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Low-Tech technology in Permaculture

 
Robert Ray
gardener
Posts: 1350
Location: Cascades of Oregon
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Many permie efforts involve just a massaging of the land, swales, rain harvesting etc.
What low tech approaches have you used and have noticed a more abundant production of plants?
This would be for a piece of property on which one lives whether a city lot or several acre farm. This would not include off property foraging.
 
                          
Posts: 250
Location: Marrakai Northern Territory Australia
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instead of useing heavy machinery to make swales on my property i just made winrows of compotable materials, usually free fall after strong winds eg: recently aquired approx 20sq metres from clearing road side after passing storm. these are then covered with soil thus giving me rain harvesting swales without any disterbance of my land, sort of gives me a hugelcultre swale
 
jeremiah bailey
Posts: 343
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Bird, so your swales both redirect, and store water. Nice concept.
I've used seed balls and pellets made with clay that I dig from the ground. I got a nice harvest of cowpeas in pellets broadcast by hand over grass sod that was cut low just before planting. If I were to do it again, I'd double or triple my planting density. The cowpeas seemed to thrive where they were densely planted and grew weak by themselves. I used 1 pound on a 500sqft area. I yielded 2 pounds, but i did no work other than planting and harvesting. I also planted late in the season. I think I'll plant a month earlier, this time in May. I'll see what my yield ratio is this year.
 
                          
Posts: 250
Location: Marrakai Northern Territory Australia
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i also use the same concept for U shaped raised beds on hill sides, mainly for fruit trees, but iv'e also been known to use old tyres for this type of raised beds as well ( not realy permie but recycle is good to.
 
                              
Posts: 461
Location: Inland Central Florida, USA
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Did you innolculate the seed?  That might help growth too.

I've kinda done the compost berms but we did move some dirt to put over the brush and stuff though it has all been done without heavy equipment.  Hand tools only. 

I have seen great improvements to our soil with the addition of compost and other organic matter.  Our citrus trees are bearing very heavily two years in a row with only small things done to help them.  We cut a tree back that was shading them too much.  We spread some compost and mulch under them and I'm providing drip irrigation for them and we run the chickens under them much of the year.  Before we did these things, I don't think those two trees were doing very well.  (previous owners had a sprinkler system and used chemical fertilizers, the trees were suffering from mold and had only a sparce amount of fruit the first year we moved in.)
 
                        
Posts: 122
Location: sub-tropics downunder
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my low tech comes down to what makes sense and (un-common)common sense in big doses, can't be beaten. too easy.

len
 
Jami McBride
gardener
Posts: 1948
Location: PNW Oregon
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books chicken duck food preservation forest garden hugelkultur trees
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Low Tech - that's all I do is low-tech 

My easiest improvement was adding animals (ducks & chickens) - free range ducks to keep the bugs, snails and beetles at bay, and chicken's to make compost for me.  My ducks completely eliminated a grass-root eating larva that gave me large bald patches in my grass I couldn't stay on top of.  No more poison, fertilizer and my mowing has been almost eliminated.

I collect leaves and move them in large amounts into the chicken area along with any other food/plant matter we don't want.  They turn this into nice dark soil in no time.  I then use this all over my yard as a top dressing or planting-soil-mix.  The leaves are free and so are the bugs in them!  If you can't free-range chicken's use them as a non-electric compost mixer.

To stop flooding in my house at the south-east corner - I used free-recycled bricks to build a raise garden bed along the south wall the width of my house.  This elevated land mass, some how causes the water underground to turn and flow parallel to my house underground and out to the lower land in the front yard.  No more flooding, digging ditches in the rain or muddy bog - it's great.

Quick landscaping - Whenever I see, or hear people having their large trees trimmed I ran and ask the guys for the mulch from the grinder.  I use lots of mulch as a low-tech landscaping tool, for paths and areas I don't want weeds or grass popping up.  Free and easy.  I've heard those limb grinders you can buy don't really work, that's to bad, but the city has good ones.

