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Seeking advice about high groundwater levels and how to mediate them

 
Travis Philp
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The land I'm living on has groundwater levels that are very near teh surface, and only the gentlest of slope for the most part. The soils are generally loamy sand with very little clay so I don't think its an issue of drainage but more the fact that I am 2 km's from a lake.

Any suggestions about what I can do? I'd like to plant fruit trees but I understand that they can't really do well with wet feet. Would making individual mounds be a good idea or should I get into large scale earth works? I understand that its not wise to fight against the current so to speak but maybe there are some fairly simple, viable alterations that I could make to the land in order to move the water. Maybe creating ditches that run downhill instead of on contour?

Any help is greatly appreciated.

 
rose macaskie
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  My grandwmother had clay soil in wet cheshire and she had a lot of drainage systems under the feilds and ditches round the feilds that carried the water off.

  I think the feilds are made sort of  wavy and under the dips, down in the soil, there are pipes or half pipes or pipes with holes in, that the water drains into and they carry the water off to the ditches round the feilds.
  I bet Paul Wheaton knows all about things like this but as he is carefull not to talk others down, or wants to draw others out, he won't mention it, at least not in detail he'll want others to. agri rose macaskie.
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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There might be a variety of tree that tolerates wet feet and can go in before the fruit trees, to draw down the water table and help improve the soil, preferably one that also fixes nitrogen.
 
                              
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I expect that you could probably dig a bit of a pond somewhere and use the soil to make some mounded areas on which you might be able to plant some trees that might not like to grow there otherwise.
Look around and see what plants and trees do like to grow in the area.  There are many types of what they call "bottom land" trees that might be just fine so long as there is not standing water over the surface.

Here is where the observation part comes in.  Note what types of trees are growing well and how similar to your situation those trees are to your property.  Then what similarities do those threes have with the types you wish to plant.

Now all I know is you are close to a lake and there is a high water table.  Since there is no location information listed by your name, I'm not sure what plants I might recommend since I don't know anything about your climate.

I think blackberries and rasberries might like the near water table but I'm not sure.  Apples probably want to be up on a mound.
 
                    
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Joel's idea is worth researching.  Eucalyptus trees get blamed for lowering the water table, I'm not sure if this is deserved.

Robert Hart, in England, made brush mounds to elevate sensitive plant roots above heavy wet soils. 

Start with a pile of not-too-thick branches, then add a layer of dead vegetation, then compost, then "turf", then dirt.  It's the same idea as hugelkultur, but you end up with a big pile of stuff that your plants can live in without actually getting their roots down to the dirt for years. 
 
                          
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i would look a wattle before gum trees, a lot of gums do things to soil to make tit unatractive to other plants, wattle are nitrogen fixers and feed plants-forage trees/bushes
 
                  
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If it is available Acacia melanoxylon, common name Blackwood is a good option. Blackwood can tolerate wet feet and being a wattle is also a nitrogen fixer.
 
Travis Philp
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Joel Hollingsworth wrote:
There might be a variety of tree that tolerates wet feet and can go in before the fruit trees, to draw down the water table and help improve the soil, preferably one that also fixes nitrogen.


I was wondering if that would work as I was thinking of the nurse trees being water pumps on higher elevation to do what you're talking about. Alders are native here and as you probably know, fix nitrogen. It likes we t feet but I don't know if its best suited for this task? I'm reluctant to go to locust due to its non-nativeness and tendency to spread.

Anyone have a list of the best water pump trees for a situation like this? Am I correct in my assumption that trees which like or don't mind wet feet, make the best type for this situation? I could see that going either way.

The main trees on the land here are:

eastern white cedar
balsam poplar
white ash
Acer negundo box elder aka manitoba maple
white birch
manitoba maple
willow
white poplar
largetooth aspen

some sugar maple planted in hedgerows


There are also a handful of seemingly wild apple trees dotted around the property which gives me hope that the land is largely suitable to pears, apricots, cherries, plums and such.  PLENTY of raspberries all over the property, and about a 30' X 30' patch of blackberries in the sandier section.
 
paul wheaton
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bee chicken hugelkultur trees wofati woodworking
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Step 1)  Thank your lucky stars.  You have sub irrigated land!  You can grow damn near anything successfully. 

Step 2)  Buy seeds.  Lots of seeds.  Go wild.

