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Analysis Paralysis

 
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Hi all,
Im back again to ask for help . I have 11 acres in Eastern Washington. I do not live at the site right now and will only be able to visit a couple of times a year. The site is has southern aspect, rainfall 20inches annually 44 inches of snow mostly ponderosa pine and doug fir on the landscape now. What I am struggling with right now is whether to swale or not. I was originally going to rent heavy machinery to install the swales but I do not have the finances for it at the moment and hand digging the swales seems like a TON of work but I am willing to do it if it is the best course of action. The land is moderately sloped, no slope is steeper than 15 degrees. The soil is well draining and categorized as stony loam. Summers are hot and dry and winters cool and moist. I will be at the site for 10 days in early May and want to get these trees planted. They will not be irrigated so I want to give them the best possible chance I can for survival. I have attached a photo of the site with some contour lines marked out. Its a very rough image and I am changing the software I am using to design and also drawing some ideas by hand. The contour lines with shapes on them are where I was planning to put the swales. I was going to plant trees 15ft spacing on center with overstory trees and understory trees in the mix. The trees I purchased are:

Honeylocust
Blacklocust
Sugar Maple
Marriana plum rootstock
Apple EMLA-111 rootstock
Oregon white oak
Carpathian english walnut
pyrus betulaefolia(pear rootstock)
Colossal chestnut
Tsukuba chestnut
Red mulberry seedlings
Shellbark hickory

Any advice is greatly appreciated
Screenshot-2022-03-18-192344.png
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Wow, good luck to you!

Are you planning on adding more swales later on, or are those all the swales you are planning to have?
I think it might be better to plant the trees in autumn when the cool and rainy season begins (you don't have snow, right?) , so that they have time to establish their root system and settle properly before summer. Also, Almond, Olives, Plum, Peach, Fig trees, etc. are a good choice for such conditions as well.

-Sarah
 
steward
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Location: USDA Zone 8a
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Hi, Nat

I really like Sarah's suggestion about planting in the fall.

Is there any way or is it possible to put the tree order on hold until fall?

If I were in your position, I would spend the money I was going to spend on trees to do some earthworks.

I would try to get some earthworks done this spring and then in the fall plant the trees.

Once the trees are planted earthworks will probably be out of the picture.

I would pick which trees are native trees to the area and are also the most drought tolerant.

I also want to recommend something like The Groasis Waterboxx.

https://permies.com/t/38740/Groasis-Waterboxx-Technology

https://permies.com/t/57321/Groasis-Waterboxx-Desert-Greening-Root

https://permies.com/t/65977/Groasis-waterboxx-initially-grow-trees

Best wishes for your tree survival.
 
Nat Kadziel
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Thank you for your replies!

Unfortunately I can't postpone the tree order. I think I will plan on just hauling butt and getting the swales dug. From the math I have done it does not seem like I need particularly large swales as the largest rain event recorded is less than 2" and the slope is treed with grass so there is not much run off so maybe digging these by hand in the alloted time will be doable.

EDIT: I am planning on adding more swales in later but at this point Ive planned out about 800 linear feet of swales to plant the trees in and I feel I will be lucky to get that amount done hand digging
 
Nat Kadziel
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Adding some photos for more context on the slope and ecology.
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Anne Miller
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If those tall plants in the 3rd picture are mullein, I am envious!

I hope you have some of those growing where they are not in the way of swales.
 
Nat Kadziel
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It is mullein and there is a ton of it on the property. The areas for the swales are much further away
 
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Location: North Central Idaho-Zone 6b (officially 7a)
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Nat Kadziel wrote:

Unfortunately I can't postpone the tree order.



I just have to laugh, because that's exactly what I do..... purchase live plants before I have the land prepared.  Then I'm in dire straits to get all the work done before they die.  One of these days, I'll do it the other way around
 
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I would like to suggest .... NOT swales.  

Instead, I would suggest terraces and hugelkultur that runs the opposite of contour (so a bit more up and down the slopes).  

I think that swales are magnificent for a tropical climate because they create cold air pools.  

I think that in a cold climate, we wish to extend the seasons - so we want to eliminate "frost pockets" - which swales are the perfect thing for creating frost pockets.

