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Thoughts on mulch in the semi-arid high desert

 
Posts: 108
Location: Taos, New Mexico
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Andrew Parker wrote:If a 1/4 acre of lawn can justify buying a riding mower (five in my neighborhood), 6 acres justifies at least a nice two-wheel tractor, a small 4 wheel tractor, or a four-wheeler rigged to pull farm implements (or even a truck, SUV or passenger car). You can make swales with a variety of plows and cultivators.



I was looking into the open source ecology movement as a way to get mechanized on the cheap. Alas, I lost a lot of wealth during the economic downturn in 2008 which never came back, and Im relying mostly on creativity now.

I'm not sure I would want to trade off the wet area for more even distribution, mostly because I don't have any specific plans to cultivate the areas that are contributing to the runoff just yet.

Even if the land in general became more fertile and retained more water in that area, I'd still only be looking at 14" in a very good year, and the trend for my area is dryer under most global warming models.
My impression is that 14" at the top end just wouldn't be good enough for healthy fruit trees and bushes. Yes, i could see 14" easily becoming 20+" with some collection and storage, but not 8", and I have little doubt I'm going to see years like that. The only time there is visible runoff is when we get rain well in excess of half an inch at once, and those events happen with relative infrequency.

The wet area is furthest from the house, so I am thinking it would be nice to let that get a bit wild and foresty, with some tweaks for productivity.

Not sure where Owen spends most of his time.
Whirlwind is all the way in the southwest corner of my state.

 
pollinator
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Location: Salt Lake Valley, Utah, hardiness zone 6b/7a
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The Nabateans in the Negev were working with 4 inches or less per year so it is definitely doable over the long term. If you divide your property into catchment area and arable area, you can figure out the ratio based on water you can reliably expect per year and the water demands of the trees, shrubs or plants you will be planting. If you can add the common driveway as catchment for your property, you can have more arable land. Once you have determined your catchment and arable areas, you need to minimize water retention (and plants) in the catchment areas and maximize it in the arable areas.

In Winter, you can experiment with ways of minimizing sublimation of the snow, such as compacting it or capping it with a layer of ice. I have wondered if it would be worthwhile to make large snowballs, like building a snowman, and roll them from catchment areas to arable areas.

Once the water is in the soil of your arable areas, protect it from evaporation with mulch and water retaining soil amendments.

It would be easier to use best-practice water conserving horticulture, if you could store water in a tank, but I am not sure what New Mexico's restrictions are concerning water storage (if you call it a swimming pool, is it treated differently by the law?). The simplest way of dealing with the West's water laws is to store it in the soil.

Acquire and learn to grow drought tolerant and dry farm varieties.
 
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Location: Central Wyoming -zone 4
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interesting input on 4" farming
i would suggest collecting stones and making stoen stacks as well - even if that means pulling to the side of the road on the way home a lot
but another thing, make use of buffalo gourds, theyre pretty native to the area (all over ribera area a little ways away so id assume theyre around you as well) the seeds can be baked like pumpkins and the roots used to make soap, but have you seen those roots on those things?
theyre perennial and the roots can get REDICULOUS, if cut down throughout the year, you'd likely kill it and that huge root would provide a huge plug of organic matter in the soil, with the hairy plant parts making a good, sun resistant, water shedding and protecting mulch to help it rot
if you make use of catus's you can also get some more layers growing in arid lands, all cacti are edible in some shape or form from my understanding, albiet tough to work with, they at least add some tough greenery, i once saw a buffalo gourd growing up the limbs of a cholla cactus, my aunt, who lives in the area, says the gourds were the most intact gourds she had seen in the whole area since moving down there
all that being said, depriving one area of water in order to concentrate it elsewhere may just be a good option for you in some places

btw have you been to bobcat burger outside of santa fe? i went there while visiting and it was delicious, the bar has a view through this large window of this little environment they set up in the shade of the building for birds, and you get lots of view of local birdlife while munching down on some good food, i'd recommend it if you havent been yet
 
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hi, i have been reading about this Vetiver grass it is good for erosion, good for swales and water collection and water purification,the roots has the tensile strength of steel, roots 4 meter deep grows 2-4 meters high with in 4-6 weeks cut like grass re grows, so grow in the heat, cut and use as a mulch, then second cut cover grass for the winter with itself, because cannot freeze this is the only thing that kills it. sound to me like the perfect plant for ponds slopes and terrises and for green manure. as I have no land and live in a flat, does not mean that one day, i will have the place I dream of, so I am learning all i can, so when i get my place, i will know what to do. i hope this may of been some use, if you try some let me know how it went. http://www.vetiver.org
 
Paul Gutches
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Andrew Parker wrote:The Nabateans in the Negev were working with 4 inches or less per year so it is definitely doable over the long term. If you divide your property into catchment area and arable area, you can figure out the ratio based on water you can reliably expect per year and the water demands of the trees, shrubs or plants you will be planting. If you can add the common driveway as catchment for your property, you can have more arable land. Once you have determined your catchment and arable areas, you need to minimize water retention (and plants) in the catchment areas and maximize it in the arable areas.



You mean this?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tjBugtV8GHc

If I had THAT kind of runoff I could supply the entire Taos Plateau with water

The Negev has very steep slopes with almost zero absorption, so very high runoff.