Step 3)  NEVER build an outhouse

Step 4)  If you are gonna live on the property, get up off the ground. 



 
rose macaskie
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Paul Wheaton why do you say, never build an outhouse. You are a very strange person I don't mean that in a bad way just some of the things you say are enigmatic, you don't explain about never building an out houses in water logged land.  Basically you are sayng you can grow an awful lot on water logged land?

  I know they were growing eucalyptus  in the kibbutz i went to because the ground was too wet. Something i was told and found hard to understand, it was so hot an dry.  It was nearish to the sea of Galilea, that was their excxuse maybe i would have had to see th eplace in winter to understand that it could be water logged..
    I spent my summer holiday on a kibbutz when when i was nineteen years old. I don't imagine eucalyptus would do much harm to the land if there weren't too many of them. Is not one of the problems of pines and such that they have some pretty inflamable type saps that can poison soils combined with the fact that they are planted in such great numbers, so close together.
      Saps that when the wood burns evaporate creating inflameable gas clouds above the woods . We do always do our best to find big trouble, like planting lots of pines in climates with hot dry summers.

    paul stamets knows about forestry doesn't he? He would know when eucalyptus get really bad for soils and when they were all right i should think. I wish he was a frequent contributer.

    Talking about contributers i have been wanting to say, could not Paul Wheaton fish for Wangara Mattai as a contributer? I think she spends a lot of time in America, is as much American or nearly as Kenyan, maybe I have got that all wrong, at least she got her degree in America, and sometimes lives there, i think.

      I know that poplars grow really fast, that would, i suppose, mean they took up lots of water. Aspens at any rate have twisted leaf stems so that the leaves twist about in the wind a bit as our hands twist on our wrists and that means the loose more water in evaporation transpiration than other trees.. Roland Ennos Trees" Sounds good if you want to dry the land.
  You can't plant a row of weeping willows in an ordinary pretty waterless garden, they strangle each other in their search for more water if i remember right , they like a lot. most of them will get done for. That is probably true of quite a few other willows. agri rose macaskie.
 
Travis Philp
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paul wheaton wrote:
Step 1)  Thank your lucky stars.  You have sub irrigated land!  You can grow damn near anything successfully. 

Step 2)  Buy seeds.  Lots of seeds.  Go wild.

Step 3)  NEVER build an outhouse. 

Step 4)  If you are gonna live on the property, get up off the ground. 



I do count my  blessings that I have an excess of water and not a deficiency. Worse comes to worse we grow a lot of cranberry and asparagus. But I have been thinking of ways of effectively terraforming to improve the flow of groundwater.

I echo rose, why 'never build and outhouse? We do plan to build a humanure outhouse but instead of the traditional hole in the ground it'll  probably be a bucket system with a nearby compost bin.

By 'get up off the ground' do you mean make raised beds cuz if so I'm way ahead of you. There is a guy who is willing to dump truckloads of stone onto our property and I plan to use those to make walls for raised beds.

I would love to buy lots of seeds but the proper kind is the problem. I don't want to plant a of stuff that either won't grow well or won't be sellable..saleable?






 
Leah Sattler
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I think he probably means a traditional outhouse. I suppose you could easily contaminate your groundwater with a traditional one. I think a composting system that happens to be outside would be fine.
 
Travis Philp
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Ah yes you're probably right. It just came out of left field on me. I think traditional outhouses are a groundwater hazard no matter where you are and they'd be about the last thing I'd put on this land.

We are planning to build outhouse type structures but instead of digging a pit we'll be using a bucket system to catch poo and take it out to an adjacent humanure pile. I've used this setup before at a farm I partnered with and it worked fine as long as one is alright with having to deal with their own crap, which I think everyone should have to do. There would probably be less groundwater polution if we had to face up to our contribution to the problem.
 
Travis Philp
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FRED wrote:
If it is available Acacia melanoxylon, common name Blackwood is a good option. Blackwood can tolerate wet feet and being a wattle is also a nitrogen fixer.


I looked into Blackwood but since its an Australian tree I don't think its suitable, especially since according to wikipedia "Control of its invasion of natural vegetation, commercial timber plantations and farmland in several host counties incur considerable costs". Sorry, I guess I forgot to mention that I'm in North America. How typically ego-centric-north-american of me 

 
Travis Philp
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As far as where to put ponds...

Everything I've been able to find about ponds talks about situations where water is scarce and since I'm the opposite I don't know what to think.

Do I then take the opposite approach or the same since its about catching, storing, and slow release of water?
 
Jennifer Smith
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I think the key here is to dig up AND to mound up...bringing in topsoil would work also but is not as "permie" to some. 

