I've managed to get a land to farm inside the city, in a my hometown 40km from Sao Paulo. It's a Sloping terrain, almost 1/4 Acre. I've been removing debris and some elephant grass rootstocks for now, accepting any suggestions about how to design the best for this? I'm thinking working some microswales and berms on contour, planting about 12-15 eucalyptus trees for windbreak/wood/trellis for vines on the back. The front I don't have a picture yet but its fenced and i'll plant malvaviscus behing the fence. The soil is good on the fish 1 or 2 inches, the turns to a red clay soil beyond that. Subtropical climate, under heat island effect from the city. I don't have much money to invest, since I needed a fence, a gate and to fix the back wall, which cost me a bit. I have elephant grass, brachiaria, Leucaena and some creeping vine I could not identify, which spreads kind of fast, so I also need ideas on weed control. I do not have a gutter to capture rainwater. What I have is little knowledge, a few friends laying a hand, and a lot of courage. I got full sun in the summer, very good sun in the winter, mild winds going uphill.
I could, but I need a very tall and fast growing windbreak, leucena grows slow compared to eucalyptus, and would drop troublesome seeds on my plating area, resulting in more labor. I think I'll plant a row of moringa trees for windbreak more uphill too, for compensation. And plant beans for nitrogen fixing. I am chopping all leucaena I got and dropping it for now, not doing so would be a waste.
I would suggest you look alleopathic plants. Eucalyptus has a reputation of putting chemicals in their surroundings that inhibit the growth of competing plants. Particularly at the top of your growing space I would be worried that this could poison all of your garden. Sometimes people use the idea that something is natural as a generic stamp of safety, but there's some pretty toxic stuff in nature. I could be wrong, there are so many types of eucalyptus that maybe there are some benign varieties.
Here's a possibly crazy alternative, bamboo doesn't like to send roots downward. Could it work as a windbreak for you? That would also give you materials to use for trellis, vines, fencing, stakes, ect.
Some farmers in brazil already use eucalyptus as part of food forests with no problems, I'll look into it for choosing the right variety. Bamboo would be troblesome because it could fall over the back wall.
Okay, doing more thinking about this. You have a series of different challenges with that site. That's a very extreme slope. Once you start disturbing the soil the first rain event is going to slide it all downhill. You're on the right track with planning swales and berms, but I think you will actually be building small terraces out of necessity. Thankfully this one of those rare gardening tasks that only needs doing once.
For weed control, do you have access to waste cardboard? Not everyone here likes to use it, but in my experience it is one of the most accessible waste streams in an urban environment. It's not the prettiest thing, but is a biodegradable alternative to weed fabric. Ideally you will find a better solution over time, but unless you can find enough mulch material to cover your whole slope to a depth of several inches, I think it's probably one of your best bets for tackling those perennial grasses. There are a couple of tricks to working with it, most important being to thoroughly soak the cardboard in water before you lay it out. To plant in it you would cut a hole and pull the cardboard to expose just enough soil to fit your plant (or row of seeds) into the soil.
You don't say what you are growing this garden for. Is this a market garden for some income or are you looking to feed a family, or is there some other purpose?
edit: It took me a while to find, but here's a short video about terraces in Kenya. They don't take expensive equipment to produce, just a shovel and some sweat.
On mulch, my area already has grass rotting in the ground from the last 10 years, It has been cut and dropped many times over. I think about 2 to 4 inches of dry grass clippings before natural compost. I can make use of this, and i'm still acumulating, since now in the summer in 30-40 days the grass grows 5 feet or more. I was planning to use cardboard on planting area, mulch with grass clippings and/or leaves on the raised bed berms, and cardboard and wood chips on pathways. The idea here was to feed me and my family, and also sell surplus, mainly herbs, annuals, greens. I also would life to grow some carbohydrate rich food, since most organic of that kind I buy comes from afar and not my CSA. I'm thinking cassava, sweet potatoes, potatoes, pumpkin and squash.
Congrats Bruno! How exciting for you to begin to realize your dream!
If it's possible to just observe your land for a year and see how sunlight, water, wind and microclimates all interact throughout the year, you may save yourself a lot of headaches down the road. That doesn't mean that you can't be mulching, composting, building soil with cover crops, and planting out a nursery of plants that you will use in the future. But before you make ultimate decisions about where your earthworks, waterworks, pathways, etc., will go, it's good to observe and interact with the land for a year.
I would suggest that you work in order of greatest permanence. So first, put in your swales, earthworks and pathways. Long after you are gone or after your trees die, your earthworks will out last everything else.
Think through your zones. Zone 1 is closest to your house: your herbs and annual veggies, etc. Zone 2, logically goes outside of Zone 1, but close enough that you can tend to it easily. Think about how many steps you can save if you place things in a logical spot—your compost should be somewhere near your chickens, your water source near your garden beds, etc. For such an urban oasis, you won't have more than zones 1, 2 and 3.
Grey water from your kitchen sink and bathroom shower can flow naturally via gravity to orchards below. Its nice to plumb that in before things get too developed. Your gray water "system" does not need to be any more sophisticated than a simple leach line that you plumb from the house down to a fixed point lower on the land. Then you attach a hose to the end of that pipe and you move the hose around the orchard from time to time. Every drop of water counts. Use it multiple times.
If you are going to add chickens, it's nice to have them uphill from the garden so that all that nitrogen makes it way down the hill toward your garden. Build your chicken coop and chicken run in such a way that you can toss your compostables right into their space, and then easily sweep the finished compost up and cart it away after a few weeks. It's tougher to use a chicken tractor on a hilly site, but you can still move the girls around by using smaller paddocks or other means. I'll often just let them out an hour or two before sundown and herd them into a space where I want them to scratch (keeping them out of new garden beds). As night falls, they quickly make their way back to the coop.
