borrow pit, just uniform, dead sand. I hope I can keep working it but it is getting hard to bite my tongue when I get lectured about what the spirits are instructing.