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First attempt to harvest water. Simple, but maybe a bad idea?  RSS feed

 
Scott Tenorman
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I posted this in the "trees" section but figured I'd ask a more specific question in this forum.

I just finished planting four fruit trees in the most north eastern tip of the Mojave Desert at the most southwestern point of Utah, zone 8a.  We get about 8" of rain per year here and it comes in just a few sporadic storms throughout the year.  The ground is hard clay, so the water doesn't soak into the ground so much as it rolls right off of it.  105 degrees is pretty normal in the summer, it is very low humidity, and it is unusual to have cloud cover (I think we have 300 sunny days per year).

I've just discovered permaculture and am trying to copy some of the ideas I've been seeing, but by no means am I claiming this to be a permaculture project, and I'm a total newbie.

I started with a six foot palm, a medium sized yucca plant, and a strip of rock covered ground in between two driveways.  It's about 8' X 26', and deep native clay under the rock.
The tree and plant got pulled, the rock was scraped off the surface, and the holes for the fruit trees got dug in......
Then I thought I should try to capture some of the water off the roof/nearby gutter outlet that happens to be in the perfect spot. 
I dug out about a two foot deep by one foot wide channel that goes parallel to the line of trees, dug out channels that go to each of the tree holes that tie the main channel to the planting site of the tree, and then dug out another deep spot about a foot deeper in between the main channel, and the tree planting site.  It all got back filled with river rock I was trying to get rid of, then I put about 8" of compost on top of all of it. 
Here's the video if you're like me and can't comprehend bad writing.

  Start around 3:15 in, and end around 6:00 in if you want to skip most of my babbling.

I'm thinking to try and plant some vegetables in the front section of the trees in the future but will probably just plant a bunch of sunflowers and maybe beans this year.
I realize the clay will eventually fill in the voids in the river rock, but I was thinking it might work long enough to get the trees established and encourage the roots to go deep looking for the water? 

Just curious as to what anyone thinks about this.  I haven't seen that much about this kind of thing, so I'm not sure if this is a major bad idea, a good idea, or just a waste of time.
It's done, and I can't see changing it unless someone has some compelling evidence it needs to be changed, but I am curious as to what anyone thinks about it and welcome all honest input.

Thanks for looking.




 
Bryant RedHawk
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Did you do anything to the underlying clay so it can adsorb the rain water that does come? 
It sounds like you will have fair results from what you have done but the clay might create a "Pond effect".

You might do a U-Tube search for "Greening the Desert" and watch some of those U-Tube videos to learn more about your particular situation so you do the right things the first time.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Here's a good resource for rain harvesting info:  http://www.harvestingrainwater.com/
 
Scott Tenorman
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I thought digging the trough, and filling it with the river rock would be enough to let the water pool up in it, and then slowly seep back into the clay.  Kind of like a small underground reservoir.  The water can't runoff anymore, so I have to assume it will soak into the clay after a while.  Drainage is poor here, but it does drain slowly.  The biggest problem I thought I might have was that I'd drown the trees, and it sounds like that's what you're saying too. 

I'll have to look into what I could have done to the clay to make it more permeable, I didn't even think about that being a possibility.

Yes, sadly I've watched many of the greening the desert videos, lots of geoff lawton, etc, etc........unfortunately my brain is about as impermeable as my ground!  I'll have to watch them again, and again, and again......
The trough off to the side was just a quick thought I had, so I did it.  There was no plan to do it until I'd already dug the holes for the trees.  My bad, lol.

Thanks for the reply.

 
Scott Tenorman
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Thank you for the link, good stuff.


 
Panagiotis Panagiotou
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Have you checked the back to eden gardening method?
Heavy mulching on the top soil of the trees will retain moisture if you are worried about
watering issues.
The rocks retain moisture and release minerals also.
Why do you believe you need a weed barrier? Heavy mulching suffocates most of weeds.
You can put cardboard or  4 or more layers of newspaper on the top soil and then the mulch and weeds
will be suffocated. The cardboard will turn into compost .
 
