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Toby Hemenway versus Brad Lancaster?  RSS feed

 
Gilbert Fritz
Posts: 1300
Location: Denver, CO
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I have greatly enjoyed both Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands, and gaia's garden. (By the way, is the third volume of RHfD ever coming out?)

I will soon be building my own "Paradise Lot" in Denver, CO, with an average of 14 inches of rain a year. toby hemenway seems to suggest that fruit trees, etc, ONCE ESTABLISHED, can subsist on relatively small amounts of ADDITIONAL water, IF there are many layers of vegetation, a deep mulch, healthy soil, and earthworks.

He shows two case studies, one in Los Alamos, and the other in the Arizona desert. Here is a description;

"This oasis in the high desert . . . can last months between watering. Yet this is no gravelly xeriscape garden. In the glare of the desert summer, fruit trees bow under the weight of juicy plums and peaches, while wispy maidenhair ferns shelter in cool corners. Pale blossoms of mock orange and spirea peer from beneath an old apricot tree. Herbs such as burnet and French sorrel are posted near the front door, ready of enliven a salad. . . . the Zemachs rely on almost no municipal water. . . Mary Zemach had envisioned an ornate drip irrigation system, a plastic webwork of emitters spitters, and sprayers administered by an impressive control panel. Designer Ben Haggard waved this off, saying it would be an unnecessary expense. . . Because water is held so thriftily in the soil, the little irrigation that"s needed can come from occasional brief sessions with a hose and watering can."

(And, most of the stuff in the hose and watering can come from grey and rainwater. In other words, the plants can almost survive on natural rainfall!!!

However, in Brad Lancaster's drawings, there is generally a very small, "oasis zone" of lush vegetation around the house, with the rest of it being "desert-ish" though still green and productive. He showed a drawing of a large area of roof, and a huge attached tank, needed to keep ONE orange tree going for a year.

If possible, Toby Hemenway's style of permaculture would better suit my needs. I want to get a large mass of food from my small lot; most of the really good dry-land species are not cold hardy here; as a demonstration of permaculture, a lush jungle looks better; and storing rainwater in a tank is illegal. (I will be deigning earthworks to capture all water as it runs off the roof, and will have to water my annual garden with some municipal water.) Even if all water from my roof could be effectively used, it would only double the rainfall on an equal section of the lot.

What are your thoughts on this?

I know Paul is big on "replacing irrigation with permaculture." Does that mean also replacing apples with mesquites? (Mesquites don't grow in Denver.) I can't build huge hugelkultures; it would give the homeowners' association fits. (I will probably be giving them lots of fits anyway!)

How well does hydraulic lift work? If, after establishment, a "wet climate tree" can access enough groundwater, will its shade and leaked water permit the growing of a moisture loving understory?
 
Jennifer Wadsworth
Posts: 2679
Location: Phoenix, AZ (9b)
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Hey Gilbert:

You know what - YOU'RE going to eventually be the expert permie there in Denver - I can feel it coming!

Regarding Brad v. Toby... (a comparison I've often done myself!)

Climate and landscape profile is key here. Although you are in a dryland - you are high altitude and that moderates your climate in terms of temperature. From geoff lawton's PDC class, we learned that for every 100m/333 ft above sea level, you add 1 degree of latitude to your climate. This explains why Phoenix, although it's north of Tucson by about 1.5 degrees latitude, is still about 7 degrees hotter. Phoenix is at 33.5 degrees latitude and an altitude of 1100 ft. If we divide 1100/333 = 3. Putting Phoenix's climate analogue at 36 degrees latitude. Tucson at 32 degrees latitude is at an altitude of 2650 ft/333 = 6 for an end result of 38 degrees latitude - enough to make it just that much cooler. With the addition of some geography - it's that much wetter too (14" for Tucson v 7.5" for Phoenix).

Denver, is at about 40 latitude and, being the "mile high city" is at 5280 ft/333=16 - so your climate analogue is really 56 degrees latitude. That's a lot of temperature mitigation. I'd say you'd be closer to Toby's description than Brad's. Although you have little humidity in the air, you also don't have the searing temps to suck moisture out of the ground like we do in the hot desert. You also have the advantage of snow that sits on the ground and sinks in slowly as opposed to torrential downpours that cause our huge flooding issues in the desert.

I think you can build your soil so that it retains most of the moisture you get and pumps it through the hydrology system of trees on swales. Eventually you will create a microclimate that is more conducive to trees that might need slightly wetter climates. All of this takes time and is worth doing and waiting for. It is common knowledge (well common to those of us who've been doing it for awhile) that it takes about three years to build soil fertility in Phoenix and about 7 years to rehydrate a property if you are pretty aggressive about harvesting all the greywater and rainwater you can. In Denver, I would imagine it taking less time simply because your climate is much more moderate.

