Hello. I've been a bmx rider for most of my life, which means I hae spent a lot of time building and riding dirt jumps. Seems unrelated to permaculture, but in truth permaculture applies to everything. One thing that is always a problem is that when it rains, the shape of the jumps naturally directs the water to the bottom of the pit between the jumps, leaving a big muddy puddle right where we need to ride. The problem is the solution, so I have begun to dig swales and infiltration basis that are fed by the jumps themselves, leaving the pits free of water after it rains. Design just makes everything better.
My question here is what to plant along these swales once the earthworks are done. There is a lot of bare dirt, all of it disturbed by our digging, and it is mostly sand, with a little clay, and almost no oranic matter. The site is an old dirt disposal lot for a street construction company, so most of it was sub-soil to begin with. My vision is to turn the place into a food forest, eventually. Right now I need to get something growing in the bare dirt. I'm thinking to start by planting a hearty cover crop, that will help some fast growing leguminous trees get established. As well as some nutrient accumulators that will put tap roots down and break up the hard pan. I'm hoping that we can get the legume trees up to shade the dirt and start dropping mulch, Leading to an environment that will support fruit trees.
The site is in Orange county, southern California. The rain falls in the winter/spring and then not at all until the next winter. I think its about 14inches average rainfall, but it has been below average for a while. There is a water source on site, but not enough to irrigate other than the ocassional hand watering.
What plants would you reccomend to plant first? It would be great if they are commonly available and inexpensive. Edibility is peferred of course, but not essential at this stage. Also, thorns or thorny seed pods are out, we don't want flat tires.
Its a challenging project, but it could be amazing with a bit of effort and the right tools for nature.
With 14" of rain in the winter/spring and noting the limitations of your site's existing soil, I would definitely go with natives. And yes - a LOT of natives to that area have thorns, however, there are hybrids available that are thornless. Also, some species from other locations might be well adapted.
As someone with a vision disability in the AZ desert, I'm trying to phase out my thorny plants - which is a challenge. Seems like every bush and tree has them. I have resorted to some Australian imports that are thornless but still able to survive in our extreme conditions.
Once you've had a few years of your swales working correctly and get a good overstory of legumes, you could try jujubes, dates, pomegranates, figs and apricots. There are various berries you could try too - however, some of these are thorny.
Do you have a working drawing of the site you could post? Or some photos?
Subtropical desert (Köppen: BWh)
Elevation: 1090 ft Annual rainfall: 7"
Here is site from an Arizona Water Management group. It list plants and their water requirements that do well in arid climates. You might find some ground covers to keep that dirt under control and start improving it.
I have begun to incorporate succulent (non thorny) as ground cover. They do a fantastic job... And it's an idea that I later found out geoff lawton uses in dry/desert climates.
My reasoning is...
1) easy to propagate from cuttings literally strewn on the ground
2) cheap since they grow from any cuttings I often collect from my own collection or neighbors, etc on a regular basis and have grown my collection to an outstanding number in the last three years.
3) work well, truly cover and protect.
4) and when you ride over them they will break up and produce more cuttings just like when the get trampled or eaten in natural settings.
5) great colors
6) climate appropriate
7) down the line you could use the succulents as propagation material for future projects or even sell the succulents to pay for BMX equipment.
Then you can come in with your nitro fixing trees and Mediterranean fruit bushes and trees to fill out the layers in your food forest.
Jesse, that is very rad idea!
I too am a fellow bmx trail builder, and have had simailr thoughts. For the past ten years I have been practicing permaculter without even knowing it. Good luck with your project! If your ever in the north east, holler at me.
A pov of our trails for others that might want to see what a world class set of bmx trails looks like.
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