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New Member - Asheville, NC - Introduction and Some Starting Questions  RSS feed

 
Jack Askew
Posts: 2
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Hello everybody,

I've been reading this forum for a few days now and have been researching permaculture for about six months (Gaias garden, youtube videos and various other books). My wife and I are about to move into our newly built house which was constructed in place of an old house that just had to come down.

The lot slopes slightly down from North to South (right to left as you look at the house from the road), has an old oak tree in one corner, and apart from a young maple the whole yard has nothing but a thin layer of mulch at the moment. To the front and right of the house the soil looks pretty soft (sent for lab tests) and to the left of the house it is good in areas but there is hard clay in other areas (especially where the old house footprint used to be). At the moment the entire yard has been mulched (not sheet mulched), with some weeds popping up in certain areas.

The Plan

I have sketched out a rough plan of various guilds (mini food forests using dwarf trees, or in smaller areas, just shrubs as the canopy layer). There is room for larger trees in certain areas but I'm not too sure if we will put those in. I have also sketched out the various other features including the paths, the shed, compost area, patio, clothes line, temporary dog area / main dog area, potential pond, potential greenhouse, pergola, wood storage and a host of other small areas for functions. We have an idea of what we want to grow but the specific placing hasn't been allocated yet.

I am just about to start a 40 hour video course and also I have just ordered the volume "Edible Forest Gardens." These will help me finalize my sketch and help me with some of the more practice questions.

Implementation

Before I throw myself into the project I want to make sure that the soil is free of lead and other contaminants (the old house most likely had lead paint and was demolished), and that the soil is well prepared. In certain areas there isn't a lot of organic matter and just an inch or two of mulch covering pretty dry clay.

If the lead results come back clean then this is how we will most likely proceed:

  • 1. Put in the paths and start a few small raised beds.
  • 2. Build the organic matter in the soil so that it is ready for next spring.
  • 3. Put in the temporary dog fencing the patio.


  • The areas where I'm struggling in terms of implementation is knowing when to introduce the trees, shrubs and cover crops and how best to create organic matter over this summer and the winter.

    So, here are a few questions:

    1. Should we get the dwarf trees in as soon as possible (i.e. this fall) or wait until spring?
    2. What is the best way to use some temporary winter cover crops (nitrogen fixers) that will be replaced with some perennial cover crops next spring? Or, should we just start the cover crops that we want to use in our various guilds.
    3. When should we think about implementing the different shrubs and berry bushes?

    I really want to do local compost and use the compost bins mainly for emergencies and seedling starters (advice taken from gaia's garden).

    A Bit More About Myself and Our Aims

    I'm willing to do as much or as little as I need to (both in the implementation and over the long term). I don't feel the need to get things in right away just for the sake of it. I want to make sure that I'm doing the right things at the right time to benefit each guild and the area as a whole and set things up so that each mini forest garden is as self-sustaining as possible.

    I've been dreaming of owning my own area of land for years and I am really excited that the time has come to get started and learn all about permaculture from actually doing it (and not just from reading books) and to create something that benefits everything and everyone in our vicinity.

    Any answers and comments are really appreciated and I look forward to getting to know you all on this forum.


    Jack.
     
