• Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic

Need High Desert Soil Info.  RSS feed

 
Robbie Asay
Posts: 83
2
cat dog forest garden greening the desert solar tiny house
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I've found descriptions of the soil I'll be dealing with when I buy the property and I would like to get more information about it. I'll be at 5a around 8000 feet and is mostly covered in sagebrush with the occasional juniper and pinion.

Taos County had done a soil survey and found topsoil depths of 1-8 feet. I won't know what's on the chunk of dirt I buy until I start digging. Under the topsoil it appears there is a level of fractured basalt rock. Below is a description of the types of soil although the slope on the property isn't anything like what's on the BLM land:

http://www.blm.gov/style/medialib/blm/nm/field_offices/taos/taos_grazing/allotment_evaluations.Par.89650.File.dat/929_North%20Lease.pdf

Petaca-Prieta complex, 1 to 8 percent slopes. These soils consist of clay loams, with rooting depths between 10 to 20 inches. Parent materials of weathered basalt and eolian sediments comprise these soils. Average annual precipitation ranges between 10 and 14 inches. Vegetation is characterized by western wheat, blue grama, sideoats grama, and winterfat.

Servilleta-Prieta complex, 1 to 5 percent slopes. These soils consist of clay loams, with rooting depths between 10 to 40 inches. Parent materials of mixed material derived from weathered basalt and eolian comprise these soils. Average annual precipitation ranges between 10 and 14 inches. Vegetation is characterized by blue grama, western wheat and sagebrush.

Vegetation observed during time of review included western wheat, fringe sage, squirreltail, blue grama, sagebrush, prickly pear, juniper, snakeweed, prairie Junegrass, pingue and rabbitbrush.


I found the grazing info particularly helpful because rather than growing any lawn I'd like to plant grasses and such and use sheep to improve the soil as Gabe Brown did(only he used cattle) to rehabilitate their soil. I'd rather use a couple of sheep as I'm buying only 2 acres and can use the wool. His video that was previously posted in another thread:



I would like to know from others familiar with these types of soils what issues you've had, successes and what you've done to make growing successful. My end goal is to grow and sell produce at the local farmers market and to restaurants to supplement my monthly disability.
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9691
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
176
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
You should be able to get the full county soil survey from your Soil Conservation District, which will show exactly what kinds of soils are on your property, or property you're looking to purchase.

This copy of the survey for Taos County doesn't seem to contain the detailed maps (or they aren't showing up for me for some reason), but I was able to get this kind of survey for my county and it shows the kind of soil you should expect to find, in fairly fine detail. http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_MANUSCRIPTS/new_mexico/taosNM1982/taos.pdf

Here is the Web Soil Survey website, which I haven't quite figured out how to use. It should provide detailed information about the soils on properties you're looking at, if you know the location on the map: http://websoilsurvey.nrcs.usda.gov/app/
 
Joseph Lofthouse
garden master
Posts: 2332
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
431
bee chicken food preservation fungi greening the desert
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Robbie Asay wrote:I'll be at 5a around 8000 feet and is mostly covered in sagebrush with the occasional juniper and pinion.
[...]
I would like to know from others familiar with these types of soils what issues you've had, successes and what you've done to make growing successful. My end goal is to grow and sell produce at the local farmers market and to restaurants...


A sagebrush/juniper/pinion ecosystem suggests that the area has low rainfall: Perhaps around 13" per year? The limiting factor to growing vegetables is unlikely to be the soil. It is more likely to be low temperatures from the high-altitude, and lack of water. I estimate that irrigation of about 1 acre-foot per acre would be required to grow vegetables for market.
 
Robbie Asay
Posts: 83
2
cat dog forest garden greening the desert solar tiny house
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Tyler Ludens wrote:You should be able to get the full county soil survey from your Soil Conservation District, which will show exactly what kinds of soils are on your property, or property you're looking to purchase.


The soil survey I mentioned in my post is the same survey. Since I don't know which lot I will end up with I can't give an exact location except to say the sagebrush mesa west of Taos and the Rio Grande and east of Carson National Forest. The descriptions I posted from the BLM survey are identical to the soils in the area I'm looking in that were identified by the county survey.

