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Wi Tim
Posts: 63
Location: North Idaho, zone 5a
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Hi, I am new to the forum.

We recently bought our very first house on an acreage, and I am eager to start the adventure, but do not know how to start, so your advice would be appreciated!

I am going to do a few hugelcultur beds this fall, and plant a few trees and berry bushes. What else can I do this year? I am in zone 5a. I have up to an acre of quite flat meadow with sandy soil to be converted to a forest garden. The weeds are doing pretty well there now - there is yarrow, wild strawberries, st John's wort, plantain, some clover, mullein, and other grasses I cannot identify, mostly up to a knee high. But the soil is very dry and hard, I cannot even dig a decent hole in it with a shovel. And generally soils are very poor in the area.

Is there any way to plant a cover crop without tilling this time of the year? Or should I till? Or should I wait till next spring? Will it be helpful if I cover some area with a cardboard this year?


Thank you!
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9741
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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My advice is to spend a good long time observing the land, to see what happens where. If you want a vegetable garden, put it right by the kitchen door. I put my original vegetable garden a ways from the house and when conditions changed it did poorly. My new vegetable garden is right outside the kitchen door and is doing much better because it gets lots of attention. I can see it from the window right now.

Look at how water moves across your land. If you have any possibility of drought or flood, consider putting in swales. I found it very helpful to look at the map and photos of geoff lawton's farm Zaytuna to see how the water harvesting system works with the rest of the systems: http://permaculture.org.au/2012/06/01/zaytuna-farm-video-tour-apr-may-2012-ten-years-of-revolutionary-design/

Try to make a total design for the land, starting right around the house, Zone 1, and working outward. Get a good permaculture manual such as "gaia's garden" by Toby Hemenway, or if you can afford it the "Designer's Manual" by Bill Mollison. Folks in northern climates can suggest to you their favorite manuals. These outline the basic planning steps and working with zones.

My own experience with 20 acres is it is very easy to take on too much on too large a scale all at once and it's a much better idea to start right around the house and gradually work outward as you observe how water, wind, sun and other elements move through the site.

My personal advice is not to till. Just observe. Start small, start right near the house. Work outward as you gain confidence and develop your plan.

I strongly recommend the PRI DVD "Establishing a Food Forest." I found it extremely helpful and encouraging. Many parts are available on Youtube but I found it very much worth the price to purchase it.
 
Michael James
Posts: 50
Location: Zone 5B: Grand Rapids, MI
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Really good advice about starting small Tyler. I tried to do a 2 acre garden this year without any help and it hasn't been feasible for me without any established systems. I could have spent 4 hours a day weeding alone. My goals for next spring are much smaller and more focused at this point.
 
Wi Tim
Posts: 63
Location: North Idaho, zone 5a
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Thank you, Tyler, for your advice!
We are up on the hill, so should not have any flooding issues. But I noticed some erosion, so will have to monitor that closely.

Still, any advice on how to build the soil? I guess the process takes time, and eventually I will need good soil on all available area anyway. It is only August, so maybe it's not too late to start the process this year?
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9741
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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Lawton recommends building the soil with a LOT of nitrogen fixing species: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TMQ8eSm92xQ

He also uses chickens to prepare the soil for planting a food forest. This is shown in the DVD, I don't know if this part of the DVD is on Youtube.
 
Ken Peavey
steward
Posts: 2524
Location: FL
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If you've not decided on till or no till, you could try a small area and see if it suits you. With limited growing season remaining, you won't be able to grow a great diversity, but you can get your hands dirty, won't hurt a thing.
For quick results, you probably still have time to start some quick plants: spinach, mustard, lettuce, green beans, yellow squash, zukes, cress, greens, peas.
For Zone 5, some cold season crops will give you something to look forward to: turnip, carrot, green onion, and for certain get some garlic going next month if it strikes your fancy.
There are probably some things out there you can harvest. Even acorns will give you something to experiment with over the winter.

Beyond that, a better investment of your time might be spent getting the soil into condition for next year. Compost and leaf mold, in no small amount, will surely keep you busy. Come spring, you'll wish you had more. The leaves should start to turn in a few weeks. You have until the snow falls to gather material. "I have too many leaves" said nobody, ever. Cover an area with leaves if you don't want to use cardboard. While the leaves are on the trees, take the time to identify what you have nearby. Tie a string around those sugar maples. You have until January to gather equipment for maple sugar. See if there are fruit or nut trees out there. Crabapples would be a treasure.

Learn the land and what to expect this time of year. Take notes-they'll be handy next year. Where does the water flow and pool, what direction the wind is blowing, shadows.

Meet your neighbors. Permaculture is not just about growing plants. Find manure, sawdust, spoiled hay, fallen trees, scrap wood, and a hundred other things that can come in handy.

It won't take long to move from "I dont know where to start" to "how will I ever get all this done."
 
Wi Tim
Posts: 63
Location: North Idaho, zone 5a
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Thanks, Ken,
It's a great advice. I will start with several ideas on a small scale.
 