Use straight distilled vinegar on weeds in walk ways - just have a spray bottle set on stream ready.  I also use vinegar poured on my roof to kill moss.  I only do this so the home owner won't come in with a bunch of chemicals to get the job done.

Keeping/raising rabbits in a colony on the ground instead of raised cages is much easier, cheeper and healthier for the rabbits.  This is trickier for Angora rabbits, but it can be done.

Not sure if this one meets the criteria -
I repel deer with surveyors stakes I buy wholesale from the manufacture.  I first used these, turned upside down and stuck into my 4' chain-link fence as a deterrent for the deer.  It worked perfectly.  A stake, pointy side up every 3' or so - and no more deer in my back yard.  50 stakes for $10 six years ago and they are still working.  The stakes are 1"x 3'.  We had deer all the time before using the stakes.  I use stakes of various sizes all over the yard.



Bird - I'd love to see pictures, your method sounds great!

 
                              
Posts: 461
Location: Inland Central Florida, USA
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We also offer a free place for tree trimmers to dump loads of chipped up trees and such when ever they are working around our neighborhood!!!  In our hot/wet climate they break down quickly to become good soil.  We also use wood chips in the chicken coop or at least we did when we used a stationary coop,  They now have a movable roost house as well as mobile nest boxes so the stationary coop isn't used as much anymore but maybe if we get some younger chickens that need to be penned for their safety for a while.  Anyway, the chickens love mulch of any sort, wood chips leaves etc.
 
Robert Ray
gardener
Posts: 1350
Location: Cascades of Oregon
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Now this is better positive responses and ideas that is what I come here for.
 
                              
Posts: 461
Location: Inland Central Florida, USA
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If you like really low tech.  Our original rain collecting was buckets lined up under the drip line of our roof in the back yard.
 
                    
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We're trying to avoid buying rolls and rolls poly pipe for irrigation (which we can do because we have an incredible volume of water, but not very much pressure [like, 3-4 lbs]).  For our first gardening efforts at this location we made terraced beds that extend across the contour of the slope, radiating out from the saddle of the hill upon which they sit.  We're still working out exactly what shape the terraces need to be for even flooding.  The first beds had ditches on one or both sides, and they required a bunch of handwatering to get seeds to sprout.  But after establishment everything grew really well with just the water flow in the ditches a few times a week.  We quickly learned that our soil is so porous that water tends to go straight down and not sideways very much.  The third round of bed making we got smarter and made mostly flat beds with berms on the down hill side, and a very shallow ditch on the uphill side just to encourage the water to move all the way down to the end of the bed.  The water flooded the entire bed, and things grew really well.  We'd like to use variations of this method out in the forest garden, planting our guilds in large, shallow depressions that we can flood, and keeping paths elevated with rocks and such.   

Beyond a rented rotitiller to break up the field plants so we could actually move dirt around, all dirt was moved with shovels and maddocks.  Shoveling is possibly the best abdominal work out that exists. 
 
                              
Posts: 461
Location: Inland Central Florida, USA
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marinajade,
  Oh, I like that idea (about the mostly flat beds with the berm on downhill side for the flood watering.)  My soil is sandy so a trench isn't going to water very far out beside it.  Unfortunately I'm on really flat ground hum.
 
jeremiah bailey
Posts: 343
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Yes, I inoculated the seed. I plan on inoculating at least one more time to ensure a stable culture in the soil.
For irrigation, you can bury terracotta pots with the bottoms plugged. Cover the top with a plate or something to stop evaporation. Fill the pots with water and it will leech out and moisten the soil nearby. Fill the pots as necessary.
 
                    
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You only need a 2% slope to get water to move.  That's barely visible to the eye. 

Have you ever used an A-frame with a plumb bob to see what your contour lines are?  That's one of the lowest tech and most useful tools that exists, in my opinion.  We actually decided that 2% is a little steep, we might try to take it back to like, 1 1/2% next year by verrrry slightly moving the ends of the beds down hill.  We have very porous (not sandy but silty) soil and we got the water to go about 20-30 feet before it disappeared entirely.

