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J.C. Chandler
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New here, though I have been parsing for a while.  Now have 5 acres in Valley Center (rural San Diego County), on a north facing slope.  Roughly 4 acres of unoccupied slope above my 5acres, witch should bode well for future water harvesting endeavors.  Wondering if there is away to adapt Sep Holzers methodology of terracing and making raised beds on my slope.  My understanding that raised beds in SoCal is not the way to go, but maybe Hugelkultur would have a place here.  The mounds if watered should provide food rich moisture for the trees in between the mounds.  Where would the veggies go?  Any guidance? 

Thank you
Jon     
 
Benjamin Burchall
Posts: 182
Location: Long Beach, CA
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Hi,

I lived in SoCal until last year. You're right! Raised beds are generally not the way to go there. In a dry warm climate, water evaporates quickly from raised beds. So you end up having to water A LOT. If you don't want to have to water, planting in depressions (ditches, sunken beds, etc.) covered with several inches of mulch can help. I really don't know if hugel beds would work there. I suspect they wouldn't work as well as planting in depressions because, like a raised bed, you create more surface area for moisture to evaporate from - not a good idea in a dry, warm climate.

Terracing would definitely be great as well as building water catchment ponds. Just remember to put fish in there or you'll have a mosquito problem. I had goldfish (and plants) in my ponds and water barrels. I never had to feed them. (I didn't put them in until after mosquito larvae hatched.)
 
J.C. Chandler
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Thanks for the speedy reply.  Thanks for the tip on mosquitoes. I would have missed that one. 

As far as the hugle...  Just wondering if planting them with low water use natives would allow one to water them lightly and that moisture/nutrients be used effectively by fruit trees between the beds?       
 
Benjamin Burchall
Posts: 182
Location: Long Beach, CA
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Another key to freedom from irrigation is raising the right plants. There are lot of drought tolerant and drought loving edible plants. I'll come back on and post a list of things I grew.
 
Jonathan 'yukkuri' Kame
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Location: Foothills north of L.A., zone 9ish mediterranean
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Why not put the hugel in a hole?  Wood should sponge pretty good. 
 
Benjamin Burchall
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Location: Long Beach, CA
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Good idea! I had been thinking about hugel in a hole last week, but didn't think of it when I was replying earlier. I don't see why that wouldn't work. It would just take some work up front to dig the trenches. I don't mind some up front work if I know that it going to pay off with deliciousness and leisure later.
 
Benjamin Burchall
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Location: Long Beach, CA
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Ok, here are some of the things that I grew in SoCal that tolerated drought well:

Jersusalem artichokes
Artichokes
Purslane
Yard long bean
Edamame
Cow peas
Malabar Spinach
New Zealand Spinach (a favorite of mine)
Okinawa spinach
Kale
Collards
Sweet potato (I grew them for the greens. They thrive with light shade from the summer sun.)
Chayote (the fruit, leaves, tips and tendrils are all edible. The tendrils are especially tender.)
Pigeon peas (eat like regular peas or as a dried bean)
Hyacinth bean (eat like green beans, the young leaves and tuber are also edible)
Eggplant
Tomato (cherry and grape tomatoes do much better than the bigger ones)
Tamarillo
Acorn squash (Don't forget to grow some squashes and pumpkins for the greens and flowers! I love the stuffed flowers!)
Pumpkin
Zuchinni
Bitter melon (an acquired taste for the American palate)
Iceplant (its a great salty addition to salads)
Lambsquarters (never had to plant it as it is seemed to volunteer in every garden I had)
Daylilies (edible flowers)
Sunflowers
Chard
Natal plums (The fruit of the common carissa bushes used as landscaping, when picked ripe, are very sweet and delicious. People would look at me really strangely wondering what the heck I was doing when they'd see me harvesting some from plantings in public spaces. Hardly anyone knows that the fruit is edible.)
Cactus (The juicy fruit tastes a bit like watermelon. The tender pads are reminiscent of green beans.)
Fava beans (They need the cooler temperatures of late fall to mid spring.)

I found that by planting in depressions, even some of the more water loving plants would do okay through the summer.

Some of the crops above are perennial. Some will easily set seed and come up again on their own like tomato, tamarillo and eggplant. Eggplant and tomato will resprout if you cut them down to just above the last leaf or two. Sometimes they reprout when cutting them back to just a few inches of stem without any leaves. For a new tomato plant, just push a stem to the ground and cover it with some soil. The stem will root. Once it has rooted just cut if from the parent plant and you can cut down the parent for mulch leaving you with a brand new tomato plant.

