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Reforesting overgrazed plains (absentee) seeds surviving the cold and dry  RSS feed

 
Posts: 21
Location: Central, MT (Zone 4b)
hunting trees woodworking
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Nicola Stachurski wrote:I am interested too.

I live in an Australian subtropical area that has lost it's Wet Season over the last decade. That means it is now arid- though I doubt many locals would agree. There is always one sizeable flood event every year, it's just that all the other summer storms seem to have disappeared. Being a gardener and a greenie, I've been watching more closely than some.

Actually, one of the signs to me is that, as I have driven around the local area. I have seen 2 dams on 2 different properties that are being excavated to make them deeper. My husband was until recently working as an excavator operator, and has had a number of jobs in the last 6 months digging out dams or installing watering troughs for stock. There are a lot of cattle and horses in this area (even dairies), but I suspect the rainfall will no longer support the same level of stocking. If the weather patterns continue in the same way, it will be interesting seeing it play out in public discussion.

Joe, I would imagine seeing a lot of improvement in vegetative cover after fencing out the horses. Has this happened?



Nicola, the sage has bounced back vigorously. We actually jumped a couple antelope hiding in a thick area. Was a good feeling to see them bounding away. It went from a few stunted looking bushes on the property to almost what I'd describe as a hedge. Hoping that biomass cycle will be positively influenced by the sage as it's tough and obviously native.
 
Joe Banden
Posts: 21
Location: Central, MT (Zone 4b)
hunting trees woodworking
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Chris Wang wrote:I would plant some trees in cages to start with. I get very good success planting (seed or saplings) in cages and literally 0% survival without cages or other exclusion. While controversial on this forum, I sometimes use fertilizer to help plants establish quickly.

Check out this thread, if you havn't already. It is a different climate, but much of it will be useful. https://permies.com/t/14353/Reforestation-Growing-trees-arid-barren

Nicola Stachurski wrote:I am interested too.

I live in an Australian subtropical area that has lost it's Wet Season over the last decade. That means it is now arid- though I doubt many locals would agree.



The last few years have been a bit dry, but it was much worse in the early 2000's and many other times in history. While it is possible that a new weather pattern may be starting, the long term trends show it is actually wetter and hotter now.



Chris, I definitely don't mind using fertilizer. And I have made almost a hundred cages for my seedlings down here in New Mexico, don't know why I didn't take any up with me and at least put them around the more promising spots, I'll have to take some with me next time. Thanks for the link, now I have something to read!
 
Joe Banden
Posts: 21
Location: Central, MT (Zone 4b)
hunting trees woodworking
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Jeff Hodgins wrote:I'm not sure of your soil type but if it's very permiable you can dig very big holes (2 feet wide 3 feet deep with straight sides) and plant the tree in it. The sides block wind and sun conserving water. I like to refer to these holes as mandalas because in the Vedas or some Hindu text it says that the Kriva is at the center of each Mandala. Or the entrance to the underworld is at the center of each circle.



That's another good idea for me to try! Love this website. I kind of did this in the runoff ravines, but not nearly that deep. So probably only a foot or so of protection. I'll add it to my list.
 
Posts: 119
Location: Qld, Australia. Zone 9a-10
forest garden hunting trees
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Joe Banden wrote: Thanks for the link, now I have something to read!



I have been trying to read that thread for longer than I can remember. I get so far then end up spending hours or days looking further into an idea that is presented. I wish it was available as an audio book.

Also check out these videos if you have not seen them, especially planting in drylands.

http://www.networkearth.org/perma/culture.html
 
Posts: 25
Location: California Zone 10b / Wyoming Zone 3b
building homestead woodworking
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Joe Banden wrote:

One thing I wanted to try but didn't have enough stone for, was to create stone piles on the prevailing wind side to both protect from the hot dry winds, and apparently the stone acts almost like a dehumidifier and can create a tiny oasis from the condensation. If you have that type of debris on the homestead I'd be interested to hear if that works as well.