My man has an expensive laser level (from his former career in pouring acres of concrete) and he checked the ditches I layed out with my extremely low-tech device and the results were the same. 

We also tried making beds that had a belly in the middle, with feeder ditches going vertically down slope along the sides.  Water would run in one ditch and into the beds to the middle on first one side and then the other.  That worked well.  This is getting hard to explain verbally....I'm a drawing sort of gal. 
 
Travis Philp
gardener
Posts: 965
Location: ZONE 5a Lindsay Ontario Canada
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I didn't read every post so I hope its not mentioned yet:

My most significant low tech tool has been sheet mulching instead of using tilling machines. If you have compacted soil, a pitch fork, hoe, or pick axe works to loosen soil. The sheet mulch can be as simple as cardboard with soil and/or manure, with hay or woodchips on top if you're short on materials, or time. I've also been successful without the cardboard and simply layered composted woodchips, then weeds and hay, a layer of semi composted vegetable scraps, and fresh woodchips on top of this. we grew a successful tomato and zuccini crop in this last example to give you an idea of whats possible
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
Posts: 4434
Location: North Central Michigan
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i'm with those that swear by mulch and sheet composting..both my favorites..so easy to do.

i'm also into no till..wherever possible..i try to just plant into the mulch whenver i can without disturbing the soil much other than where i have to plant.

i do a lot of the other things mentioned above too..great thread
 
Pat Maas
Posts: 194
Location: McIntosh, NM
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Here there is a lot of low tech methods used. As am working on encouraging grass to grow on shallow soil on rock, the best things I've found to combat  erosion sheeting are the rakings from the goat pen bermed and the infamous knapweed used a filler inbetween. Grass is starting to grow again and the soil is getting a shot of carbon as the knap weed breaks down.
lower section of completed tumbleweed mulch.jpg
[Thumbnail for lower section of completed tumbleweed mulch.jpg]
 
                    
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We have a plum tree just behind the cabin here, it produced maybe five plums the first summer I was here - after no attention for decades.  I mulched it with about 2" of wool two feet from the trunk, and put my kitchen scrap compost pile just outside the wool ring, under the drip line.  About once a week, whenever my scraps filled the bucket, I turned them into the pile around the tree, and watered the tree on the spot where the last pile had been.  Around and around as the pile grew slowly larger.  That autumn we had many many more plums!  Ate them fresh for weeks, canned some of them with and without blackberries.  Plus, a very nice pile of compost, which I think I will just spread on top of the wool this spring. 

We use a ring of 5' tall chicken wire folded in half around the compost pile to discourage doggy curiosity (we chop up bones and put them in there).  Works for us.  It's light enough to just lift out of the way for turning, then snuggle back around the pile afterward. 
 
Joel Hollingsworth
pollinator
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
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I use buckets under the edges of my roof to harvest rainwater for later in the year, but a lot more water is stored under the pavement.

Tomatoes grown right at the edge of a paved section of patio, an opening which allows a lot of water under the concrete each winter, produced overwhelming growth when dry-cropped last year.
 
                    
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Oh I love it Joel.  Concrete mulch!  Haha.  They don't mind the alkalinity?  I've heard some plants won't grow near concrete because it makes the soil alkaline....
 
Joel Hollingsworth
pollinator
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
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These tomatoes threatened to make the patio impassable, so they must've dealt with any pH issues OK.

This is the first I've considered that question. I had mixed a fair amount of gypsum into the soil, hoping to loosen the heavy clay a bit. And I think the tendency in these parts is for soil to be more alkaline than we would like.

I also added some compost, but I don't think this had a major effect on the pH under the patio.

I suspect much of the water they had access to was wicked away from too-alkaline portions of the soil, rather than drawn from roots that had grown all the way to the source.

Unfortunately, the tomatoes shaded out the pepper plants I had interplanted, and stunted their growth. But those little guys are still hanging in there, and should have another chance at fruiting this spring, hopefully benefiting from whatever their fava bean neighbors leave behind.
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://richsoil.com/cards
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