Scott Tenorman
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I love the back to eden gardening method.  I really think his ideas are beautifully simplistic, and logical.
I just planted sixteen fruit and nut trees in the backyard, and used wood chips on the very top layer, in addition to the middle layer being the same compost I used for these trees.

Here's the video of it.


I believe the back to eden guy gets sixteen inches of rain a year where he lives, and I only get half that here.  I assume/d more water, especially deeper water would be beneficial in this climate particularly as they are getting established.

I only used the weed barrier to wrap the rocks in the channel so as to keep the clay from getting to them so quick.  There is no weed barrier under the compost though.

Thanks for the input. 

 
Casie Becker
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I actually found your work impressive. If you haven't seen these yet http://www.resilience.org/stories/2011-05-31/bottom-diy-guide-wicking-beds/ it looks to me like you've built one in your driveway. Usually these are built with somewhere for the excess water to escape; but considering both that you are in a desert and that you do have some slow drainage, I think this project is a good effort. I also believe the deep pit between the trench and the trees themselves will increase the speed with which the water safely leaves the tree root zones.
 
Scott Tenorman
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You're probably right about why I thought that would work.  I've seen the wicking beds before (thanks for that link though, I hadn't seen that), and that's probably why it made sense to me.

Thanks for the reinforcement of the idea.  It really does make sense to me, but it won't be that hard to dig a trench at the end of the line and tie into the end of the "reservoir" to let it drain.  It's at least a one to two foot vertical drop from where the trees are planted to the sidewalk in the front yard, so the water will be easy to drain off if it starts drowning the trees.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Mainly the thing to look out for is to keep the crown of the tree - where the trunk meets the roots - above the waterline of the basin.  So folks dig a basin but make a mound in the middle of it for the tree.  Most basins will overflow in a flood, so it's good to have planned a spillway so the water doesn't end up in the house, for instance.



From what you describe, the excess water has a place to drain to, so I think you're probably fine with what you have.
 
Krofter Young
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A great first project.  Clay soil retains water very well.  Here's my thoughts. 

In your scenario I wouldn't have used the weed barrier.

I would have left that perfectly good Trachycarpus fortunei in place.  It produces edible flowers and the leaves and roots have medicinal value.

There's a lot of potential rainwater harvesting from the large concrete slabs on either side of your new planting.  A chevron of ridges would divert a lot more water into the planting. 

Given that most of the biological activity in soil occurs in the top 4" to 8" and given that that biological activity needs water to function and given that its that biological activity that will create fertility and nutritious fruit, I would have focused on capturing the water on the surface instead of subsurface.  To do so I would have sunk the whole planter down about 3', back filled with your soil and mulch mix and planted the trees into that.  By the time the mulch breaks down and settles, you would be left with about a 12" deep potential reservoir for water - the entire planter being one large catchment, with a vastly larger water holding capacity - all of it initially on the surface.  After a year of settling I'd then mulch heavily with straw.  After that the trees should be self mulching.  If there is a slope (hard to tell in the video) I would have created a step-down for each tree.

I would have also planted one less tree.  When your trees mature they'll be crowded - above and especially below.
 
Scott Tenorman
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Wow, I thought I'd done a lot of digging!  Ideally, yes, I totally agree with digging down and replacing all the existing clay to a depth of three feet, and then planting the trees in that...............
Even better, everywhere on my property I could do that, but.....I don't have the energy for such a task.  I used 2,000 pounds of compost to raise it 4", Three feet is nine times that, so about 18,000 of compost mixed with the native clay just isn't a feasible work to benefit ratio for me.  It would have been really nice to have done that, though.

I plan to keep the trees espaliered into screens six feet wide by eight feet high.  No worries about them overgrowing since they'll be pruned to a set shape.

I thought the weed barrier would keep the clay from infiltrating the voids in the rocks, or at least slow the process down.  I still assume it's better than not using it, for that purpose anyhow.

