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wind break trees in high desert?

 
Nathan King
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I feel overwhelmed by the large task establishing permaculture, but I really want to get it done. I have a major problem where I live with wind, and I need to put in either a wall or some trees to deal with this. It often blows in from the south or the north. What kind of trees should I consider planting? Whoever lived at the house last tried planting some pine trees, but they're all dead. I want to make sure I don't repeat the same mistake. The PH of the soil is about 8.5 I just found out. The winds can get really bad in January. It actually tore apart a wood shed. One time it ripped up a bunch of my plants in the spring.

I'm actually looking into the Italian cypress tree, but I also want to find some fruit trees that would be suitable in the climate and the high ph. I think almond trees and pomegranates might be suitable.

Half of the 2 acre property is sloping downhill in the southern direction where the wind comes in from as well. I'd like to know whether I could terrace this or add some sort of wind resilient fruiting tree in.

Even if I don't build a wall, I'm probably going to have to build some fences since there's a lot of birds, rabbits, and javilinas, which can all eat my garden but also provide a supply of natural manure. I wanna try to work this somehow in the permaculture scheme.
 
tel jetson
steward
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Location: woodland, washington
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tell us a little more (or a lot more) about your location and climate.
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
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Location: North Central Michigan
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the quickest windbreak I can suggest is Jerusalem Artichokes..if you have someone nearby (I'm in Michigan) that have some growing they'll likely give you all you want..or sell them to you...as they multiplly outrageously.

They grow very fast..sometimes the first year they might not but by the second year they should get 6 to 8 ' tall with no problem and if they are about a foot apart it will be pretty much impenetrable.

They wear there leaves to the ground..pretty much..and if happy will flower..but they don't have to

they taste good (a bit gassy)..but for hedges they can't be beat.

put them in and then put your trees in just upwind from them ..leave at least 2 or 3 feet between the tree and the JA's..more if you plan to harvest the JA's so you don't disturb the tree roots.

also you can get tree tubes from forestry products catalogs fairly cheap that will also help to protect your trees from the wind..however..a protected tree will not be as strong as a tree that has no tube.

the wind makes the roots strong..but it can also kill your tree..so it is a choice..if the tubes aren't staked too rigidly and the trees are allowed to sway some, that might help to strengthen the roots.

gaia's garden has some good info on putting trees in in windy areas..it is a book by Toby Hemenway and is avail at most libraries
 
Nathan King
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Whether Stats for My Home

Here's some more specific info about the climate I live in.

Most of the precipitation is in August during the AZ monsoon season, in which last year it was 3.09 inches. The low was .30 inches in June. The average rainfall throughout the whole year is 1.5 inches.

My USDA hardiness zone is 7A.

 
Nathan King
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If someone could help me with more windbreak tree ideas, it would be very helpful.

The wind can get as high as 60 mph. The low normally gets down to 20 degrees F in the winter. One time it got to 0, but that was rare. The temp can get as high as 100. There's a large slope on the side of the property where most of the wind comes in from. The soil is mostly clay, and its very arid. Rainfall averages 1.5 inches in a year.

I'm considering Acacia, but it seems kind of skinny. I'm looking into Italian Cypress, but I'm afraid it might require too much water.

Another problem is high alkalinity in my soil.
 
Sandra Ellane
Posts: 71
Location: New Mexico high desert Zone 7a, alkaline soils. 9" average annual rainfall.
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Hi Nathan, I'm in Albuquerque and face a lot of the same issues. The wind is bad here too. Years ago I lived on the other side of mountains on 13 acres, winds were fierce and it was hard to get anything to grow.

I don't know about AZ, but the NM forestry service has a seedling program if you own more than an acre. I only had success when I installed drip irrigation to all of these little trees.

My advice, after years of trial and error here, is to start with small areas. If you try to tackle the whole place all at once you'll get overwhelmed and fail, then get discouraged.

Larger trees suffer more transplant shock than smaller trees so you have to baby them quite a bit. If you start with smaller trees, you could set a hay bale on the side of the prevailing wind to provide a bit of shelter till the tree gets bigger.

You can also try a sunken hugelkultur bed which will build water retention in your soil and it will be less susceptible to the terrible dry winds than raised hugel. I'm doing that here. The more organic matter you can get in the ground, the better off you'll be. Contact your local cooperative extention or forestry service to see what trees do the best in that area and stick with those.
 
james mason
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If you live in coconino I can help with a whole bunch... well the best pines are austrian pines for drought wind sun cold and heat. A very versatile tree I'm using north of williams... be sure to water at least once a week from march to july for the first year... then every other week... from there on... it takes very little water if applied directly into the root system ... and I can show you plans for this as well as building codes youlll likely need.... first step... absolutely get a water tank in and a water catch system...before planting anything at all... I can show you a vast variety of fruit trees animals vegetables and berries that will grow there once your water and windbreaks are all setup...
 
