In Daron and my neck of the woods, the natural development of soil following disturbance is often through fast growing nitrogen fixing trees like red alder.
Ecologists talk about primary succession (from rock) and secondary succession (colonization of empty spaces following a disturbance like wind, flood, or fire). Theories like succession seem to suggest an orderly sequence, are currently replaced in the vegetation ecology literature by more complicated views of vegetation development, like "assembly theory" in which lots of different factors determine who comes, and what happens next.
In a permaculture design, the gardener becomes a source of continuous disturbance and dispersal. So we are working within an ecological framework, and thinking about disturbance and colonization, but are no longer sitting by and waiting for things to happen. We bring in abundant nitrogen fixers and tap rooted species, and accelerate the pulsing of growth and decay.
And yes... if you plant a fussy tree on bad soil with no subsidy of any kind, it will suffer. Sometimes nutrients (manures etc...) are used to replace the services of healthy soil temporarily, until successional dynamics kick in.
Unless you are managing sward for cutting, "too much brown" is a common problem in most ecosytems. If it is leaves you are lucky.
Particle size governs decomposition rate in addition to nitrogen. If you don't use a chipper, a sharp machete (fine single cut file) is a great tool for processing coarse mulch. A dull machete is not. I add urine directly to coarse woody mulch piles. This is a coarse rural "look". I generally make "compost piles" in locations for future plantings.
Look like hybrid tea to me. These are show horses not work horses. However, cut flowers in an urban area may have more ROI than food (self serve bouquet stand?). Roses like drier climate than ours, so good air circulation is important in PDX. Prune to outward buds, maintain an open vase shape. However, no irrigation, and you may see powdery mildew from drought stress. Mulch heavily. Black spot (bacterial) is the other common affliction, and varieties vary heavily in susceptibility. Complementary species will be low to not reduce air circulation, and maybe aromatic to reduce disease, and perhaps build on the cut flower harvest (lavender, thyme, bulbs, etc..)
Walters. Weeds: Control without Poison, has some interesting ideas. It is part of the Albrecht, Acres USA diaspora.
There are some good basic analysis about soil saturation in the wetland delineation literature.. the USDA PLANTS database has a regional wetland indicator code that is used to delineate wetlands. That is relatively data driven and based on lots of observations, and it shifts based on region.
There are indiciator species in the Veg Ecology literature... Klinka and Krajina out of BC for example has a Indicator Plants of Coastal British Columbia... http://www.ubcpress.com/search/title_book.asp?BookID=1443 nice and expensive... They only differentiated among four axes... and don't get into plant presence of vigor predicting soil composition.
The problem is that what a plant indicates differs by climate. A plant that might indicate dry conditions in the PNW might indicate wet conditions in California. Climate and resulting pH affects nutrient patterns. I have looked for the basis for all the claims of plant indicators... I've seen some of those lists, and I can't help but wonder... how do they know this? What is this based on? My faith is generally low when someone tells me of a clear cut species-soil condition correlation... there are just too many factors affecting what grows--I've seen veg structure shift so much over time through succession or based on 'founder effects' (who got there first).
I suspect you goal is to grow plants sustainability... is it working? If you are getting good performance, than reaching a numerical ideal might not be important. I suspect that how soil nutrient analysis leads to individual plant healthy is actually less accurate, precise, and direct than the numbers might suggest. Different plants will respond differently, and no soil is perfect for all plants. Soil amendment suggestions are loaded with assumptions and generalizations.
My understanding is that when CEC is high and pH near neutral, that means there are lots of cations available, and so the exact balance of cations becomes less critical that were CEC to be low (sandier siltier soils). I have never heard of anyone wanting to reduce CEC... usually its the other way around.
The way we tinker with Ca:Mg balance around here is in the ratio of Carbonate Lime to Dolomite Lime... and that is because we are liming regularly to manage pH in leached soils... what is your pH, as that will affect how you tinker with cation balance. (sorry can't help you much there.. but I bet the sulfate based rock are more in line... SulPoMag, Gypsum... etc.
I am trying to find any practical information about design and construction of "solar closets".