So you're definitely on the right track. Vol. 2 of Brad's books should be most helpful to you seeing as how CO has that stupid law about not "harvesting" rainwater in tanks (Vol 3 is all about tanks - I was emailing with Brad's assistant the other day and it looks like they are still planning to release Vol 3 in 2014). So be subversive and harvest all you can in the soil which will be the most beneficial place to hold it anyway.

Some stats regarding dryland gardening:
--Sunken beds (up to 18" deep) or soil level beds need between 5-10 times less water than raised beds (raised beds drain water away and it is easier for the beds to heat up and get dry) - a friend of mine in Phoenix did this comparison and I believe Brad found the same thing.
--4-8 inches of mulch decreases watering by a factor of 10. (Geoff Lawton)
--Also remember that Brad designs a landscape to his water budget. Therefore he is limited to rainwater and greywater. Dryland oasis are very close to the house because that's where the water is. The further you go out, the more "desert" looking you get - simply because here in the low desert we are limited by water (first) and extreme heat (second)

I know our desert food forests look alien to most of the country - however, these are some of the most important food forests on the planet. If we can green the truly HARD climates in the world (the deserts of the lower SW being some of the hardest) we can do anything. Designs that are climate appropriate are critical. Phoenix and other cities (Las Vegas - I'm lookin' at you!) have created huge problems for themselves because people come here and want that "lush jungle look". Mmmmm - wake up - it's a freakin' desert! (I want to say it but usually I am much more gentle about it). There are ways of creating lushness but it takes different skills and mindsets than what people from other places are used to. Those "arid" food forests KICK ASS and probably do more for our climate than anyone realizes. And they are awesomely beautiful and productive too and eventually they will help rehydrate our broader degraded landscape so our rivers actually run again. The healthiest food ever grown was grown in deserts - because the nutrient levels are dense. Ethnobotanists have realized this now and are collecting samples and studying it.
 
S Bengi
Posts: 1359
Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even distribution
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With 14in of rain you will have a lush productive garden all over your property not just in a select section.
You need to create pits, swales, and mulch ever where.
You also need to cover the entire place with Nitrogen-fixers.
Plant drought tolerant cultivars/species, plants in the mint, prunus, and palm family are a create start.
 
Kristen Schroder
Posts: 24
Location: 32.9343° N, 97.0781° W; zone 8a
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I know this is an old post, but something that Jennifer said stuck with me.
Jennifer, what do you mean by "green the truly hard climates"? When I hear that, I visualize what Las Vegas has done- 'greened' things up at great damage and long term harm.
I live in North Texas and am beginning to mess around with the ideas of permaculture but feel like I am running up against soil improvements that then push out native plants. I've been asking questions and feel like I am learning more about this idea, and that perhaps the contradiction is only a surface-level one.
Do you have  a link of what the food forests in and around your area look like?
Thanks!
Kris
 
Kyrt Ryder
Posts: 746
Location: Graham, Washington [Zone 7b, 47.041 Latitude] 41inches average annual rainfall, cool summer drought
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Kristen Schroder wrote:I know this is an old post, but something that Jennifer said stuck with me.
Jennifer, what do you mean by "green the truly hard climates"?

I believe she means something like this. Imported resources are considered an acceptable method of jump-starting a system, but it needs to be self-sustaining once established. Very much unlike how places like LA and Vegas have become eternal sponges of water from everywhere else.

I live in North Texas and am beginning to mess around with the ideas of permaculture but feel like I am running up against soil improvements that then push out native plants.
The native plants need their space, but people have to eat too. There's a reason there are distinct zones and nothing over zone 3 should really have much of any 'soil improvements' done aside from what plant life will do on its own when interacting with the greater environment.
 
Jay Berryman
Posts: 14
Location: Tucson, United States
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Here's Jake Mace's yard up in Phoenix. 
  He uses some permaculture but mostly just lots of mulch. Jennifer had an awesome yard too but I can't find the link. She had a thread here from around that time. I can't believe Lancaster still hasn't come out with his third volume lol. Fwiw I prefer Lawton and apparently Toby. I'll look him up. Permaculture and stacking functions and helping the ground absorb water seems better than Lancaster's plan. I like some of his ideas but he does a lot of stuff for looks and he also helps divert road runoff so you don't want to do a lot with that water. Lancaster did a lot with his land but I still prefer Lawton's Permaculture. There is a guy on YouTube, homesteadonomics, that lives south of Tucson and uses rainwater harvested on his roofs for about 90% of his household and homestead water usage every year. He's got some cool videos too
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9740
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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Jay Berryman wrote: Lancaster did a lot with his land but I still prefer Lawton's Permaculture.


Can you explain more about where you see the conflict between the two?  They seem very similar to me, except Lawton uses swales in the broad landscape and Lancaster uses basins in small urban spaces.  Lawton also diverts road runoff onto his land.

