• Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
permaculture forums growies critters building homesteading energy monies kitchen purity ungarbage community wilderness fiber arts art permaculture artisans regional education skip experiences global resources cider press projects digital market permies.com private forums all forums
this forum made possible by our volunteer staff, including ...
master stewards:
  • Anne Miller
  • Nicole Alderman
  • r ranson
  • Pearl Sutton
  • Mike Haasl
  • paul wheaton
stewards:
  • Joylynn Hardesty
  • Dave Burton
  • Joseph Lofthouse
master gardeners:
  • jordan barton
  • Greg Martin
gardeners:
  • Carla Burke
  • Ash Jackson
  • Kate Downham

Cover crop help and advice for new project in Sicily

 
Posts: 5
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hello all,

We are new to the permies site and so would like to start by saying thank you for all of the information! It has been a huge help so far.

We have recently purchased a 5 hectare plot of predominately over farmed land in Sicily. We are situated in a small valley 2000ft/600m altitude and have a mature wild garden, a stream that no longer runs and several fields which have sparse soil cover over limestone bedrock. In spring and early summer this year in our fallow fields we had the most incredible mix of wild flowers and herbs, e.g. crimson clover, borage, fennel, penny royal, poppies, white clover, sage, thyme, chamomile etc. however everything died with the intense heat of summer. In the mature garden we have a carob, olive and almond trees and many wild olive, pistachio, oak, hawthorn, hackberry and fig trees. The soil is alkaline and lacking nitrogen. We are in zone 9b, Mediterranean climate. We get 20 inches of rain a year from autumn to spring and no rain for 3-4 months from May to September.

We plan to transform the garden into a food forest, create a campsite and repair the soil on the remaining land protect it from further erosion and slowly attempt to re-forest the whole site. To do this we are keen to establish perennial ground cover over this coming Autumn/Winter. We cannot irrigate the land but we will create some shallow swales due to the lack of soil.

Here is where we need help. We are a little bit confused about what to plant and when and what will survive our long hot dry summers. We would like some advice regarding the type of ground cover to use. We would like a seed mix that will create biomass, fix nitrogen and is perennial (this is because we are concerned about the cost and labour required to reseed such a large area). For the campsite we also need something that is friendly under foot and pleasing to the eye during the summer months.

So far our research has led us to put together this rough plan:

In autum/fall when the rain comes sow a mix of
Rocket
Alfa Alfa
Favas
Vetch
Sweet clover
New Zealand White clover
Cocksfoot
Dacon/forage radish
Chicory
Borage

Chop and drop in early spring (late March) allow a few weeks to rot down then:
Re sow New Zealand white clover if necessary
Cowpeas/black eyed beans
Birdsfoot Trefoil
Penny royal (mint family)
Wild flowers
Perennial sunflower
Wild strawberry

Now this is where we get confused, from what we have read, some summer crops like buckwheat,millet and sesbania may work to help protect the land/soil over the hot summer. But how and when can we sow them with the rain ending in may and not killing what we have already planted?
This year all the native flowers, borage and clover dried up and died by early July.

Also, the hope was that after this sequence of planting we could simply let nature take over and see what happens. Is this realistic? Are we attempting to introduce too much too quickly?

Any suggestions and advice most welcome.

Finally, the campsite field can be irrigated over summer. Any suggestions and recommendations for suitable cover crops that are pleasing to the eye and friendly under foot will be greatly appreciated.

Many thanks for your time.
Kieran and Beth

E15976FD-4084-410B-B9DA-981A7DC95A23.jpeg
[Thumbnail for E15976FD-4084-410B-B9DA-981A7DC95A23.jpeg]
Spring time 1
F3A49D8D-DFAF-4B4D-B30B-30C05D38C728.jpeg
[Thumbnail for F3A49D8D-DFAF-4B4D-B30B-30C05D38C728.jpeg]
Spring time 2
EC8E2596-9D5A-40B8-8E83-30817295E874.jpeg
[Thumbnail for EC8E2596-9D5A-40B8-8E83-30817295E874.jpeg]
Mature wild garden
5D79A0C5-ED33-4F35-9276-F50700F5E3BC.jpeg
[Thumbnail for 5D79A0C5-ED33-4F35-9276-F50700F5E3BC.jpeg]
Mature wild garden 2
1FC63005-E193-4964-8AED-E7A4C6F9B619.jpeg
[Thumbnail for 1FC63005-E193-4964-8AED-E7A4C6F9B619.jpeg]
Dried out fields in summer
 
