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Alex Stone

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since May 16, 2015
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Recent posts by Alex Stone

Firstly, thanks for all the suggestions and shared info about your own patches. After a lot of experimenting, and thought, including a fairly hefty 2 weeks studying water flow,etc, all over my patch, i've decided to go with terracing, with a pond install at the top of the property. (Although i'm the "highest" house on this side of the valley, there's still a fair chunk of mountain feeding me water, when it rains, and particularly when the snow melts.)

We had a sustained period of rain here for about 2 weeks. I was able to quickly dig out a set of test terraces, each 1.5 metres deep, and fill them with some upside down sods and mulched wood/grass/manure. During the last week i carefully monitored water flows, absorption rates, etc, and to my surprise, water retention was better than i expected, and those terraces are still damp, despite the last 3 days being hot and dry.

On top of that, i built up the leading edge of each terrace to about 60cm average. This was enough to direct the strong wind upwards, and create "quiet" pockets on each terrace. Suffice to say the leading edges have now all been planted with low bush varieties to raise this quite zone a little further, without blocking the sun. (Terraces run across the hill north/south so the terraces march down the hill from east (up) to west (down)). I expect the bushes to reach about a metre in height (they're a variety of currant) which will be dense enough and high enough to give me some real opportunities for growing a more varied overall basket of crops.

The hugels in the kitchen garden are doing ok, and i've cut a large tarp length ways and wrapped it around the fence on the windward side. This has helped a great deal, and will suffice until my fruit and windbreak hedges are more mature.

I've also built 2 crescent moon shaped hugels with the open side facing up the hill, for water retention, and the encircled area inside the crescent dug out, down a metre. When these are planted out, and have a season under their belts, i'll have a better idea if this approach is successful. The dug out section will get a layer of clay to try and keep the water as along as possible. The intent is to retain water for the bed itself, and also create a more humid microclimate. Both beds get good sun exposure, and both are built up taller where their backs face the ever present wind.

I have no idea if this will work as i think it will, but i think it's worth a try.

So far so good, and i'm more optimistic i can make this work.

Thanks again for your input,

5 years ago

Dave Dahlsrud wrote:How steep is your land? If you could get the machinery up there you might look at something like a swale system with some fast growing pioneer species planted heavily into the down slope berms. I'm thinking some things like locust, seaberry, clover, the nettle you already have, etc. I wouldn't expect to get much of a harvest until you build up the soil with those pioneers (seaberry will get you something though). If you can integrate some type of livestock into the system you should increase fertility exponentially if properly managed (sheep, chickens, geese, and ducks are all pretty easy to manage, and cattle if you can swing it would be pretty nice). You could start chop and dropping that nettle now to increase organic matter quickly. It sounds like you have a pretty rough piece of land there... perfect canvas for a permaculture masterpiece! Don't give up!

Dave, thanks for the reply. The land around the house is not that steep, so machinery is ok. I've walked over the ground with swales in mind, and although they'd be fairly shallow, i've got a couple of spots where a swale or two would help. Good tip on the nettles. I've spent two days chopping nettle patches on my land and the surrounding wild areas, and there's a lot, so hopefully that will help. I've already put some cow manure down, and the local farmer told me yesterday he's got more at another location.

Yes, the land is rough, but i'm far too stubborn to give up.

Thanks again for the tips,


p.s. We had decent rainfall last night, and it's given me a more clues where the water's going.
5 years ago
Hello all, i'm Alex, a briton living in the Czech Alps, and i've been lurking here a little while absorbing lots of generously shared tips and tricks. I guess it's time to jump in.

I'm not sure where to post this, soil or perm, so i'm guessing.

I have 4000 m2 so far in a mountainous region, about 920 metres above sea level. (If the local council approve it, that'll be 24000 m2)

The soil, if one can call it that, is a thin layer averaging 10cm above several metres of gravel. It's full of pebbles. I've been using a builders screen to filter the stones out of the mix, and i'm left with more or less "course soil" that has little to no nutritional value. Locally, I've managed to score several trailer loads of cow manure/straw compost, which is over 1 year old. I've spent a lot of shovelling time mixing and blending to try and get some sort of start, short of trucking in loads of top soil.

Unlike Sepp's mountain paradise, the average temps here through the year are cooler, with the growing season a mild 15-20 C compared to Sepps generally warmer comparative months.

As if this tale weren't enough of a struggle, i'm surrounded by spruce. Km after km of Spruce. The soil tests as nitrogen poor and acid. (No rocket science required for that conclusion) I've potted loads of peas and beans as an intent to fix N in the soil, but it's slow going.

I'm watering by hand for my newly built hugelkulture beds in my kitchen garden, which are heavily mulched in an attempt to stop the water draining quickly through the gravel to the centre of the planet. I'm about to build much larger hugelkulture beds outside the KG on the main property. (The KG is my test bed at the moment for soil evaluation, as well as a future role as a, well garden) There's no natural spring or river near me, as my well pulls up water from 52 metres down. (The water is magnificent to taste, so that's something.) The average rainfall here is about 7-8cm a month, which isn't sparkling, but at least it rains fairly regularly, and i have had up to 2 metres of snow for 2 of my 3 winters here.

I still have some spruce on the property i intend to chop down, and replace with food hedges, and nut and fruit trees.
I've watched the usual vids online, as one does, and picked up a lot about permaculture in general, but not really anything related to my particular circumstances.

Ok, so that's the picture. I'm not a complete newb, as i had a decent organic farm in Oz for a few years. I will admit i'm a bit out of my depth with this gravel based growing model though.

So, some questions,

Given the nature of my locale, is there particular varieties of common perennial heirloom veggies that others with similar challenges have successfully grown ? Nearly all the info i've found online recommends the equivalent of a perfect Kew Garden style environment for growing. My place is cool, with a cool wind that blows straight up the side of the mountain to my place. (I'm building windbreaks at the moment to at least partially counter this)

Given the near universal fondness for spruce, is there a common plant of flower i can grow quickly in my particularly poor soil that will cover quickly, and improve the PH? I've got plenty of grass, some stinging nettles, dock, and moss at the moment, that work together to ridicule my attempts to improve things here. I can almost hear them laughing in the still of night.....

I'd also like to start 2 food forests, and plant trees and food shrubs asap, as it'll take a while, obviously. Any recommendations for fruit and nut trees that will enjoy toughing it out up here?

More to come, but i guess that's enough to begin with.

Regards to all,


5 years ago