I have tried to garden in the coastal hills of the Willamette Valley for 6 years now. I was really excited about permaculture last year when I discovered it! I thought I had a good plan!
The only successful crop this year was the squash my daughter planted in the horse manure by the barn, (with no irrigation)! Everything else dried up and was overtaken by weeds. My water bill sky rocketed. The voles and underground varmits make their tunnels right under each line of drip irrigation. I love to garden, but unless I find a plan that seems feasible, I think I will quit!
I am thinking a good permaculture plan is what I need. I need help!
My best garden was the one where I followed Steve Solomon's "Waterwise vegetables". At least I could measure the amount of water each plant had with the 5 gallon buckets. I had 4 wheel barrels of winter squash and buckets and buckets of melons, peppers and tomatoes! It saved lots of water compared to the drip hose, which I need to leave on for 24 hours to get a decent amount of water in the soil (at great cost) . I was just hoping to not have to spend the time rotating buckets any more.
Where would you begin?
I have 50 fruittrees, 15 blueberries and 12 raspberries, most of which are not thriving. The ones planted in wild soil are doing better than the one that have had more "care". starting to sound like I should just replant everything onto the wild hillsides and the manure pile and forget my plans.
Maybe I should add that I also planted about 300 douglas fir trees on the lower section of my property (in an effort to maintain forestry status). I am thinking 80% to 90% of those trees have died. I know that I planted them correctly. I think the failure is from poor soil and lack of water. They normally are easily grown with little to no upkeep around here.
Don't give up. So you made a few mistakes. Learn from them and move on. As for where to go next take care of what is already planted. Read all you can on trees and where you find different ways try some of them see which works for you. I find that any tree or bush in my area benefits from mulch, and I water often at first then once established leave them alone. As for plantings around trees I plant garlic, onions, mint, marigolds, and whatever else depending on what I have at the time, think guilds. As for the vegetable garden your daughters experiment with seeds in horse manure speaks volumes to me. She is probably one of those green thumb types. Good luck in the future.
Like Russ said, don't give up! We learn best when we make mistakes, if we don't screw it up we won't remember what not to do. This may or may not apply to you but many of us are recently deciding we will go back to planting by the moon guides. It's mysterious and we don't understand it but it seems to work, and that's good enough for most of us. I think growing food is one of the most frustrating things I've ever tried to do. Maybe that's why it is so damn sweet when we get it right. Keep trying, you have a forum full of cheerleaders rooting for ya!
Michelle, it sounds like maybe you bit off more than you could chew all at once. Growing things is all about learning from our mistakes and we all make lots of them, but they can get overwhelming some years!
I suggest taking a break for a few days, then surveying what you have. What did well and what did not? Can you identify common threads? If the failures were all about what you perceive as high levels of "care," was there a common amendment or theme? If you used manure everywhere, the manure itself may have been contaminated with herbicides. Doing a bioassay can confirm or rule this out.
Then this fall or next year, focus in just one area -- be it geographic or plant type or whatever. Anything that is struggling that isn't in your focus, leave it be. Most seeds and plants fail in the wild, too, it's the strong ones that survive.
Do you have your place set up into zones yet? This will help you decide where things that need more or less care go. Areas can be set up for water efficiency too, plants that needs less grow on zones further out.
The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings. - Masanobu Fukuoka
This year was bad for water for a lot of people. My first question would be where are you trying to garden? Your climate and soil type are your starting point for growing anything.
Besides that, it sounds like you could have used some hugelkultur beds. Basically, you lay some woody stuff out in a row-pile, then cover it up with some pulled up weeds, leaf litter, and compost, and voila, instant raised bed. The worms will happily till it for you so you never have to dig it for any reason, and the rotting wood holds water like that manure pile did (so little to no watering).
The diggy pests are tougher. I don't know what predators might catch them efficiently. Our cats seem to have cleaned out the voles we had, but only a few of the cats actually went after the voles that I know of. Others would rather just camp the bird feeder . Putting up some owl boxes could work. We put up owl boxes here and practically got a flock, although it's really impossible to tell how much or what they may be hunting.
EDIT: Reading is good too . I don't know squat about Oregon soil, but the climate is cool enough that you would probably want larger, taller, and sun oriented raised beds to extend the growing season.
well one of two things..start with the manure pile..or start with your existing trees..
move a lot of the (rotted) manure around the existing trees and go from there..
I would plant some mulch plants around those existing trees (photos might help)..might I suggest things like comfrey, or horseradish (invasive), or rhubarb, and also get some nitrogen fixers in around the trees too, maybe lupines or clovers or even some green beans just to get something going..you could put those squash plants under those fruit trees next year as well..in that manure..maybe dig a small hole...pop in some manure and some squash seeds and let them mulch your fruit trees..then the fruit trees won't need so much water !
if you haven't, please pick up a copy of Gaia's garden at the library and read it before next springs planting
Bloom where you are planted.
I found some pretty shells, some sea glass and this lovely tiny ad: