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Reforesting overgrazed plains (absentee) seeds surviving the cold and dry  RSS feed

 
Joe Banden
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I've been going through posts on Permies for a long time since moving to New Mexico, trying to learn how to grow trees in this windy, hot, unforgiving part of the state. Decided to make an account selfishly to ask a question finally.

I have 40 acres in Central Montana (a ways East of Paul, not nearly as many mountains). I don't get to visit as much as I'd like, but plan to live there permanently in 20 years or so. That being said it has been massively overgrazed and is just starting to recover. I'm trying to get some trees/shrubs to grow up there, starting with some hardy trees to act as buffers and then being able to plant the more delicate trees in their shade.

So two questions: what should I plant, and how can I give them the best chance of coming up and surviving without help from me? Hoping someone has ideas besides groasis, because I really don't want to spend that much. 

I like the posts about sepp holzer and what he did, kind of what I'm planning on doing, taking advantage of the eddies and swales in the property to eke out as much moisture from the 13" of annual rainfall and the strongest trees survive, the area gets most of its rain in May and June. Trying to head up there in the next few weeks, but will only be able to stay for a day or two. Would like to take advantage of that time to put as many seeds in the soil as possible. I thought of sawdust (have quite a bit in the shop, been a minute since I've vacuumed the shop out) as mulch/moisture holder as its cheap and I have it on hand.

Here is what I'm thinking for seed types and quantities (budget based):
Russian Olive* (230 seeds)
Ponderosa Pine (800 seeds)
Amur Chokecherry (2500 seeds)
Rocky Mountain Juniper (800)
Burr Oak (~60)
Siberian/Chinese/American Elm* (basketful, collected from the one in my yard here in NM)
Saskatoon Serviceberry (800)
black locust* (1500)
Siberian Crab Apple (1150)
American Plum (72)

*None of these are invasive in the area, and I don't believe there is enough rainfall to make it an issue, but would love to hear your thoughts on those as well.

So how can I help this little seeds sprout into shade/life giving monuments? Should I scarify/stratify/start any of the seeds before putting them in or just put them in ground as is and cross my fingers and do a rain dance?

I've attached the Google Maps snapshot, as you can see it has some terrain change. I'd be concentrating planting on the West and East side of the ridge that runs North/South. Eventually would like to get some yellow sweet clover in there for bees, critters, and ground cover. Also have an ulterior motive of bringing back the antelope and deer that used to frequent the property.
Sat-view.PNG
[Thumbnail for Sat-view.PNG]
Aerial view
 
Mark Kissinger
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I would suggest a close ground examination of all of the areas with existing vegetation in the aerial photo.

What soil/runoff conditions allow those plants to grow in those spots? Try to recreat or mimic those conditions in the spots where you want to establish your food forest guilds.

Closely observe any surviving trees in the area, especially "wild" ones, and mimic the soil and runoff, & other variables that might give your seedlings a "leg" up.

Use seedlings grown using  "tall pots", and use a healthy squirt of a good hydro-gel polymerized water to start them off. Tall pots encourage the growth of a deep tap root.
Air trimming the sides using a 1/4" liner of used furnace filter pads can curtail any tendencies to form trunk-binding roots.

Contact Ryan Wood at the Water Management Group in Tucson, AZ for more information.

The AZ dept of Transportation uses these methods for establishing non irrigated plants along new roadways & interchanges.
 
Joe Banden
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Thanks for the contact! Arizona sounds like the perfect place to get information about growing in arid conditions.

I should clarify, I was planning on planting seeds, not seedlings. But the water gel is a good point too, had forgotten about that.
 
Sean Pratt
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i think its worth your effort to at least give it a go in your absence. plenty is growing on wheaton labs without being pampered or irrigated. one of the trees i didn't see on your list is apricot. it has a high germination rate from what i have seen and the pits can be collected in mass from people who will let you pick for free. when i put myself in your shoes time and money seams to be a bigger limiting factor than your climate. i cant help but wonder if the next trip you arrange could be to collect seeds of hardy things like Siberian pea shrub, black locust, apricot and great mullein in large quantities. but hey, any seeds on the ground is better than no seed at all. so buy it if you have to! its still worth it in my opinion.on a side note ... i cant help but wonder if black locust seeds would germinate even after being shot out of a twelve gauge. imagine how much area you could cover in a day on a vast barren property like you have.
 
Joe Banden
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Hopefully in the future I can make a seed gathering trip, that would be awesome.

Love the twelve gauge idea, I've heard of doing that, instant scarification and planting all in one.

I'll add apricots to the list, for some reason I didn't think they'd do well that far North.
 
Michael Cox
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You say it is overgrazed. Are there perhaps trees already there that will recover if you remove the grazing pressure? I know that this has been very effective in parts of africa where trees were allowed to regrow, and the bushy regrowth was pruned to make it more tree-like.
 
Liz Hoxie
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I would wintersow those seeds where they'll grow. This will take care of the stratification and some scarification. Then let nature take it's course. You might want to give the sprouts a drink of polymerized water in the spring to give them some help. Plant the seeds closer together so they can help shade each other. You may lose the weaker one down the road, but it will strengthen the other one.
 
Joe Banden
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Michael Cox wrote:You say it is overgrazed. Are there perhaps trees already there that will recover if you remove the grazing pressure? I know that this has been very effective in parts of africa where trees were allowed to regrow, and the bushy regrowth was pruned to make it more tree-like.


Unfortunately there are no trees whatsoever on the property, only woody growth is some sagebrush or bitterbrush that finally started making a comeback which is great. The area has been fenced off, which is both good and bad. I'd like to let the neighbors access the property, but one bad apple had way too many horses out there which caused all the damage. I'll do some further inspection during my visit to see if any volunteers have sprouted up and bring my pruning shears.
 
Joe Banden
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Liz Hoxie wrote:I would wintersow those seeds where they'll grow. This will take care of the stratification and some scarification. Then let nature take it's course. You might want to give the sprouts a drink of polymerized water in the spring to give them some help. Plant the seeds closer together so they can help shade each other. You may lose the weaker one down the road, but it will strengthen the other one.


Good point, perhaps I'll save some of the seeds and if I can make it back up there this fall/winter I can plant some more. I did see a post about planting seeds very closely in rows for someone planting in sandy/rocky soil. I wasn't sure if the competition would be more of a detriment, but I didn't think about the support they will give each other in shade and wind breaking.
 
Mark Kissinger
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You could arrange local materials (logs, stones, earth) around the seeding bed to cause micro-niches to be formed to give protection to the shoots, and to cause rainwater flow to slow and sink in, even if it's only a little more than in the surrounding areas. Look for areas where this occurs naturally: micro niches create better odds. Inform yourself about which soil & light conditions each species prefers, and look for those conditions on your property.
I assume the land is no longer grazed? If it is still grazed, you'll need to give the sprouts some protection from being eaten or trampled. 
 
Joe Banden
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Mark Kissinger wrote:You could arrange local materials (logs, stones, earth) around the seeding bed to cause micro-niches to be formed to give protection to the shoots, and to cause rainwater flow to slow and sink in, even if it's only a little more than in the surrounding areas. Look for areas where this occurs naturally: micro niches create better odds. Inform yourself about which soil & light conditions each species prefers, and look for those conditions on your property.
I assume the land is no longer grazed? If it is still grazed, you'll need to give the sprouts some protection from being eaten or trampled. 


Didn't think to bring some wood with, I didn't think of putting some of those in the natural eddies to act kind of like dams and to hold moisture. Thats why I love this site! There are some niches already naturally occuring, but I like the idea of creating more and I have some old halfway rotted logs that would work perfectly I think, plus adding some of those microbes and fungi everyone is talking about.

