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Starting a forest garden in Peru to disconnect from the system

 
Ronaldo Montoya
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Hi, im starting an edible forest garden in Peru and i would like to ask for some advices.
The idea of the project is to create a system that can generate everything I need for living and be sustainable without depending on the system.
I need that my forest garden can generate permanently healthy food for 2 people, energy and all things I need for living .
My primary purpose is to get disconnect from the system , but i also would like that my forest garden can be a social space when friends come to visit me and a hacklab where i can experiment with technologies that allow to get disconnected.
I been analyzing different places in Peru for creating my system and finally I decided to buy the land in Canete Valley , in a place called Antahuaya in Pacaran district.
I decided to get this place after reading the book from Howard Odum called "Environmnent, Power and Energy " , in this book Odum talks about valleys as places with high "eMergy" or rich places in terms of energetic flows, because in valleys there are a confluence of renewable energies.
In Antahuaya there is sun all the year, there is always a lot of water comming from the river , there is fertile soil and there is wind, but it never rains, it rains just a few days in the whole year.
In the winter nights there is a little bit of cold, but not that much.
The climate is arid tropical and im located in the southern hemisphere.
Antahuaya is 700 meters over the sea level.
The land i got has a little less than 2000 meters square .
The land has 2 water channels with permanent water in 2 sides of the land.
There is a lot of flow of wind in the land.
The land has been used for growing grapes, because in this place a lot of farmers grow grapes for producing wines and the tipical peruvian drink called Pisco.
But the land has been abandoned 7 years ago, so the last 7 years the land was not being used for anything.


Ive made a list of all the trees i want to grow taking in consideration the time the produce fruit ( i need to produce food permanently) .

This is my basic list with trees for direct use:


Tree of life - moringa oleifera
Breadfruit
Avocado
Pacay - Inga feuillee
Mammee - Pouteria sapota
Loquat - Eriobotrya japonica
Pecan
Papaya - Carica papaya
Soursop - Annona muricata
Custard apple - Annona cherimola
Tamarind - Tamarindus indica
Mango - mangifera indica


I saw these trees grow fine in this place with exception of breadfruit that im not sure if it will grow fine here, but the other trees yes, i have seen them in my neighbours lands.
Do you think 2000 meters would be fine for all these trees? i need that my system can generate its own fertility.

Im having problems on where to start.
I been reading the book "edible forest gardens" ( volume 2).
And following the recommendations on this book i been trying to make an analysis of my land.
I havent make an analysis of soil in the lab because is very expensive , here most of the lands are speciallized in analyzing only the superficial soil ( 30 ctms) because they are focused on traditional monoculture agriculture.
Analyzing one meter below or 2 meters or 3 meters would be verrry expensive.

I been analyzing and asking the farmers about the plants that are growing naturally in my land .
The following plants are growing now in the land naturally.


- johnson_grass , Sorghum_halepense - sorgo de halepo

- castor oil or mamona

- criollo ( i cant find the cientific name for this plant)

- ragweed or altamiz or "Ambrosia peruviana Willd"

- cinamomo or Melia azedarach

- pacoyuyo or Galinsoga parviflora

- verbena or Verbena officinalis L

- and a few other species i dont know what they are.



Now the land is not being irrigated, but when i irrigated it some months ago all the land got covered of johnson grass.

Here is a pic of the land of how it looks at this moment:









And this is a pic of how it look the ground at this moment.







Im a little bit stucked , what should i do now?

Should I plant wind breaks first? what do you recommend me to do right now?

Here there is a type of bambu called Guayaquil that grows very fast, i been thinking of using it as wind break , but I also been reading about using as wind breaks plants that fix nitrogen or generate fertility to the soil as casuarina oligodon or paulownia ?

What should i do first? should i plant wind breaks?

I made a hole in the land and i havent found any worm and it seems the land is compacted, should i remove the land?

Should i plant nitrogen fixers and dynamic accumulators first? Or should i plant the trees right now?



Please any idea or comment would be very appreciated , i got the land in january and i havent plant anything since then, im a noobie ( i always lived in big cities working with computers) , and after getting the book "edible forest garden 2" i got more confused in where to begin.

At the beginning i thought it would be more easier to create my forest but time is passing and i havent did anything yet , just read the book and analyzing the land and plants.






