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"Water to "see" what grows/weeds, and fertility?"strange advice -need feedback/rehab soil plants

 
Jen Gira
Posts: 37
Location: Northern New Mexico/Heart of Espanola Valley
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I recently purchased my property in Northern New Mexico. (yay! longtime dream accomplished) The property has a great deal of "good", if not awesome, (especially by "trying to grow anything in the high desert standards: i.e. I have lots of water, good water, and the soil, despite neglect, and being inhabited at some scale/farming/as a rancho, for a thousand years (or more) things seem promising. key word is promising.

I bought my property from some folks who were more concerned about their landscaping (think those horrendous green manicured lawn abominations in the middle of the Coachella Valley) and though, they didn't do anything the majority of the acreage outside zone 1, zone 2 in permie speak- that area is the most wounded by the previous owners, and the owners before them. you can imagine my horror finding loads of "Roundup" sprays in the shed, toxic granules for greening grass-you name it. I don't plan to grow anything for awhile in the areas where I can tell they were trying to turn into a 50s suburban neon green backyard (in the middle of the desert?!! seriously people!) and I would love any insights/advice, on rehabilitating this space naturally, over time. I know that these types of chemicals stick around awhile. Im thankful that it is 1/20th, (if that) of the property. (Glad that they were kinda lazy in their "landscaping")

Focusing on the areas that have remained "rustic", but show the effects of animal grazing, even nearly a century before, as well as disruption from the building of structures/in frequent water/climate change- I thought that, the soil's heath, since that is the soul of it all-should be my focus. I immediately started to look to what cover crops to plant, grasses, etc to give back to the land so it could begin to heal itself into productivity.

I had always wanted to visit "Plants of the Southwest", not only are they highly regarded as a nursery/source/authority on well, Plants of the Southwest, but I was very impressed with the amount of desert friendly cover crops they had available for seed, and even as seedlings at their physical location. (and nitrogen fixing trees/shrubs) I went into the store armed with my notebook, and was pleased both from speaking to the gal outside overseeing all the live plants, and I suppose, seeing my notebook, and how "serious" I seemed, she referred me to a gentleman who was in a supervisory/authority position over all their seed stock. I explained to both the gal outside, and then to this new fellow I encountered, exactly what I was trying to do, that I was interested in permaculture, and starting zone 1, in hopes to rehabilitate-that I figured, despite wanting to get to planting things right away, I needed to nourish this soil- I asked to be given seeds of : strawberry clover, sainfoin, hairy vetch, buckwheat, daikon radish, red clover, oats, field peas, their "binder" mix, which is purported to assist prior to mulching in helping seeds to stick to erosion prone/high desert areas, and several packets of their high desert wildflower mix ( purple aster, plains coreopsis, california bluebells, desert marigold, blue flax, mexican evening primrose, mexican hat, yellow prairie coneflower, firewall, rocky mountain bee plant, pink wild snapdragon, mexican gold poppy, blanketflower..) to encourage, the pollinators, that I don't see, (and that worries me a little)-

Now to the subject of this post, what I was told to do-kind of threw me for a loop. Both individuals at Plants of Southwest told me to irrigate the areas I wished to plant quite a bit...to let the weeds come up-to then pull them (so they didn't "mix" with the grass) and also, to see, if I watered and watered, if anything grew, how my soil was. This advice, which I questioned with a "really? really?" even when I was there, struck me as odd. It seems one would not want to waste water in the desert (anywhere) prior to planting seeds, just to a) get weeds before they sprout up, or b) see how the soil is. In fact this seems kind of wasteful in terms of advice. I'm not saying that anyone was a "permie" but my comments on permaculture and zones were definitely acknowledged, and there was a general understanding-so this advice was, well weird.... Is there any truth or weight to this advice? I haven't had the sand (pardon my pun) despite the fact I do have a lot of water, to just run the drip irrigation for several days and "see what happens"...

Does anyone have any other ideas (besides lots of compost, everywhere of course) to get my zone one off to a good therapeutic start? that isn't just watering the areas for days on end (that are currently pretty barren) and then planting. I get the aspect of getting an area "ready" for planting, but I just was a bit turned off by this advice, and strangely surprised that an organization which seems very respected and honestly, really cool-that this would be their advice.

Also, I listed what I bought for seed. I already have a small representation of Aster on the property, and I thought I should get the grasses going prior to putting in trees-but maybe not. Any thoughts in the tree department. I am at elevation 6,000. zone 6a-b, mesa/high desert/rangeland mix.

Thanks!

 
Daniel Schmidt
Posts: 79
Location: Jacksonville, FL
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How much land are you working with? I think that will dictate particular actions to a degree. Using your seeds to get some sort of ground cover going along with native plants will help the soil in many ways. It might be worthwhile to take stock of what plants are growing in the degraded areas. They can withstand the harsh conditions and might tell you some things about the soil without doing a soil test. Some of the plants may thrive under certain conditions and do poorly in others which can give you a process of elimination for the soil conditions that these plants are growing in.

Depending on how large of an area you are working with, how much labor you have available, how much outside (carbon) inputs you are willing to work with (do they contain chemicals?), and how deep your pockets are will help determine how much land you can successfully convert. Spreading your resources too thin could end up not being enough to sustain trees and hinder other long term goals. This will absorb both time and money. I like the geoff lawton video where he shows the progression of a food forest. Each area was one year older than the last, until he reached a mature food forest. I'm sure he didn't try to convert the entire property at once because that was too large of a scale to be successful given the available resources. Starting off by doing one manageable area at a time will keep from spreading too thin and chasing your tail trying to keep everything alive.

When it comes to planting trees, I think doing one small guild area at a time is a good way to go. Trying to buy or sow hundreds of trees at one time could end up sucking up a lot of water and have a rough time advancing. Building one manageable area at a time with a handful of trees and nurturing an entire ecosystem of different layers of under story plants and the beneficial fungi and insects will work toward creating a stable system that can start to take care of itself. If you have enough mulch to put 1 inch over an acre, or 8 inches over 1/8 of an acre, chances are the smaller area with more mulch will retain more water, grow more fungi, have more insect habitats, be less prone to losing plants due to drought or strong sun, on and on.

I have been down the road of trying to amend a larger area of sand to make a garden and have that carbon devoured and nutrients washed through the soil by the immense amount of rain that typically happens in my area. I learned to embrace most of the native plants as elements trying to repair the land. Trying to grow many things and expand on what survives, leaving those that didn't live for another time instead of trying to force something that didn't want to work. Native trees are awesome at their jobs, and they have many. They provide food and habitat for small animals, birds, and insects. They can bring water and nutrients up from the earth. The can provide shade with their canopy, as well as collect dew with the large surface area of their leaves. Ever see grass growing faster under the drip line of a tree? Shade, dew, and evaporative cooling can create a micro climate for the benefit of the ecosystems under a tree.

Instead of trying to carpet the land with these new ecosystems, you could try to strategically place these polycultures. Spacing them out could allow them to stabilize, and when they mature and need less maintenance you can put more resources towards filling in the gaps. Hopefully these little 'islands' of intense biodiversity will start to grow outwards, eventually meeting each other. Perhaps certain fungi or insects or other life will colonize one area while different ones make their home in another. Eventually they will spread out. If there is too much over here and too little over there then they will even out. A bit of encouragement can speed up the process.

My guess about watering and pulling the weeds to encourage grass was something so ingrained in what they tell everyone that they told you as well. It might be worthwhile to water a few small areas just to see what native 'weeds' pop up so you can figure out which ones are particularly worthwhile to encourage. A lot of the zone 1 stuff will be similar to above but with less/smaller trees. Maybe a lot of nitrogen fixing beans and shrubs. Anything that can grow fast and increase moisture retention should be beneficial. Getting everything going for one space as opposed to trying to do everything at the same time seems to work well for me.
 
Jen Gira
Posts: 37
Location: Northern New Mexico/Heart of Espanola Valley
8
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Wow. Thank you so much Daniel for taking the time to be so interested and helpful with my questions. I printed out your post, so that I could refer to it later. Since I am a relative newcomer, I am amazed on a daily basis, how generous others are with their knowledge, time, and encouragement-it keeps me coming back, and I only hope that in time, or perhaps in other areas (maybe way to market permie products or branding) I can use some of my "old skills" to help others, while I gain my own "new skills" with this passion.