This is essentially a very flat greenhouse with maximum glazing and thermal mass, but no space for residing. Its designed purely to get hot, and store that heat in thermal mass. It seems to be a solution for intermittently sunny climates where you can't afford a lot of glazing due to heat loss during cloudy days, and you can't afford or don't want a full greenhouse (I don't like the humidity bump from using a greenhouse both for growing and for heating, and so I'd rather spend on a hoop house, and use a solar closet for heating).
I am deconstructing a rotting sunroom in my c. 1982 passive solar house, and have some large windows and thermal mass in a good position, but cannot afford to rebuild a sunroom, but am loathe to give up the solar gain.
At risk of reiterating the good comments before... it depends on what the species is adapted to growing in at its "day job"
*Big seeds (chestnut) might love germinating under and pushing through a leaf mold.
*I have and no success sowing into wood chip mulch, even with native forest species.
*Straw on top can work well for maintaining dead air space that reduces evaporation, that increases chance of germination, particularly during dry season. I am talking about 50-75% coverage of soil looking down.
*Good seed soil contact (however achieved) is beneficial (I have seen grass seed germinate at 10x the rate in my footprints on a seed bed!)
*Seed recruitment is a tough business, and some kind of disturbance increases recruitment rate.
*Bird dispersed species may be better adapted to recruiting in herbaceous competition when scarified pelleted and fall spread... no experience here...
I think a scythe/kama/rice knife combo is far superior to line trimmers for a variety of reasons discussed elsewhere.
I think management regime (disturbance) drives polyculture composition... by this reckoning I have four patch types conceptually.
Patches that are frequently tilled and sown (annuals, biennials and roots)
Patches that are cut to the ground at least once a year to produce mulch. (competitors like mint oregano, comfrey, etc. mixed with wild strawberry like opportunists)
Patches were mulch is imported from type two to influence composition (stress tolerators that can't survive my system without help... sage, lavender etc.. or late summer perennials like ecinacea.
Patches where I do nothing..
I have found everbearing strawberries do poorly without work compared to june bearing. In general I think ecologically of strawberry in a natural system as a plant that creeps around filling cracks opportunistically, but cannot compete with competitors, so it does well with frequent patchy disturbance in winter, rebounding to fill space in spring. We do the work of introducing it to bare sites periodically and weeding to push up the yield. I think of white clover as having a similar habit... thriving when more robust competitors are knocked back. I suspect they would mix and share nitch, and you'd get a lower strawberry yield over time. I know that in continuous intensive strawberry cultivation there are soil fungus issues, particularly on less sandy sites, so you are looking at some kind of rotation for intensive cultivation anyway. Just some random thoughts.. only fragments of experience... no one else was taking the bait.
It might not just be bacteria, but most woody plants have fungal associates that improve fitness. I had an acquaintance with a grower who when gathering seeds would pull up a root and strip the rhizosphere soil into the seed bag with the seed, bringing it back to the nursery to inoculate the future potted stock.
Hey John. I think your magical google term is "broadfork". It does what it does, essentially physically fracturing soils to 12-18 depth. I liked doing it in late winter, to create pathways for spring root growth (or so I imagined having not spent much time underground.) I suspect it might be a good treatment for a few years, but become less necessary, as root mass occupies that strata. There are starting to be local manufacturers.
Your soil parent material (as expressed in the sub-soil) may drive species composition toward a particular mix in a way that may not entirely be manipulable. Because I have rich moist soil, I suspect I will always have buttercup looking for a foothold. It makes my site the kind of place where you need to be a thug (big fast growing) to survive, OR I do work to protect the smaller slower species.
I have donor sites for biomass (mixed meadows that I cut in May) that I pile on site (where I want a future planting site), and use through the season to selectively mulch. This has ramped up my ability to shift composition beyond just chop and drop.
I am increasingly organizing my understory into units with different purposes. Some places are purely for mulch production (cut and carry or chop and drop), other patches are occupied by plants that require mulch import to be competitive (dryland herbs on my site). Other sites are mixes of plants that are competitive,
I just got a net fencing so I can move my egg flock anywhere on the property. I am excited to see what chickens do at broadscale (I bet timing has an effect) or when concentrated and combined with mulch import.
