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Starting off in Lake Cty, Ca. Building tilth in dry-summer deer country?  RSS feed

 
                                      
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Location: central-coastal california
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I've got a dry, rocky, clayey, steep hillside in coastal California (think oak savannah, but at a steep pitch) where I want to start improving the soil this winter.

However, this is heavy deer/elk country, and I'm worried that planting oats, rye, vetch, clover, etc. will just establish my lot as a salad bar and make future plantings (trees, etc.) even more difficult.

Other challenges: no water on site at this time (though municipal water may be an option in the future) and I won't be able to visit the lot and manage it frequently.

I'm thinking that some swale-digging/terracing will be a good start towards fertility, but will cover cropping these earthworks be worthwhile?  And how far into the rainy season should I broadcast seed if I want it to germinate solely by rainfall?

Quite new to this, any advice is appreciated, thanks.
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Jami McBride
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You may want to consider using the full plant (hay) and broadcast that.  Yes the dear will eat it, but then hopefully not it's seed laying underneath.  As the rains come the dear won't like the stubble as much and it will help to hold moisture, again for those seeds underneath.  The new sprouts will come popping up through if you do not put down a real thick cover.  The hay/stubble component will then break down to help fertilize your new crop over time.  Have bare spots, just throw down more seed-material.

It's going to be a numbers game with the dear - just out do any damage they do.

Swales will help for slowing down the movement of the water down the hill, and changing it's direction or pattern.  Also for retaining water for plants with deeper roots than clover/rye, etc.  I don't know how much they will help with cover cropping though.
 
Aljaz Plankl
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Your best workers for improving soil are plants. So go on, i would say. Heard about seed balls?
Consider planting some trees and shrubs, not just cover crops. Living trees and shrubs are a great source of organic matter and fixing the soil with their roots.
Do you have any organic material available, which you can put on soil?
I have no idea about your climate so i can't tell you more.
 
Mekka Pakanohida
Posts: 383
Location: Zone 9 - Coastal Oregon
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andyappleseed wrote:
I've got a dry, rocky, clayey, steep hillside in coastal California (think oak savannah, but at a steep pitch) where I want to start improving the soil this winter.

However, this is heavy deer/elk country, and I'm worried that planting oats, rye, vetch, clover, etc. will just establish my lot as a salad bar and make future plantings (trees, etc.) even more difficult.

Other challenges: no water on site at this time (though municipal water may be an option in the future) and I won't be able to visit the lot and manage it frequently.

I'm thinking that some swale-digging/terracing will be a good start towards fertility, but will cover cropping these earthworks be worthwhile?  And how far into the rainy season should I broadcast seed if I want it to germinate solely by rainfall?

Quite new to this, any advice is appreciated, thanks.



You can still use your covercrops.  Your challenge is to make a hedgerow to deflect the deer away.  I got the same problem in Southern Coastal Oregon, but with a lot more water then you do.  I worked all summer on hedgerows and other fence like things to keep them out of the orchard area.

It sounds like you and I both got our work cut out for us.  Swales, terracing, etc will not only help your fertility in the long run, but your water problems as well.

Ask lots of questions, just about everyone here is nice and helpful!
 
Travis Philp
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I don't have direct experience with this but from what I've read, deer don't like many aromatic plants that we find pleasant. Maybe do a search "plants that deer don't like" or some similar search words, and consider planting a thick border of these plants around your garden?

I've also heard of planting some type of perennial sunflower as a border. The idea is you plant a very wide row of it and hack the stalks off, which the deer don't like to step on. I think it was listed in Gaia's Garden but am not sure...And its not jerusalem artichoke, though I could see that working too. The bonus would be the sunflower seeds, and stalks/leaves that could be used as a mulch on your veggie beds.
 
Tyler Ludens
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If you have a very heavy deer population you won't be able to win by force of numbers, that is, you won't be able to plant so much that the deer won't eat it - more deer will just move in to eat the extra growth.  If you're really overpopulated by deer (as we are here on our place), you'll have to protect young plants with fencing of some sort.  We've found one of the least expensive and easiest to use fences is concrete reinforcing wire, which is strong enough to support itself without posts if you make a smallish circle of it.  If the protected area is relatively small, even if the deer are large enough to jump over, they won't tend to jump into a small area that looks like it might trap them.

 
Joel Hollingsworth
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Deer don't like the foliage of sesame plants, from what I've read. The plant is also reasonably drought-tolerant, and quite good at improving soil.

Sweet peas might be worth considering: the coumarin that makes the smell so sweet, will also prevent them from being a major source of forage. IIRC, there are some sweet pea species native to your area, that do great on a partly-shady hillside.
 
Jordan Lowery
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i would just make a simple string fence for temporary or even permanent while you do the cover crop. it works wonders for how cheap and simple it is. or you can just use the local vegetation as a cover crop. i live in oak savanna here in California as well and i just wait until the weeds are about 6 inches tall, them either chop and drop in no till areas, or till them in to prepare plots for no till in the future. most of them are annuals so they don't come back. the few that do simply get chopped and dropped on the area as mulch.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Can you describe the string fence more, soil?  Or post a pic?  Thanks.