A Philipsen
Posts: 58
Location: OR - Willamette Valley
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Do you have a county extension office you can call? They would know what would grow where you are and where to get it. We have seedling sales every winter here, you can get lots of trees (of course this is OR, we're all about the trees) and native plants for super cheap and the extension office knows who/when/where for the ones they aren't directly involved in.
 
jill giegerich
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I have a very similar situation in Joshua Tree, CA. Fierce winds from the S, SW and N but particularly from the SW. I'm slowly planting a windbreak of native Honey and Screwbean Mesquites (Velvet is native to AZ), Palo Verdes, black locust. All food producers. With each tree I put in a small sponge swale on contour (I use junk mail and old horse stall straw to pack the swale) on the uphill side just outside the water well. Inside each water well, I put in a deep watering tube (3' L, 4" W with a line of holes down it pointing towards the root ball and a clay Olla. No drip irrigation. Right now I'm hand watering these trees. I want to see if I can get the roots down deep as fast as possible so that they are on their own. A bit closer to the house but also in line with the wind, I've planted some olive trees - great windbreak trees and super hardy. My greywater goes out to them.
 
Amit Enventres
Posts: 262
Location: Ohio, USA
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fish food preservation forest garden
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We have winds here. Fences help- though impermiable fence = kite. Make sure it's got some small holes atleats and anchor in the ground. I see a lot of eucalyptus and pepper tree to make windbreaks here, but they are allelopathic. I know acacia and mesquite are supposed to be real good for standing up to harsh climates, but can be a bit aggressive and not very tall to start. The problem with fruit trees being a wind defense is their going to get too beat-up. Heavy fruit laden branches will get torn off the tree causing entry points for disease and an overall poor looking fruit tree. Instead, have your first line of defense be something else and then have fruit trees follow to maintain the calm. Back in the day, I heard they used tamarix to stop wind out in Az, but it went nutts in teh riperian areas and drops it's salt-ladden leaves, killing everything else around it. So, it worked great as a wind stop, but bad as a plant for the ecosystem. I'd sugest a multi-teared approach if the winds are as bad as you claim.

A fence will stop large debris and cut the wind a little (and, they can be fast growing - mean built - to whatever size you want) bunnies usually don't go past like 3 ft here.

I suggest huggelkulture or other earthen wind traps to trap soil and slow wind on the ground (where young seedlings need to fight for their lives).

Then I suggest bushes and large bunch grasses ontop of a 3ft hugelkulture bed, you can get a thick 8ft barrier in three years. Supposedly windbreaks give protection on the ground of ten times their height behind the windbreak and 2 times the height in front of the windbreak (where the wind is). so that'll make a difference- maybe not for your fruit, but for anything lower than that.

Then I suggest trees. Sandra had a good point - starting seedlings in the ground for maximum root growth makes sense. With other short windbreaks around, the seedlings will grow faster and healthier longer before hitting the high wind area.

As for species specific to windbreak, if you use a thick belt of all sizes and shapes (bushes filling the lower section and trees filling the upper section, you should do pretty well. with quite a variety.

*A note on fire protection: don't have the windbreak end at your wooden house or any other non-earthen structure you value, if you have wildfires*

As for species, I'd look into using hugelkulture and other mulching to lower your pH humic acid will do a lot for your soils - which, btw, are probably not high in organic matter are they?

You may be able to get away with juniper (tolerates up to an 8.0), acacia tolerates upto an 8.5, paloverde probably tolerates what you have pretty well. Same with redbud. They aren't real tall, but put them on top of the hugelkulture bed and 30ft isn't real short - especially if you plant trees throughout the property and not just one row. Desert Ironwood tolerates a pH 0f 8.6 but only gets 20ft tall (though kind of bushy). Curl leaf mountain mahogany is another shorty, but hardy. Tecate cypress gets tall and bushy, but I don't know the pH on that. I think if you get the smaller trees going and some humic acid working your soils, you may be able to get more varieties (and taller ones) after that. A lot of the ones I mentioned are nitrogen fixers too. Some have edible products and some wood. I think they all drop some leaf litter and none that I mentioned in this paragraph I know to be allelopathic. Just because they aren't fruit trees doesn't mean they aren't useful.