My windmill palm has been replanted two hundred feet away on my neighbor's lot.  No loss there, plus I have three more much more mature one's still in the front yard.  I don't assume I'll ever use any bit of them for anything, but I appreciate the information that they do have uses.  I had no idea.  Thank you.

It'll be interesting to see how these four trees fare vs the twenty I planted in the backyard, as far as watering and overall health go.  It makes a lot of sense that the feeder roots on the top of the soil would be the one's to try and get the moisture to.  My best of hopes is the moisture will wick its way up to the roots so they can use it.  I'd heard of people talking about how river banks are good examples of bottom watering, and from what I've seen in nature, the best growing areas are along river banks where trees are in a constant state of being watered from a deeper place.  That was/is my thinking as to why this would work anyway.........I'm certainly not saying I'm right.

I appreciate all the comments.

Sorry if I get defensive sometimes.



 
Peter Ellis
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You're in a desert, where evaporation exceeds precipitation.
In deserts, you hold water below the surface, so it doesn't evaporate. Your choice to hold the water below is valid in your environment. What else do you plan on planting in this area? You're going to want some things that drive taproots down into the clay, breaking it, introducing organic matter and providing infiltration channels for both water and oxygen. Nitrogen fixers, obviously for nitrogen The point being that you want to get the soil full of life, which will make your clay hold more water, lighten up in general and take advantage of the cation exchange capacity of the clay.

The suggestion that you catch the runoff from the concrete surfaces is excellent advice.  And in case you haven't looked into these things yet, I suggest you do some reading about swales on contour as tree growing systems and the "net and pan" system which is another water capturing approach for trees, normally used on steeper slopes where swales may not be stable.

 
Scott Tenorman
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Catching the runoff from the concrete is in the works.  The slope of the property would be down and to the left when looking out the garage, so a bit of the water from the two car driveway in front of the garage naturally will go into the new trees.  The rest will flow over the front into the area straight in front of the trees.  I plan on filling that area up with dirt as projects progress, and I need a place to get rid of excess dirt.  Between the runoff from the driveway, and the leaching down slope from the new reservoir for the trees, I would GUESS it would be very beneficial to keeping that section more moist than it otherwise would have been.  I'm figuring on planting a bunch of sunchokes I already have along that patch.........when I get to it, which may not be for a while.
The other narrower driveway on the other side also slopes the same direction, but at this time, I just don't have the time to do much with it.  I'd love to plant more trees in that section as well. 
The more I write/read about it....the more motivated I'm getting,
Thank you to everyone for responding.

As for what I was thinking about planting in front of the new trees.  I was thinking sunflowers, peas, and beans would be good for the soil.  I heard somewhere that sunflowers are really good at sending a tap root down and breaking up the soil, and of course the beans and peas help fix the soil as well.
Would something like carrots or potatoes, or? be even better?  I really don't know, if anyone has a recommendation I'd love to try it.  I don't expect the soil to be very good for the first couple of years until it starts breaking down more, so I'm not sure what I can get away with as far as veggies go there.

Thanks again for the comments!

 
Chrissy Star
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Swales are a great drought-proofing concept:

http://permaculturenews.org/2015/07/24/how-to-build-a-swale-on-contour-successfully/

Please do not hesitate in calling yourself a permie. This is a new field (most fields need to exist for 100yrs before they become a permanent subject in any one society).  So we are ALL experimentalist permies - the field is only 30-40 yrs old!!  It is OK to say you are a permaculturalist or using these methods - if you are (even if it the first time).  Pat yourself on the back for it, ok?
 
Marco Banks
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Peter Ellis wrote:You're in a desert, where evaporation exceeds precipitation.
In deserts, you hold water below the surface, so it doesn't evaporate. Your choice to hold the water below is valid in your environment. What else do you plan on planting in this area? You're going to want some things that drive taproots down into the clay, breaking it, introducing organic matter and providing infiltration channels for both water and oxygen. Nitrogen fixers, obviously for nitrogen The point being that you want to get the soil full of life, which will make your clay hold more water, lighten up in general and take advantage of the cation exchange capacity of the clay.

