we are located one mile close to the ocean and our property has a one metre layer of sand with tough clay underneath, wich gets hard like rock when dry.
as you can see on the foto, The land is overgrown by sturdy grasses, dollarweed, wild scrubs etc. Actually its very beautiful. also we have a little "native" forest of acacia, pine and shrubs located on the highest and dryest part of the property. Strong winterstorms destroyed a lot of our acacias, so weve gotta do here something too.
Right now, we spend only 3 month a year here, later on we will live here completely.
I would like to estasblish a food forest here and prepair other spaces for future vegetable beds by building up soil.
One of my Ideas was to do thick sheet mulching with woodchips and letting that settle for 1-2 years.
One question here is if i should start removing the grasslayer including the deep sturdy rhizomes before the sheet mulching. ( that would be a hell of work)
i i would do all thst digging, it would be easy and not expensive to order some loads of acceptable soil to mix into the sand.
Of couse id prefer to just sheet mulch thickly.
Second thing id like to start already is of coure to plant some trees for the food forrest. ( weve got somebody here who can water them during the year)
how would you prepair the food forest area?
Third thing is that actualy i was thinking to place the food fores on the lowest part of our property becaus it has more water.
But then there is the acacia and pine area on the highest part of our property. here something needs to be done anyway. Now a lot of light comes in due to wind damage.
together with the light also the weeds start moving in.
Would you start a food forrest in here?
Would it make sense to sheet mulch here too?
We are located in Uruguay and its not so easy to get cartain plants in our short time frame.
Actually the offer is very limited.
( i started by bringing some non seeding comfrey roots)
Looking forward to hear from you guys, thanks a lot in advance.
Greetings from Uruguay
Welcome to permies!
I agree with the request for a sketch or map of your place, and if you can include it, the slope, and if not differences in the soil types, then different existing plant communities. More photos would also be helpful. You mention wind damage, is there evidence of continuous wind, or was it blow down from a single event? A photo from a distance of the area where there is wind damage would help, if you don't know how to read that.
What was the winter kill you mention?
I think wood chips would be a good idea where ever you want to concentrate your efforts in the future, Since you have clay underneath your sand, and it looks like you have a thriving plant community, I don't know that you need to import soil as much as get the clay from below coming up into the sandy layer.
My first thought on your question about digging out the rhizomes and tough grasses is "don't do it". The rhizomes may be stabilizing the sand/soil, the grass is keeping the surface covered, the existing plant community is feeding the soil food web. If you can begin to enhance the conditions in the soil for those soil micro organisms, they will take care of the rest.
Most trees want higher ratio of fungi to bacteria in the soil, but without more information, it is hard to know, how to advise you specifically.
good luck with your project
I am going to send more detailed information on one of the areas that we plan to develop first, plus fotos soon.
As well I am about to draw a map and post it.
What do you think should I post it as a new topic?
I think posting on this thread might be your best bet. The others who have already looked, and have asked for the info, maps, photos will most likely get a notice that you have posted and then they'll come look.
I am an ecologist and permaculture teacher living in the sierras de rocha Uruguay. I am developing an education centre and I am working on various smaller projects which includes forest gardens and keyline designs so if you feel that meeting up sometime would benefit you in some way please let me know
I am on a farm that was established a century ago. Half of it is sand and gravel deposited by glaciers and the other half is clay floodplain that apparently was in ancient times the bottom of a lake. These are some of the things I have observed and that you might look for on your property.
The rain that falls on the upper part of the property and the land beyond filters down slowly and come out at the boundary between the sand and clay. This is the most productive area for annual crops which are sub irrigated during the dry summer.
Most of the floodplain area was cleared for pasture a long time ago. As you mentioned the surface has to be covered or it bakes hard during the dry season. It is too soft for animals during the winter but just above it where there is a layer of sand is firm enough for animals in the winter but the steeper hillside they erode with their hooves. I do nt have animals now so I mow the dry grass at the end of the summer before the rains trying to get most of the seeds to stay behind then use the stalks to mulch my gardens and berry vines.