To answer your questions. I have 2.5 acres. I am a bit weary of a small amount of the courtyard/lawn due to the amount of really gross big box herbicides/pesticides I found, ironically, left to "be nice"/with some tools and other do-dads in two of the shelf outbuildings. That is, I suppose another question (trying to somehow rehabilitate, even if it takes 10 years, or what tests might be good to order with a lab, so I can see what damage (if any, but I'm pretty sure some, with "sprayers") I would love your input on that as well (or any other helpful person with experience)

I started to type quite a tome, but then I thought, since it is incredibly nice of you to offer up these thoughts and ideas, that I really could use the talent and eyes of some of the more experienced members to "start right", and the best thing for me to do, is to take some photographs of what I am dealing with. I have an incredibly varied microclimate. It was something that attracted me to the land (besides the two prolific wells) and the history (it is well known the property was an Ancestral Pueblo settlement -prior to being taken over in the reconquest in the 1600s. the original part of my adobe dates to 1680, and I've already had lots of correspondence with archeologists, as near complete 1200 year old pots wash up out of the ground-daily. (had to rethink some of my planting areas, as it is still being figure out...what exactly was here. I'm only the 4th owner since the 1600s-unrelated-but trippy!) I can see, and do see from the farmers across the small road from me, who have been lovingly farming their patches that hug the Rio Grande for 400+ years, a stewardship for the land, and there is prosperity in the growth here in a way that is unlike almost all areas of the southwest. (the tending to the community Acequias/ditches is really beautiful to watch) I guess I am saying this, and not meaning to go off topic, but I do see that the land was respected, for most of the time it was inhabited. The people who bought the adobe as an investment property and did all this weird "landscaping" didn't really do that much to it as a whole.

The variance in microclimate (and some "barren" areas) is vast. It has a lot to do with the fact it is the first "rangeland" that is directly above the flood plain. From my own eye, it appears some farming/fruiting was done, and cattle were kept. not surprisingly, even though the cattle corral and the ruins of a barn which burned nearly 200 years ago- the area that the livestock were kept, has an entirely different microclimate and almost has a "carpet" like clover across it ( maybe weed, but it is attractive, and the best I can describe it as is a clover-y carpet)

I like your ideas about keeping things small. I watered a bit, and I did get some vegetation right away. I know the land is pretty "healthy" (other than some small areas of "courtyard/yard" that the previous owners decided to turn into a neon green suburban lawn....in the high desert- that area I am kind of putting aside for now.

I am going to take some photographs of the landscape, and some of the plants. One plus side of my visit to Plants of the Southwest, was that I took home a beautiful color catalog, that does include, a massive amount of the native plants in the area. I am going to do a little homework myself trying to match what I'm seeing, with grasses and natives in the book. I have a feeling some folks who are great at identifying plants-will know right away.

The only issue, or question I have with the seeds I bought- is that, I know they are good "places to start", and I *do* trust the recommendation from an emporium that specializes in natives-but I don't want to plant a bunch of cover crops /flowers/greens-that would be an issue to me in the future. I have read some threads on plants that can get out of control, or be "adversaries" to other plants. I have a general idea of what those are, but due to my lack of knowledge in a deep way, I have this self consciousness, that in earnest, I plant some grass, and it turns out to be the bane of my existence for 5 years. trying to avoid that. ha

I guess finishing this up, (since I hope to take some photos and add to this thread shortly) In references to resources/time. I'm the "permie" in my marriage, my husband is just loving and encouraging,(and occasional swale digger, key word is occasionally into it) and part of the good part about our relationship, is that we let each other have our passions. I am not going to make him feel like he needs to help me with any of this project, and he wouldn't do the same to me. That being said, moving from the opposite end of the country, and living in a somewhat rural area, not knowing many people-plus being relatively "new" in taking Permaculture seriously in developing a site-I put these realities, even though I spend a couple hours a day reading and educating myself-into my savings model for buying the place- My land is quality, has two wells (unheard of) and I have some savings to devote myself in a serious way. That being said, right now, I am approaching the Permaculture design of my property as a serious hobby-with thoughtfulness. I am obviously really serious about it, to move myself and take my husband away from NYC, and save for years, and figure out how to make money satellite etc etc- but I wanted to be realistic on the time it takes, and not think I was going to have some bustling market farm in two years.

I want to do things right. slowly. On the tree journey- I purchased "Trees for Permaculture' by Martin Crawford, and have found some ideas. I think have pretty much every book out there on high altitude gardening and Southwest Permaculture/high desert stuff. I purchased "The Holistic Orchard" and I got some great ideas about varieties of things to grow, and mulching/cover cropping. (since apple and apricots are everywhere, I know I could do a little orchard pretty easily, perhaps one advantage of this "fruiting soil" that I am classified to have by the USDA- I have all the holy grail permie books, and I have gotten a great deal of inspiration for some Indigenous texts (some are a bit textbook/scholarship-y and dry) on the farming methods employed in the Valley by the Pueblo peoples. Lots of ideas for water conversation and companion planting. Still the grasses, and cover crops seem to be somewhat misty on what is "the best"-

Long term goal is to grow food for my family, have a chicken paddock, and bees. This will be more realized when I settle on the acreage next door, I'll have about 10 acres to work with. I see this as a 10+ year project and ongoing for the rest of my life.


As for a "guild" to start with (and I like this idea, starting small, also less intimidating)
I have been trying to find information with "desert guilds" or compatible plants. I haven't found that much info-but I have stumbled upon a few education PDFs that have some guilds listed that appear to do well in my climate.

Is there anything you would recommend at first, even if I could improve/expand/change-but that would be beneficial in a rehabilitative sense, something that if you had a year with no other stressors-to just enrich your soil, you might do?

Also, I think I want to start this small patch on a south/southwest facing slope- In some places it is near true South, and It does look pretty heavenly for plants out there. I have some interesting topography in the front of my property, and other than on some bluff tops where I see sand flying in the high winds, there is a nice representation of native life, and I think that giving it a boost, nurturing maybe 1/4 acre that is in this space, would be cool. The area, at one point was the old driveway (up the mesa) and then at some point it was abandoned and a new driveway carved out with earth moving equipment- This has created some peaks and valleys where this driveway was cut into the mesa, and since this happened at least 20+ years ago, there is a lot of vegetation (including a healthy apricot tree, an Alder, and cactus) growing in the area where you would "drive" (I suppose the "valley" of this made made topography. I see great potential in the slopes, as they get fantastic sun, seem to already have life, and I have the ability to irrigate the area. I don't have any expectations right away to grow food in the space-I think I could- but I would really like to spend this season with cover crops and compost/mulch, and invigorate the soil. I was thinking of putting in Pea Shrubs, and some Raspberries.

anyways, thanks so much for your thoughts, and as soon as I finish some yawn inducing computer work, I will try to go out and snap some of this plant-life- I have a pretty interesting representation of fruiting soil/old developed farm land, range/grassland, and the quintessential high desert (cholas and prickely pears) really interesting to view when these ecosystems are 500-750 ft from each other. the green and grassy to the cacti and sandy.

Thanks for your help!
 
Daniel Schmidt
Posts: 79
Location: Jacksonville, FL
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I understand being buried under a mountain of information. It can be important to remember that you can't learn it all. I think it was Emeril Lagasse that said he could spend his whole life cooking and still not learn 10% of what there is to know about it. Not that it stops me from learning, but I can only know so much. Most of my knowledge is with other areas such as construction and alternative energy. I started growing native trees before I started gardening. Of course my beach trees getting 5 feet of rain a year at about 10' above sea level is quite different from your area.

I'm not completely sure what nitrogen fixing trees would be best for your climate. I have been looking up several of them and not seeing clear information of climate range. I would think just about any that you can get cheaply that aren't wildly invasive would get some roots in the ground and build soil. The catalog from that 'Plants of the Southwest' place would probably be most useful. The people there could also be helpful with identifying your native plants that start to pop up. Bring them some pictures and ask for help. I really wish I knew enough about my local weeds to be able to say 'that growing there means the soil is alkaline/acidic/compacted' and so on. Even if I did, it much of it would only be useful only in my region.

I would look into the work Geoff Lawton has done. If you haven't already checked it out, he has an amazing series of videos at geofflawton.com. Of course now I can't remember if it was there or on YouTube where I saw it, but he talks about starting out with 90% nitrogen fixing trees and 10% fruit, nut, and other trees. After they get established you start to chop and drop or lose some trees, either way you will be releasing nitrogen and carbon into the soil from the tree roots. The same with bushes or any other nitrogen fixing plants. They create the habitat and over time the percentages should reverse so you end up with 10% nitrogen fixing trees and the rest will be fruit, nut, and other (hopefully some native) trees.

