Can anyone think of a downside in doing this?
But I only mention these because you asked. I think the upside is likely to outweigh the downside.
Joel Hollingsworth wrote:
The pine trees might acidify the soil. Also, the berms will lose height as time goes by, unless the vegetation growing on them has a particularly large amount of below-ground biomass. Last, there might be problems due to choice of vegetation or due to the change in environment above the roots....
Good point about the environment above the roots. I'd hope that the berms with the rotted wood in them would be less likely to smother roots, but I'm not sure about that.
If the pine acidifies the soil a little that would be a benefit. My water pH is 9.2! and the soil is about the same.
Ardilla wrote:If the pine acidifies the soil a little that would be a benefit. My water pH is 9.2! and the soil is about the same.
Ah! Maybe more pine, where the roots will grow in a year or two, would be a good thing.
I understand very alkaline soil often means low precipitation?
In that case, maybe don't put your berms perfectly on contour, but slope them ever-so-slightly toward the trees, and instead of having a mulched depression the whole length of it, bury a log (standing up, if an auger is available & appropriate) at the low point of the berm. It's possible that most of the soil for the berm can come from that hole, and the only disturbance along the berm will be stakes and/or shrub-planting holes to anchor the pine to the slope.
Yes we have low precip - 15 inches on average. The thin soil is also on limestone and marine shales. It is hard to imagine that this dry landscape was a tropical sea 340 million years ago.
Sounds like you're in the southwest. You get a bit more rain than we do, but have like soils.
Do you have a one way slope or is it a typical southwest slope with more than one direction, or rolling on the slope?
My orchard is on a west and south sloping hill-towards the bottom. I spent much time watching water flow down those two slopes before planting.
Pick the dominant flow direction and make sure to make note of it. Like already mentioned, berm slightly off exact level. My trees are all set down and are individually bermed for the slope they are on.
Works great for when we do get rain/snow, but the voles moved in pretty quick as the berms were above ground level. Thank God for daffodils! )
Pine should not be a problem and may buffer the soil pH. I say may as use a lot of pinion shavings/mulch here, but never use it without some sort of green with it. High alkaline soils prohibit many "normal" associations chemically and other wise, so my beds are almost all no till. Because leaves are used here, earthworms are slowly deepening the humus into the red soil, but at this point the black only extends a few inches down.
The soil here is like yours in pH range, but our water sits at 6.5 on the pH.
You didn't say what you were using for mulch. It can make a big difference.
you can use almost any material to create a berm, hay/straw bales, rows of slashed grass, rows of rubble branches type of thing, or as we found the best swale was ripped swales they have small impact on the landscape and get the water under into teh sub soil where it is needed. they can be as temporary as you want or kept permanent.
when we did our food tree runs along the contours we used rips as well as mulched heacily around the trees after creating a weir/berm on the downside, then ran the mulch between the trees in rows.
the mulching also kept the root runs temp' stable while they settle in as well a maintained good moisture level, allowing our trees to grow on available rain fall of around 750mm per annum av'.
Pat Maas wrote:
...Do you have a one way slope or is it a typical southwest slope with more than one direction, or rolling on the slope?...
...You didn't say what you were using for mulch. It can make a big difference.
We have slopes facing every direction since there are two arroyos (normally dry streambeds) crossing the property.
The mulch I am using for the trees is shreaded ponderosa pine bark and wood chips (mostly cottonwood and siberian elm) that I can get free.
I am just getting started so I haven't started sheet mulching or cover crop planting - that will come shortly. Right now I am trying to get a few trees started and capture as much water as I can. I have been building gabion check dams in the arroyos. That is hard work! Each check dam has between 9 and 15 thousand pounds of stone in it - all moved by hand. Luckily I have a few hundred cubic yards of river cobble and a few pounds around the belly to lose.
Thank you all for chiming in.
Ardilla wrote:Luckily I have a few hundred cubic yards of river cobble...
After the rainy season, you might look into the talus garland effect! Piles of cobble with lots of sky exposure are apparently great at harvesting dew, and their mulch & windbreak effects also help trees have enough moisture.
Good luck with the gabions!
Gosh, can appreciate the work you're doing as it's the same thing I'm doing! ) Just don't talk about it much as have to mine the rock, long ways away from river rock.
The picture I'm showing below is of the check dams I've been working on. The gabion/arroyo area is next as it had some vegetation present.
How much vegetation do you have in the areas you are planting(and what kind) or is it an eroded area with little ground cover, allowing for sheeting?
Included here is a pic I took a few days ago-have done a lot more work in the last few days. This hillside was almost completely devoid of any vegetation and is rolling and west facing. I'm using almost anything I can lay my hands on to do sheet mulching as this ground needs cover besides a few tumbleweeds now. The lowest area shown is sheet mulched in a combo of elm leaves with rotten oat hay and horse manure.
