Rebecca Norman wrote:Wow, that sounds like a very promising project, and exciting. It sounds like the kind of environment where any kind of mulch will have a great effect.
About terraces not being level, I would request you to find out from older local people why that is. Here in Ladakh in the dryest part of the Himalayas, all cultivated land is terraced, because nothing grows without irrigation. The terraces can't be dead flat, because the irrigation is done by channelling water in little tiny canals, and has to work with the slopes. You can't use up too much slope in one place or your water might end up too low to flood a different little plot. And you can't have them too flat or it would soak in before it reaches the next place. There might be a logic to the old terraces you're seeing. Or there might not. or it may be something no longer needed, but it might be better to find out before changing it.
I was gonna recommend planting capers, one of the only things that grows in the desert around here, but you mention that you already have them.
I'm a big fan of this post about growing fruit trees in arid lands (in Greece) by planting huge numbers of seeds in untended areas.
Rene Nijstad wrote:Hi Konrad,
The good thing in your post is that you observe a lot and try different solutions to see what results they bring.
With only 200-300 mm rain per year it will not be easy to rehabilitate all of the land in one attempt. Also because the land is all bare and as you say evaporation is a big factor. So it's important to focus your efforts to achieve maximum results. You already identified the shadowy edges of the terraces as more moist, so I think that's a key observation you could focus on at the start.
Swales concentrate runoff water in a line on contour and after it infiltrates the ground it won't spread very fast, assuming your soil is indeed clay, as it sounds from your description. These swale lines through the landscape will hydrate faster than the rest of the land. To have maximum effect of the swales you can calculate the amount of runoff they need to hold in a severe rain event. (Surface area above the swale times maximum recorded rainfall). If you can focus all efforts on large catchment areas for your first swales, dig them sufficiently big to hold all the water that falls in a big storm and then planting the swales first, you can give nature a foothold to start there. A variation on this could also be to dig the swales slightly off contour to transport the rain water to specific areas, which could then receive a lot more water to get things started. Once these lines or areas start to green up, you can slowly expand plantings to increase shade and ground cover over the now bare landscape.
If getting enough mulch to protect the soil is a problem, maybe putting up shade cloth can help keeping evaporation lower and to avoid too harsh sun on seedlings, until they have establish themselves and provide shade to the ground.
I hope this is helpful.
Roberto Barioso wrote:About this acacia I found this in English, https://fairdinkumseeds.com/products-page/ethnobotanical-or-medicinal-plants/acacia-farnesiana-vachellia-perfume-wattle-seeds It lists some of the most common 50 names of it, but I've found a translation from Greek into musk-tree.
In Greece they call it Ghaz'ia (Γαζία) and they consider it very different from other acacia. They seem to all have been transplanted species from Australia where long ago built their defense on surviving great fires. I curse these trees every time I try to do something close or under it. They make a rose bush feel like french lettuce
The bean (seed) sacks eventually dry on the tree and fall while they are hard. When it rains they stain everything around them in black purple (natural die for all your clothing needs).. If you throw them into compost eventually new little ones will come out and become long skiny and indestructible very fast. Because its wood is fairly hard, even skinny branches provide other crawling plants and birds a solid base to climb on. Even cats walk on its skinny branches with security. [You can make fine drum sticks of long straight branches]. So melons, pumpkins, etc will do great underneath and even if you don't eat them or get significant produce, the dried up plants in the fall create a grade shade/cover for the living soil underneath. Just rip them off the acacia and drop them below. Cheap soil cover.
With a low peak and high altitude I doubt there is any significant underground water, but if you see any old Eucalyptus in the area that is where it is at. I believe acacia is also a good indicator of underground running water. I am not suggesting you dig a well but what sometimes looks like a dry arid dead land may be the surface of a big creek. I would concentrate all early efforts in building soil at the highest spots of the land. Learn olive-tree trimming by selecting the oldest branches to cut and leaving the newest each year. The best olives come from branches that are 1-2years old, while the old branches don't produce well. This makes the tree healthier and more resistant to pests. Instead traditional practice is to let it grow big for a few years and then cut it all above 1,5m and leave a pole for 1-2 years without any production. The other way has good production every year. Keep all the fine trimmings on the ground below and around the tree. Don't listen to those old fools as they have been generationally fooled by the expert fools of industrial agriculture. The same people that sold them pesticides to spray ON EVERY SINGLE OLIVE 3 times a year, every year taught them how to care and trim olive-trees. I use sunflower seed oil for stir-frying.