He also talks a lot about using fungi that take up toxic gick to create long chain carbon molecules which render them inert. The whole toxic gick factor is really problematic. Perhaps trying to seek out the spaces with the least harm done to them, and growing over top of them, as opposed to digging in to the soil, can get you started. Maybe raised beds made with plain untreated wood would give you several seasons of growing herbs and annuals. Mulching and creating good fungal habitats could possibly mitigate some of the harder hit areas. Lab testing sounds like a great idea.

Don't get too attached to the idea of forcing a particular plant to work. If you have consistent success with some and not with others, then maybe they weren't meant to be there. Here in Florida everyone wants a citrus tree. Unfortunately there is an invasive insect here with bacteria that slowly kills citrus. I can see them dying all over and new ones for sale all over. It's quite the racket they have going selling expensive trees with no hope of long term survival. I lost $50 before figuring out the problem. I got other trees like figs and pomegranates for much cheaper and they are doing awesome right now. I came to similar conclusions in my garden. Instead of fighting a losing battle I can save my money for better goals. I don't want to keep dumping money into something because 'I have already invested too much to lose', sometimes the learning experience is worth the cost. I want to expand on successes now and I can revisit my failures when I have more knowledge to tackle them.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
garden master
Posts: 2004
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
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In my life, I don't use the meme that water can be wasted... If doesn't disappear when it is used... If flows downwards into the soil, or into a body of water, or into a water table, or it goes into the air and cools the environment, before settling out as dew, rain, snow, etc... In the desert, more water ==> more generation of biomass. Presumably, more biomass ==> healthier soils.

I think that the "Water it and see what happens" advice is brilliant. Something is already growing on the land. In the desert, the limiting factor to growth is generally water. So if the land gets more water, either through construction of earthworks, or through irrigation, the species that are already present are likely to grow somewhat better. They are already locally-adapted to the land. They have a long track record of growing there in spite of the insects, the animals, the soil, the climate, the farmer, etc... Might as well observe what is already there before making changes... If you eventually start watering crops, then the weeds will be the species that are already in the soil propagule-bank, or what travels in routinely from nearby. Might as well know what those species are right from the start. Something might be really useful. Just about all of it might be really useful. Imagine how quickly those already existing species could produce biomass if they had a bit more water... The perennials already have well established root systems. The annuals would buzz through their life-cycles creating more biomass than typical, and thus presumably healthier soil. The ephemerals will flower like crazy. If a "seed mix" has a dozen varieties of wildflowers in it, I bet that there are more than 100 species of wildflowers already growing on the land... Might as well make them welcome. Water is very welcoming to desert wildflowers. I bet that if you look carefully that you will find that there are already a number of species of nitrogenous plants growing on the place. A bit of extra water would help them thrive. If it were me, I'd do some real irrigation, like with a sprinkler or flood irrigation. A good 12 hour sprinkling will trigger many ephemerals to start their life cycle. Or water for 12 hours every two weeks...

Imagine the population explosion of native pollinators if the plants they depend on got a little bit more water, and flowered a little bit more...

Perhaps throw enough water on the place to see where runoff occurs. It's much easier to dig bunds on a sunny day using a hose than during a thunderstorm.




 
Joseph Lofthouse
garden master
Posts: 2004
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
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In my experience, it takes about 3 growing seasons for a field to return to normal productivity after being treated with glyphosate.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
garden master
Posts: 2004
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
366
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The highest quality eggs that are available at my local farmer's market are laid by hens that free range in forested yards... By forest I mean trees, and shrubs, and weeds... So-called pastured eggs, grown on a lawn pale in comparison to the high quality eggs that come out of a weedy shrubby wild patcht. If I ever had land that I could call my own, it would have a wild-patch for the chickens...

Desert honey can be amazingly rich and full of robust flavors. It's my favorite kind of honey.


 
Casie Becker
pollinator
Posts: 1104
Location: Just northwest of Austin, TX
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Daniel Schmidt wrote:Instead of fighting a losing battle I can save my money for better goals. I don't want to keep dumping money into something because 'I have already invested too much to lose', sometimes the learning experience is worth the cost. I want to expand on successes now and I can revisit my failures when I have more knowledge to tackle them.


I think this is one of the best pieces of wisdom I've seen in a while.
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9445
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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I can't recommend highly enough "Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands Volume 2" by Brad Lancaster. Storing rain in the soil is the most important thing in the Southwest, and rainwater harvesting earthworks need to be in place before it makes any sense to try to improve the soil. It took me a long time to learn this, the hard way.

There's also a lot of free information on Brad's website: http://www.harvestingrainwater.com/



 
Joseph Lofthouse
garden master
Posts: 2004
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
366
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Tyler Ludens wrote:I can't recommend highly enough "Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands Volume 2" by Brad Lancaster.


Me too. The thing I missed when I first started out was the recommendation to "do small things first". Simple things that can be done in a moment, like turning a fallen log or twig to lay on contour. That way it can capture water, soil, and plant matter that might otherwise wash away. Or throwing the prunings from trees into a ravine instead of into a hugelculture. Let the ecosystem do the labor of burying the wood. It already dug the hole... Slightly harder things that take a few minutes: Like making a check dam with a bed of rocks a single layer deep. Building small little bunds just tall enough to redirect water to where it might be more useful.
 
Jen Gira
Posts: 37
Location: Northern New Mexico/Heart of Espanola Valley
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Daniel Schmidt wrote:I understand being buried under a mountain of information. It can be important to remember that you can't learn it all. I think it was Emeril Lagasse that said he could spend his whole life cooking and still not learn 10% of what there is to know about it. Not that it stops me from learning, but I can only know so much. Most of my knowledge is with other areas such as construction and alternative energy. I started growing native trees before I started gardening. Of course my beach trees getting 5 feet of rain a year at about 10' above sea level is quite different from your area.

I'm not completely sure what nitrogen fixing trees would be best for your climate. I have been looking up several of them and not seeing clear information of climate range. I would think just about any that you can get cheaply that aren't wildly invasive would get some roots in the ground and build soil. The catalog from that 'Plants of the Southwest' place would probably be most useful. The people there could also be helpful with identifying your native plants that start to pop up. Bring them some pictures and ask for help. I really wish I knew enough about my local weeds to be able to say 'that growing there means the soil is alkaline/acidic/compacted' and so on. Even if I did, it much of it would only be useful only in my region.

Me either, other than some of the more "obvious" ones. That being said, (and perhaps lighting the fire under me today) I purchased "Trees for gardens, orchards, and Permaculture" by Martin Crawford
author's link here: http://permanentpublications.co.uk/port/trees-for-gardens-orchards-permaculture-by-martin-crawford/

and from the first 30 minute skim, to my pleasure, I have noticed a few areas that talk about species that will play nice with the arid/lack of water/soil here.

I bought "Growing Food in the Southwest Mountains: a guide to high altitude, semi-arid home permaculture gardens" by Lisa Rayner (great book, very detailed, focuses somewhat intensely (and I understand she lives there) on her slightly differing climate of Flagstaff, Az, (and wish a little more was said on the variances that occur, say, for my climate-but I am learning ALOT and I recommend the book regardless)

She talks about trees, (I mean, I'm preaching to the choir here, Permaculture loves trees/shrubs! I am sure it is equally an issue in every climate zone/mircoclimate, it isn't a given, even if at the same elevation, that one nitrogen fixer is going to "work"/like living there- I like the advice on using my eyes and doing some homework to see what is happening around me already, or even in the immediate area. This requires me to get out that great "Plants of the Southwest" color catalog, and perhaps a horticulture of the Southwest encyclopedia and walk/drive/wander around.
I know I need to do this more than I have. but yes, the mountains of info, or even the 25+ books I have read portions of, but not finished, can get a little overwhelming, and there is something to be said about getting some personalized, general advice. (that was my intention, but I am totally fine with hunkering down and putting on my student of the land hat/nose in a book for hours)



"I would look into the work Geoff Lawton has done. If you haven't already checked it out, he has an amazing series of videos at geofflawton.com. Of course now I can't remember if it was there or on YouTube where I saw it, but he talks about starting out with 90% nitrogen fixing trees and 10% fruit, nut, and other trees. After they get established you start to chop and drop or lose some trees, either way you will be releasing nitrogen and carbon into the soil from the tree roots. The same with bushes or any other nitrogen fixing plants. They create the habitat and over time the percentages should reverse so you end up with 10% nitrogen fixing trees and the rest will be fruit, nut, and other (hopefully some native) trees. He also talks a lot about using fungi that take up toxic gick to create long chain carbon molecules which render them inert. The whole toxic gick factor is really problematic. Perhaps trying to seek out the spaces with the least harm done to them, and growing over top of them, as opposed to digging in to the soil, can get you started. Maybe raised beds made with plain untreated wood would give you several seasons of growing herbs and annuals. Mulching and creating good fungal habitats could possibly mitigate some of the harder hit areas. Lab testing sounds like a great idea."