No question in my mind that the European scythe is the best tool at larger scales and for any material up to one year raspberry size. With skill you can work in pretty small spaces, you are upright, and can mow large areas close to the ground.. so it is good for both chop and drop, and cut and carry if you are importing or hoarding biomass. It requires skill both in use and sharpening (peening and honing). It is well worth the reward.
As soon as you get woody, I switch to a machette, or japanese brush axe (Nobori Kama) on a longer haft. There are increasingly few situations where I would choose these over a scythe with a ditch blade (shorter and heavier).
In smaller space I step down to the a japanese sickle (kama) or a rice knife, but it is amazing where you can get with a scythe, this is really for the hand work between plants, and then I usually just dump mulch on top that I have cut elsewhere with a scythe.
In all cases, regular and thorough sharpening is absolutely critical (if you value your effort)... medium and fine grit scythe stones for most tools, except the machete which takes a fine single cut file.
This is after 20 years as a landscaper, but now managing my current acre with scything as occasional exercise. I have tried just about every tool I could find, and I really value my effort and my back.
We've used sticks of re-bar pounded into the ground using a 1/2 galvanized pipe capped at one end as a stake pounder... corners have rebar braces at an angle, attached with zip-ties (or old bits of wire if you are on that kind of budget). The fun part is getting the pipe-pounder off the rebar once you have it at the depth you want... zing... up in the air the pipe is flung. We have used deer fence, however any of the other materials described above could work. Re-bar comes out of the ground more easily and are cheaper than t-stakes. We use rebar for a wide variety of temporary uses. The texture makes it a superior climbing structure for vines. It seems like it might have the least embedded energy for a metal product, and 10' sticks are very reusable and easy to store. You could also use rebar as a foundation, with bamboo over the top.
Any wisdom or lessons learned about electric net fencing technology.
How does it work in incessant rain?
Different kind of energizer specs?
Double spike of single spike?
Integral posts or otherwise?
Height with or without wing clipping?
Are there different grades of fencing out there?
Hey folks... Arbutus Folk School had to cancel their scything workshop with the celebrated Alexander Vido... so I decided to offer a quick workshop so that those interested in scythes could get a hands on chance to learn a little.
Introduction to the Scythe
and other uncomfortably sharp tools
Sunday, May 11
1:00 - 3:00 PM
Limit of 6 people
$10 or Plant Donation
workshop located in a quiet field 6 miles out South Bay Road
RSVP to Paul Cereghino at firstname.lastname@example.org Let me know if you'll need help setting up a new kit
Are you interested in mowing swaths of tall grass while listening to birds sing? Would you like to have a wild patch of meadow for harvesting hay, mulch, or bedding. The Austrian sycthe is a beautifully constructed, remarkably efficient hand tool that will change how you think about grass growing. You can mow meadow of any height in the rain or sun and cuttings are left in a tidy windrow. May is a perfect time for mowing the sward.
Sadly Alexander Vito didn't get enough students to make it down to Olympia. This workshop is an impromptu effort to provide Olympians with a quick hands on introduction to field sharpening and using an austrian-style scythe. I have been mowing our acre with a scythe for 4 years, and have a lovely field that is ready to mow, but only have one scythe to share, so bring your own if you have it. I'll also introduce other interesting tools like a kama, japanese brush hook and axe, rice knife, and machette.
Some quick thoughts...
*Alder stands can be managed for saw logs, lots of thinning, as doghair stands can be vulnerable to wind and ice. Markets determine if Alder saw logs are worth anything.
*Red alder (Alnus rubra) which I assume you have, doesn't stump sprout reliably, which makes it a poor coppice plant.
*The wood is great fuel, and also is the native host to oyster mushrooms (and so could support other mushrooms.)
*Wood rots very fast. The bark makes a nice red-brown dye.
*Salal has a nice berry, and the greens have limited value in the floral market as a green (cheap labor required)--salal usually indicates site with good drainage.
