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Permaculture project in south of Spain - species advice needed  RSS feed

 
Konrad Dobrowolski
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Hello fellow permies!

I'm currently working on a 11ha property in south of Spain, Almeria province, near Tabernas desert. It is a very dry place (only 200-300mm rain per year), very compacted, heavy clay soil, hundreds of years of bad land management changed this whole area into desert/steppe like climate (Köppen classification: BSk/BSh). The land is former olive tree orchard so there is a lot of olive trees around but they didn't produce any fruits this year. The land is north-facing on the north mountain slope. The mountain has around 1000m above sea level, the property is on around 600-700m. I am not very concerned about the amount of sun this north-facing land gets as this is south of Spain The sun aspect also provides a shade on the edges of the terraces creating rich and humid environment (moses throughout the year and even few mushrooms growing now in December).The mountain creates a very specific conditions for fog and dew formation as well (I'm currently experimenting with fog catchers and dew catchers). Top of the mountain is covered with wind mills as there is some wind here but not very strong. The property (and surrounding properties) are completely covered with terraces. A lot of ploughing has been done here by previous owners and the terraces are covered with little "valleys and hills" (10-20 cm wide). The terraces have also been built without any understanding of contour lines and so you can see depressions and little hills everywhere. Some terraces are 30-40 m wide some are 5m wide. Most of the useful structures have already been built so it is very difficult to use "relative placement" principle. Also vegetable gardens are already placed and there are other people "in charge" of them so the zoning principle is also very difficult to apply. The property is around 11ha, but 2ha is occupied by existing structures, vegetable gardens, etc. I'm working on remaining 9ha of land which is mostly where your zones 2-5 would be. I would like to create the water retention landscape that catches every single water drop from the scarce rain and green the place with as many species as possible (in different layers) and make use of many different microclimates that the topography of the land offers. The rain water is the only water I can use on the 9ha of land so any watering system is out of the question. Big scale landscaping or earthworks with heavy machinery is also out of the question but we have a steady supply of great, hard-working people

I've made some small scale experiments and waited for a big rain event...
The experiments are: few channels to direct the water from most eroded places and with biggest runoff - mostly from roads, flattening one of the terraces and building a swale on contour (pictured in the image), making two dew collectors and building the paths so the people don't walk on the soil and compact it even more. Future experiments include fog collectors, vermicompost box to cultivate worms to use their "runoff" as fertilizer and also use them to decompact the soil, reed beds and grease traps near the kitchen and bathroom water outlets to reuse thousands of liters of runoff from them (we currently have 8 people here so we use a lot of water). In the Spring I would also like to start planting pines and other "native" trees on the hills and mountain above so they work as a water sponge in the future rain events. There is almost no cover on the soil now. Some olive trees, some native legume bushes (mentioned below), some capers here and there.

Covering the soil and soil compaction are my main concerns in this phase of the project because we loose a lot of water to evaporation, the soil cracks and is like cement in some places. The problem is that the plants here do not produce too much biomass (they conserve as much water as possible so the stems and leaves are very small, long, thin and often thorny). I think I can use one of the species of comfrey with hard, woody roots near the bathroom and kitchen outlets so it has enough water and produces mulch and decompacts the soil. As we cover more and more soil there will be more moisture in the land so we can start planting other species. For now I focused mostly on native fabaceae that grows here everywhere so it starts improving the soil and also produce a little of biomass.
Research on plant species is very challenging for me so maybe some fellow permies (ideally from Spain) can share some ideas on species.
I currently have found and gathered seeds of:
- Retama Sphaerocarpa - native legume bush that grows everywhere here, perennial, 3-4m high, I want to use it as a short-term NF and to cover the soil and start decompacting it.
- Small legume bush that I haven't been able to identify yet, 30-50cm high, with a lot of very small pods that contain 3-5 very small seeds. Again, a short-term NF, and living mulch.
- Leucaena leucocephala - a fast-growing tree as a long-term NF, timber producer (we have wood-fired chimneys in residential areas), fodder for future animals, soil cover, shade provider for very hot summer months.
- We have 3 carob trees but I'm pretty sure they are all male plants.
- An acacia tree (or at least this is my best guess) - pictured below
I would also like to plant other species (not NF's) in this most crucial 1-st phase of the project so any advice on plant species will be much appreciated as this is my first time in Spain and first time in man-made desert. No exotics though. Only native species or species that have been introduced to Spain long, long time ago.

My other doubts are coming mostly from the terraces itself. I'm not sure if I should continue flattening them (getting rid of ploughing mistakes) and building swales or just build swales without flattening the ground? The problem I have with leaving as is, is that there is very small catchment area of those ploughed "valleys and hills" and I don't think it will be enough to cultivate any plants other then native fabaceae and capers and few other "native" desert species. Because of lack of rain I was thinking about spacing swales around 20m apart (or more) - any other suggestions?

Good news is that the soil is fairly fertile because fresh, juicy green plants grow here wherever there is more water or natural depression of the land The other great news is that there is a reservoir of life and biodiversity (including mosses and many insects species) on every terrace edge most of which are north-facing (natural shady places covered with pioneer plants so they stay moist throughout the year).