I've got barely discernible slopes with rather good absorption. Runoff is not as common.
I get runoff 2 or three times a year when we are hit with 1"+ at once. That can net me several thousand gallons in the low spot

That said, your point is well taken and I do share your optimism for the possibilities.

What I want to do, described somewhere earlier in this thread, is create a few hard runoff areas that slope gently away from my house and away from the wind direction, and collect and store the water in hugelbeds / hugelswales which will serve to facilitate infiltration as well as concentrate the water storage in intensive growing areas.

I've done some calculations and with current average precipitation here, all I would need to grow fruit trees with zero additional water is to devote a band of hard runoff area 10 feet wide to the upslope side of each hugelbed, and that will permit me to keep the beds closer to home in zone 2. A dry 8" precip year will net me the equlvalent of 24+ " of water. A heavy year is no problem, since the trees will be on the leeward side and reach into the beds to take what they need at their own discretion.

This also takes care of winter sublimation, because snow that falls on the beds will be warmed and melt quickly (I plan to add stones to the hugels) and snow that falls on the hard runoff areas will also melt quickly since
they will be dense, covered in stones and sport some larger stones sticking up here and there as well.

The excavated hugel cavity itself will be designed to allow fast infiltration of snowmelt by being edged with stones on a step ledge that peak up slightly above grade to meet the incoming water. Water will slip in around the stones and enter the cavity at ground level where all that absorbent wood and air space is waiting. Any excess will slowly infiltrate into the soil and be leached upward naturally and by deep rooted plants.

Then the hugel becomes the ultimate mulch too. Over 4 feet thick and dense with soil and life.

I came to this idea after deciding that I could do much better than building a separate storage tank, from which I'd need to pump water from anyway...
Just as you say, the most efficient way to store water is right in the soil where it's needed. It is elegant and hyper efficient, and means I won't have to buy or build a separate tank, and wont have to transport water
from the tank to the growing areas.

I've got lots of natives and drought tolerant species going, with many more to come. Some main staples include Pea Shrub and buffalo berry and autumn olive. Very tough plants. Elsewhere I've got pinon pine to temper the wind.





 
Paul Gutches
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Devon Olsen wrote:i would suggest collecting stones and making stoen stacks as well - even if that means pulling to the side of the road on the way home a lot



Are you kidding? It's become one of my favorite things to do!

I've got just about every source of stone in the area mapped out in my head.

Very versatile and beautiful. I like the process of marrying form and function.

Thanks for mentioning the gourds. I'll check it out. Outlandish biomass would be a welcome thing.
Even considering letting some Kudzu have at a few trial spots (surrounded by high dry areas of course).

Nope, never been to it. If you're in Taos for a burger make sure to hit Five-Star. They are quite popular here.
 
Paul Gutches
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yvonne worgan wrote:hi, i have been reading about this Vetiver grass



Hi Yvonne

Interesting. Of all plants, I know the least about grasses.

Will have a look. Leave no stone, or blade unturned! Plants and materials are the medium of this art form.
The more you know, the more you can combine and create.

If anyone here has had success growing Indian Rice Grass I'm all ears. Really beautiful, and seeds are damn tasty!

Dumped a pound if it around here and got a whole lot of nothing
 
Paul Gutches
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yvonne worgan wrote:hi, i have been reading about this Vetiver grass



Alas... a quick look reveals it is an annual that is not hardy in my climate.

looks interesting though!
 
pollinator
Posts: 2389
Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even Soil:SandyLoam pH6 Flat
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It might be alot of work.
But the fact that it dies every year means that it will not become invasive and that you have more control.
But if you were to keep a same 10ftx10ft area unter greenhouse and then divide it and plant it.
It would be a great way to build biomass in the soil 12ft down, while also clearing up that hardpan.
If you plant them 10ft apart and they grow 6ft in one season then your soil would be perfect in two season.
I wonder how much you see yourself planting (how many holes you want to digg)
And how big the greenhouse would have to be.
I suppose you could also transplant in the growing season but by the it might be too dry.

I think that you should give it a chance.

You could also do it ever other year, to give the soil sometime to recharge just incase it mines more water than it infiltrates into the soil.
Yess this plant give you more control and so is better to improve your soil in the being stage and then you can let nature take over after a few years.
 
Paul Gutches
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S Bengi wrote:I think that you should give it a chance.



I was thinking of addressing the hardpan issue with Daikon, Mustard, Alfalfa, and vetch including Fava. The first two should reseed fairly readily.

But, since I'm planning to put together a varied native flower and grass mix, I could easily add some of the Vetiver and see how it does.

Certainly couldn't hurt, and the biomass would certainly be welcome if it can get established in one season.