Anyway, that's what I'd do.
 
andrew curr
Posts: 288
Location: Deepwater northern New South wales Australia
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where are you
Arizona cypress?
 
S Carreg
Posts: 260
Location: De Cymru (West Wales, UK)
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I can only offer sympathy - we also have strong winds, 40 mph blowing on and off for days on end is pretty common and 60+ mph has happened several times over the last year, however the climate is also quite wet so totally different to you in that respect. My veg garden is somewhat sheltered by earth berms, but nevertheless most things are wind-stunted - the broad beans (field beans) only got about 18-24" high, and the jerusalem artichokes that people keep raving about on here a)never get higher than about 4', and b) blow over when the wind gets really strong - they need quite a bit of support.

I've only just started getting to know it, but I wonder if autumn olive might work for you? It does very well in exposed conditions.
 
Frank Fernando
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I have had good luck with Siberian Pea Shrub in the high desert of central Oregon. Makes a good hedge, drought tolerant and fixes nitrogen.
 
Aaron Goodwin
Posts: 5
Location: Apple Valley, CA
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Add me to the list of people with the same problem. I'm looking into creating a bamboo hedge.
 
Dave Dahlsrud
Posts: 453
Location: North-Central Idaho
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books food preservation fungi hugelkultur trees
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I think that hands down the best windbreak you can get is going to be a berm of some sort (hugel, big pile of dirt, or a big hole ala cratergarten). They will actually stop/redirect the wind if that is what you are trying to accomplish. The windward side is going to be a sacrifice area and won't likely produce a whole lot, but if you are creative you could probably get something out of it. The big benefit is going to be on the leeward side where you will get a bit of a 'wind shadow' and completely stop those desiccating winds. Incorporating some trees and shrubs should definitely be on the menu but I would start with some earthworks to gain the greatest benefit.
 
Colin Nelson
Posts: 60
Location: Baton Rouge, Louisiana
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Macrocarpa is by far the finest hedgerow/windbreak that I've ever seen, though 7a might be too warm for it. Apparently it becomes more vulnerable to a fungus in warmer climates, but the dryness of Az could offset the vulnerability.
 
Isaac Bickford
Posts: 101
Location: Okanogan County, WA
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Prickly-pear cactus is another one that can be established without irrigation as a temporary windbreak to shelter trees, which will become the permanent windbreak. Given a deep watering once or twice in the summer, they should get up tall/thick enough in one year to make a favorable microclimate for establishing your trees/shrubs upwind of them.
 
Colin Nelson
Posts: 60
Location: Baton Rouge, Louisiana
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I experienced the Macrocarpa herdge rows when I lived in New Zealand, the kids would climb them and walk all over the connected tops. They were extremely sturdy.
 
Linda Ford
Posts: 32
Location: Southwestern New Mexico
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It has been 3 years since your first post. What did you try and with what results?
Here in SW NM I was advised to plant Az Cypress at the furthest end of my yard (they need some room to grow big and bushy) and Mesquite and Acacia outside the garden fence. I bought larger trees but as they are still only in their 2nd year they aren't much of a wind break yet.

I built a large swale and burm (on contour) at that far end and put the Az Cypress on the downslope side to take advantage of the water "lens" (underground pooling). They have required regular watering this first year and one blew over because the roots hadn't penetrated past the caliche "bowl" it was planted in. Stood it up and re-staked it and it seems to be ok. I also 'planted' watering tubes (3" thin wall pvc with holes at the bottom) hoping that once established I will only need to supplement them in the driest months. I used the 3" thin walled because they make a cap for the 3" and it doesn't fit tight in the thin wall so it is easy to remove without pliers. To do it again I would use a longer tube so that I could fill it with 3-5 gals of water at one time and walk away rather than thinking of them as simply "access" to the root ball. The ollas seem like a tried and true desert adaptation as well, though they only hold a few quarts of water at a time.

I have seen ranchers use bamboo along fields but 1) get the least spreading kind and 2) it still needs aggressive cutting to keep it just along the fence line and out of the field, where the water is. It grows fast but once planted it is forever. If you are looking for a material to build other fences with, the bamboo was well recommended.

I don't know if you know that the Prickly-pear pads are also edible as well as the fruit. Processing videos can be found on youtube. So are mesquite beans which are good for livestock as well.

The waiting is the hardest part!
 
Rez Zircon
Posts: 86
Location: Brendansport, Sagitta IV
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I lived in the high desert near Lancaster CA for many years. We also a lot of wind, so regularly that anything under a steady 40mph was a 'calm' day!! Our typical annual temperature range was +115F to 0F, with extremes of +122F to -10F, and max wind 84mph.