I have been thinking about that, I have not walked the property as much as I should have considering I just bought it (maybe half) so I'm not sure how many stones there are around as I've not really seen many large ones.  In the short term, I'm using the google maps imagery to identify areas that are getting moisture from canal seepage and the neighbors' flood irrigation.  Going to be making a visit in a couple of weeks to collect soil samples for testing and perform triage on the existing structure to make sure they don't fall down but I'm going to be exploring some of the unirrigated parts above the canal while the water level is low enough for me to cross without a horse or vehicle.  I think there is a an area where your rock wall idea would work well, acting as a check dam to slow spring water and condence summer moister.
 
pollinator
Posts: 139
Location: Golden Valley, AZ 86413
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One thing to consider is that bare soil is unprotected and will not be able to effectively use the precipitation that falls on it.

The following videos by Gabe Brown are an excellent primer on how to protect and restore your soil. There is some duplication in these are also some notes I took while viewing these excellent videos. at the end of the last video, you will find contact information for  Gabe and his son, Paul.

Gabe Brown

https://youtu.be/O394wQ_vb3s

Sustainable Farming and Ranching in a Hotter, Drier Climate by Gabe Brown

1. Grow things, for as long as possible, all year
2. Focus on mycorrhizal fungi
3. Use the Hainey Soil Test

What is the Soil Resource you are trying to improve?
No-Till
Mixed species cover crops
Integrate livestock


https://youtu.be/tuwwfL2o9d4

GFE 2016 - Gabe Brown "Cover Crops for Grazing"

Delivered at The Grassfed Exchange conference in Georgia

Carbon is the primary driver for soil fertility AND soil moisture
Cover crops should be seeded as diverse polycultures
Monoculture cover crops are weak & detrimental to soil health
Fungi provide the nutritional and energy needs of all the plants
Armor the soil with crop residue an cover crops (bare soil is dead soil)

Land Grant Agricultural colleges do not teach these methods They have been “captured” by the producers of agricultural inputs

Growing Topsoil is a biological process.
What’s the biology in your soil? (How do you determine your soil's biology?)
85-90% of plant nutrient acquisition is microbially mediated

Liquid Carbon Pathway (D,r Christine Jones)

+ Photosynthesis
+ Translocation to roots
+ Transfer to soil
+ Consumed by Microbes
+ Microbes feed the plants via their microbes
+ Plants feed the microbes with liquid carbon

Mycorrhizal fungi are the KING of humification (and N  & P availability)

Tillage destroys the pore spaces and the mycorrhizal fungi that form soll agrigates + no soil infiltration  = dead soil.
Aggregated soils look like black cottage cheese
It’s not how much rainfall you get, it’s how much can infiltrate into your soils and be stored there by organic Matter!

This is Effective rainfall!

Homework:
www.greencoverseed.com

The "Smart-mix calculator
Midwest Cover Crop Council (It's a web site)
SARE
REPUTABLE Seed suppliers (What are YOUR resource concerns? Is the question that a good seed agent MUST ask you!)



For more info: www.grassfedexchange.com

I hope this can help you.

 
Alex Arn
Posts: 25
Location: California Zone 10b / Wyoming Zone 3b
building homestead woodworking
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I think the biggest problem I will have with keeping the soil covered is the seasonality of rain.  Precipitation after June is basically a rarity so everything without irrigation goes dormant or dies.  I have been considering 4 wing saltbush for the front 60 acres since there is no canal leakage.  Established alfalfa would probably work but that would take irrigation to get started which isn't really operating right now.
 
Mark Kissinger
pollinator
Posts: 139
Location: Golden Valley, AZ 86413
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If you plant a good mix of native grasses, and you can trample it (as with livestock) or just stomp it down haphazardly, it doesn't matter if the above-ground portion of the plant dries out. If you use that dried up grass to cover the SOIL, everything will be fine, and your soil organisms will survive. If you have large wildlife, like elk or deer, they will also benefit from the extra forage. Be sure to plant flowering species as well, which will attract beneficial insects, such as bees, butterflies, moths, and other pollinators. For every insect pest, there are about 1700 beneficial insects.

Since you can not be there all the time, you can also spread straw, grass clippings or any organic material on the surface and it will help keep the moisture in the soil thru the dry spells. Even spreading out pallets might help keep bare soil from drying out: experiment; see what works best to make sure your fungal and other soil organisms are kept out of the sun. DO NOT TILL THE SOIL: use a seed drill to plant the seeds. Eventually, your grasses, nitrogen accumulators, and phosphorus accumulators, and the other forbs that you plant will cover your land completely, and the trees that you plant will be able to make use of the regenerating soil. Do not worry, the soil organisms will adapt to the types of plants you are growing.

