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Cold weather permaculture  RSS feed

 
Dan Mcpherrow
Posts: 14
Location: Idaho Falls, Idaho
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I live in Idaho. Cold climate, 10 inches of rain a year. I have 10 acres that is old farm ground that is completely flat with nothing on it. I want to get going on permaculture but it seems like everything I see is for a warmer wetter climate.

What sources are there for cold dry climates so I can learn how to build a cold dry system on flat ground? Any Idaho permaculture folks? What about northern Utah?

 
John Elliott
pollinator
Posts: 2392
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Yes, it is difficult to find plants that will thrive in a cold, dry area like yours. However, there are plenty of fruit trees that make do with a short growing season. There are cold hardy varieties of apples which are recommended by North Dakota State University, which could certainly take your winters, all you would have to do is to make sure they get enough water. This guide, also from NDSU, has some information about other fruits trees that are well suited to cold.

Another possibility is the Mountain Ash/Rowan Berry, which may only be so-so for human consumption, but which could also be used for animal feed and forage.

Finally there is the Egyptian Walking Onion, which is supposed to be hardy to zone 3. If you send me a PM with your address, I can send you some starts to get these established.
 
E Reimer
Posts: 52
Location: The dry side of Spokane, USDA zone 6ish, 2300' elevation.
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Spokane Permaculture might be a good resource for you. I don't know if you're close enough to attend meetings, but their email list and forums have some good info.
http://www.spokanepermaculture.org/
 
S Bengi
Posts: 1359
Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even distribution
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Are you a zone 5 or a zone 4. if you are a zone 5 then pretty much everything will still grow in your area.
As to the water problem, you really need 14 inches of rain to grow stuff.
So you are going to have to use 2x the regular spacing to increase the catchment area, and also plant in depressions.
The fact that you have a short growing season means that your soil can store the snow melt and give you a boost.
So mulch heavy, use swales and you might still have to get a irrigation system with well water.

Here is a zone 3 nursery that sell cultivars that are hardy at least -40F and some below -60F
http://www.sln.potsdam.ny.us/2013lcataloglores2.pdf
 
Dan Mcpherrow
Posts: 14
Location: Idaho Falls, Idaho
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We are zone 4. We are so excited to do this. Bring on the successes and failures (so we can learn)

We have a well and we are thinking we will install a windmill to feed a pond.
 
S Bengi
Posts: 1359
Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even distribution
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You need 50%+ of the land to be covered with nitrogen fixing plants.
Mulch 6in+ deep. You also need cover crops, seeded at a rate of 25lbs/acres twice a year until they are established.
The main thing to remember is that you want 4 types of plants 1.N-fixers, 2.Drymass, 3.Pest control/medicine, 4.Aerating roots
I would plant 7-12 plants in each category.
mustard
burdock
alfalfa
lamb's quarter
fava bean
sweet clover
lupine
landino clover
buckwheat
hairy vetch
daikon
black-eyed peas
comfrey
sun flower
yarrow
borage
chamomile
dandelion
turnip
bee balm
lavender
mullein
pea (pisum arvitiuse)
stinging nettle
chard
maximillian sunflower
sorghum

In such a "dry" environment (0.7in of rain per month in the growing season). I would not store water in a pond.
 
Dan Mcpherrow
Posts: 14
Location: Idaho Falls, Idaho
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We thought a pond added bio diversity. We were going to make it small and deep. Our geo thermal outputs hundreds of gallons a day of water.

Can you expand a little more on your thoughts about the pond? Thanks for all the help.
 
Terri Matthews
Posts: 469
Location: Eastern Kansas
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In our climate much of the moisture occurs in the middle of winter. You have said that your area is dry but you do get SOME moisture: when do you get it?

For example, our winters are cold and wet and our summers are hot and dry, which is why so much winter wheat is grown here. The wheat gets established in the fall because we do get a fair amount of rain then, and when winter hits the young plants are often covered with a little snow during the coldest snaps which protects them. Then, the wheat grows again in the spring because it can use the moisture from the winter. We also get some rain in the spring.

It is dry here in the summer, but by then the grain is hopefully ready to harvest. Wheat is usually harvested in the last week of May or in early June.

This area also grows corn, which is a large plant with deep roots. It gets established with the damp spring ground and the deep roots can provide for the plants when it is dry during the summer. If the corn is planted late it will fail as the available moisture then is deep in the ground.