*Natural succession in NW usually involves transition to hemlock/cedar/spruce--shade tolerant conifers.... Doug fir requires sun.
*Natural edible understory could include native rubus, huckleberry, salal, nettles, miners lettuce and other spring greens, fiddleheads, mushrooms.
*It is easy to plant more alder patches. You can have a 6" 30 foot tree in 6 years on good soil...I think it is a nice way to transition out of eurasian pasture, as it can tolerate competition with grass and doesn't get hit hard by the deer.
*I wouldn't invest in large fruit under alder... rather use the alder as a woody cover crop, and transition to another crop by clearing the alder in large patches... maybe leave a limbed up standard here or there if you want the log for something later. We have less sun than the tropics for multi-story cropping.
*Alder branch slash piles make nice trellises for trailing vines, and then become nice future planting sites for the next generation of trees.
*My chickens love foraging for bugs in the little alder clump near their coop.
The perennial propagation year cycle better fits the fall to summer schedule than annual vege gardens.
In late summer you are collecting seeds and marking cuttings and divisions when you can ID by leaf. You learn and plan. In fall you can take cuttings, start cold stratifying, collect leaves. In winter you move stuff, take hardwood cuttings, order bare root, take divisions, pot up. In spring you finish moving, potting up, seeding, etc... early summer you end with a plant sale (crazy but traditional in the nursery business which peaks on mother's day), makes some money, and a summer watering schedule to insure survival... do it again next year. The vegetable garden thing is much harder because the heavy season is opposite the school year.
Carrots don't like to move and would be sown in the ground. Beans too, direct sow. That leaves the solanums, which like to have warm ground.. peppers more than tomatoes. They might like a cloche or one of your milk jugs, and that might be enough to ease them into the cold, since they would be going out later anyway... Maybe there is a wall or hut at your plot with a sunny wall, or with an overhang, where the heat of the day lingers, and they could spend some time there before going out... I think the fan is a good idea for indoor grown plants... and as much extra light as you can muster lest they get leggy.
I learned most of these things from other gardeners, or comparing notes on how to grow a plant in different garden books. Local books are best, because they are based on how the species actually interacts wtih local climate, Binda Colebrook's Winter Gardening, Steve Solomon's Growing Vegetables W of Cascades are goto books for my region. The old Rodale Organic Gardening green book is full of ideas. Elliot Coleman's books are rich in tidbits.
An advantage to fava beans is that in a mild climate you can fall plant and overwinter them and then get a crop as the soil dries down... a huge advantage in drylands. J-choke is a good backup food, as you practically ignore them and the keep expanding (in my climate), you might be drier.
The dead bodies of some soil biota may form relatively stable fraction of humus... on the other hand there have been both field and lab experiments that show earthworms accelerate decomposition of surface litter.
There is some compelling evidence that in semi-arid or arid landscapes, intense short duration grazing of cows can accelerate soil development and increase cover (the Savory hypothesis)--I would call this an effect of managing grazing pattern, as other grazing patterns have accelerated desertification.
Beaver create large areas of anoxic soils that result in peat development and increased productivity at a landscape scale.
Moose can arrest forest development, and then wolves can support reforestation by eating moose...
I think this kind of questioning is really valuable. The numbers I have seen is roughly half the sun energy is respired, half is passed as waste, and a fraction retained as tissue--so for each step in a food web you are losing around half to entropy.
The problem is that we can't really stop this process! All captured energy is lost. All systems wind down, particularly in tropical climates where decomposition rates are high with constant temperature and heat. So you DO need to tend to your primary production side.. maximize capture through plant biomass production. That is where perennial plants and forest are so compelling, is in their ability to capture and store energy.
The value of an animal, is that you are leveraging the wind down, by capturing both the animals work, the concentration of nutrients in manure that you can use to drive other processes, and ultimately the animals body, which is derived of material that may otherwise not suit human consumption. Because you MUST have a decomposition cycle that winds down energy content, it is really just a matter of designing that cycle to trap and cycle nutrients and maximize the utility of the work.