During the rainy season I'd grow more water intensive things and rely on rainfall for irrigation.

One of the ways I found out what would grow well in my area without irrigation or much care was to just throw a mix of seeds out into the garden and see what survived. I also did this with seed balls. Some things survived in seed balls that didn't survive just casting about.

When growing things like these, there isn't much of a need to irrigate. And you can walk away from the garden for weeks or months and still have an abundance of food when you return.

I hope this helps. Feel free to message me if you have any questions about what I did in my gardens.
 
J.C. Chandler
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Now were getting somewhere.  Question.  Would it be good to plant fruit trees in the hugletrenches from the get go? 
 
Benjamin Burchall
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Location: Long Beach, CA
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I've never done hugel. So I'll leave that for someone else. Planting fruit trees (don't forget nuts) in swales and trenches is really good. Basically anything that needs water will flourish when planted in some kind of depression. The depression helps to funnel water by holding it in place to percolate into the soil instead of running off. Everywhere in SoCal I ever went except the beach areas had heavy clay soil. So runoff is a big problem.

You can quickly build humus and break up the clay by planting daikons throughout the garden and releasing a herd of worms all over the garden. Cut the daikons down when the tuber has grown and let it decay in place. Of course, always cut your spent annual crops down and leave the roots to decay in the soil. Mulch, mulch, mulch! No need to buy mulch. Use plant material from the garden and from neighbors. It does take mulch a longer time to break down there because of the dry climate. So if you want to start off with lots of humus, you'll either have to buy compost (or get it from some of the ranches or municipal compost facilities for free) or do a lot of composting the first year.
 
J.C. Chandler
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Thats a fantastic list.  Thanks  for all the great input.

A DEEP hugle trench may be worth a try.  It would need to be deep enough so the trees would still be depressed relative to the ground around. 



BenjaminBurchall wrote:
Ok, here are some of the things that I grew in SoCal that tolerated drought well:

Jersusalem artichokes
Artichokes
Purslane
Yard long bean
Edamame
Cow peas
Malabar Spinach
New Zealand Spinach (a favorite of mine)
Okinawa spinach
Kale
Collards
Sweet potato (I grew them for the greens. They thrive with light shade from the summer sun.)
Chayote (the fruit, leaves, tips and tendrils are all edible. The tendrils are especially tender.)
Pigeon peas (eat like regular peas or as a dried bean)
Hyacinth bean (eat like green beans, the young leaves and tuber are also edible)
Eggplant
Tomato (cherry and grape tomatoes do much better than the bigger ones)
Tamarillo
Acorn squash (Don't forget to grow some squashes and pumpkins for the greens and flowers! I love the stuffed flowers!)
Pumpkin
Zuchinni
Bitter melon (an acquired taste for the American palate)
Iceplant (its a great salty addition to salads)
Lambsquarters (never had to plant it as it is seemed to volunteer in every garden I had)
Daylilies (edible flowers)
Sunflowers
Chard
Natal plums (The fruit of the common carissa bushes used as landscaping, when picked ripe, are very sweet and delicious. People would look at me really strangely wondering what the heck I was doing when they'd see me harvesting some from plantings in public spaces. Hardly anyone knows that the fruit is edible.)
Cactus (The juicy fruit tastes a bit like watermelon. The tender pads are reminiscent of green beans.)
Fava beans (They need the cooler temperatures of late fall to mid spring.)

I found that by planting in depressions, even some of the more water loving plants would do okay through the summer.

Some of the crops above are perennial. Some will easily set seed and come up again on their own like tomato, tamarillo and eggplant. Eggplant and tomato will resprout if you cut them down to just above the last leaf or two. Sometimes they reprout when cutting them back to just a few inches of stem without any leaves. For a new tomato plant, just push a stem to the ground and cover it with some soil. The stem will root. Once it has rooted just cut if from the parent plant and you can cut down the parent for mulch leaving you with a brand new tomato plant.

During the rainy season I'd grow more water intensive things and rely on rainfall for irrigation.

One of the ways I found out what would grow well in my area without irrigation or much care was to just throw a mix of seeds out into the garden and see what survived. I also did this with seed balls. Some things survived in seed balls that didn't survive just casting about.

When growing things like these, there isn't much of a need to irrigate. And you can walk away from the garden for weeks or months and still have an abundance of food when you return.

I hope this helps. Feel free to message me if you have any questions about what I did in my gardens.
 