 
Karen Walk
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Location: VT, USA Zone 4/5
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Hi Ronaldo,

You have a beautiful place!

My first concern would be water - I know that you have water from the river, but what happens in a very dry year? Will you still be able to take water from the river? Planting a windbreak will help with this as it will help reduce evaporation. Make sure that you maintain some airflow to provide natural cooling to your home during hot weather.

I am not very familiar with your climate so I can't give specific recommendations regarding plants, but I recommend supplementing your permaculture reading with some texts that deal more with earthworks. "sepp holzer's Permaculture" is a very accessible book that covers many topics, including the use of earthworks in the rehydration of degraded landscapes.

Good luck and ask lots of questions!
 
John Saltveit
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I would start with inexpensive nitrogen fixers, then dynamic accumulators. I would talk to local experts about what grows well there. I would also plant tall fast growing trees as windbreaks, because wind will dry out your soil and plants. This is a very exciting project that you are working on. Maybe you will show all the locals how to make that land produce healthy food!
John S
PDX OR
 
Ronaldo Montoya
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Hey Karen, I think it never happened that the river got completely dry , i choosed this place thinking also in terms of climate change, and this place is privileged in terms of water, most of the lands has channels in the sides with water comming from the river, ALWAYS! . I dont know how radical is gonna be climate change in the future , but if the river gets complete dry that would mean the collapse of this place ( but not only this place, i think the whole country ) , but as i said before this place has a lot of availability of water and if climate change get extremely radical this place is gonna be one of the last affected ( i ve have talked with environmental engeniers about this before choose this place).
What i believe is that in some years when climate change get harsher people is gonna move from other places to places like this that has a lot of water but today are not very well appreciated. Farmers today sell cheap their land and move to the big city where there is economic growth .... the land here is very cheap compared to the city , so now im trainning and learning how to use weapons to defend my food when that happens!

Thanks for the advices, i will get that book.






Karen Walk wrote:Hi Ronaldo,

You have a beautiful place!

My first concern would be water - I know that you have water from the river, but what happens in a very dry year? Will you still be able to take water from the river? Planting a windbreak will help with this as it will help reduce evaporation. Make sure that you maintain some airflow to provide natural cooling to your home during hot weather.

I am not very familiar with your climate so I can't give specific recommendations regarding plants, but I recommend supplementing your permaculture reading with some texts that deal more with earthworks. "Sepp Holzer's Permaculture" is a very accessible book that covers many topics, including the use of earthworks in the rehydration of degraded landscapes.

Good luck and ask lots of questions!
 
Ronaldo Montoya
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Hey John , what do you think about alfalfa as nitrogen fixer? I know some people grow alfalfa here. Should i put alfalfa in all the land?
Some months ago i irrigated all the land just for experimentation and seeing what happens , and then all the land got filled of Johnson grass, then a group of cows ate all the johnson grass and then i havent irrigated until now.
I suppose there should be a lot of seeds of johnson grass in the soil. So how can avoid the growing of johson grass? If i put alfalfa seeds , maybe alfalfa is gonna start fighting with johnson grass and i dont know which one is gonna win. Any idea about this?

Farmers here always remove- plow the land with horses before planting. I see that the soil is a little bit compacted ( not extremely ) , do you think should i plow the land before planting the seeds of alfalfa?

I also was thinking about growing "caña guayaquil" as wind break , "caña guayaquil" is a type of bambu that is typical in this place, a lot of farmers grow it , and it grows very fast, if you put in google images "caña guayaquil" you can see some pics of this tree, but these trees are not nitrogen fixers or dynamic acumulators, Do you think i should plant "caña guayaquil" ?


thanks for the advices!!




John Saltveit wrote:I would start with inexpensive nitrogen fixers, then dynamic accumulators. I would talk to local experts about what grows well there. I would also plant tall fast growing trees as windbreaks, because wind will dry out your soil and plants. This is a very exciting project that you are working on. Maybe you will show all the locals how to make that land produce healthy food!
John S
PDX OR
 
Aljaz Plankl
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Plant and sow a lot of pioneer trees.
You need shade and mulch material, you will not get enough of this with vegetative small plants as alfalfa - it's great to include btw - but you need trees!
You don't want johnson grass not growing, it's a pioneer species and it will help you.
Focus on trees. :)
I'm sure you can find pioneer species naturaly growing around you.
Have a good time.
 
