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Old 08-23-2011, 08:40 PM
Location: 112 Ocean Avenue
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Infographic: How Big a Backyard Would You Need to Live Off the Land? | One Block Off the Grid: The Smart New Way to Go Solar
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Old 08-23-2011, 10:04 PM
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There are other ways. You could have a 10'X20' area to grow food. If you do it right. Green house the area use solar to heat your beds and grow on racks, ect. ect. ect.
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Old 08-23-2011, 10:58 PM
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Lots depends on where you are and what you need. You have 100 acres up Saddle Road on Hawaii and your lucky if you can get enough food to last a week, go down a bit to Hilo area and 1/2 acre can fill the farmers market. In waipio your solar cells may provide enough to keep your car battery charges, but afew miles away in Honooka the same unit will power your whole house. I know people on Hawaii who only have 1 acre and can sustain themself but would need over 20 acres on the other side of the island.

Where you loive, the conditions of the enviroment, what you need, how you live as just as important as how many acres.
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Old 08-24-2011, 01:20 PM
Location: Backwoods of Maine
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Steve Solomon, author of Gardening When It Counts, says you don't even need a "generous half acre" in any temperate climate (this includes snow and cold in winter). He states that a typical city lot is more than sufficient to feed a family of four.

I highly recommend this book, if it's not in your library already. In passing, Steve says that "hard times" are coming, and that colors the entire slant of his book, which gives great advice!
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Old 08-24-2011, 10:44 PM
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The following topic was broached briefly in another thread. I thought I would just expand upon it briefly here. When buying a sub-premium piece of land that you want to make somewhat suitable for growing crops, this will often require the addition of topsoil to your plot.

In most cases where this is the situation, you'll generally want to build raised beds so as to not waste the topsoil. Unless you are a serious commercial farmer, there's not really a need to throw topsoil over your entire property indiscriminately, as you will probably just end up wasting a significant portion of it in areas where the crops are not growing.

Here's a "quickie" way to do the basic math to calculate how many cubic yards you need, and what it will cost. The math is simple enough as it is, but this a shorter-cut I used to use when I did landscaping, because I had to calculate mulch and topsoil stuff regularly:

For smaller areas,

Cubic-yards of topsoil needed = [square footage of area to cover for crops / divider value]

Or if you want to know how much soil you would need per acre,

Cubic-yards of topsoil needed = [43,560 / divider value]

Divider values:
1.5" soil depth = 216
2.0" soil depth = 162
2.5" soil depth = 130
3.0" soil depth = 108
6.0" soil depth = 54

I always kept a little chart in my notebook at work which had a couple dozen divider values for different soil or mulch depths (I only list a few here for simplicity). It just makes the math a little quicker, as it saves you the two steps of having to:

(a) calculate the fraction of a foot, based on depth (e.g. 2.5" depth needs to get converted to 0.2083333 decimal) , and
(b) you also don't have to do the divide by 27 thing to convert cubic-feet into cubic-yards.

Cost = [cubic-yards needed x $(15- 30) per cubic-yard]

Topsoil generally averages anywhere from $15 to $30+ per cubic-yard, with $15 - $25 being common prices you might see.

Take a few pieces of advice from a landscaper when I tell you a few of the following points below:

(1) A lot of the inexpensive topsoil is garbage which is actually what is known as "clean fill," but is being sold as "screened topsoil" or sometimes they even have the nerve to label it something like "premium" screened topsoil.

Since there are no regulations on the use of the word "topsoil," it is very much 'buyer beware.' Buy a small sample lot before you make a bulk purchase (see point 2 below).

(2) Topsoil varies... each lot is different... the quality always changes, go look at it before you buy it, and have it delivered the same, or the next day... so you know for certain that its coming off the same pile, rather than a newer and possibly crappier lot that got delivered.

(3) If they are selling it for $12 - $20 a cubic-yard, be skeptical of whether it is truly quality topsoil suitable for growing crops. I don't care what the sign you saw tells you. Don't take the sign at face value without personally inspecting the lot in your quest to bargain hunt.

Be wary of topsoil sellers who don't have a yard you can visit, like a mason yard or landscape supply place does. This is not to say that they don't sell good stuff ... it's just that many of these sellers who have signs posted on the side of the highway enticing people with good topsoil prices, don't have a yard you can inspect. These companies are fine for ordering clean fill, but I would not order topsoil from them sight unseen.

While I have actually bought decent topsoil for $18 a cubic-yard, and conversely, I have actually gotten some really crappy stuff dubbed "premium topsoil" that I paid $30 for, generally speaking you get what you pay for.

Good topsoil will tend to be more in the $18 - $25 a cubic-yard range.... maybe even pushing $30.... though if you see prices for $30, you might want to shop around. But it if it is primo stuff, don't skimp out.... but if you see similar quality topsoil in the $20 range, then just go with the cheaper price because if you are doing a large area, it is really going to add up fast.