I second the pond and mound idea. 
 
rose macaskie
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In england the agricutural engineers are free or were when i was a child, supplied by the government, one visited my grandmother every, i don't know, three mounths, mounth or something, they tell you how to drain your land, you have to channel water off it. Brenda Groth knows aabout it, I think the work they do on her land has to do with channeling water off. You put in drAINS channels under the dips in the  land, its the same as draining water away from your house.
  having free agricultural advice helps the farming  industry and the country i suppose. Of course draining the water off is not free and unless you are as handy as sep holster at that machine he uses to make terraces with, probably pretty expensive, on the other hand you could look up old fashioned marsh mangement, are there animals more suited to wet conditions than others and what dort of grasses are the best for these conditions. the horses of the Carmargue live in marshes but they are salt marshes what do they eat? I have not looked up other types of marshes. the sheep fromthe salt marshes are thought better than other sheep, to have better meat at anyrate. rose macaskie.
 
                          
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the draining of land has caused many problems over time, the thinking these days is to work with nature and use the land responsably, if it needs to be drained for use then the proposed use would be the wrong choise, and looking for crops to suit land and area would be a better option
 
                        
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g'day travis,

you'd be using raised garden beds in this situation, the same with fruit trees plant them in a raised position, this will keep their feeder roots well drained, you might ahve to do very raised, and still need to ceate a well to trap rainwater, or hand watering.

len
 
Brenda Groth
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i would suggest that you build up an area for your fruit trees like a berm, use good stuff in the berm, like compost, leaves, sawdust, etc..and allow it to rot for a while to get it in good shape for planting, unless you can come up with already rotted stuff..or even bring in a berm of topsoil if you can swing the $.

make the berm gentle so it is easy to maneuver..and plant the trees at the top of the berm.

this is a good way to provide privacy if you are allowed to in your area..the berm can go in front of your home ..say along the roadway..and your trees will give you privacy and if they are on the south they'll also give you shade..and be beautiful
 
Chelle Lewis
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Not too sure how helpful this might be where you are.....

I know that Linda Woodrow in her book THE PERMACULTURE HOME GARDEN said that she dug out the pathways between beds and filled with sawdust. It soaked up the extra water offering quite effective drainage. The earthworms loved it and when it became vermicompost she put it on the beds and hauled in fresh.

Not too sure how the worms liked being walked on but it seems to have helped her with very soggy land in NSW, Aus.

Chelle
 
Travis Philp
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Thanks for the suggestions.

I had thought that raised beds could work but might not be enough so I'm glad to hear others saying that it should work. I have access to a lot of stone and horse manure so I have been thinking of making 2 to 3 foot high mounds to plant the trees in, edged by the stones to hold in the sides and store/release heat.

I'm planning on waiting a year or two before putting any fruit trees in and to observe the land. So this year I think I'll make some test mounds in different locations and built at different heights to see what I should go with when I start putting in hundreds of fruit trees.

As far as using trees for water pumps, I think I'm going to go with planting eastern white cedar windbreaks every 200' feet, planted to block prevailing winds. I chose 200' because the research I've done tells me that windbreaks are generally effective only up to 200'. The cedars like wet feet and are fast growing so, plus they're coniferous so they'd be good for frost protection and year round wind breaking. My decision also may have to do with the thousands of baby cedar trees on the property that are crowding eachotehr out. I may add balsam poplar to the eastern side of the cedars to pump out even more water and provide even tual firewood or mulch sources. I have plenty of poplar babies to use as transplants also.
 
Jennifer Smith
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Now that is a great plan.  It sounds so like my own... but let's talk rocks. 

I have plenty but have grown to dislike them when someone gets hurt with them.  I once wanted rock planters.

They look nice and I am learning here that they help plants grow...in what all ways do they help plants grow? 

Home for lizards... Should I seed lizards?  I am thinking to barter for wild caught local critters.

Heating...Passive solar?  what colors work best?

watering, not sure how this works, is there a special way to stack them?  Ideal rock size? 

protection from lawnmowers... of all sorts

Anything else? 

That is a lot to say about rocks.
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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Another good thing about nurse trees, is that wood can be harvested from them to help bulk up your raised structures.
 
Travis Philp
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Jennifer Smith  "listenstohorses" wrote:
Now that is a great plan.  It sounds so like my own... but let's talk rocks. 

I have plenty but have grown to dislike them when someone gets hurt with them.  I once wanted rock planters.

They look nice and I am learning here that they help plants grow...in what all ways do they help plants grow? 

