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Starting a no till farm  RSS feed

 
Scott Stiller
Posts: 294
Location: North Carolina zone 7
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Hello friends. In the next six weeks I'm having about four acres of new growth forest cleared. Most of this is pretty undisturbed in the last ten years or so. It's also relatively flat. I would like grape trellises, perennial veggies, fruit trees, and annual vegetables mixed in. I'd also like to go no till from the beginning. Here's what I have. A truck, hand tools, chickens with chicken tractor. How is my thinking? Too narrow? I welcome all suggestions. Thank you all for being a great online community.
 
Giselle Burningham
Posts: 94
Location: Australia, Now zone 10a, costal, sandy, windy and temperate.
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I am curious.. How did you go What worked and what didn't. Your info could help me 😊 Thank you Giselle.
 
Scott Stiller
Posts: 294
Location: North Carolina zone 7
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I'm still in the planning stages Gisselle. However I will be happy to keep you updated on my progress, successes, and failures.
 
Dan Boone
gardener
Posts: 1770
Location: Central Oklahoma (zone 7a)
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I am wondering how literally you mean it when you talk of having the property "cleared." Will you be keeping any of the trees that are already food trees (like wild fruit and nuts)? Or leguminous for putting nitrogen in your soil? Or with flowers or berries that your bees and birds might need? Or useful for protecting your new plantings from wind or harsh sunshine? Or heavy leaf producers for soil building?

I guess what I'm saying is that for most permaculture purposes, saving a fair fraction of the trees already present on a site (at least temporarily during your establishment phase until your own tree seedlings get large enough to compete for sun and water resources) is handy, useful, or desirable. Thinning and removing a lot of trash trees and surplus saplings in a new growth area is probably essential, but I'm having a hard time visualizing four acres of forest that wouldn't be at least ten to twenty percent trees that I wanted to keep.

I'm sure my twitching is mostly a product of not knowing details about the plan you are making and the conditions already at your site. But I get nervous when I hear about clearing in the early stages of any permaculture plan. Trees that want to grow on a spot and already have years of growth on that spot are incredibly valuable for so many permaculture purposes. You've got to make space for your new plantings and let sunshine in where you need it, but to me that means a "one tree at a time" sort of decision-making process where I contemplate carefully and if I have any doubt, I punt the decision until "next year" or until it becomes brutally clear that the tree in question is impeding my projects.
 
Peter Ellis
Posts: 1432
Location: Central New Jersey
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pretty much what Dan said. How does the adage go? The best time to plant a tree was thirty years ago.
Existing trees may include species you just want to kep because you are going to be replanting them, or pollinator attractants, deer distractants (if the only browse you leave are the trees you plant, that's what the deer will eat), wind breaks, shelter for your baby trees.

Existing trees may provide ready made trellises for your grapes.

I think it helps to think of trying to fit our plans in with what already exists, rather than trying to wipe the slate and start new. After all, the existing system has a ten year, in this case, head start. Doesn't it make more sense to boost elements of your new beginning by a decade, rather than resetting?
 
Scott Stiller
Posts: 294
Location: North Carolina zone 7
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I should have explained more. The previous owners had the same area cleared ten years ago for profit, and a horse pasture. They left a total of five trees all of which are hickory. I have no plans to cut those. Since then it's been covered in trash trees, and brambles. I'm used to working with slopes, swales, terraces and such. However when it comes to flat land I'm a bit perplexed.
 
Peter Ellis
Posts: 1432
Location: Central New Jersey
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So not clearing trees, but getting brush out of the way. Yep, very different story. Got goats?
Even with "flat land" there will be gradient. In some ways it is just as important to analyze how the water moves, or does not move, on relatively flat land.
On sloping land you focus on reducing runoff and keeping the water on your land.
With "flat land" you may need to figure out where the low spots are to reduce undesired ponding. At the least, even if you don't end up doing any swales or ponds, you can just plant stuff that likes wet feet in the places that will be wet.
 
R Scott
Posts: 3342
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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Or make the undesirable wet spots desirable and dig pocket ponds.
 
Scott Stiller
Posts: 294
Location: North Carolina zone 7
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The whole pocket pond thing was a new idea to me a few weeks ago. I like the idea but I like hugel/Swales better. I can't wait to get to planning.
 
Scott Stiller
Posts: 294
Location: North Carolina zone 7
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Cover crops are what I'm now thinking about. I use winter rye, and Austrian winter pea to bolster poor soil but not in a no till situation. Here in zone 7 clover also grows really well, maybe too well. I'm not sure I could ever get rid of it if I chose to. Has anyone had experience planting into these cover crops? If so what technique worked best?
 
R Scott
Posts: 3342
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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Where do you get the dirt for the hugels? From the pocket ponds!

And for covers, of you are doing annual covers, you can crimp our mow them to plant. If you want perennial cover you need to choose SHORT varieties. White or yellow cover instead of red, etc.
 
Scott Stiller
Posts: 294
Location: North Carolina zone 7
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R Scott you are helping me see it come together. Many thanks to you all. Still welcomig suggestions.
 
Scott Stiller
Posts: 294
Location: North Carolina zone 7
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Took a long walk today that ended up being a scouting mission. I'm a bit overwhelmed by the size of the farm I'm starting. I know I want to start no till but what first? Should I have it disc up then plant the cover crop?
 
R Scott
Posts: 3342
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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It depends. How are you clearing it?
 
Scott Stiller
Posts: 294
Location: North Carolina zone 7
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It's all brambles and scrub. Probably going with a front end loader or bulldozer.
 
R Scott
Posts: 3342
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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I am one that is OK with occasional tillage to establish a completely new mix. Disking is better than tiling. Use a sub soiler to aerate clay ON CONTOUR OR KEY LINE. even if you think it is to flat to matter stay on contour.
 
Scott Stiller
Posts: 294
Location: North Carolina zone 7
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I agree with you. I guess the ground has to be worked once to get the new stuff growing. If I had the money I'd have it cleared then turn the whole thing into hugelculture beds. I've had great success with those the last few years and I see no downside.
 
2017 Permaculture Design Course at Wheaton Labs
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