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Getting started

Posts: 35
Location: Cusco, Peru
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Hi everyone,

I want to start learning about and applying permaculture techniques so I'm looking for suggestions. I recently bought 330 square meters of land about 180 of which I want to try and turn to productivity and the rest I'll build a house on. The land is pretty dry, I don't know the rainfall patterns yet but from what I can figure from the locals it gets about 5 months rain a year of which 2 months are fairly heavy. The soil is pretty heavy clay. One of the biggest challenges is the sun is intense and dries the soil quickly after rain. One final thing, the land is at 3300 m.a.s.l in the Andes, the weather is mild though.

My current plans are:

to build a small (1 meter high) retaining wall to level off a lower patch. On the small section I've built so far I'm making a compost heap. I'm thinking in the long run to bury wood behind it (hugelkultur but not raised) and have a mix of the compost and soil on top. There are lots of Eucalyptus logs lying about.

to dig sunken beds to help maintain soil moisture. Any recommendations what vege do well in dry conditions. They only grow beans and maize (Andean maize) in the area and I want to grow a wider variety than that. There is a plant called Tarwi which people grow in the area which I want to try, the cultivated variety produces edible (if properly treated) seeds. I'm also interested in giving Quinua a go.

to build a small greenhouse to trap moisture.

to plant trees to provide shade and to help keep water on the land when the heavy rains come. I'm thinking Capuli (a Peruvian cherry) and Peruvian Elderberry for native trees, what other fruit trees would you recommend? I read Apricot does well in dry environments. Figs in pots maybe? There's currently 3 small Peruvian (Californian if you prefer) Pepper trees on the land and a Eucalyptus - i'm thinking to take them all out as their roots are everywhere and are probably sucking up all the goodness.

One final question, I've been offered a truckload of grass clippings by the workers at the local council. If I want it I can get a delivery once a month for the next few months. What can I feasibly do with so much cut grass? Even one truckload will be way too much greens for my compost heap.

Thanks in advance

Posts: 66
Location: Netherlands (moderate maritime climate)
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You could investigate the ancient pre-Columbian Waru Waru technique which combines raised beds with irrigation canals or ditches. I am not sure whether it is feasible in your environment.

See A more detailed description of a Waru Waru project can be found at
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