Make things grow underneath them with mulching the finest pieces. Olive tree wood is the world's greatest wood stove fuel, it make the whole valley smell nice. The clay soil and dry sunny conditions you describe for the summer make it an excellent source of building (example outdoor wood stove) things.
You can also use those branches in making water traps higher up. Because it is so oily it doesn't rot very easy, so if you stack them well in line and slow down water and keep adding mulch you may get a green explosion.
Plant wild flowers from the are and anything that would attract bees. Learn some basic bee keeping and get a few boxes. Get some shaded piles of mulch and broken branches, keep it moist, fungi will grow, bees will come and eat from there when there is no flower honey, so they will stay. If you get them to stay year around then it is your Green Light, the forest creation is on. You can just sit and watch it grow.
What's the distance from the closest ocean/med body of water. If there steady air currents from that direction and you have peaks on the ground in places that are well venter think of making some kind of geothermic moisture trap. Basically you need to stick the longest heaviest metal pole in the ground in a sady cool place (pipes used from old water drilling work well) insulate the part near the surface and above to the place where you'd weld some high surface metal that would also drip condensation into a tank. You then either allow overflow to run into a channel or let it just run into mulched covered soil. Solar-heated Amonia refrigeration cycles may be an expensive solution, or wind-powered air compressors made into refrigeration cycles. Even compressing air may work in high wind areas in condensing ocean/atmospheric moisture.
If you have so many available working hands why not offer them with a truck in cleaning other peoples olive groves and gardens, as the fools think the soil needs to be seen by sunlight and be free from "weeds" to produce oil. Bring all this organic material into your landfill
Later do a seminar of the gold they paid you to take away from their land into yours when you will be producing double the oil than they are producing while the pest (dakus) that destroys olives will be staying away.
Keep olive trees low and use the shade to grow taller trees between them. Learn everything you can about any small weed or bush or flower you see on or around the area. Take hikes higher up and collect samples and seeds. Nearly every wild specie you find in such climatic conditions contains exponentially more nutrients and therapeutic substances compared to what you find in wet climates. If you see any dense vegetation and trees out in the wild, close to the peaks of the hills around you, use the method of dipping little sacks of sweetened wet rice about 15-20cm below the surface and near the root of each healthy tree. come back 40 days later and take it out with some of the surrounding soil, take it back, put it in big buckets of chlorine/fluoride free water (rain water is best) with some molasses, stir up, keep in a cool shade for an other 40 days. Take out and mix 10:1 with more rain/well water and put it in the roots of any small tree you are growing. The best forest acceleration method I have discovered. If you spent a fortune buying the best mycorryzal culture from the other side of the planet not only it may never work, it may even be hurting things. You want to spread native old growth and species, plant and living matter, and displace the newcomers (humans acacia palm trees etc.).
Peace, by any means necessary
Konrad Dobrowolski wrote:Hi Rene,
Thank you for your reply. The swale I've built proved very quickly to be to small. We had few big rains and one huge one recently. Swale filled very quickly in almost every rain event we had so far. I will make the swales wider and a little bit deeper as you recommended. I would like to create a water way so the water not only seeps into the soil but also slowly travels down the property. The main challenge would be to divert water from all the existing structures, caravans, parking spots. This is a spiritual place with a lot of guests so access is very important factor. I would like to create little ponds/reservoirs everywhere I can (with overflow pipes) and connect them with channels. On the terraces where there are structures/caravans I would like to dig swales and make them off-contour so I can connect them to the rest of water way.
