First, the pond questions:
I'm in central Arizona here and I'm constructing a small (roughly about 20'x8') pond that I plan to be 7ft deep in the center. The first question I have is what will be the best way to seal it with a gley method; I was thinking about using pigs like Sepp has done, but I heard that they can take nearly 6 months to seal a pond and I want to get it sealed at least within a few weeks to focus some monsoon rains to the pond. Though, since my pond is fairly small do you think that using pigs would be much quicker? Also, could ducks or goats possibly replace the pigs for this? I'll need some ducks to aerate the pond a bit once it's established anyway and I already have goats.
Then, the hugelkultur question:
What do you think of making a hugelkultur mound/dirt mound/woody bed 7' downhill from my swale berms so as to better protect my trees and make a slightly cooler micro climate? Could there be drawbacks to this? I have already constructed three swales on my land and I'm not sure what to do with all the extra dirt from the pond that I've gotten thus far, so for now it's just piled up around the area for the pond.
Soil: clay and gravely clay
Climate: arid desert
The method for sealing the pond really depends on the geology of your site. What is the parent material? Is there a flow of water? Is this in a key point? Is there a natural clay layer?
The most regenerative would be to build a key way dam at the key point of a valley, tied into the parent clay layer. This provides the most water stored per cubic foot of earth moved. How big is your catchment and what is your precipitation and evaporation? Pigs do a great job making ponds but they won't be able to seal sand. What resources are readily available? Ducks certainly help seal up a body of water as well, but do their best work in very shallow water.
The hugelkultur could certainly work but again this is situation dependent. Without knowing your climate and geology I would just be making up a situation in my head to answer with any more detail. Can the overburden be used to create a berm to shelter growing areas from the harshest weather?
Hugelkultur is often treated as a modular permaculture solution for all properties, but this is just not the case. I have been involved with 7 sites that Sepp has visited in North America, only 2 has he recommended Hugelkultur for the project. Hugelkulturs have been created at more workshops than those two but most just because of the demand from the students and the limits on the landowner to do anything else.
Zach, Im wanting to create a crater garden using my stagnant pond 27'x10' by 3' deep to create a micro climate to grow lots of fruits and vegetables.
Can I do this without making the pond deeper? Most of my pond is in shade ( shaded by tall evergreens) is this a problem? I can cut down a few firs and hemlocks if this is necessary. My property is very much like Sepp's property, hilly and rugged but similar in climatic conditions. If Sepp can grow lemons, I want to do that too! Do you think I can use my pond and a few raised beds to achieve my dream of growing tropical fruits, trees and berries?
I need to learn lots from Sepp Holzer and from you. Jane
Hi Jane, in order to build up terraces and berms for a crater garden you have to take the material from somewhere. The material you remove is what helps make a depression for a nice protected micro-climate. So if you want to turn your pond into a crater garden this could not be done without making the pond deeper or moving material from somewhere else. If it is already a pond then it may be best to just make it a bigger pond and receive the micro-climate benefits from this. Water retention affects the climate for an area roughly 20 times the volume of the body of water.
In order to store the energy from the sun you need good solar access. Shade can provide it's own advantage in certain climates but if you want to maximize your micro-climate you need to get as much sun into the garden as you can. If you are in a hot dry place the shade may be an advantage, it is all climate condition and desire dependent.
Just to clarify citrus is quite frost tolerant compared to true tropical fruits. Many tropical, such as banana, undergo the physiological process of freezing even above freezing, something around 40 degrees for Bananas. They also often have minimum daylight hour requirements that will prevent them from fruiting in northern climates. Citrus are very forgiving with regard to these requirements, which is why they are a good choice for stretching the possibilities for cold climates.
The parent material in the pond area is mainly clay, but there is a little sand in a few areas. There isn't a constant flow of water, but since the pond is in the lowest part of my land it receives a fair amount of water during rain events and in just this past monsoon rain the water was nearly 2 ft deep in the parts that I have dug out already. As for resources to help seal I have manure from chickens and goats as well as some old vegetable scraps every now and then. Also, the climate here is fairly similar to most of central Arizona in that it gets to 110 F in the summer and down to 35 F in the winter with an occasional freeze. Though, unlike the town of Florence I'm about 500 ft higher in elevation and it is more windy and a little cooler. It does seem like hugelkultur isn't a very good idea here too because the one 4 ft mound I have now dries out quite a bit on most of it, but it does shade the swale behind it from the sun in the west and looks like it will provide good shelter from the heat and wind.
Soil: clay and gravely clay
Climate: arid desert
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