I have been watching, buying, and experiencing a lot of what Mr. Lawton shares. I think he's great, and though it is not on point with this subject exactly-(and not to veer off) but I do admire his commitment to implementing Permaculture in areas of conflict and true suffering. Kind of the best of both worlds, you're putting in a system that works, and can be proven by Positivism (which is very powerful) yet you're giving people who have had everything taken away, and very little chance without some intervention (possibly due to nefarious intervention(s) like armed conflict) a chance.


Fungi, in the southwest, is kind of flummoxing. The lack thereof, (generally) was one of the reasons why I managed to convince my non-permie, (but certainly conscious, interested, and supportive) husband to move from the urban jungle to rural NM was that he has Asthma, and a lot of allergies, and the lack of molds/dryness he thinks is great. That being said, I see Lichen and moss even on my property on dead wood, and other evidence of fungi here and there-so I know with some research, I can find some fungi friends that will be into helping me out and hanging out on my land. I did contemplate approaching a couple I read about who sell their fabulous fungi (some very fancy varieties) at the Santa Fe farmers market, and live south of Santa Fe, what they thought, though from reading about their cottage industry/farmstead it seems like this was a major intervention and infrastructure, not something they just encouraged on their land naturally. I will update if I do this.


Don't get too attached to the idea of forcing a particular plant to work. If you have consistent success with some and not with others, then maybe they weren't meant to be there. Here in Florida everyone wants a citrus tree. Unfortunately there is an invasive insect here with bacteria that slowly kills citrus. I can see them dying all over and new ones for sale all over. It's quite the racket they have going selling expensive trees with no hope of long term survival. I lost $50 before figuring out the problem. I got other trees like figs and pomegranates for much cheaper and they are doing awesome right now. I came to similar conclusions in my garden. Instead of fighting a losing battle I can save my money for better goals. I don't want to keep dumping money into something because 'I have already invested too much to lose', sometimes the learning experience is worth the cost. I want to expand on successes now and I can revisit my failures when I have more knowledge to tackle them.


I am not attached to anything, venturing into mindset/life goals world, I think that getting too attached to any sort of doctrine or mindset, (even one as small as thinking you have to do this in your raised garden beds) is a "box" I don't wanna get in! I think the biggest thing I had to "detach" myself from, was any sort of thought I had in the excitement of finally getting my house/land, that I was going to be seedball-ing it up by this planting season, and running around tending some bees. Of course I'm psyched, who wouldn't be? But then, (and I'm happy this emotional state has come over me) this odd sense of calm, and yes, maybe "reason" has flooded my mind, because I want to stay on this land for the rest of my life. (maybe that is good "attachment") and I want to do things "right" at least in the way I find most "right" at the moment, according to the needs I have or goals I have set.

I have spent an absurd amount of money, pulls from the coffers of a lucrative career (that I was sick of) and getting completely enamored with plants, permaculture. I could have an entire blog of my costly mistakes, nightmares, etc- just in reference to trying to urban garden, vertical garden, container garden, (due to my previous situation) as well as bio-intensively garden, and employ permie principles where I was- Even at a 'maniacal hobbyist scale" I learned some lessons the hard way, or had to pay a premium for soil mixes, compost, tools, seedling starts, etc-simply because I didn't have the knowledge to do those myself (not a big deal there, there is a trade off) I completely agree that almost every "oops" I made-even one that cost me thousands of dollars. (ask me about ordering nearly 15 cubic yards of very expensive, and supposedly organic and premium composted garden soil-and then doing some soil tests and seeing that a) really gross stuff was in there b) "organic" can be a really dirty word, c) taken advantage of, and there was little I could d) not even wanting to grow things in the thousands of dollars of soil I had delivered, and then having to figure out what to do with it. -that is just one "OMG! situation that came from pricing out various options, and deciding that I would make the most of my little urban garden, and get the 'most" out of it (biointensively) by it being super powered composted soil, and..........falling flat on my face-that's another post though!)
I've learned. I hope I will always be learning. I enjoy the process, (even if I cry when I see my checking account sometimes) that I think if I ever got a point where I felt like I "knew a lot"-I would probably drop dead. Ha.
That being said, I realize that everybody is on their own path. I read most of the threads as they come up when I have the spare time, and it's clear to me, there are many different types of people, from all different walks of life, in different socioeconomic situations, and on this journey. When I decided I really wanted to do something completely different with my life and time than I was doing, including changing my geographical area-well everything- I did plan a lot. I think one aspect of not having a "permie" husband, (and as a compliment he's an artist, but he might be slightly more practical than I) there was a lot of planning and slow movement/gradual process in getting things to where they are now. (which is, as I've said, in permie land- just starting!) So, where I'm going with this, is I still have my job satellite, I want to just plant things all day long, but I can lean on doing more work, to fund projects, got to PDCS, etc, and I am relying on savings, and doing work, to do this. That's why I made a point to say that I am "okay" with doing things REALLY SLOW- because I am not the person (though I cheer on those folks) who have just gone all in with two pairs (poker talk. ha) on a shoestring, and need to get their CSA or cottage industry going... yesterday. I tend to have the personality, and in even approaching (and yes, success to an extent) in my other vocation, that I was the type of person to just...go for it. So thankfully, even now, as I sit not 2 months in my new house/land, I am kinda glad, that some of my "full speed ahead" thinking/doing was tempered by a person who loves that I am "really into permaculture"- but realized that doing my crazy rube goldberg esque garden madness, even at what neighbors or friends thought was "really intense"- is a completely different story than moving to a rural area, new climate, and thinking you're going to just live off the land, and have gaia's garden. (love that book too Btw!) So Thanks husband! (You won't ever see this most likely,...... but perhaps your ears are itching on your business trip, far away from me right now... ha)

Due to having some savings, in some respects, I have felt overwhelmed, and thought of hiring a Permaculture consultant, there are a few in New Mexico, and they have great credentials. Then I laughed, as I was a consultant myself, I know this is an investment, and I figured, if I do this, I need to outline specific "zones" within my "zones", as well as objectives based upon time. It is overwhelming, despite the huge amount of research and time I have put into identifying what I need/want, to think of where I would go with a person-I decided last week, even if I do take this plunge, I will force myself, (in respect to my own bank account) to spend massive amounts of time, identifying needs and objectives, and require whoever I hire to be on the same page in development or implementation. It goes without saying that some dirt you have to get in your fingernails yourself, and those "mistakes" are very powerful, especially if you want to do something full scale, for the rest of your life-so I'm trying to balance all of these urges and headaches, (as well as enthusiasm and inspiration) on a "middle path" (not to go all Buddhist philosophy on you) especially since I feel like I have put down very deep roots.



 
Jen Gira
Posts: 37
Location: Northern New Mexico/Heart of Espanola Valley
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Tyler Ludens wrote:I can't recommend highly enough "Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands Volume 2" by Brad Lancaster. Storing rain in the soil is the most important thing in the Southwest, and rainwater harvesting earthworks need to be in place before it makes any sense to try to improve the soil. It took me a long time to learn this, the hard way.

There's also a lot of free information on Brad's website: http://www.harvestingrainwater.com/





Hi Tyler, Thanks for these links. I am really REALLY into Greywater concepts/implementation. ::said in waynes world voice::

though this is awesome to do anywhere, since I live in the middle of the SW, which is hurting pretty bad for water, it resonated in my head throughout my home search. On the water conversation tip, One of the properties I nearly bought, already had a pretty great rainwater harvesting system in place. Barrels galore. It appeared that it was working well for the woman too, as I saw it in action watering, and growing things- unfortunately that home didn't work- but It is in my head. Since prior to getting here, I wasn't sure what home I would have, so greywater system(s) and rainwater catchments kind of were put on the back burner, but now I am here, and despite the fact we have had little rain (no surprise there) I was on a site, pulling prices/estimates to put the systems in. Cue overwhelmed.