Grazed still but only 2-3 horses on approx. 500 acres of free range, and they spend most of their time far away from my property since there isn't much for them there. I would be much more worried if there were still a hundred horses out there like before.
 
Devin Lavign
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Something to consider is while you have no trees it might be a perfect time to do some earth works.

You could put in swales and ponds etc... much easier when there are no trees. And once they are in, they can help provide the necessary watering needed for the trees to survive.

If you plan out your earthworks well, you could have a pretty good survival rate for trees planted. By helping sink water into the soil and promoting a higher water table on your property.
 
Joe Banden
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Devin Lavign wrote:Something to consider is while you have no trees it might be a perfect time to do some earth works.

You could put in swales and ponds etc... much easier when there are no trees. And once they are in, they can help provide the necessary watering needed for the trees to survive.

If you plan out your earthworks well, you could have a pretty good survival rate for trees planted. By helping sink water into the soil and promoting a higher water table on your property.


I was looking at some of the existing valleys/erosion and wondering if I could divert several of them together. I believe I'd need bentonite brought in though, the area is very gravelly. Don't think the compaction method would work well. And a few of them are deep but narrow areas that would be good for a pond in semi-arid areas from what I've read. I've reached out to the local NRCS to see if they have thoughts or have helped someone in the area before.

Do you think that having perpendicular swales/terrace type cuts like someone out near Joshua Tree would be best (sloping gently toward a basin but catching water as it came down the hills)? Was also thinking about making a depression in the top of the hill as someone suggested to catch water and make the hill a water table. The house is eventually going into the hillside though (think hobbit house) so not sure if that would be best.

I'll have to see if any of the neighbors have a tractor with a bucket I could borrow.rent and at least scrape some areas (play around), don't think anyone has a bulldozer.

I need to do a lot more research on the swales and water catchment. I know everyone always points to sepp holzer, but he has water from surrounding properties and a mountain stream I believe. Its like reading plant forums from the East coast where everything will grow and you actually have to add sand to get water to drain away from plants.  :
 
Mark Kissinger
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If your intent is to retain moisture to enhance it's availability for vegetation, discover the applications of Hugelkultur:

The basic idea is bury your pond in the ground, using logs, and other biodegradable material as a sponge to soak up any moisture that would normally make you pond: it is held in the buried organic sponge.
This puts the water storage underground, where your seedlings can access it, and it also reduces evaporation losses found when building ponds in arid climates.

It's scale-able, and a cord of wood in suitable prepared washes can act as a dam and the pond, but be entirely covered in dirt, blending in with the landscape.
Depending on your needs, you can experiment with simple installations where you want to establish your "grove of trees" (trees tend to be social, and like to have family around).

Your buried logs become a water spreading/slowing/sinking berm, upon which you sow your seeds. A few large rocks, strategically placed on the surface can also help to protect the tender seedlings.

Again, scale the installations to your needs/intents:  I have used mulch for a small installation in an RV park, but the larger logs will give you a longer benefit. Try not to bury green plants, although they will eventually work.

I suppose that if you bury a "symbolic" fish under your seeds, perhaps it will give your seedlings a bit of  extra "food" (but will the local critters dig up the offering?)

Couldn't hurt to experiment a bit. Take notes: make a map. Follow the scientific method, apply your Permaculture design principles, and record what happens.

part of the genius of Hugelkultur is that the water can inhabit the small air-pockets found in a jumble of rotting logs, buried in your gravelly dirt, where the organic material soaks it up like a sponge..

As far as I know, horses probably will not eat the tree seedlings if there is better forage around, but rabbits might give you some competition.

Good luck with your restoration project. Let us all know how it progresses.
 
Mark Kissinger
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Another thing to consider: What is the maximum volume of water run-off that your actions will affect?

For instance, if you put in a Hugelkultur installation across a dry wash, remember that the depth of the existing erosion is an indication of how much water may be encountered periodically.

