The slash from the trees you mentioned and the shrubs should be fine in hugelculture. The pine is not ideal, but some branches, etc. mixed in with other material should be fine. You may need a drip line or soaker hose on the berm for a while while you are establishing young plants.
Where are you? Mountains in N. California?
look up manure coldframes, might be good for creating compost in spring and fall
Growing food in the southwest mountains: A permaculture approach to home gardening above 6,500 feet in Arizona, New Mexico, southern Colorado and southern Utah
You can grow most things, but it can be a challenge. The main limitations are: alkaline soil, scalding sun, dryness, wind, late summer hail storms, occaisional intense cold snaps. The biggest things you can do are use plenty mulch, basic water harvesting techniques (swale & berms etc.), use nurse plants. Nurse plants help a lot with trees and shrubs since the wind and sun can set them back. Faster growing nitrogen fixing trees and shrubs work well (goumi, siberian pea shrub, NM locust).
I've used all the local wood for hugelculture. Piñon rots very fast when in contact with soil. Ponderosa and juniper are slower but still work o.k. You will find some people that predict doom with using juniper and other conifers. It works fine, and if that is what you have why not use it?
I think I would put the wood chips below the compost as wood will break down by the use of fungi and have a better ability to reach moisture using an extensive web. The compost is mostly bacteria and may be most beneficial to the plants root system in useful nutrients and nitrogen fixation. Just my 2 cents.
Jack La Fey wrote:Are there constraints on the kinds of fruits and vegetables I can grow at this 6,000ft altitude? I'm also unsure if the native plants will complicate the soil preparation. I have Gamble Oak, Pinion, Ponderosa Pine, Rabbit Brush and a slew of delightful cacti. Are any of these incompatible with conventional food crops? I have sandy loam soil that I aim to cover with compost, then wood chips. Is there anything further I might do?
Gooseberries are native to the Colorado mountain forests, so they should do fine. Also, peaches (recommend the cascade peaches or the flamin' fury line of trees), the wild plums, cultivated plums, cherries (sour are hardier), and apricots should do fine. I'm not positive, but I think some of those native trees might suppress other plants, so you might want to not plant too close to them.
You may need an innoculent for beans and peas the first year, depending on your soil. Mine at 5,000 didn't need any. Potatoes and tomatoes and squash do fine here, as do alliums, though the perennial alliums do better (such as shallots, chives, and the native Nodding Onion). Once your soil is built up and richer, I'd say the annual ones will do like they are supposed to as well.
Melons are a little trickier. They grow fine, but they are finicky about soil/moisture/heat in producing good texture and flavor and ripening properly. I recommend the Van Doren Moon and Stars, and the Old Tennessee, and possibly the Noir de Carme and Golden Midget. Haven't had any luck with others so far.
Pumpkins and winter squash do fine, as do corn, beans, peas, grapes, raspberries, leeks, blackberries, and strawberries. Blueberries, but they don't like alkaline soil, so you'll have to amend for them.
Mostly, just look for short season stuff. At 6,000ft, you have a shorter season than I do at 5,000ft, but you'll have to watch out for things that stop producing when the temps soar into the upper 90s or drop into the 30s. Striped German is a good heirloom tomato that works for me (though I have clay loam), as are Great White and Stupice. Kale and Lettuce will thrive, but you'll want to interplant your lettuce with taller plants to prevent it from getting tough and bitter.
So not really a lot of restrictions, other than not trying to grow tropicals as perennials, or selecting varieties that only thrive in cool, wet, temperate conditions, that kind of thing.
The abundance and relative cheap cost of all these wood chip mulches is due in large part to construction waste no longer being accepted in landfills. So keep in mind that a lot of the wood chip mulches have some amount of pressure treated wood in it. You can use 3 inches of yard waste compost (again with the use of construction waste for 'compost' as well), three inches of shredded leaves, 3 inches of dried grass clippings. There are more options out there too. All of them will act as an effective weedblock and retain moisture. An added benefit is that compost has good microbials in it that will help your garden, and stuff like shredded leaves will attract earthworms who will work and fertilize your soil.
When woodchips are used as mulch, they do a really good job at retaining moisture. So well in fact that crazy fungus and molds will take up residence. Some of the fungus known as artillery fungus actually shoot the spores several feet, and they are pretty difficult to remove from a house or anything else. take your woodchips and compost them for 2-3 years, then you will have some good stuff!
I used row covers and hoop houses to extend the season on the front and back end here in the springs. They work OK in the spring, and much better in the fall. This year we are going to try some hotbeds inside a cold frame to see about getting fresh greens all winter. Our cukes and squash, zucchini do well on their own from store bought plants (our dogs ate the seed started plants this year) and we had to give a lot of it away last year.
on edit: I found out yesterday that my wife's boss has over a dozen peach trees here in the springs that do fabulously
It was all about the water and temp. We had to "build soil" in the containers. Or buy it. You can grow a lot in that sun or in a protected area. Good luck.
Good luck and let us know what you try out.
I would really check around the areas similar to yours and see what people have been able to grow, hopefully someone here will suggest..but I'm thinking that you probably should be able to grow a few deciduous fruit trees and bushes, like maybe apples, cherries, pears, possibly peaches and plums and grapes? Also maybe some bramble berries and blueberries.
use the existing plants to create suntraps and windbreaks, maybe put in a swale on the south side or downhill side from each of the trees and make a place to plant your baby tree or shrub..gathering all kinds of organic matter to put into the swale area.
Did you ever grow anything in the garden of your mind? - Fred Rogers. Tiny ad:
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