We also raise good trees, though fruit trees need to be watered at times and hovered over: they need water as they produce their fruit!

The pictures I have seen of Idaho shows mostly trees and grass. Grass goes dormant when it is dry and trees have deep roots. If I assume that your moisture pattern is similar to ours, (and I am guessing), then perhaps something short-seasoned that will produce before it gets too dry, such as Fava beans, green leafy vegetables, radishes, and turnips? Or perhaps some deep rooted trees, such as oak trees that have edible nuts? Back in England the pigs used to be fattened on acorns and crab apples in the forest before slaughter, and here in Kansas the wild turkeys eat acorns. Oaks have deep roots, and once they are established they handle dry weather very well!


 
Dan Mcpherrow
Posts: 14
Location: Idaho Falls, Idaho
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Our climate sounds very similar. We have 115 frost free days. Hot dry summers and cold winters. It has snowed in every month of the year here in Idaho Falls at one point in time or another.
 
Terri Matthews
Posts: 469
Location: Eastern Kansas
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Dan Mcpherrow wrote:Our climate sounds very similar. We have 115 frost free days. Hot dry summers and cold winters. It has snowed in every month of the year here in Idaho Falls at one point in time or another.
The summer snow would do terrible things to a corn plant!

I wonder if rye would work for you?
 
Wi Tim
Posts: 63
Location: North Idaho, zone 5a
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Hi, I am also in Idaho. Did not have much luck with anything this year, since I did not have proper fencing. Deer is a major issue here.
 
Cam Mitchell
Posts: 108
Location: W. CO, 6A
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Wi Tim wrote:Hi, I am also in Idaho. Did not have much luck with anything this year, since I did not have proper fencing. Deer is a major issue here.

Hmm, maybe try Sepp's bone sauce? I'm going to do it this year, as the deer visit even without much to eat. I can image how bad the deer pressure would be if there are tender yummies, or "ice cream" as Paul says.

S Bengi wrote:In such a "dry" environment (0.7in of rain per month in the growing season). I would not store water in a pond.

I would, but with caveats. Done properly, a pond can be a beneficial source of life, increase humidity and help to grow biodiversity. Done wrong, it will just waste water, time, and energy. Yes, water evaporates much less in the ground, but fish and ducks don't swim in the ground. People and wildlife enjoy a pond, and it can be a very productive system. See my comments to Dan below about evaporation mitigation.

@Dan - I'm in a similar situation: sand & rocks, pinyons, 8.7 inches avg precip, ~2 feet of snow, zone 5-6 (IMHO, think the USDA is wrong), ~7000 feet, basically high desert.
I would definitely put in a pond, but also swales. I agree that you need to reduce the surface area of the pond compared to the volume, just like you're saying. Also, protecting it from wind blowing across it, shading it with trees and covering the surface with plants will help to reduce evaporation. That's what I plan on doing with my land.

I think you can do (at least) apples, pears, plums, pie cherries (mmmm, pie...), persimmons, pawpaw, seaberry (N-fixer), goumi(N-fixer), caragana (AKA Siberian pea shrub, N-fixer), and whatever native berry bushes grow in ID (maybe serviceberry, buffalo berry (N-fixer), chokecherry, huckleberry). ID may have a seedling tree program fro the state forest service, for conservation. My state does, and I can get trees for about $1 each. You can probably do blackberry, raspberry, alpine strawberry, gooseberry & currants, haskaps or honeyberry or saskatoons (depending on who's naming it). I would make sure to select short-season varieties, and site them so that they don't warm up too soon, then bloom and get their buds frozen by a late spring frost.

I'd mulch the heck out of the trees, and do a contour swale upslope of them, or berm & basin, or both. Your success will likely depend on getting and keeping water to the plants. The Bullock brothers on Orcas Island in WA plant a N-fixer in the hole with every fruit tree, so you might want to also. I would also suggest planting lots of black locust, though some would disagree. It's your land: make up your own mind what you want to do, and go for it.

What did you decide to do? Do you have a good PC plan in place? I would refrain from major earthworks until you have that.

Good luck!

Edit: A book that was quite helpful for me was Growing food in the southwest mountains. I know it says southwest, but your climate is similar, and it might be helpful. This is the new bigger version. I got it from the library, but plan to buy it.
 
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