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Michael Dougherty
Posts: 3
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The last 2 years of climate distortions are making gardening/farming very difficult in our area. The biggest problem is drought, followed by extreme heat.

The last couple of days I ran across some content on climate change that is alarming and points to more extreme variations in climate. http://a-m-e-g.blogspot.com/

My question is this. What can we do with these fluctuations? Sunlight has become far too intense. Heat is shutting down our gardens. The projections are for still more heat.

I am working on some designs for shading and cooling my gardens. I am working with a modified hueglekulture design with beds based on logs and built up from there and that definitely helps with the drought.

I am curious if anyone has puzzled through abrupt weather changes and what to do. I am not talking about seasonal swings, I am talking about cool weather one day, and the next 2 weeks of 100+ heat shutting down the garden.

The link I posted speaks to the behavior of the jet stream. Apparently arctic changes are changing the amplitude of the jet stream, sending it both farther north, and farther south. Almost as bad is that it is slowing the movement east and west of the waves in the jet. This creates the extremes we are experiencing.

This is the challenge we must meet going forward. Permaculture responds to many different climates, but I think it presumes pretty normal conditions in whatever zone. We face something different now. Here it is zone 7 one week, then zone 10 for 5 weeks.

I think the design challenge is this: can we create nimble garden designs that respond to deeply uncertain climate dynamics? I don't feel anyone is thinking along these lines yet. This seems like a good place to start. It appears that the science says that going forward things will only get more difficult. We must figure this out.

Michael Dougherty
Compton, Arkansas

 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9741
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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People are thinking along these lines with food forests.

A FOREST GARDEN YEAR Perennial crops for a changing climate by Martin Crawford http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Ggwa5irxmg

geoff lawton http://www.geofflawton.com/fe/32461-surviving-the-coming-crises?affiliate_number=10005

In my own case I'm trying to select the most durable perennial food plants, which can endure difficult conditions, such as Sotol and Buffalo Gourd among others. The challenge of these plants for me is that they are not currently part of my diet.

 
Craig Dobbson
master steward
Posts: 1931
Location: Maine (zone 5)
229
chicken dog food preservation forest garden goat hugelkultur rabbit trees
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When I buy seeds or plants/trees, I try to cover all the extremes.

For example: Apple Trees have a wide range of tolerances to temperature so I ordered a few that are perfect for my zone 5 , but I also ordered a few zone 6/7 and a few zone 3/4. This way I'm covered in case of temperature fluctuations. I also considered that bloom time is a critical factor. Some bloom early and some later on in the spring. Early blooms were killed by frost this year but the ones that bloomed a week later did fine. BUT, because there were fewer trees with fruit on them, there was more pest damage on the ones that did have fruit. SO... there's that as well. Then I tried to select at least one tree for each of the following uses. fresh eating, storage, cider, sauce, something odd, something dependable, a good all purpose, and something disease resistant. In many cases one tree has many uses so there's a lot of overlap. Even still, I suspect that some years will be bountiful in all ways and other years I may feeding bug riddled soggy apples to the chickens. That's life I guess.

I try to use this same process with everything I plant. Plant a lot of variety and you're bound to do ok most of the time. Plus it gives you the opportunity to save a larger variety of seeds that will do well in your area later on.
 
Michael Dougherty
Posts: 3
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I agree with all of this. I raise a mexican heirloom squash that loves heat and works very well in drought.

Perhaps it would be useful to catalog these varieties somewhere on this site. No need for us to reinvent the wheel. I think some of these varieties are out of the way.

I don't think variety choice alone will do it. The arctic warming pattern threatens our existence. It is that bad, I hope people will look at this. I have been following climate issues since the 70's and this shocked me.

It is pretty easy to become numb about climate shift, THIS IS VERY DIFFERENT. The study suggests that methane release could result in a climatic phase-change. This is also sound science, not quackery. We are not talking gradual change, we are talking exponential change. Here is another very good, 12/18/12 link: http://www.ecoshock.info/2012/12/climate-arctic-thermostat-blows-up.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+EcoshockNews+%28Ecoshock+News%29 Please take the time to digest this, it is very different.