Fruit trees that have a tp root like apples and pears do very well higher up the hill because they can still reach water during the dry period. Shallower rooted stone fruit do better where they only have about a meter or 2 to get to the clay layer to get water during the drought. I have one grove of plums that is in the flood plain and it is doing quite well as I have removed most of the overstory that was shading it.
The native trees on the highest part is my zone 4/5 and the broken trees and branches are a source of firewood. They catch the rain and mist and filter it down to the porous soil and keep it from evaporating with the litter underneath.
Areas of grass that spread by rhizomes will take advantage of a wood chip mulch which smothers the grasses that spread by seed. But it can be taken advantage of but only if you are there to manage it. The roots will move up into the boundary between the mulch and the soil and can be more easily removed. But if the timing is wrong they will become such a thick mat that it is difficult to remove. This is really not a problem under fruit trees for the most part they form a symbiotic relationship where both the grass and trees grow better unless the trees shade the grass out. Again the grass can be cut for mulch or used for grazing. Chicken tractors moved daily can make such areas very productive and can be seeded during the winter with annual seed plants after they have passed to produce more feed for the chickens or yourself.
Here is a map of our property.
Our cimate here I would describe as quite mediteranean.
Because we are on a "punta" we have beaches in many directions not even a mile away and due to that a lot o wind.
Right now its late spring/ early summer here and lots of wind comes from the east.
A known gardener here said that the biggest enemys of plants here are ants ( the leaf cutting ones) and the wind. Its true, the ants here are crazy but therefor I havent seen slugs here so far.
As we intend to build more little houses in certain areas, I would like to focus first on those areas where we wont build for sure, maily the 220 square metre piece of sandy land on the north east side of the house. We are considering to transform this piece of land into a food producing eco system.
Also the little native forest on the highest areas of the property needs some care, due to wind damages. Weeds are starting to move sand with its tiny amout of humus and thin cover of acacia leafs. ( the sand/soil unter the acacias here is quite acidic)
Anyway we would like to plant lots of suitable food trees and one of my question is wich area of our property is most suitable for that.
I was thinking of the lower part of the North East area. But maybe it makes more sense to reforest the native forest with fruit trees. The native forest hast a 1,5 metre layer of sand, covering the clay.
((Another interesting area is the 33 X 2,5 meter stripe in the lowest area wich is slightly flooded throughout the whole winter. Now the summer is starting and even thou we dont have much rain, down there its still quite wet. just 1,5 meters more uphill, we already have to irregate the guavas because the sand doesnt hold any water.))
As you can see on map and pictures, the land goes slightly downhill, with an altitude difference of 3-4 meters along the 25 - 35 meters, starting at the highest point in the upper left.
The north east area behind the house, which ich we intend to perma curturize, has one meter of sand with tough clay underneath. Right now the sand is full of weeds with many grases that produce rhizomes, dollarweed etc.
Some psidium cattleianum guavas are already here, a young willow on the lowest part, a fig tree next to the house and an acacia plus a Brazilian peppertree (its native here) on the highest part.
This area starts next to the terrace/ lawn of our house and ends at the already mentioned moist lowest part of the property.
Her are my considerations of how to prepair this piece of land.
First I considered growing the veggies in big boxes in order to avoid dealing with the sand and the tough weeds.
But then the boxes would have to be irigated a lot.
Any kind of raised bed, plants would probably be exposed to more wind.
High keyhole beds including buried wood unerderneath and a rhizome protection may need less irrigation. (we have got a lot of wood from our damaged acacias)
Buried wood anyway looks like a very considerable option to me.
Beside all that, what looks most convenient to me is to get a team of local gardeners with the proper machines ( well, lets see whats possible here) to clean out the weeds(?)including rhizomes, to mix in a lot of organic matter and dirt into the 1 metre layer of sand and then to create swales. Of course I am open for other less expensive options.
Along the fence wind protecting bushes that wont get too high in order not to steal the low winter sun might make sense. Maybe a smaller kind of hazelnut, berries that can deal with wind, etc. ( i am very happy for suggestions concerning plants).
