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advice please, what is a good cover crop to start permaculture plot in Zimbabwe?

 
Zim Lion
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Hello, I'm currently building a cob home in Zimbabwe on the first steps of our permaculture journey. We won't be living there until I've finished building. I would like to plant a nitrogen fixing cover crop to start preparing the land, the raining season should start in the next month or so after 6 months of the dry season. does anyone have any advice on a good crop to plant for this? The soil is very sandy, kalahari sands.
 
Alison Thomas
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Zim, I'm afraid that I cant be much help here as I have never grown anything in such dry conditions. However, I'm bumping up your post in case there are some folk in the southern USA or similar that could share their experience.
 
Tyler Ludens
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I would try Cow Peas Vigna unguiculata which are also known as Black-eyed Peas. They grow well here under high temperatures 90-100F and don't need much water. Tepary Beans Phaseolus acutifolius are native to the Southwest US and are very heat and drought tolerant though seeds are harder to find. Here's a source for both Cow Peas and Tepary Beans, though I don't know if they will ship to you over there in Zimbabwe. I guess it never hurts to ask! http://shop.nativeseeds.org/pages/seeds
 
Xisca Nicolas
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Also pigeon peas and lima beans, that I use here in a dry climate. They like warmth.
No way to ask around for what they use in your place?
Beans are staple food, so you should find, and I would be curious to know what is available there...

If there is any chance that tagasaste might help, it has been much used in Australia, and it comes from my place, I grow it too, though it likes higher altitudes 800-1000m). But this is a bush, you can coppice it. Very good forage.

We also have around 600mm of water, but in winter.
 
Nicole Castle
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If my Googling is accurate, you are expecting 30-40 inches (75-100 cm) of rainfall when the rainy season starts, correct? And the temp will average about 75F/24C?

If I understand you crrectly, you want a cover crop for the rainy season, not the dry season. This link has some possibilities for your area:
http://www.fao.org/wairdocs/ILRI/x5548E/x5548e0j.htm
 
Zim Lion
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Hi, thankyou for all the help and advice! we have 600mm of rainfall during the rainy season, this can be very erratic mainly thunderstorms. The altitude here is 1000m we are on a plateau, the area is bordering hwange national park, zimbabwe's biggest park. The temperature can be as high as 45 C at the moment it's around 40 C and a few storms have come. The area is not a commercial farming area this is mainly in the richer soils to the east of the country, we are in the communal lands, each family has a homestead and are subsistence farmers. I have done an introduction to permaculture course, I'm hoping to do the full design course once I have finished the house. the idea is for our homestead to be a permaculture model in the community where there is a growing use of pesticides and fertilizers etc. One concern of mine is to find pure seeds here there are very few sellers and none of them are organic or pure seeds. I have made a blog on the project which is focusing on the process if building a cob house at the moment. http://dancelikeanelephant.blogspot.com
 
Xisca Nicolas
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Zim Lion wrote:we are in the communal lands, each family has a homestead and are subsistence farmers.

So, they keep their seeds one year for the next, don't they? Can't they help you?
Then, you can order on internet...

Zim Lion wrote: the idea is for our homestead to be a permaculture model in the community where there is a growing use of pesticides and fertilizers etc.

Sure, when one does not know what's next to it, it seems so easy and so much an improvement! Great project then. Do the people of the area know you well, where are you from?
 
Alison Thomas
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Zim Lion wrote: I have made a blog on the project which is focusing on the process if building a cob house at the moment. http://dancelikeanelephant.blogspot.com


Wow Zim, that's gonna be one majorly cool house. And it looks like such great fun making it.
 
Zim Lion
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Yes i am looking into getting some seeds from neighbors and friends, it is very limited though. the main crop is maize the seeds are mainly bought each year or distributed. The main seeds that are saved around us are groundnuts, nemo beans, pumpkins, butternut, calabash. As people rely on water from boreholes that can be kms away growing other vegetables that need more water are restricted there can be community gardens closer to water etc even so the main vegetables grown are kale, or similar varieties, tomatoes and onions. I'm from France my husband is from Zimbabwe. I'm not sure who delivers to Zim ordering online, also things don't always get here! I will have to have a look, I'm not sure about permits etc for importing seeds.
 
Tyler Ludens
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If the beans are actual legumes and not some other plant called "beans" they might be the easiest to use as a cover crop. Some kinds of plants called "groundnuts" are also legumes, but some aren't.



 
Xisca Nicolas
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Location: La Palma (Canary island) Zone 11
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I am a "French export" as well!

For keeping water in a place, and keep nutrients, think about vetiver, it is grown in La Reunion for exemple, and various african countries. Can grow with little water.
vetiver.org
 
Tom Carnaffin
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Hi Zim Lion,
I hope you dont mind me coming on here to ask you a question but i am looking to join my wife on a farm about 20 miles west of Gweru and would welcome sharing any info regarding general intems there that I can prepare for before moving.



 
Zim Lion
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Hi Tom,

I'm sorry I have only seen your post now! I was looking through permies to see if there were any other people posting from zim and came across my old thread. Did you move to the farm in gweru?

We moved into our earthen home 8 months ago and love it, I have found that there are good cover crops here, cow peas are around but have a different name, nyemba beans, lots of pumpkins watermelons, ground nuts that fix nitrogen. Have planted morninga trees and more, have fun trying everything out.
 
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