It's the soil organisms that support all the plant life. By using a mix of native plant species, you will find that they are adapted to the seasonal variations in precipitation. In a mix, you use some species that you know will dry out, but their roots are still adding carbon to the soil under the mulch protection. For instance, planting daikon radishes (known for their large tap roots which can break thru hardpan layers) you know they will die out in the dry season, but by then their soil-building work has been done, and the nitrogen in them will be released when the rains return.

Remember, you are letting the plants and the community of soil organisms under the ground do your work for you, just as nature evolved them to do. Experiment. Use a variety of different mixes. Keep good records of what you do and see what works best. You know, use the scientific method and your observation skills.

You will learn from every "mistake" you make, and that is a good thing. I hope you are encouraged to try out many different ideas. You have time and nature on your side.
 
Posts: 39
Location: outside Brisbane, Australia
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"The last few years have been a bit dry, but it was much worse in the early 2000's and many other times in history. While it is possible that a new weather pattern may be starting, the long term trends show it is actually wetter and hotter now."

Chris, I don't know where you are in Qld. I am near Ipswich, and a number of people have told me how much drier the summers are now, in particular my father-in-law. He is an old bushie, a green thumb who fed his family on what he could grow and raise. He is 70 now, and his father went to a nearby primary school, so he is very much a local.

I certainly notice a change in the 11 years I have been living on my property. The first year, the flood came in early December. Then it was January. For the last 3 years, the flood has not come until March - that is, in Autumn, not summer. It looks like we will get the cyclone in a few days, but again, this is still very late in the season. And dams all around me are being dug out, because people need to catch more water to make it through.

The current stocking rates for cattle and horses, and the dairy farms, will not be sustainable if this rainfall level continues.

That's why I'm on arid land permaculture sites - I'm transferring over to these techniques as it seems this is the way we are going.
 
Alex Arn
Posts: 25
Location: California Zone 10b / Wyoming Zone 3b
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Mark Kissinger wrote:
Since you can not be there all the time, you can also spread straw, grass clippings or any organic material on the surface and it will help keep the moisture in the soil thru the dry spells. Even spreading out pallets might help keep bare soil from drying out: experiment; see what works best to make sure your fungal and other soil organisms are kept out of the sun. DO NOT TILL THE SOIL: use a seed drill to plant the seeds. Eventually, your grasses, nitrogen accumulators, and phosphorus accumulators, and the other forbs that you plant will cover your land completely, and the trees that you plant will be able to make use of the regenerating soil. Do not worry, the soil organisms will adapt to the types of plants you are growing.



Part of the reason this will be a new learning experience for me is traditional organic mulching is much more difficult due to the wind on my new property.  It's a fairly treeless landscape with a fairly continuous wind which is part of the reason I had had no plans on tilling.  I will eventually do some earthwork but that is a while in the future.  

What are your thoughts on the saltbush?  I pulling soil samples in two weeks but the area is notorious for alkali salt leach (almost looks like snow) and I have seen that in Australia they have used "oldman" saltbush as pasture restoration in similar situations but not sure if fourleaf would have a similar effect.  I was thinking "Wayatana" as its what they use for mining reclamation in Wyoming.
 
Chris Wang
Posts: 119
Location: Qld, Australia. Zone 9a-10
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Nicola Stachurski wrote:
Chris, I don't know where you are in Qld. I am near Ipswich, and a number of people have told me how much drier the summers are now, in particular my father-in-law. He is an old bushie, a green thumb who fed his family on what he could grow and raise. He is 70 now, and his father went to a nearby primary school, so he is very much a local.

I certainly notice a change in the 11 years I have been living on my property.



I know people who have been living here for many generations who will tell you that 'climate change' is a hoax. Go to the next person and we are all going to die from climate change. The fact is the climate has been accurately recorded for 100+ years, hotter and wetter is the trend in SE Qld. We might even get another cyclone in a few days, I was not alive for the last one here.

Being ready for change is a good idea, most people cannot cope with the 'normal' variability. It is very hard to know what will happen over the next few decades, but no doubt it will be brutal.
 