John Saltveit
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Alfalfa is a dynamic accumulator. Just dont' plow. Having trees in a semi-arid location will make it so the dew will condense and you will actually physically get more rain that you would have otherwise. Also it sounds like a more humid environment would be better for most plants.

My only concern with some bamboos is that they are invasive, but talk with other farmers in the area to see if that type is.
John S
PDX OR
 
Aljaz Plankl
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I would first make a design of productive canopy layer, then plow 2m wide strips on countour and plant those strips heavily with pioneers (low growing , shrubs and trees) and productive species.
 
S Bengi
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I would do minor earthworks.
Install a good electric fence (solar maybe).
Then plant some cover crop.
Most of your productive plants will need 30ft/10m spacing.
So I would plant them every 30ft/10meter and then plant nitrogen fixing trees between then every 3ft/1meter.
This spacing will provide soil shade and produce alot of bio-mass/microbial life and fix nitrogen.
Every 2 years you will have to remove every other nitrogen fixing tree to help with the growing.
Here is a incomplete list of plants that are good for your area.
https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AjpWBJwPQ0nMdEFYMF9QaUVXNmdqSjltNG9DTHVFd0E
 
Ronaldo Montoya
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Hi Aljaz, how can i know which trees are pioneer trees?
Theres a lot of trees growing naturally in this place but Is there any way of recognizing which are pionner tree?


I have another question, why do you say i dont want johnson grass not growing?
In which way Johnson grass can be useful?
Ive read in "edible forest gardens 2" that sorghum doesnt fix nitrogen neither its a dynamic accumulator, but its considered a nuisance plant.

In which way johnson grass can be useful?




Aljaz Plankl wrote:Plant and sow a lot of pioneer trees.
You need shade and mulch material, you will not get enough of this with vegetative small plants as alfalfa - it's great to include btw - but you need trees!
You don't want johnson grass not growing, it's a pioneer species and it will help you.
Focus on trees. :)
I'm sure you can find pioneer species naturaly growing around you.
Have a good time.
 
John Saltveit
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You don't want those kinds of grasses in your tree area, because they suck up all the water and nutrients and they prevent the soil down deeper from being healthy as a place for the deeper roots. Those kinds of grasses produce very few benefits to humans, livestock, other plants, or wildlife. That's why they are rare in nature, but common in lawns. You want a wide variety of microorganisms in your soil.
John S
PDX OR
 
Ronaldo Montoya
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Hey, it seems alfalfa is dynamic accumulator and also nitrogen fixer.
Can you explain a little bit more why not plowing?
Is not good plowing either if i have the soil compacted?
The trees would de-compact the soil?

I have asked the local farmers and they say that "guayaquil bamboo" is invasive , the root expand and then it grow a new bamboo that its very hard to remove.
Theres also another fast growing tree that its called "sauce" in spanish or salix that also the locals say it grow fast, but they also say that the roots of this tree tend to expand and its also a problem.
I been checking the book "edible forest gardens 2" and it talk about using rhizome barriers for avoiding this, the book says it would work for bamboo, and i will avoid the spreading of the bamboos.

The book recommend using heavy-gauge high density polyethylene ( HDPE) plastic at least 60 mils ( 1.5 mm) thick as rhizome barrier.
What do you think?

Should i put rhizome barriers and plant guayaquil bamboo as wind breaks?







John Saltveit wrote:Alfalfa is a dynamic accumulator. Just dont' plow. Having trees in a semi-arid location will make it so the dew will condense and you will actually physically get more rain that you would have otherwise. Also it sounds like a more humid environment would be better for most plants.

My only concern with some bamboos is that they are invasive, but talk with other farmers in the area to see if that type is.
John S
PDX OR
 
John Saltveit
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Sauce is a willow tree. They are a good pioneer tree.
John S
PDX OR
 
Ronaldo Montoya
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hey , why do you recommend to install a electric fence?

A couple of days ago I planted plants as fence, i used jatropha curcas that is a plant that most locals use here for fences.

Would you plant my list of trees withouth preparing the soil first? withouth planting pionner trees?
I think thats not good practice , the book "edible forest garden 2 " doesnt recommend that.