Joseph Lofthouse wrote:A sagebrush/juniper/pinion ecosystem suggests that the area has low rainfall: Perhaps around 13" per year? The limiting factor to growing vegetables is unlikely to be the soil. It is more likely to be low temperatures from the high-altitude, and lack of water. I estimate that irrigation of about 1 acre-foot per acre would be required to grow vegetables for market.


I included in the quoted description that there is between 10-14 inches of precip a year.

Sorry guys, just a little confused. Since there are profitable CSA's and farms around Taos I'm fairly certain I'll be able to throw something together on my little patch of sagebrush. I'd hardly be a pioneer on this but I do want to know from others what they have done in similar conditions and soils and also included that I wanted to explore Gabe Brown's diverse cover crops method of soil improvement which also holds moisture better requiring less irrigation. I'm more worried about the mice and rattlesnakes than I am the elevation and short growing season.
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9691
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
176
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
More important than soil depth or quality, in my opinion, is if there's a slope on the land, even a slight one, that you can use to direct rainfall to one small area where you'll have your garden. Even if you only get 10 inches of rain per year, if you're able to consolidate the rainfall from an area four times as large as your garden, you'll effectively have rainfall of 40 inches per year! Your task then will be to create a garden which holds the moisture between rains. Since this will probably require almost totally rebuilding the soil in the garden, it almost doesn't matter what you start with, in my opinion. An intensive small garden done this way can be very productive. This is what I'm striving for in my gardens, to direct runoff in a passive manner to hydrate the soil in a small area.

The extensive area of your rainfall catchment might be used to grow native forage grasses, and graze a small number of livestock, maybe.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
garden master
Posts: 2332
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
431
bee chicken food preservation fungi greening the desert
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I've just finished downloading and closely examining satellite images for about 75 square miles surrounding Taos, New Mexico. I found two small orchards. And two small sites growing row-crops. The row-crop sites were mostly greenhouses with a few outside row-crops thrown in as if by afterthought. I was stunned that I didn't find a single home vegetable garden.

So if I had a word of advice, it would be to choose an area with more available water. If you're like me, and choose to be near family, then perhaps you will have to sacrifice the dream of growing vegetables for the sake of family. In my case, 7 miles higher elevation up into the mountains makes a big difference in what I can grow, and how quickly I can get it to market. One of these days, perhaps I'll put in the work necessary to move 7 miles down-slope.

Unlike here, much of the rain in Taos comes during the growing season. So as Tyler suggested, on sloping ground, rain could be collected into basins, at a 4:1 concentration ratio to grow fruit trees. Apricots and some types of grapes seem suited to that kind of growing. Perhaps a 6:1 concentration might be more appropriate for getting through years with drought.

Using on-contour swales to achieve 4:1 concentration of rainwater.


Boomerang Bunds to achieve 4:1 concentration of rainwater.


Below are photos, taken today and Thursday, of how I water rowcrops:

~Joseph


0605160934-00.jpg
[Thumbnail for 0605160934-00.jpg]
Flood Irrigation
0602161446-01.jpg
[Thumbnail for 0602161446-01.jpg]
Sprinkle Irrigation
 
Robbie Asay
Posts: 83
2
cat dog forest garden greening the desert solar tiny house
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Joseph Lofthouse wrote:I've just finished downloading and closely examining satellite images for about 75 square miles surrounding Taos, New Mexico. I found two small orchards. And two small sites growing row-crops. The row-crop sites were mostly greenhouses with a few outside row-crops thrown in as if by afterthought. I was stunned that I didn't find a single home vegetable garden.


I'm sorry I missed this.  I've been very distracted getting ready to move.

There are quite a few farms and agricultural areas around Taos most especially 25 miles north of it around Questa, and Taos itself has hosted a very active farmers market every year.  This is the area that Mike Reynolds and his crowd made famous with their earthships and indoor gardens.  Most of the people I've been "meeting" online also have gardens and the area is known for it's green chili crop.  I'm looking at Google maps right now and see plenty of commercial agricultural area but obviously not in the area I can afford property in.  I'm not certain why satellite images would be so different though.

I simply wanted to get more information on the two soils I mentioned above especially if anyone had grown on them, that's all.
 
Run away! Run away! Here, take this tiny ad with you:
Thread Boost feature
https://permies.com/wiki/61482/Thread-Boost-feature
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
Boost this thread!