Here is what I am doing with my gardens. They are built 12 inches deep (below ground) in hardpan, with a rotting log base. I fill the bed up at least 12 inches above ground. It is enclosed in a framework made of cattle panels. I created a roof with reinforcing mesh and row covering to block light. This seems to work pretty well, but I need more heat barrier. I am looking at aluminized shade cloth 60% shade for next year. I realize this runs away from the idea that nature offers everything one needs.

I have also experimented with using buckets in the woods with half-day shade. All day sun kills my tomatoes. Buckets let me test micro environments. A serious organic farmer friend of mine told me his tests indicated that the sunlight was 30% more intense than just a few years ago. This seems to square with my efforts and results.

Insects are drawn to my gardens because everything else is dead from drought. My 30 odd free range chickens kill the grasshoppers. My neighbors without chickens cannot grow a garden for the grasshoppers.

I had a terrible year with the garden in 2012 even though I adapted about every way I could imagine. In my rural area traditional gardening has failed now 4 years in a row. I had the only produce in the area, but it was a fraction of what it would have been in a normal year. I am sure this is climate extremes.

I will keep pushing on this thread. I believe we are on the edge of major crop failures and food insecurity in 2013. Will we figure this out? Dunno. But if I fail it won't be for the lack of effort. I think about it constantly.

Please look at the climate links, this is new data and it is alarming. It is likely much worse than you imagine.
 
Craig Dobbson
master steward
Posts: 1931
Location: Maine (zone 5)
229
chicken dog food preservation forest garden goat hugelkultur rabbit trees
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I guess it depends where you are located. Once the temp gets to a certain point (110f) most stuff just won't grow. Shade cloth and other measures will only get you so far. Eventually some places will just have to be abandoned. Deserts are tough places to live. Here in Maine, I have a longer way to go before things turn to a desert, so my plan is to cover all my bases and then go with the flow. Someday my kids may be growing bananas here or things could swing the other way and we may find ourselves in an arctic type climate. Who knows. I'm hedging my bets on both sides and waiting for others to catch on. Lead by example.

As much as the climate change things is a concern and we should do what we can to mitigate it, I also realize that some battles may already be lost. I won't be one of those people bailing water against the rising tide or shoveling sand against the wind to prove a point. Ya know? In some cases it's best to retreat a little bit and live to farm another day. A man's gotta eat before he can do battle. At least effective battle.
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9741
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
181
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9741
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
181
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Michael Dougherty wrote:

I had a terrible year with the garden in 2012 even though I adapted about every way I could imagine.


I had one of the best gardening years in 2012 even though we are in severe drought. I think this might be because the soil is finally getting in good condition after a couple years of buried wood beds. This technique has been my garden salvation. Also I moved my vegetable garden from its original exposed position to one surrounded by trees which help protect it from drying wind and too much sun.

 
Paulo Bessa
pollinator
Posts: 356
Location: Portugal (zone 9) and Iceland (zone 5)
13
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There are places where climate is very hot and dry but permanent forest covers that.

Basically, you need water for some species, rainwater catchment, and cover areas without water with tolerant species.

As much diversity you have, the better the changes that your garden can stand dramatic and extreme climate changes. Its a kind of natural law. Aim for hundreds of species.

I can tell you a few stories that might inspire you to understand the power and resiliency of nature: The ice age came and was gone in Iceland and the birch and sorrels apparently survived (probably in form of seeds) under the ice caps of glaciated Iceland some thousand years ago.

Likewise, some parts of the Amazon forest have very dry climate. If the forest would be cut, it would turn to desert, but the trees create a certain degree of moisture around and keep the soil alive (and the biodiversity there is incredible, despite very dry and very hot climates). Just pay attention to this fact. Plant a forest before the climate is too dry. Also do ponds. Then, this creates an oasis!