The absolute best desert windbreak tree is saltcedar aka tamarisk (it's also a good firewood producer) but it's messy and is considered invasive, tho frankly I've never seen it volunteer anywhere in the desert. It suckers thickly around the base which traps blowing sand. It will come back from any sort of abuse including being cut down to the ground every 3 years for firewood. (Yes, it grows that fast.) It's a small brushy tree with many sucker limbs when water-deprived, but I've also seen one growing right in a stream that got HUGE and looked like a regular tree. It will play dead during extreme heat, but comes right back. It is excellent quail habitat.

Eldarica pines (aka Afghan pines) are tough, twisty little trees that don't need much water and are heat and cold tolerant, tho they get much thicker if deep-watered about once a month during hot weather. (I'd just turn the hose on and let it run overnight 2-3 times per summer.) They grow much straighter and stronger if NOT braced when young, so don't give in to the temptation to tie them against the wind. They can stay thick around the base if not chewed by livestock. They can get bark beetles and host ground termites if repeatedly stressed or if there are injuries that expose the wood.

Italian Stone Pines are a tidy graceful tree of globular habit and fairly slow growth. They don't get bendy from the wind and are usually the very last to die under extreme drought. I never watered mine and it was the healthiest tree around. No pests that I ever saw.

There is a small-leaved form of Italian Cypress that does well in the desert, and tends to stay thick all the way down. I don't know the variety name but you will notice that the foliage is much finer and denser than average, and the tree's habit is narrower too (mine was still less than 3 feet wide at 35 feet tall). It is not affected by the wind and seems pretty flexible as to water requirements. No pests but will attract nesting birds.

 
C. Letellier
Posts: 221
Location: Greybull WY north central WY zone 4 bordering on 3
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I am in a high pH heavy clay soil with high salt content. Which violates virtually every rule for evergreen trees. In the evergreen or semi everygreen category I have only found 2 trees that will hang on sort of in the soil conditions. Junipers and Austrian pines. But there is another catch. Because we are extremely dry through the winter the temperature goes through extreme swings. The ground will be frozen hard with 40 and 60 mph warm winds. That leads to dehydrating the tops to death. The cure has been to use a wax type anti-transpirant on the trees every fall. Hopefully when they get big enough to be a true wind break that will no longer be necessary. Also while my initial survival rate on bare root Austrian pines has been way less their long term health has been better. 1 gallon potted the short term survival rate is about 80% with the bare roots only 10% but given costs and long term tree health I would go with the bare roots. You can get 10 of them for very little more than 1 container tree will cost you. 1 eastern red cedar did survive the soil for a year but winter killed so I would put it in the maybe pile to try also. Be aware the junipers turn brown each winter but do green up again in the spring so don't remove them till you know they are dead. All will take some irrigation in your climate.

The salt cedar growth talked about in someones post above is in good soils. In my heavy clay soils they do grow but firewood sized would probably take 50 years in my heavy clay. Typical here is 8 to 10 feet tall and trunks an inch to inch and half in 10 to 20 years is more typical here. Common temps here we make 20 below nearly every year and 110 nearly every year with winters of 40 and 50 below occasionally and 120+ days on the hot side some summers.
 
Rez Zircon
Posts: 86
Location: Brendansport, Sagitta IV
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Wow, that's as bad as where I lived last year in Montana. The dirt was clay silt with zero nutrients. I had to apply Miracle Gro to get grass to grow, and I mean the tough grass that's supposed to survive anything. Even weeds struggled. Elms would grow in it where they got some water, but pretty much nothing else for trees.

Elms also did good where I lived in the SoCal desert. Until the county started topping the elms along the side roads, they even survived all the droughts. Topping killed most of 'em within 3 or 4 years.

 
Melissa Nicole
Posts: 8
Location: Zone 7b; Mohave Desert
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You obviously live near me. My almonds are doing well but not really growing fast enough to be an effective wind break. Pomegrantes come from a climate very similar to ours and do phenomenal here. I have also heard that pineapple guava can work as an evergreen edible hedge here.

For a windbreak/protection for my veggie garden I have espaliered/hedged apricots on the south side. On the north side I am using the native, already there, creosote bushes.

Rabbits are the biggest pest I face by far. I put fences around everything I don't want them eating. Sharing with the birds is a nice idea but they can be greedy out here so bird netting can be useful. As far as keeping javelina out I have seen pics of concrete barriers used to stop them out here. I use dogs.