Home for lizards... Should I seed lizards?  I am thinking to barter for wild caught local critters.

Heating...Passive solar?  what colors work best?

watering, not sure how this works, is there a special way to stack them?  Ideal rock size? 

protection from lawnmowers... of all sorts

Anything else? 

That is a lot to say about rocks.


The main benefit of having rocks around plants is that they absorb and store heat from the sun during the day, and release it at night which keeps the  adjacent soil warmer than if the rocks weren't around.

They also act as a mulch, keeping weeds down, and lessening evapouration of water from the soil surface.

As for colour...I could see an arguement work for either side here. I think darker works better because dark colours absorb light and lighter colours reflect it. The white may be better overall because I could see the rocks refelcting light back through the tree leaves for more photosynthesis. 

Something to think about: I remember reading some study that put tomatoes againast white backings and black backings. The plants against the black grew the best out of the two in terms of vegetative growth but the plants against teh white backing had greater yield of fruit and more even  ripening.

As for size, I'm not sure what works best. I'm just gonna use what I have . The rocks I'm going to be using are anywhere from softball size to football size on average.

I don't forsee water being a problem when dealiing with stone edged gardens. I would think it would go the same as if you didn't have stones. Maybe I'm not catching your drift here...
 
Jennifer Smith
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Paul and Rose discuss rock stacks as poor man's irrigation...help collect dew etc.
 
Travis Philp
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Jennifer Smith "listenstohorses" wrote:
Paul and Rose discuss rock stacks as poor man's irrigation...help collect dew etc.
.

I thought about mentioning that too but I couldn't remember if it was legit or if I had dreampt it up as being true. My mind likes to play tricks on me like that.
 
Jennifer Smith
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Travis wrote:
I have access to a lot of stone and horse manure so I have been thinking of making 2 to 3 foot high mounds to plant the trees in, edged by the stones to hold in the sides and store/release heat.

are you planning to mix the horse manure with anything?
 
Travis Philp
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Jennifer Smith  "listenstohorses" wrote:
are you planning to mix the horse manure with anything?


Ah, yes, I'm still mulling it over in my head but I have about 70 round bales of moldy hay to use up so I'm wondering if thats suitable to add in with the manure. I could see a danger of the tree not being able to root well in hay mulch. Failing this idea I was just going to mix some soil from the paths in with the manure, though some of this manure is so old that its that crumbly type that is pretty much soil already.
 
Travis Philp
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Is there a translator in the building?
 
Paul Cereghino
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"I'm planning on waiting a year or two before putting any fruit trees in and to observe the land"

Good idea.  I moved onto our land right before the wettest month in recent history.. 40 days of rain... November 2007.  Freaked me out.

Dig ground water monitoring well.... A deep hole in the ground so you can see water level when it is below the surface.  Track both the depth and duration of flooding, particularly during bud break... the time of year where anaerobic soil really separates the species.

Learn local wetland indicator plant species... they will tell you stories about conditions over a longer time frame... particularly distribution or presence of obligate species (OBL)... sorry about the US bias... maybe Canada has a similar system.
http://plants.usda.gov/wetinfo.html

learn to identify redoximorphic features of hydric soils.  Along with plant indicators, soil color and patterns can give you a longer term picture of hydrology.
http://soils.usda.gov/use/hydric/

Use local wetland plant communities and look for functional surrogates.  Blueberries, etc...

Don't know if it has been mentioned, but both the Bullock Brothers and Mike Dolan at Burnt Ridge Nursery have grafted apples onto crabapple rootstock to tolerate seasonal flooding.

Ducks.

If your landscape position is wet, no local work is likely to affect absolute water level unless you drain the land, and draining land is what has screwed up many of our creeks and rivers. (the whole wetland function... everything is connected stuff).

"I had thought that raised beds could work but might not be enough so I'm glad to hear others saying that it should work. I have access to a lot of stone and horse manure so I have been thinking of making 2 to 3 foot high mounds to plant the trees in, edged by the stones to hold in the sides and store/release heat."