gardener
Posts: 690
Location: France, Burgundy, parc naturel Morvan
288
forest garden fish fungi trees food preservation cooking solar wood heat woodworking homestead
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hello Kieran, welcome to Permies.
Place looks great!
I'm not shy to say something silly, so here goes.
I try to save seeds, to save money and because the ones that come up in your circumstances and feel great, grow splendidly and produce a lot of seeds that will probably have offspring that do the same. If you mow it all down, you keep buying and you lack the adaptation to your terrain/climate factor. As well some will probably fail or just a few will pop up. Those few are very important because they inhibit the characteristics adapted to your area. Save the seeds!
So if you let it grow at a piece of land that is a bit more shaded or receives more rainfall or has a source closeby or whatever, let it grow, flower and set seed and save those seeds after they flowered. As a bonus you are attracting the insects and wildlife toward your place, creating biodiversity, which will help with pest control in the future if they settle, which they will and you get more for your buck. Get some kind of rotation system on the go. I would at least.
Great list of cover crops!
Are you going to plant nitrogen fixer trees like robinia pseudoacacia? It doesn't mind coppicing for hugelkultures, fence poles and firewood for a rocketstove, and provides shade and windbreaks. Lots of foliage too!
Is that willow i see growing there on the last picture?
 
Posts: 458
Location: Richwood, West Virginia
6
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Kieran Fawcett wrote:

Now this is where we get confused, from what we have read, some summer crops like buckwheat,millet and sesbania may work to help protect the land/soil over the hot summer. But how and when can we sow them with the rain ending in may and not killing what we have already planted?



I don't know if Retama can be harvested for goat hay but as a soil building legume it might be an addition worth considering.





Nutritional value of R. raetam was high enough to meet the nutrient requirements of several different grazing animals. Comparing the R. raetam nutritional value with those of the other wild plants, it can be concluded that R. raetam has strong potential as forage crop with valuable nutritional quality for browsing animals. Moreover, R. raetam may represent an alternative feedstuff to the conventional forage and a promising substitute fodder in Mediterranean ecosystem.


https://www.researchgate.net/publication/235760000_Potential_Contribution_of_Retama_raetam_Forssk_Webb_Berthel_as_a_Forage_Shrub_in_Sinai_Egypt
 
Posts: 664
Location: Australia, New South Wales. Köppen: Cfa (Humid Subtropical), USDA: 10/11
2
transportation hugelkultur cat forest garden fish trees urban chicken cooking woodworking homestead
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Sounds like you need to get a lot of biomass into those fields otherwise it will all be wasted work, constantly boom & bust as rain ends, the soil dries, and summer desiccates things.

A quick search of leguminous plants native to Sicily showed Genista aetnensis or Mount Etna broom.

Being a member of the Fabaceae family, it’s likely to increases soil nitrogen. It could possibly be used as a chop & drop plant to increase soil fertility?

If not already done, planting out that dry watercourse may encourage water retention and increase overall soil moisture.

Clover is a good cover crop, easy to walk on and good for nitrogen fixing and attracting pollinators – it’s bee attracting, so campers with allergies be aware.

Regardless, there will be a need to get carbon into the soil so it holds moisture. The easiest way to attack the challenge is divide the land into manageable portions and treat each one at a time, otherwise it may all seem too much to deal with.

 
gardener
Posts: 1180
Location: Longbranch, WA
198
goat tiny house rabbit wofati chicken solar
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Having a climate like yours I find it best to mow selectively with a scythe. Mow what I want to discourage before it sets seed and let what i want go to seed first then scatter it where I want it to grow. There is someone in your area doing this and he holds permiculture workshops and classes.
 
Posts: 72
Location: Coastal Southern California
3
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I also live in a Mediterranean climate. We average only about 14 inches per year. It is standard for spring wildflowers to die every year in a relatively short time frame.  They are annuals - that is their adaptation to living in a dry environment. They exist as dormant seeds to 'tide them over' till the next rain.

As someone above suggested, save seed from your local area. Be very careful - and not too hasty - about bringing in new species thinking they will be beneficial. Many things can naturalize in our climate including many pest plants that are replacing our natives. What might seem like a good idea today might haunt you, and your neighbors, for years.

That said, it looks like a good project. Have fun.
 
