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order of establishment for Mark Shepard style forest farm

 
Joseph Weidinger
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I am getting started with key line or slight off contour swales and planting canopy trees in the berms on a section of my farm. I will probably be growing much of the trees and shrubs that I plan on planting (chesnut, walnut, apple, hazel, grapes, elderberries, etc.) from seed and it might be a bit before I plant.

When Shepard does these mixtures, he does he approach planting scheduling? Does he plant multiple species all at once or wait a few years in between? Also, my main concern is... when I make a swale, and wait for roots to get established on the berm, what will stop a large rainfall event from washing out all my work?
 
R Scott
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He has said multiple times his biggest regret was staggering plantings. When you get to farmscale, it is a big job to do establishment work and a big job to to harvest work--it is nearly impossible to do BOTH in the same year.
 
Joseph Weidinger
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R Scott wrote:He has said multiple times his biggest regret was staggering plantings. When you get to farmscale, it is a big job to do establishment work and a big job to to harvest work--it is nearly impossible to do BOTH in the same year.


I understand that. So grow everything to seedlings (or buy them) and then plant them all at once? Won't the swales wash out with no root support?
 
R Scott
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If the swales wash out, you did something wrong. Or you got that 100+ year rain event you didn't plan for.

If you can't plant all at once, one plan is to plant support species from seed using some sort of mechanical planter--small corn planter or earthway or something. Then come back and plant the crop species from seedlings the next spring.

But ideal would be to get all the seedlings in the same size and format and then go to planting. Use a tree transplanter on a tractor if you can get one, or the bulb planter method for plugs or tubes, and do them all at once.







 
Joseph Weidinger
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Well, I don't have that sort of equipment. I have a tractor and a good walk-behind tiller. It sounds insane, but my plan was to map the keyline out, and just till the strip and manually push the dirt to form a berm then transplant tree seedling onto that berm. Maybe I'm way off. I have to work with what I got. The test area is 5 acres.
 
R Scott
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Joseph Weidinger wrote:Well, I don't have that sort of equipment. I have a tractor and a good walk-behind tiller. It sounds insane, but my plan was to map the keyline out, and just till the strip and manually push the dirt to form a berm then transplant tree seedling onto that berm. Maybe I'm way off. I have to work with what I got. The test area is 5 acres.


Not insane for 5 acres. The tractor transplanter would be insane for 5 acres, unless you found one for stupid cheap. Hard part is breaking the ground.

How big is the tractor? A subsoiler (or box blade with ripper shanks) or one-bottom plow may help move dirt faster for not a lot of money.

The bulb auger for seedlings works, although probably overkill for a fresh swale--you should be able to open it up with a trowel just as quick.
 
elle sagenev
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Location: Zone 5 Wyoming
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I'm not done with my 5 acre orchard but it's started. I planted all my trees at once. Well all the trees I purchased, 36 in all. I plan on purchasing more for spring planting as they were out of several species I want. I have a tractor with a front bucket. I made my swales with it. I never had to till anything. once the swales and berms were made putting the trees in took a matter of hours as the dirt was super loose. I've planted cover crops but they can't really be seen in the pics I'm attaching. This is mine so far. 2 more swales and probably 40 more trees to go! Maybe more!


Last pic is of our tractor. DH is using it to mow in that one.
tree.jpg
[Thumbnail for tree.jpg]
trees planted.jpg
[Thumbnail for trees planted.jpg]
mowing.jpg
[Thumbnail for mowing.jpg]
 
elle sagenev
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Location: Zone 5 Wyoming
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Oh I should add we've had some nice rains since I did my swales. Nothing massive but some fairly heavy ones. My soil is clay so that might have something to do with the fact that it is unchanged. My main concern is wind blowing so I'm hoping to have some cover on my berms before windy season.
 
