We have about six acres of woodland, partically cleared with a pit greenhouse built on it, in Middle Tennessee. The land is on top of a ridge with about a 30 degree slope facing South down to the road. The soil is mostly rocky, and has not been cultivated in probably forty years – at least back in the sixties before my grandfather became too ill to farm it (it was part of my grandfather’s land). There’s a lot of overgrowth, leaves, etc….in the area I have cleared. When I plow up this ground, what should I do to eliminate the acidity of the soil and build up the nutrients? I grow a lot of hot peppers. The top soil doesn’t have a lot of clay, and once I get down under the black dirt, it is fairly loose due to the limestone content. I don’t want to overdo it. Hope you can help.

I suggest that you put down a light layer of dry humate at a rate of about 10 – 15 pounds per 1000 sq feet. Also, I’d put down some rock powders such as lava sand or one of the blended products such as vulcanite. This goes down at a rate of about 40 pounds per 1000 sq feet. Lastly, you could put down some dry molasses at a rate of 5 pounds per 1000 sq feet.

If that slope is really 30 degrees, please don’t plow it. The soil will erode terribly. Call your soil conservation district and ask what their recommendations are. Depending on the soil type, they may tell you not to plow anything over 15 percent. I forget the mathmatical relationship between percent and degrees, but a 100 percent slope is only 45 degrees, so that 30 degree slope of yours is mighty steep for even walking on, let alone plowing. Tenessee suffered terribly from erosion in the past. I think that may be one of the reasons for the formation of the TVA (not that it practices perfect soil management). We know so much more about soil management now that it doesn’t pay to repeat the same mistakes.