The suggestion that you catch the runoff from the concrete surfaces is excellent advice.  And in case you haven't looked into these things yet, I suggest you do some reading about swales on contour as tree growing systems and the "net and pan" system which is another water capturing approach for trees, normally used on steeper slopes where swales may not be stable.



I couldn't agree more.  Great comments Peter.

The challenge will be to get those trees through the first couple of years until they build a deep root network down into that moist subsoil.  Fruit trees tend to have shallower roots in general, so you'll be forcing them to push deeper.  Good.  For their long-term survival, that's in their best interest.  It's good to see that you are heavily mulching.  You'll need to continue to do that for years, but you will see a marked improvement in your soil within just 2 or 3 years if you keep piling on the wood chips.

I used to buy large quantities of commercial compost and broke my back trying to rototill it down into the clay soil.  Stupid.  It was a waste of time, money and energy.  Now I just get tree trimmings by the truck loads—wood chips—and pile them up aggressively throughout the food forest.  Why pay for compost when it all breaks down eventually and turns into compost for free?  Why break my back digging when millions of happy worms are thrilled to do it for me?  Why destroy my soil tilth and fungal networks when the wood-chips build these very things without any assistance from me?  I'm a changed man.

If you're not familiar with Brad Lancaster's work, he has a lot of innovative ideas about harvesting rainwater.  Most of his ideas are simple, but highly effective (like digging deep rainwater catchment basins next to the roads and then cutting the curbs so that the street water flows into the basins rather than down a storm drain.  He harvests thousands of gallons that way and has basically reforested huge areas of his neighborhood this way.  Youtube him -- he's puts on this weird goofy persona in his presentation, but his ideas are good.  Here's one of his videos:


Here's another dude who has a bunch of permie videos, talking about capturing rainwater:  Vegan Athlete.  Again, a bit of a goofy video persona (why must people put on these odd "selves"?) but his garden is spectacular and he clearly is practicing permaculture.

I've watched a bunch of his other stuff and in later years, you can really see how his system keeps improving more and more, and the plants he's growing are lush and healthy.  He also uses tons of wood chips to mulch and build soil.

Clay is good soil, it just needs carbon.  The more you mulch, the more you'll find worms integrating that carbon down into the soil profile and breaking up that hard clay.  Every time you add to your soil organic matter by 1%, it's the equivalent of helping a square foot of soil hold a little bit more than a liter of water.  Think of that: you increase the carbon/organic percentage of your soil by 5%, it'll hold upwards of 6 more liters of water in a single cubic foot of soil.  Basically, humus is a sponge. As your organic mater percentage rises, you'll be amazed how infiltration will become so much better, and how much more life you'll see in the soil, even in the hottest days of summer.

I'm really impressed with the work you're doing.  Great job.
 
Elizabeth Rose
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Yup, awesome video. From what I see, you basically created a mini aquifer for retaining water. One of the best parts about being a permie is when it starts to rain and you immediately run outside to see how your water catchment system is doing. That would be the next big step - actually observing how the system does during a rain event. Definitely check back and let us know! Great job.

Also if you're looking for support in the bioregion, there are some awesome permaculture projects going on in Moab that would probably be very relevant to your area. http://upr.org/post/campus-permaculture-project-gets-exported-moab
 
Scott Tenorman
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Elizabeth, thanks for the link to the story in Moab, it's a similar climate to here.
It's going to rain today!!!  I've already run out with a flashlight, but it's just light rain and not enough to get down the gutter yet.  I'll take a video of it today if I get a chance, along with some of the other things I'm trying out.