Hmm... here Wikipedia says it is a perennial:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chrysopogon_zizanioides





 
S Bengi
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One of the wild cultivar might make it to that zone 7 but the one that is allowed in usa is zone 9.
http://www.vetiver.org/USA-USDA-NRCS_Sunshine.pdf
 
Devon Olsen
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Location: Central Wyoming -zone 4
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i was wondering if indian ricegrass was any good, couldnt find nothing on the web, apparently its native to wyoming someplace so i may just give that a try up here as well im gonna have to give you another thumbs up... though every time i do it takes me all the way back to page one... pain in the butt, but forums all have their technical issues from time to time and ill get over it eventually
do you have the scientific name for that, i forgot what it was and dont want to go through the time to dig it up or mistake it with something else as google's so good at
also the kusa seed society (or something like that) has old landrace varieties of grain and such and i plan to purchase some wheat this year that grows up to 8 ft tall, not quite vetiver but i think it might act the same way if planted on contour, also edible of course and 8ft of straw is quite useful for a number of things
i would certainly consider kudzu in an environment such as yours, any thing to add biomass and shade the soil
and also, picking up rocks is almost one of my favorite activities too lol, i was tilling and clearing rocks for a lawn in one of those white picket neighborhoods this summer and when i started collecting all the stones larger than my fist and taking them home the guy i worked for just had to ask :rolleyes:lol
btw, strawberries growing between stones are apparantly better than strawberries growing without stones... condensate watering daily? minerals leaching off in miniscule amounts? i dont know but if someone on permies says it and i hear it in pauls podcasts, ill take their word up until my strawberries finally give me something to eat!

and i'll have to give that five-star place a try if im ever down there this summer during my travels

best of luck though, i believe there is hope, where i am, under constant protection from the windbreak, the soil between the trees and the bushes is moist enough that i have found moss growing there before, i wonder if a stream will result after the pond is put in place?
may be a great thing to have a stream but may also be a huge liability lol

i have this idea to take a tomato cage, some chicken wire and a bunch of gravel... stick the tom cage in the ground, warp the chiken wire around the interior and fill with gravel to achieve a sort of pillar, it would be tall and thick making for a lot of surface area thats permanantly cooler being exposed to the warmer, dry winds, also making vertical trellising space, which would eventually improve condensation ability as the plants covered even the outer rocks a majority of the time, it would also make for a larger heat store than a stack of stones thats only 3ft high at most
im thinking about a 5-7ft pillar of stones and though i cant guarantee anything, i would love to see so much condensation that water collects at the base some of the time... particularly days that snow melts so fast you see snow... and then steam, which i understand as an indication that the snow is not getting the time to seep into the soil and is instead moving straight from frozen state to vapor state
 
yvonne worgan
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, sorry i did not understand the climate. because i am looking at land in the mountains of Spain, just 23mm of rain. so trying to work out the best things to do, to bring water back to the land. before i get it. , how do you know how to work out how much water you need? is there a book on this? thanks.
 
Andrew Parker
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Yvonne,

Is 23 mm normal or are you in a drought? Do you get your water only as rain or do you also get snow? There are often things that you can do to "bring water back to the the land", but sometimes you get what you get and you have to work with it the best you can.

What are, or would be, your sources of water? Stream? Irrigation canal? Well? Tanker truck? If you are using seasonal/intermittent runoff, are you limited to the land you own or do you have access to the catchment basins around you? Are you allowed to store runoff water?

You can get some ideas about how much water you need by reading up on dry farming, runoff agriculture, container gardening, drip irrigation and hydroponics.

When trying to make a go of it in arid climates and you are limited to runoff, you need "land, lots of land and the starry skies above." There was a man in the western desert of Utah that held on stubbornly for 45 years to a small ranch, using only intermittent runoff. With access to a catchment basin of thousands of acres, he was able to store enough water, in normal years, to provide for himself, a small herd and a small garden, and sell any surplus to passing sheep herders (search for "Jack Watson" and "Ibex, Utah"). It was a hardscrabble existence at best, but he was stubborn and determined.
 
S Bengi
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yvonne worgan wrote:, sorry i did not understand the climate. because i am looking at land in the mountains of Spain, just 23mm of rain. so trying to work out the best things to do, to bring water back to the land. before i get it. , how do you know how to work out how much water you need? is there a book on this? thanks.



You need at least 600mm of rain to support much of anything so with just 23mm you are going to have to dive your land by 26 (600/23) to find your workable land, asumming no water lost so it is more like 50 vs 26. So need a catchment area of at least 50 to grow 1area of crop.

The best place to find these workable land is the creek/stream/arroyo/river bed. You can dam them up and plant in these area.
Otherwise with just 1inch (23mm) of rain you cant grow anything with just rainfall.

If you have well water. I would build a green house/aquaponics system and grow fish/chicken/vegetables/fruits and dehydrate the harvest with a solar dehydrater for the winter.

How many people are you planing to feed and how much land do you have.
If you dont normally get 600mm of rain and or "live" in a stream/riverbed then get somewhere else.

Overall the best place to store water is in the ground. And in dry/desert areas that will have to be by riverbed/oasis areas which have a relative high surficail watertable
 
Andrew Parker
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Paul,

Nice video. I am having trouble connecting to the link to Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. I would like to see how far things have advanced since the text I read 33 years ago.

It is better to intercept the water before the volume becomes uncontrollable (Utah has many ghost towns next to desert rivers. It was usually not a lack of water that ran the settlers off. It was more often the flash floods.). Dikes or dams across wadis/arroyos are eventually washed away by a flood they were not engineered for. I noticed they are not damming the entire wadi, but are creating small impoundment areas. I suppose that should reduce the likelihood of structural failure. Subsurface dams are an interesting option but the geology does not always allow for them. You do not need a lot of slope to practice runoff agriculture, just enough slope to move water from point A to point B.

I think you have a good plan.

Have you considered Yucca baccata (banana yucca)? I saw it growing all over Mesa Verde when I was there a couple of years ago. It looked like it produced a lot of fruit in a relatively small area. I would like to taste the fruit and seeds sometime.

If you want quick shade, plant your trees and shrubs on high berms.
 