Just to rap on the chicken thing... I've had a stronger suppression of existing veg by adding chickens and mulch. To that end, I have cut an area with a scythe, and then concentrated the cuttings with chickens on a smaller area to shift vegetation to a mulched crop. I think the mulch encouraged the scratching and the continuously moved mulch starves the underlying veg for light.
I think the "permie acceptable method" is the one that results in a net increase in ecosystem energy stored over time for you and your situation. I chop and drop, cut and carry, and till depending on circumstance.
And absolutely start building community... I don't say decentralize, but rather start designing human communities that are capable of transforming landscapes. Stay on the good side of the people in your institution that can get you land. Parents can provide skilled labor (and even heavy equipment) depending on you community. Universities, nearby public lands, garden clubs, local nurseries, they are all part of the design. You need to place and position the different people and resources around you in a relationship so that they successfully capture energy and create beneficial infrastructure and relationships. Its just permaculture with people--if you find that you are doing all the work and burning out, slow down and observe the system.
I have settled on woody plant propagation as a business, and as a tool to transform patches of ground as the gateway experience for a variety of reasons.
Systems analysis, particularly of soil-plant systems as the foundation of life on earth, and as a gateway to physics and chemistry is already a core of our curriculum in that age group.
I'd suggest to take a big breath, and start thinking about the 14-15 school year, and how the annual school cycle synchronizes with the cycle of the year. Schools are actually in a powerful position to transform landscapes because your school year is strongly aligned with perennial plant propagation and installation.
Permaculture is just the logical extension of ecological theory to human behavior. You don't need to teach permaculture--you just need to teach ecology as if it really matters how we sustain ourselves and the life of the earth.
I have been trying to figure out how to slide a forage crop into the tail end of a vege crop... something like buckwheat or maybe an interplanting of sunflower, or some other seed producer, just for the birds to get a bonus when they clean up.
I bet once the pond is running you could use it to produce mulch (both floaters and reeds). I have found sustaining permanent mulch takes some work and square footage, and mulch is important for my chickens to really prepare a site for planting. I am finding I need tons and tons of mulch to make this kind of system work. Then the primary input becomes chicken feed and mulch producing land. I have started thinking about growing more mulch crops around any areas where nutrients escape, so they get cut and thrown back in the mix. I wonder about a mulch crop around the edge.
I wonder if the chickens wear down your raised beds? I have found that chickens tend to make everything flat and scattered. I wonder if the raised beds are worth the work... But you need the furrows for irrigation...
I am ending up with something remarkably similar over time. Central chicken home, paddocks around, some become gardens. I also have mulchy food forests to put the chickens in when the timing breaks down such that they are not needed in the annual garden or there is good forage from the woody plants in summer.
I have trouble with perennial weeds in my chicken systems (perhaps I fantasize about no work!) So the making of raised beds might be just the disturbance to break the perennial weed cycles.
I suspect that a lot of good design, or knowing what techniques to employ, or what management units to develop, depends on context.
1) If you have seasonal inundation that affects vegetation and soils you have a "wetland." With a wetland next to a river, I suspect you might have a floodplain wetland. As such it likely has a number of ecological functions that you'd want to explore and preserve, like denitirification, flood storage, groundwater recharge, seasonal wetland habitat services to specific interesting species, etc.
2) Every wetland has water going in (sky, surface, ground), and water going out (same routes). In a floodplain, seasonal high water, lowering after the rainy season makes sense. Your air photo suggest that some of your land might already ditched to some extent, perhaps altering floodplain functions.
3) In general, you floodplain wetlands are the last stop for nutrient removal before your water flows get into the aquatic ecosystem. Perhaps not the best place to start loading nutrients in an intensive aquaculture system, maybe a good place for reed production, or seasonal forage or floodplain forestry, or coppice.
4) I suspect zone matters. If this is far from your zone 1, than forestry, silvopasture, or seasonal foraging, and wildcrafting may be the best use. If this is near your homesite, than maybe more intensive techniques (like chinampas) might makes sense... if you were going to put the labor into chinampas, I expect you'd want a high value crop out of them.
