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Northern Nevada Permies?

 
Chris Gavin
Posts: 11
Location: Lemmon Valley, Reno NV
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Just signed up with this site and I love the info! sounds likes lots of the desert plants (legumes mostly) are not N.American varieties. just looking for the Northern Nevada Permies, and their favorite nitrogen fixing plants. Thanks and be well!
 
Brett Andrzejewski
gardener
Posts: 318
Location: Buffalo, NY
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Welcome to Permies!

I am close to your region and am learning which nitrogen fixers are working for me. Let me share:

Mimosa tree (Albizia julibrissin) does really well in my climate and is often a volunteer plant. Leaves can be made into tea for an antidepressant, bark for wound treatment.
Common vetch, I tried at the start of my project but it is really struggling in the early stages of my permaculture project.
Alfalfa, does better than vetch and depends on the microclimate and location .
I've also experimented with some beans, but I started them inside and tried to transplant them outside. My region then had a late freeze which killed most of them.
I re-seeded and believe the rattlesnake pole beans are the ones that sprouted and are looking for a plants to climb.

Good luck with your project, let us know how it goes.
 
mike mclellan
Posts: 94
Location: Helena, MT zone 4
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Chris,
Having lived in Humboldt County many moons past, may I suggest that using native lupines if possible might work. Another possibility are the species of Astragalus. I know they've gotten a bad reputation as "poisonous" to livestock but they are already adapted to the climate and soils of the region and livestock normally won't touch them unless the grass is already gone.

If you are on rocky, upland type ground look into using both bitter brush (Purshia tridentata) and/or species of mountain mahogany (Cercocarpus ledifolius and/ or C.montanus). They were widespread in some of the mountainous/foothill areas in central Nevada and I recall areas around Carson City and Reno that had decent stands of both. Just depends on location and your soil.

If you're looking for something to use to build your annual vegetable garden try white and/or yellow sweet clover our (Melilotus alba & M. officials). They were "weeds" everywhere I've lived in the west but they do a terrific job of fixing nitrogen, and are very amenable to simply chopping and dropping when they get too overgrown for whatever you're attempting to cultivate. They don't seem to be bothered by soil alkalinity They have really boosted my raspberries this year and all my hugelbeds are growing far more vigorously this year after the sweet clover took off this spring. I've chopped and dropped it twice or thrice and it's still coming back for one last seedmaking run. Bees love it. IMO it's a winner here in the dry west.
Ah, one more. If you are attempting to establish trees, black locust is a winner. Hard wood, last forever, dappled shade, bees love it. I would recommend not purposely planting Russian olive. It's not a bad nurse tree, again in my opinion, but it has such a bad reputation as a water "user" and "aggressive". I inherited mine here in Montana and I can see where they've really improved the site for spruce and apple trees, but they are pretty gnarly and they fight you all the way to the chipper if you have to trim them or remove them.

Dream big in Nevada. It's dry, alkaline and isolated but a little fertility goes such a long way there. Best wishes on your endeavors there. It's a beautiful place and lot of great people live there.
 
Chris Gavin
Posts: 11
Location: Lemmon Valley, Reno NV
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Wow, thank you both! I am very excited to get something going and your recommendations will go a long way. I've actually started saving locust seeds, great for timber as well! can't wait to update!
 
Andrew Parker
pollinator
Posts: 514
Location: Salt Lake Valley, Utah, hardiness zone 6b/7a
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Chris,

Northern Nevada covers a lot of territory. Where exactly (more or less) are you located? The Great Basin is very diverse in local physiographic characteristics. Do you have water rights, or are you restricted to what the sky will give you?

I located this document:

"Some Good native plants for Great Basin Landscapes," http://www.unce.unr.edu/publications/files/ho/2011/sp1113.pdf

here: University of Nevada Cooperative Extension, http://www.unce.unr.edu/

Check their resources and review their Faculty and Staff listing, http://www.unce.unr.edu/contact/personnel/ to see if anyone is interested in the same thing you are.