In fact, with 11 acres, I would suggest that you plan to build berms around the perimeter of the property at some point - when you have the coin to rent the equipment.  So don't plant where the berms would be.  This will help to cut the wind - and wind is cooling and drying.  Where you are you need things a little warmer and little moister.

 
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If you want swales and don't have much money i would suggest you borrow/buy a rototiller and rototill the swale line..
Then use a hoe or dirt rake to pull the rototilled dirt to the down slope side to make the swale.  For a deeper/wider swale,  rototill a second time after you have moved the dirt from the first pass.

The steeper the slope the harder to keep on the swale line, but it beats the hell out of shovel and pick work.  (You will still be stiff and ready for a hot soak by the end of the day).
 
pollinator
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I recall Geoff Lawton mentioning that at one point, someone wanted to eliminate the cardboard when planting trees.  Only the trees that had cardboard survived.  I think it referred to wet cardboard placed on top after planting...

So maybe consider at least adding that factor, to boost your chances of success?
 
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Loretta Liefveld wrote:

Nat Kadziel wrote:

Unfortunately I can't postpone the tree order.



I just have to laugh, because that's exactly what I do..... purchase live plants before I have the land prepared.  Then I'm in dire straits to get all the work done before they die.  One of these days, I'll do it the other way around


ha!  This coming a week before my order of ~100 perennials is shipped hits a bit close to home.  BUT- if I wasn't working under the clock, I probably wouldn't get any of this stuff done.
 
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What, if anything do you see growing in the area?  Have you spoken with the county extension agent, or similar? I have found species selection to be the most important determinate of success.  
 
Loretta Liefveld
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Laurel Jones wrote:
ha!  This coming a week before my order of ~100 perennials is shipped hits a bit close to home.  

 OMG!   ONE HUNDRED???  Simply cannot imagine that.

BUT- if I wasn't working under the clock, I probably wouldn't get any of this stuff done.

 How true, how true.  Which is probably why I never end up preparing the location the year before needed.... no urgency to do so.

 
Gray Henon
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I’d consider building bunds, #2 in the link below, for each tree.  Being sure to maintain wind breaks as Paul suggested.  Mulch will also be your friend providing it does’t invite burrowing animals.  Do you see evidence of gophers, etc?

http://www.rainwaterharvesting.org/international/dryland.htm
 
Gray Henon
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I feel swales are more for capturing infrequent, heavy rains, which it doesn’t sound like you get.  Do you see evidence of heavy runoff?  How fast does water perk into the soil?
 
Laurel Jones
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Loretta Liefveld wrote:

Laurel Jones wrote:
ha!  This coming a week before my order of ~100 perennials is shipped hits a bit close to home.  

 OMG!   ONE HUNDRED???  Simply cannot imagine that.

BUT- if I wasn't working under the clock, I probably wouldn't get any of this stuff done.

 How true, how true.  Which is probably why I never end up preparing the location the year before needed.... no urgency to do so.



Yeah.  It was a choice that I made while I was feeling particularly energetic last autumn. Luckily most of them are going to be relatively easy to plant.  I DO at least have the bed prepped for the 50 asparagus crowns that are incoming (built it last fall before ordering so I would know how many to order), then I have 10 raspberries, 10 blackberries, and 10 rhubarb crowns, which brings the total to 80.  I have 24 tiny bare root trees coming sometime soon, bringing the total to 104, and a there's a handful of little artichokes and cartoons presently growing in my dining room under grow lights.  It's manageable, but I also have ~76 tomato seedlings needing desperately to see dirt.  It's going to be a really busy couple weeks, all because I planned ahead to ambitiously lol
 
Nat Kadziel
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Alina Green wrote:I recall Geoff Lawton mentioning that at one point, someone wanted to eliminate the cardboard when planting trees.  Only the trees that had cardboard survived.  I think it referred to wet cardboard placed on top after planting...

So maybe consider at least adding that factor, to boost your chances of success?



This is a great idea thank you, I have a ton of cardboard saved!
 
Nat Kadziel
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Gray Henon wrote:I feel swales are more for capturing infrequent, heavy rains, which it doesn’t sound like you get.  Do you see evidence of heavy runoff?  How fast does water perk into the soil?



