5 Steps, 5 Years for Bringing Back Blackland

The First Five Year Plan as proposed in 2010

Step 1  ANALYSIS                                                                             (Years 1 & 2)

through history (learning from previous use)
through ecology (information from existing vegetation patterns)
through soil sampling and testing

Step 2 DRAINAGE                                                                                   (Year 1)

Locating and clearing existing ditches is essential to prevent things from getting worse, but blackland does not drain laterally except very slowly.

Step 3 REMOVAL OF SURFACE LITTER/THATCH/MOSS                    (Year 3)

This layer may be the source of much of the wetness problem, holding water on the surface year-round.  It can be loose material or a compacted, brown, undecomposed, fibrous layer of sphagnum up to 6″ deep (in which case the situation is probably hopeless).  It seems often to occur on prior cultivation, where the surface layers can be wetter than the lower.  

(Need to find machinery to strip out layer; then do what with it?  compost? incorporate? bale?)

Step 4 INITIAL AERATION & pH ADJUSTMENT                                    (Year 3)

If there is not much thatch/moss or it has been removed, then the surface will begin to dry.  Aeration would be good if possible, and help root growth;
(what would work? peat machine? subsoiler? spiked roller?)
Heavy application of shell sand – some North Uist sand has 47% liming value.

Step 5 USE AND CULTIVATION                                                  (Year 4 onwards)

This is of course where most programmes begin – to decide on land management (depending on results of Steps 1 – 4);  improve grasses, cultivate: rotivating, ploughing, re-seeding, silage? 

More soil testing.