S Bengi wrote:I would do minor earthworks.
Install a good electric fence (solar maybe).
Then plant some cover crop.
Most of your productive plants will need 30ft/10m spacing.
So I would plant them every 30ft/10meter and then plant nitrogen fixing trees between then every 3ft/1meter.
This spacing will provide soil shade and produce alot of bio-mass/microbial life and fix nitrogen.
Every 2 years you will have to remove every other nitrogen fixing tree to help with the growing.
Here is a incomplete list of plants that are good for your area.
https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AjpWBJwPQ0nMdEFYMF9QaUVXNmdqSjltNG9DTHVFd0E
 
Ronaldo Montoya
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hey, it is already a sauce growing in my land near the water channel, but the local farmers say the roots of this tree is hard to remove and they say it grow fast.
Do you think should i plant a lot of sauces?

whats the function of them?




John Saltveit wrote:Sauce is a willow tree. They are a good pioneer tree.
John S
PDX OR
 
John Saltveit
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They grow fast and pretty tall. You could use them as a wind break. They can grow from cuttings, so you can make that windbreak cheaply. When you have too many, you can chop them and grow oyster mushrooms on them. By then, you will be ready to have other species growing in the wind shadow.
johN S
PDX OR
 
Chris Badgett
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Here's a free video lesson on how to create natural fencing for your food forest: http://organiclifeguru.com/lesson/fencing/



Good luck with your project!
 
Angelika Maier
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Check if the local bamboo is edible. If yes, simply dig up the new shoots and sell them. Otherwise bamboo is good for a windbreak there are clumping non invasive varieties.
Start with the windbreak. Wind is so drying and it brings the cold. You need twice as much water.
 
Tina Paxton
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Ronaldo Montoya wrote:hey, it is already a sauce growing in my land near the water channel, but the local farmers say the roots of this tree is hard to remove and they say it grow fast.
Do you think should i plant a lot of sauces?

whats the function of them?



Salix (Willows) are good for many things! They are fodder for livestock, generate a LOT of biomass (which can be used for mulch, compost, wood for heating your home, etc), and they are either nitrogen fixing or dynamic accumulators (I'm a rookie and can't remember which and can't access my notes at the moment). Plant them as a windbreak and when you see that they've sent out suckers, either transplant the suckers to where you want them OR mow them down. Oh, and another use for willows -- cuttings can be soaked in water and then the water used to soak other cuttings that you want to root for propagation. Willow water is a natural root stimulator.

Oh, and in regards to the Johnson grass -- it may not be something you want forever but for now, it is providing benefits to your soil such as: erosion prevention, nutrient accumulation, ground cover, adding biomass to the soil, and breaking up the compact soil. I'm sure I've left out other beneficial uses to the grass. As you develop your food forest, the Johnson grass will give way to other things but for now, let it be -- just keep it from going to seed by keeping it mowed.

Tilling will encourage more weed seeds to germinate AND it destroys the soil structure, can lead to erosion, and compaction. Work the soil the way Nature does--the no-till way!

You have a beautiful piece of property...you made a good choice on that little piece of heaven!
 
Ronaldo Montoya
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Hey Tina , if you say johson grass is good at this moment of the forest , do you think it would be good to irrigate the forest permanently?
I havent doing this because when i did all the land became filled with johnson grass and i thought that was something bad.

Should i irrigate the land and let all the land to get filled with johnson grass?





Tina Paxton wrote:
Ronaldo Montoya wrote:hey, it is already a sauce growing in my land near the water channel, but the local farmers say the roots of this tree is hard to remove and they say it grow fast.
Do you think should i plant a lot of sauces?

whats the function of them?



Salix (Willows) are good for many things! They are fodder for livestock, generate a LOT of biomass (which can be used for mulch, compost, wood for heating your home, etc), and they are either nitrogen fixing or dynamic accumulators (I'm a rookie and can't remember which and can't access my notes at the moment). Plant them as a windbreak and when you see that they've sent out suckers, either transplant the suckers to where you want them OR mow them down. Oh, and another use for willows -- cuttings can be soaked in water and then the water used to soak other cuttings that you want to root for propagation. Willow water is a natural root stimulator.