Dan Grubbs
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Location: northwest Missouri, USA
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Joseph,

I cut my swales and didn't plant on them until the next year. I did, however, lay a modest layer of hay over them to keep the rains from pelting them too much. But, I have had no erosion problems. I also let the weeds grow up and chop and drop the tops and let them fall on the berms and in the swales to decompose where they fall. Here's a short video (poor quality, sorry) of one of my swales with about 25 trees on it. I haven't planted my comfrey or other companion plants yet, but will do that this fall and next spring. Also in the spring, I will triple the three plantings on these swales. I just wanted to get some things started. One way I'm thinking of these "strips" across the landscape of my farm is like mini riparian zones. I'm sort of a river rat and I'm familiar with riparian zones and that helps my thinking a bit. But, anyway, as R Scott said, you shouldn't have a issue with washing out if you created them properly. At least, that's my experience.

Once I set my contour line using a bunyip water level, I used an old Ford 8N tractor and a two-bottom plow to create my swale-berm combinations and only did a little hand shovel work to tidy them up. It was efficient, and didn't cost me anything but my time and fuel of the tractor (1/2 day for each swale). I could not have afforded to rent a back hoe/excavator to do this.

http://youtu.be/kQd9_H0XJZ8

 
Joseph Weidinger
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R Scott wrote:
Not insane for 5 acres. The tractor transplanter would be insane for 5 acres, unless you found one for stupid cheap. Hard part is breaking the ground.

How big is the tractor? A subsoiler (or box blade with ripper shanks) or one-bottom plow may help move dirt faster for not a lot of money.

The bulb auger for seedlings works, although probably overkill for a fresh swale--you should be able to open it up with a trowel just as quick.


Tractor is about this size: http://cfnewsads.thomasnet.com/images/large/015/15986.jpg

I would love to buy a subsoiler (if anything) to do some keyline subsoiling anyways so I consider this.

Sounds easy just to do it all in one blow, while the soil is broken.

Thought I had an amazing source for seedlings in MO: http://mdc.mo.gov/sites/default/files/resources/2010/04/2013-14seedlingorderform.pdf ($.16 - $.32 each seedling).
Unfrotuantely they don't have chinese chestnuts or hazels (they do have elderberries, mulberries, and others)... So I'm thinking about buying like 1200 chestnut seeds from Empire Chestnut for like $250 and growing them out, which may put this behind a few years. Suggestions welcome.

Danielle Venegas wrote:I'm not done with my 5 acre orchard but it's started. I planted all my trees at once. Well all the trees I purchased, 36 in all. I plan on purchasing more for spring planting as they were out of several species I want. I have a tractor with a front bucket. I made my swales with it. I never had to till anything. once the swales and berms were made putting the trees in took a matter of hours as the dirt was super loose. I've planted cover crops but they can't really be seen in the pics I'm attaching. This is mine so far. 2 more swales and probably 40 more trees to go! Maybe more!


Last pic is of our tractor. DH is using it to mow in that one.


Did you just use an angle blade to do that? We have one of those too. Tractor is pretty small though. Not sure if it is cut out for that.


Dan Grubbs wrote:Joseph,

I cut my swales and didn't plant on them until the next year. I did, however, lay a modest layer of hay over them to keep the rains from pelting them too much. But, I have had no erosion problems. I also let the weeds grow up and chop and drop the tops and let them fall on the berms and in the swales to decompose where they fall. Here's a short video (poor quality, sorry) of one of my swales with about 25 trees on it. I haven't planted my comfrey or other companion plants yet, but will do that this fall and next spring. Also in the spring, I will triple the three plantings on these swales. I just wanted to get some things started. One way I'm thinking of these "strips" across the landscape of my farm is like mini riparian zones. I'm sort of a river rat and I'm familiar with riparian zones and that helps my thinking a bit. But, anyway, as R Scott said, you shouldn't have a issue with washing out if you created them properly. At least, that's my experience.

Once I set my contour line using a bunyip water level, I used an old Ford 8N tractor and a two-bottom plow to create my swale-berm combinations and only did a little hand shovel work to tidy them up. It was efficient, and didn't cost me anything but my time and fuel of the tractor (1/2 day for each swale). I could not have afforded to rent a back hoe/excavator to do this.

http://youtu.be/kQd9_H0XJZ8



Cool work! Make do. Do without. Use it up. And wear it out.

