knarf wrote: This almost seems too good to be true. I'm going to try to put this to use here in Utah when I buy a house. I think we get a bit more rainfall than Missoula, so I'm excited to see how well it works.
Irrigation is a huge concern for me. I want to basically turn my whole property (which I hope to be 0.25-0.33 acre) into an edible forest. Right now, I have no idea how to do so without 800 or so gallons of irrigation per day. That ain't permaculture, baby!
I'm reading through Gaia's Garden, which boasts that people in arid regions like New Mexico have been able to create lush edible forests with very little irrigation. I don't know how they're doing it! If plants require an inch of rainfall per week, then that means a lot of irrigation for an area that only gets 17" per year (much of which is in the winter).
Hopefully, this method will help.
Is it sustainable? If everyone in suburban America created a hugelkulture bed, would it devastate our forests?
Also, how long does it last?
Good to see another permaculturist nearby. I understand your concern, drought and heat are major factors here.
Some of it is adapting to our climate and using drought-tolerant plants and crops and general water-conservation/harvesting techniques.
If thinking of growing maize, I'd think that the varieties from areas with climates similar to ours would prove more hardy and more likely to be drought-resistant or heat-tolerant. Some gardening advice commonly heard is also not great advice. Last summer I didn't water my tomatoes much (once every 2-3 weeks) and they turned out much tastier than if I did. They went through days of 100+ F weather just fine. Also, I planted them deeply when they were transplants, burying them about an additional 5-6 inches under the soil with tops out, so they could grow additional roots. By not watering often and when you do watering deeply, you will train the plants to dig deep and search hard for moisture and minerals. This is better for them in the long run.
Also, mulch, mulch, mulch. Makes a huge difference.
Hugelkultur has the advantage of filling the planting bed with the best kind of organic material. Woody stuff makes for a lot of humus, and a lot of humus makes for great water-holding capacity. What I'm doing right now is basically hugelkultur. Lots of broken branches, leaves, etc. collected from my silver maples, wood chips, bark, etc. mixed in with my clay soil. So far the raised bed garden's at about 2 feet deep of this mix and being worked in its 3rd year. Every week I'm getting more organic matter and working it into the garden when the weather allows. (In the first year I had about 6-8 inches of mostly clay in my raised bed garden. Not good.)
Lucky for you. You should take a strong look at herbs if you aren't already. I'm sure the kids would be thrilled with fragrant herbs and flowers. Many are from Mediterranean regions, like rosemary, lavender,fennel, thyme, oregano, marjoram, sage, and bay. Others can be grown without fear with the year-round warmth like lemongrass, basil, etc. Pistachios, almonds, figs, etc. are some trees that come to mind.
For a drought-tolerant legume, perhaps you could look at certain varieties of sub clover:
I notice it handles the heat, dry spells out here, my crappy lawn soil, and is popular in Australia as a fodder crop, and furthermore, is also shade-tolerant and self-seeding. It grows where white clover won't.
btw, although clay by itself can be a problem, clay amended can be a major boon. Oh and make sure to provide drainage for certain plants like rosemary, thyme, and lavender. They don't handle wet feet well.
Ludi Ludi wrote: I have literally tons of rocks in my garden. I'm digging them out to replace with hugelkultur beds. I'm piling the excavated rocks on the downhill side of the garden. What are some ideas of how I can use these rocks in the most beneficial way for my garden in a usually dry, sometimes flooding, hot in the summer, usually mild winter, climate? Can rocks mitigate temperature extremes - that is, can they keep it from getting as hot as well as cold?
Interested in your ideas for using many many rocks in and around the garden!
Use them to stabilize slopes, grow certain herbs like lavender, rosemary, and thyme which seem to thrive in rocky ground, modulate temperatures, etc. Sepp Holzer is a genius with this.
Troy, I was going to mention this as well. I've noticed when digging up plants and watching trees roots as I'm digging that they actually *like* to wrap their roots around rocks and crack them. Now that I understand the role of soil microbes and mycorrhizae, I think there's a very good reason for this. We have nothing to fear from rocks. They become soil.