The volume of flow that is not slowed, spread out, and sunk by your installation must have an outlet or outlets for larger than expected flows to continue downhill...
Your installations may be creating mini-terraces: consider making a number of smaller installations instead of one big one, with each terrace becoming a potential seeding area.

Assuming you are doing the seeding on foot, a back pack filled with rotted logs and digging tools might be useful. One log, one mini-planting area.

Good seeding!
 
Joe Banden
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Mark Kissinger wrote:If your intent is to retain moisture to enhance it's availability for vegetation, discover the applications of Hugelkultur:

The basic idea is bury your pond in the ground, using logs, and other biodegradable material as a sponge to soak up any moisture that would normally make you pond: it is held in the buried organic sponge.
This puts the water storage underground, where your seedlings can access it, and it also reduces evaporation losses found when building ponds in arid climates.

It's scale-able, and a cord of wood in suitable prepared washes can act as a dam and the pond, but be entirely covered in dirt, blending in with the landscape.
Depending on your needs, you can experiment with simple installations where you want to establish your "grove of trees" (trees tend to be social, and like to have family around).

Your buried logs become a water spreading/slowing/sinking berm, upon which you sow your seeds. A few large rocks, strategically placed on the surface can also help to protect the tender seedlings.

Again, scale the installations to your needs/intents:  I have used mulch for a small installation in an RV park, but the larger logs will give you a longer benefit. Try not to bury green plants, although they will eventually work.

I suppose that if you bury a "symbolic" fish under your seeds, perhaps it will give your seedlings a bit of  extra "food" (but will the local critters dig up the offering?)

Couldn't hurt to experiment a bit. Take notes: make a map. Follow the scientific method, apply your Permaculture design principles, and record what happens.

part of the genius of Hugelkultur is that the water can inhabit the small air-pockets found in a jumble of rotting logs, buried in your gravelly dirt, where the organic material soaks it up like a sponge..

As far as I know, horses probably will not eat the tree seedlings if there is better forage around, but rabbits might give you some competition.

Good luck with your restoration project. Let us all know how it progresses.


Would be awesome if I could stop in Colorado with a trailer and get some free trees from the burned area and bury them up in those valleys and eddies, but I don't think that'll happen this trip. I might plant seeds in some areas but hold off on others with the hope of coming back and doing some earthwork and burying some logs/wood.

Lot more to think about than simply going out and throwing seeds down.
 
Joe Banden
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Mark Kissinger wrote:Another thing to consider: What is the maximum volume of water run-off that your actions will affect?

For instance, if you put in a Hugelkultur installation across a dry wash, remember that the depth of the existing erosion is an indication of how much water may be encountered periodically.

The volume of flow that is not slowed, spread out, and sunk by your installation must have an outlet or outlets for larger than expected flows to continue downhill...
Your installations may be creating mini-terraces: consider making a number of smaller installations instead of one big one, with each terrace becoming a potential seeding area.

Assuming you are doing the seeding on foot, a back pack filled with rotted logs and digging tools might be useful. One log, one mini-planting area.

Good seeding!


I do have a lot of branches/small logs/cut up lumber I could take up with me, limited by truck space. Thats probably what I'll end up doing. Smaller projects for now, while planning for larger ones. Some of those washes are very deep, but not sure if its because of the amount of water coming down at once, or just the soil type being very easily eroded.

Maybe I can get some of the folks in town to start dumping brush and grass clippings on my property instead of burning them. Though it is kind of a rough drive.
 
Mark Kissinger
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Be careful about allowing unsupervised dumping.  Be specific about material and location, or you'll end up with a mess.
These are ultimately "human engineered" installations, not random dumps of suitable materials.
Think of your back-pack expeditions as experiments to determine "best practices" for your property over the long term.
Choose a variety of sites and orientations and materials to see what works best in each terrain.
The idea of importing bio-char and burn logs from Colorado is good, but there may be closer sources to your Montana property.
In my humble opinion & your experience will be your guide...

Great topic!
 
