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Spring runoff and growing season

 
Posts: 396
Location: Dawson Creek, BC, Canada
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Some people are lucky enough that they don't get winter (snow/ice).

I am closer to the pole than most people here.  And I am also reasonably close to a place where global warming is happening amongst the fastest.

Other years, I can imagine pussy willows in February (and dying when it turn cold).  March came in strong, and we've had many days about +10C.

I am trying very hard to get a tractor, and among the things to do, is to put in a lot of swales, so that I can capture more of the spring runoff into the land (and not have it run off).

My soil is mostly clay.  My land is a north facing slope (in the northern hemisphere) and is mostly covered by a 40 year old fescue pasture.  This wasn't be design.

If I walk just about anywhere where there has been no snow for at least a couple of weeks, the residual grass on top is dry, and when I step down (wearing sandals for scrambling) I feel water just nipping at the bottom of my feet.  There is a lot of water sitting under the residual fescue.

Nearly every farmer here, is firmly in the tillage mindset.  Their land has been bare for a long time, and absorbing sunlight and warming.  My land is covered in light yellow dead grass, and largely reflecting light (I think).  And there is all this water sitting on the ground under the grass, which is a tremendous heat sink.  No heat gets to the water, and so the water is just sitting there, keeping the land from warming up.  Where there is red clover, there are at least blotches of darker, which may absorb more heat, but no idea if that transfers to the ground.

If a person does not do tillage, how does one get heat into the ground in  the spring?


I have many piles of wood chips on part of the farm, and like spots of red clover, they appear darker.

If a person had lots of swales on the landscape, I am imagining that at some point mid summer, you set seed bombs of tillage radish on the uphill side of swales, which have a significant fraction of their volume filled with wood chips.  The tillage radish germinates and grows a long way into the ground.  Come the next spring, we have these soon to be rotting radishes which are almost water conduits, allowing heat transfer deep into the ground, in close association with dark coloured wood chips.  Does this get heat into our ground faster, so that we can get a longer growing season?

Do we need to make biochar, and in early spring distribute it on the swales, so as to increase how much heat they absorb from the sun?

Something else?
 
steward
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Location: Northern WI (zone 4)
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I'm not sure if this helps but I left my tomato cages in the rows where I grew tomatoes last year.  They're rusty concrete remesh cylinders with the bottom ring cut off so the 6" stubs just spike into the ground.  These are permanent beds that are a couple inches higher than the rows and we mulch with mowed up leaves and grass clippings (not sure how much of this history matters).  

In the rows with tomato cages, the snow melted a week faster than the other rows.   I'm not sure if it's the sun on the metal warming up the area or some other effect.  But I'm thinking those beds will be ready to plant a week earlier than their neighbors.  
 
gardener
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Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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hau Gordon, with a mostly clay soil base, you will benefit greatly from using large quantities of wood chips that you apply fungal slurries to.
The way to get your soil to warm faster is to get more organic matter down into the soil, the deeper you can get that organic matter, the better.

Instead of true tilling you will want to use a subsoiler to lift the ground without turning it over and you want to always have something growing (winter wheat works great for keeping roots growing during winters, even in snow areas).
When you do build your swales and berms, plant grasses as the next pass, this will get roots going and it will also keep the soil where you want it, instead of allowing for any erosion.
Overseeding is one of the best methods to add diversity to what is already growing on your land, this can be done several times in a year without any problems arising.

Aerated compost teas are also going to be your friend.
Adding char can be done but will work best if you already have a lot of organic matter present before you start that process.
Wood ash is also a good addition in thin layers, it will dissolve and sink into the soil.

I'm available for other questions you might have, just let me know.

Redhawk
 
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Location: Denmark 57N
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I think you're going to have to deal with drainage before much will grow, tillage radish will NOT grow on saturated soil, up until this year I was growing on clay and all my root veg went down 10cm then stopped dead, when trees fell as they did all the time you could see that their roots also didn't go any deeper than 15cm (which is of course why they fell) the reason nothing grew deeper was a suspended water-table on top of clay and I mean the type of clay one can make pots from not just "clay" soil. Constantly waterlogged soil also stinks so dig a little hole somewhere and have a sniff, if it smells like a sewer you'll need to sort drainage before you do anything else.