Benjamin Burchall
Posts: 182
Location: Long Beach, CA
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You're very welcome! I wish I had someone to show me the ropes when I started. I had A LOT of trial and error before I got a system down that worked for me. There just wasn't much readily available information on non-irrigated arid subtropical edible gardening out there when I started with permaculture.

I forgot...moringa is another possibility. It does fine with drought once established. It's basically a salad tree. You eat the leaves which are pretty mild. They are little tear-drop shaped things. Last year Armstrong's Nursery was selling them which surprised me. Moringa is a tree for coppicing. Each year you can cut it back to the height you want and it will resprout. You can keep it the size of a large bush for easy harvesting. It's a tree that can get really big if you let it just grow on its own.

I miss the climate there.  You can grow food all year round even without a greenhouse.
 
Jonathan 'yukkuri' Kame
Posts: 488
Location: Foothills north of L.A., zone 9ish mediterranean
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Great list, Benjamin Burchall! 

I will be moving to socal soon (foothills on the north side of L.A.)  I'll have about 1/5 acre around the house to plant intensively, and a hillside I should be able to guerilla garden extensively. 

Wife and I are huge daikon eaters, I'm not sure we could bear to let one rot in the ground. 

Wild mustard grows abundantly on that hillside wherever there is open soil.  While the roots aren't as big and juicy as a daikon, I suppose it would provide some of the same soil-conditioning function, and it seems to seed itself vigorously.  The leaves are almost identical to a daikon...flowering heads taste of spicy broccoli.
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
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Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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I've been turning my vegetable garden into  "deep sponge bed" whatever you want to call  below-ground hugelkultur, with great results in my hot, dry climate (drier than Southern California this year).

Most of the plants listed above for survival in Southern California drought will die here without irrigation, as it tends to stay hotter longer here and we're farther south, so sun is more intense.  I still have to irrigate  the buried wood beds, just not as much.
 
Benjamin Burchall
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Location: Long Beach, CA
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Jon has the luck of gardening in California. Raising food sustainably in Texas may require different techniques and/or crops. Have you had any success with providing some light shade for the garden from the summer sun?
 
J.C. Chandler
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Yeah, just my luck.  Gardening in SoCal.  Can;t wait to report efficacy in hugletrenches very soon. 
 
Benjamin Burchall
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Location: Long Beach, CA
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Yukari,

Unless  you eat nothing but daikon, I doubt you'd be able to eat them in the quantity I'd suggest planting them. I'd love to see you try to pull daikons out of that heavy clay. You might not feel it's worth the effort. haha!

If your objective is to build soil, it would be worthwhile to do the daikon thing. You can plant daikon to eat once you have more friable soil. Mustard doesn't build humus much but can be a part of an overall approach. If it did, you'd see lots of humus where you see it growing wild.

If you give the daikons a shot, plant them every 2.5 feet apart or so. In between plant a variety of beans. Just blanket the entire growing area with daikon and nitrogen fixers. You'll end up with stuff to eat and a good start on building some rich humus.
 
Hugh Hawk
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Location: Adelaide, South Australia (Mediterranean climate)
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Great list Benjamin.  Lots of stuff there which I plant in our very similar climate.  I take it you plant the daikon in autumn for growing through winter?

Here's a start on a winter growing list:

- Asparagus pea
- Garlic (Elephant and normal types)
- Shallots (the bulb type - perennial if you let them spread)
- Violets
- Any brassicas - kale, cauliflower, broccoli, etc.
- Broad (fava) beans
- Any root crops - potatoes, carrot, turnips, swedes, beetroot, etc.
- Leafy greens do well as they don't bolt in the low temps - lettuce, chicory, chard, spinach, etc.
- Peas (sugar snap, shelling, snow)
- Pepino
- Sea beet (aka perpetual spinach - a perennial species)

Sorrel is another good perennial but I believe it is best planted in spring.
 
Benjamin Burchall
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Location: Long Beach, CA
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Hugh,

Thanks for mentioning sorrel. I can't believe I left that off the list. It was one of my favorites. I made a huge pot of sorrel soup for work one day to share with coworkers. Every body loved it. Nothing beats sharing things with people and seeing their appreciate. I'm still mystified how the leaves completely disintegrate as if they just melt into the stock. I must grow some again!

Yup, fall is a great time for planting daikon. So now's the time!

