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hugel-swale forest garden. so colo 6700ft

 
Danny O'Blivion
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So Im trying to whip this conifer forest into shape. So facing hillside, moderate slope, sandy rocky soil likely from years of erosion. Started a series of hugelkulture swales in my zone 2 area above and around my home. building 3 ft walls w rotten old dead trees, branches and such. Aware of acidity issues im only using stuff that looks to have been dead for a couple years or more. Then digging down about 1.5-2 ft in front. All dirt rocks and area pine duff going in the swale. Want to plant apples and peaches,native wild rasp and blackberries, plenty of legumes for eats and soil, a few fungal strains, then plan my garden around that. we get a lot of sun which is why i went little big on my main swales, but only about a foot and a half high for mini-support swales above main ones. im starting on a hillside of about 5 acres. then moving forward around my home in hopes of raising my water table which is somewhere around 5-600ft down through rock. I dont want to spend 15000 on a well, i would rather wait a season or so if this can help. We have a snowmelt 'creek' that runs through most of our 36 ac plot. Im trying to swale that moisture back and towards a couple pond areas i hope to build the same way but with the help of a tamper and an added drain. Looking for advice on soil building in conifer areas, partner plants, swale and pond design, and if anyone has experience raising a water table or if im just dreaming. 28 yo noob working only hand tools, but very motivated. pics of site in a week or so, its a bit snowy here. much love from co, dem time is up soon.
 
Miles Flansburg
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bee books forest garden fungi greening the desert hugelkultur
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Howdy Danny, welcome to permies. Sounds like you are doing good stuff so far. Make sure you dig into all of the great info here !
 
S Bengi
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Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even distribution
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If you are in Colorado, you probably dont have to worry about acidic "soil", esp if you dont have enough old logs on-site.

I am not sure that you will be able to raise the water of the 600ft deep aquifer by much on your 5-36 acre lot, but the swales/depressions/huglekulture will help your plants/animals alot, SO please continue the good work.

I esp love the idea of letting that snowmelt creek hydrating the entire land vs just the creek bed. I if you access to even more woodchip/mulch, then covering the entire garden with 6in+ of woodchip would help a great deal esp in the summer.
 
Danny O'Blivion
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Here are a couple of photos of the first couple of days progress. I had my main bramble pile buried but decided to raise it up a bit. Planning about 10-12 on that hillside draining into each other to keep pressure down. I know its a bit steep but i hope drainage and numbers make up for it. Excited to get back out next week!
3swales.JPG
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the first hillside, main focus this spring.
inswale.JPG
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gotta get in there w the chainsaw a bit
draina.JPG
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just boulders 2/3 the way up on the lowest side lightly filled to allow overflow to next swale
 
Miles Flansburg
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bee books forest garden fungi greening the desert hugelkultur
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Danny, do you have a way to get any wood chips, leaves or grass clippings, pallets, or other green waste type stuff from a nearby town or city?
 
Danny O'Blivion
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i do have a lot of rotten wood piles, you thinking cover everything up with whatever dead crap i can get? there are wildflowers and other plants making it around there to consider, but thats a very good idea. ill try to get that started when i head back out
 
Amber Hill
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Location: Colorado
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Your situation is similar to mine, so I'm very interested in what you end up doing! The few photos you have posted are already inspiring.
 
Cam Mitchell
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Location: W. CO, 6A
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Danny,

Your place looks like mine!

AFA hugelkultur beds, "they" say that the best thing to do in the dry regions is bury them, otherwise they just shed water and make the soil dryer.
I think the swales are a good idea: get that water in the ground where it's less likely to evaporate. You might also think about some deep ponds with small surface areas to hold big rains. Make sure to shade and cover them in our dry climate.
As I just said to Amber here, soil building is really important. Lots of good nutrient miners, organic matter production and N-fixer plants will help. Most of what I told her applies to your land too.