Good luck and keep us up to date with your experiences.
 
Chris Gavin
Posts: 11
Location: Lemmon Valley, Reno NV
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Thanks Andrew, great resources. I am located just north of Reno, NV. No water rights. Anyone know if comfrey would grow here?
 
Derrick Gunther
Posts: 33
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Hi Chris,
I'm a few hours north of you, but the climate isn't too different. I attended a forest gardening course last fall in Reno through Urban Roots. http://www.urgc.org/#!permaculture/c4fw There are some really good people there; Niel Bertrando is someone doing amazing work just north of Reno. He has lots of great information on regionally appropriate species and techniques. Comfrey should grow there, though it may slow down and even go dormant during the late summer. I believe I saw some comfrey in the forest gardens we were able to walk through in and around Reno, but there was so much info and things to look at I can't remember exactly how well they were doing. I'm planning on planting some on a couple different sites this year, so I should have better info on how they do later this summer.
Edit: You asked about N-fixers for your climate. There are a few native, thus, well adapted species. Several Ceanothus species, such as mahala mat, and the mountain mahoganies (Cerocarpus). Several non-natives are good candidates as well. The Rhamnaceae family is very promising. Jujube, autumn olive, goumi, etc fix N and provide tasty food too!
 
Kathleen Sanderson
Posts: 985
Location: Near Klamath Falls, Oregon
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I'm near Klamath Falls, OR (about an hour ENE of town), so a somewhat similar climate. I'm just getting started. The only nitrogen fixer I've planted so far is Siberian Pea Shrub. I put one in with each fruit tree or clump of berry bushes. Will see how much it helps.

Kathleen
 
Chris Gavin
Posts: 11
Location: Lemmon Valley, Reno NV
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Thanks Derrick! Nice to hear from fellow Great Basin Permies. I would love to grow as many food producing n-fixers as possible. Your not related to Dave Gunther by any chance?
 
Chris Gavin
Posts: 11
Location: Lemmon Valley, Reno NV
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Kathleen, keep me posted. Ive been curious about that method.
 
shauna carr
Posts: 84
Location: Sonoran Desert, USA
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I'm in Arizona rather than Nevada, but there might be some species here that might be usable, you know?

First, there's this list of plants of the Sonoran Desert, and it lists plants by family, so you just scroll down to the Fabaceae family to find legumes there.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_flora_of_the_Sonoran_Desert_Region_by_common_name

Obviously, many of these are not going to work. They can take the heat, and although you get a little less rainfall (most of these plants grow in areas where there's between 8-12 inches of rain), there's less evapotranspiration where you are, I believe, so they might do okay, rainfall-wise, but the cold is going to be a bit of an issue.

However, many of the varieties grow up in mountains as high as 6,000 feet or more, so they can take more cold than the others, obviously. I'm not sure all of WHICH of the varieties that applies to, but they might be worth checking out. There's a few I've noted down, though (looking for ideas for my folks in the Rockies).

The one edible legume I know of that you might be able to use is the Velvet Mesquite (Prosopis velutina) - it's a tree that can grow up to about 25 feet, with about a 25 foot diameter canopy, a legume, low water use. Grows native in Az up to 6,000 feet in elevation (so it might be able to take your cold), but can also take temperatures that exist in Phoenix, so I believe as high as 120 F, in some cases. The pods and seeds are both edible, usually ground up to gather and used like you would use cornmeal. Sweet tasting. It's the only native edible legume in AZ that I know of which also grows this high. Palo verde, the other edible legume tree around here, only grows to about 4,000 feet, usually.

Featherplume (Dalea formosa), a legume shrub which grows at up to 6500 in elevation. I understand this one is supposed to be medicinal, as well.

Whiteball Acacia (Acacia angustissima) - legume, shrub, grows up to 6,000 feet. Butterfly larval source, bee nectar source.

False Indigo Bush (Amorpha fruticosa) - legume, shrub, grow's up to 6,000 feet, butterfly larval source.