Kieran Fawcett
Posts: 5
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thanks Hugo,
Yes saving seed will become an important part of plans, we are legally restricted here in terms of what trees we are allowed to plant. Currently we are seeking advice as to what we can and cannot plant. However I’m pretty sure black locust will not be on the list. Luckily the native trees list offers many useful edibles etc. Including pecans, walnuts, almonds, olives, pomegranate to name a few. Finding information regarding the local flora and forna is proving difficult, our Italian is not very good at the moment but slowly improving. I’m desperately looking for a good fast growing tree to coppice but not sure what as of yet. For a pioneer species I am going to try Italian alder, fast growing, nitrogen fixing and lots of biomass. (Just need to find out if I’m allowed!)

Thanks Burl,  retama looks great but probably not on my list of natives I’m permitted to use.

Thanks f Agricola, the etna broom is a great suggestion, I have seen lots of it around, not actually on our land, it would do very well here and could be a useful pioneer to get things going.  You are absolutely correct about the need for carbon, the soil is so thin, bare rock in many places. I agree with splitting up the land into sections but is also why I am so keen to get the soil we do have covered and protected straight away. We tend to have extreme rain events here so we want to protect the soil from further damage both sun and run off. The dry river is completely covered in a dense jungle of trees, hackberry, fig, olive, tree of heaven etc.

Thanks Hans,  the scythe and the ability to be selective is both cost effective and useful. I have come across the natural farmer before but forgotten about him. Thanks for the reminder.

Thanks Rue,  I shall heed your warnings about introducing new species. Please tell me what plants/cover you have growing after your spring flowers die off?

 
Hugo Morvan
gardener
Posts: 690
Location: France, Burgundy, parc naturel Morvan
288
forest garden fish fungi trees food preservation cooking solar wood heat woodworking homestead
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi Kieran, that Italian Alder, Alnus Cordata looks interesting for me too, all the Alders here seem to grow at streams and places were there somehow is water most of the year. According to wikipedia it's been introduced to Sicily and all over the world and used as hedges in windbreaks. Interesting tree! Thanks for the tip. Gotto look into them and get some of those seeds, if you know of a good source tell me please.
My local red clover has survived the drought and produced lots of seeds. The one i bought online, not so much. To be fair, the local ones were established before the blasting summerheat struck, the storebought was only small then. My plan is to seed a whole bed with the local variety and another bed with the store bought variety, when the rain finally comes, and replant them in spring scattered over the vegetable garden and by the end of next year to have enough to get a small patch established or have them follow the chicken tractor.
 
Hugo Morvan
gardener
Posts: 690
Location: France, Burgundy, parc naturel Morvan
288
forest garden fish fungi trees food preservation cooking solar wood heat woodworking homestead
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
From PFAF on Italian Alder : Propagation

Seed - best sown in a cold frame as soon as it is ripe and only just covered[200]. Spring sown seed should also germinate successfully so long as it is not covered[200, K]. The seed should germinate in the spring as the weather warms up. When large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots. If growth is sufficient, it is possible to plant them out into their permanent positions in the summer, otherwise keep them in pots outdoors and plant them out in the spring. If you have sufficient quantity of seed, it can be sown thinly in an outdoor seed bed in the spring[78]. The seedlings can either be planted out into their permanent positions in the autumn/winter, or they can be allowed to grow on in the seed bed for a further season before planting them. Cuttings of mature wood, taken as soon as the leaves fall in autumn, outdoors in sandy soil.

PFAF
 
Rue Barbie
Posts: 72
Location: Coastal Southern California
3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
""Thanks Rue,  I shall heed your warnings about introducing new species. Please tell me what plants/cover you have growing after your spring flowers die off? ""

Your biggest problem will be lack of water. YOu mentioned a dry stream. I don't know about yours, but in summer, all of our streams are dry. The only times they flow are about a couple weeks after significant rains. And then they dry again.

If you want to establish trees in our climate type, you'll most likely have to get minimal water to them while their roots become established the first year or two. Or longer.

I am not a farmer or permaculturist. I have mainly veggie beds and some fruit trees (citrus/figs/peach/plum, apricot, avocados). And these all require some water in the long, dry summers or they simply do not prosper.

You ask what plants I have growing after the spring flush. No annuals unless they are in watered beds. I do use covercrops, but those require water to germinate and grow in summer. Right now I'm planning to plant more going into our rainy season (usually November it starts), but will water them to get them started. Rains are not dependable.

