Redistribution of Soil Nutrients using Biomass

One of the advantages of using weeds/yard waste/plant material off the landscape to restore topsoil is the redistribution of soil nutrients from more productive areas to less productive areas to boost the overall productivity of the landscape.  At the Painted Pony Resort, this means material from the river bottom moved up slope onto the benches to promote new topsoil formation and plant growth.  An important step in this process is an understanding of the soil.  Different soils have different requirements and therefore different management approaches.  One step in understanding the soils is to create a soil texture map.  Since soil is composed of sand, silt, and clay, an understanding of the relative amounts of these components helps guide the restoration approach.  Below is an example of a soil texture measurement.  A 4" bore of the topsoil was recovered and thoroughly mixed.  An aliquot of mixed soil was added to vial and mixed with water and a pinch of non-foaming laundry detergent.  This was allowed to settle for 48 hrs and the relative amounts of sand, silt, and clay measured.  In this example there was 74% sand, 20% silt, and 6% clay, from a soil triangle this translates to the border between sandy loam and loamy sand.  Very little clay in the soil results in this poor outcome.  The question then becomes, how to improve the clay content?  The easiest way is to top dress with compost.  But instead of compost the estate uses a redistribution method to move biomass and nutrients around the landscape.  Unwanted plant material is collected and placed perpendicular to the dip or prevailing winds where it is allowed to decay.  During the decay process the barrier slows water across the landscape catching additional soil particles, it also catches wind born seeds, provides a micro-habitat for the subsequent growth of new plants especially grasses, and releases stored nutrients for use by germinating grasses the next season.

measuring soil texture.

topsoil restoration barriers on the estate, a redistribution of soil nutrients.


  1. amazing what a person can learn from you!

  2. Thank you, but I found myself over my head trying to learn to swim in dealing with the restoration efforts of the rangeland. So I started educating myself by reading what literature I could access and then applying those ideas that seemed reasonable, inexpensive, and I could accomplish myself. A slow process but the results speak for themselves.

  3. Good job! Actually a GREAT job! I remember friends in AZ have a neighbor who works in soil for some Gov job. She helped them analyze their soil needs. You have done it by yourself. Kudos!

  4. Thank you. I just started reading and applying what I learned. It is really something anyone can do to improve their property.