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Hey Paul,

Yeah, the temperatures here are straight from a horror movie. Thursday has a maximum of 39 Celsius (102.2 Fahrenheit). Yeah, it's a bit of a drama.

You can have a look at the mulching I do here in a recent post on the Permaculture Research Institute of Australia website:

http://permaculturenews.org/2013/01/14/food-forests-part-7-watering-and-soil-food/

The video was in early summer so doesn't quite show the place as it is, right now. The mulching has gotten much bigger since that video because of the heat and drought Down Under.

You know those rocks make awesome raised garden beds. In your climate it may keep the plants warmer so they start earlier and end later in the growing season. Dunno, may be worth a try? I use them here for herbs and long lived berries, although it's also getting closer here to "Peak Rocks" as I've run out of all the easy to get rocks! hehe! javascript:emoticon('');

I'd also try using the rocks somehow to slow the water movement across the landscape in conjunction with your hugelkultur beds. Dunno, but they should improve snow melt too (although I don't have experience with this).

Given you only get 14" of rain a year, I'd plant any fruit trees in the ground near the hugelkultur beds (on the high side of it) rather than into the hugelkultur beds themselves. They should be able to run their root systems under and into this hugelkultur bed. You may find that it is too dry for the hugelkultur beds because as they are raised above ground, they are exposed to the drying effects of the sun and the wind. I found the ones here are too small and should have contained 10x the plant material that they actually do. The blackberries and raspberries have now died, but there's always next season.

Chris
 
yvonne worgan
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thank you, may be This land is not right for me, for my first project, maybe after more experience i will tackle something like that. all the best, thank you for your help
 
Paul Gutches
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Devon Olsen wrote:i was wondering if indian ricegrass was any good, couldnt find nothing on the web, apparently its native to wyoming someplace so i may just give that a try up here as well



Indian Rice Grass is a wonderful plant that is native in many areas of the west. I bought some untreated seed last year at plantsofthesouthwest.com, and they are really quite tasty I must say... but have had zero luck getting them to germinate here so far. It prefers sandy soil, and mine is clay loam. Don't know if that's what its complaining about.

Would make a wonderful chicken forage I think, as well as for human consumption.

Here's a Permies thread on a custom seed mix someone is selling up in Montana and I am going to try, which includes Indian Rice Grass.

http://www.permies.com/t/13605/resources-seeds-plants-honey-consulting/Holzer-style-Perennial-Pasture-Seed
 
Paul Gutches
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Devon Olsen wrote:do you have the scientific name for that, i forgot what it was and dont want to go through the time to dig it up or mistake it with something else as google's so good at
also the kusa seed society (or something like that) has old landrace varieties of grain and such and i plan to purchase some wheat this year that grows up to 8 ft tall, not quite vetiver but i think it might act the same way if planted on contour, also edible of course and 8ft of straw is quite useful for a number of things
i would certainly consider kudzu in an environment such as yours, any thing to add biomass and shade the soil
and also, picking up rocks is almost one of my favorite activities too lol, i was tilling and clearing rocks for a lawn in one of those white picket neighborhoods this summer and when i started collecting all the stones larger than my fist and taking them home the guy i worked for just had to ask :rolleyes:lol
btw, strawberries growing between stones are apparantly better than strawberries growing without stones... condensate watering daily? minerals leaching off in miniscule amounts? i dont know but if someone on permies says it and i hear it in pauls podcasts, ill take their word up until my strawberries finally give me something to eat!



The vetiver grass is apparently Chrysopogon zizanioides ( formerly Vetiveria zizanioides ). From their site

Here is a list of global suppliers of the plant
http://www.vetiver.org/g/plant_suppliers.htm

I've long gotten used to the odd looks as I gather up rotten wood, stones, and even rake up large piles of honey locust leaves in a parking lot.
It's a strange obsession I grant, for those not in the know.

Strawberries and stones? Hmmm. So far I haven't met a plant that doesn't like having stones around. Could be that extra moisture, especially near the surface. Strawberries have shallow roots. But they also like phosphorous, so, who knows... mineral leaching is possible. Also... it inhibits rabbits and other animals from digging around them.

I have my strawberries under a 50% shade cloth.

They had a decent year last year, but have been slow to cough them up.

This spring I'm going to interplant some lettuce, fava, spinach, daikon, white clover, and borage to see if it can juice up production.
Also going to move some out under the pine trees.
 
Paul Gutches
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Devon Olsen wrote:best of luck though, i believe there is hope, where i am, under constant protection from the windbreak, the soil between the trees and the bushes is moist enough that i have found moss growing there before, i wonder if a stream will result after the pond is put in place?
may be a great thing to have a stream but may also be a huge liability lol

i have this idea to take a tomato cage, some chicken wire and a bunch of gravel... stick the tom cage in the ground, warp the chiken wire around the interior and fill with gravel to achieve a sort of pillar, it would be tall and thick making for a lot of surface area thats permanantly cooler being exposed to the warmer, dry winds, also making vertical trellising space, which would eventually improve condensation ability as the plants covered even the outer rocks a majority of the time, it would also make for a larger heat store than a stack of stones thats only 3ft high at most
im thinking about a 5-7ft pillar of stones and though i cant guarantee anything, i would love to see so much condensation that water collects at the base some of the time... particularly days that snow melts so fast you see snow... and then steam, which i understand as an indication that the snow is not getting the time to seep into the soil and is instead moving straight from frozen state to vapor state



Not sure if I'm quite following.