Eucalyptus varieties can do well here and help drive off certain types of pest.
 
Rez Zircon
Posts: 86
Location: Brendansport, Sagitta IV
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Where javalina are a pest you might try Osage Orange (not a real orange tree). They had naturalized along Ave.I in Lancaster CA and seemed to survive all manner of malicious neglect. One of their traditional uses has been as a livestock barrier -- plant and trim them as a hedge rather than as trees and they are supposed to be impenetrable due to thick stems and long thorns.

Olives also did well there (regular crop-bearing olives, not Russian olives) -- there was an old orchard a few miles from me that hadn't been watered since... probably the 1980s by the amount of detritus, and at some point someone had cut some of the trees to the ground (they all came back), and despite all this and years of drought most of them were still alive in 2012. They can be trimmed to make a dense hedge, too.
 
jill giegerich
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Rez Zircon wrote:I lived in the high desert near Lancaster CA for many years. We also a lot of wind, so regularly that anything under a steady 40mph was a 'calm' day!! Our typical annual temperature range was +115F to 0F, with extremes of +122F to -10F, and max wind 84mph.

The absolute best desert windbreak tree is saltcedar aka tamarisk (it's also a good firewood producer) but it's messy and is considered invasive, tho frankly I've never seen it volunteer anywhere in the desert. It suckers thickly around the base which traps blowing sand. It will come back from any sort of abuse including being cut down to the ground every 3 years for firewood. (Yes, it grows that fast.) It's a small brushy tree with many sucker limbs when water-deprived, but I've also seen one growing right in a stream that got HUGE and looked like a regular tree. It will play dead during extreme heat, but comes right back. It is excellent quail habitat.

Eldarica pines (aka Afghan pines) are tough, twisty little trees that don't need much water and are heat and cold tolerant, tho they get much thicker if deep-watered about once a month during hot weather. (I'd just turn the hose on and let it run overnight 2-3 times per summer.) They grow much straighter and stronger if NOT braced when young, so don't give in to the temptation to tie them against the wind. They can stay thick around the base if not chewed by livestock. They can get bark beetles and host ground termites if repeatedly stressed or if there are injuries that expose the wood.

Italian Stone Pines are a tidy graceful tree of globular habit and fairly slow growth. They don't get bendy from the wind and are usually the very last to die under extreme drought. I never watered mine and it was the healthiest tree around. No pests that I ever saw.

There is a small-leaved form of Italian Cypress that does well in the desert, and tends to stay thick all the way down. I don't know the variety name but you will notice that the foliage is much finer and denser than average, and the tree's habit is narrower too (mine was still less than 3 feet wide at 35 feet tall). It is not affected by the wind and seems pretty flexible as to water requirements. No pests but will attract nesting birds.



The mere mention of the name tamarisk puts fear in my heart, Rez Zircon. A tamarisk was planted by the previous owner of my last house in the high desert. Lovely tree, tough as nails, bees love it. It sits about 100 feet from the septic tank. It's roots completely filled that tank and the whole system had to be replaced.
 
Rez Zircon
Posts: 86
Location: Brendansport, Sagitta IV
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jill giegerich wrote:The mere mention of the name tamarisk puts fear in my heart, Rez Zircon. A tamarisk was planted by the previous owner of my last house in the high desert. Lovely tree, tough as nails, bees love it. It sits about 100 feet from the septic tank. It's roots completely filled that tank and the whole system had to be replaced.


Wow, that's a big black mark... well, don't plant 'em anywhere near the house!
 
elle sagenev
Posts: 1261
Location: Zone 5 Wyoming
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You should be looking at your conservation district for this. They often have wind break planning services and for a rather small fee will even plant them out for you. They also sell the sapling trees are a good rate. I don't know much about climates other than my own but I will say that diversity and planning will be your best bet. For me, in my high wind desert but COLD climate I have a 5 deep wind break with 4 different species. I have Caragana as the very first in line as they grow quickly and are hardy. They protect the pine trees which protect the evergreen trees which protect the lilac bushes that form my final layer.
 
jill giegerich
Posts: 27
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I've been using a planting method that I learned at the Bullock Bros. Permaculture Farm on Orcas Island. My windbreak consists of olive trees planted in the same holes with either a Mesquite or a Palo Verde. A nitrogen fixer planted with a fruiting tree. They've been in the ground for 6 months now and so far so good. Both seem happy and healthy. My plan is to occasionally coppice the nitrogen fixers, which will cause root die back and release of nitrogen to the olive trees.
 
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