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Help please!

Luke Prior
Posts: 11
Location: Limousin, France
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We are in the first stages of designing our food forest and would love some opinions and comments.
we have a 2 acre plot of land in france which is pretty flat and holds water in the soil well
Do we still need to have swales?
It is all grass paddock at the moment and we are planning to mulch it in sections between the paths that we are laying out and hoping to start planting fruit trees next year,
is there anything we can plant in the mean time that will be of benefit? either into the grass or where we are mulching?
thanks for your comments
chrissy bauman
Posts: 131
Location: Sunset Zone 27, Florida
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i don't know why you would need swales if you have no real problems with lack of water... swales are not for everyone, they are just a tool in your box.

as far as to what you can and should do now, my opinion is learn and research. find out what the neighbors are growing, both now and in the spring. now is a good time to plan, do things like soil testing, and just observe the layout of your area. look at the native plants and see if there are any useful ones to encourage.

some people like to say that you should till and plant a cover crop, but in my humble opinion that's just silly if you already have good land with good grass growing on it. the nitrogen-fixation of legumes is largely overstated. if you can grow grass very well and native plants very well, then your soil is very good as long as you choose plants and trees that like your specific soil and water habitat.

and the answer to the "can i do this..." question is always yes! i mean, what's the worst thing that will happen, you will learn from it?
John Polk
master steward
Posts: 7930
Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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Almost any kind of cover crop should benefit the soil.

In my opinion, the best cover crops should incorporate legumes to fix nitrogen, other species that will provide biomass, and some that send roots deep into the soil. Root penetration is important if you just chop it at ground level, and allow the roots to decompose deep in the soil.

The wider your variety is, the more soil food web species you end up nurturing. They are what gives your soil life.

Something like fava beans should do well in your region, and they will fix a lot of nitrogen...a nutrient all plants need.
Austrian Winter Peas should also do well there. They too will fix nitrogen...and a lot of organic material to bury.
Wild flowers, native to your region, will attract the native pollinators...always a good improvement.

Diversity is the key to achieving a balanced system. A balanced system will produce well, and avoid most pests/diseases.

Good luck.

Paul Cereghino
Posts: 855
Location: South Puget Sound, Salish Sea, Cascadia, North America
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Just for the sake of providing contradictory advice

By tilling and creating a seed bed, you can better introduce a range of forbs (not just nitrogen fixers) that provide other benefits. Grass is great if you are a ungulate, and if you are developing a system that involves grazing, that makes perfect sense.

On the other hand, you healthy pasture is a great source of biomass, useful for all kinds of things (not to mention mulch.)

In short I think it all depends on where you are trying to get and how you want to get there. On the other hand, if you aren't trying to get anywhere in particular you are guaranteed to get there! I would attempt to envision what you want your land to look like in 20 years, and then reverse engineer the start up.

And I would agree that swales are not required...
laura sharpe
Posts: 244
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by NOT tilling you are doing the land a large good.

Want legumes, toss out some seed but dont till where it doesnt need tilling

JUst my humble opinion
laura sharpe
Posts: 244
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I was reading below about someone who didnt win with no till. It is my honestly opinion that if the field is fertile .....

sounds like a wonderful place to start working on just as it is.
S Bengi
Posts: 1355
Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even distribution
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I would plant daikon, its a radish with 3 foot roots. It will help with the water, infiltration. fava beans are also good they are a good N Fixer, in the winter when most plants lose leave and they will also grow on the ground and suppress grass.

As for fruit/nut trees that you can grow here is a ist of a few.

Below Zone 8 (below 10F/below -12C)
Actinidia arguta Hardy Kiwi (to -25F)
Cydonia oblonga Quince
Salvia sclarea Clary Sage
Vitis californica California WIld Grape

Zone 8a (10 to 15F/-12 to -9.5C)
Actinidia chinensis Golden Kiwi Fruit
Actinidia deliciosa Kiwi Fruit
Butia capitata Jelly Palm
Butia eriospatha Wooly Jelly Palm
Camellia pitardii Camellia
Eriobotrya japonica Loquat
Morus nigra Black Mulberry
Tecoma sambucifolia Waranway

Zone 8b (15 to 20F/-9.5 to -6.5C)
Arbutus unedo Strawberry Tree
Berberis nevinii Nevin's Baberry
Brahea armata Mexican Blue Palm
Drimys winteri Winter's Bark
Feijoa sellowiana Feijoa
Morus macroura Himalayan Mulberry
Myrtus communis Myrtle

Zone 9a (20 to 25F/-6.5 to -4C)
Acmena smithii Lilly Pilly
Aegle marmelos Bael Fruit
Araucaria bidwillii Bunya-Bunya, False Monkey Puzzle Tree
Azara petiolaris Holly Azara
Brahea edulis Guadalupe Palm
Canna edulis Achira, Arrowroot
Carica quercifolia Oak Leaved Papaya
Carissa macrocarpa Natal Plum
Caryota urens Wine Palm, Toddy Palm
Casimiroa edulis White Sapote
Casimiroa tetrameria Wooly-Leaved Sapote
Ceratonia siliqua Carob
Citrus sp. Citrus Fruits
Clausena lansium Wampee
Dovyalis caffra Kei Apple
Eugenia aggregata Cherry of the Rio Grande
Eugenia uniflora Surinam Cherry
Fuchsia boliviana Bolivian Fuchsia
Fuchsia triphylla Honeysuckle Fuchsia
Macadamia integrifolia Smooth Shelled Macadamia Nut
Malpighia glabra Acerola
Myrciaria cauliflora Jaboticaba
Prunus lyonii Catalina Island Cherry
Vaccinium gaultheriifolium Chinese Blueberry
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