There is no cobble as it all being used either on the swale being worked on or for new berms father down the hill. Cobble is good for berming trees.
I have a decent amount of vegetation. It is mixed Juniper-Pinon Pine with quite a bit of blue gramma, ring muhly and other native grasses and random wild rose, little leaf sumac, gamble oak, ash-leaf maple and other stuff mixed in. They land was last grazed by cattle about ten years ago. If left on its own, it would probably take another ten years to fully recover...
The check dams really capture a lot of soil after a good rain storm. One storm last fall filled an area about six feet wide and twenty feet long with about 18 inches of soil. The check dams are between 2.5 and 3 feet tall. When they finally fill with soil, they are going to be great big sponges! I have shown one of my up-stream neighbors how much top soil he is giving me. He is now on board with trying to slow the water rather than channelize the drainage. Small steps.
You can tell from my pic that there was little here. My soon to be expartner disked the little top soil it had and that soil washed away in a rather decent rain storm. I didn't catch what he had done until it was too late. Farther across the slope where there was more damage originally the grass is coming back in where I've been working on it for several years.
I had to go to rock as am using every bit of a manure the ladies produce, plus what I get off of freecycle, craig's list and friends for the sheet mulching in the orchard alleys and corn/squash garden. The original berms were all made from what was raked up from the dry lot daily over several years and added to the berms length.
When I came home one day and saw the mud flowing off that slope, I just cried and decided it was time to do something-rock was what available and that's what I've been doing winters since.
Do have blue gramma, Indian Oats and a few other native grasses and herbs(chickory and plantain in places now), but just getting something growing besides tumbleweed and goat heads is and has been huge! )
There is enough rock for me to build the check dams up, but at every 8-10' on the slope they are on presently, should be ok. The higher slope is in better condition so little worry about down slope "gifts". It's just a matter of keeping in place what's there now and building up the sponge.
This place when I bought it was grazed down to where even the yucca roots had been eaten. There was nothing here but a few struggling trees and a badly trashed house. The land was a hard pan disaster.
Think you know how fortunate you where in getting a place with no recent over grazing. For me this place literally fell into my lap. Don't know if that's how it was for you, but think maybe it was.
Why would this be so?
Joel Hollingsworth wrote:
I understand very alkaline soil often means low precipitation?
This terminolgy is foreign to me, Pat. Do you mean a sort of mulch of rocks around the trees?
Pat Maas wrote: Cobble is good for berming trees.
My neighbour has used gabions to stabilize river edge. He piled loose rockes over them to increase height and give slope to get bio-mass growing. Couple of weeks ago when the river rose 10 meters all that is left are the gabions. The river took everything else but even that mighty rushing body of water did not move the gabions. Good stuff.
Joel Hollingsworth wrote:After the rainy season, you might look into the talus garland effect! Piles of cobble with lots of sky exposure are apparently great at harvesting dew, and their mulch & windbreak effects also help trees have enough moisture.
Good luck with the gabions!
Joel, when I read your post about talus garland efect I went looking..... never heard of it before.
I have a border running cross contour up the hill with my neighbour at a gentle angle. I want to fence it ..... and have been pondeing how to effect a living fence but still harvest downhill rain water while accomodating the water pipes along this border that carry our water to the house. This is what I have come up with. Anything I am missing? Or could be improved. (One thing I must add is underground is bedrock at different rising levels so need to get the land flat for the pipes to lie well.)
Border fence with Paul:
Dig pits along border to trap rain water coming down hill. This is off contour and so dig intermittent pits and not swales.
Fill with rocks until flat. This should also hold the water long enough to sink into the earth.
Lay house water supply pipework flat on top.
Cover with serpentine shaped Talus (pile of rocks sloped as a mound) wall - the wider and higher I can manage the better. So serpentine wall climbs up the slope at a +/- 30 degree angle. This will collect dew, act as windbreak, protect pipes from extremes of temperature, create microclimates in the curves, and give edge.
I have seen Chinaberry grow through piles of rock and so could probably get them to grow at the top of the talus wall... And to get honeysuckle to do the same for weaving the fence... I might have to offer the rootings a bit of soil base laid over some thick mulch. What do you think? Don't want to do the living fence inside of this because it will block off the micro-climates created in the curves.
What I refer to in speaking of cobble is the material between surface soil and the larger rock. Here it's a lot of flaky sandstone and gravel.
From what I understand, cobble is generally a different material, but was the closest I could come up with to describe the material being worked with. If someone could give me a name for it, that would be great!
The voles/gophers just loved my dirt berms and really did a job on them. Have to redo them this spring.