Even though we are in a wood rich land, I dont know yet if I can get wood chips or borrow a strong chipper here. Might be difficult. I most definitely can get a lot of pine saw dust which might be a option for mulching the native forest in places where the wind is blowing away its natural but sensitive cover. Or for sheet mulching in other parts.
I also consider sheet mulching around already edisting trees wich have a hard time with the strong grases.
We will be here for 3 month only this year, so the idea is to start with veggies in the coming years. Now buildin up a more self sustaining ecosystem, that protects itself from weeds and drought + planting fruit trees is what probably makes most sense to us.
We have sombody here for the most essential works like arigating the new trees, weeding, etc. for the times where we are not here.
Other parts of our property can be perma culturized in the future, after we finished our constructions. So there will be more potencial space for veggies etc.
So, would do you think? Once again, I am very grateful for any help, suggestions and inpiration.
I am a professional landscape gardener with few experience on growing food. I have experienced in many kinds of garden works and a lot to learn as it goes in directions permaculture.
Greetings from Uruguay
These acacias are native here and cover a lot of land in this region.
They grow fast and are fine with sand. acacias are said to be nitrogen fixers. Also thier massive green keeps the leaf cutting ants busy.
On the other side their life cycle is pretty short and they are sensitive to strong winds as we see here.
These acacias grow new leafes and branches only at the ent of the branches. So if you cut a branch in the middle nothing green will come out again.
With the age they bend down more and more, so what was last year a nice lush view protecting branch next to your terrace, may be a branch occupying your terrace this year.
You cut it off and ciao ciao green.
So most of our acacias are now in this kinda unpractical state. They take a lot of space.
With the pines here its another thing. We love them. The sound of the wind going through them. Lovely parrots like to have a chat up in their crowns. Many birds stop here.
Its normal in this region that the pines grow and grow and one day they fall.
OK if there are no buildings in the near which is not our case.
Also its difficult to find specialists here who climb the trees, cut them down in steps from the top etc.
As you see, our little native forest is a topic. It would be so said to cut down all those aged natives. Well, someting definitely gotta happen here.
First let me disqualify myself. My farming experience has been in Minnesota, on clay soil in the USA midwest. However I am well traveled and lived on the Gulf of Mexico when it was in high school. In college I did take Crops and Soils as part of an undergraduate education in Biology,
Two things you should look into. The Scots have had to manage [that is shelter] gardens from winds. In Minesota such plantings are named "shelter belts".
On the Gulf Coast I have seen landscape plants [roses] started in tubes of roofing paper [any waterproff plastic might ubistute]. The idea being the stoppage of the leaching, that is washing away, of plant foods into the sand. Once the plant's root system gets down to the clay it should be able to find nutriants.
Costal land scares me. With Global warming. Yesterday I did see a system of bulk marerials bags [square meter or so size bags used to sell dry construction materials] bound in fence wire, to be filled with sand and stones, as a means of holding back flooding. They might also be used to build tree sized planters for your fruit trees.
A product named "Tangle foot" is marketed in the USA to stop ants.
Basiclly it is a mix of a startch and protien to make a gummy paste. This is spread in a wide band on the tree trunk. When the ants try to climb the tree, they will get caught in the gooy mess, and go no further.
Good luck, Doc Linda
2 things that I want to share with you that are comparable to my situation.
The west slope toward the setting sun in the summer can intensely heat up the house Though the warmth is welcome in the winter. I happen to have a line of prune plums on that side of the house which shades the porch and house in the summer plus the fruit is handy and refreshing that time of year but in the winter the bare branches do not block much sun.
The other is the winter water that accumulates on the clay at the end of the sand. I have been filling it with cut grass to block the light so weeds do not grow in it. The grass starts to break down anaerobically in the water then II rake it to the edge to expose the pond in the spring and the grass composts aerobically. This has built up a rich humus clay soil to mix with the sand edge. My goal was to make rice ponds if I can find a rice variety that will start early enough in the spring. But at least I am holding more of the winter water which keeps the surrounding soil from drying out. When the ponds go dry at the end of summer the soil in the bottom makes good potting soil.