    Nick Garbarino
    Posts: 239
    Location: west central Florida
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    Hello Jack and welcome. I'm fairly new at practicing permacuture myself, although I am a life-long gardener. I just started planting my food forest, covering most of our half acre lot, but I've chosen to start with all the trees and work my way down to the smaller plants. So, most of our trees are planted, less than half of the shrubs, and very few of the smaller plants. As to your question about when to plant things, my approach has been to look at each individual species and plant it when it's recommended to be planted for my hardiness zone, which is 9A. For example, I've planted citrus and many other trees in the spring, as recommended, but I'm going to wait until fall to plant things like chives, chamomile, mustard, generally anything that either goes dormant or slows down in the heat of the summer. Your climate is different, though and if I'm not mistaken many trees are supposed to be planted in the fall, especially if they are bare root plantings. I get my planting recommendations from many reference books I've collected over the years, and I use the web when I can't find what I need in my books. At any rate, I do not expect to have everything planted until late this year. I did want to get it all in as soon as possible since it takes several years for many of the trees to begin producing. Since my soil is very sandy, and a lot of the area is bare, I am now turning my attention to planting as many comfrey, pigeon peas, and lamb's quarters as I can. I'm also planting a lot of giant sunflower, just to shade the ground. Here in central Florida, we are all waiting for the monsoon season to start, which is usually around the end of May. That will ease the watering workload a lot, but I did have to do a lot of terracing, mulching, and I planted lemon grass swales to control erosion. Again, welcome. It's a lot of fun. Looking forward to hearing about your progress.
     
    darius Van d'Rhys
    Posts: 56
    Location: SW Virginia Mountains, USA
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    Jack, I gardened in Asheville for many years, but that was before learning about food forest gardening. Given the Asheville climate, I'd suggest getting the trees in first.
     
    Morgan Morrigan
    Posts: 1400
    Location: Verde Valley, AZ.
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    I would get in a partial ground covering before you pack everything down.

    Plant thymes in unused corners, where you wont be cutting in paths or workspaces later. Is slow growing, but will keep soil there.

    Seed in Rabbitbush and scallion seed now. Both of them lock up metals, and you can use em for starter compost for the trees later. Both are great recyclers, and if tests come back leaded, you can just ship em off for landfill.

    Would save berries and trees for later. Would put in espaliers instead of free form trees, makes it easier to control insects, and harvest. And use grape and berry on trellises for privacy screens.
     
    osker brown
    Posts: 146
    Location: Southern Appalachia
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    You should check out The Ashevillage institute. It's just south of downtown off of Biltmore Ave. http://www.ashevillage.org/

    Your first step should be thinking about how water enters and leaves your landscape and how you intend to manage that. As you do this you will determine what sort of impoundment or drainage needs to be earthworked. That needs to happen before any serious planting, but once you finish earthworking you want to have lots of seed and plants and mulch on hand to go in immediately.

    good luck
    peace
     
    John Polk
    steward
    Posts: 8019
    Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
    289
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    If you want a good education in cover crops, this free download will do the trick.

    http://www.sare.org/publications/covercrops/covercrops.pdf

    In your climate, you could grow a lot of organic material between now and next spring, as well as putting a lot of natural, useable nitrogen into your soils.

    If your soil is acidic, and clay, I would lime it before seeding. Besides making the existing phosphorus and potash available to the plants, lime will also flocculate the clay - cause particles to stick together, forming larger particles, allowing space for both water and oxygen to penetrate the soil to greater depths. Each rain will carry the lime deeper and deeper, helping to break up a hard soil. Each season, the cover crops will send roots deeper, further breaking up your hard soil. Let nature do the hard work for you...after all, you want roots to die and decompose a foot or two into the soil.

     
    Jeanine Gurley Jacildone
    pollinator
    Posts: 1422
    Location: Midlands, South Carolina Zone 7b/8a
    17
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    Hi Jack,

    South Carolina here. My recommendation would be to live in your house for a while. Maybe plant a few small areas just for the satisfaction of getting your hands dirty.

    Learn where the sun and wind and water are through the all of the seasons.

    I would pick one spot and concentrate on that one spot for a while and observe the other areas.

    Remember - plants are like furniture - they can be rearranged.
     
    Ken Peavey
    steward
    Posts: 2524
    Location: FL
    89
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    Welcome to Permies.com!

    Congratulations on the new house. The scope of your project begs to be recorded. Have you a plan to document progress with pictures and/or video? Studying the literature is excellent for developing knowledge, but there is no substitute for getting your hands dirty. Sharing the process with video and photos can have impact that reaches beyond your property line.
     