What exactly is cooler and being exposed to the dry winds?

tomatoes should love the rocks, and the foliage + rocks would make a nice microclimate on the shady side for bush or climber beans.

What you describe is similar to an air well. I've often thought of how to maximize that effect here... since we get huge swings in temperature. It's an energy flow that is not being fully taken advantage of.

I thought... a nice size funnel dug into the ground near a new fruit tree planting. in the center bottom, drill down a hole as deep as you can and ram a tree limb down until it is flush with the bottom of the funnel. That will serve as a water wick. Then line the funnel with plastic and fill it with small to medium size rounded stones until level with grade, and then begin selectively stacking them into a positive cone shape pointing up (may need flatter stones to make this work, or a tiny bit of cement to keep them stable). So you end up with a kind of vertical football shape of stones. Stones above ground would be dark. I would hope that would condense dew very well. But it also will allow rainwater to get down to the wick easily, and stones will rise above snow line and melt it down to the wick as well. I'll bet that water wick would stay constantly moist. Perfect for new trees. And you end up with a kind of garden sculpture too, which doubles for critter habitat.
 
Paul Gutches
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yvonne worgan wrote:, sorry i did not understand the climate. because i am looking at land in the mountains of Spain, just 23mm of rain. so trying to work out the best things to do, to bring water back to the land. before i get it. , how do you know how to work out how much water you need? is there a book on this? thanks.



How much land are you looking at?
How far up the mountain?
What is the grade like?
What is the terrain like?
What grows there now?
Got any photos? (pictures say a thousand words)

If you are lucky, you might find a property that is down grade of a good deal of runoff to store it as many here have suggested.

Like in that video of the Negev... they only get 4" a year, but the amount that flows through from runoff could be well more than enough to support a very healthy growing area.

I'd want to know what property is above me, and how dependable the water will be coming from higher elevations.

If you personally own land over a sizable gradient, you can then guarantee a certain amount of water collection.



 
Paul Gutches
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Andrew Parker wrote:Paul,

Nice video. I am having trouble connecting to the link to Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. I would like to see how far things have advanced since the text I read 33 years ago.

It is better to intercept the water before the volume becomes uncontrollable (Utah has many ghost towns next to desert rivers. It was usually not a lack of water that ran the settlers off. It was more often the flash floods.). Dikes or dams across wadis/arroyos are eventually washed away by a flood they were not engineered for. I noticed they are not damming the entire wadi, but are creating small impoundment areas. I suppose that should reduce the likelihood of structural failure. Subsurface dams are an interesting option but the geology does not always allow for them. You do not need a lot of slope to practice runoff agriculture, just enough slope to move water from point A to point B.

I think you have a good plan.

Have you considered Yucca baccata (banana yucca)? I saw it growing all over Mesa Verde when I was there a couple of years ago. It looked like it produced a lot of fruit in a relatively small area. I would like to taste the fruit and seeds sometime.

If you want quick shade, plant your trees and shrubs on high berms.



Interesting. They definitely had the right idea, selecting a more manageable section to deal with. Actually looks like an exciting process, to be ready to catch that deluge.
I know I'd be pretty excited to know that the resource was there so long as I could figure out how to subdue it.

We have some wild banana yucca here and there and it is present in some stone gardens in a few parking lot medians. We also have some red yucca. Ironically, the plant is not supposed to be hardy in our climate, but it certainly grows here.

My nephew and I collected a number of the fruits from some good size plants. We cut them up and nibbled a bit. Slightly sweet. Not unpleasant. But also somewhat seedy relative to the amount of flesh.
The fruits seem to be a favorite with insects and animals because they were quite marred up, at least by the time we got to them.

I might find a place for them a bit further away, in an unirrigated area. Probably a zone 3 or 4 rock / cactus area. They are definitely interesting plants.





 
Andrew Parker
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I was surprised to see yucca at Mesa Verde but if it thrives there it ought to do alright where you are. You just need to find the right variety. Here are instructions on how to prepare and eat banana yucca fruit: http://books.google.com/books?id=0tDiMBUJdboC&pg=PA32&lpg=PA32&dq=preparing+banana+yucca+fruit&source=bl&ots=zBPqKX9lMj&sig=9ogpaE14au-MOy9Y4UjHb_6BGJY&hl=en&sa=X&ei=-kH2UOaAD6O8igLw_IGwCg&ved=0CDAQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=preparing%20banana%20yucca%20fruit&f=false
 
Paul Gutches
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Chris McLeod wrote:Hey Paul,

You can have a look at the mulching I do here in a recent post on the Permaculture Research Institute of Australia website:

http://permaculturenews.org/2013/01/14/food-forests-part-7-watering-and-soil-food/

The video was in early summer so doesn't quite show the place as it is, right now. The mulching has gotten much bigger since that video because of the heat and drought Down Under.

You know those rocks make awesome raised garden beds. In your climate it may keep the plants warmer so they start earlier and end later in the growing season. Dunno, may be worth a try? I use them here for herbs and long lived berries, although it's also getting closer here to "Peak Rocks" as I've run out of all the easy to get rocks! hehe! javascript:emoticon('');

I'd also try using the rocks somehow to slow the water movement across the landscape in conjunction with your hugelkultur beds. Dunno, but they should improve snow melt too (although I don't have experience with this).