In the Sahara desert, there are "food forests" with date trees planted many centuries ago. They need very little water.

Aim for other resilient species like honey locust, mesquite, elaeagnus, seaberry, siberian pea, pigeon peas, amaranth, some types of millet, teff, quinoa, yams, some perennial grasses, carob, dates, olives, figs, almonds, chestnuts, prickly pear, bamboos, moringas, sweet potatoes, maca, lentils, chick peas, moth beans, lima beans... most of these are draught and heat tolerant, and several are also frost hardy when established. Easy to find some of these seeds online.

 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9741
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
181
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Here are some resources for drought and heat tolerant food plants:

http://shop.nativeseeds.org/pages/seeds

http://www.plantsofthesouthwest.com/

http://seedsource.com/

Several drought tolerant fruits here (mulberry, fig, goumi, pineapple guava, etc)

http://www.onegreenworld.com

http://www.raintreenursery.com

More info:

Renewing the Native Food Traditions of Bison Nation http://www.albc-usa.org/RAFT/resources.html

http://www.desertharvesters.org/
 
Rick Larson
Posts: 210
Location: Manitowoc WI USA Zone 5
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Tyler Ludens wrote:
Michael Dougherty wrote:

I had a terrible year with the garden in 2012 even though I adapted about every way I could imagine.


I had one of the best gardening years in 2012 even though we are in severe drought. I think this might be because the soil is finally getting in good condition after a couple years of buried wood beds. This technique has been my garden salvation. Also I moved my vegetable garden from its original exposed position to one surrounded by trees which help protect it from drying wind and too much sun.



This is my ongoing plan as well. I have learned a lot following the news and information on this site.
 
Andrew Parker
pollinator
Posts: 514
Location: Salt Lake Valley, Utah, hardiness zone 6b/7a
4
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Looks like I missed the fun, but I will jump in, nevertheless. I have also had trouble with long cool Springs quickly shifting to short hot Summers the past few years. I think the solution for me is going to be hoop houses to get an earlier start and to protect the established plants from the harsh high-altitude Summer sun (which is not affected in any way by my carbon footprint). Heat has not been a problem.

Those of us buying hybrid seed or nursery plants are at the mercy of someone else's best guess as to what will work in a particular place in a particular year. Injecting a variety of varieties and species into a garden helps to insure that there will be a harvest, but you're unlikely to get a bumper crop unless you are willing to gamble on one variety.

Whatever one's politics or faith regarding climate, change is inevitable, regardless of the cause, so it is good strategy to be ready to make adjustments as necessary. I don't know that it is worthwhile to anticipate long term surging temperatures when it is as likely to cool. You need to take things in short clusters, say trends over 3 to 5 years.

If you live in a border area between zones, you may be more likely to suffer from changes in climate than someone who lives solidly inside a particular zone.

Also keep in mind that Global Climate is a bit of an oxymoron. When they say that temperatures will rise 3 degrees, they are averaging localized increases over the entire globe. If winter temperatures in Antarctica go from -50 C to -30 C, nothing is going to start melting and I am not sure that it will have a great impact elsewhere. So, before you start investing in banana plantations in Saskatchewan, check the local trends.
 
Chris McLeod
Posts: 59
Location: Cherokee, Victoria, Australia
5
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Hi Michael,

Down Under this is a regular occurrence during the year. I have had droughts, floods, even a tornado. My farm is in a cool temperate climate, but it can be well over 40 degrees (104 Fahrenheit) during summer one day and then 15 degrees (59 Fahrenheit) the following day. Seriously the climate here is just weird...

