We have 5.5 + acres in N Idaho, and limited time to work on it. The family plan is to eventually move there, but I need to establish a few things before we get there. In my mind, the initial "crop" I need to get in place are trees - Fruit and Nut - as they will take the most time to mature of anything we plant. Since I have essentially one weekend a month to devote to the property, I am trying to determine the best way to plant and maintain those trees in the dry Idaho summers.
The area is a triangle roughly 300 feet wide (W-E) along the long edge (bottom side that butts against the rest of the property), 90 feet deep at the max from the road to the "bottom" edge and tapers down to a point, with the road bordering on the north side.
We want to plant double rows (Nut trees on the north side, fruit trees on the south side) with complimentary plants in between - more of a edible hedge than food forest in concept, as this will also serve as a wind/snow/privacy structure. We might do triple rows on the fat side, where we have the most footage between the bottom edge and road.
Hugelkulture mounds don't seem to be the right way to go with this, as we are aligned almost perfectly N-S and I want the trees to run W-E. It would seem that a W-E H Mound would cast too much shadow on the N side to be of use (wasted space). I'm also unclear as to whether or not big nut trees should be planted in a H Mound as they are more susceptible to high winds that could knock them over and pull up the mound as well. Lastly, with the space needed between the nut trees, I wouldn't have the heat retention for the nifty micro-climates that occur when the H Mounds are closer together.
SO, here's the question - is there a method I can use to plant the trees while maximizing the retention and absorption of rainfall? There is a well, and in a worse case scenario I can run a solarpump that feeds a drip irrigation system, but would like to look at other concepts first. And the key here is the one weekend per month I can spend on it (outside of the initial set up time, of course).
Where is the water table? If water is deep i would put in my own natural pool to provide ground water....bring in silt from a local river to help hole hold water in possible of need....i would plant in a low spot cause water runs down hill. Also make sure you plant trees with proper root stock for your area. Buy older trees....they may cost more but produce sooner. Also...you cant grow everything you will need....start looking into coops in your area and making connections to see what others need...maybe you dont need trees cause someone elae already has them.
posted 7 years ago
We're about 300 feet above the aquifer, on almost completely level ground. I'd end up needing to figure out how to lay out the pond to best water that area, then dig it out. I'm already looking at a grey water pond once the house is in, so I'm not sure if two pools on the property would best maximize the output of the land. When it's all said and done, we want to support a small flock of Dorset Horned Sheep, heritage turkeys and ducks, a small flock of chickens, and a sizable rabbit population. Not to mention the H Mound gardens and orchard. Self sufficient and able to generate enough revenue to turn a profit, no matter how small.
Location: ocean view, hawaii
posted 7 years ago
I would find where the water goes and plant there...im not a big fan of flat land myself so im not much help there...us different trees take different love also...some may take the low water table and aome may not....i preffer no drip or irrigation cause it takes away from being a part of it all....its in personal...i talk to my planta when i water and i get the bugs and spot issues at this time...plus irrigation is a wastwnof timw and materials...it gets damaged easily and its plastic...you have to replace it constantly cause of this or that....find a natural way.
I can't speak to the larger question, but do recommend that you start small if you haven't grown anything on the land before. When we first moved to our farm, I spent a couple of hundred bucks on fruit trees...and every single one died. In the process, I learned that we had a major deer problem, that the topsoil in certain areas was eroded away, and that the water table in another area was so high I had to plant on raised mounds. If I'd planted one or two test trees, I could have learned all this and not lost quite so much money.... Good luck!
Agreed....you need to do some surveying and some dozing or sculpting for maximum success. Do some soil tests...research trees tollerant to that area...talk to locals see qhat others are growing and how thwy are doing it in that area. Start mulching...fence it and get some goats or sheep to put some poop on it. Get a local caretaker to keep an eye on things when your away....
posted 7 years ago
Great recommendation on the test trees; hadn't thought about that. As far as sheep/goats to contribute, I'm not sure about that as we do have predator signs (as well as plenty of deer and elk lay-down areas). Even with a caretaker swinging by, I don't think that they'd last too long. It'd probably be more efficient to hit the local zoos when they do their stall muck-outs (Zoo Poo sales). A couple of bushels of elephant apples and blammo, plenty of material to work with!
I don't think planting in Hugel mounds will be a big problem for you. It is going to take at least 10 years for nut trees to begin producing and they will still not be full size even then. The wood will be long decomposed before you are ready to harvest any nuts.
first off, hugelkultur beds that shade an area a majority of the time are NOT a waste, they provide for some biodiversity that cannot be obtained in a sunny area, furthermore, the sun-facing side of the bed usually produces food with more "bite" to it (think spicy mustard or collards) whereas the side shaded from the sun typically produces food with more concetrates sugars that therefore tastes "sweeter", the shading also reduces evaporation rates on that side of the bed, allowing for better water retention in the hotter, drier months, as well as making a side of the bed that is more pleasant for you to place a path on in the summer and making an excellent place to grow things such as mushrooms, and if you're area is anything like mine (USDA zone 4) then the summer sun happens to be almost northerly rather than southern in nature, so though the north side may get LESS sun in the winter, it may be one of your most productive locations in the summer
as for planting seeds with the least amount of maintenance i highly recommend finding mychorizzial fungi species that will form symbiotic relationships with your trees and simply sprinkling the spores on the seeds before planting (meaning htere will be trillions upon trillions of spores on them, wear a face mask so as not to inhale any and avoid inhaling while directly working with the dust) things youll want to look for in your various species selection: whether or not it will work well with the amount of rainfall in the area, use as an edible, medicinal, or other purpose(such as artist conk, which is a polypore not mychorizzial), its sybiotic potential with the intended tree species
Devon's suggestions about fungi innoculation are really right on. You need these fungal allies to help move moisture laterally for the first few years especially.
This is what I've seen the Bullocks do on their land for using tree guilds as the "pioneer species" in a staged food forest/orchard development:
1. create a guild containing 1 fruit or nut tree, 1 nitrogen-fixer bush (goumi or scotch broom, usually), 1-3 plugs comfrey, 1 gal size herb for pollination, and enough daffodil bulbs to ring the group.
2. dig a large hole (3-4' wide) and plant everything together, at slightly lower than ground level - making a basin.
3. cover the root zones of the new plantings and the entire basin with 4"-6" wood chips
4. install a ring of 4'-5' tall metal wire around the whole guild, anchored by 3 6' metal t-posts.
This way, you can water the basin deeply when you visit monthly, and the wood chips shade the soil and hold the moisture. The nitrogen-fixers feed the tree, the comfrey pulls up nutrition from the subsoil and shades the root zones, the wire protects the trees from getting their trunk bark stripped by the deer (but the deer will "tip prune" the trees for you), and the bulbs compete with grass rhizomes to keep grass out of the whole thing. If you have elk pressure, that could be a problem - they'll just push over the cages to get to the trees, possibly.
You might also want to plant in the fall instead of the spring - it allows the trees to get a better start on their root zone development for their first year in the ground.
"It is, of course, one of the miracles of science that the germs that used to be in our food have been replaced by poisons." - Wendell Berry