When I was talking to Chris Meuli yesterday we were talking about boomerang berms. He showed me in the book I had just bought the proper way to do them. Mine were close, but what he showed me was an improvement . So, having to redo them anyway and adding vertical mulching higher up the slope on the newer trees will keep this gal busy a week or so.
I love the story of Mr. Phirrii. Heard about it a few years ago from Brad Lancaster at a conference in Albuquerque. Bugged him about more info, and finally got the story as he wrote it years ago.
For a lot of years I had to live on very little and support/feed my 4 children. So, learned how to make do with what was at hand. Developed a fair number of skills in the process and about sustainable ag and Permaculture.
I also love his story.... farming water. It has really encouraged me to keep at it when it feels like things are taking too long to achieve. I have also had to support 3 children. My husband died quite young. We always wanted 4 but so glad now 3 cos never expected to finish raising them alone. Is amazing how resourceful you get when you have to.
Why would this be so?
That generalization doesn't hold very reliably, but to my understanding, the processes that produce soil in a moist environment tend to acidify it. I've read about azaleas growing on very thin topsoil above limestone gravel, where there was enough rain & organic matter to keep the pH down at the surface.
Minerals that have seen enough weathering to be called "soil," but not enough humic acid, nitrates, or sulfates to neutralize them, have probably not been out in the rain that much.
It is not mine, here all rivers are public property, the town hall can decide how to treat the land just next to rivers, however i look after the willows in the river as if they were mine and i have been throwing the stones from a wall in my garden that runs beside the torrent in to a narroower bit of the river, influenced by Peter Andrews who says that pools and stopped up water in general with reeds and such help the land, they help fill underground water systems, more water is in contact with the ground where the river widens out allowing more water froim the river to seep through. Peter Andrews also says pools and flooded areas clean the land he says wet lands are to the land what liver and kidneys are to the human body.
It is incredible how a few stones dam the river. I got a really good pool where before there had only been a thread, well a bit more than a thread of water . It seems that being able to get through the cracks is not enough to make the stones ineffectual, my dam of stones has held up the river enough to have a nice little pool in the river there is nothing but some unoccupied land just below my garden so if the dam burst it could not do much harm and even it there was somthing its a deep ravine and the pool isnot big enough to cause a problem.
I took a photo of the roots of the willows in the river when ia bit of the bed feel awy as it exposed so many roots an di thought a photo would serve to show how willows shore up the bed of a river or maybe work like thechelles gley sealing it or some such . WHat it shows is how many small roots their are. or some such . agri rose macaskie
rose macaskie wrote:It is incredible how a few stones dam the river. I got a really good pool where before there had only been a thread, well a bit more than a thread of water . It seems that being able to get through the cracks is not enough to make the stones ineffectual, my dam of stones has held up the river enough to have a nice little pool in the river there is nothing but some unoccupied land just below my garden so if the dam burst it could not do much harm and even it there was somthing its a deep ravine and the pool isnot big enough to cause a problem.
I bet the pools can foster vegetation that helps absorb energy from the torrent, as well. Have you propagated the willows in that area, or thought about introducing some reeds?
Why would this be so?
I think Joel covered it fairly well, but I will add to the explanation...
In arid climates where the potential evapotranspiration exceeds the annual precipitation, compounds like carbonates and sulfates tend to accumulate in the soil rather than get leached away into ground water. This accumulation trends to make the soil alkaline. Around here this accumulation can form layers of caliche in the soil (calcium carbonate cement) that are caused by this effect but are also facilitated by certain soil bacteria.
By extension, in tropical climates the soil tends to be more acidic because the high rainfall leaches away the buffering compounds. Some tropical laterite soils are so leached that the remaining aluminosilicates are in high enough concentration that the soil can be used as aluminum ore.
I am on limestone with a high annual rainfall. Well... I think it is high.... 800mm plus per annum... mostly in summer.
So if an alkaline soil is well watered by sprinkler you could reduce pH? At the moment i am just using as much humus and manure as possible to ammend the soil.
If you are trying to lower the pH of your soil, I would use soil acidifying organic matter since the organic matter has many other benefits. Using heavy watering has the potential to do nothing (except waste water) or cause harm to the soil (reduce aeration, kill organisms, etc.).
I have heard that elemental sulphur added is the best amendment to lower high pH because so slow release. Might do that sometime for areas that I am not lasagna layering beds with compost etc. Too much work to do it everywhere.
Peter Andrews also says it is bad to iron out the curves in rivers making their courses straighter and so shorter.
I was so suprised about how well a few stones or logs work: As child i wanted to dam rivers but i never imagined how easy it was, I probably imagined using cement and all sorts of complex and unknown to me and impossible engineering operations and you can dam a river with a few stones! I would have been busy daming rivers long ago if i had know.
