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Rocks in Permaculture

 
Posts: 104
Location: Eastern Ontario
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We all know that permaculture rocks but what are the permaculture uses of rocks/boulders etc? I have old stone fences that were put down long ago and not on contour obviously.

I'd like to set up a restoration farm like Mark Shephard's on my 50 acres. When I have heavy equipment in to put in keylines and swales  I will have quite a few dump truck loads of rocks. I cant think of any permaculture use for all these stones. So far the best ideas I have had is maybe line the bottom of ponds that I will put in to provide habitat for fish and the rest carted away to gravel quarry.  Does nt seem very permieish to take a resource and treat it like waste.

 
master pollinator
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Here's a thread about this subject:  https://permies.com/t/56831/Permaculture-rocks-actual-rocks

Lots of uses for rocks in permaculture!
 
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Location: Canada
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Haven't had a chance to follow the thread Tyler linked to but I do know Sepp uses rocks to absorb heat and also rocks help prevent evaporation from the ground.
 
pollinator
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Are you sure that you want to remove stone fences?? First they are beautiful! They are probably even heritage and you will run into trouble. They keep nasty winds out and the fields warm. Our forebearers put these fences up wit a lot of effort and probably they make a lot of sense too so don't destroy them without really knowing what they were for. Even if it is allowed you are destroying heritage!
 
Tyler Ludens
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I agree with Angelika to keep at least some of the stone walls.  Even if not on contour they can add helpful texture to the land, blocking wind, etc, as well as being a beautiful feature.

 
Posts: 233
Location: Western Massachusetts (USDA zone 5a, heating zone 5, 40"+)
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You could plant trees on the south faces of the walls, especially fruit trees that might be marginal to your zone.
 
gardener
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Got the opposite issue at my place - almost no rocks except a few small ones. I had some larger ones (and a bunch of small ones) delivered to my place by people I knew that had extra and did not want the rocks. Some I'm going to use as stepping stones to make a path across a seasonal stream. Others will be added to the edges (in clumps, not all along the edge) of future ponds to create habitat and help melt any ice. Other rocks will be used to form heat sinks to warm the soil for hot weather plants. I'm also planning on making large piles at the end of each of my main garden beds. These piles will create habitat for snakes (slug control) and other critters. The piles may also help water the beds through condensation. These are all ideas that I have read about other people doing and I think they would provide a lot of benefits on my property. Hope that helps!
 
Jeff Marchand
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Location: Eastern Ontario
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Hi and thanks for inputs.  I have owned this land for 11 years in the beggining i felt as Angelika and Tyler do and that fields would keep their layout, I'd improve existing hedgerows and rotationally graze the fields etc.  

One seemingly unrelated problem I have is my low lying land is almost useless even though it has beautiful black muck for soil, because it is too wet and the water table is too high.

As far as I can tell I have 2 options. I could drain the fields and let its fertility wash away or I could put in swales on contour on the upland fields plant nut and fruit trees on the swales and prevent the water from reaching the lower fields.  Generally exactly like Mark Shephard describes in his book.  

The examples of using a rock here and there or a cluster of them are good but dont really scale well to the volume of rock I will be dealing with.  

Some other ideas i have are perhaps digging the swales deeper and burrying the rocks and plant nut and fruit trees on top.  Just dont know if that has any benefit other than a source of mineral nutrients for trees centuries from now.

Or maybe build terraces I have some steep slopes that would benefit from terraces.  Need to read up on how much work they are to build with heavy equipment.


 
gardener & author
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Steven Kovacs wrote:You could plant trees on the south faces of the walls, especially fruit trees that might be marginal to your zone.



Yes - this is a great idea. My latest book covers microclimates. We used the south-facing wall of our old house to grow coffee... and it survived nights in the 20s!
 
master pollinator
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Rock has value in direct proportion to their size. If you are talking rocks the size of cars it is one thing as they can be string together for wind protection and to make nice terraces as you mention, but of course are costly to move. Rocks the size of desks have their place too, etc.

I live in Maine so yes I have my share of rocks! I have done a lot of land clearing on steep mountainsides but our soil is too thin to terrace. If you have the soil depth it would not be too bad, but working on a hillside is challenging, especially the thinner the soil because excavators and bulldozers don't grip to exposed rock like soil. You really only have to do "half the wok" with terracing because to get a 10 foot terrace, you dig 5 feet on the uphill side and deposit it on the downhill side; together you just made a 10 foot terrace by moving very little dirt.

It also sounds like your farm is a lot like mine. I have used swales to successfully divert water from the lower areas with great success.
 
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