Oh, and in regards to the Johnson grass -- it may not be something you want forever but for now, it is providing benefits to your soil such as: erosion prevention, nutrient accumulation, ground cover, adding biomass to the soil, and breaking up the compact soil. I'm sure I've left out other beneficial uses to the grass. As you develop your food forest, the Johnson grass will give way to other things but for now, let it be -- just keep it from going to seed by keeping it mowed.

Tilling will encourage more weed seeds to germinate AND it destroys the soil structure, can lead to erosion, and compaction. Work the soil the way Nature does--the no-till way!

You have a beautiful piece of property...you made a good choice on that little piece of heaven!
 
Angelika Maier
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As far as I know irrigation can create salinity. Isn't it better at least for the pioneer trees to find the plants which can cope with the natural rainfall?
 
Ronaldo Montoya
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There is no natural rain fall in this place!!!

Here it just rain a couple of times in the whole year, but there is permanently water from water channels comming from the river.




Angelika Maier wrote:As far as I know irrigation can create salinity. Isn't it better at least for the pioneer trees to find the plants which can cope with the natural rainfall?
 
Tina Paxton
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Ronaldo Montoya wrote:Hey Tina , if you say johson grass is good at this moment of the forest , do you think it would be good to irrigate the forest permanently?
I havent doing this because when i did all the land became filled with johnson grass and i thought that was something bad.

Should i irrigate the land and let all the land to get filled with johnson grass?



Irrigation is accredited with increasing salinity. You mentioned that there is plenty of water from a river and/or streams? What you might want to do is a multi-pronged approach:

1. Pioneer trees -- trees reach down deep for water and increase the amount of water in the soil overall --so lots and lots of trees
2. ground cover -- adds organic matter to the soil and also holds water in the soil --so encourage anything that will grow to grow--grass, weeds, bushes...whatever just get stuff growing to cover that bare soil
3. swales -- a system of swales that hold and direct water on your property -->I'm a rookie on this but geoff lawton and Sepp Holster both talk a lot about swales for "greening the desert" which would be good for you even though you aren't dealing with a desert per se.

To me, the fact that the grass did not grow until you irrigated tells me that while there is water nearby it is not getting to your soil and thus is not doing you any good. You need to change that without an irrigation system that will ultimately damage your soil. Wiser folks than I can tell you more about how to do that...I know just enough to be dangerous!
 
Ronaldo Montoya
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hey Tina, i was wondering if there are conflicts between ground cover and pioneer trees.
For example, if i let johnson grass to proliferate, wouldnt that affect my pioneer trees? Because johnson grass will suck nutrients. Should i take care about that ?

Or just plant pioneer trees irrigate and let the forest be.


In this place there is permanently water flowing in water channels around the lands. For irrigating their lands farmers just open a little door and let water come inside their lands, then they put stones and close the door to avoid more water getting iside the land.

All irrigation systems damage the soil? what about if i use an irrigation sprinkler?






Tina Paxton wrote:
Ronaldo Montoya wrote:Hey Tina , if you say johson grass is good at this moment of the forest , do you think it would be good to irrigate the forest permanently?
I havent doing this because when i did all the land became filled with johnson grass and i thought that was something bad.

Should i irrigate the land and let all the land to get filled with johnson grass?



Irrigation is accredited with increasing salinity. You mentioned that there is plenty of water from a river and/or streams? What you might want to do is a multi-pronged approach:

1. Pioneer trees -- trees reach down deep for water and increase the amount of water in the soil overall --so lots and lots of trees
2. ground cover -- adds organic matter to the soil and also holds water in the soil --so encourage anything that will grow to grow--grass, weeds, bushes...whatever just get stuff growing to cover that bare soil
3. swales -- a system of swales that hold and direct water on your property -->I'm a rookie on this but Geoff Lawton and Sepp Holster both talk a lot about swales for "greening the desert" which would be good for you even though you aren't dealing with a desert per se.

To me, the fact that the grass did not grow until you irrigated tells me that while there is water nearby it is not getting to your soil and thus is not doing you any good. You need to change that without an irrigation system that will ultimately damage your soil. Wiser folks than I can tell you more about how to do that...I know just enough to be dangerous!
 
Tina Paxton
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Ronaldo Montoya wrote:hey Tina, i was wondering if there are conflicts between ground cover and pioneer trees.
For example, if i let johnson grass to proliferate, wouldnt that affect my pioneer trees? Because johnson grass will suck nutrients. Should i take care about that ?

