Gale Zimmerman

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since Jun 08, 2015
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We started the acre garden for our community when we purchased our land in 1970, growing with organic practices since the beginning. We now have about 10,000 square feet in mulched, no-till beds, 3,000 of these in hoop houses, and 40 fruit trees.
We converted to permaculture methods in 2011 after reading Gaia's Garden, by Toby Hemenway, which we've also used to choose flowers for encouraging beneficial insects and birds.
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Tomales, CA
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Recent posts by Gale Zimmerman

The drainage pipes from our new house open out into a collecting basin, or rain garden. It will be wet most of the winter, and completely dry during the summer here in coastal Northern California.  I need to cover it with plants. What ones would you suggest? Our coldest winter nights get to 18 deg F. It would be wonderful if they could serve other purposes as well.
3 years ago
I always read the "Interesting permies thread" you send to find topics I'd like to see. I haven't found the other options people have mentioned, so I'll look for them now. I appreciate the help I've had through the Permies forum, THANKS!
We seem to have an important difference of opinion here over whether  a nitrogen fixer next to a fruit tree will contribute nitrogen to it. Anyone seen any science on this?

I understand that roots die and grow regularly. Wouldn't a legume's root release its nodule  nitrogen when it dies?
Would a good compromise be to let the legume plant grow, cut it back, put the branches under the fruit tree. Then the legume would let a bunch of roots die, releasing their nitrogen, and the fruit tree would get the nitrogen from the dead roots and the legume branches.Does this sound right to you all?

I appreciated hearing about the other grower (whose name I can't now see above). If I'm confident about this way of working the the legumes, I'll shop with one or the other of your recommendations.
6 years ago
Very helpful. We are half an hour from OAEC and the resources you list are local. Your projects are great. I'll need to give more time to digest your report. We have summer projects with our younger members; maybe we can get something together for using materials in our creek. And I'll look at renting a chipper.
6 years ago
We live in N. California, 30 miles from the bad fires we had this autumn.

We have accumulated a HUGE pile, as in 50 x 20 x 8 feet, of prunnings and tree parts over the last four years from our land.
We used to burn it, but stopped because even that, two people for a day, was too much labor for us. Now we realize it is a serious fire hazard as it sits, up wind from our buildings.

1. How can we deal with the huge pile in a land friendly way, with minimum labor and $.
2. How can we process what we accumulate over the next years without letting it get into such a huge issue?
3. A lot of this material next year will be from cypress that we have to clean up for fire prevention. I understand that material from conifers, even as chips, isn't good around fruit or vegetables, because it fosters "brown" instead of "white" fungi. What can we do with it?
4. We do have eroded canyons with small running creeks; can we dump the materials into them to help fill them in? How to do it without causing other problems?

We have an acre fruit and vegetable garden. Ideally we would create chips, mulch, or compost we could use there.
We have plenty of accessible land.

We need your ideas! Thanks, Gale
6 years ago
Thanks Kevin and Benji,

I looked at the OneGreenWorld site; I'm glad to know of them in general. They do have one very promising looking plant, which they call Floaty Boat Pea Tree – Colutea arborescens. I'll also look into the others you mentioned.

6 years ago
Thanks Lorens; I don't see comfrey listed anywhere in my sources as a nitrogen fixer. I do have it under many trees and will put it near the ones that don't have it.
6 years ago
I've come up with a good list of nitrogen fixers for using with our apples in N California; does someone know of a good place to buy any of these, hopefully many in one place? Ideally in or near California?

Amur Maakia
Narrow leaf birdsfoot trefoil seed (this is more drought tolerant than common birdsfoot trefoil
Coulter arborescente (Bladder senna)
Baptista australis (blue false indigo)
Shepherd argentea (silver buffalo berry)
Lespdeza thunbergii - a bush clover
Elegysnus multiflora (Goumi)
Astragala (milk vetch, any)
Myrica certifiera - (waxmyrtle)

6 years ago
We use cloth napkins. I get 22"x22" bandanas from Dharma Trading who sells dyes and white natural fiber dyeable items. These bandanas are light weight, but at 12 for $16 are much less expensive than the napkins they also sell. I enjoy ice dying them (which I learned from a youtube video), or drawing on them with fabric dye pens. I've given them as gifts to many friends. One next to me on my table I'm covering with drawings of sunflowers. They last for two to three years in our community, where they get washed on an average of twice a week.

I used to buy fabric and sew them up, you get a nice 22 x 22" napkin by cutting 45" wide fabric down the middle. Fabric got more expensive and I don't enjoy machine sewing, so I switched to the bandanas.

Hope this is useful, Gale
6 years ago
Our 250 acre headquarters of the Blue Mountain Center of Meditation is very near the huge northern California fires. I've been studying the FireWise Marin materials on protecting your structures from wild fires. They advocate keeping a 10-15' perimeter around each building that has no flammable, or at least no easily flammable, material. They suggest using a list of acceptable plants for this zone that meet certain criteria. We have 19 buildings with landscaping around most of them, and limited labor.

I've loved following the permies method of keeping a blanket of leaves and cut and drop plant materials around landscaping plants, it is easy and very efficient, and gives the plants the nutrients they need. But it is highly flammable and a major no-no for the perimeter near a building.

We need your suggestions for managing this near-to-structures landscaping zone. Wood chips are out. The materials Firewise suggests are: using rocks around the building,  mulching with compost or other non-flammable material,  or growing very low ground covers. Compost would be an expensive, time-consuming outside input for us; ground covers require tedious weeding; they are much higher maintenance than mulch, too high. I think a perimeter of rocks would be too ugly and again, a very expensive outside input.

Our acre food garden is far enough from structures that, fortunately, we can use all the chips and mulch we want there. All the compost we currently creates goes to the food garden.

Questions: How to manage the 15' area around buildings in a permies way?

How can I dispose of all the plant material and brush we will have to clear out? Most of it will be too coarse to put in the garden compost. What about burying it? If I bury it in an unused area of the food garden, would that become a good food growing area for the future? Or, how to compost it thoroughly enough so it woudn't be flammable and we could put it around the buildings?

If we decide to remove 20-50 huge old eucalyptus and cypress trees, would we be able to sell them to someone, at least for the cost of cutting and cleanup? How do I find such a buyer?

As you can see, we can use your help.

Thanks, Gale

6 years ago