An interesting strategy to look into might be "Zai holes". You dig a series of pits into which you place what ever organic matter you can get, and you plant in the center of each pit. I am sure there are more considerations, that is just my simple understanding of it. I am thinking that would put the roots down lower, closer to the clay layer, giving the plants access to more moisture. The sides of the hole are higher than the new plant, so it is protected from the wind, but as I said I know very little about the method.
You mentioned a north side of a building as a planting opportunity. I understand that you will only be there for the summer this year, but the north facing place has a lot of potential because it will be warmer in the winter. You mentioned that you intend to build more small houses. Would it be possible to place another little building or two in such a way to protect and warm that area even more? And perhaps create more areas like it? If all of that sounds possible, that would also be a good location to begin to enrich the soil.
And, if you place buildings to reflect winter sun and trap the heat, you can also plant some trees on the south side of the buildings that can withstand the wind and that will grow up higher than the buildings, slowing the wind even more. A trellis structure with a vine might also work if there are no trees that will grow.
Forgive me if you already know this, but it is better to slow the wind rather than to try to stop it. A building by itself or a high stone wall is more likely to create wind turbulence than shelter. If you look into how to structure wind breaks,or look into the shelter belts Linda mentioned, or what Scottish farming methods I bet you could get an understanding of how to create your shelter belts.
Though you have described many drawbacks to the acacias that grow there, they do grow there, they fix nitrogen, provide organic matter, they slow the wind, possibly they would be good goat forage, and they may prove to be great nurse trees for the plants you hope to establish.
Another plant to consider is Moringa olifera. If it will grow there, it is tasty and nutritious, hard to kill, tolerates harsh conditions, and provides excellent forage.
In the meantime for you, here is something to look into for the area that has lots of rhizomes and grass. Maybe do small areas at a time if it is a large area?
Back to Eden is a good answer I think, It talks about putting down paper or cardboard then cover with wood chips. The trick is to totally soak the paper/cardboard before covering with woodchips.
I look forward to hearing what people suggest for you. Much good luck.
The winds hete are not that moist.today its again too windy and it comes fromthe southwest. Beside windprotection, I will have to look for very resistant food trees. A seller from a local shop just told me that apples are expensive here because they are difficult to grow due to wind.
On my property is mostly pine trees so our mulch is mostly pine. For the fear of robbing or tying up nutrients especially nitrogen I used only hay mulch with wood chips on top and planted in the hay mulch. Since I am on forested land we eventually piled up a 2-3 year supply of pine wood chips/mulch via a wood chipper. I now use it mixed in layers with my hay mulch and my veggies are growing really well and healthy.
Urine is an amazing product to start collecting a few days or week or so before you need it. One simply needs to add lots of urine to feed where you put down lots of pine mulch and then there should be no concern of a lack for plant growth. Pine mulch mostly ties up nitrogen, So one just needs to add when the plants need it most. You can mix water to urine 5-10 to 1.
I can grow moringa plants in zone 5-6 but what I do is put it in the greenhouse in late summer and cover it up. Moringas can be cut right down and regrow every year as long as the roots do not freeze.
Aaron Hartwig wrote: we wanted to build a 2 meter high stone or earthen wall on the border towards our noisy neighbours.
I found a seller for 2 year old moringa trees. The thing is, it wont freeze here but still can get quite cold in winter nights. For now I think I will give it a try.
Beside windprotection, I will have to look for very resistant food trees. A seller from a local shop just told me that apples are expensive here because they are difficult to grow due to wind.