Mark Kissinger
pollinator
Posts: 139
Location: Golden Valley, AZ 86413
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Any shrub that you can plant to break the wind will probably be useful. If it is salt-resistant, that sounds like an added bonus. If it is also drought tolerant, I would assume that these shrubs would have deep roots, which is another good thing. You could try to plant the Wayatana (Wayzata? IDK) and see how it fares since it has already found to be useful in mine reclamation (which also involves barren and disturbed soils and landscapes.

Since wind is such a problem, try selecting bunch grasses and allow them to remain standing to act as windbreaks, instead of trampling them. It is important to find some organic mulching material to protect the bare soil.

When I lived in Yuma, Arizona in the mid-1950s, we had tremendous sand storms. we used 1" x 10 boards as sand-fences to try to block the blowing sand. We ended up with drifts of sand on the down-wind side of the sand fence, which indicates that the turbulence caused by the fence caused the sand to drop out of the airstream.

You could try installing rows of snow fencing to keep your mulch from blowing away. You will need to observe the direction vectors of your destructive winds and place the fencing accordingly. In the winter, these fences will also serve to create snowdrifts, adding to the collection of the moisture available to your seedlings.  

If you could use well-braced pallets set up on end to achieve the same turbulence effect: the slats can be either horizontal or verticle. Experiment a bit to see which works the best. Over time, as you create living windbreaks, you can move the slats to star repeating rows, since the snow fence effect only works over relatively short distances. Think about the snow fencing used along Interstate 80 as a pattern. I studied snow fencing for a project in college, and there is actually a formula (it uses calculus if you are so inclined).

Here's an article: https://slate.com/culture/2013/08/snow-fences-how-do-they-work-what-are-they-where-did-they-come-from-photos.html

Be mindful that they don't have to be big to be effective. A series of shorter fences can also be effective.

Eventually, trees will act as windbreaks. If you use a species that lends itself to coppicing, you might be able to find a dual yield in planning hedgerows to manage your wind vectors.
 
Nicola Stachurski
Posts: 39
Location: outside Brisbane, Australia
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"I know people who have been living here for many generations who will tell you that 'climate change' is a hoax. Go to the next person and we are all going to die from climate change. The fact is the climate has been accurately recorded for 100+ years, hotter and wetter is the trend in SE Qld"

Well, that's the thing; I live in a conservative area, and my father-in-law is no greenie. He still thinks Jo Bjekie Petersen was the best thing ever. His ex-wife, my mother-in-law, supports Cory Bernardi from the Australian Conservatives. The only thing that sets my father-in-law apart from other conservative National Party supporters is that he loves plants. He is always fiddling around in his garden, sprouting something. But as far as being environmentally conscious, the family collects and burns rubbish, they don't recycle their cans, they use plastic plates for any bbq and then just chuck them away. I am definitely different to them.

It's because he is always in his garden, working with his plants, that he notices the weather. I don't know that he would be convinced about climate change, but he does talk about the weather. And none of the other locals who have told me about the summer storms of their youth are remotely interested in environmental issues. That's why I take them seriously - they have no skin in the game.

Last week I saw this article in the Conversation:

https://theconversation.com/slowing-climate-change-could-reverse-drying-in-the-subtropics-111526

I can see the tropics are getting wetter, and Australia overall is getting hotter, but I don't see that areas south of Brisbane are getting wetter (though NSW does seem to be in parts).
 
Alex Arn
Posts: 25
Location: California Zone 10b / Wyoming Zone 3b
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Mark Kissinger wrote:Any shrub that you can plant to break the wind will probably be useful. If it is salt-resistant, that sounds like an added bonus. If it is also drought tolerant, I would assume that these shrubs would have deep roots, which is another good thing. You could try to plant the Wayatana (Wayzata? IDK) and see how it fares since it has already found to be useful in mine reclamation (which also involves barren and disturbed soils and landscapes.



The "Wytana" Wyoming-Montana cultivar is a naturally occurring hybrid of four-wing saltbush and another variety of saltbush which is known for an unusually long taproot.  I'm trying to track down a source for seeds but I was thinking strips of saltbush which would act as windbreaks and suck salt out of the area for other grasses or legumes.  I've seen this is being used in Queensland. Apparently, the salt on the leaves can actually pull moisture out of the air.