Or just plant pioneer trees irrigate and let the forest be.


In this place there is permanently water flowing in water channels around the lands. For irrigating their lands farmers just open a little door and let water come inside their lands, then they put stones and close the door to avoid more water getting iside the land.

All irrigation systems damage the soil? what about if i use an irrigation sprinkler?


Like I said before, I am a rookie and know just enough to be dangerous.

I would think that the Johnson grass would be beneficial to your soil in that it a) holds the soil so it does not erode and b) adds nitrogen and mulch when it is periodically cut (chop and drop). You may want to keep it away from the roots of your pioneer trees by mulching heavily around your trees to keep the Johnson grass away.

Regarding the water channels as an irrigation system -- I truly can not answer your question on that issue. I would think it would work in a similar way as a system of swales...and perhaps that is what you would want to do with your "doors"--have the water directed from the door(s) to ponds or swales on your property...but that is just a guess. Hopefully someone with more experience will provide a better answer to your question.
 
Karen Walk
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Here is my understanding of salinization due to irrigation:

When you use water that has a high mineral content on land that has a high evaporation rate, the water evaporates leaving the minerals behind. Over time this can cause a buildup of salts in the soil. You don't have to take me word for it:

http://people.oregonstate.edu/~muirp/saliniz.htm

So, you really want to minimize evaporation by reducing wind, creating shading and keeping the ground covered. You also want to take advantage of other water sources. Dew, for example. Dew is distilled water so it doesn't carry salts and minerals.

I think that deep hydration of the ground would also be beneficial. Pond building perhaps. Anyone else have thoughts on this?

Karen
 
Ronaldo Montoya
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hey, i just found this quote in the book edible forest gardens :
"Not resolving soil and weed problems before planting your forest garden can cause more work than site preparation would have required, it can also cause reduced garden productivity or even failure of the system or some of its components"


So whats the point of maintaining johnson grass at this moment? wouldnt it better if i get rid of johnson grass at the begining and replace with another herb that can perform similar functionality ( add nitrogen, avoid erosion ) ?




Tina Paxton wrote:
Ronaldo Montoya wrote:hey Tina, i was wondering if there are conflicts between ground cover and pioneer trees.
For example, if i let johnson grass to proliferate, wouldnt that affect my pioneer trees? Because johnson grass will suck nutrients. Should i take care about that ?

Or just plant pioneer trees irrigate and let the forest be.


In this place there is permanently water flowing in water channels around the lands. For irrigating their lands farmers just open a little door and let water come inside their lands, then they put stones and close the door to avoid more water getting iside the land.

All irrigation systems damage the soil? what about if i use an irrigation sprinkler?


Like I said before, I am a rookie and know just enough to be dangerous.

I would think that the Johnson grass would be beneficial to your soil in that it a) holds the soil so it does not erode and b) adds nitrogen and mulch when it is periodically cut (chop and drop). You may want to keep it away from the roots of your pioneer trees by mulching heavily around your trees to keep the Johnson grass away.

Regarding the water channels as an irrigation system -- I truly can not answer your question on that issue. I would think it would work in a similar way as a system of swales...and perhaps that is what you would want to do with your "doors"--have the water directed from the door(s) to ponds or swales on your property...but that is just a guess. Hopefully someone with more experience will provide a better answer to your question.
 
Ronaldo Montoya
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I think the water from the channels doesnt has high mineral content. Its pure water from the river that you can drink.

Water comes from water channels with permanent water around the lands that comes from a river, when local farmers want to irrigate their lands they just open one door in the channel and close another, in that way the can direct the water flow inside their land.
Most farmers work on monoculture , and the lands has the shape of beds with channel between the beds, so when the water flow comes inside the land it follow the channels between the beds.

Do you think this way of irrigating is bad for an edible forest?

In the book "edible forest garden 2" it recommend to use drip irrigation, but the thing is that i dont have too much money to invest .

Do you think it would be problem irrigating in the traditional way local farmers do? or should i try another approach?