On the steeper portions of the property I see some signs of erosion. Unfortunately whoever decided to place the access road decided to cut straight up the slope so there are also ditches from water running on the road. No the area doesn't really get heavy inundations. The annual rainfall is 20" with 4ft of snow. There have been rainfall events around 1" to 2.7" being the largest rain event since recording in the area. The area is super dry in the summer more wet in fall and spring. Was hoping to also catch snow melt with swales.
 
Nat Kadziel
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Gray Henon wrote:What, if anything do you see growing in the area?  Have you spoken with the county extension agent, or similar? I have found species selection to be the most important determinate of success.  



I have not spoken to a county extension agent, that is a great suggestion. I will email them today. On my property its Doug fir, ponderosa pine, snowberry and mullein are the primary species I could identify but the neighbors all have fruit trees of various kinds that I can see when driving through the area. I plan on talking to them if I run in to them on my trip out there that is coming up in the next couple of days.
 
Nat Kadziel
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Laurel Jones wrote:

Loretta Liefveld wrote:

Laurel Jones wrote:
ha!  This coming a week before my order of ~100 perennials is shipped hits a bit close to home.  

 OMG!   ONE HUNDRED???  Simply cannot imagine that.

BUT- if I wasn't working under the clock, I probably wouldn't get any of this stuff done.

 How true, how true.  Which is probably why I never end up preparing the location the year before needed.... no urgency to do so.



Yeah.  It was a choice that I made while I was feeling particularly energetic last autumn. Luckily most of them are going to be relatively easy to plant.  I DO at least have the bed prepped for the 50 asparagus crowns that are incoming (built it last fall before ordering so I would know how many to order), then I have 10 raspberries, 10 blackberries, and 10 rhubarb crowns, which brings the total to 80.  I have 24 tiny bare root trees coming sometime soon, bringing the total to 104, and a there's a handful of little artichokes and cartoons presently growing in my dining room under grow lights.  It's manageable, but I also have ~76 tomato seedlings needing desperately to see dirt.  It's going to be a really busy couple weeks, all because I planned ahead to ambitiously lol



With everything going on in the world right now I felt very motivated to plant trees and shrubs as soon as possible. My wife and I plan to move out to the property in about 4 years if we can. We are hoping that by then some of the trees will be established and bearing(if they survive .
 
Nat Kadziel
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Gray Henon wrote:I’d consider building bunds, #2 in the link below, for each tree.  Being sure to maintain wind breaks as Paul suggested.  Mulch will also be your friend providing it does’t invite burrowing animals.  Do you see evidence of gophers, etc?

http://www.rainwaterharvesting.org/international/dryland.htm



I will definitely trial these bunds. Im going to try a few different methods that people have suggested and see which one works best. I haven't seen any gophers but I have heard talk of voles.
 
Loretta Liefveld
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Nat Kadziel wrote:

Alina Green wrote:I recall Geoff Lawton mentioning that at one point, someone wanted to eliminate the cardboard when planting trees.  Only the trees that had cardboard survived.  I think it referred to wet cardboard placed on top after planting...

So maybe consider at least adding that factor, to boost your chances of success?



This is a great idea thank you, I have a ton of cardboard saved!



I haven't read the article about cardboard when planting trees, but as someone who has used cardboard extensively, I would strongly suggest that you do NOT put the cardboard on top.  Put a whole bunch of mulch on top of it.   Otherwise, as the cardboard starts to disintegrate, it tears and blows all over, and you end up with a bunch of pieces of cardboard everywhere.
 
Loretta Liefveld
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Nat Kadziel wrote:

On the steeper portions of the property I see some signs of erosion. Unfortunately whoever decided to place the access road decided to cut straight up the slope so there are also ditches from water running on the road.  .



uh.oh.  You might seriously redoing the road.  The worst thing for a dirt road is water running in rivulets DOWN the road.   Much better for the road to have the water running ACROSS the road.   I know, ditches across the road are harder on vehicles, but you will lose the road if you have water running down it.   If nothing else, make very good gutters along side the road and then every so often force the water to the side of the road.

But better if you redesign the road (assuming it's your road that you can do that).
 
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