Given you only get 14" of rain a year, I'd plant any fruit trees in the ground near the hugelkultur beds (on the high side of it) rather than into the hugelkultur beds themselves. They should be able to run their root systems under and into this hugelkultur bed. You may find that it is too dry for the hugelkultur beds because as they are raised above ground, they are exposed to the drying effects of the sun and the wind. I found the ones here are too small and should have contained 10x the plant material that they actually do. The blackberries and raspberries have now died, but there's always next season.

Chris



Nice place you got there! (video) I have some serious tree envy at the moment.

What is the high nitrogen mulch you're using?
When I can I use honey locust pods and leaves, as they seem to break down much faster, owing to the favorable built-in C:N ratio.

Can you remind me of your annual precipitation there?

I imagine it's not too bad given all those tall trees around you. Having them around is great for slowing wind and keeping in air borne moisture.

I'm intrigued by the dark rock waste you had around one tree. What is that exactly? What mineral ?
I think my trees would love that.

For the fruit trees, I was thinking of putting them at the base of the low side of the hugels
But, you may have been thinking it was a more common south facing slope? Which would really be in agreement with this anyway...

1. the tree trunks would be more exposed to direct winter sun on the high side here
2. The hugelswale could become a frost pocket on the high side
3. strong spring wind exposure on the southwest side (high side)
4. We are very prone to late frosts, and I hope having them on the north side will delay blooming and fruiting.
(that, and there is a dearth of pollinators here in early spring at the moment)

Incidentally, the beds also get some stones In fact, I use them to form short terraced steps up the bed. Warms it up quicker, keeps moisture in, and helps prevent erosion.
Plus it just looks plain awesome
I did this in my first test bed and had PingTung long eggplants and Stupice tomatoes and basil growing into late Sept, early Oct.
And that was a pretty shallow hugel.

Rocks aren't so much needed here to slow water except for the low wet area I have. On a big rain, it does run too quickly east in that spot, carrying and depositing sediment. That's where I will use stones to slow the water.
Periodic dams across the path of the flow, possibly coupled with some trenches to help widen the irrigated area as it infiltrates.

You definitely have the heat for blackberries.
Was it just too dry for them that one summer?

My plan for blackberries is along a steep manufactured southwest grade that slopes down into a trough (a by product of a fence berm), filled with a bunch of organic materials, then piled over with dark lava stones with a runoff in front, also covered in stones, delivering precip to the trough. With the fence behind it, stones in it and in front, I suspect it will become a nice moist hot microclimate (after spring winds let up). But it would also be low enough to help it deal with those winds.

Regards

Paul

 
Paul Gutches
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Andrew Parker wrote:I was surprised to see yucca at Mesa Verde but if it thrives there it ought to do alright where you are. You just need to find the right variety. Here are instructions on how to prepare and eat banana yucca fruit: http://books.google.com/books?id=0tDiMBUJdboC&pg=PA32&lpg=PA32&dq=preparing+banana+yucca+fruit&source=bl&ots=zBPqKX9lMj&sig=9ogpaE14au-MOy9Y4UjHb_6BGJY&hl=en&sa=X&ei=-kH2UOaAD6O8igLw_IGwCg&ved=0CDAQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=preparing%20banana%20yucca%20fruit&f=false



What mesa verde has going for it is a good deal of rock face and outcroppings. That's precisely the environments it grows in here, but here they are harder to find. I see banana yucca down in the Rio Grande gorge canyon on rocky soils where it is a pretty serious heat trap. I've also seen them in some sheltered rock gardens.

I threw some seeds and fruit in an area on the south side of my adobe house where it gets hot. If it grows it should do ok there.

oh, and thanks for the link!
 
Chris McLeod
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Paul Gutches wrote:I have some serious tree envy at the moment.



Yeah, I get that looking at other peoples place too! It would be nice if you could hit a fast forward button to accelerate their growth. The oldest trees here are about 7 years old and these are the ones that produce fruit, all the rest of them tend to be passengers!

Paul Gutches wrote:What is the high nitrogen mulch you're using?



It is composted green waste from the nearest big city. They add either grass clippings or manure to the woody mulch and it is OK for fruit trees. I've read good reports about honey locust. As the years go on here, things break down faster as the soil biodiversity improves too.

Paul Gutches wrote:Can you remind me of your annual precipitation there?



It can be between 400mm (15 inches) and 1,400mm (55 inches) per annum. You never quite know what you're going to get here as the climate is weird.

Paul Gutches wrote:I imagine it's not too bad given all those tall trees around you.



Yeah, they're both good and bad. They release moisture at night so it is usually cool here at night, but they are a massive fire hazard too, so I have to manage the forest and hope for the best.

Paul Gutches wrote:I'm intrigued by the dark rock waste you had around one tree. What is that exactly? What mineral ?



It is granite and they call it blue metal here because it has a dark blue hue. The SE corner of Australia has the third largest volcanic plains on the planet. There are literally a lot of extinct (the most recent went off about 8,000 years ago) volcanoes about the landscape sticking up out of plains. The rock dust comes from quarries and is a waste product, it is chock full of minerals and gets absorbed down into the top soil. The trees tend to grow faster with just a little bit of this stuff.