The species I am using I'm still experimenting. Rocket/arugula does great and reseeds. Buckwheat, and come extra garden cole seeds, Brassicas and radishes, even grocery store lentils. Sunflowers too.  Vetch (Vicia Villosa) is naturalized in the area. We also have lots of annual Mediterranean grasses that have become totally naturalized, which I welcome in my beds. Also some native flowers such as California poppies.

Two problems with annual cover crops here (besides water issues). The bunnies and ground squirrels and birds eat the seedlings when there is nothing else green to eat. And if you are thinking they will reseed, the birds and mice eat much of the seed that falls. so when you see dry seed heads, collect them.

There are some African daisies that do well without water all year and are pretty in springtime, but once you plant them, you will have them forever. Also some low-growing Aloes which seem to be no problem. Lantana prospers as well, blooms all year, attracts pollinators, and is very drought tolerant. Does not reseed much, but can be started by cuttings. There are both shrub and prostrate varieties, with color variety.

There are some California native varieties the industry has developed, which should grow there, but they do not seem to live a long time. I'd think something like Rosemary would be good, and some of the other sages would work. Rosemary is a common landscaping plant here. Low and veyr drought tolerant.

It's a great climate to be living in, but the lack of water does present a major challenge when establishing plants.
 
gardener
Posts: 6670
Location: Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
1321
hugelkultur dog forest garden duck fish fungi hunting books chicken writing homestead
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
hau Kieran, good looking land there.
I would suggest you focus at least two years on building the soil microbiome, once you have fungi, bacteria and all the other players of the microorganism world thriving and working for you, plant growth will take off and water will infiltrate better and stick around longer.
I would currently focus on cover cropping for chop and drop, regrow, once you can get this to cycle through the seasons, the soil will start to build thicker and that will give the water some place to hang on to.

When you plant trees (and for the trees that are there that you want to thrive, be sure to get mycorrhiza fungi into the root systems, without it in lands such as yours, the trees will struggle, with mycorrhizae the trees will be able to suck up more water, even if the soil seems dry.
If you haven't, I recommend you read through my soil series (link is in my signature line), you will find lots of information that is pertinent to your land.

Redhawk
 
Kieran Fawcett
Posts: 5
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hey Hugo, cheers for the info on Italian Alder. I bought my seeds from tree seeds online ltd. I haven’t used any yet, need to build one room of the ruined house and install the solar power then I’ll have a fridge for stratifying the seeds! All good fun.
Where are you based Hugo?
 
pollinator
Posts: 270
Location: Haiti
28
forest garden rabbit greening the desert
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I have the opposite problem at the moment (not ENOUGH "weeds"), but this video gives a good recommendation for dealing with overgrown areas:



I agree that you should allow it to reseed as much as possible. I'd try to mostly leave it alone except for some meandering paths and whatnot. Then plant strategically to shade from the harshest sun.

Beautiful land!
 
Kieran Fawcett
Posts: 5
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hey Bryant, many thanks for the input. Yes soil building definitely a priority. Any suggestions for a drought tolerant crop I could try to plant late spring with the last rains that I could grow over summer to be dropped in September? Millet or sorghum perhaps?

Kieran
 
Bryant RedHawk
gardener
Posts: 6670
Location: Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
1321
hugelkultur dog forest garden duck fish fungi hunting books chicken writing homestead
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Both of those would be really good for a dry season cover crop, the plants will completely shade the soil and their root systems will go as deep as they can (in your soil, we dug up a sorghum plant back in the 1980's to see just how deep the roots had gone (6 feet was the root system we were able to recover).
You may have to add some water but I've seen those plants continue to pull water from the soil even though they had not been irrigated for over a month with day time temps in the 102 range the whole 31 days of august and not one drop of rain fell in that time.
The plants will seed out and then begin to die so the plants don't really need to be chopped except to make room for a different crop planting.

Redhawk
 
Hugo Morvan
gardener
Posts: 690
Location: France, Burgundy, parc naturel Morvan
288
forest garden fish fungi trees food preservation cooking solar wood heat woodworking homestead
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi Kieran, nice website that is, treeseedonline, and they do ship to France, even better! I'm based in France in Burgundy in the national park called Morvan.
 
Hans Quistorff
gardener
Posts: 1180
Location: Longbranch, WA
198
goat tiny house rabbit wofati chicken solar
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Kieran Fawcett wrote:Hey Bryant, many thanks for the input. Yes soil building definitely a priority. Any suggestions for a drought tolerant crop I could try to plant late spring with the last rains that I could grow over summer to be dropped in September? Millet or sorghum perhaps?