I am interested in brushing up on soil organisms and their roles in the nutrient cycle. Specifically, I'm interested in how various organisms interact with minerals, organic matter, and other life forms in the soil, and during their life cycles, how and what nutrients they make available to plants...nutrients that might otherwise be locked up (or unavailable). Also, it is my understanding that some of the more well known and necessary nutrients, even if present in the soil, may still be unavailable to the plants if certain trace minerals are absent, or in insufficient or excessive quantities.
If anyone has any thoughts on this topic that they would like to share (or recommended books, videos, articles, etc.), I would love to hear about them.
Soil organisms are the nutrient cycle, are the fertility, are the key to healthy soils and healthy plants. They are the unseen, unsung partners in a vast web of life which we're only scratching the surface of.
Troy wrote: Horizon Herbs offers Bocking 14 roots for a good price. They have a few different quantities, but here is a link for 20 live roots (could probably be divided even further, knowing comfrey's ambitious nature): http://www.horizonherbs.com/product.asp?specific=1606
ediblecities wrote: I actually wanted to start the same thread. It is said too, that they love to be mulched with their own leaves.
I realized that tomatoes like to be grown messy and that they hate to be tied on a stake.
Tomato leaves make for a rich mulch and happy tomato plants. I remember reading in a book that the leaves are rather rich in minerals, and this seems true to me, as the roots can run deep, thick, and everywhere, sucking up a lot of good stuff out of the ground. I have planted tomatoes in the same place now for a couple years now, and I recycle their leaves there. No problems yet. I'm already preparing that part of the garden again for this year's tomatoes.
Scott Reil wrote: Mongolian nomads move the food production with them when they go because of the herding nature of their existance. When you have thousands of miles of empty step you can do that. Try it on Manhattan. Or Boise, even. Romantic, but impractical.
If we are to to sustain current population (let alone more people) and maintain a healthy ecosystem that provides necessary services (atmospheric recycling, water purification, carbon storage), we must shift to a less consumptive, more agrarian society that values quality food production of mostly plant sourced nutrition. Agriculture means ssettleing down; has since the very beginning. You might go as far as prot-farming in the New Guinean tradition (a style of agriculture virtually unchanged in 5000 years must have SOMETHING going for it), but even that restricts the population to a certain size (the population in New Guinea has not changed a whole lot in centuries either).
I think Bill and Dave had the right idea, and that's why I am here. Become part of the land; this lies at the root of permaculture. Can't do that moving about.
One man's opinion.
Fukuoka once discussed this and some numbers in his books... I don't recall all of them. Perhaps something like 20-30 billion if we're mostly vegetarians/vegans. (Whether we want to live in such a congested world is another issue--I sure don't.) It appears that the earth is having great difficulty sustaining our current numbers and eating habits, and I don't know if it would be able to sustain a largely carnivorous 7-10 billion in the near future. Let us say I have some serious doubts.
Len wrote: But if you don't have a truck to move the food to you, it makes more sense to be close to where the food is. If you grow your own, you have to stay in one place while it grows, but if you gather, you must move to where the fresh food is. Best animal raising seems to be moving them often too.
No, it's fine, Rose. I've been looking over your other thread and the information in that is fantastic. Almost too much for me to take in at the moment. I will try to purchase and have the books you mentioned sent to me for study. Thank you so much for the references and firsthand knowledge.
Around the lake, there is not much natural cover, and what plant cover exists consists mainly of invasive/alien plant species. Maybe it doesn't matter. The lake is dead and full of alien carp too. We have a saying, that the first settlers might "make the desert bloom as the rose," except I came to realize they made the desert.
It's my understanding that much or perhaps most of Spain used to be covered in mixed oak forests before the time of the Romans and other ancient settlers. Perhaps it is not such a strange thing to want the land to be covered again. I believe that fire management and the fight against desertification can go hand in hand, if we focus on ways to "water" the land more effectively and get the proper plants and trees in to maintain the water cycle. We have many problems with large wildfires here in the American West. I have seen several huge wildfires close by my city and in the mountains, and now we have wildfires almost every summer, due to invasive grasses which burn hotter and faster than the native vegetation. Also, we have killed and driven away most of the herbivores that would help clean up and control dry grasses, brush, etc. so that fuel loads build up to tremendous levels, just waiting to ignite in our dry and hot 42-45 degree C summers. The whole situation is a mess and a waste of money and manpower.