Well less than 10% of organic weight is actually added to the soil volume as humus... the ditch and mound approach will be better if you want to create topography, but a nice compost heap of horse manure built on each new mound on future tree planting sites would be nice.

 
samiam kephart
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I  agree that the mound ditch system would work.  I would dig out the topsoil in the paths to make the mounds.... and then plant some test trees that don't like wet feet. You seem to have plenty of mulch and manure there to dig into the raised beds.I  would cover crop some of them with winter rye and vetch and in early summer cut it and leave the straw on the beds as a mulch. I think that raised beds work in both wet and dry situations to increase the natural fertility of the soil. Someone mentioned Paul Stametz..... innoculation with ecto and endo fungal innoculants would improve the soil greatly  of course a good variety of plants  for root colonization would be ideal... after cover cropping and having that vaariety on the beds I think fruit trees would be very happy there.  Sam
 
Travis Philp
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My only fear with building berms is that I'll screw up the level

So let me see if I have the technique of finding the correct contour understood.

If I have one of those carpentry bubble levels (sorry, I don't know the correct name for them)...

All I do is lay it on the side of the hill at an angle relatively perepndicular to the slope direction, and move it until the bubbles match? Then put it end over end, lining up the bubbles, and putting pegs in as I go? (OR is it only the lateral bubble I need to worry about?)

The next step I would dig out a ditch on the upper side of the peg to make a mound on the lower side, eventually planting into the mound? Making sure that the ditch is flat level?
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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I haven't done it, but it sounds like you have the procedure right, to the limit of my understanding. It's only the lateral bubble you have to worry about, if I understand you: the important thing is that each peg meets the ground at about the same level as its neighbor. So you could use the previous peg as a fulcrum, and swing the level around until it touches the soil (and remains level) to find the next place to drive a peg.

I think you may want your level to span a meter or two (so you can take larger bites). Most are smaller than that, so tying it firmly to something reasonably straight, say using zip ties and a broom handle, might work. Permie books tend to suggest building a large, olde-tyme level of the sort you see in Freemason iconography, using a plumb bob and some lumber.

Also, I think the next step after driving pegs might be piling coarse organic waste onto the slope behind the pegs, perhaps using the pegs themselves to hold long branches in place...but the step after that might be shoveling topsoil onto the waste.

Since you're so far North, having the trench full of water might help quite a bit with season extension, from a combination of thermal mass, reflection, and absorption.

Two other small points:

Elsewhere, we discussed the merits of growing apples from seed. It might be worthwhile to plant some apple seeds now-ish, whether or not you intend to graft on a known variety later on: seedling rootstock might have some advantages over nursery rootstock, and a plain scion would almost certainly be cheaper than a grafted sapling (often, they're free).

The same logic probably applies, to a lesser extent, to other fruit trees.

Secondly, a large part of what is important about the color of rocks is, unfortunately, invisible to us. I think a rock that is as dark as possible in the visible spectrum and near infrared, and as light (i.e., not very absorptive or emissive) as possible in the far infrared, would be ideal for keeping warm.

Where water is scarce, a loose pile of rocks that becomes as cold as possible (the reverse of the previous paragraph) to promote dew formation is probably best. In that case, an aspect that is exposed to a lot of cold night sky, but not much sun, and angled so that as much moist air passes through it as possible (perpendicular to winds from the ocean, maybe? Half-circles facing upslope?), would seem to be optimal.
 
Travis Philp
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Joel Hollingsworth wrote:
I think you may want your level to span a meter or two (so you can take larger bites). Most are smaller than that, so tying it firmly to something reasonably straight, say using zip ties and a broom handle


Excellent idea. I do have a level that is a meter long but attaching a broomstick to it could save me some time when surveying, and require a lot less pegs.

Joel Hollingsworth wrote:
Since you're so far North, having the trench full of water might help quite a bit with season extension, from a combination of thermal mass, reflection, and absorption.


I'm just so worried that I'll make the water logged situation even worse by doing this. I think I need to find a local market for cranberries...

Joel Hollingsworth wrote:
Elsewhere, we discussed the merits of growing apples from seed. It might be worthwhile to plant some apple seeds now-ish, whether or not you intend to graft on a known variety later on: seedling rootstock might have some advantages over nursery rootstock, and a plain scion would almost certainly be cheaper than a grafted sapling (often, they're free).

The same logic probably applies, to a lesser extent, to other fruit trees.


I do like the idea of planting fruit trees from seed as well as seedlings and hope to get into that. Are you talking about starting them in pots or direct seeding into the ground? As for grafting...There are a few apple trees and hawthorn bushes on the property which I hope to experiment with.

 
Joel Hollingsworth
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Travis wrote:I'm just so worried that I'll make the water logged situation even worse by doing this.


I wasn't suggesting any water be added, only that water be allowed to drain out of the land and evaporate. I could even imagine ways of designing the system so that the water spills over into a drainage system after rising to a certain height.

