I recently moved into my home in Southern California. The yard is around 4000 square feet, mostly covered with grass. Around the periphery are various fruittrees planted by the previous owner (apple, plum, fig, cherimoya, etc.) Some are irrigated by drip line, others by sprinklers. The soil is thick, hard clay, with decent drainage. I dug a few holes in various areas to conduct soil tests. There are very few earthworms. There is also a small area with three raised beds currently planted with various vegetables and herbs.
I'm new to all of this, and in the time I have available, I've mostly been doing my best to mulch the fruit trees (e.g. https://permies.com/t/26315/trees/foray-mulch) and control the prolific Argentine ant population which I noticed is farming scale on various plants around the property. Aside from that, I'm a bit overwhelmed and information overloaded with everything I've been reading lately.
Any ideas on what I can or should be doing about now? What should I make a priority? I'm just looking for some structure so I can use the time I have more effectively. Thing that have come to mind (including suggestions from other threads) are:
- Starting mini hugelkultur beds (there is a pile of firewood in the corner, at least a year old).
- tiling in biochar - inoculating the soil with fungus
- figuring out the irrigation system (seems pretty complicated with all the timers and all—it probably isn't but I have no experience with irrigation systems)
- cleaning up the raised bed area and planting some crops that my wife and I want (some areas of the beds are empty or just have weeds)
- spend more time observing and creating a vision/design for the yard (this is hard for me; I'm not too creative)
This is the perfect time of year to be getting your vegetable beds ready for brassicas. You can start small with your pile of old wood and turn it into a hugelkultur with broccoli, cabbage, radishes, turnips, kale, and whatever else you like. Brassicas germinate best in hot weather and like cool weather for growth, just what you have in store. If you plant kale or collards now, you could be continually harvesting it from about October well into next spring.
Ronnie - you definitely want to get that irrigation system figured out Wouldn't do to plan out your garden only to find it was incompatible with the irrigation set up and you needed to either start over on the planning or re-do the irrigation.
You didn't mention any contour to your property - you probably ought to look at that aspect to determine whether you can do anything about retaining water for those rains you do get. Thinking about water harvesting and retention is never wasted
Prepping your raised beds and getting crops for the fall/winter started makes sense (and I need to get those going myself )
I've been building a hugelbeet as time allowed for a while now. I don't know if there's a best time for building one, but as long as your ground's not frozen and/or snow covered (not really issues in SoCal, huh?) seems to me you can work on building hugels whenever there's time and material.
It's also worth noting that you want to put time in observing your land before getting too committed to any kind of plan of development.
Seems like the place to start is to organize your thinking and your observation before organizing your action.
Observation: What's growing and living on your site, and on neighboring sites? What trees, fruits, etc. seem to be popular and grow relatively effortlessly in your area? What are the native plants in the region? A few field guides, a tour of a nearby arboretum/public garden, or even a nursery specializing in adapted plants and/or natives might be a place to start.
Try to find resources on your climate....temps, rainfall, etc.; both averages and extremes.
When a good heavy rain does come, get out in it and observe how and where water moves across the site and the neighborhood. Hardly anyone thinks of this, and the lessons to be learned are many, blatant, and worth more than all the countouring and mapping and so on!
The summary of observation is answering the questions "what does this place want to be or do? What can it do for me without a lot of effort?
Thinking: means answering the question: What are your goals for the site? What benefits can changes you make to the site provide to the local ecosystem and beyond? A landholding, and to some extent even an indoor space, has the potential to provide at least these things, and probably others: food production, energy provision, waste processing, water catchment, carbon and nutrient catchment, wildlife and native plant habitat, income generation, beauty......Decide which goals are most important and in which timeframe. This helps deal with the overwhelm that often comes with a new place. Think about which projects can fulfill more than one goal at a throw. (i.e. a looping system including the use of yard and kitchen wastes going through chickens, worms, or compost and ending up in some garden beds fulfills food production, waste processing, carbon and nutrient trapping, and perhaps even beauty and income generation---in the sense of money not being spent on the produce generated....)
I am going to assume that you are in zone 10 or zone 9, so you will be able to plant a quite a few tropical/sub tropical.
Make a list of all fruit/nut trees or vines that will grow in your climate: chill hours (apple) & winter lows (coconut).
Find cultivars/vendor sources for sub 6ft, sub 10ft, sub 15ft. Plant them all.
Next create a list of herbs that will grow mint/thyme family, carrot/cilantro family.
Find cheap vendor sources and plant them.
Find a few desert/seaside hardy vegetable such as seakale, seabeet.
Get a beehive
Lastly focus on annuals like tomatoes, corn, amaranth would be a good desert hardy veggie that readily self-seeds.
I would go so far as to say that if I was going to grow conventional veggies in the desert, I would do it as part of a aquaponic system:
Iterations are fine, we don't have to be perfect
The Greenhouse of the Future ebook by Francis Gendron