K.
4-One-of-the-terraces.gif
[Thumbnail for 4-One-of-the-terraces.gif]
Most of the terraces look like this...
20161216_155954.jpg
[Thumbnail for 20161216_155954.jpg]
Acacia tree?
Terrace.gif
[Thumbnail for Terrace.gif]
"Before" on the left, "After" on the right
 
Rebecca Norman
gardener
Posts: 1209
Location: Ladakh, Indian Himalayas at 10,500 feet, zone 5
120
food preservation greening the desert solar trees
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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
Posts: 182
Location: La Mesa, Cundinamarca, Colombia
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dog food preservation forest garden trees
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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
Posts: 9
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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
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Hi folks,
Apologies for replying so late but we had a flush flooding here in south of Spain and we spent a lot of time repairing the damage done by the rains. Now, I can go back to design work

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.


Rebecca, thank you for sharing your experiences from Ladakh. I will keep trying to find any logic in existing terraces here And thank you for sharing the links, I will look them up.
 
Konrad Dobrowolski
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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.


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.

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?

You have an interesting project in Colombia, I wish you all the best in developing it!
 
Konrad Dobrowolski
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Location: International
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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


Roberto,

Thank you for very comprehensive reply. The acacia tree I found was in Almeria city, some 40-50 km from the property I'm working on. There is almost no tree cover in here, except olive trees on the property and few pines, junipers and some other fabaceae tree that I haven't been able to identify yet. This is not a commercial olive farm (it is a spiritual place) and the olive trees are not our priority. We, of course, won't cut them down (at least for now) because the little shade they provide is better than no shade at all Thanks for the recommendation of the water traps. The olive branches really make a good material for that!

Bees are also very high on my lit of priorities, but this is not my property so I'm kind of limited to what owners approve/don't. I think when the property is more green and the solutions that I've built prove useful, than it will be easier for me to convince the owners of usefulness of these little hard workers. Good thing is that we have a good few species of native, wild pollinators in here and they especially love hanging around carob trees

I've already did some hikes and I continue doing them every few weeks to see what is currently flowering/producing seeds. I also did some sprouting experiments with the seeds I've collected so far but they don't work for now. It looks like they entered the hibernation phase. I may need to wait until March-April to start planting them.

The property is around 40km from Mediterranean sea and we get occasional heavy fogs (we had at least 15 of them since 3 months I'm here). As I cannot use any external water for watering 9ha I think few fog catchers may provide a good source of water for start. In the future, I hope the place will water itself
 
Rene Nijstad
Posts: 182
Location: La Mesa, Cundinamarca, Colombia
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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.


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.

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?


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.

Konrad Dobrowolski wrote:You have an interesting project in Colombia, I wish you all the best in developing it!


Thanks Konrad! I wish you the same!
 
Konrad Dobrowolski
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Hi again Rene,

Apologies for late reply. Thank you for your recommendations - they are very helpful.

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. 


Thanks for the suggestion with level overflow - I was planning to do "normal" outflow pipes. For conditions we have here sheet erosion is much safer than concentrated stream/line erosion. After careful designing and a lot of observation I've decided to create a water retention landscape. The ditches/reservoirs will be empty most of the time but the more rain events we will have the more plant growth we will have around them resulting in more shade and less evaporation so the water will have time to slowly seep into the ground. The biggest problem I have is that one of two river banks that run through property is in the middle of main access road to our property but also neighbor properties. I am planning to install few sediment/debris collection dams above the road and also buffer zones/collections ditches that will increase the capacity of the land to store the rainwater. The dams will be made from very big heavy rocks and few smaller ones before them. Unfortunately in this location there is no strong wood/branches to make dams from any other material than stones. Fortunately we have plenty of those here For the dams I will use holes created by the last big rain even. At least now I know where the water flows and where I need to slow/spread it.

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.


The terraces are exactly as you said. Built with stones and not too high (1-5 meters high, more or less). The owner wants to have few reservoirs with cement/pond liners but I try to avoid this idea because the land here is so deprived of water that I need to slow the rainwater flow, spread and allow it to seep into the ground. I will also plant a lot of shade providing natives around the ditches. There is a lot of green growth in natural ditches in here so I hope my ditches will follow the same pattern and in few years the whole land will be green

Regards,
K.

 
Dawn Hoff
Posts: 469
Location: Andalucía, Spain
24
bee books chicken greening the desert rabbit trees
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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.
 
Dawn Hoff
Posts: 469
Location: Andalucía, Spain
24
bee books chicken greening the desert rabbit trees
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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.


I decided that now that I was going through my pictures anyway to see some of the things we have done here, I might as well write a blogpost about it.

The most amazing difference, for the smallest effort is this:

compared to this:


The first picture was taken December 2013 the second one today Feb. 2017 - so both are from the winter. The winter 13/14 was a lot dryer than this one has been - but it was really barren. That just shows that if you can slow the water down and stop erosion you are half way there.

Best of luck with your project!
 
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