My latest concerns are 1. finding a source of seedlings and 2. worrying about our hilly landscape. I mean, obviously keylining is made for hills but ours has a lot of inconsistency in a small space. The Yeomans way is to just contour the keyline out and go parallel up and down from it. Everyone goes parallel but I worry that after a swale or two up or down from the originally, the swales will not be level or 1% (or whatever I stipulate). Making the swales unparallel but perfectly level or 1% will make the distances between the swales vary, which might be annoying for paddock sizes and canopy distances.

It never all quite fits together perfectly...




 
Dan Grubbs
Posts: 500
Location: northwest Missouri, USA
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I realized after watching my vid that I failed to mention the species of trees I have planted so far ... knowing I'm far from finished on each swale. I have the trees grouped in fives of each kind and then repeated.

They are:
hazel nut
persimmon
pecan
elderberry
false indigo

I have much to plant yet on the swales systems, but this is my start. I am filling the swales with chop and drop and I put a bottom layer of hay to decompose and feed nutrients downhill.
 
R Scott
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Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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My tractor is about the same size. It is 4wd--but it also has turf tires so traction is about the same as a 2wd with lugged tires.

I did a test swale using just the subsoiler and front end loader (4 ft bucket with 500 lb capacity--tiny) and could probably do 40-50 feet of swale per hour.
 
Rob Kartholl
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A note about subsoiling -- I just completed a Restoration Ag course with Mark Shepard, and he made sure to emphasize this point -- subsoiling is as much for root pruning in an alley crop system as much as it is for soil development and water retention. You want to start subsoiling early, while the tree roots are still young, in order to contain those roots within your desired pattern. If you follow your swale and contour pattern with your subsoiler, and prune the roots regularly, the roots will naturally grow in accordance with your system. If you skip the subsoiling, and allow the roots to grow "out of bounds" it is going to be more work to sever those roots later, and the trees may suffer. In a water feeding contest between trees and anything, the trees are going to win. Keeping those roots out of your alleys allows you to plant other crops in the alleyways without competition from the heavy feeding tree roots.

Good luck out there. I look forward to seeing what you guys are up to.
 
elle sagenev
Posts: 1261
Location: Zone 5 Wyoming
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Our tractor has a bucket. I dug it up with the bucket and then went with the angle blade to smooth it. Our tractor isn't too terribly large and it did just fine.

Joseph Weidinger wrote:
R Scott wrote:


Danielle Venegas wrote:I'm not done with my 5 acre orchard but it's started. I planted all my trees at once. Well all the trees I purchased, 36 in all. I plan on purchasing more for spring planting as they were out of several species I want. I have a tractor with a front bucket. I made my swales with it. I never had to till anything. once the swales and berms were made putting the trees in took a matter of hours as the dirt was super loose. I've planted cover crops but they can't really be seen in the pics I'm attaching. This is mine so far. 2 more swales and probably 40 more trees to go! Maybe more!


Last pic is of our tractor. DH is using it to mow in that one.


Did you just use an angle blade to do that? We have one of those too. Tractor is pretty small though. Not sure if it is cut out for that.



 
Dan Grubbs
Posts: 500
Location: northwest Missouri, USA
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In swale making (not subsoiling), if my old 1948 Ford 8N, 2WD, 25 horse tractor can break previously un-plowed sod, I would think any real farm tractor can do it (maybe I'm just naive). I do have lug tires. And, I also didn't let the moldboard cut too deeply on the first few passes. I plowed down in increments, which didn't bog down the tractor at all.

Somewhat related: I just noticed that Google Earth has newer images of the central U.S. I was excited to see the images of my farm now with the swales I have so far. It helps me realize I ended my swales a bit short. Hmmm, now have another project to add to my list ... extend my existing swales to a spot that is better suited to serve the farm. The more I learn, the more I realize I'm just scratching the surface of what I need to learn. But, I believe an important permie principle is to DO rather than wait until you've amassed all the knowledge you think you need before taking action. So, I typically "get started" and learn along the way that enhances any preliminary learning I gained before starting. Maybe this is not a great approach, but it's the one I'm taking.
 
I agree. Here's the link: https://richsoil.com/wood-heat.jsp
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