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Starting a forest in my front yard, help appreciated

 
Sean Ruge
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Hey guys, I've got a few acres of my mom's that I was planning on turning into a forest. It's in missouri, average annual rainfall about 30", minimum temps about 15-20degrees on average, maximum about 100. The front yard borders a roadway for about 80'. The property faces north and has a southward-facing slope running down from the road; it's not a very steep slope but it's there. So, I was planning on running some swales down the slope parallel to the roadway. The soil is mostly clay I think, I haven't dug into it too much yet but I am guessing the clay will go pretty deep.

So I have a few questions:

First off, there's a ditch right by the roadway that's about a foot and a half deep. I don't expect you guys to comment on city regulations regarding this stuff, but would you recommend incorporating the ditch somehow, maybe digging out the bottom of the ditch a little bit and turning it into the initial swale in the succession down the slope? It just seems a waste to have all that water run down the ditch when it could be improving the water table on the surrounding property.

Also, I'm planning on digging the swales about a foot wide and a foot deep, lining the bottoms with rotting woods and some other organic matter to get things started.

Should I wait a year or two for the soil to establish before I plant trees?

I'm sure I have many more questions but those are the ones that spring to mind right now, any help would be greatly appreciated.
 
R Scott
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Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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The easy one first, plant the trees ASAP after the swale is done. Same day is best.

As for catching the road/ditch water: Will the swales handle it or will it be too much? That will be great for extending a lot of little sprinkles (less than .25 for example) but will just be overflow for big rains (more than 1 inch for example). Those numbers are just examples and will change based on the amount of capture of that ditch, the size of the swale structure, and the soil type. You need to do some estimates and see if they line up with how you get your rain. Do you get fairly even rain throughout the growing season or is it a rainy season/dry season? Your swales sound small for catching that much water in clay unless you are planning a lot of length.
 
Aljaz Plankl
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Use the roadway water if it's not too polluted.
Is there a lot of trafic?

Swales, i would make them at least 40 cm wide so there is not problem to walk in the trench.
Depth is good, but if you can go deeper, go for it.

Just make sure you don't bring up too much dead subsoil on top of swale mound.

Make the swales when the conditions for growing are there for you in your climate.
Example, making swales in late fall for me is not optimal beacause i don't have any growth cuz of cold.
I could just plant trees as i have quite good soil but anyway there is optimal to have covered soil, living plant or mulch.
If there is enough mulch (10+cm) for the whole area of swales i would dig them in fall, if no mulch i wait for spring when i can seed swales like crazy and have them green in no time.

Rain, moisture is probalby you main factor, then temperature.
Wait for ideal temperatures and water factor if you don't have enough mulch, dig swales and seed like crazy with all types of pioneer species (clovers, alfalfa, vetch, radishes, native deep rooted plants and other hervaceous plants).
Also plant some pioneer bushes and trees.
You can plant some hardy productive species such as fig, mulberry, cornelian cherry and others.
Wait for one year and then plant majority of productive trees.

Go for the complete greenery on you swales.
Look around your area for some species that you can get a lot from nature and plant them there.
You can always cut them as mulch when you introduce fruit trees, or if they get in a way later.
 
Sean Ruge
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thanks guys, great advice. I will wait till early spring to dig the swales, then plant some cover like you said. The road is pretty low traffic so I think it should be nearly free of most contaminants aside from some inevitable road salt if it ices this winter. I think you're right that the roadside ditch may overflow with heavy rains. I might try digging out the bottom and south face of the ditch, and put some hay and soil base down overtop; that might grab a bit of water without clogging the ditch too much
 
Aljaz Plankl
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great fast growing seed covers: spring cereals like wheat and oats, buckwheat, radishes, white mustard, sunflower...
a bit longterm ones by seed: red and white clover, lucerne
shrubs and trees wouldn't hurt also...
 
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