Joe Banden
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Mark Kissinger wrote:Be careful about allowing unsupervised dumping.  Be specific about material and location, or you'll end up with a mess.
These are ultimately "human engineered" installations, not random dumps of suitable materials.
Think of your back-pack expeditions as experiments to determine "best practices" for your property over the long term.
Choose a variety of sites and orientations and materials to see what works best in each terrain.
The idea of importing bio-char and burn logs from Colorado is good, but there may be closer sources to your Montana property.
In my humble opinion & your experience will be your guide...

Great topic!


You're probably right, I'd end up with more old tires and trash that biomass. Wonder if the golf course would let me help the groundskeeper and take away all the brush and clippings. Would probably get a good bit from them.
 
Devin Lavign
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If you have enough rock on your land, you might want to install check dams in the gullies.



 
kevin stewart
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Hi
What about critters eating all those seeds?

At my place the seeds would not last the night.  One year I walked around with sunflower and bean seeds in my pockets. Occasionally I would stop and kick a shallow hole in the ground and drop some seeds in. The next day I would see bean seeds dug up but the sunflower seeds were gone.
The same year I dug spade wide swales. I tossed a collection of bean and wild bird seed, just to see something grow. If I left the smallest seeds uncovered too long the ants were carting them off.

After reading your list of tree seeds I will be buying Siberian crab apple seeds this week. Everything gets grown in a pot. I planted vegetables last week and arbitrarily tossed mesquite, juniper and Russian olive seeds among them.

 
Michael Cox
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I'll second the calls to look at the water harvesting and potential for earthworks. If you get this right all your later work will be made much easier - your trees will establish better, you'll build fertile soil and you'll prevent erosion.

I don't think hugelkulture is appropriate in your situation - it needs resources that you don't have available on site - but you might consider it for small specialised areas.

Check dams and gabions will help in some of the eroding gullies, but you also need to address the surface run off from higher up the slopes. On contour swales, starting at the top of the hills would be a good start. These take time to get right, both for the earth moving and for laying them out properly on contour in the first place.

However you don't need to get the whole thing done in one go. I would pick a priority area and run some experiments for a year, then see what works for you.
 
Devin Lavign
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So while I brought up swales and other earth works and do think you should try and see what you can do with those before planting trees, the topic of this thread is planting trees so let me get back to that.

One of the ideas of swales is to provide water for trees and other vegetation. So by installing swales you are able to maximize your tree planting survival rate. A classic example of swale design is this



Or for more explanation you have this



You can see how swales function to help sink water into the ground right where trees will need it. Which was why I had suggested with the land devoid of trees working on earth works would be a good idea. I do think adding trees is a great plan, just that you might want to consider swales and other earthworks as a way to improve the odds for the trees to survive.

You mentioned not having clay to retain water. But the majority of these earthworks is not about holding the water and keeping it on the surface, but collecting it to sink into the ground. So you don't need to worry too much about clay, the idea is not to create a lot of surface water but to slow water down and give it the time needed to sink into the ground. The permie adage of "anywhere water is running, slow it down to a walk" should be going through your head when you walk the land looking at the way water flows on it. Slow it down keep it from eroding soil, and give it time to sink into the earth. Earth works are part of this, but so too is vegetation. Trees, bushes, grasses, all play a part in holding the earth together to reduce issues of erosion. They also help create wind breaks to stop wind erosion.

