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Central Texas Case Study.

Posts: 104
Location: Rutledge, MO
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Greetings Permies! The purpose of this post is to request input concerning a 6000 square foot garden plot that I am planting this year in central Texas.

A bit about myself:
- I make $20k a year, do not own any land
- Conventional gardening experience: 4 years, growing flowers and a small number of potted vegetables in a suburban backyard
- Permaculture gardening experience: zilch, with modest book knowledge

Plot Characteristics:
- My gardening efforts are confined to a relatively small area, for the time being, as the property belongs to my mother-in-law and significant changes require her approval
- Dimensions: ~6000 sq/ft, roughly rectangular: 150'x40'
- Slope: approximately flat
- Sun exposure: full sun, west side of property
- Soil composition: quarternary alluvium, gypsum and limestone substrate: sandy clay loam, highly compacted, (I weigh 180 lbs and can thrust a sharp spade about 3" into soil), minimal organic matter
* http://soils.usda.gov/survey/online_surveys/texas/TX451/tomgreen.pdf
- Soil ph: alkaline - approximately 8.0 - 8.5 (according to most recent community soil survey - 1992)
- Average rainfall: 13-16" annually
- Rainfall pattern: Winter precipitation with dry summers - last year this area went almost four months without precipitaton through the hottest part of the season, the rain that does fall is in dribs and drabs
- Average temperature: 130-150 days annually above 86 degrees F, temperatures exceed 110 degrees F, occasionally
- Average annual low: zone 8a/7b: 10-20 degrees F
- Frost risk: None
* http://davesgarden.com/guides/freeze-frost-dates/index.php?q=76901&submit=Go
- Wind influences: loose tree/shrubbery windbreak to south and west, average wind speed in community: 10.9 mph
- Water supply: grey water from household showers, (kitchen and laundry room plumbing drain onto lawn grass - sorry, it's my mother-in-law's policy)
- Structural features:
* Aluminum hoop-house sheathed with chicken wire, roosting area still intact; ~150 sq/ft
* Bordered by livestock panels on east side, barbed wire south and west , 10' garage wall north
- Previous land uses:
* Goat pen/chicken run: some manuring, soil compaction
* Dumping ground for winter wood ashes, kitchen scrap composting
- Existing flora:
* Numerous native volunteers, mostly ragweed, wild onion, opuntia cacti, a few mesquite saplings, various tussock grasses; several volunteer gourd plants
* Fencelines are bordered by mature mesquites, opuntia, and waist-high grasses in some areas
* http://essmextension.tamu.edu/plants/brushandweeds/regionsevenlist.aspx
* http://essmextension.tamu.edu/plants/brushandweeds/regioneightlist.aspx
- Existing fauna:
* Currently on plot: copious red ants, blister beetles, scorpions
* Access to plot: 1 large dog, 1 guinea cock, several feral cats, feral skunks, miscellaneous regional microfauna, (few deer, racoons, rodents or rattlesnakes in immediate proximity)
* Foraging danger: on west side of plot, three horses have access to grazing within a few feet of boundary fence
* Other animals: 4 freeranged goats penned in separate area of property; many nearby horses and cattle fed in the conventional manner
- Known contaminants:
* Pesticides: mostly limited to ant control - applied annually
* Animal feed: convential grain feed used in area over four years ago, possible sourse of persistent herbicides - effects unknown, assumed to be insignificant
* Gasoline/patroleum products: derived from occasional use of lawnmower in area - insignificant quantities

It is my intention to sell proceeds from the garden plot, rather than supply my own food needs.