Travis wrote:I think I need to find a local market for cranberries...


I really like cranberry-pecan pie: the cranberries are boiled in a light syrup for a few minutes before going into a normal pecan pie, but even still their tartness cuts what might otherwise be a too-sweet dish. Samples of it, given out with recipe cards at the right venue, might help to create a market. Maybe cook little pies in muffin tins, so the samples are smaller. You might go in with a pecan grower.

I've also had some very good cranberry chutney, which would appeal more to the health-conscious.

Travis wrote:Are you talking about starting them in pots or direct seeding into the ground? As for grafting...There are a few apple trees and hawthorn bushes on the property which I hope to experiment with.


I was imagining a large number of seeds in minimally-prepared soil. My thinking (in another thread) was that nature would select for well-adapted rootstock, before you go to the trouble of grafting.

But it sounds like it already has! It's great that you have some growing already. It might be worth examining the conditions that have allowed them to grow.
 
Paul Cereghino
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Be clear on your whole purpose.  swale on contour is for capturing water.  What is the slope of your site in numbers?  If you have relatively level ground, contour may mean less, and you may be more interested in the topography of the resulting low spot, and what kind of wetness you want to cultivate there.

These two books have very good conceptual tools for thinking through earthwork... though they are geared toward drylands... the thinking is very sound.
http://www.harvestingrainwater.com/

Beware of compacted ground... you are working in the land on glaciers.  How deep of a hole have your dug for the purpose of exploration?  Do you know what is down there that may be affecting hydrology... is this perched water, or ground water, or a seep?  Does it flux with rainfall or is it steady?  Does it dry down in summer? 

You mentioned that there are existing fruit trees... dieback in the crows is often a sign of periodically damaging levels of soil inundation.  How fast are they growing.  Identify existing tree and shrub species use them as indicators of hydrology.  Then observe the soils under those individuals, then compare that to other soils to get a sense of relative hydrology.

Look for grey colored soils, or soils that are mottled with reddish color among a grey background.. take and post some pictures under a good natural light.

Good cranberry culture is very dependent on soil... locally for V. oxycoccum we need fibrous organic soils like in a bog or fen, where acidity limits other species.  They'd have a very hard time competing with wetland plants in a mineral soils setting w/o acidity.

Have I mentioned the importance of soil lately

Paul Cereghino
Olympia, WA
 
Travis Philp
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The land is mostly flat with some gently sloping here and there. Thus far I've only dug down a shovel length in each field aside from the grave I dug for my dog Isaac on the eastern side of the property, which was about 3.5 feet down and dug with ease.

The soil on the east side of the property is extremely sandy, flat, and I could see it being fairly dry even in the spring but we will see about that. This makes up about 25% of the cleared land. The colour of the soil on this side is a light beige/yellowy/greyish colour. And about 3.5 to 4 feet down you hit what appears to be limestone gravel which makes sense as there is a limestone quarry about 10 kms to the south. I am betting that this side of the property will be well suited for fruit trees and grapes, with little to no terraforming needed.

The western side is the real issue, though consequently it has the most apple trees out of the two sides so it may be alright for fruit trees also. As the property transitions west there is more clay content. Generally there is about 6-10 inches of dark chocolate brown soil on the top layer, followed by an orange/light brown layer of maybe 2-3 feet, and below that it gets to be a greyish clay.

The vegetation in the west side is about the same as the east but is indicative of a wet area with white poplar, white birch, ash, eastern white cedar, large tooth aspen, balsam poplar, and pockets of willow in some of the lower spots.

There is also one single native cranberry bush next to  two black locusts, incidentally on one of hte highest ridges of the property. As I said also, there are maybe 10-14 wild apple trees dotted all around the property.

If I go the cranberry route, I'll probably use the native variety so seeing this one here on the west side is encouraging. It'll also be neat to see if the black locusts spread into the adjacent hay field, which we plan to turn into a forest garden with a U pick strawberry and raspberry/blackberry patch on the southern end.
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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swale on contour is for capturing water.

Yes. And I hope I wasn't unclear: my suggestion was about using open water very near the growing beds to create a microclimate. Extensive systems in the Andes mountains were built many centuries ago, that can significantly delay frost on the raised beds nearby.

I understand sepp holzer uses some similar techniques, but have only heard this indirectly.
 
Travis Philp
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I think I know what you mean Joel but I don't suppose you can post any pictures to make it crystal clear? I'm picturing standing water adjacent to a path that runs along mounded garden beds. Am I way off?
 
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