I'm sorry to say this, but I don't think you can grow peaches or sweet cherries (prove me wrong, please!). I can't, and I'm about the same elevation and climate. I'd suggest sour cherries, pawpaw, persimmons, plum, pear, apples, maybe some native fruit bushes. Of course, you need a lot of water for these, except some natives. Gotta get that figured out. You wouldn't want to buy trees to see them die from dehydration.

I understand being motivated with just hand tools (I'm there myself), but sometimes, it's actually cheaper to rent/borrow good earthmoving equipment. The time/cost savings are incredible. I used to run heavy equipment for a living, and it can dig a swale/pond way faster than you and 20 of your friends put together.

Good luck, and please keep us updated on your progress.
 
Ben Hamley
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Have you tried seedballs thrown into the woodpiles? Try a mix of locally successful wild herbs/grasses/legumes. Anything that can get a foothold on the pile (in order to cover it, as per previous suggestions) and will attract birds, lizards and other far-ranging manure/seed importers. Any manure you can get in there will assist water retention and microbial activity. Spraying on milk waste, molasses dilutions, or dusting on powdered milk, or anything else containing complex-sugars will also assist in building microecologies that can break down the cellulose and lignin in the wood.
Keep at it! =)
 
Amber Hill
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Location: Colorado
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Cam Mitchell wrote:

I'm sorry to say this, but I don't think you can grow peaches or sweet cherries (prove me wrong, please!). I can't, and I'm about the same elevation and climate. I'd suggest sour cherries, pawpaw, persimmons, plum, pear, apples, maybe some native fruit bushes. Of course, you need a lot of water for these, except some natives. Gotta get that figured out. You wouldn't want to buy trees to see them die from dehydration.



Oh nooooo I had really been hoping to grow peaches. I was told by neighbors that they don't do well, but had hoped that permie magic would make it work. They are the fruit I wanted most. Let's just try anyway, see what happens. C:
 
Johnny Niamert
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7000' and had peaches last year. Reliance variety. Small, but pretty tasty for eating.

This is before I have even started with the permie magic
 
Cam Mitchell
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Location: W. CO, 6A
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Johnny Niamert wrote:7000' and had peaches last year. Reliance variety. Small, but pretty tasty for eating.

This is before I have even started with the permie magic

That is awesome news!
But dang, you mean CSU Ext lied misinformed me? Again? Ok, you gotta tell! Where do you get these magic peaches? I want some!
What's your USDA zone? Did you have to do anything special? Any special slope or water conservation strategies? Inquiring minds want to know! (OK, well maybe just mine)

After doing some Google<favorite search engine>'ing, I found this peach.
It's just on the edge of my USDA zone. And sadly, it's unavailable and can't be shipped to CO anyway
Guess I'll have to do some more Google, um, searching.

OK, so look like "Contender" peach is just as hardy and has "improved flavor." It is also late blooming, to prevent late frost damage.
Garrrrrrr! > But they can't ship to CO either. I wish the nurseries were a lot better here locally. "Oh, we only have two peach varieties, and they're from Georgia". Sad. Makes me want to start my own nursery.
 
Miles Flansburg
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bee books forest garden fungi greening the desert hugelkultur
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Hey Cam, do you have any stores nearby like lowes or home depot?
I got my peaches there a few years ago.
 
Johnny Niamert
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Cam Mitchell wrote:
That is awesome news!
But dang, you mean CSU Ext lied misinformed me? Again? Ok, you gotta tell! Where do you get these magic peaches? I want some!
What's your USDA zone? Did you have to do anything special? Any special slope or water conservation strategies? Inquiring minds want to know! (OK, well maybe just mine)

After doing some Google<favorite search engine>'ing, I found this peach.
It's just on the edge of my USDA zone. And sadly, it's unavailable and can't be shipped to CO anyway
Guess I'll have to do some more Google, um, searching.

OK, so look like "Contender" peach is just as hardy and has "improved flavor." It is also late blooming, to prevent late frost damage.
Garrrrrrr! > But they can't ship to CO either. I wish the nurseries were a lot better here locally. "Oh, we only have two peach varieties, and they're from Georgia". Sad. Makes me want to start my own nursery.