Think about capturing water and energy. Can you capture water at the top of your property and slowly move it down through the land? How can you capture the most sunlight? You'll want your tallest trees away from the direction of the sun, so that they don't shade-out everything else in the food forest. If you are going to take a few years to develop your property, experiment with cover crops, particularly in your winter season. Find a cool season cover crop mix (multi-species) and sew it over the winter. This will not only protect the soil from hard rains, it will build soil fertility, and it will show you where you have the best soil already. Capture all that sunlight, even in the winter.
One of the last things you do is actually plant your trees, shrubs and gardens. It is frustrating to have to wait to get the trees in the ground, but I've learned again and again to really think through placement because once a tree is in the ground, it's very difficult to go back later and move it.
Make sure you give your little trees adequate space to grow into big trees. A common mistake people make is sticking a little into the ground too close to other trees—they look so lonely standing out there in the middle of all that space by themself. In 5 years, they are crowding each other and you are constantly having to prune them to maintain any sunlight down through to the soil below for other plants. Too much space is much better than too little. Fruit trees need room for air to move through them——give them at least 3 or 4 meters between them.
I would agree with the poster's above who caution you about eucalyptus. There are so many better trees that will add multiple functions to your food forest than eucalyptus without any drawbacks. I live in a similar climate as yours (although not as much rain as you get) and I've seen what nasty eucalyptus trees do to the soil around them. They basically sterilize the area beneath them so little else grows, they don't fix nitrogen, they don't attract bees, and the wood isn't very good for tools or lumber. Please consider other options. Even just planting moringa for the first couple of years would be better than eucalyptus.
Best of luck. You may wish to search through this forum for this same topic—it seems to get asked alot ("I just bought my land -- what should I do first?").
Post Tenebras Lux
Until further notice, we will celebrate everything.
First, unfortunably, the land is not my own, and I can't build a house for me on it. So zoning would be closer to the gate of the property. And greywater use isn't viable. I think chickens are not also viable because of the noise and limited space(urban area and no room for insulated chicken houses), although I think I could raise Quails, since they dont need a lot of room and don't make noise. About the eucalyptus, I could use any other tree that grows tall fast, act as a good wind barrier, has a non-invasive root system (got walls on back and sides of the property), so I am open to suggestions on that topic.
There is an evergreen fruit tree called a loquat. They are fast growing, have non invasive roots, winter bloom, and spring fruit. They're even drought tolerant. In my area we only successfully get fruit during warm winters, but the trees themselves remain healthy. If you can get seed (maybe the fruits show up in a market) then they are supposed to be fairly easy to start from seed.
Crepe myrtles come up fairly frequently if you do a search for fast growing shade trees. I have several planted next to the walls of my house and they don't seem to be doing any damage.
I'm pretty familiar with Loquats, I love them! But they are able to grow fast ? How long would take for them to get 4-5 meters(12-161ft) tall ? I need a fast growing windbreak because I need it at least that height to block wind just on the lower portion of the land. The higher portion I'm guessing a row of moringa trees could do the trick. I also could but 5-7ft plants to gain some time, but that would be kinda costly.
My first attempt to find out leads to this great post about growing lots of different fruit trees from seed. His loquat grew two feet in it's first year from seed. http://www.thesurvivalgardener.com/the-long-awaited-gigantic-starting/ Looking around, so much of the growth goes into making these trees bushy rather than tall that it could easily take ten years to reach the height you're looking for.
The crepe myrtles typically grow more than two feet a year. They are good trees for bringing pollinators in, too. They don't produce nectar but compensate with extra pollen.
Nearly every fast growing tree I see in internet searches has shallow roots that are known to be invasive. It almost seems like if a tree puts all it's energy skyward it doesn't have enough to spare for digging deep into the ground. This wouldn't be a problem in a rural area where there were no walls to worry about and nothing for it to land on if it fell.
edit: Beyond that, are there many street trees planted in your area? That could give you ideas of trees that don't have destructive roots. Often cities will also choose the cheapest available so they would also be more likely to fit into you budget. Going even further, sometimes the reason the tree is cheap is because it is easy to produce so you might even be able to propagate your own from seed or cutting.
I've come to a few decisions. I'm using Mimosa caesalpiniaefolia as a living fence, it has spikes for discouraging trespassers, grows fast(2-6feet/year), deciduous, is a nitrogen fixer, excellent wood after 4-8 years and can serve as a trellis for edible luffa, passionfruit and other cultivars. Also flowers and atracts bees. I'll build swales with an A-frame, since is not a large land. Not sure about 1 berm raised bed or 2 per swale.
Here are some better pictures. So far um working on making equipment for composting and swales, not so much free time to work on this, but next weeks I'll have some more time and more free willing hands to help me on it. I'm still looking into design ideas, also for ways to remove debris (a lot of it, buried mostly and mixed with soil). Since I can't build on site, I think I'll make a structure with tarps and curved steel pipes to make a rain capture area large enough to fill one or two 350 gallons water tanks (I work in a metalworking and welding facory, so spare scrap metal tube is free to be reporposed). My front living fence will be malvaviscus arboreus(fast growth, edible flowers year round, privacy wall, atracts humming birds, and back living fence(inside my wall) will be Mimosa caesalpiniaefolia, nitrogen fixer, fast growth, good timber, spikes to discourage tresspassers flowering atracts and feeds bees. I'm planning to plant some bananas in the lower areas where water flows strong when it rains so I can use it.