If you are still 20 yrs off from living there, you have the time to put in earth works and plant trees. You can do a lot in those 20 yrs leading up to living there. This is just my POV, but I would spend the next 5 yrs installing swales, and planting trees and shrubs into them as I go. As well as building other earth works like check dams and yes ponds where possible. 5 yrs is not an overly fast time frame and could give you plenty of time to do the work, even if it was digging by hand. If you can get heavy equipment out there, then you could get it done much faster. Just remember, you pretty much want to plant the swales immediately after they are constructed. So you install a portion of swale and plant, then work on the next swale and then plant, repeat as needed. Having a long time frame like 20 yrs can give you a lot of breathing room to add the necessary infrastructure, take advantage of that time to do it right. Permiculture is not just the different aspects and tools, it is design. Permaculture is designing to maximize the natural systems of water and earth to have nature become self sustaining as a system. Where inputs keep improving and benefiting the whole. So if you design in the infrastructure now when you do move to the property it will be a lush wonderland. Getting water management installed is the starting point for all else really. A lot of us don't have the luxury of working on things for such a length of time ahead of moving to the property.  We have to get started on other aspects and get to the what we can when we can, or as the need forces us to address.

I wish you all the luck and happiness with your 40 acres. It looks like it has a lot of potential if you plan it out right.
 
Joe Banden
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Devin Lavign wrote:If you have enough rock on your land, you might want to install check dams in the gullies.


Don't think I have enough large rock, but I definitely see the benefit to check dams or even full on impermeable dams somehow to hold that water against the hillside. The video from terraces to dams/gabions is probably what I'll end up doing. As the ridges are too steep for swales I think, or just swales on their own anyways. I think for now without too much expense or bringing in outside clay or lots of logs I could use the existing gravelly soil to pile up at the end of the gullies and at least slow the water and hold it there. Or a succession of piles. Better than nothing.

Devin Lavign wrote:You mentioned not having clay to retain water.


That was just for ponds, I think if I can slow the water down with terraces on the steep part of the ridge, check dams in the gullies, and maybe some swales on the flatter parts in the Southwest corner of the property than I'd be making great strides.

kevin stewart wrote:Hi
What about critters eating all those seeds?

At my place the seeds would not last the night.  One year I walked around with sunflower and bean seeds in my pockets. Occasionally I would stop and kick a shallow hole in the ground and drop some seeds in. The next day I would see bean seeds dug up but the sunflower seeds were gone.
The same year I dug spade wide swales. I tossed a collection of bean and wild bird seed, just to see something grow. If I left the smallest seeds uncovered too long the ants were carting them off.


I haven't seen too much in the way of bird activity, but that was before the vegetation started coming back after the grazing pressure was removed. You're right that is a consideration, was hoping to mitigate that by the number of seeds I put out. But, now that I've got all these earthworks problems going around in my head, I might put out less seeds this trip. I wish I could put Mesquite up there, I don't think it is cold hardy enough. The ones I planted here in New Mexico from seed seem to be doing great. Only a month old and putting out their second set of leaves.

Michael Cox wrote:I'll second the calls to look at the water harvesting and potential for earthworks. If you get this right all your later work will be made much easier - your trees will establish better, you'll build fertile soil and you'll prevent erosion.

I don't think hugelkulture is appropriate in your situation - it needs resources that you don't have available on site - but you might consider it for small specialised areas.

Check dams and gabions will help in some of the eroding gullies, but you also need to address the surface run off from higher up the slopes. On contour swales, starting at the top of the hills would be a good start. These take time to get right, both for the earth moving and for laying them out properly on contour in the first place.

However you don't need to get the whole thing done in one go. I would pick a priority area and run some experiments for a year, then see what works for you.


Michael, I agree with you. Started out just asking about trees, now this has spiraled into a major project! Not that I'm complaining, thats the great thing about forums like this, gather all the minds and throw spaghetti to see what sticks. Now I'm looking for a local bulldozer, I don't think the neighbor's tractor w/ bucket would be able to do the terraces I'm looking for. Now instead of just seeds and some scrap wood I'm thinking about A-frame levels, heavy equipment, and some major planning!

 
Mark Kissinger
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Or you could start out as high on your slope and install small strategically located seed fields, using local materials and small-scale rain-gathering methods..
Start small and observe the results.
The least effort necessary to get started, leaving the expensive stuff until more planning can be done.
 
