Location: Foothills north of L.A., zone 9ish mediterranean
posted 6 years ago
When I lived at Heartwood Institute up in N. California almost 20 years ago they were dry farming corn down at the bottom of the hill. I suspect it was more of an ethic of being able to grow crops without irrigation, rather than aiming for sweetness. I was not at all involved with the effort, so can't give any details. Anyway, it was a thing back then.
yeah dry farming is definitely a common thing here, however you must realize that a lot of northern california is rainforest.
it rains for six months out of the year, almost every day.
in those parts theres people who are into dry farming, but a major part of it is using mulch and other methods to hold the abundant rainfall during the wet seasons, to be utilized by the plants during the dry season. and they also like textures and hills....
i dont do dry farming, i sometimes water, but only during the most dry times. half the year theres no need to use any water...at least in the rainy parts of northern cal.
I can't speak to California, but I have had fairly extensive experience dry farming in Washington State (the wet side of it though to be sure).
On a total of about 30 acres we where farming 3/4 of the land without irrigation. This included all of our potatoes, onions, and head lettuce. The most important thing in (dry) farming (in my opinion) is to be able to read your land and select crops appropriately . The land we were dry farming was mostly bottom land in the center of valleys. One was an extent of rocky silt which quite obviously was a stream bed since the end of the last ice age.
The other was a large area of peat which sat on top of a large aquifer. When we ran the tractor atop it you could feel the whole field shake. Both of these sites had natural subsoil irrigation. I would be happy to comment more and I could probably answer further questions if you have any for me.
I know that people dry farm in warmer areas of Cali like Yolo county and Sacramento county. These are true Mediterranean climates. They have been dry farming in the Mediterranean region for 1000s of years. 90% of our rain comes in 3 or at most 4 months out of the year.
I live in the Sierra Nevada foothills, we get rain from October to may ( sometimes) and the rest of the year not a drop. I have access to water but don't use it for some crops. Garlics, onions, wheat, barley, dry corn, sunflower, chard, potato, beets, carrot, and a few more are dry farmed and only grown on the last winters rain. from there I irrigate by flooding swale and terrace systems once in mid July to keep tomatoes and peppers going along with a few other things. They could survive without but yield goes way down. From there they go without water until about now ( early september)where I water one more time to get fall/winter seedlings going( garlics, lettuce, kale, cabbage, onion, chard, chicory, etc...) from there rain usually comes in October and takes everything on until next summer.
A huge number of tree/shrub crops can be dryfarmed with underlying annuals.
Around here it's very location dependent. One valley has this hard clay soil and this bedrock, while just on the otherside it's an annual floodplain with deep topsoil. Which just means you grow a different set of plants/crops.
Dry farming is fun but has advantages.
The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings. - Masanobu Fukuoka
To my knowledge you can dry farm wheat in the winter in the Central Valley because we get our rain during the winter. I dry farmed fava beans during the winter for the same reason, but that was only because we had El Nino to help. During a drought year, not too sure. All best are off after May.
Landon Sunrich wrote:On a total of about 30 acres we where farming 3/4 of the land without irrigation. This included all of our potatoes, onions, and head lettuce.
Both of these sites had natural subsoil irrigation. I would be happy to comment more and I could probably answer further questions if you have any for me.
Hi Landon, I hope you are well, and still around! I'd love to hear more about dry farming lettuce and onions, specifically. I'm in Western Washington, and have never heard of anyone dry farming lettuce!
And I'd also love to learn more about your natural subsoil irrigation, and how densely you planted your crops to take advantage of it without stressing it too much. Thanks for anything you can share!