Oh my gosh, great video from Marco.  Thank you for that video link to Brad Lancaster.  It's making me want to do the water catchment idea in my front yard.  I don't technically own the 20' of land from the end of my concrete driveway to the sidewalk, and the city is free to do whatever they need regardless of what I put there, so I've been hesitant to put time/money into the area.  Digging out pools below the surface of the sidewalk and planting a living fence of desert willow trees with some cactus parallel to the road is something I could do for free, other than a day's worth of labor...........    thanks again!
Oh, and the water catchment from his gutters is something I've been wanting to see.  I had the idea to back plumb from the house's roof gutters to the pool's waterfall outlet pipe.   Basically catching the roof's rainwater and pumping it into the pool via an existing, unused pipe.  The pool is currently being used as a chicken coop, soil factory, water catchment basin, and compost tea brewing facility.........and it's way less awesome looking than that all sounds.  haha  I'll make a video of it today......
Jake Mace inspired the idea I had for sure, and I actually alluded to him in my video.  (If I ever had to describe his style, I'd say just imagine Richard Simmons gardening during his workouts.......bwahahaha.)
  I've seen tons of his videos, and the insane amounts of wood chips he uses.  I've heard him say he has it two to three feet deep in most areas of his yard now.  His results speak for themselves and I am impressed with his garden and hundred or so trees.  (actually it was John Kohler who got me started watching Jake Mace, and it's just grown from there.)
On the woodchips......I'm on three arborist's lists here in town.  I'm on the outskirts of the main city, so unless they're over on this side of town, they're not going out of their way (their words to me).  I got one free load a couple of month's ago, and used it all on the fruit trees I planted in the backyard.  I called the city to see if I could get chips from them, and they seemed confused by the question......I'll have to ask the maintenance guy's who do the actual work the next time I see them. I do plan to cover the front trees with a layer of chips when I get more....but it kind of ended up being higher than I anticipated with the mulch/compost I bought for the area, so until that settles down a bit more I'm not in a rush to add to it.
As for the compost.  It's from my local landfill where they're composting yard waste with wood chips to create what you see in the video.  The total price for the compost I used was $20.00 and weighed a total of 2,000lbs , which breaks down to one dollar per one hundred pounds.  I've been pouring it on my garden beds for the past two years, and am getting worms in those areas now.  I've actually gone a bit crazy with it this year and l have mulched the garden beds with tons of it.....I'll make a video of it.....
Here's a video of what I'm using from the landfill for compost.  I even got JOHN KOHLER to leave a comment below the video on youtube!!!  (Considering it's only got twenty views, that ain't bad, haha.)


Thanks Chrissy!  I'm certainly trying to do things that make sense, which is what permaculture seems to be doing, at least as a "natural way" is concerned.  I have a lot of ideas that I plan on implementing in the coming years, and hopefully will make something practical, productive, and sustainable with as much help from nature as possible.

Thanks again.
I've lots to think about.......


 
Scott Tenorman
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So I took a few videos today. 

This is a video of the way the rainwater is running into the reservoir I made for the trees.  It's not perfect, but with a little help I think I can divert it where I want it to go.  Maybe just a few bricks could be enough.
I really appreciate the comments about catching the water off the driveway because it really has me thinking about things more.  Thanks again, it's made me think differently about things for the better.


There hasn't been enough rainwater to really see how anything is filling up yet, though.


 
Scott Tenorman
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This is the water catching, soil making, compost tea making, egg factory that some people might call a swimming pool (it might even house rabbits in the future).



I want to get six more chickens this spring so they can really ramp up the processing.  I plan on feeding them kale and chard from the garden along with other things grown and will supplement with weeds/scraps/grass clippings/store bought feed when necessary.  I let them free range the entire yard when nothing is growing in the garden.  Ducks would be neat since they'd have a pool to get into, but I'm not sure how practical they would be, and am in no rush to get any.  They would poo in the water, and I am pumping the water into the garden when I can so that seems like a good thing.

It's not the easiest as far as labor goes, but I think it will work until I figure something else out for it.
 
Scott Tenorman
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Maybe I'll start a new thread about this in the water catchment forum.

I'd love to do this in the future........it won't happen for a while, though, and it might never in all honesty.  Time/money/motivation all are factors.
Currently I pump water into the pool using an electric bilge pump attached to a garden hose that's run up to the pool.  It's a hassle, and I lose a lot of water due to the barrels overflowing and me not getting around to pumping them out in time.