I have ran into these problem on a routine basis as a landscaper, even when dealing with a limited number of known and trusted suppliers.

* Note: These are northeast region prices. Averages might vary slightly, depending on your region, but regardless of where you live, it is probably a good ballpark figure to do some back of the envelope calculations with when figuring how much soil you would need to improve your homestead.

Last edited by FreedomThroughAnarchism; 08-24-2011 at 11:02 PM..
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Old 08-25-2011, 02:41 AM
Location: Prepperland
12,906 posts, read 8,974,269 times
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Check out terra preta.
It's a man-made soil, that was invented by pre-Columbian Indians of the Amazon watershed. The article is fascinating, as well as thought provoking.
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Old 08-25-2011, 06:46 AM
Location: Nebraska
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I guess the whole idea of 'topsoil' kinda bugs me. To me, it isn't sustainable.

Say you have a stretch of substandard soil - sand, clay, whatever. You buy topsoil to go on top of it to plant your garden. You 'box' it to do raised beds and keep the topsoil from washing away or mixing with your current soil. You then plant in it. And plant the next year, and the next. You rapidly deplete - depending on what you plant, how you fertilize, etc - the vitamins and nutrients in that topsoil, much like the soil in a pot, just over a larger area. Then you have to go get new topsoil. It will be more expensive than it was 3 years ago - the prices do go up. The quality varies. And will the same or worse type of soil be available?

I bought a piece of property with substandard soil. It was hardpack clay; water would sit on it like it was on a dinner plate. Nothing would grow on it except deep-rooted slash pine trees, bahia grass, and thorny wild blackberries. So I went to a nearby farm with my trailer, and cleaned out their stables for free. I brought it back home, smoothed it over the yard, and plowed it all into that hard clay. I then let it lay fallow for a year. That following year I started planting.

So many earthworms and bugs were now living in it that it was hard to dig a hole without finding a friendly earth creature or 20. The soil was rich, crumbly, and black. The clay had mixed with the rotting hay, cow, and horse poop and had become viable. By the time I left there 20 years later, it was covered in rose gardens, peach trees, cherry trees, daylilies; and the vegetable garden was constantly producing (it was in the South where we only had six weeks of 'cold') year round.

Here it was a little harder. The soil is light powdery sand, which permits water and nutrients to run through it like a sieve. The previous owners had the brilliant idea of laying down strips of old carpet between the rows to cut down on weeds - and left them year to year to rot. There were nothing but sandburrs, black-eyed susans, and cacti in the garden, growing through those carpet pieces. So I yanked up and threw away the rotted carpet, once again I plowed in old hay, horse and cow poop (this time from my own corral; much easier!). And did it again the next spring. And did it again this spring, only I put down Heavy-duty professional garden cloth. My garden is HUGE and prolific; I have worms and the small bugs that break down the 'things' in the soil. I have rot and moisture underneath without mold on top. I have viable soil that holds water and sustains plant life, and drains more slowly but efficiently. With very late (June) frosts and freezes, I waited to plant; this summer has been the wettest (flooding) on record with highs that have remained in the 90's for several weeks (unusual) and now I and another long-time sustainable gardener are the only ones in the area with fruiting tomatoes, zucchini, cukes, etc.

Making all of the soil viable, productive, and self-sustainable is what I am all about in my garden. Old and practical, sustainable ways work best for me.
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Old 08-25-2011, 08:45 PM
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FTA, that's cool. Can you convert that to 60 x 100 feet at 6 inches deep? Just curiuos.
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Old 08-25-2011, 09:03 PM
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Originally Posted by Mac_Muz View Post
FTA, that's cool. Can you convert that to 60 x 100 feet at 6 inches deep? Just curiuos.
112 cubic-yards. That's a lot of soil to hump and spread-out by hand. Bobcat would help.

Cost about 1,600 to 2 grande (minus shipping which is like $40 per truckload - or less.. varies a lot).
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Old 08-25-2011, 09:39 PM
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I was just asking because I have made that much, maybe a little deeper really, and I am making more all the time, year round. I got a garden growing on it right now. All the leaf and produce waste just becomes more, counting the weeds, and what ever else i can get my grubby mits on.

I have 2 piles finished right now both about 4 feet tall as dumped with the bob cat in a rough circle. The compost area has 4 times that, partly soil partly waste in layers with cardboard, which is used to get air space and it too breaks down.

In Fall I gather up lawn waste, and raked leaves in bags and people love it, that I come and take it away for free. I always ask if I may anytime I see bags of leaves raked up, and so far I get a Yes for the answer.

Where the garden is, was stripped bare of topsoil and was a part of a 1 mile oval horse race track. That went out in 1930, but i still find shards of 'Carnival Glass, a rainbow color, pot shards, and chromed buggy parts of some sort, I think dash board parts .

What is the formula for that? Thank you for the time.
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