Kieran


I use a chicken tractor moving it each evening, I want the chickens to sleep with full crops so I soak bird seed mix for 24 hours and feed it to them after I move the tractor. They always bury some of the seed as well as table scraps they don't eat. The buried seed come up during the spring and goes to seed in the summer so I can cut and throw it in the tractor for feeding them and provide more material for them to bury. August I switch to soaked wheat which will grow all winter protecting the soil. In late spring into summer the heads form on the wheat and when they turn yellow I cut them and feed them to the chickens. Chickens are quite content to harvest their own feed but they still drop some and bury it so over time I am buying less feed.
 
Kieran Fawcett
Posts: 5
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Rue Barbie wrote:""Thanks Rue,  I shall heed your warnings about introducing new species. Please tell me what plants/cover you have growing after your spring flowers die off? ""

Your biggest problem will be lack of water. YOu mentioned a dry stream. I don't know about yours, but in summer, all of our streams are dry. The only times they flow are about a couple weeks after significant rains. And then they dry again.

If you want to establish trees in our climate type, you'll most likely have to get minimal water to them while their roots become established the first year or two. Or longer.

I am not a farmer or permaculturist. I have mainly veggie beds and some fruit trees (citrus/figs/peach/plum, apricot, avocados). And these all require some water in the long, dry summers or they simply do not prosper.

You ask what plants I have growing after the spring flush. No annuals unless they are in watered beds. I do use covercrops, but those require water to germinate and grow in summer. Right now I'm planning to plant more going into our rainy season (usually November it starts), but will water them to get them started. Rains are not dependable.

The species I am using I'm still experimenting. Rocket/arugula does great and reseeds. Buckwheat, and come extra garden cole seeds, Brassicas and radishes, even grocery store lentils. Sunflowers too.  Vetch (Vicia Villosa) is naturalized in the area. We also have lots of annual Mediterranean grasses that have become totally naturalized, which I welcome in my beds. Also some native flowers such as California poppies.

Two problems with annual cover crops here (besides water issues). The bunnies and ground squirrels and birds eat the seedlings when there is nothing else green to eat. And if you are thinking they will reseed, the birds and mice eat much of the seed that falls. so when you see dry seed heads, collect them.

There are some African daisies that do well without water all year and are pretty in springtime, but once you plant them, you will have them forever. Also some low-growing Aloes which seem to be no problem. Lantana prospers as well, blooms all year, attracts pollinators, and is very drought tolerant. Does not reseed much, but can be started by cuttings. There are both shrub and prostrate varieties, with color variety.

There are some California native varieties the industry has developed, which should grow there, but they do not seem to live a long time. I'd think something like Rosemary would be good, and some of the other sages would work. Rosemary is a common landscaping plant here. Low and veyr drought tolerant.

It's a great climate to be living in, but the lack of water does present a major challenge when establishing plants.



thanks for the suggestions and thoughts rue. I agree water is our problem until we can build the soil we can’t get the land to act as a sponge and release the water over the hot summer.
Lots of wild sage thyme and rosemary here already so plenty to work with.

 
pollinator
Posts: 3113
Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even Soil:SandyLoam pH6 Flat
313
forest garden solar
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Instead of trying to do all 12acres all at once. I think limiting it to just 1 acre at 1st, might make it more manageable.
You might be able to get a well going in that old river bed. Or at least have some ditch that siphon off the flood water from it during rain events. With that you would be able to 'flood irrigate your 1acre food forest. I am not too sure how long the river bed is but, lets say it is 600ft, If you plant on both sides that 1200ft. Thats 120 plants if a 10ft spacing is used. 240 plants if double row and thats an acre.

Where I am living everything goes leafless, brown and dead looking for 6months, and it's okay. I don't true to make it look green, I work with my climate, likewise you might be able to embrace the period of dormancy. You can have a small intensely managed plot just for vegetables, maybe a 1/4 acre.

I would plant alot of date palms for the shade and for covercrop, I would do sudan/sorghum grass, and for legumes (shrubs=Acacia cyclops, A. longifolia, A. melanoxylon, Cytisus scoparius, weeds=Astragalus cicer, Medicago sativa, Trifolium hybridum, Trifolium repens).


 
Put the moon back where you found it! We need it for tides and poetry and stuff. Like this tiny ad:
Greenhouse of the Future ebook - now free for a while
https://permies.com/goodies/greenhouse
reply
    Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic