So I am farm manager of a small farm in Tampa Florida. The greater county area is a big flood plain and very close to sea level. This combined with heavy seasonal rains makes the area marshy and inundated with water.
The farm its self has some interesting hydrology. The area in the album is on a slight hill side. So there is a lot of run off. Here is the album http://imgur.com/a/bRbW8
I was thinking the area could be terraced with vetiver on contour. This would reduce runoff and could provide biomass for mulching.
But the area bellow the hill is slightly bellow level and so it experiences standing water. We made hills for planting but they melt away.
Whatever you do will likely require some earthworks. You need to separate the water from the growing beds and that means drainage ditches and/or elevated beds. Review agriculture in South East Asia. Great rice growing region, but they also grow vegetables.
Is it wet enough to maintain a pond all year? If you go with chinampas or raised beds, you can raise fish, crawdads and waterfowl in the ditches and use the stored water to irrigate your crops during the dry times. You will also need to build dikes to maintain water levels in the ditches/canals/ponds.
Without year round water, you would probably still have enough moisture in a chinampa, lasagna or hugel bed to raise a crop, after the ditches dry up.
An added thought. Chinampas use willows or other water loving trees on the perimeter. You may need to do something similar with trees, shrubs or grasses in order to keep your beds from melting away.
Yes there will need to be earth works for sure. Im thinking really wide beds above the ground level. Maybe 2 or 3 feet above. I just hope they do not melt. They will be difficult to mulch by hand. We have tones of cattails but they are a pain to harvest.
Do you know where I can find info on vegetable growing in SEA? I have tired finding stuff but it is mostly rice information.
Yeah you probably could have year round water.
Location: Salt Lake Valley, Utah, hardiness zone 6b/7a
We actually do not deal with salt water but sandy soils and water infiltration are there.
Currently we are not using the cattails, but we seriously have a lot. Like an acre or more.
But they are a pain to harvest in any large quantity. It is also not worth it to sell them. And our community members do not want to eat them. If I got some waders I could probably do it though. For mulch purposes. Or for soil amending.
Location: Salt Lake Valley, Utah, hardiness zone 6b/7a
Thanks for the rice reference. I was curious and did a quick search. I assume you are referring to Chen Risheng's Sea Rice 86? I had not encountered it in my previous searches on saline agriculture.
There is also NyPa Wild Wheat (Distichlis palmeri), being developed for commercial production in Australia, that can be grown with sea and brackish water.
You may be able to grow wild rice in your wet areas, but I doubt it can handle saline conditions. There are warm weather strains available (one highly endangered strain is native to Central Texas). Again, Australia has developed one and has grown it commercially for some years.
Permies differ somewhat on the question of whether it's safe or sensible to use old tires for garden beds (in an old threadhere Paul says he doesn't use them) but I have become quite the fan of raised beds made out of stacked tires. They strike me as perfect for garden areas prone to flooding. The tires contain the soil securely against slumping and erosion, the roots have access to moisture but well-drained soil can be engineered in as much depth as needed. With proper design the soil-filled tire beds can also help with terracing, erosion control, sun scooping, windbreaks, and other features of permaculture garden design.
The biggest downside is that they don't scale up well; what works at garden scale might be too cumbersome for farm scale.
I have some experience with cut 55 gallon drums (the steel ones) in garden applications and they tend to "rust out" and disintegrate with alarming speed if much moisture is present. It's possible a robust application of paint could extend their life, but that ads cost and labor and (ultimately) paint chips you may not want in your soil. The beauty of the tires (also the special hell that makes getting rid of them such a problem when they are unwanted) is that they last longer than people. (What chemicals may or may not leach out, and in what amounts, being the question that hasn't been answered scientifically to the satisfaction of all permies.)
I think the blue plastic barrels make wonderful planters, but I don't have a good source of them. Used tires, on the other hand, can be had in infinite numbers for the free hauling away. Corporate tire shops may not give them away because they have corporate waste management policies that are inflexible; but in my experience the independent and franchise tire shops in small towns are delighted about every tire they don't have to pay for disposal of.
I have a lot of the plastic blue ones on my craigslist. They hover around 10 to 20 dollars each, which can add up for large scale application but they are an option for naturally higher areas on the property. At least for starting some warm season crops. We can plant winter greens and such pretty much any time between now and summer.
I like the tire idea but I am concerned about the potential chemical problem. Can you typically get them for free? If I can get them for free they might convince me.
Is there any special considerations with the different tires? Like styles or brands to avoid? I am still hesitant to adopt them.
Yeah, I can get unlimited amounts of tires for free.
As for their chemical safety, that's probably best discussed in the thread I linked. I've done a lot of research and the bottom line seems to be that if you shred a bunch of old tires, they leach various chemicals and metals in significant amounts due to all the surface area thus exposed to water and oxygen. But nobody seems to have done the science on intact tires. They aren't chemically neutral (you can smell them, and the "smell" is particles escaping) but the fact that they don't break down in the environment for decades argues that the amounts of chemicals that escape must be small. Actual science on what escapes and how it affects plants seems not to have been done. My own risk assessment for myself is that they are safer than the alternatives available to me (see this post for my views on risk assessment) but it's a close enough call you won't find me arguing with someone who goes the other way.
Regarding cattails, they are a great resource if you have the time. Native Americans used cattails for food, clothing, shelter, and more. They are messy to harvest and many say it is not worth the effort to try to extract starch from the roots(rhizomes), though the potential yield can be quite high. You can do many things with the leaves and the fluff makes good insulation (as do the leaves). Some may be allergic to it and it can be flammable if not treated (as are most fluffy materials).
