Last weekend, we just bought 1 hectare of land and would like to start a small permaculture project on this. Maybe the land is not ideal but will try anyway. The land lis located in the North of Thailand about 50 km outside of Chiang Mai. It is located in the mountains. The area is about 150 times 60 meters and has a slope of about 6 degrees. The long side of the area goes from top to bottom, thus the narrow side goes along the slope. At the bottom of the land is a small creek that probably always has some water though in the rainy season, it will probably have a lot of water. Also, I expect that during the rainy season, there will be some water flow from the agriculture fields that are above this area.
Currently, there is not much growing on it. I'm not sure at the moment on more details on the soil.
So I'm wondering what to grow first in order to develop the soil. people told me that bananas are good. Though I think it should be a combination of several plants.
Also the land doesn't have any gullies or something like that it is a rather flat 6degrees slope. So I was wondering if I should put in a couple of swales and a pond. Like I mentioned, I expect to have some catch of water during the rainy season.
I would like to do these things soon as the rainy season is starting and would like to use that already this year.
banana circles would be a good start. If you actually make banana "horseshoes" with the open of the horseshoe uphill it will catch and store your water during the rainy season and then overflow when full. Fill the pits with lots of mulch for the dry season. You can do the same with papaya circles.
As ground cover, you can do sweat potato, yams etc. I use strawberries at the base.
Also try other high value fruits such as Pitaya. This method of cutting the top off an old coconut and placing wood crisscross over the top is great. 3-4 plants on each tree trunk
I would also focus on hot chilis as you can process them yourself and make hot sauce. The more processing you do on site the more value.
Swales and ponds would be a great start. You can fill the swales with mulch, and it will help keep the moisture during the dry season
peter le grand
posted 5 years ago
Thanks very much for the good ideas. This was actually exactly the practical information that I was looking for. Btw, where are you located? And do you have a farm as well?
The pictures look dryer than I would have imagined. What is the annual rainfall and how is it distributed throughout the year? Swales and a pond sound like a great idea, it is always good to have water harvesting structures, but if you plan on harvesting runoff from the nearby fields (or if this is something that might happen naturally) you should try to find out if that water might be contaminated with pesticides or chemical fertilizers so that you can also act to prevent this.
A good cover crop for tropical warm locations is pinto peanut (arachis pintoi). It spreads out quickly, is a legume (fixes nitrogen) and will help you shade that uncovered soil. Try also planting legume trees. Find out what is easy and grows fast in your area so that you can use them to produce lots of mulch. Moringa would also seem like a good choice.
Are you going to be irrigating? The lower part next to the creek might be OK for bananas, but they need lots of water so I doubt they will grow more than a few metres up without irrigation.
Legume trees as mentioned above are good idea for quick shade. Also fig, almond, peach trees are drought tolerant. If you need to get thru a significant hot dry season without irrigation then you can put succulents in (agave, prickly pear) as these will go for best part of a year without water. Your photos have a fair bit of green in them, were they taken before or after the first rains?
It is always exciting having a blank slate property congrats! Water harvesting is a great place to start but I would not jump straight to Swales. They can be costly to build and are also fairly permanent and a lot of work to maintain and fix. I would really recommend on contour platings of leguminous fodder trees. There have been studies that show that on contour plantings can be just as effective as swells with the added benefit of fixing nitrogen and providing biomass for fodder, compost and mulch.
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