Anything you'd like to add or comment on is welcome.  I mainly copy, and try to use what I've seen other people do and apply it how I can to my own situation.





 
Kit Carson
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Hi Scott,

I was impressed with the work you've done so far.  Lots of creative thinking. A very interesting stacking use of your in ground pool. We learn by observing as we go along, so there are no mistakes, really. If you're interested in ducks, I recommend jack spirko's excellent videos,  "The Duck Chronicles" - season two, on YouTube. I also got turned on to Jake Mace via John Kohler.  I consider myself to be exceptionally fortunate to be taking Geoff Lawton's PDC right now. Good luck with your garden.  Maybe you could plant some edible ground cover around those new fruit trees?
 
Spud Smith
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I believe it is called Hugelkultur, https://richsoil.com/hugelkultur/
If You keep dumping wood chips or mulch on the top between the trees, the clay
will slowly break down.  And the mulch will absorb what little rain You get.

Great idea digging the trench and hooking it to the roof.  That way You will
maximize the amount of water You get during the sparce rainy periods.
 
Scott Tenorman
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Thanks again for not saying everything will be a failure!  That's a success.
All of my stuff is certainly an experiment, and like I say I copy a lot of ideas from other things I see, so I figure why not show what I'm doing. 
All credit for the pool idea goes to these people. 


It really opened up my mind as to what's possible.

I'm on episode three of the first season with the duck guy.
I already learned that I want a screw in ceramic heater vs the light bulb I've always used in my brooder! 
Thanks for the suggestion.

Here's some more videos.
This is of the plans to harvest the rainwater from the front yard/driveway/upstream neighbor.  Ideas were certainly inspired by this thread, thank you. 
I want to plant a living wall of desert willow trees parallel to the sidewalk.  Close together, maybe less than a foot apart to create a thick "wall" for privacy, and for the nice look they have.  They can grow wild, and will probably look a lot more like a hedge/tall bush rather than trees.  I think digging out "water islands" (lol) or pools to collect rainwater runoff would do a lot in the way of helping water so many trees.  They're native here, and I don't think I'd have to water them once they're established.  Growing them from seed is easy, they sprout and grow out of the existing soil and grow fine in it without any help, and the seed is free, so it's just a job of labor....like so many.  haha



and what the heck, here is a video of all the growing spaces I've got this year. 
So much more to do.........


 
Landon Morris
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According to Bill Mollison in his book Permaculture: A Designers Manual you can put some Gypsum in the planting hole of the tree and it will aid in root penetration through clay soils. This penetration will create drainage cavities, storage, etc.
 
Merodean LaRose
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I live in northern Utah now, but did spend some years in St. George. I don't believe that there is a moist layer in the soil there. Add a drip system. A slow drip will help the roots to go deep and maybe prevent the area from baking in the summer. Wood mulch is a really good idea. I have my yard done in wood chips and it's unbelievable how much longer the soil retains moisture. I love your idea of Espalier. My four Espaliered fruit trees are doing very well. It's a fun project. Good luck with your's!
 
Merodean LaRose
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I live in northern Utah now, but did spend some years in St. George. I don't believe that there is a moist layer in the soil there. Add a drip system. A slow drip will help the roots to go deep and maybe prevent the area from baking in the summer. Wood mulch is a really good idea. I have my yard done in wood chips and it's unbelievable how much longer the soil retains moisture. I love your idea of Espalier. My four Espaliered fruit trees are doing very well. It's a fun project. Good luck with your's!
 
Hans Quistorff
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Posts: 774
Location: Longbranch, WA
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As for what I was thinking about planting in front of the new trees.  I was thinking sunflowers, peas, and beans would be good for the soil.  I heard somewhere that sunflowers are really good at sending a tap root down and breaking up the soil, and of course the beans and peas help fix the soil as well.
Would something like carrots or potatoes, or? be even better?  I really don't know, if anyone has a recommendation I'd love to try it.  I don't expect the soil to be very good for the first couple of years until it starts breaking down more, so I'm not sure what I can get away with as far as veggies go there. 