Konrad Dobrowolski wrote:What gives me a big headache is the composition of some terraces. The owner wants to build water reservoirs in the terraces with a lot of stones and loose soil. It looks to me like a very risky idea and in a big rain event it can go badly. Any recommendation how I can estimate how big/deep a reservoir can be for a given soil conditions?
Konrad Dobrowolski wrote:You have an interesting project in Colombia, I wish you all the best in developing it!
It's great to have the option to observe the effects of more extreme weather events before or during designing a property! I wish you success in figuring out what's the best way to deal with the water flows on the land. One remark, if possible avoid overflow pipes, they tend to jam up due to sediment and/or debris. In most cases, if the terrain is not too steep, you can install a level overflow in a swale that's several meters wide. This creates a sheet flow of water rather than a concentrated stream. On our own land we cannot really do that, too steep, so we build little waterfalls out of flat rocks. Those also double as stairs to walk up and down the slopes from terrace to terrace to swales etc. Channels and gullies we try to line with stones to minimize erosion.
That would give me a big headache too! Are the terraces secured with stone walls and not too high? If so you have a more stable situation than if not. Reservoirs to hold water can only be made with compacted clay (and they may still leak a bit) or with pond liner, which is expensive. In loose rocky soil they will drain quickly, and too much water might undermine the stability of the terraces which can in extremes lead to landslides. Better to be extremely careful with that. Another thought is the relatively low amount of rainfall, ponds or reservoirs might not be the best solution if they will be empty most of the time. Water deeper in the ground is better protected against evaporation than open water. If you can soak in the occasional rainstorm you might have more benefits.
Dawn Hoff wrote:Hello!
Where about a are you? We are just outside Malaga, so I expect not too far away?
I have a site that sounds much like yours - 6 ha, 300 olives, 5-6 carobs and some oaks, wild almonds etc. Old terraces that are almost gone - which we will repestablish in the comming year. I can show you what I have done with a few olive trees later on when I've had the chance to take some pictures.
One problem with water reservoirs in this environment is evaporation and salt concentrations. Better to store the water in the ground. We do however have a small "stealth pond" on our west terrace, but since we haven't lined it, it mostly just st works to store excess water for a short while in extreme rain events like the one we had in December.
I will be planting Moringas around our property - I bought one last year and I am waiting for it to fruit (but I might just buy 1000/€50 seeds on milanuncios bc I want to move forward...). I know they aren't native to the area - but they have so many positives that I am OK with that: Stopping erosion, nitrogen fixing, living fences, food for animals and humans - win-win all around and very tolerant of drought and very fast growing.
We also plan on planting: Mulberries (which - to quote Paul Wheaton - "aren't nitrogen fixers but mysteriously are anyway" bc birds love their fruit there is always a lot of bird poop under them), figs, chestnuts, oaks, dates, maybe pistachio (don't know if it is cold enough here thoug), Spanish walnut... our plan is to alleycrop on contour.
We currently have rabbits and will get more, and next step is to get chickens - we had chickens two summers ago and I rotated them around the garden. Where they have been everything is 1000x more green and the neighbor envies our weeds (he has goats and hardly any weeds). I slaughtered the chickens because our rotation system was too work intensive and they ended up sleeping on the doorstep to my kitchen next to the dog (eating his food) and I had to clean the mess after them every morning (I really do need coffee before dealing with chicken poop - not the other way around). They also grew to Franken-chicken size and chased my son around the yard... next time we will prob. get a smaller (heritage) breed - I am in love with Blue Andalucians.
I have seen a legume bush growing around here that I have collected seeds from and which I plan to plant along the edges of my property because it has large thorns - I think it is some kind of acacia. Otherwise I usually collect seeds all around the parks and roadsides around here bc. the ayuntamiento seem to be planting legumes 90% of the time and I am guessing they do it because they are relatively low maintenance and do well in poor soils.
Robert Vaclavik wrote:Hello, I am just about to start similar project in caceres 2 ha and wanna ask you what did you find as best N fixers which produce a lot of organic material "chop and drop"
I am just on the beginning of planning so need a lot of informations as I am new here in spain
Good luck mate