My details are: Western CO @ 7000'. 14" Precip. Minimal irrigation rights. Zone 6a. Alkaline clay/clay loam. Southern facing, 3% grade.
I'm still in the process of relocating to W. CO to some family land. But I know peaches can make on the Front Range, provided no frost during flowering. We had peaches growing up and I always see heavy laden peach trees around town. Like I mentioned, I wasn't even present last year when these were growing, so they had minimal, if any, special care other than irrigation when water was running. (We have fairly laughable rights. Pretty much spring run-off only)

AFAIK, Mesa County is where the restrictions apply. I'm not 100% sure where these came from, but I can find out later.

I see The Tree Farm outside Longmont sells both varieties you mentioned. I've purchased from them when I owned a house in the area. A tad expensive. But if you get there during their sale, you get 2 for 1 on some varieties/sizes.
I may plant some Contender soon, as well. I was eyeing Van Well Nursery out of WA. They don't mention any restrictions on their site, but maybe when ordering (?).
 
Miles Flansburg
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bee books forest garden fungi greening the desert hugelkultur
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Holly acres in Elizabeth has a pretty good deal on fruit trees every spring.

http://denver.craigslist.org/grd/4310238169.html

Their website : http://www.hollyacresnursery.com/Fruit%20Trees.htm
 
Cam Mitchell
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Location: W. CO, 6A
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Miles Flansburg wrote:Hey Cam, do you have any stores nearby like lowes or home depot?
I got my peaches there a few years ago.

Yeah, but they don't have much selection, and they're not hardy for me.

@Johnny
Unfortunately, Elisabeth and Longmont are on the wrong side of the rocks from me. I've thought about making a big trip over to get trees and hit the Science Center, Zoo and other attractions for the kids.

Johnny Niamert wrote:14" Precip.

Oh, you lucky dog. I get 9", with no irrigation. North-facing slope. The fast snow melt after record snowfall is making for interesting driving conditions on poor dirt roads.

Johnny Niamert wrote:AFAIK, Mesa County is where the restrictions apply.

Yeah, that would be because of Palisade, though some fruit tree sellers restrict to the whole state. Guess they can't have any competition. Plums are restricted too, and some apricots. (Though I realize the intent of the law is to prevent disease, but still...)

On a related note, did anybody else see Jack's video yet? I was planning on doing this anyway, but I like this method better. I've ordered the trays and "cone-tainers" from here. Just request a quote, then they'll send you an email so you can buy them online. Easy peazy!
 
Johnny Niamert
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Cam Mitchell wrote:
@Johnny
Unfortunately, Elisabeth and Longmont are on the wrong side of the rocks from me.


The trees on our property came from the nursery in Eckert, by Cedaredge. I guess this is the first year they have produced anything. They were planted 3 or 4 seasons ago. They're growing slow, but our soil needs some building.

I bet if you look/call around at some smaller nurseries by you, you may find some.
I'd bet peaches are gonna be a challenge with no water, though. Maybe some native plums would be your best bet.
There's some random apples around here that are reportedly over a century old and get nothing but natural precip. I'm trying to get some to root, currently.
 
Cam Mitchell
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Johnny Niamert wrote:I'd bet peaches are gonna be a challenge with no water, though. Maybe some native plums would be your best bet.
There's some random apples around here that are reportedly over a century old and get nothing but natural precip. I'm trying to get some to root, currently.

Yep, I ordered some native plums, Nanking cherries, chokecherries, and other natives from the CSFS. Are you using rooting compound or some kind of cloning gel for the apples?
 
Johnny Niamert
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Cam Mitchell wrote:Are you using rooting compound or some kind of cloning gel for the apples?


Kelp tea.