I dont have money so, that another approach should be very cheap.

cheers





Karen Walk wrote:Here is my understanding of salinization due to irrigation:

When you use water that has a high mineral content on land that has a high evaporation rate, the water evaporates leaving the minerals behind. Over time this can cause a buildup of salts in the soil. You don't have to take me word for it:

http://people.oregonstate.edu/~muirp/saliniz.htm

So, you really want to minimize evaporation by reducing wind, creating shading and keeping the ground covered. You also want to take advantage of other water sources. Dew, for example. Dew is distilled water so it doesn't carry salts and minerals.

I think that deep hydration of the ground would also be beneficial. Pond building perhaps. Anyone else have thoughts on this?

Karen
 
Rebecca Norman
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I didn't understand anything about irrigation until I lived for a few years in this climate, where, like Ronaldo's, there really isn't any precipitation to speak of, nor ground water, and almost nothing will grow without irrigation. We've had berms with swales around three edges of our campus for 19 years but I've never seen a puddle after a rain or snow, and there is not more vegetation at the swale unless it is irrigated.

Salination due to irrigation is a problem in some regions of the world, but for example, not in most of my region, Ladakh, where all the farms and villages have been irrigated for centuries.

Here's what I understand about salination due to irrigation. In many cases it is not from using mineral rich water, but from efficient irrigation that never leaches down into the subsoil. All soil naturally has minerals and salts; when you irrigate just exactly enough, they dissolve and travel up as the water travels up and evaporates from the surface. If this keeps happening for years, the upper layers can accumulate these natural salts. If your irrigation is sometimes a good wasteful soak, it washes your soil clean of these soluble minerals. This happens naturally in traditional channel based flood irrigation systems like we have here.

But Ronaldo, sorry I don't have much useful to say about pioneer species and tactics for you. Only two very small responses to suggestions above.

I don't think willows (Salix) are nitrogen fixers. We've had poor luck with willows as pioneer species whereas Robinia pseudoacacia and Eleagnus angustifolia have done much better than willows on the same canals. I'm not sure if it's because the Robinia and Eleagnus are nitrogen fixers (which they are) and thus are better at colonising bare desert, or because they are more tolerant of the water shortages that we sometimes suffer from. However, our climate has a very cold winter so the same species may not work for you.

Alfalfa is an important fodder plant here and we had high hopes for it as a pioneer plant, with its deep root and nitrogen fixing. However, for the first ten years, we would buy expensive alfalfa seed every spring and plant it in lines along the canals, and the next day the local birds would dig it all up. I used to get irritated that the much less useful Melilotus was spreading much more. However, over the years, the alfalfa has gradually been setting down roots and establishing more and more plants along the canals, and since it is perennial, it is gradually crowding out the melilotus. Also, for the past ten years we have kept cows, and in winter feed them dried alfalfa hay that we buy from local farmers. So the cow manure has a lot of alfalfa seeds in it. I think gradually adding this manure near the canals and around the trees has done a better job of starting the alfalfa than in the early years when we tried planting clean alfalfa seeds in the bare desert soil along canals. Also, the local birds have more different things to eat around here now and don't pull up all the seeds so efficiently.
 
Tina Paxton
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Ronaldo Montoya wrote:hey, i just found this quote in the book edible forest gardens :
"Not resolving soil and weed problems before planting your forest garden can cause more work than site preparation would have required, it can also cause reduced garden productivity or even failure of the system or some of its components"


So whats the point of maintaining johnson grass at this moment? wouldnt it better if i get rid of johnson grass at the begining and replace with another herb that can perform similar functionality ( add nitrogen, avoid erosion ) ?


Certainly you want to replace the Johnson grass with a more preferred herb cover crop. My point was to not just irradicate the grass and have bare ground. The Johnson grass is serving purpose UNTIL you replace it with something better.
 
John Elliott
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Ronaldo Montoya wrote:There is no natural rain fall in this place!!!

Here it just rain a couple of times in the whole year, but there is permanently water from water channels comming from the river.


Maybe you need to look into trees with DEEP tap roots that can access that ground water. One that comes to mind right away is Chilean mesquite (Prosopis chilensis). Maybe those could serve as your windbreak, and since they are legumes, they will build nitrogen in the soil as well.

And if you keep the Johnson grass cut for the first one or two seasons, the trees should be able to compete against it once they are taller than it.
 
I agree. Here's the link: https://richsoil.com/wood-heat.jsp
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