I purchased "Create an Oasis with Greywater" by Art Ludwig. I even went further and I bought the "Builders Greywater guide" (also by Ludwig) thinking that it would get down to the nitty gritty, and perhaps I could get my husband to put his Bob Vila hat on, or I would have this info for a contractor. I took one look at the "builders guide" and closed the book, and when I got "create an oasis" I spent time on it, (and I'm no slouch in the brains department IMO) but I was REALLY OVERWHELMED.

without sounding like a whiner, I found that I was retaining and feeling good about putting these systems in-from blogs, websites, etc- I found that at least with Art's book, though it is great-but even in a page, there is so much info, and options, and what have you, that I was getting lost.

I will totally buy these greywater books you recommend, (especially since Joseph chimed in they are great) I hope that the language and presentation is really simple, If I have one complaint/criticism, of a lot of books I have read (overall in Permie/agriculture/AT land) is that the authors, who despite being experts in their fields, usually aren't coming from an "author"/journalist/writer stance, is that they need to realize if they are writing a book that is an "INTRO to....." book, or "how to do Greywater!" if they want to really touch the individual who is considering joining their army/club- write the book and then give it to your friend who isn't in your scene, maybe your friend who grows herbs on their windowsill and that's their level of interest- because if you want to really create a movement, and really gain following, the "OMG I am buried in info and I feel so overwhelmed" feeling (that I got, even though I am/was mega psyched and wanting to do the work) did cause me, several times over the years, to kind of put the book down, and go hiking instead.

So I hope these books are designed for newbies, since I am really smart with water use, but I am not a plumber, I am into DIY and I own more Dewalt tools than most dudes- but things need to be presented in such a way, or with diagrams/etc, that after some study, I could give it a whirl, or call a handyman and throw him some dough. I post on another forum about how I am really "into" Wofati's and the constructing of movable cabins, and poopers, (and I watch with anticipation and cheer people on) but I don't see myself doing these things any time soon, or maybe never. I think a lot of authors who are in one demographic of the "permie" scene make the mistake of thinking everyone is out there on undeveloped land, making their own cabins, putting in small construction projects, etc, and I think that alienates some folks (including me) a little, who could (and will) contribute a lot to the movement.

I'm going to go watch the youtube videos! (ending my rant. thank goodness for forums like this, (which present helpful ideas and experience that seems to appeal to a broad spectrum) and youtube videos (I'm definitely a visual learning person)

fingers crossed!

In a response to Daniel I also mentioned how, I started to do math, and weigh time investment/cost in thinking that I might just hire a greywater consultant. I have heard/read about how easy it is to do, but I am not so sure, for me, it would be worth the time, and perhaps I could just work a little bit more for a month, and hire an expert- I guess that is the overall conundrum with all of this. It doesn't come out of laziness, it's just an aspect of my personality that realizes I have certain skills and gifts, and despite wanting to be DIY homesteader goddess (and trying daily, ha) I pathetically fall on my face in many categories and perhaps I could infuse someone else with a nice little boost of cash who has this talent. hmmm, like I said, it is a constant juggle in my mind, as I stare out at my land.
 
Jen Gira
Posts: 37
Location: Northern New Mexico/Heart of Espanola Valley
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:
Tyler Ludens wrote:I can't recommend highly enough "Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands Volume 2" by Brad Lancaster.


Me too. The thing I missed when I first started out was the recommendation to "do small things first". Simple things that can be done in a moment, like turning a fallen log or twig to lay on contour. That way it can capture water, soil, and plant matter that might otherwise wash away. Or throwing the prunings from trees into a ravine instead of into a hugelculture. Let the ecosystem do the labor of burying the wood. It already dug the hole... Slightly harder things that take a few minutes: Like making a check dam with a bed of rocks a single layer deep. Building small little bunds just tall enough to redirect water to where it might be more useful.


So Joseph, I know you live in a somewhat different microclimate than I, but I am taking from your response, that you aren't that into the whole "Do Hugelkultur in a sunken bed, versus building up on desert soil"-? I love the whole Hugel concept, and because I have (not sure if you saw previous posts, but there was a little "earthworks" action on my property (though that wasn't their intent, people were trying to design a safe way to drive up a significant incline from the floodplain to the top of the mesa (my home is the highest point for many miles until you reach the beginnings of Sangre De Cristos/Jemez Mtns) and over the course of 30 years, this carving from the county road below up to my land was done twice. Now the first attempt (which was decided to be too steep and scary during the winter/plus erosion) was abandoned, and there is significant vegetation there now- (10 year or less apricots, asters, lots of cacti, brush) but I have two slopes and a valley- (I am really excited to "do" something with this created topography. I am not well versed enough in contour or in terracing/swales to know if I have been given a gift or an annoyance, but I see potential for many of the slopes)

I have a lot of wood, some that is centuries old (a burned down barn/corral is in ruins, now mostly just posts and logs-just crying out for me to utilize them) and I thought, one of my "get started" projects would be to do a couple sunken Hugel beds- So would like your thoughts on this.

As for check damns etc. I have not seen much natural rain here, to really see where any type of intervention I could make with rocks would assist me. (though man o man I have a LOT of rocks) to do this. I do think I could implement your ideas with using the extensive drip system and building that (especially if it just pouring out) with check dams or rocks to get the water to other areas which it can't reach. I will say, the one blessing and cool bonus I have with the house I bought, is the previous owners in installed an expensive, and very thorough (in terms of area covered) underground (some places) to satellite "drip areas" for at least 75 percent of the 2.5 acres I am on. I am not sure why, maybe they had planned to do something later at a much larger scale. I am thankful it is there. I have been spending time on various "drip" manufacture sites trying to figure out what parts and accessories I need to take a little of the "focus" off their system. The system in place was to get their trees to grow, so it is honed in on the trees, and Im spending the next two weeks, trying to figure out how to spread some of that water love around. (soaker lines? more "splitters"/manifolds?/ perhaps your check damn concept- will think about that) I have been trying to keep gravity in my mind, as I have some slope. hmmm thanks for the food for thought, and I'm curious to what you think about these BURIED HUGELS

Also Waffle Gardens? anybody? I thought of doing maybe 20ft by 20ft squares just to give that a whirl, since well, from the age of my land/ I know it was done under my feet thousands of years ago. (and worked)


 
Jen Gira
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:In my experience, it takes about 3 growing seasons for a field to return to normal productivity after being treated with glyphosate.


this is a lot better and shorter than I thought. I can deal with 3 growing seasons to nurture the "home depot lawn care" away from the small bit of land I know that sort of debauchery was going on here.

thanks!
 
Joseph Lofthouse
garden master
Posts: 2004
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
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I'm not qualified to critique the hugelculture meme. In the deep desert, wood and water are precious and hard to come by. It seems to me that the highest use of wood is not being buried in the ground. At my place, there are pinion pines with 18" of non-composted needles underneath them. There isn't even enough water available to decompose pine needles, let alone logs. Even in riparian zones around here, fallen logs lay undecomposed for decades. And the labor/equipment required to install a hugelculture bed wouldn't be something that I'm much interested in. I'd rather see logs laid on contour on the surface, or in ravines, than buried underground. That seems like a more appropriate use for wood in the desert.

At my place, the slope is around 7%. So every 5 years or so when the rain is heavy enough to run-off. It does so vigorously... For the sake of fire survival, I prune the bottom 6 feet from the trees. If I throw branches into a ravine, and attempt to anchor them, or tie them together, or wire them to a rock or a tree root, then when the once in 5 year flash flood comes along, the branches slow the stream, and the gravel drops out, and buries the branches. So it is the equivalent of a hugelculture bed, but I didn't have to dig a hole, and I didn't have to bury the wood. And I saved water and soil. That kind of minimal hugelculture construction works for me.

The smallest little water conservation strategies like imprinting, and laying twigs on contour goes a long ways towards keeping water on the land. Little water retaining structures in sheet flow are easy to deal with, and rarely wash away. Big structures is ravines are very prone to failure. Even though that's where my imagination wants to capture water, because there is so much of it!!! (When it finally does arrive.)

The thing that surprised me most about water in the desert, is that it doesn't flow like I would have thought. Eventually, I began to see the water signs even during dry weather. But it took getting out in a few thunderstorms.