    Jack Askew
    Posts: 2
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    Thanks to all those who have posted a reply.

    Lot's of good ideas to get started, there are obviously different ways that you can go about it.

    Seed in Rabbitbush and scallion seed now. Both of them lock up metals, and you can use em for starter compost for the trees later. Both are great recyclers, and if tests come back leaded, you can just ship em off for landfill.


    This sounds great; are there any other plants that you can use? How long would it take if there are areas of heavy metals? And, how dangerous is it to plant edible food in those areas?

    You should check out The Ashevillage institute. It's just south of downtown off of Biltmore Ave. http://www.ashevillage.org/


    I've been trying to find a place like this, but for whatever reason the search engines have decided not to show this in their results. Thanks, I'm going to check this place out in the next week.

    If you want a good education in cover crops, this free download will do the trick.

    http://www.sare.org/publications/covercrops/covercrops.pdf

    In your climate, you could grow a lot of organic material between now and next spring, as well as putting a lot of natural, useable nitrogen into your soils.


    Thanks for the link, from glancing through I imagine I can get a lot out of this.

    @ Jeanine Gurley

    That's what I plan to do. We've had the land for a year now and we're over there every day so I feel that I have observed the area quite well. But, after living there for a while I'll get a much better feeling.

    Have you a plan to document progress with pictures and/or video?


    We've been documenting it with photos thus far, and we plan to start recording videos once we move there. I'm probably going to start a blog and record the process.

    Heavy Metals

    http://www.umass.edu/soiltest/ - Is this the best way to test for heavy metals? Or is there a home testing kit or other way that will also work? I'm finding it hard to find a good resource on heavy metals, and when I go to the local garden centers they tell me it's something that no one really asks for.

    Thanks again,

    Jack.



     
    darius Van d'Rhys
    Posts: 56
    Location: SW Virginia Mountains, USA
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    Jack, I'd give AgLabs a call and ask them about testing for heavy metals. http://aglabs.com/ I'm not aware of any homeowner tests for them.
     
    Cynndara Morgan
    Posts: 9
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    Jack, I'm brand new here, but I've been studying ecological gardening (which they're now calling Permaculture) since the 80's, planting trees for forty years, and spent fourteen years gardening a quarter-acre suburban plot in Richmond VA. I would suggest getting those trees in in the fall. That gives them the entire winter to grow roots, which is much better in our climate than spring planting. Do your best to uncompact and amend the soil within three feet of each tree and five feet down. That will be enough work to keep you busy all summer while you watch your plot, get your test results, and think some more. Don't plant until the trees have lost their leaves and go completely dormant, and don't water them. Don't try to plant too many at once, either. Go only for your main focus/key landscape supports on the first dip. Time for more in the spring, or next year.

    Getting that soil nice and grow-happy within three feet of your trunks will give you room to work around the trees on the rest of the soil without disturbing their roots for a couple of years. If you want to underplant them with pretty flower-bulbs or perennials, you can do that at the same time; it's much more difficult later when you'll run into tree roots every time you dig a hole.
     
    Brenda Groth
    pollinator
    Posts: 4437
    Location: North Central Michigan
    10
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    welcome, yeah get those trees in as soon as you can..and any perennial gardens..but also put in your "need to eat now" foods too, like some salads, etc..so you have something right away..and a few packets of lettuce or mesclun or other greens will cover the soil quickly and give you something to harvest.
    great choices in books
     
    Tyler Ludens
    pollinator
    Posts: 9741
    Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    180
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    I'm leaping to the conclusion you never have any drought problems in your locale. If you do ever have droughts in your region, I would suggest installing rainharvesting earthworks (swales, berms, basins, etc) before planting any trees.
     
    If you are using a rototiller, you are doing it wrong. Even on this tiny ad:
    The $50 and Up Underground House Book by Mike Oehler - digital download
    https://permies.com/wiki/23442/digital-market/digital-market/Underground-House-Book-Mike-Oehler
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