Pat Maas' low stone walls made me think of how a few stones could stop the river. His walls or is it her walls aren't very high but they probably stop the mud getting washed off by rainfall. agri rose macaskie
I think it depends on the river. Mine is 30 meters across and who knows how deep... can't touch the bottom when swimming cos the area just in front of my riverbank used to be a sand quarry back in history... used donkeys and thick cables.... quite interesting. I would love to make just a side bit quieter to be able to set up some sort of hydro-power. The rocks used would have to be massive boulders cos even big rocks are carried away in storms.
rose macaskie wrote:I was so sup`rise about how lwell a few stones or logs work as child i wanted to dam rivers but i never imagined how easy i was, I probably imagined using cement and all sorts of complex and unknown to me and impossible engineering operations and you can dam a river with a few stones, i would have been busy daming rivers long ago if i had know.
Interesting how rocks can stop water. Then on land will definitlely do it and catch water coming downhill.
Stopping water in a river with rocks probably has to do with a build-up of debris and "gley" to make it effective.
Related to the word 'glaze', a gley is like a biological plastic membrane such as is found in bogs, which is formed by a bacterial process that requires anaerobic conditions.
Traditionally a technique for sealing ponds and dams, there is potential for the process to be adapted for human-made structures. The Russian-devised version for dams uses a slurry of animal waste (pig manure) applied over the inner base and walls of the dam in multiple, thin layers, which is then itself covered with vegetable organic matter such as grass, leaves, waste paper, cardboard, etc. This is all then given a final layer of soil which is tamped down and the mixture is left for several weeks to allow the (anaerobic) bacteria to complete their task, at which time the dam is ready for flooding.
Gleys have the potential to revolutionise water storage capacity in regions with hightly porous soils. An aquaculture industry in otherwise unsuitable areas scould be one of the benefits of this technique.
Unlike bentonite clay, gley materials are virtually cost-free and are comprised of 'wastes' which would normally be discarded in the normal course of operations. Also, plastic and rubber dam liners may actually be dependent on the same anaerobic process for their own continued effectiveness rather than their lack of holes or punctures ie, it is the anaerobic layer created below them rather than their own membranous qualities which prevent water seepage in the long term.
They did not need gley i am imagining what that is, a build up of weeds and other bits and peices that close the cracks in the wal i supposel, the stones just allowed a pool to build up because they slowed down the river so, it just took the water to long to get through the cracks. I built up a wide -ish pile of stones with no gley, mind you it was a moment of fenomimal rains, as judged by the normal in Spain, with flooding all over the country. i suppose when the torrent is carrying less water it will be able to slip through the stones with out causing a build up of water in front of them but as it was running fast the stones slowed the flow down enough to create a pool before them.
I read about building walls to hold up the water flow and flood a feild in the rainy season, in India, a process that apparently fills underground water courses and so old springs reappear. Incredible! stopping water in the rainy season and holding it spread in pools, in flooded areas so it has time to sink through into the ground helps the wetness of a country to the pioint that it restores rivers and springs and makes wells that have run dry fill again with water.
Looking up rainwater harvesting in India is interesting, I looked it up in the Rajistan region because i had got into the cranes in the Thar desert theme at some point in my life. .
I have just read your bit on gley on another forum that is about it. A sort of anerobically produced breakdown of organic material and soil that waterproofs ponds and such. Interesting!agri rose macaskie
I would use the wood. Maybe, grow some tomato seedlings in the beds as a test. Tomatoes are very sensitive to juglone.
i wiull have to post them later i can't find them.
rose macaskie wrote:I looked up cobbles
My understanding is it's one of the more specific words for "stone." There's silt, sand, gravel, cobbles, and boulders, and while some books list specific size ranges, I think traditional uses of the words were much less sharp-edged.
If you imagine that below the cobble there is the other half of the stone, I imagine you iwoild magine that cobbles cannot be a very long lived type of paving and also you would make a cobbled yard or patch of pavign wrong wrong, while if you know that the longer part of the stone is underground and is more than twice the width of the part that shows you can understand that they are a fairly long lasting sort of paving. A lot of heavy lorries delivering stuff at a farm is to much for them however.
I have reread your bit and it seems that i didnot understand a word you wer talking of, so now this look strange still i did may be make it sound as if cobbles were pointed. I have the photos in one bit of the computer and havenot found out how to get them into any other part ,i have a new camera. rose.
Cyara asked what a cobble berm was, a berm being a mound that holds up the flow of water a cobble one would be one made of cobble stones a sort of dike. I suppose holes between the cobbles would fill with debris making it work better. I have not read right through the whole of the peice to see if this fits in or not, just run my eye over it. rose