California false indigo bush (Amorpha californica) - legume, shrub, grow's up to 8,000 feet, butterfly larval source.


Those are all the local ones I've researched and found at higher elevations (but I haven't gone too far in my research yet).


Also, just for AZ plants that might be of interest in a desert permaculture project that I don't see mentioned all that often.
Saya (Amoreuxia palmatifida) - AZ desert plant where the entire plant is edible, including the tubers.
Pineland Gooseberry - AZ native, but good up to 9,000 feet elevation.

There's also a few AZ native wolfberries (edible, related to Goji berries), like the pale leaf wolfberry (Lycium pallidum) which is good up to 6,000 feet

Good luck - hope the project goes very well.




 
Carolyn Redmond
Posts: 11
Location: Northern Nevada zone 5b
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Just found this site the other day and this thread today! I posted this same message over on the "Message Others from the SW United States" thread and wanted to say hello over here too.

I have 10 acres in arid northern Nevada. I doubt I'd be able to green the whole thing (not enough energy) but I'd like to be able to do what I can around the house and barns. We get, on average, 5" of precipitation per year. That includes any snow fall. It's a pretty sad and bleak situation but we like it here. It's a desert farming community. Lots of cattle (mostly dairy) being raised and decreasing amounts of alfalfa being grown due to the drought. I would love some trees to plant in my chicken yards for shade and hopefully some fruit for them/us. Some trees to shade the house would be really nice too. Some kind of greens growing for a front "yard" would be beneficial. Doesn't have to be grass, in fact, I'd prefer a bunch of broadleaf weeds that I can mow a little bit every day so my birds have some fresh greens.
 
Sonia Johnson
Posts: 4
Location: Carson City, NV Zone 5, av. precipitation 9", altitude 4700'
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Hi Chris,

I just saw this today. I'm in Carson City. It's always nice to see locals with permiculture interests. The legumes I have so far are Siberian Pea Tree and some Honey Locust. I collected some Black Locust seed and intend to see if I can get those to grow. Comfrey grows here too, but everything has to have supplemental water, including the trees. I want to do some swales and see if that helps, but I don't think they'll completely eliminate the need for irrigation. We just don't get enough water most years.

I'd like to get a graywater system going, but I just don't have the time and energy to do everything I'd like!

Sonia
 
Carolyn Redmond
Posts: 11
Location: Northern Nevada zone 5b
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Hi Sonia,

Nice to hear of someone else somewhat local. In case you're interested, there is a permie group meeting in Reno on Wednesday evening from 6 - 7:30 I believe.


Wednesday, September 10, 2014
at 6:00 PM

Urban Roots Farm
3001 West 4th Street
Reno, NV 89523

The link, if you're interested, is http://www.meetup.com/Permaculture-Northern-Nevada/events/203779862/

Hope to see you there.

 
Sonia Johnson
Posts: 4
Location: Carson City, NV Zone 5, av. precipitation 9", altitude 4700'
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Thanks, Carolyn. I won't be able to make it to this one, but I joined the group.

Sonia
 
Chris Gavin
Posts: 11
Location: Lemmon Valley, Reno NV
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Wow! Been busy and havent checked my thread in awhile, what a surprise! Nice to see such dialogue and more fellow Great Basin Permies. Thank you all for your responses and ideas. Since I posted the original post I've been to two Steppe One Farm tours and most of what you guys are suggesting is right on. Anyone else catch the FREE geoff lawton seminar?
 
Carolyn Redmond
Posts: 11
Location: Northern Nevada zone 5b
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I was there! My brain has been trying to churn out some ideas but I don't really know where to start.
 
richard valley
Posts: 240
Location: Sierra Nevada mountain valley CA, & Nevada high desert
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You asked about comfrey, We have comfrey growing at 6800ft in a valley near Tahoe, comes back every year. Should grow fine where you are. You can grow tomatoes like you won't believe until you try it.

Richard
 
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