Knowing your ecoregion makes it more interesting. South America + Bananas + Atlantic = Coastal Tropical Brazil? Knowing about that river might be important.
The important extension of this discussion is the concept of embedded energy, or Emergy as described by some authors.
For example the reserves of organic matter in soil represent a historical investment of energy to change the structure of the soil system. Agricultural practices that degrade soil are not only founded on fossil energy And result in the loss of energy stored in organic change in the soil but also reflect a loss of soil structure and composition that was only built through the expenditure of tremendous amounts of energy over a long period of time. So the total loss of energy from useful state or entropy is very high when a system with high embedded energy is lost.
From this perspective the loss of a whole species is a tremendous example of entropy.
Thanks CJ -- I DID changed it based on your suggestion... soon everyone will know where lies Cascadia and the Salish Sea (which is an official international place name adopted by both USA and Canada, soon to be as well known as New England...)
I think some of it depends on if you have clay to work with. Lots of glacial soils don't have enough which increases costs of surface storage. Surface storage is much cheaper than a tank for irrigation if you have a slope. I think in our climate the best first step in Permie Zone 1-2 might be grey water, which goes to waste all summer long. In our climate a lot depends on landscape position.. if you are on a water shedding site, or a water receiving site. If you harvest and store for irrigation, you are getting into water rights issues. Winter diversion and storage may be easier to permit. Capture for percolation or wetland restoration is legal. The historical forested ecosystem had near ZERO runoff... every drop was either evapotranspired or percolated.
On the organic matter pools questions...
Brady & Weil 2008 conceptually divide OM into Structural C and Metabolic C (high N low lignin) verifying the concept of metabolic C not contributing to "Slow and Passive OM pools". However they state that "This active pool provides most of the readily accessible food for soil organisms and most of th the readily meeralizable nitrogen. It is responsible for most of the beneficial effects of structural stability that lead to enhnaced infiltration of water, resistance to erosion and ease of tillage." (sorry about the fast typing). However I suspect this kind of conceptual model might apply most strongly to systems that are constantly disturbed by tillage, such that soils that are less disturbed don't need the level of protection provided by big pools of metabolic carbon to create all the goo to rebuild soil structure... low/no till soil structure remains intact with lower metabolic carbon budgets. Shock grazing and root cutting from ripping/chisel plowing might have a similar effect in loading a recoverying soil with metabolic Carbon.
Nettles, salmonberry, evergreen huckleberry, mushrooms (using both alder and cottonwood.. oysters are easy), fiddleheads, willow for medicine and baskets, miner's lettuce, lapsana, cascara for medicine. If you are growing in a forest, shade, frost, and cold ground will affect your production as much as poor drainage. Mike Dolan at Burnt Ridge Nursery has grafted apple scions to native crab apple root stock. Please don't do bad things to our remaining wetlands... we've lost so many, lots of down logs for salamanders, be gentle and careful. Get to know your water level over time, and learn to identify redoximorphic features. The Himalayan blackberry produce nice fruit (in no shortage regionally but under harvested). It would take a monumental effort to waylay the Ranunculus, and it is fierce ground competition,and spreads rapidly into mulched areas. One other poster reported that the wild European musk strawberry competed well. Blackberry will get shaded out over time... 45m makes you Skagit or Stilly?
For asparagus it is common to buy bare roots from a garden store or catalog and plant at the crack of spring in a deep well prepared bed. Artichokes I have grown from mail order seed, but many garden stores will buy starts. They grow fast in a hot site.
Just south of you... Start winter seedlings in pots around April 1-30 to transplant May 15-June 1. Earlier if you have a warm site in a warm year, later for a cold site in a cold year. Make sure the they get direct sun right up against a south window. Spritz them with water to make them happy inside. You want a hot site in our climate... full sun, warm soil, the mound will do well. You want to let them ripen as long as possible for good storage. Don't let the seedlings get too big in the pot... (no more than 3-4 leaves?) If they are under any stress they'll get panicky and start to produce fruit when they are too little.
All the other ways might work too... I get plenty of wildlings from fruit that have rotted in the garden and sprouted in spring.