HI Aaron, If you need shelter from the noisy neighbors, a wall is excellent. Think of whether the neighbors are on the windward side or leeward side of you, are they up wind or down. You can still put up a wall to bounce the sound and get some privacy, You just need to soften the airspace over the wall so that the air does not get pulled down and in behind the wall. It is an idea to study and think on. You can also soften the air flow by planting shrubs in front of the wall. The wind would first encounter the shrubs in front of the wall, and then as it goes up, to go over the wall, tree limbs and branches. The acacias would be fine for the pioneer plants. once established then add some plants that will feed you and or your livestock.
The moringa at the base of the north wall might do quite well. If the gournd does not freeze, I think they will come back from the roots. That's what they do in the pots I have them in here. You might do well to protect them and not harvest them much to let them get big enough to come back strong in the spring.
Good work on finding out about the apple trees not doing well there. The soil does not sound right for them, as they like a high fungi to bacteria ratio on the soil, hard to attain in sand. There are sure to be trees that will tolerate the conditions, especially once you get some modifications, both to the soil and to shape the wind to leave you a quiet warm pocket there below the wind that howls across the tree tops.
"The moringa at the base of the north wall might do quite well. If the ground does not freeze, I think they will come back from the roots. That's what they do in the pots I have them in here. You might do well to protect them and not harvest them much to let them get big enough to come back strong in the spring."
I think I could have been clearer on this. The wall, in this context is the wall ofAaron's house that was mentioned much earlier in the thread.
I had been discussing a sound barrier wall, which might or might not be oriented east west, providing a north side.
I hope this clears up any possible confusion.
Also, I think it would be worth looking into, for a thread on managing wind, and another on growing moringa. I may go searching later, but have other priorities right this minute. They would each make great threads on their own if thye don't already exist.
There is also a thread here on permies on jujubes.
Other have already mentioned that you will likely want to plan in shelter from the wind. Have you considered the sea itself as a resource? Seaweed is generally abundant, easy to collect and makes for great material for adding nutrients to soil. You can use it as a mulch to top dress around plants, compost it, etc... It may be just what your sandy soil needs. You can probably get a huge trailer load in an afternoon if you have access to a suitable beach.
Vetiver puts roots roots down a long ways. (4 meters I've heard) It might crowd out the grass with rhizomes you mentioned. Roots that long would reach your clay layer. Those roots would feed soil bacteria and fungi, and friends. It would enhance the development of soil aggregates. The roots are fragrant. They are the source of vetiver essential oil, can be burned as incense or I have heard people drinking it as tea, though I have no experience with that.
I have no idea the forage value of vetiver.
Here's wikipedia on the topic of vetiver, they do mention forage value and use in foods for humans.
Will check out vetiver. I definitely like the essential oil.
Of course we have a lot of natives that are very adopted to the local Clima.. Im gathering hints from local people who know the local flora well.
Oh yes, good to hear about a wall being possible if combined with shrubs.
I am on the lookout for non invasive bamboos too.
Thekla mentioned that it might be better not to remove the weed layer as its stabilizing the ground. ( also I saw yesterday that only the first 10 cm of sand contain humus)
Its clear, that when you remove all vegetation and dont cover the sand you will be left with a sand desert.
I could get quite soon a load of pine sawdust and I am still considering how to prepair the ground where its being unloaded and spread.
As it is pretty easy to remove the weeds, I am still considering to do that bevore sheet mulching. I would like to avoid having certain weeds like dollarweed and grases covering all the mulched area when I come back next year.
What do you think about that? Will the already existing trees be OK with that?
I will also look for a source for manure, but dont now if you can easily get big amounts, as cows and horses here usualy have lots of countryside to range.
As it is so easy to dig here and as I have a lot of wood, I could bury it in the sand bevore adding sheet mulch.( I am considering that for the north east slope area as well as to raise the lowest area which is moist throughout most of the year)
What do you think, could swales be created on the north east slope by burying wood, and would that make sense?
( eventhough sand, and maybe because of the finer dustier upper layer, I also observe water running off on the surface).
What does a metric clock look like? I bet it is nothing like this tiny ad:
five days of natural building (wofati and cob) and rocket cooktop oct 8-12, 2018https://permies.com/t/92034/permaculture-projects/days-natural-building-wofati-cob