If you are using cattails for food, the water it grows in or near must be clean because the plant is a great filter and is often used in bioremediation. Other uses should be fine.
I am not sure if this is a solution for you or not. My uncle who lives in Nepal lives on the foot hills of the mountains where it is basically plains that grow rice and can grow some vegetables but not a lot when it comes to the field. The soil is very sandy and does not contain nor store any nutrients. The cycle of nutrients is about 3 months, after 3 months what ever they have put in washes away. Here it is monsoon for 3 months and they get about a meter of rain in that time.
He has tried to go other things than rice in the soil but there is never enough nutrients. So he has made a food forest above his other two plots/terraces. The ground is flat but it does drain on its own. Basically the food forest will be the "sponge" for the nutrients which will than provide for his other two plots.
Papaya grows well here,banana, bamboo, mangoes, bitternut,and more that I don't remember.
I hope this is helpful in some way.
Cattails have a number of uses besides eating, the pollen is an unbelievable flour, making light fluffy bright yellow pancakes and other baked goods. Also home for dragonfly larvae. A great fish bait worth 24$ a dozen. That's in the midwest, your market might support 30$. Just some thoughts - good luck!
So, what most people don't realize is that most of Florida is swamp, but some of my ancestors moved there and succeeded in farming that same land.
My permaculture rules include - but are not limited to:
-1) Work with what you got - those cattails are there because they are helping to hold soil. Use that idea to your benefit. Call some of the tree trimming services and offer to let them dump their wood chips on your property. I have the crew that is contracted to Salt Lake City dump a couple of loads in my driveway each year - I get free chips and they don't have to pay to dump them in the land fill.
The chips hold moisture by swelling and hold soil so it doesn't wash away - similar to the straw snakes we used to use to terrace steep hillsides in Georgia. They also decompose to build the soil you need and are home to fungi that "glues" all of the fibers together so it doesn't "melt away".
-2) What does nature do? - Plant trees in there to help hold and build soil around their roots. Granted trees make running equipment more difficult, but with sandy soft soil, tractors and trucks do a ton of damage everytime they are on the soft soil. Mangrove, cypress trees, palmetto palms and others can handle the conditions while helping to lift the area from swamp to savannah.
-3) Adapt and overcome - If you can get trees drop them as dams to help hold your soil and channel water away. Similar to the wood that is used around a raised bed. Most people think raised beds are for our convenience and warming the soil, but in truth they are at their best in areas with high water tables or prone to standing water (GA red clay if an example). Most plants roots don't like standing in water for morre that 20 minutes to an hour.
If you can't get logs, try for tree branches, moldy straw or hay bales (horse farms are great source as moldy hay can kill horses), waste trimming from cabinet shops.
-4) Think outside the box - What do you have in your area that ends up as waste? I remember living in Florida and most driveways are covered in crush shells instead of rocks. The ancient tribes in the area used to use shell mounds to build on to get above the flood level, using waste as a valuable asset. Could you use plastic water bottles to make floating islands to help your beds rise above the flooding? Are there any oyster bars or processors that would give you shells for free? What about old mattresses that you cut the tops open and fill with dirt and plant in - they are a huge waste stream that could be reworked in some manner, and they are super heavy when wet so they hold your soil and don't float away.
Tires will work as long as you don't cut them. The last testing research I read said that they are safe until cut, due to the heat sealing during manufacture, but as soon as they get cut or ground the chemicals will start leaching out.
There's also heat treated shipping crates and pallets that can be used to help hod your soiland will eventually decompose into your soil acting as a hugel.
-5) Work smarter not harder - You don't have to reinevnt the wheel. Check with anthropologists that focus on local native crops and agriculturall practices. What did the Indians of the area grow? What coastal plants did they exploit for food and trade? Can you use that info to grow an "Exotic heirloom" crop that's been lost for hundreds of years (think quinoa or amaranth in modern time)? Can you do rotational cropping that takes advantage of the flood and dry seasons?
Colleges are a underutilized resource for many of us. Not paying to attend classes, but tapping into the research they have already done. Every state has an ag college with an extension office that has TONS of resources available. Call them and ask questions. Most of the USU Ext. staff have become well acquainted with me and my crazy questions and ideas, but it has started making them think about new research areas (which they love because that's how they keep their jobs and look good for promotions and pay raises).
I did a quick google search for plants that can grow in salt water and found this site with a listing of plants and info on how to use them.
http://cleversurvivalist.com/2013/06/17/edible-salt-water-plants-for-ocean-raft-survival/ Also this PDF
http://www.spc.int/DigitalLibrary/Doc/FAME/Manuals/Novaczek_01_MedicinalSeaPlants.pdf Granted the last is about Pacific coast plants, but I'm sure that some researchers in aquatic plants have used university funding to study east coast plants as well. Or what about Aussie- Indochina plants that could grow in salin conditions and be sold as the latest health superfood?
Plant willows in rows out from the water’s edge and curve them in a harmonic pattern to direct flood water out and collect sediment at the ends of the curves. This becomes a soil deposition system. This soil is usually very fertile. You can plant on the raised areas the trees create.
Earthworks are the skeleton; the plants and animals flesh out the design.
Here’s good advice for practice: go into partnership with nature; she does more than half the work and asks none of the fee. – Martin H. Fischer
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