As long as some people care and remember, the old ways will stay alive. I hope that more people will see the value of pasture and naturally fed animals too. All my readings and personal experience (taste tests!) lead me to believe they are superior as well.
rose macaskie wrote: I have been whatching the video on you tube, Fukuoka in greece in which he says that rain comes from the earth not the sky and i thought that would be a good title for a thread here on these forums. He says what bill mollison says that spores bring rain. I have to cheque that one out in bill mollisons videos and fukuolas. In biology i learnt that rain forms round a mote of dust and i have photos of cars heavily coverd in fine san dafter the rain in Madrid, you can tell its earth it is s andy colored or reddish earth colored, so spores or a mote of dust. I have always, it seems to me, heard that trees bring rain, I have made up my own reasons for this. I throw the theme out here for others to stuff their own bits of fact or comment into it. agri rose macaskie.
As long as you're not taking away native plants/animals from the area, I think it's absolutely awesome! The microbial richness and diversity of that old redwood forest must be amazing. I am very, very jealous. I studied microbiology in college, so "wee beasties" make me happy.
dave brenneman wrote: My partner and I had a conversation last night while preparing dinner - would we prefer local over organic? Farmer's market to support local businesses, or big supermarket for the organic version?
When I read the linked article, I liked what Gene had to say:
"Why not just tell one's customers exactly how you produce your food including when, if ever, you use non-organic materials. Then let the customer decide. This can work effectively on a small scale where a farmer is selling his or her own personal food to his own regular customers. As soon as the larger company is selling food from many sources, that kind of verification is not trustworthy to me no matter how many rules and regulations are supposed to be in effect."
Local and organic can go hand in hand. I think there is much thought that needs to go into shipping and transportation of food in the near future. Currently it requires too many oil calories.
And more on the poop at hand, it makes me sick when I think of the millions of tons of waste that must flow out to rivers, lakes, and the sea each day. The land and the people pay a heavy price for our wasteful treatment of waste.
rose macaskie wrote: Maikertu, My son decided to whatch all films in english and that helped his english, maybe you can whatch films in spanish. I dont know that it is a good book list it is the books i know of ion the theme in spanish, I have not made it my job to make sure i know the best books in Spanish on ht etheme. It i sjust some boooks in spanisyh on the topic. I used to have one agricultural book shop in the street that this one leads off and another one one door away from my mother in laws, it is as if some force had put me down next to all the agricaltural book shops of madrid i live in the very centre of madrid it is not to be expected tha ttheir should be an agricutural bok shop at every street corner of the capital of a big city unless it is near a university and the university book shops are not on my main fod shopping routes, my interest in reducing desertification and the books shops i needed put just within such easy reach of me as a house keeper was enough to make me believe in magic. They have all shut down know. Paul wheaton knows i go wildly anti catholic though i was bought up cahtolic but without knowing the sort of catholicism they serve out to adults, which is a lot more frightening than the one they serve out to children, so having me write a bit in spanish which makes it hard for him to know what i am up to must be a bit nerve racking for him. I only write inflamatory stuff on his site in english, that is open to his control, on his site at any rate. agri rose macakskie.
I live in a desert area and so I also have an interest in reducing and reversing desertification. I have gone through a lot of revelations over the past couple years while I've been researching my area of the US West and permaculture. Until a few years ago, I was not aware that my area used to be desert prairie and there used to be extensive forests located around my local lake, for example. However, the former forest around the lake was recorded by a Spanish priest as he traveled through the area in the 1700s. Now the land around the lake is utterly barren and horrid, and most people do not care, which makes me feel very sad. They are interested in building houses and vacation homes around the lake. The effects of plowing for agriculture and overgrazing of cattle have done much to destroy and make the land more like desert. I believe the way forward is through right knowledge and right action.
Do you know of books which focus on la dehesa of Portugal and Spain? I am particularly interested in this farming style. Also your books on Mediterranean plants are useful. I am trying to identify and learn from the best sustainable farming systems. I believe the way to the future is one through right knowledge and right action.
I can roughly follow your posts in Spanish. I need much more practice, I know, and so my girlfriend tells me.
Do not worry. My background is in science. I believe more in the commonality and potential of the human spirit. We should not think of ourselves but for the generations that follow. If anything, that is the driving force for what I believe in now.
Very useful book list. Rose, muchas gracias. You always make references to such interesting books that are in Spanish but I've never seen available here. My Spanish isn't good, but my girlfriend is fluent and I'm sure can help me in my studies.