This is a good example of a local volcano: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Elephant

Paul Gutches wrote:For the fruit trees, I was thinking of putting them at the base of the low side of the hugels



You're ideas about the trees sound like they're on the money. Frost is a killer for flowers and fruit set on fruit trees. The earliest blossoms here are the Apricots and every now and then a late frost knock them all of and you end up with a tree and no fruit. The trees get hardier the longer they live though.

Paul Gutches wrote:Incidentally, the beds also get some stones



Really good idea and they would look great. Can you post a photo?

Paul Gutches wrote:You definitely have the heat for blackberries. Was it just too dry for them that one summer?



No, I stuffed up by transplanting them too late into Spring, so it was purely my fault. The idea of the fence is good as they seem to love a structure to climb on and getting the micro-climate setup sounds quite valuable. Blackberries also seem to build up soil under them after a few years in one spot too.

I just got another article up with an update which shows things as they are a couple of days ago:
http://permaculturenews.org/2013/01/15/fernglade-farm-mid-summer-january-2013-update/

Chris
 
Devon Olsen
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on clarifaication of my rock pillar idea

this is the best photo i could find online though i wasnt thinking to plant things in it (not a terrible idea though) and i personally think these rocks would be too big as they wouldnt provide enough interior rocks (which would never be exposed to the sun and warmed as a result of the outer rocks surrounding them) to cause much condensation
i also saw some that were similar here in town yesterday, if i run into them again (damn rock pillar's move around too much... either that or i forgot where i saw them) ill take a pic but i feel those rocks were a little large as well
the idea is to go large enough that air can get to the center and so condensation can move down to the bottom, but not so large that 1) there isnt many interior rocks, such as the above phot, or 2) large enough for air to flow through quick enough so as not to condense
though i suppose different sizes of rock would work better in certain areas and such

also thanks for the suggestion on air wells, never heard of them(least i dont think so), ill have to look into to that a little bit


ill have to be on the look out for that ricegrass around here and if i cant find any ill be looking to buying some, thanks for the link

all for the bananna yucca, sounds pretty tasty, we have yucca here but its definately not bananna yucca, normally quite small, still great fiber material though, though i have yet to try eating the fruits...
 
Paul Gutches
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Chris McLeod wrote:
It can be between 400mm (15 inches) and 1,400mm (55 inches) per annum. You never quite know what you're going to get here as the climate is weird.


Nice. Your low range is my high range!

Chris McLeod wrote:

Paul Gutches wrote:I imagine it's not too bad given all those tall trees around you.


Yeah, they're both good and bad. They release moisture at night so it is usually cool here at night, but they are a massive fire hazard too, so I have to manage the forest and hope for the best.


Ah yes. Fire. You are in a kind of bowl there. Are there any fire retardant species you can plant along the perimeters and into the forest edge?
Maybe not, as the trees seem rather tall. Would have no effect on crowning if it ever got that bad. How are you going about minimizing the risk?

Chris McLeod wrote:
It is granite and they call it blue metal here because it has a dark blue hue. The SE corner of Australia has the third largest volcanic plains on the planet. There are literally a lot of extinct (the most recent went off about 8,000 years ago) volcanoes about the landscape sticking up out of plains. The rock dust comes from quarries and is a waste product, it is chock full of minerals and gets absorbed down into the top soil. The trees tend to grow faster with just a little bit of this stuff.


Would I be asking for crushed granite? I have a quarry near me.


Chris McLeod wrote:
This is a good example of a local volcano: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Elephant


Now that's something familiar to me

The entire Taos mesa is really the result of a giant ancient lava flow. Los Alamos which is southwest of us is one of the largest calderas in the world.
Takes up a big chunk of the state in Google maps.

This is Tres Orejas, which is just to my west:


Chris McLeod wrote:
Really good idea and they would look great. Can you post a photo?


Don't have one handy.
Will need to drum that up some time.

Chris McLeod wrote:

Paul Gutches wrote:You definitely have the heat for blackberries. Was it just too dry for them that one summer?


No, I stuffed up by transplanting them too late into Spring, so it was purely my fault. The idea of the fence is good as they seem to love a structure to climb on and getting the micro-climate setup sounds quite valuable. Blackberries also seem to build up soil under them after a few years in one spot too.


I've heard that they may benefit from being cut back after planting so they concentrate on their root systems.
I did not do this with my raspberries last spring, so it remains to be seen if they will come back strong.

Chris McLeod wrote:
I just got another article up with an update which shows things as they are a couple of days ago:
http://permaculturenews.org/2013/01/15/fernglade-farm-mid-summer-january-2013-update/
Chris



You've got a nice slope there to work with.
Love that water tank. Is the top reservoir an overflow or just separate top catchment?
That is, do the birds end up nitrifying your water supply?

Paul

 
Paul Gutches
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Devon Olsen wrote:on clarifaication of my rock pillar idea
this is the best photo i could find online though i wasnt thinking to plant things in it (not a terrible idea though) and i personally think these rocks would be too big as they wouldnt provide enough interior rocks (which would never be exposed to the sun and warmed as a result of the outer rocks surrounding them) to cause much condensation



Yeah, would be good to get smaller rocks in there. They would stay cooler then the big ones would heat up and condensation would occur between the big and small rocks.

Maybe you could add some soil to the north side of it and leave more air spaces to the south?

Looks like a lot of work! But I do like sculptural elements like that.
 