Waffle gardens are great... I like boomerang bunds for that... Gather the runoff from 400 to 1000 square feet and concentrate it at the roots of a fruit tree. Imprinting is great, even imprints as small as a cow hoof can collect a puddle of water and feed it to a plant.

A dead tree dropped into this ravine, and held in place with a piece of wire fencing collected sediments 6 feet deep during the first thunderstorm after installation.


 
S Bengi
Posts: 1356
Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even distribution
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I would 'clear cut' strips into the lawn and plant some nitrogen fixing grass/shurb.
Then the following year I would clear cut another strip and plant some 1) mint/thyme family, 2)onion family, 3)carrot family.
Then final strip I would plant my 'productive fruit and nut trees'.

 
Jen Gira
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S Bengi wrote:I would 'clear cut' strips into the lawn and plant some nitrogen fixing grass/shurb.
Then the following year I would clear cut another strip and plant some 1) mint/thyme family, 2)onion family, 3)carrot family.
Then final strip I would plant my 'productive fruit and nut trees'.




any thoughts on the mint getting out of control? I am not sure how it does in the high desert, but I was literally 'at war' with invasive mint in my urban backyard garden. It was taking over everything, and though I love mint tea-it was too much. Very nervous about planting it again-though I am sure its lifecycle and prevalence will be affected by the climate. What do you think?

thanks!

onions and carrots sound lovely. I'm so grateful for all the advice from everyone. I'm trying to organize the ideas from printing out the thread, and also notes. I love my mountain of Permie resources, but I love the personal touch and feedback from this site. Pie for you too!

Still getting lists together of my high desert Nitrogen fixing tree/shrubs- any feedback from anyone in my area of altitude (about 5700-5800) greatly appreciated. I am cobbling together info from various sources, but it is somewhat scant.



 
S Bengi
Posts: 1356
Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even distribution
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The mint family includes: lavender, thyme, rosemary, oregano, winter savory, marjoran, hyssop, catnip, lemon balm, (basil and summer savory), etc
It is a huge family and you can pick and choose, which one you want. I enjoy using mint as chop and drop mulch. And if nothing else will grow without irrigation I would welcome mint, there are also specific cultivars, that grows slowly.
 
Jen Gira
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Location: Northern New Mexico/Heart of Espanola Valley
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S Bengi wrote:The mint family includes: lavender, thyme, rosemary, oregano, winter savory, marjoran, hyssop, catnip, lemon balm, (basil and summer savory), etc
It is a huge family and you can pick and choose, which one you want. I enjoy using mint as chop and drop mulch. And if nothing else will grow without irrigation I would welcome mint, there are also specific cultivars, that grows slowly.


Besides the killer mint taking over the garden. Your post immediately reminded me of how excited I am to put some of these fresh herbs in a Japanese iron teapot w/ a bit of water on the wood stove for my own post garden labor aromatherapy homestead spa!

Any thoughts on the size of these "patches" you spoke of? I will add them to my notes with the thread. I am following the slow development (year in between zones) concept, and I think I will try to rehabilitate less than an acre this year around the house- but will perhaps try to do a little here and there in terms of grasses and getting water or terraces on the side if I have time. I am not sure if you read earlier in the thread, but I picked up a nice collection of cover crops/good grasses from "Plants of the Southwest", as well as something they call their "Orchard.Farm Mix" which they recommend for using as living mulch. (I list the seeds in detail above)

Thanks again!
 
S Bengi
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Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even distribution
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At establishment you only want 10% of the space to be productive fruit&nut tree/shrub. The other 90% should be support species. After 20yr when the trees reach max/mature height you want the garden to be at least 20% support species and 80 productive fruit&nut tree/shrub.


So for now/establishment
fruit/nut patch = 10%
legume family + daikon radish patch = 65%
mint family patch = 10%
carrot family patch = 10%
native flower/seed mix = 5%



 
Jo East
Posts: 6
Location: United States
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Been implementing perm ideas on our acreage in the Manzanos for twelve years. Made every mistake in the book. My advice--start with the soil. Mine was/is pretty alkaline, devoid of organic matter, overgrazed for hundreds of years. The central 15 acres was meadow, a vast plain of bare soil, scoured by the wind, rock hard clay, sporting a few tussocked blades of grama. I thought it would take a lifetime to bring it back. We started laying wood on the ground and covering it with chips. We put in swales, chip basins, straw, tons of manure. If it rotted, it got spread. I planted natives, and put in seed, but where the soil had not been improved, the planting failed. Plants that survived are half the size of plants put in much later in improved soil. Mulch is crucial. At our altitude, the soil takes longer to warm, another reason it can take years to establish roots. Wind is a killer. Take advantage of microclimates. Watch out for critters--pocket gophers, rabbits, and ground squirrels can be devastating. Had my fruit trees girdled the last two years in a row--inside the fenced garden. Regrafting again...

Worst weeds to stay on top of--bindweed, horse nettle, thistle, kochia, goat head, dock, Siberian elm. The devil to get rid of when they're established.

With all that being said--we're making progress. Wrested enough from the critters last year to do some canning. The herb garden is coming along. Have a nice ornamental garden, mostly natives. Even some roses. I start a lot from seed, hoping that plants grown at altitude will do better that ones brought up from abq. Every 1000 ft up is a another zone.

Plants of the Southwest is a wonderful resource, but keep in mind that abq is a concrete heat island. I see zone 7 & 8 plants growing there, so not everything at the nursery will be suitable. Despite what the revised heat maps say, I buy for zone 4 unless I know the plant transcends the recommended zones. Irrigation gets better as roots go deep, but this can take years. Even drought tolerant natives must be irrigated in the first years.

I'd put in the biggest water catchment you can afford if you're serious about planting. We have about nine thousand gallons. We have a good well, but when the wind don't blow... The Soil &Water conservation District here matched our investment. State forrestry has some great programs too. Good place to get lots of seedlings. The extension service is a wonderful resource. Both abq & Santa Fe have nice botanical gardens that will give you good ideas for local plant material.
Could go on, but don't get overwhelmed. One foot in front of the other.

Today our meadow is full of wild flowers, self-seeded, and the grasses are filling in too. Persistence and a little luck.
 
Jen Gira
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Jo East wrote:Been implementing perm ideas on our acreage in the Manzanos for twelve years. Made every mistake in the book. My advice--start with the soil. Mine was/is pretty alkaline, devoid of organic matter, overgrazed for hundreds of years. The central 15 acres was meadow, a vast plain of bare soil, scoured by the wind, rock hard clay, sporting a few tussocked blades of grama. I thought it would take a lifetime to bring it back. We started laying wood on the ground and covering it with chips. We put in swales, chip basins, straw, tons of manure. If it rotted, it got spread. I planted natives, and put in seed, but where the soil had not been improved, the planting failed. Plants that survived are half the size of plants put in much later in improved soil. Mulch is crucial. At our altitude, the soil takes longer to warm, another reason it can take years to establish roots. Wind is a killer. Take advantage of microclimates. Watch out for critters--pocket gophers, rabbits, and ground squirrels can be devastating. Had my fruit trees girdled the last two years in a row--inside the fenced garden. Regrafting again...

Worst weeds to stay on top of--bindweed, horse nettle, thistle, kochia, goat head, dock, Siberian elm. The devil to get rid of when they're established.

With all that being said--we're making progress. Wrested enough from the critters last year to do some canning. The herb garden is coming along. Have a nice ornamental garden, mostly natives. Even some roses. I start a lot from seed, hoping that plants grown at altitude will do better that ones brought up from abq. Every 1000 ft up is a another zone.

Plants of the Southwest is a wonderful resource, but keep in mind that abq is a concrete heat island. I see zone 7 & 8 plants growing there, so not everything at the nursery will be suitable. Despite what the revised heat maps say, I buy for zone 4 unless I know the plant transcends the recommended zones. Irrigation gets better as roots go deep, but this can take years. Even drought tolerant natives must be irrigated in the first years.

I'd put in the biggest water catchment you can afford if you're serious about planting. We have about nine thousand gallons. We have a good well, but when the wind don't blow... The Soil &Water conservation District here matched our investment. State forrestry has some great programs too. Good place to get lots of seedlings. The extension service is a wonderful resource. Both abq & Santa Fe have nice botanical gardens that will give you good ideas for local plant material.
Could go on, but don't get overwhelmed. One foot in front of the other. >>


Thanks for your thoughts, and experience(s)- It sounds like we are in the same Boat...err trench....... Due to the epic rains here in Northern New Mexico, we have a plague like grasshopper infestation. I am awaiting my Semosphore, and other OMRI listed treatments, as the growing season hasn't really gotten into full "swing", and they are everywhere, and insane. (Also beginning to eat everything, despite following various protocols (including clearing stretches of land down to dirt to "stop them in their tracks" from migrating to another area.