 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9740
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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I think it's important to remember that the "Greening the Desert" projects use irrigation, they don't subsist on rainfall.  I've not seen evidence that one can grow a "normal" garden of common fruits and vegetables on low rainfall.  All examples of lush desert gardens that I've seen are irrigated.  Permaculture techniques help reduce irrigation, sometimes dramatically, but they don't eliminate it. 


 
Kyrt Ryder
Posts: 746
Location: Graham, Washington [Zone 7b, 47.041 Latitude] 41inches average annual rainfall, cool summer drought
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Tyler Ludens wrote:


I think it's important to remember that the "Greening the Desert" projects use irrigation, they don't subsist on rainfall.  I've not seen evidence that one can grow a "normal" garden of common fruits and vegetables on low rainfall.  All examples of lush desert gardens that I've seen are irrigated.  Permaculture techniques help reduce irrigation, sometimes dramatically, but they don't eliminate it. 

Was that Lawton's plan to continue a certain amount of irrigation indefinitely? I distinctly recall [perhaps mistakenly?] the plan was to get off the irrigation by the end of seven years.

 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9740
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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It might have been the plan, I'm wondering if it ever happened?  The examples I've seen show ongoing irrigation.  This one uses both drip and flood irrigation:  
  

Greening The Desert - Muslim Aid Australia permaculture
 
Jay Berryman
Posts: 14
Location: Tucson, United States
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Tyler Ludens wrote:It might have been the plan, I'm wondering if it ever happened?  The examples I've seen show ongoing irrigation.  This one uses both drip and flood irrigation:  
  

Greening The Desert - Muslim Aid Australia permaculture


The quote I heard in that video was that the vegetables used drip and the trees were watered by rain.

I guess Lancaster and Lawton aren't really a competition, I will use Lancaster's cistern ideas and maybe his design for a zone 1 small garden/trees/oasis type area around the house and Lawton's on a more broad scale. I prefer the permaculture idea of growing support species and chopping and dropping for nutrients and mulch and Lancaster seems to be more about just mulch and compost and keeping everything tidy looking.
 
Kristen Schroder
Posts: 24
Location: 32.9343° N, 97.0781° W; zone 8a
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Tyler Ludens wrote:


I think it's important to remember that the "Greening the Desert" projects use irrigation, they don't subsist on rainfall.  I've not seen evidence that one can grow a "normal" garden of common fruits and vegetables on low rainfall.  All examples of lush desert gardens that I've seen are irrigated.  Permaculture techniques help reduce irrigation, sometimes dramatically, but they don't eliminate it. 




that has been my worry. also, i haven't noticed (though i am not an expert) that the videos or people from australia are concerned with (or careful about) native species being pushed out by their efforts. also, i recognize that my concern about this is a very first world view. i have the privilege of being able to worry about native plants/animals/soils because i am not trying to feed orphanages or reclaim land decimated by global warming. it just seems that the two need to walk hand in hand.
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9740
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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Kristen Schroder wrote:also, i haven't noticed (though i am not an expert) that the videos or people from australia are concerned with (or careful about) native species being pushed out by their efforts.


If by "the people from Australia" you mean Geoff Lawton, he seems concerned about preserving and planting native species on his own place, I'm leaping to the conclusion that he includes this in his designs where appropriate.  The Greening the Desert project is part of a larger commercial farm.  I don't know if any native species were even growing at the site, and I don't know if plantings of native species are included in the design.  It would be interesting to find out.  Possibly if interested enough, you could follow up on this and let us know if they use natives in the project?

 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9740
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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I did find this out about native plants at Wadi Rum:  "Since Wadi Rum does not naturally include ground cover and supporting foliage, succulents and legume trees have been planted. "

http://foodtank.com/news/2014/09/growing-food-in-the-desert

More info:

"Trees included olive, fig, guava, date palm, pomegranate, grape, citrus, carob,
mulberry, and tuna cactus. Forestry and ornamental plants included berconsonia, julifolia, Casuarina
equistifolia, Jasmine, Acacias, poplar eucalyptus, shrubs, ground covers flowers and others. Vegetables
crops included tomato, pumpkin, Egyptian cucumber, onion, eggplant, garlic, pepper, rocket, parsley,
radish, Jew’s mallow, sesame, and others. Vegetables crops were planted between swales as contour
rows incorporated with other vegetables and flowers.....The farm now has a large diversity of native birds, reptiles and small mammals.
Many local species of plants like halophytes, weeds, flowers and others that were not present at the
beginning of the project now grow on the farm due to the diversity of crops and other benefits under
the Permaculture design practices.
"

http://www.proactnetwork.org/proactwebsite/media/download/CCA_DRR_reports/casestudies/em.report.case_9.pdf
 
Kristen Schroder
Posts: 24
Location: 32.9343° N, 97.0781° W; zone 8a
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thank you tyler!
part of this, i am learning, is know what to ask and where to look for the information.
i also emailed geoff lawton directly to ask him for a nudge in the right direction.

i will check out the link!
 
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