Paul Gutches
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Devon Olsen wrote:all for the bananna yucca, sounds pretty tasty, we have yucca here but its definately not bananna yucca, normally quite small, still great fiber material though, though i have yet to try eating the fruits...



They aren't bad, but a far cry from real banana!

Do post a photo of your stone pillars when you get those going!
 
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We live in northeastern Arizona at about 6500 ft elevation.....currently renting but learning for the future.....just wanted to say thank you to all those participating in this discussion. It has been very interesting and I have learned a lot.
 
Devon Olsen
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i found another stack of stone that i liked, may be a little tightly stacked for the intended purpose of my idea but very beautiful

http://www.flickr.com/photos/clintriter/3353733864/
 
gardener
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Thanks for sharing your observations Paul.

I am not yet setup to experience what the snow will do in Albuquerque (5000 ft elevation), but I remember from my childhood seeing giant amounts of sublimation occurring after a good snow storm followed by the intensely sunny days in New Mexico.

In the book Gaia's Garden, Sheet Mulching chapter, Toby recommends pulling aside the sheet mulch/wood chips in the spring too allow the ground to thaw faster. The wood chips would act as an insulation barrier to the sun's rays preventing the soil from thawing. This would probably only be feasible in a Zone 1 situation. Your work with the rocks is probably better for anything more than Zone 1. I'll have to try your idea on my parent's yards. They are not able to do the Zone 1 effort, so I am planning setup their yard more Zone 2+.

I just read some articles about the physics of snow. The incident solar radiation plays a part in sublimation of snow. Other important factors are the amount of wind and the % humidity. Looking at my hygrometer it is reading < 10% and is resting on the lower limit peg for the needle. I think it will be very important to create a microclimate for blocking wind and retaining humidity.

Keep us updated on the progress.
 
Devon Olsen
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i a saw a few stone pillars around town today, these ones use about the right size rocks (in my opinion based on my theory) but i think that this is maybe the minimum amount of rocks that should NEVER be exposed to the sun, or the "core" if you will, preferably though i think the core should be at least twice as thick and then have a few layers of rock stacked around it so as to keep this "core" cool and away from any sun so that they would stay cool

according to my theory, this would cause the hot air to move from the hot outside, through some warm rocks and then into and around a cooler "core" of rocks, causing condensation where the air hits dewpoint
stone_pillar_core_size.jpg
[Thumbnail for stone_pillar_core_size.jpg]
 
Brett Andrzejewski
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I do think there is something to your theory about the size and scale. I was recently hiking in the mountains (elevation ~ 7,000 ft, middle of June, Sandia mtns.) when I came across a rock slide. As I walked past the rock slide it felt like I walked into a refrigerator! I inspected the rock slide closer and it still had snow trapped in the deep crevasses. The rocks were about 5 to 7 feet in diameter. The rock slide was facing the north, thus it never really got much sun. Most of the rocks were covered with moss, lichen, and some plants. I was really impressed because the ambient temperature was about 100 degrees.

When i put my hand in the crevasses I could feel the cold convective air loaded with moisture. I was a really cool find.
 
Devon Olsen
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that sounds like a really cool find brett, mountains sure do hold a lot of wonder if one is looking for it
 
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S Bengi wrote:This is what I have in mind http://www.permaculturenews.org/2012/09/19/imprinting-soils-creating-instant-edge-for-large-scale-revegetation-of-barren-lands/
The stone would be place 1/2 down the slope to condense dew at night and hopefully the dew would run down to the center and then soak in.

Tell me what you think of the link above.




Oh my goodness, I loved that article! How did these guys get so smart?!? I'm going to try that (by hand with my little boys, who love to dig holes) along with the seed-ball technic. Thanks for posting that info!
 
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Gardening on an urban lot in northern Nevada where we get about 11 inches of rain and 22 inches of snow a year. We are in the high desert at 4600 feet so nighttime and winter temperatures get below freezing for about 8 months of the year.

I added different kinds of mulches to whatever I was growing the first year - grass clippings, leaves and newspaper, but ended up with a significant problem with earwigs, especially with new seedlings, so removed it all. Believe they came out of my first compost pile and I inadvertently spread them around. I took the time to figure out when earwigs go to work, where they nest etc. so have now managed to eradicate most of them (flat cans with vegetable oil and brutal squishing were what I mostly employed.)

Found out that by spacing plants fairly closely and interplanting different varieties of vegetables that they shaded the ground and also kept weeds down. Got a used soaker hose system from a friend and that worked pretty well for keeping everything watered and minimizing evaporation.

This past fall I got some wood chip mulch from the local landfill for free - the finer stuff is on the ground between beds and places not yet under cultivation - this was bare dirt and had been blowing everywhere with the strong winds we get coming down from the mountains to the west. I put the coarse pieces (mostly chunks of branches) around the fruit trees to allow moisture to go through, while hoping to slow down evaporation, and also to cut down on damage from visiting quail that like to dig in bare dirt. (Had been putting down deer netting or scattered rocks to foil them, which was rather time consuming.

Just had another round of snow so don't really know how this has worked for the trees as yet. But at least we're not having to sweep the patio next to the house every other day and the decomposing wood will add to soil fertility.
 
He repaced his skull with glass. So you can see his brain. Kinda like this tiny ad:
Taylor&Zach’s Bootcamp Journey
https://permies.com/t/115886/permaculture-projects/Taylor-Zach-Bootcamp-Journey
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