I have been a bit 'mum' on Permies the past month (miss it!) mainly because I got an amazing opportunity to intern for Flowering Tree Permaculture. I spend the other days, working on my land, and working ( I am an antiques/vintage dealer online) so pretty pooped out. I am excited to share things that I have been learning from Roxanne Swentzell, not only are we doing an earth building project with Adobe, but we planted one of her fields with Amaranth, traditional Pueblo red corn, beens, squash, and sunflowers. It is mostly going to be a gorgeous sea of RED!.

I did get totally overwhelmed at my place, and am trying to stick to the "Zone 1 first" approach to getting things into shape. Luckily, I have met some amazing people, who are educating me on various aspects of permaculture and orchard-keeping, as I slowly chip away at getting things.... better.

I am so, on the catchment- It was down pouring the other day, and I was going on and on to my husband "Look at all this WATER, we could save this Water!" and he agreed, that we are going to put those in before summer's end (hopefully sooner) I also am trying to do research on Greywater systems, I bought a few books, but one was way too "plumber" for novice me- I am a bit scared to contact a fellow in Santa Fe who does permaculture, but also greywater, as I read a couple reviews online that his fees were astronomical. Anyone have any greywater "hacks"- (or is this just a really bad idea?) I live in a very old Adobe, and the plumbing and well systems (etc) seem to be pretty basic and easy to navigate- (that is if you have the expertise) I am wondering if I could get a contractor or local plumber to install a system of sorts for me-if I had the correct info, or guides.

I'm happy to hear that you HAVE a meadow, and wildflowers, and they are self seeded.

I am definitely really going hardcore, and I have made a lot of progress, though the 16 hour days (alone, my husband is not a premie-he's supportive though and nice) Roxanne, after a day in the fields with Flowering Tree, reminded me that her homesite, at the stage it is now, (It looks like a lush rainforest in the midst of brown mesa/desert scrub) totally wild (and beautiful) and shows you what you can do! However, she said gently that her oasis- is a 35 year work in progress-gently reminding me to not burn out......
okay back to sheet mulching.


I am persistant, but I have already realized, that you do have to "live" with your land a bit. I had read pretty much every book on "high desert gardening" etc out there, and tons of blogs, articles-so I knew that gardening in Northern NM is hard, and often really frustrating. I have had so many hilariously awful experiences (my entire seedling collection almost ready to plant.....blows away when we get a freak 45 mph wind storm, etc etc) I am journaling, and I hope to put some of these thoughts down. If only, to commiserate with others, who are .......trying!
that's the most important thing- and though it might sound kinda corny, when I finally saw some of the "Orchard/Farm Mix" seed from Plants of the Southwest peak out from the sea of brown........I was filled with joy.


one foot in front of the other,


 
Jo East
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Semasphore works well esp in early spring to get the babies hatching. The bigger they get, the less effective it is. Daughter in abq put it out early, but held some back. Should have spread it all. Next door too. Good years, bad years-- but it's always something. Aphids were horrendous this spring, greenhouse nightmare! But hit my fruit trees too, tho don't usually get on anything but roses outside.

Forgot what I was going to say-- grey water. If you have the space, just run it out the door, a hay bale basin in a bed will soak up a lot. Move the drain from time to time. We Put in a massive branched drain ( with pro help), but it failed within three years. A really big chip basin would work well, surround it w fruit trees. We're redoing the system, putting in a worm composting toilet, and re routing the grey water to a bed planted for the bees. Problem is freezing weather...
 
Jen Gira
Posts: 37
Location: Northern New Mexico/Heart of Espanola Valley
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Jo East wrote:Semasphore works well esp in early spring to get the babies hatching. The bigger they get, the less effective it is. Daughter in abq put it out early, but held some back. Should have spread it all. Next door too. Good years, bad years-- but it's always something. Aphids were horrendous this spring, greenhouse nightmare! But hit my fruit trees too, tho don't usually get on anything but roses outside.

Forgot what I was going to say-- grey water. If you have the space, just run it out the door, a hay bale basin in a bed will soak up a lot.  Move the drain from time to time. We Put in a massive branched drain ( with pro help), but it failed within three years. A really big chip basin would work well, surround it w fruit trees. We're redoing the system, putting in a worm composting toilet, and re routing the grey water to a bed planted for the bees. Problem is freezing weather...
\


Nolo Bait/Semasphore was a total fail. I think I got on it too late, but even in the "hatching beds" (or places I hypothesized may be) didn't seem to do anything. I spent at least $100 on it, and was incredibly disappointed.

I purchased "Surround MP" which is Omri listed, and is a Kaolin based spray, when it arrived, despite the Omri listed, I felt like I needed to put on a HazMat suit to use it, and got intimidated, and it is just sitting in the hallway of my house. It was a good 'lesson' that Omri listings, or "organic" can still mean "pretty darn hardcore, and you should wear eye/clothing protection"

I am not sure if it was panic, or ego, since I had done TONS of work, and planted trees and plants for weeks in the blazing hot sun (and well into the night, with LED work lights and a LED "miner's headlamp" like a complete gardening psycho- ha) but I think I might have purchased everything Planet Natural sold in terms of grasshopper control- besides the insect nymphs, because it seemed like they need more time to mature than I felt I had to keep my plants alive- Now that I think of that evening, I have to laugh, but at the time, it was horrendous-the grasshoppers were eating about $2500 of fruit/permie friendly (various) trees I had purchased) 
Honestly, I was so upset at what was happening before my eyes- I can't even remember this insane-o order I put in on "PlanetNatural.com"- It might have been the universe intervening to save me money- as there was a snafu with the fed ex shipping, and I only received the Semaphore and not the rest of the gaggle of grasshopper fighters I purchased. By the time the "Surround MP" arrived. The grasshoppers had pretty much eaten all the leaves off everything, and there wasn't anything to coat. (thankfully, I believe, despite it looking like early fall here, most of the trees are still alive) I ended up telling Planet Natural to cancel the rest of my pile of products due to the shipping snafu-and it also was really obvious to me, that was happening at least where I live in Northern NM was one of those "7 year plagues" and I just had to accept it-this growing season.

GUESS WHAT FIXED EVERYTHING?!! (yes almost everything) CHICKENS! (lots of em) BIRDBATHS (for the wild ones) WILD BIRD SEED (strewn everywhere dancing around/spinning around scaring my dog) Water sources/ and "comfy spots" for anything else I thought would eat the bugs (Frogs, lizards)

BINGO. re-inroducing the biodiversity and giving a habitat and some resources to nature's own bug fighters- Got things under control (at least in zone 1, 2)
honestly-. I could not believe how quickly it happened, and the results- with no powders or fancy organic sprays. I would say things went from "horror movie"- to "manageable annoyance"- in 10 days.


The chickens blew my mind- 3 week old chicks were in grasshopper heaven, I didn't even know how they were getting these hoppers into their little mouths.

Despite feeling pretty deflated at my ultra lame growing season (due to various high desert (and those who know em know em, ugh) challenges and pests) I saw the wonder of Permaculture in action. Plus I get all this great poop for what plants that survived, and what ones I will grow next. ( and I don't know a permie -who doesn't like free fertilizer!)

Right now I look like I live in the ghost desert petrified forest, but I learned a lot this summer, it is not entirely done (going to try for some fall veggies) and I am already planning next growing season.

On the Aphids Jo

- I have amazing luck with good ole' Dr. Brohnner's peppermint soap filling a spray bottle 1/4, then adding water, and cayenne pepper. I saved a native rose bush and peppers / tomato seedlings that way, and always use that. It works for me better than anything else, and since I use Brohnner's soap every day, and my husband likes hot spicy things, it is an easy, "free" in my mind, always available pest fighter on hand. The only Caveat I have with this recipe (which I know is not original or particularly surprising to most gardeners) is I need to rinse off the plants very well, after a few days when the bugs have died. sometimes I haven't done that, (and maybe I am just using too much soap in my mixture) but I notice when I take the time to kind of give the plants that I coated a "shower" a few times over a week, they bounce back faster.

onward and upward, and hooray for chickens (and chicken poop)

 
Tyler Ludens
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Jen Gira wrote:

Despite feeling pretty deflated at my ultra lame growing season (due to various high desert (and those who know em know em, ugh) challenges and pests) I saw the wonder of Permaculture in action. In a period of a week.