I also thought sudangrass might be a good choice for a windbreak and biomass given its rapid growth rate but not sure how well it would self-seed and I'm worried it might smother plants since I won't be there to mow at the appropriate intervals.  
 
Chris Wang
Posts: 119
Location: Qld, Australia. Zone 9a-10
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Nicola Stachurski wrote:
I can see the tropics are getting wetter, and Australia overall is getting hotter, but I don't see that areas south of Brisbane are getting wetter (though NSW does seem to be in parts).



I have heard many people bringing up the same thing you are talking about, we used to get regular afternoon storms in the past. I just don't think it can be used as a reliable indicator of the future climate. Preparing for drought, high temperature, fire and extreme rain events is essential in most parts of Australia.

If the forecast is right the cyclone will not hit us. Hopefully plenty of rain though.
 
Posts: 2
Location: Nevada and Salt Lake City
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I'm also in a very similar situation as Joe and Alex. I have 40 Acres in north eastern Nevada about 8 inches of rainfall each year. My parcel has several hills and very sparce trees, mostly Utah Juniper and bristlecone pine. I just learned about earthworks this winter and I'm very excited to experiment with them. My goal is to plant as many native trees as possible to grow with little maintenance or water.

I started growing tree seeds of various native varieties over a year ago in my apt (my girlfriend thinks I'm crazy!) I'm hoping to plant them this year and start a fresh batch.

I'm converting an old school bus into a tinyhome for just getting away from the city every once in a while so I plan to do some rainwater harvesting projects in the near future which can help me grow other, faster growing trees such as hybrid poplar for some quicker shade. Thinking five years instead of decades for the other trees.

We should keep tabs on each other's projects and help motivate each other to get these things done.

Question, would it be illegal to transplant saplings dug up from adjacent or nearby BLM land and plant them on my property to speed things up five years or so?
Screenshot_20190221-154020-01.jpeg
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Alex Arn
Posts: 25
Location: California Zone 10b / Wyoming Zone 3b
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Chad Zavala wrote:
Question, would it be illegal to transplant saplings dug up from adjacent or nearby BLM land and plant them on my property to speed things up five years or so?



It's probably illegal.

Yeah, I'll try and post every time I go up there.  I'll be up next weekend doing some recon on various parts and if the soil isn't frozen solid I'm going to take some soil samples for testing.
 
Alex Arn
Posts: 25
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Well, the ground was frozen solid (the high was -1 the first day) but I managed to pull soil samples which are on their way to the lab.  I scouted most of the property and count old lumber, downed trees, and lots of old rocks to build shelters and check dams.  I also found a few places where the previous owner had planted a string of trees and then neglected them which gives me a good idea on what to do.  The ones in depressions seemed to survive.  I'm going through the pictures right now and hope to post some this weekend.  The size of this project is overwhelming....
 
Mark Kissinger
pollinator
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It doesn't take a whole lot of a depression to direct water where you want it to go. Wherever the water collects, that's where to plant. You can fill in between existing depressions with swales later if need be.

Make a master plan, then keep doing as much as you can each time you can. You'll see no progress, it would seem, but over just a bit of time, you'll be surprised about all that you'll get accomplished.

But plot out the over-all plan first. Plant ground covers as soon as you can. That will get the regeneration of soil started. Create swales to collect rain for your trees. It's worth the effort to prepare the earthworks first.

Using pallets as windbreaks may help to get things started. If the slats are horizontal, they may work better to collect snow. Experiment and see which orientation works better.

Don't mow the grass, or if you do, use a scythe, and only cut off the tops. The tall stalks will help to break the wind. Or, you can try rolling it to simulate livestock trampling.

These are just ideas to get you thinking about possibilities. Trust your own observations, as you have been reporting to us here.

 
Alex Arn
Posts: 25
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The cold wither caused camera or operator malfunctions that resulted in fewer pictures than expected but here are a few.  Clearly in the un-irrigated areas directing the extra moisture will make a major difference and in areas that are downslope of neighbors who irrigate I will be in good shape.
IMG_5736.JPG
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Willows I think planted around the same time. Big ones are in a shallow trench
IMG_5752.JPG
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One of many washes above the canal
IMG_3290.JPG
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Picture from October (not me). Note the sage in the background coresponds to the extra water provided by the watershed above.
 
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