John Saltveit
gardener
Posts: 2124
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bike books food preservation forest garden fungi trees
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Goumi and Autumn olive are delicious, nutritious, hardy, easy to grow and nitrogen fixing.

I would think first of all, what do you like to eat?

I would grow pie cherries and apples for sure.

Pears as well.

As you grow and mulch more, you will have established a beachhead of living growth, and then you can expand it to other parts of your farm.
John S
PDX OR
 
Geoff Lawton
permaculture expert
Posts: 48
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Hi Tim
edge think everything in time and space from here on in. The highest the lowest, the longest the shortest, the quickest the slowest, the first the last etc etc etc.

Ok start all action very small tight and close everything easy and achievable and just do that for this summer season.

Observe and think very big and plan everything in the main frame in this order of priorities over the winter months:

1. Water: The longest highest contour line on your land (no matter how flat and slight) usually starts from the lowest point on the highest boundary, this is probably a major planning point to start you thinking with design obsession. The higher the water in landscape the more potential energy in contains, the lower the water in your landscape the more potential life it contains. Stop it spread it sink it and think right out to the possibility of aquaculture within your designable polyculture. Then design the edges of the water patterning the landscape has revealed to you.


2. Access: Conforming to the water patterning, on contour or as close to as possible with hard surface flash run off to water systems, or right down the middle of ridge lines with shared flash run off to both sides to water systems. Design all access from the largest to the smallest from the busiest to the quietest. Then design the edges of the access patterning that the landscape has revealed to you.

3. Now position the structures working with main structures that are already in position of course, but after observing all the options of water and access adjust all the required structural positions so everything fits in a multi-functional positively inter-active positioned way as much as you can. There will probably be a few final variations and options around some of the miner elements, thats normal, at that stage just go with you gut feelings. Now design all the edges of every structure start at the extremities coming back to the middle as always, so start with edges of your house AND the boundary edge of the whole property, so this is from inside core to the very outside edge.

Make sure this is all a fun but obviously challenging exercise and I expect by the time you are finished and feel comfortable with it all and you can rationalize and legitimize all your placements, you will also have designed the whole area and have a complete property design. Please let me know if this is true.

Very nice nice question to answer I enjoyed that with a big smile.

Cheers Geoff Lawton

Check out www.permaculture.org.au/permies


 
neil bertrando
Instructor
Posts: 111
Location: Reno, NV
15
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Geoff Lawton wrote:Hi Tim
edge think everything in time and space from here on in. The highest the lowest, the longest the shortest, the quickest the slowest, the first the last etc etc etc.

Ok start all action very small tight and close everything easy and achievable and just do that for this summer season.

Observe and think very big and plan everything in the main frame in this order of priorities over the winter months:




I want to express my gratitude and excitement over your presentation of these two topics: edge thinking and mainframe design patterning.

The combination of these two approaches has vastly simplified my approach to permaculture design, especially for complex and/or broad acre sites.

In my opinion, this is also sepp holzer's approach, starting at the top and bottom of the landscape with the most permanent or regenerative features (Water retention and management often). Then working towards the middle, filling in the details as the system evolves and various ecologies and opportunities emerge.

I am still continually humbled by my attempts to put systems into place and manage them through time, particularly in the hot-cold 4 season desert where I'm based (summer dry, winter wet). I think Patience and edge thinking at various time scales has been one of my biggest lessons. I think I have stumbled into the mistake you mentioned about trying to force productive plants faster than the soil will allow rather than waiting for the pioneers to do their job with some of my food forest plantings. I hope I can get enough pioneers in now to help the fruit and nut trees that are already planted.

with regards to patience, I would like to ask about planning succession through time in arid climates, where one of our main design objectives is to reduce evaporation.

Are there examples when you would not broadcast plant cover crop such as annual and herbaceous n-fixing pioneer plants? but rather plant hardy pioneer shrubs and trees that get spot mulch and drip irrigation for establishment and to develop a shade canopy? What edges, thresholds, or parameters would you consider in making this decision? I guess at it's basis, I'm wondering about variations to accelerating succession based on climate, access to water, zonation...

I have taken this approach to establishing windbreaks on the perimeter of zone 2 and in zone 3-4, and it seems to be working, although I'd like continue improving my approaches.

Are there edges or thresholds (particularly of aridity (precip : ET) and temperature) that define where food forests or forests in general are not an appropriate design pattern?

In the climate and precip zone (150-175 mm annual average) where I live, there are few forests and these are scattered at specific points in the landscape (riparian corridor forests, leak points on slopes, and at higher elevations/topography), so I think it may be a question of scale and whether the appropriate landscape features fall within a design site.

My understanding is that in general Permaculture designs optimize edge through a mosiac of forest, grassland/pasture, human structures, and pond/water systems placed to harmonize with the landscape and climate parameters. Translating this to a specific site taps the beauty of human creativity and ingenuity.

thanks again for all that you do for the Permaculture community worldwide. Your work and network have been a continual source of inspiration for my on my Permaculture journey.

Neil Bertrando


 
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