Garden Mastery Academy - Module 1: Dare to Dream
will be released to subscribers in: soon!

Cristo Balete

+ Follow
since May 23, 2015
Long-time Permaculturist
In the woods, West Coast USA
Apples and Likes
Total received
In last 30 days
Total given
Total received
Received in last 30 days
Total given
Given in last 30 days
Forums and Threads

Recent posts by Cristo Balete

Annie, I think that would work.  Deer can jump high and narrow, but they can't jump wide at the 4 foot level, and that white inner string would stop them.

I have a small garden with a 4-foot fence, waist height, that winds around in narrow patterns with the fencing about 6-7 feet  apart, (2+ meters,)  and they don't jump into it.  There are large plants in it, so there's even less room than when it was new.   They also are not interested in the far....but it's been years, and they do hang out nearby in the spring.

They are smart enough, though, to know that rusted out chicken wire is easily pushed through!

I have more problems with rabbits and packrats, so I turn out the bottom 6 inches (a hand depth) of the chicken wire, and let weeds grow through that to hold it down, mowing out about 6 inches from that.  Then if any of them find a way under it, there will be a little trail going in and it's easily spotted from either side of the fence.
1 month ago
Something else that I've seen a lot of in the food forest videos is sweet potato vines.  You've probably got a short growing season, but the vines grow quickly and cover the ground, creating shade and providing biomass.   There are lots of videos on YouTube about how to start sweet potato vines, but basically you set the tip of one in water and when the shoots that come off it get about 6" you detach it, then put it in a 4" pot and get a good rooting on it, then plant it.  Sweet potatoes take a really long time to form, so you may not get any before the ground freezes, but it is a good ground cover.

Another popular mix is field peas and oats.  There are a couple seed companies that have the larger packages of this mix.   The traditional idea is to till them in when they are done, but I am not a tiller,  I clip off peas, leaving the roots with nitrogen nodules in the soil, and the oats will die back, their roots will rot and improve the soil as well.

If you don't have the time or inclination to do a deeper hugel trench, even one shovel depth is good, with smaller dead branches and shrub clippings, filled in as described above.  Even if the roots can't get into the wood in the first couple years, they can be around the wood that is holding good microbiology on the exterior.

1 month ago

Dry summer climates definitely do call for different methods.  My climate has no rain from mid-May through sometimes mid-December, and I've had to customize methods.  I used to use mowed weeds, but they just created too many more weeds, so I compost those now.

Wood chips are excellent for holding moisture, even when you think the climate is too dry.  I don't think you can go wrong with them, unless they are from trees that have growth inhibitors, like redwood and red cedar.  Even those just take longer and are better than nothing.

You might experiment with just how thick a layer works for your soil and your location.  It might be more than you think, 3", 4"?  Check for how moist the soil is underneath as you add them, you ought to start seeing damp soil and maybe white fungi.  Then maintain this thickness as they will incorporate with the top layer of the soil, and you want to keep the soil covered completely.  If there is the occasional downpour or drizzle thick woodchips will keep and hold that moisture to the soil.  

If the wood chips are from very green wood it's going to take longer for the soil critters to be able to use what they have to offer, so adding nitrogen from composted manure helps, pulling the chips back and watering in about a 2" layer, then replacing the chips.  Urine also has nitrogen, and can be diluted 1:1 and added to the soil under the chips, but don't get urine on plants or annual plant roots.  Out around the drip line of trees, mature perennials, grapes, berries, etc. is okay.

As far as green manure, I've found it easier to stick with deciduous food shrubs and trees that drop their leaves planted in food forest style.  Ground covers like native vetches are great, just let some of them go until you get seeds for next year.  Mow or clip them off, leaving the roots in the soil and the nitrogen nodules they have will also improve soil.

Trailing Nasturtiums (there are some that are mounding, but aren't as helpful,) are cheerful annuals that will spread and create shade.  They die back and disappear, easy to save seeds from.  If you have animals I wouldn't recommend burr clover, burrs can get into ears and noses and cause problems, but I've got a lot of it showing up in general.  I mow it when it gets about shin height, and it grows back in late spring, before it dies back and reseeds.

Native annual grasses are also excellent.  In Africa they have now found that allowing the annual native grasses to grow holds water in the soil and the roots break down to improve soil.  Mow them after they have gone to seed, and leave the roots in the ground.

If it's a new batch of chips on soil that's never had wood chips, filling in between with bagged tiny chipped wood mulch from the nursery can help kickstart things.  I've even gotten some mushrooms showing up from the bagged stuff (in the greenhouse, that's how I know it's not my mushrooms.)  Mushrooms are always a good sign.  Let them grow and complete their cycle so the spores will overwinter.  They say mushrooms are more creatures than plants, so be nice to your mushrooms :-)

Hugel trenches, a couple shovel blades deep, with very dead wood, also hold the moisture and create great growing environments.  I fill in around the wood with native soil and manure, composted or not, watering it all in.  Then put really rotted, pithy wood that you can twist with your hands, at about the 6" level (hand depth) so it will absorb water with nutrients and the roots can penetrate that pithy wood, and take advantage of what it has absorbed.  Topping it off with compost and woodchip mulch.  These have worked the best for me in general, and will last for several years if woodchips are added and break down, migrating down into the soil.
1 month ago
I'm with you, Maiesha, when it comes to fussy teas, I just won't do anything except mix and wait.   And I haven't seen a plant complain yet when it gets an extra dose of compost in any form.  I have used a little kid's rake to stir a large bucket full of tea, but not more than once a day a couple times.  I doubt it made much difference.