 
Brenda Groth
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DNR plants huge fields of perennial rye here for the deer for forage..so yeah..probably
 
                                      
Posts: 7
Location: central-coastal california
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Wow, this forum is great.  Thanks everyone for the advice!  Taking it all into careful consideration.

A little more information about the site:  We've got access to 12 acres of a roughly south-facing slope in Lake County, California.  Blessed to be almost directly bordering National Forest land, but we'll need to deal with the attendant problems of abundant wildlife as well.  Numbers game will be tough.  I'm also a bit concerned about releasing aggressive colonizers near all that open space...  Any suggestions of good cover seed for this climate? 

I like Soil's suggestion of just mulching the existing weedstock...I hope to get up there again soon and gather a better impression of what annuals are already established.  Also very interested in a description of the string fence that's helped you deter deer.

Plankl: any references for info on using seed balls to build soil?  Does Fukuoka write on this?

Yes, it's probably even more important to put in shrubs and trees now (which I supposed we'll fence off until well established) along with the swale digging.  But I don't have a nursery stock on hand, and budget is very low.  We're just a couple of kids right out of college very lucky to have been granted this parcel to work with.  Bare root trees don't really show up until January right?  Anyone know of any sources for cheap/free perennials that could go in the ground right now or as soon as the rains start?

Pretty much an open canvas at this point that I'd like to turn into a permacultural wonderland of a homestead.  I've been doing tons of reading on design (Hemenway, Mollison, etc.), but the possibilities still seem endless.  So any suggestions about resources and techniques relevant to this locale/climate/site are still welcomed.

Here's some climate data, hardly know what to do with it, though: http://www.wcc.nrcs.usda.gov/cgibin/climchoice.pl?county=06033&state=ca
 
Jordan Lowery
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the string fence is just like this, but its not electric.
http://www.rutland-electric-fencing.co.uk/Images/picFencePermanent.jpg

my posts are 8 ft ( thinned out oak trees, tall, lanky, straight. perfect for posts, but use what you have)

the bottom 2 feet have lines every 4 inches. above that it goes to 6 inches, and above that it goes to 12 inches to the top.

i got a roll of line from the hardware store for 8$ and that got me 3500 ft.

i also would like to mention that the string wont last forever( it will last longer if you use metal but it will be a lot more expensive). in the mean time i am establishing a living fence. so when the string fence dies, the living fence will be strong enough to do its job well and keep deer out and give me resources and food.
 
Paul Cereghino
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Location: South Puget Sound, Salish Sea, Cascadia, North America
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Consider learning native nitrogen fixers... Lupines...

Check out calflora.org

Here is a search for all Lupines found in Lake County...

http://www.calflora.org/cgi-bin/specieslist.cgi?where-prettyreglist=Lake&where-namesoup=lupin&where-caltranslifeform2=any&where-native=any&rel-rarity=invalue&where-rarity=any&rel-calipc=gte&rel-upper_elev_ft=gt&where-upper_elev_ft=&rel-lower_elev_ft=lt&where-lower_elev_ft=&where-pretty_plantcomm=any&orderby=family

The trick to low cost is to propagate yourself.  Learn about cuttings, "live stakes", and collect wild seed.
 
                                      
Posts: 7
Location: central-coastal california
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Great ideas... the rope fence... lupines...  I've just included some photos of the site up at the beginning of the thread for those interested...

Paul: Really enjoyed reading your blog on live stakes and in-ground cutting propagation.  Just stuck some willow and alder cuttings into a wet spot in my front yard for fun. 

Hope to get up to the Lake Cty. site shortly and hike around for useful local propagable plant material.  I recall seeing redbud grow just offsite, but I'm reading that this legume isn't an N-fixer...
 
Paul Cereghino
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I'd strongly recommend learning and thinking a lot about fire.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Thank you soil. 
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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That's unfortunate about redbuds having no nodules. Honey locust, as well...
 
travis laduke
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This nursery's website has  ridiculous amount of information about CA native plants.
http://www.laspilitas.com/

There's a plant finder there too. A lot of their plant descriptions mention if the plant is deerproof if it is.
 
Paul Cereghino
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One thing to beware about swales on a slope (particularly in heavy soil)... THen can concentrate water, and if precipitation exceeds storage plus percolation, then the swale overflows at a low spot and you have created a gully.  Always think about where the surplus water will flow during a big storm event when thinking about swales.
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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P. A. Yeomans recommends that overflow water can be directed onto a ridge that has been patterned with keyline cultivation. That seems like an elegant way of preventing a gully from forming.
 
Aljaz Plankl
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Hey, you asked about seed balls. Yes, they can be used for soil building, i think this was one of the main points when Fukuoka used them to green the areas or to introduce more diversity. Search on youtube for Fukuoka in Greece, The seedball story and more. I mentioned seedballs, because you were asking how to be successful at broadcasting using only rainfall. How long into season you should broadcast i don't know, i have no idea how your climate really works. I broadcast or carefully sow seeds when they are ready in nature. You can sow or broadcast many of your native shrubs and trees and other plants of course. Cuttings were also mentioned and i can add root divisions. There are lots of free plants in nature. Ask other gardeners in your area when they transplant trees, shrubs and other perennials. Here we do it mostly now in october. And don't get so stuck on N-fixers, they are not the most important plants in the world. Plant even if it's not N-fixer.
 
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