Has anyone had success reclaiming a gravel or borrow pit? Landlord wants it planted but I would rather let it go to grass and not lose money on those acres every year. Any success with green manure or cover crops? Nothing but dust out there now.....
It will never really grow much of a crop. From any of the pits I have seen done, they are pretty much only good for pasture, and not much good at that. Most of the time the layer of clay that is between the topsoil and gravel is gone and now when the dirt is spread back over, it is just on top of the gravel seam and holds no moisture. If it's only a small borrow pit not such a big deal, but if several acres it isn't worth it.
I will offer you hope in that I have seen a magic revival of land after having topsoil removed.But I have no idea what caused the improvement. I did the same things a 1/2 mile away with no improvement.
Everything think here is hills some much more than other.The first case the end of a hill was cut away to make a small landing strip. Nothing much grew on it over 2 years with owner scattering seed on it. I was given permission to cross it with equipment as I planted the rest of the hill with barley. This was easier than going around it. Just lifted the cultivator but harrows carried a lot of dirt with the straw. Planted across it and the barley grew well that year on the whole piece.
The second case was miner land slides on a hill that had been farmed for a 100 years maybe. Other parts of the property were deep ripped for wine grapes with a Cat D8. I had tilled the hill for a barley crop,but a vineyard consultant wanted them blender back to a single contour if it should get planted to grapes in the future. So had the dozer operator smooth it up. He did not set any topsoil aside,just used it for fill and left subsoil in what had been high places. The biggest is about a 40 foot circle. Farmed over it moving topsoil with harrows in from all sides but has stayed the same non producing spot for 20 years now. Sure wish I knew what magic was used to make the first plot grow.
If it has been cleaned up and topsoil spread around I would plant it and see what happens. Depending how many acres are involved and what other factors come into play you can negotiate from there. Depending on what grows you maybe can drive over it and not spend anything on weed killers or fertilizer after the first time. But with seed prices still costly if it gets to be very big.
Some kind of hay is probably your best bet. Around here anyway they weren't overly good at preserving the top soil, so when they reclaim there is clay, rocks and all kinds of other stuff in the soil they put down. Typically they rock rake it to get the rocks out and depending on the area that is being reclaimed either hydro seed, or broadcast some grass on. The pit on our place was broadcast as it was a larger area I suppose most of it is in good enough condition to run equipment on, but there isn't a lot of top soil, what is there is quite sandy and being that its on a hill we figure its best to leave it as pasture.
We have reclaimed gravel pits with some success. I would look at ways to increase organic matter. We are fortunate to have manure. So we put as much straw laden manure as we can plow under. What do you currently grow?
We currently grow wheat canola peas soybeans and pintos. Last time we tried raising wheat we ran more rocks through the combine than grain it swanned. Would it be worth trying any type of covercrop mix and disking it under in the fall? We have the rock pretty well cleaned up now.
If you have a gravel pit that is still usable I suggest keeping it a gravel pit. Selling land by the truck load is the most profitable way I know and you still own the acres. Gravel can be hard to get depending on where you live. Not fun to haul very far if you need to. Takes a lot of loads to get much done.