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Newbie help - direction, above or below...

 
Natasha Bailey
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Hello! We are working on our plan for our garden area and I'm needing some help... First off - we live in Northern California, zone 8A, maybe a few storms of snow each year but not much. We are in an area where the summers are hot and dry (110* during the summer is reached for about 30 days, otherwise high 90-100). We need to save water, for fire emergencies, for regenerating the land, for food growth, etc. There is a pond (rain fed, and seasonally spring fed) in the property across the road from us and we would love to have a pond as well. We are looking to put in hugelkultur beds and a pond in this area - the swales would snake back and forth down a hill to the pond with the hugels on the side and below the pond. There is naturally a bit of a bowl in the land and we figured it would be a good place to put a pond (a few other higher places on the property for ponds later on). We have loads of trees downed already (done by the prior owners) and would love to put them to use.

So questions are - which direction do the hugel beds need to run? And should we put them all in ground or above ground? I'm thinking 1/3 down and 2/3 above ground but also wondering if in our hot dry summers that won't be enough water retention. I don't know how to give more information other than google earth? The slope is from east down to west on this hill. The swales will go on the eastern most corner of the plot (running north to south with the contour of the hillside) then the slope gets less as it goes down to the spot for the pond, hugel beds here on the south side of the pond and swales, with fruit trees planted around the swales, then to the west of the pond would be larger area for several hugel beds - the land at the western most point, where the majority of the hugel beds will be, is the most level area, also the furthest from pumped water so these would rely on water fed from the pond.

Was that a mess of an explanation? Hoping it's enough to get some direction and help. Any thoughts and feedback is appreciated!
 
Natasha Bailey
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Anybody?
 
Jennifer Wadsworth
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Natasha - this definitely needs a picture! Can you post one here?

Other useful information would be:
--average rainfall/precipitation
--types of soils and soil pH (going to guess a little on the alkaline side because you sound like you're in a dryland)
--how large the property is
--a little better idea of where you are in NorCal as there are so very many microclimates in that area
--do you know what your Koppen classification is? If I had to hazard a guess I'd say you were probably in the Mediterranean classification? Hard to know without more information.

If you are in a Mediterranean climate (wet winters, dry summers) and you are that hot, as geoff lawton would say "It's all about anti-evaporation strategies". What does this mean? Expose as little surface area to the sun as possible. Shade - from trees, mulch, shade cloth - whatever - is your FRIEND. Here in Phoenix, we use sunken beds as opposed to raised beds in order to both harvest rainwater and to use the mass of the earth to moderate our temps and create a cooler microclimate. Sunken beds also naturally attract nutrient drop from winds. Beware anything above ground where you are exposing MORE earth to the sun, heat and extreme evaporation. I don't do traditional hugels because they just dry out and desiccate here. However, I have tossed branches into the bottom of my sunken beds before and that worked fine. In hot, dry climates, things will mummify/desiccate before they will decompose. Decomposition requires water.

Anyway - help us out with some more info and a pic! Sounds like you have an interesting property.

 
Natasha Bailey
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Jennifer Wadsworth wrote:Natasha - this definitely needs a picture! Can you post one here? I am going to try!

Other useful information would be:
--average rainfall/precipitation - 39"
--types of soils and soil pH (going to guess a little on the alkaline side because you sound like you're in a dryland)
--how large the property is - 20 acres
--a little better idea of where you are in NorCal as there are so very many microclimates in that area - Greenwood, Ca
--do you know what your Koppen classification is? If I had to hazard a guess I'd say you were probably in the Mediterranean classification? Hard to know without more information. - Csb, though looks like we are close to the border for Csa

If you are in a Mediterranean climate (wet winters, dry summers) and you are that hot, as Geoff Lawton would say "It's all about anti-evaporation strategies". What does this mean? Expose as little surface area to the sun as possible. Shade - from trees, mulch, shade cloth - whatever - is your FRIEND. Here in Phoenix, we use sunken beds as opposed to raised beds in order to both harvest rainwater and to use the mass of the earth to moderate our temps and create a cooler microclimate. Sunken beds also naturally attract nutrient drop from winds. Beware anything above ground where you are exposing MORE earth to the sun, heat and extreme evaporation. I don't do traditional hugels because they just dry out and desiccate here. However, I have tossed branches into the bottom of my sunken beds before and that worked fine. In hot, dry climates, things will mummify/desiccate before they will decompose. Decomposition requires water.

Anyway - help us out with some more info and a pic! Sounds like you have an interesting property.



I answered some questions in red above. Hoping that will help. I'm working on how to upload a pic on here that will actually help. I have a parcel map but it doesn't have much info on it so I can draw our plan onto that...
 
Jennifer Wadsworth
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Natasha:

Here are a couple of posts on how to attach pictures. Note the difference between posting pictures stored on your computer or pictures that are on the internet.

http://www.permies.com/t/25828/tnk/post-pictures-permies

http://www.permies.com/t/31696/tnk/posts-simple#246475
 
Jennifer Wadsworth
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Looks like you have a good amount of precipitation even though you have high temps. I take it your summers are dry and winters are wetter?

Swales will help rehydrate the landscape especially when paired with trees. With enough water soakage and spread with swales, you could probably get your pond to be perennial without much more effort. As Geoff Lawton says "swales are tree growing systems". Native trees, especially legumes should be planted on the backcut and a mix of fast growing (and ultimately sacrificial) legumes and fruit trees on the berm (the soft, uncompacted soil of the berm will soak up the water from the swales and the trees will hold it within their bodies).

Hugels....above ground ones may work for you in spring/fall. In summer - unless you get a lot of moisture, they probably will dry out with your heat. Over time as you moderate your environment and in becomes more humid due to trees and soil rehydration, they might work all year.

Nice article about trees rehydrating landscapes.
 
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