Here's the thread I made. Most think it's a waste of my time.
But the hour or two I have invested so far is pretty minimal. I've read it can work, but apples are one of the more difficult ones. I may try some softwood cuttings this spring, as well as grafting.
I'm also playing around with starting from seeds.

http://www.permies.com/t/30133/trees/Dormant-Hardwood-Cutting-Suggestions

 
Danny O'Blivion
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Something i have been thinking about and would like some input- some of the mountains nearby have very, very dense wild raspberries and black raspberries growing wild in an area burnt down due to forest fires about 7 years ago. I've been wanting to hike back in there and get some babies for my hillside. I have had success transplanting many different kinds of plants as well as making clones. Any tips? I know its best to do in winter, which leaves me about a month to make the slushy hike(s). They will be going onto the swale area and property borders. One cool thing about denver is, if youre thrifty, you can get TONS literally of high quality potting soil used once by these huge mmj growers around town for free. Secret weapon on getting those swales going, i have enough to mix in at about 30-40% and should make for a nice home for things to start this year until things start breaking down.
 
Erik Little
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Cam Mitchell wrote:
On a related note, did anybody else see Jack's video yet? I was planning on doing this anyway, but I like this method better. I've ordered the trays and "cone-tainers" from here. Just request a quote, then they'll send you an email so you can buy them online. Easy peazy!


I saw the video but I am wondering if you will lose the BIG tap root and get a few small tap roots when you transplant. Based on what Paul says anytime you transplant you lose the big tap root and end up with a few smaller tap roots that aren't as good as the big tap root. Not trying to be a purist just wondering.
 
Cam Mitchell
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Erik Little wrote:I saw the video but I am wondering if you will lose the BIG tap root and get a few small tap roots when you transplant. Based on what Paul says anytime you transplant you lose the big tap root and end up with a few smaller tap roots that aren't as good as the big tap root. Not trying to be a purist just wondering.

I think you're right.
The reason I'm doing it this way in the beginning is to let my plants get a jumpstart on growing. But I will also be planting from seed directly in in the ground at the same time, for exactly the reasons you (and Paul) mention. I'm interested to make a comparison of these methods, hearing so much about both ways.
I think that large taproot is going to be really important for me, considering how far down the trees will likely have to go before finding water. I'm also considering using the soil cube method, in the hopes that the roots will "air-prune" until planted, then take off with those deep roots.
However, I did hear/read somewhere that not all trees have the same kinds of taproots, some have almost none, and instead have large lateral (horizontal) side root systems. This may also happen after establishment, because the surface is where more water/nutrients are. Not sure how accurate this is.
I honestly do not know how important growing from seed is, but it's how nature did it without humans interfering. So it's how I will do (most if not all) my trees in the future.
 
Milo Stuart
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!

Danny sounds rad dude I just threw up some pictures and ideas from a project along these lines.. Swales are set up to fill a small pond below. Hand tools! Yeah man stay strong.. stoked to see what you've got going. Swales are a trip

contoured mini-hugel-swale food forest makings >> http://www.permies.com/t/30879/hugelkultur/Cold-climate-hugelculture-contour-contour (I'm towards bottom of thread.. )




diggswale.JPG
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trenched on contour
fillswale.JPG
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filled with rotten pine branches
coverswale.JPG
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covered wood and cut in ditch/path on uphill side
 
Andrew Mateskon
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I grew up in Colorado, my best friend is working at the Pueblo Hospital right now, probably very close to you. I would definitely recommend slowing your water down as much as possible, you will need to mimic Western Slope conditions to grow peaches. Bury your wood swales on contour, otherwise the dry air and sun will wick the moisture right out of them and water will run off too fast. Plant your trees a few feet below your swales - in the ground there is a "shadow" of stored water just downhill from the swales that you could use to keep consistent water to the roots. When it comes to rooting, I've had greater success using vermicompost in water and swirling to make sure there was plenty of oxygen whenever I think of it than just about any other method I've tried. I rooted cuttings from the same exact Cascade Hop plant in willow-water, vermicompost-water, and plain water. Vermicompost was quickest to root (willow-water died), and produced the most vigorous plant which I ended up putting in the ground to grow up the south of my house. We will see how it does this year!
 
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