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Starting a food forest on a dry, compact mediterranean hillside

 
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Hey there!

I am currently in charge of a permaculture design for a friends property in north eastern Spain (Catalonia). He has quite a bit of land, all situated on a west facing valley slope. My partner who is a builder has already began to do some major earthworks for him, putting in ponds, streams, water channels ect.

A huge part of his property is dry forest/shrubland (as you can see in the pictures) where the earth is extremely compact and dry. My idea for this land is to hopefully develop it into a food forest but I really need some help where to start. I would say I am definitely a beginner in permaculture so my knowledge for developing dry landscapes in small (:

I first suggested putting in Swales to start catching some of the runoff however the owner said that he had read in a book it wouldn't be right for this type of terrain, explaining that there are already tress on the hillside so Swales should not be put in. I have also read that because of the type of soil and when it rains (rarely) it is a lot, that putting in Swales might increase erosion.

I have also read that starting with a good couple seasons of cover crops would be a great way to start as well, however the soil is so compact I don't know if anything would start to grow.

I have attached some pictures and really would love any advice possible!
IMG_20210305_092728.jpg
half of the area where I would like to develop a food forest. Camera facing north.
half of the area where I would like to develop a food forest. Camera facing north.
IMG_20210305_092621.jpg
up close image where you can see the soil and shrubs as well as incline of hill
up close image where you can see the soil and shrubs as well as incline of hill
IMG_20210305_092557.jpg
all water runs into this valley
all water runs into this valley
IMG_20210305_092842.jpg
other half of potential food forest area. however this side the ground in extremely rocky.
other half of potential food forest area. however this side the ground in extremely rocky.
 
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Location: Latitude 40, Portugal
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Hi Olivia,

We're buddies when it comes to location, as we're in Portugal in a VERY rocky soil condition.
Swales could increase erosion in the circumstances you mentioned, but looking at the photos and how much vegetation cover you have, I don't think it is a problem.
Also consider how close the bedrock is. If the goal is to promote in filtration, the swales might only retain the water on the surface.

Have you though about other practices, such as walls: Stone Terracing

What cover crops are you using? We're planning on using clovers, but open for other ideas.

Kindly,
Marcelo
 
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Location: France, Burgundy, parc naturel Morvan
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Well. I am no expert on swales. If domeone else knows better tell me. But i believe you make them on contour. Just dig a trench and drop the debris on the downhillside. The topsoil layer you put on top again. Plant stuff in there, even those shrubs would help build soil, provide shade, block wind.
The hole will catch the water and runoff will lay on bottom. The water will sink in slowly.
I only see advantages.
When planted...and start slow and see ehat works.
But i am no expert.
Have you seen the series of Geoff Lawton on Greening the dessert? He has loads on swales..
 
Olivia Brent
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Marcelo Oak wrote:Hi Olivia,

We're buddies when it comes to location, as we're in Portugal in a VERY rocky soil condition.
Swales could increase erosion in the circumstances you mentioned, but looking at the photos and how much vegetation cover you have, I don't think it is a problem.
Also consider how close the bedrock is. If the goal is to promote in filtration, the swales might only retain the water on the surface.

Have you though about other practices, such as walls: Stone Terracing

What cover crops are you using? We're planning on using clovers, but open for other ideas.

Kindly,
Marcelo



Thanks Marcelo, I will have to do a test hole to see where the bedrock lies as I have a feeling it may be very close to the surface which also worries me as to weather a food forest is viable.

in terms of cover crops yes I am also looking at clover, alfalfa maybe, fava beans, buckwheat....
 
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