That's one of the most encouraging things I've read in days!  I'm so glad things are looking up.  It has been/is being a tough year for a lot of us, so, don't feel alone with that deflated feeling (my household has had to start buying vegetables - so sad!).
 
Jen Gira
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Location: Northern New Mexico/Heart of Espanola Valley
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Tyler Ludens wrote:
Jen Gira wrote:

Despite feeling pretty deflated at my ultra lame growing season (due to various high desert (and those who know em know em, ugh) challenges and pests) I saw the wonder of Permaculture in action. In a period of a week.


That's one of the most encouraging things I've read in days!  I'm so glad things are looking up.  It has been/is being a tough year for a lot of us, so, don't feel alone with that deflated feeling (my household has had to start buying vegetables - so sad!).



yes, truly, It was a real revelation for me, as (I have post on other threads some of my journey) I saved and strategized for 3 1/2 years to finally arrive in new my home/homestead, and put my entire being into getting things going all of april, may, june- only to be decimated by truly, biblical style blight- I had planned to get chickens, but just starting out, I felt like I should get other things in order first, and naturally-I wanted to grow some veggies and take advantage of the sunny spot I had just landed in. Besides putting in 2 days a week interning/volunteering on Permaculture/Earth Building projects, I would then go home, and work another 12 hours (sheet mulching, demo-ing and re designing adobe walls, trying to use hand carved berms and drip tape to irrigate "on contour" (this actually kinda worked, I surprised myself there) I'm far from affluent, and I really saved up to buy plants- Most of my trees came from Trees of Antiquity, Tooleys (in Truchas, NM), and I invested several hundred dollars with the NM Forest Service's seedling program for reforestation. I have nothing but great things to say about all those companies for trees. (Forest service were mostly whips, but the ones that weren't munched into nothing-took, and I was really impressed. I wholeheartedly recommend others taking advantage of a seedling program in their state if it is offered. I balked a bit at the price(s) (You are required to buy big lots, they do offer "packages" (say "windbreak package" "pollinator package") but those sell out really fast, so the other option (with an opening price of a lot at 80.00 for one species) got expensive-but The choke cherries, nanking cherries, currants, and manchurian apricots-were very impressive-despite the wrath of the grasshopper. I noticed the grasshoppers didn't seem to care much for the Golden Currants. I plan to plant more of these, as in a sea of twigs, They stand green and rather robust. I am not a Botanist, so I have no idea, but I guess, experience and seeing for yourself is the best teacher. Thought I'd pass that along. The little bit of green was encouraging. ha.

Tyler, I am in no way doing Permie stuff on your level, but hope to! My goal is to get to growing a great deal of my own veggies and food- I am thrifty, and I try to shop local, but it gets so darn expensive sometimes. I still do it, as I feel like I have to put my money where my mouth is, or I'm... lame? ha I can imagine, if you are growing most of your own veggies, that it would be awful to have to go back to store bought, even if "organic". Every time I eat something straight out of the garden I am reminded of what that veggie "really tastes like". argh.

When I realized, (even with my new chicken saviors) that most growies were a total and complete pathetic fail- I had some smaller seedlings that I was growing inside in a sunny window, but they weren't really getting the light they needed, or in the right pots- to reach their potential- so even though I love love love loved Black Krim tomatoes and Chimayo peppers- I just gave them away. I donated a lot of my seedlings to a local Permaculture project called the "Healing Oasis Garden" by Tewa Woman United. Even though I was bummed, it felt good to give what was left and cross my fingers that others had better luck. They seem really bad though everywhere around here. :/    I figured it might as well be worth a try.  I almost post on another thread "If anyone wondered where I went, now you know, I was in grasshopper hell" I'm not exaggerating, it was actually a little disturbing. ugh... climate change.....  any who, I hope things improve, and there are always cold frames?

   lets give one more cheer for.......... chickens!
 
Tyler Ludens
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Jen Gira wrote:
Tyler, I am in no way doing Permie stuff on your level, but hope to!


Ack! Please don't get any ideas that I'm good at any of this!  My "level" is a constant struggle trying to get anything to grow and then to keep it alive.  Most things I've planted have died (hundreds of dollars of trees and shrubs).  I've had the goal of growing my own food for decades, and have only been able to achieve it sporadically, and never have achieved growing most of my own food, just some vegetables and chickens.  I keep trying, though, and I want to encourage others to keep trying, especially those in tough climates and/or with black thumbs like mine.  Maybe we'll eventually figure out how to do it.
 
Jo East
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Hey Jen,

Sounds like you've been through the mill! It's so hard to see the blood, sweat and tears destroyed by the wild world. It's been iffy here. After spending hundreds of hours on my veg garden rebuild, we almost took a hit from the dog head fire. Came sneaking back despite the mandatory evac so I could keep everything wetted down (but ready to run if the wind shifted again). And got several good rains a few days later. Just now starting to harvest the first of the crop. Started all from seed. A greenhouse/hoophouse is almost a must have if you're growing yr own plants. Cnm had a quicky course on putting one up with pvc very inexpensively--works very well. But difficult to get seedlings to survive in ground the first week or two without protection. I use wall o waters on anything that likes it hot-- tomatoes, pepper, eggplant, cukes, etc. I start spreading straw/hay thinly right away to hold moisture. Too thick and the wind will batter it over the plants. I just keep adding it as the seedlings grow till its deep enough to impede weeds. I try to arrange the planting so the taller ones afford some wind protection.

Grasshoppers haven't been too bad--but the harlequin bugs! Probably drowned thousands. Sheared back all the kale & chard, and am hoping I got the worst of the eggs. The adults have thinned significantly--and the chickens loved the greens. Thinking about running a Chunnel around the perimeter for the birds. Can't turn them loose as they do more damage than the bugs. Lady bugs took out the aphids. Never seen so many! The crows have pulled up virtually every tag in the garden--another season spent guessing which squash or melon variety is where. Next year I really am going to map the beds. Squirrels have zeroed in on the beans. Probably won't get more than one or two meals this year.

Didn't lose as many fruit trees to the rabbits as I feared. Replaced five or six, and still have some regrafting to do, but actually have some apples on one tree! Really impressed with the trench we devised to plant them. Dug down two or three feet and filled with a manure/chip mix. Oriented to catch rain/snow melt. Have only just had to water last two weeks after a year--the rains must come! Re mulching too, really slows evap loss.

Getting a few bramble berries, got some serviceberry fruit--going to plant more since they do so well up here. Sweet but not very flavorful. Be nice blended with elderberry which LOVES the trench. Huge flowers, but a fav with the birds. My hardy almond is fruiting! Only planted it for the blossoms-- so surprised. Found some more yellow horn trees, since last year's survived the winter--another nut some day. Don't know why it's not more used. Very pretty little tree. The New Mexico walnuts keep freezing down-- better at a lower altitude, 6000' ft instead of 7500. Jujubes too, going to move them this year into another trench. Maybe they will won't keep freezing back if they're better hydrated. Same with chaste, but can still get enough seeds for tinctoring despised freezing. Most years.

 
Tyler Ludens
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I find harlequin bugs really tell me when plants get stressed- I don't see them on healthy plants - but when things dry out or it gets too hot for cool weather crops like most greens, the harlequin bugs will wipe them out.  Growing in shade might help.
 
Jo East
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Interesting. There was virtually no plant in the veg garden that didn't have harlequin bugs. Full sun of course. And none of the ornamentals had any, sun or shade. Am planting shade as fast as I can, but things grow slowly up here. At this altitude, I find that almost every plant appreciates some shade, and have even put some small trees in the veg garden. We don't get the temps that most of NM has suffered the last few weeks, but it's been awfully dry. First good rain today--expect to see some really perky plants tomorrow!
 
Amanda Bramble
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Location: Cerrillos, NM
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Jen, I thought I'd write in because I am also in Northern New Mexico at roughly the same elevation.  I agree that the advice you were given deserves a second thought. My property doesn't have nearly the access to water that yours does but I've been growing things here for 13 years.  Actually we live and grow solely on the rain we collect.   Lots of mistakes and successes to learn from. You might be interested in our site- called Ampersand Sustainable Learning Center.  www.ampersandproject.org
We have some events coming up.
Thanks and I hope things are going well.
Amanda
 
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