I would also ask WHY you are trying to stop water running off when from what you say you have too much water that isn't running off?

As to the temperature, go stick a thermometer in your soil and theirs see if there is a difference and if so how much? Where I am one does not want mulch over everything the soil will not warm enough to be planted at a sensible time. Here we have had two weeks of double digits (with a random bit of snow in the middle) today was 15C! very warm for April more like July temperatures. And I just went out and measured my soil temperatures at 10cm

Under Ivy, lesser celandine and spring bulbs, in full sun 8.9C
In the middle of the field in full sun under winter wheat 9.8C
On open ploughed land in full sun 14.5C (ploughed as soon as dry enough around 3 weeks ago)
Under a pile of dead leaves/twigs 6C




 
Gordon Haverland
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Most of the non-winter here is dry.  August is typically a drought.  How much runoff we get in the spring, depends on the pattern of chinooks (foehn winds) we get in the winter.  A couple of years ago, we got a big snowfall at Easter (more than 6 inches?).  We've had significant snowfalls in every month, but snow in July and August is rare.

The average slope of the farm is 7%.

 
Gordon Haverland
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Location: Dawson Creek, BC, Canada
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Hello Dr. Redhawk?

I seem to remember you have a Ph.D.  Over the last couple of summers, I have accumulated many piles of wood chips, and used up maybe 3.  I probably have about 40 at the moment.  The power company was clearing right of way in the area.  I believe most of these chips are the native to the area: willow (many kinds), trembling aspen, balsam poplar, and perhaps some pine/spruce.  Birch is possible, but birch is a minor tree in general up here.  Tamarack (larch) in very selected places.  There could be selected "city trees" (could be anything), but I think I am one of the few people crazy enough to plant oak, walnut and other things up here (there are many oaks, few taller than 60 feet, oldest I know of is 90 years old).

On my farm, most of the "woodlot" is aspen, next would be willow, and after that poplar.  In size, the poplar would e the biggest (I have some over 18 inches thick), the aspen top out about 12 inches.  Some of the standing trees have fungal growths, and I have a fair amount of deadfall.  But, deadfall can hang around a long time here, I suspect in part due to a lack of moisture during the summer.  I am going to try seeding (seed bombs) clover in some of my woodlot, to try and keep more moisture at ground level.  I also have an upwind neighbour who is cutting down his aspen, which makes it harder for my aspen to stand up against the wind.  I thought some added nitrogen might help the aspen last, until I get my proper windbreak going.

In terms of a fungal slurry, just collect as much fungal mass that grows on my land now, and mix it up with water?  Or should a person go into the local forest to see if there are better fungal growths?

 
Gordon Haverland
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Location: Dawson Creek, BC, Canada
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Between snow and strong winds, I get a lot of tree damage.  I am hoping to have a tractor soon, which would allow me to get a chipper/shredder to deal with the smaller broken tree parts.

I have walnut (black and butternut) here now (seedlings).  I am hoping to have black locust, honey locust (hopefully with thorns and without thorns) and Osage-orange growing here soon (this fall?  next spring?).  Among my adventurous tree purchases, are some dawn redwood.  So, that is 5 kinds of trees which might have a "strong" extractives content, and not useful for generic woodchip use.

I had read that getting the extractives out of black locust and/or Osage-orange, might allow one to treat spruce/pine/fir, so I have uses for those wood chips in mind.
 
Gordon Haverland
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Skandi, thanks for the information that tillage radish doesn't like saturated soils.

I have only been working with it a couple of seasons, from the other end of the growing season.  The first year I tried seeding it in mid August, hoping it might do something before freeze up.   Nothing.  Last year, I tried soaking the seed for seeding in mid July.  It germinated, but not much else.  Too high a planting density might have had something to do with it.  This year, I will soak the seed, and try planting at a lower density at the beginning of July or end of June.

 
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