As far as anaerobic conditions, I know that's a big deal when it comes to aerating teas, but I have a pond, and the anaerobic edge of it grows the biggest, thickest, densest, extreme looking native plants I've ever seen.  I have to spend twice the amount of time removing them.  So I am not worried about short-term anaerobic conditions, which is what pouring teas into regular soil is.    If they really are anaerobic teas, (I don't have a lab to check exactly what's in the tea,) I think they are quickly changed when introduced into regular soil, and the plants will use what they can, which seems to be plenty.

I think the ingredients stay the same, bananas and peels still are full of potassium, weeds like thistles with deep tap roots still pull up the same nutrients that are in the soil, etc.  We still have to take our ingredients into consideration.
1 month ago
So if you think of a van like that in the picture as a shade roof on top, that cuts out a lot of light, and plants need light, especially in the winter.  IN the summer the light would be overhead, and that van would shade it out.  The only place that might....might work as a greenhouse is in a crazy hot part of the desert.  Doesn't sound like your conditions are like that.  It would be quite dark inside there, because not that much light comes in through the sides.  

A DIY greenhouse is not expensive, if done with 20-foot rebar hoops covered with PVC pipe, and either greenhouse plastic or 80% or 90% clear patio panels.  Chicken wire ends, and depending on how cold it gets, greenhouse plastic over the ends in the winter, and remove it in the late spring into the late summer.

I have seen a clever root cellar for cold storage where they cut out the side of a steep hillside, and shoved a van, engine first, into the hillside, covered it over with soil, all except the back doors, which were used as the entrance.  
1 month ago
For what it's worth, one of the main ideas of Permaculture is to mix it all up, make guilds.  Don't put all the lettuce here, and all the tomatoes there, not all lined up so that even an injured pest could drag itself from plant to plant and feed long enough to reproduce.

If you like the oval and the paths, at least try to make different zones where plants help each other, spread everything around, use companion planting instead of monoculture rows.

And what I am not seeing in this planting arrangement is vegetable/herb/flower combo which helps the health of the plants, brings in beneficial insects and does a good root exchange.

Then there's always hugelkulture to work into the mix.

1 month ago
Phillip, thank your lucky stars you have frogs taking care of mosqutoes.   Your life would be a nightmare if they didn't.  And since we are sharing this planet with the creatures who live on it with us....these are your roommates.

Not all years will be the same.  It doesn't last all that long, depending on the season.

As soon as the herons, egrets, snakes, foxes, predatory birds and other predators find that you have frogs it will hopefully get under control.

Yes, it can be loud, but there are so many more advantages to having a pond that it can outweigh the noise.  Nature is not as quiet as we seem to think it is.
1 month ago
You might want to set up an online email at one of the free sites where you only correspond with the gov., and any other official people you are in touch with about getting this settled.  That way the scammers won't get your email, or shouldn't, anyway.
1 month ago

In Permaculture there's the saying, "The problem is the solution."  I wish it would say, "Permaculture has a solution for what you think is a problem."

I second the observation of what is already doing well there, and what does well in your area with native plants.  Surrounding your vegetables and fruit with native plants that bring in good beneficial insects.  Just give everybody enough room.   Sounds like the hugel mounds are working well, good move there.  

Regarding the swampy ground water, is your backyard higher or lower than your front yard?  Is the water running from one yard to the other via under your house, or is it running crosswise across the backyard?  Are you concerned at all about it running under your foundation?  

No. 1 issue is make sure that water is not affecting your foundation.  Don't slow it down with swales.  It doesn't sound like you need to keep any of it.  You don't want to saturate the soil around your foundation.   Maybe consult an engineer or landscaper if you need to drain that water off to the side with perforated pipe.  You don't want to send it into your neighbor's yard and cause them issues.

Try not to plant anything too close to your foundation, since just watering vegetables will add to that wet soil and possible mold getting into your siding or walls.  Check your roof for moss, and clean it off regularly.  Use it for mulch.

Establish wide paths where it's most convenient to walk, it's really nice to walk side by side and to have enough room for a wheelbarrow and you.  Line the paths with bark chips or woodchips if you can get them, since roots also go under paths and will benefit from fungi created by the woodchips.  Have at least one sitting area out in the garden, a "destination" away from the house.  Try to use it!! Ha!  (that's my problem!)

Mowing or string-trimming the weeds will turn it all into mulch.  Try to do it before they get seed heads.  It doesn't get rid of them, but think of it as harvesting mulch.  The roots in the ground with break down into good organic matter.   Rake it into place around the roots of plants, but not against the trunks or stems.

Since you've got a lot of shade, try to plant vegetables that will do well in the shade.  There are tons of types of tomatoes, and you might have to find some that are not the regular ones at the store.  Online tomato specialty websites often group them in what they can tolerate.   Cherry tomatoes are more forgiving.  Starting them from seeds, indoors, is easy.  Greens do well in the shade, lots of good ones, even if they get a bit rangy, cut them as baby leaves and they will grow back a couple times.  They still have the nutrition.

If you want to soak up that water, plant perennial fruits that will soak it up, like raspberries and blackberries on wires (easier to care for,) gummi berries, sambucas, fruiting shrubs that do well in a damp forest environment.  These can get quite big, so give them room for you to mow/string-trim around and for them to spread out.   Check for Zone requirements and chill hours for fruit, although trees are more touchy about ground water.  

For everyone it's a constant, ongoing process and not everything works.  That's what this journey is, to try to see what works for us in our very specific spots.  Don't be too hard on yourself.


1 month ago
Kena, would it be possible to post a picture of how you repair jeans?   I can't believe how fast pants wear out these days, and the iron-on patches don't work worth beans....thanks.
1 month ago