You can check out my farm and food forest on youtube under the search "Fernglade Farm". I also write for the Permaculture Research Institute of Australia search for "Chris McLeod"

Some ideas for you to think about:
- Leave no exposed earth - i.e. cover everything with either living plant materials or woody mulch
- Plant your fruit trees or support trees closer together for shading
- Plant as big a diversity of plants as you can get (I have 300 different fruit trees here and well over 60 different medicinal herbs)
- Store all of your water in the soil and not in ponds or dams
- Get your trees used to minimal watering routines (I don't water the food forests at all)
- Build up the top soil by either creating it on site or bringing in whatever organic material you can
- Think about getting your own wastes into the soil (i.e. your poo and wee!)
- Get as much wildlife into your garden / food forest as possible and leave water above ground for them to drink (thirsty animals and birds here tend to eat the fruit)
- Plant lots of herbage under your fruit trees
- Don't mow the grass too short as this kills the plant and exposes the soil to the sun

Probably more stuff, but that's what comes to mind!

Chris
 
Paulo Bessa
pollinator
Posts: 356
Location: Portugal (zone 9) and Iceland (zone 5)
13
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I think we can't be fully sure about which direction climate change will take, so perhaps best is to aim at greater biodiversity and, as Chris said, measures to prevent naked soil exposure. And then we can think of severe draught, severe cooling or severe warming as the greatest dangers and challenges to tackle with, using permaculture methods.

We could just plant and say "just in case climate becomes X, then I will still have a stable food forest and harvest food from it"

So I will add also swales, ponds and mulching as a strategy to prevent draught, using polycultures (plant help one another, while keeping moisture and temperature balanced), and edge barries against wind. Overall, I think the last comment from Christ listed a LOT of nice solutions.

I think a diverse food forest can grow quite well in a cold or hot and dry climate. Forests in the tropics and in nordic regions are quite prepared to deal with extremes of temperature.

Probably another challenge to deal with is... fire. But I am not so experienced in knowing which species to plant. I know that some perennial species can grow back from their own roots even if striken by a fire. Perhaps someone can help with this.

 
Chris McLeod
Posts: 59
Location: Cherokee, Victoria, Australia
5
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Hi Paulo,

Thanks. Fire is a big issue here too, especially being surrounded by large eucalyptus (eucalypt obliqua) forests.

After the Ash Wednesday fires here in 1983 the CSIRO researched the effects of plants and fire on the species here and found that despite the high oil content of the leaves, the plants in the forests here were more likely to burn if the soil (and hence the leaves) were low in minerals. The oils in the leaves made little to no difference as to their combustability.

As a suggestion, minerals are quite easy to get into a food forest soil:

- The quick method: Bring in rock crusher dust. This is a waste product that goes a long way
- The slow method: Establish herbage that mines the lower soil for minerals and brings them back to the surface: (nettles, comfrey, alfalfa etc.)

The reason they investigated this is because many of the old hill station (19th century) gardens up this way did not burn, despite having large eucalyptus plants.

Some plants also do not burn well, such as English Oak, acacia melanoxylon (in large groves). I saw these after the Black Saturday fires in 2009 and they seemed OK.

Chris
 
Alex Ames
Posts: 406
Location: Georgia
5
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I experienced some super hot days this year but I must say I have had a nice
fall garden. No bugs and very healthy plants. The soil is getting better and I planted
more fall crop than usual.
 
Josef Theisen
Posts: 236
Location: SE Wisconsin, USA zone 5b
7
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Read Bill Mollison! Listen to Masanobu Fukuoka!

Rain does not start in the sky, it comes from vegetation. The skin of the earth is not just the soil, it is the soil covered by trees. When forests are cut down; rivers run dry, springs stop flowing, aquifers drop, and rain can't continue. Trees=healthy water systems. No trees=no water.

I believe that the drought we are facing is the direct result of enviornmental damage, and part of the process of desertification seen all over the world. The best protection we can have against climate change is living in a healthy, stable enviornment, also known as a forest.

I can't stop all the damage, but I can help to heal 1 acre and hopefully inspire others to do the same.
 
Rion Mather
Posts: 644
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Excellent thread topic. I faced two problems this year: extreme heat and temp fluctuations. On top of that, we had very little precipitaton. That kind of weather is very uncommon for this region. The only positive was the lack of blight. I am curious to see what happens this summer.
 
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