I am interested in the following information from any respondents:
1. How to prepare and amend soil of the type indicated
2. Garden layout suggestions (see included image for an approximate map of plot)
3. Guild suggestions based on climate, marketability, etc
4. Suggestions on rotating crops, and interplanting with respect to seasonality
5. Breeds of animals that do well in semiarid climates
6. Possible sources for organic mulching materials, favorite suppliers of seeds and animal stock, etc

I have subjective interests in growing some of the following:
1. Basic polyculture-4 guild of: sunchoke, Chinese artichoke, groundnut (Apios americana) and scarlet runner bean - to include more species once I have a sense of what they ought to be
2. Polyculture-5 guild of: several heirloom tomato varieties, several heirloom chili varieties, asparagus, several alliums, and various culinary herbs
3. Other things I would like to work in: grain amaranth, radishes, nasturtiums, fennel, bush squash, sweet potatoes, okra, beets, kohlrabi, lucerne, spice plants, medicinal plants - to include more
4. Animals I have an interest in: muscovy ducks, turkeys, heirloom breeds, freeranging rabbits
- I ascribe to the "scatter a little of everything and what grows is meant to be there" philosophy of guilding, but it seems to me that we can increase the chances of guilds being successful by implementing what little we know of companion planting

Miscellaneous points of clarification:
- I have read that sunchokes and tomatoes should not be planted together. Does anyone know why? The only reason I can think of is that sunchokes might shade out tomatoes.
- When is the appropriate time to attempt starting a bee hive, in my climate? Wildflowers are currently in season throughout the area, but I don't want to leave them starving over summer, if it's too late.
- What, if any, modifications can I make to improve water availability for the garden? Currently there are no gutters in place to harvest rainwater.

Thanks to anyone willing to help me with my project! It is my hope that this will become an example to other permies living in similar climates.

- CV
[Thumbnail for Garden-Plot-Map.jpg]
Posts: 67
Location: north texas 7b now 8a
fish fungi trees
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sunchokes attract pest that like tomatoes. Chokes are strong the bugs don't get them, tom. not so much. Use the chokes as a trap crop. That being said I have a plot of chokes 5 ft from tomatoes w/ no probs.
Collin Vickers
Posts: 104
Location: Rutledge, MO
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I have a clump of sunroot adjacent to an area where tomatoes are growing with a range of other things. There are lots of bugs in both areas, but seemingly different types, for the most part. For instance, I have scads of lubber grasshoppers in my sunchokes - they climb right to the top of each stalk, pop a beer can and turn their radios all the way to eleven. But, I don't see these in the tomatoes or other areas as frequently.

What kinds of pests do sunroot and tomatoes have in common?
Posts: 7638
Location: Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep clay/loam with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
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This is an amazing goal! How much were you able to accomplish this summer?
Collin Vickers
Posts: 104
Location: Rutledge, MO
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I sectioned off about a third of it to grow miscellaneous garden crops, struck in a clump of sunroot near the boundary-line and sowed the rest with a range of cover crops.

The garden crops have done well, but require watering every other day.

The sunroot do splendily, and require watering about once a week. I don't think they're as tall as they should be, and I havn't seen any flowers appear, (although the sunflowers bloomed long ago,) but at least they are low maintenance.

Most of the cover crop was choked out by sticker grass, apart from red amaranth, which is doing very well. In bloom currently.

I didn't plant any trees or make any major modifications because I don't have permission from my landlord to do much. No animals involved, other than the wild insects and birds than move throughout the area.

This garden was an experiment in polyculture.
Posts: 188
Location: Outside Detroit, MI
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Tune in to Bob Webster on 550 AM on Saturdays and Sundays around 7am or 8am. He is not permaculture, but could be easily. Very much an Organic gardener. Though half the show is often merely ornamentals and flowers.
You can also download his podcasts via: South Texas Gardening Podcast on iTunes.

He'll tell you quick. Sticker burs are wimps. They are just Mother Natures way to prevent erosion.

Check local municipalities if you can get free mulch anywhere Then mulch heavily.

AND YOU MUST GROW OKRA. It is so easy in Texas heat. Takes good water to help it get started.
Plant in April, about 10" apart, 2-3 parallel rows. Can even provide a little shade and wind break to wimpish plants.
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