Travis Philp wrote: Not that this is conclusive but...I occasionally find worms in my potted plants (with perlite in the mix), alive and well.
I'd stay away from perlite use beyond potting mixes though. It's a mined aggregate...not so green IMO. You're on the right track with the bark mulch. Have you thought about bio char? there's info about it on this site.
Good to hear. Yes, I'm not really a fan of it, but I've noticed the plants in my perlite potting mixes usually thriving and even getting little mushrooms coming up happily (inoculated by the compost tea?) as I get super-sized plants.
I remember discussing this with one of my buddies who's a permie, and I think he was a great fan of it for garden soil use, but I know that it requires a lot of energy to produce perlite, and I agree with you, doesn't sound sustainable. Then again, a lot of garden supplies and materials are totally unsustainable/wasteful but sometimes we may make allowances. I have been putting in biochar with compost into the garden. Worms thrive in it, but it needs a little while to cure over the winter. It's still a little fresh, but has been inoculated with compost tea and other nutrient sources. I'll skip using the perlite in the garden.
With the downed maple tree branches I've had this winter from wild winds and heavy snow perhaps I can get some hugelkultur action going on. I've been piling up stuff all winter long and feeding the worms. I really need more of them to work this soil over good.
I've been using biochar for a couple years, but mostly indoors and with different mixes. I know where it hits its sweet spot. Miraculous stuff.
Ninajay wrote: Okay, I'm back with results, if anyone is still interested Took "a while" cause been too busy gardening It appears that the field I'm talking about is app. half clay and half sand. At least so it looks to me in the sample that I took as suggested above.
As summer goes on the situation just looks worse. Lots of cracks, stone hard ground.
It's a tough spot this field. I tried planting hazelnuts in on corner of it. Dug large holes for them and tried to make things nicer for the roots by adding horse manure and peat plus ash to the soil in the planting hole. I also built a wind break all around the hazelnuts as the field is very exposed and windy. But the hazelnuts did not seem to like it there and after a month of waiting I rescued them, ie. dug them out.
I've also sown a few rows of a robust bean species (Vicia faba hangdown, don't know what's it called in English), few rows of a certain pea species and a small area of "green manure" seed mixture. The Vicia faba hangdown is doing reasonably although looking quite thin in comparison with the huge ones I have in my garden. The green manure clover mixture and the peas are growing really slow despite regular watering. But there are no weed problems either as this spot is too tough for weeds too!
Now I'm wondering what to do with this land. The neighbour does not want it back on rent (I asked) so I won't have to worry about taking this field out of production
There are too main problems: the seriously compacted clay soil and the exposed location. The latter being maybe the more difficult to fix. It's too large an area to plant a living windbreak. There aren't many wind break trees that would do well there anyway. I tried Siberian pea but out of 10 only 1 is alive at the moment... I did leave the planting rather late so that might explain this. But anyway the area is 140 m x 50 m. I would need at least 190 meters of wind break (north side 140 m, east side 50 m) and it would probably be best to have a wind break also on the west side, another 50 m. It is VERY windy and the prevailing winds are from north and from west. The field is also on a slope. The eastern side tends to dry out as it's the highest point. To the north there are the neighbour's huge wheat fields. The western end is near a river which floods every spring so this end of the field is under water until May. Oh and the location is Southern Finland in case I haven't mentioned before.
Grow vigorous, deep-rooted vegetables or plants to break up the soil and create holes which allow air and water in. After they are harvested or die, they will further enrich the soil with organic matter. This will stimulate soil life and gradually improve soil texture.
New here though I've been reading the forums for the last half year.
I have a question concerning the use of perlite in garden soil: if added, will it harm or irritate earthworms since perlite is popped glass and has some tiny sharp edges? I have not been using perlite extensively except in potting mixtures, where its water-holding capacity and soil loosening and aeration is very useful. However, in the ongoing crusade to improve my raised garden's soil, I've been considering it. My usual amendments include wood chips and bark mulch which has done much to improve the hard grey clay soil. I have a fast-growing earthworm population in the garden, since I transplanted them in and have been caring for them. But living here in the desert, I've been trying to get my garden to retain more water during the long hot and dry summers. Greenie part of me has concerns.