The things you suggested are good but the the planting should be planed as a succession.  Peas are for cool weather before and after the hard freezes. Carrots are a biennial so can be planted in late summer and they will come up when they want to and are fairly frost tolerant but expect o have their tops killed by hard freezes then come up in the spring and go to seed. so harvest them before thy regrow except one or two for seed.  They can be spectacular when they go to seed; I had one unnoticed in my field until it made an umbrella 8 feet tall. Beats are the same but they dont get so tall when they seed.
Beans are best in the summer and the leaves don't  like water splashed on them. The pole variety can grow up the sunflowers or even the trees. Just unwind the vines from the branches when they are done so they don't strangle the bark. 
Potatoes dont do well when they get frost or too hot. Start them in fabric planters in the garage this time of year then move them out in the sun when frost is not expected. If you can work out 3 months befroe hot weather and 3 months after you can get 2 harvests.
 
Erwin Decoene
Posts: 91
Location: Courtrai Area, Flanders Region, Belgium Europe
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I don't have a lot of experience in permaculture and totally none with deserts.


Lot's of good ideas. What you did Scot is similar to what i'm doing to get rid of water although our climate is very different.

I basically build a 'box' about 1 m deep in compacted soil, rake they clayrich pitbothem, apply 5 tot 10 cm river gravel before refilling it with soil/compost/woodchips mixture. For good measure i also drill holes by hand to a depth of about 2 m. The bothom of the drill hole is  about 3 m down after completion of the work. The bothem of each work pit is not flat but graded toward the borehole. I intend to plant trees and vines - i don't want the roots to drown.



My suggestions for you :

- Add pore-rich natural rock if you can get in cheaply and locally. Think pumice or porous, fossiliferous sandstone (not to much pyrites ~ pyrites degrade into sulfuric acid). I had great succes with porous rocks when i was studying geology.
I kept plants with great need of water in the same - SMALL - pot as cacti. I used al kinds of rocks collected on field trips but i think the succes was entirely due to the porosity and micro-elements in the rocks. When possible i use a local fossilbearing (= lime and stable, mineral fosfate), glauconite-rich (Ca, Fe, Mg, ....) and porous sandstone.


- Higher i saw some people mentioning to use compost to 'break' down clay. It is not actually possible to do that. Organic matter tends to make the clayparticles less 'sticky' and more crumbly which aids among other things porosity and drainage. Organic matter also draws in critters that dig your soil for you making it more porous.


- Do you know whether your clay is deeply weathered. If so - it may be poor in nutrients and rich in salts. A local agricultural college or university may help you finding out. If your clay is depleted in nutrients. You may have to work around that. Compost is one method. Powdered rocks like lava may help out.


- Also higher in this discussion, somebody commented that you must keep you water away from the sun (and the heat) that is correct if you ask me. Evaporating groundwater leaves its disolved minerals in a hard subterraneous crust (aka hardpan, calcrete, caliche, ....)

https://books.google.be/books?id=5muSCwAAQBAJ&pg=PT97&lpg=PT97&dq=calcrete+how+to+avoid&source=bl&ots=_PncRKhId4&sig=jDsZFpI8ZXs-LGsO-j9zxTjuXFs&hl=nl&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjXoY-66ODRAhUTahoKHQhmC7gQ6AEIIjAB#v=onepage&q=calcrete%20how%20to%20avoid&f=false

- Why not check out the practicality of using stone mulch in your garden. For inspirition check the wine culture of La Geria on Lanzarote island, Spain. The wikilink gives you some idea https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lanzarote You can check further is the idea has merit for you.

- Gypsum may help but be careful - once in it will never come out. Check locals for local soilexpertise.

- Digging out a lot of soil is kind of a last resort. It is costly in sweat, expense and environmental damage.









 
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