I tried growing pepino from seeds of a store bought fruit, but couldn't get any of the seeds to germinate. How did you start yours? Did you buy seeds, start them from seeds in a fruit you ate or did you start with a plant?
 
Jonathan 'yukkuri' Kame
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Location: Foothills north of L.A., zone 9ish mediterranean
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JonChandler, do you get frosts where you are? 

BB, what about where you were? 

Where I will be in the foothills, north side of L.A. I'll occasionally see a frozen puddle in the morning.  Last winter there was enough snow on the ground one morning to build a small snowman.  But the land is mostly south-facing, so it warms up pretty quick. 

There is already some sorrel in the garden I'll be taking over.    My containerized sorrel in florida was destroyed by squirrels, and florida monsoon season.  Melted, just like in your soup. 
 
Benjamin Burchall
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Yukkuri,

I was in a beach community - no frost. 
 
J.C. Chandler
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Truth be told I just bought the property and have not seen it in the winter.  That being said, I suspect there are a frw frosts out there. 

Jon
 
J.C. Chandler
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My Hugle project.

Its about 3" deep in some places. As deep as I could effectively get before hitting a hardlayer of I believe sandstone. Lots of granite here, so geologically, sandstone makes sense.

Soon cover with manure and chips. Palmfronds and then a compost pile the full leangth hopefully. Ill kick it off with some of JPI's preparations. Fruit trees in next spring after the compost is harvested. Ill keep you posted on how it works out in 92082.

 
Tony Gurnoe
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Location: Encinitas, California
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Planting fruit trees in hugel trenches sounds like a pretty bad idea to me. A lot of the fruit trees that grow well around here do not like to have the soil remain wet right around their trunk. Some of the most devastating fruit tree diseases in San Diego are encouraged by this scenario. What I would recommend alternatively is to plant your trees in a row in between massive hugel trenches. This way the immediate crown has the opportunity to drain and dry but the feeder roots will go wild in the moist and nutrient rich humus. The importance of this is depends on the trees you're planting, and your soil texture/EC. You mention lots of granite which suggests to me that your soil is probably decomposed granite. DG drains fantastically so I may be alarming you over nothing but it's worth consideration. Do you know what you'll be planting? You're in Avocado country but they take a loooot of water. Some good alternatives might be:

Olives
Guava
Cherimoya
Any kind of citrus
Southern highbush blueberries (they take a lot of organic matter amending and water- hugel bed might be an ideal location)
Dragonfruit
Mulberry
Persimmon
Pomegranate
Sapotes
Fig

This list is getting long, it all depends on your tastes and irrigation choices.
 
Tony Gurnoe
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Location: Encinitas, California
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yukkuri kame wrote:Wild mustard grows abundantly on that hillside wherever there is open soil... it seems to seed itself vigorously


Understatement of the thread . Benjamin most of San Diego is fairly well draining but we certainly do have our clay areas. I help take care of the orchard at my school in Oceanside and the soil is called "Diablo Clay," it is the heaviest clay I've ever seen around town. In Encinitas where I live the parent material is largely sandstone which has its own challenges. when I moved here to this house my back yard had just a few inches of mediocre topsoil before it became sandstone requiring a mattock. Even when broken up the soil has terrible fertility and holds water like a colander. Talk about needing organic matter.

J.C. there are a lot of people with horses around here so horse manure is abundant to the point of being free. I'm not sure if it's too much of a drive for you but in Escondido there is a button mushroom farm called Mountain Medow Mushrooms and they make their spent mushroom compost available for free if you load and haul it yourself. This past winter my brother and I made two bed that are part terrace, part raised bed in the hillside in our back yard. We had to dig down to break up the sandstone I mentioned so it wasn't much more work to throw some wood down in the bottom in the process. The beds were nothing special, several inches of branches and twigs from our property (not as broken down as I would have liked), several more inches of semi-decomposed compost from our pile, and finally several more inches of the mushroom compost from their farm. I set up drip irrigation on them and had the best crop of tomatoes ever! I live with my family and the 4 of us combined with our 4 closest neighboring houses haven't been able to keep up with all of the tomatoes we're growing.

Anyway I was born and raised here so it's always fun to ramble about local gardening. Best of luck with your property!
 
J.C. Chandler
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Thanks for chiming in Tony. To be clear, I gave no intent to plant trees in the trench. They are staggered on each side of it in a basin with the crown high and dry. Only a nectarine is planted now. I will let the pile mature a bit before planting more. Some on your list I have and others I intend to acquire like the mulberry. I look forward to further reviewing your list.
 
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