Joe Banden
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Mark Kissinger wrote:Or you could start out as high on your slope and install small strategically located seed fields, using local materials and small-scale rain-gathering methods..
Start small and observe the results.
The least effort necessary to get started, leaving the expensive stuff until more planning can be done.


Yes this trip will be a much smaller endeavor in the planting department. A lot more measuring, planning, and exploring. Especially since I haven't been to visit since the grazing pressure was reduced. See how the land is doing and take some of the points you all have made and try to figure out how to apply them.
 
Mark Kissinger
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Starting high with the seeding on your property also has the potential of encouraging self-seeding down the slope, especially if those volunteer seeds find pleasant homes when they get washed down hill during those rain events.
Nature loves to fill suitable seed "home-sites" with plants.

When we observe how nature does it, we learn from at least 10,000 years of recent evolution.

Looking forward to hearing of your experiences.
 
Mark Kissinger
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You might also consider the non-tree species that you might seed (grasses & shrubs) which can provide the edges of vegetation to provide ground cover and habitat while the trees become established. Diversity equals ecological strength.

Encourage the "human-friendly" pioneer species to cover any available niche as quickly as possible, by seeding barren areas with human-friendly pioneer species, especially as you establish your swales and cause the accompanying disruption of the existing soil horizons. Then plant succession will generally take hold to provide biological yields that suit the climate and terrain.

Determine if your intent with the property is to restore an ecological "natural" order, or to create a "human-friendly" ecological order (Which Permaculture Zone (s) are your designing for as your goal?)

I follow this thread with interest, as I am preparing to do the same on my high-desert open range land ecological regime property.

Same problems, different amounts of water.
 
Joe Banden
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Mark Kissinger wrote:You might also consider the non-tree species that you might seed (grasses & shrubs) which can provide the edges of vegetation to provide ground cover and habitat while the trees become established. Diversity equals ecological strength.

Encourage the "human-friendly" pioneer species to cover any available niche as quickly as possible, by seeding barren areas with human-friendly pioneer species, especially as you establish your swales and cause the accompanying disruption of the existing soil horizons. Then plant succession will generally take hold to provide biological yields that suit the climate and terrain.

Determine if your intent with the property is to restore an ecological "natural" order, or to create a "human-friendly" ecological order (Which Permaculture Zone (s) are your designing for as your goal?)

I follow this thread with interest, as I am preparing to do the same on my high-desert open range land ecological regime property.

Same problems, different amounts of water.


I think the juniper, olive, and chokecherry can act as the sheltering shrubs. Read that juniper won't get very tall with low water and low attention. And I'm definitely going to make mini swales/terraces on the ridges where I'd eventually terrace to help the seeds get established and look at the washout courses to see where the water goes and try to take advantage of that as well
 
Mark Kissinger
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Generally speaking, and depending on your terrain, starting high can mean smaller installations at first, from which you can determine the downstream effects, before starting your next round of "adjustments", which can tend to grow in size as you work your way down the slope.

You are on the right track...I'd say...
 
Joe Banden
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Mark Kissinger wrote:Generally speaking, and depending on your terrain, starting high can mean smaller installations at first, from which you can determine the downstream effects, before starting your next round of "adjustments", which can tend to grow in size as you work your way down the slope.

You are on the right track...I'd say...


Yeah I'm thinking the higher up the hill the earthwork is the less depth it needs to be because the water hasn't gotten to full speed/there isn't as much of it rushing down the hill. And if I can get a little one going at the top and trees/bushes going on it, then the downhill seeding effect you talked about might work better once I have time to get larger works in place later.
 
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Update:

Contacted the local NRCS about pond viability and trees.

For the pond, he said that the soil does have some various clays in it which is good (sent me the soil report). Just 2 inches of clay loam, up to 14 inches of clay underneath that is a mix of clay and then bedrock not too far down. I'm guessing I have even lower levels of loam in the topsoil due to the winds and the horses eating everything down to the roots. He didn't think it would be very useful effort to divert/combine the swales as they just don't have the area required to collect enough water. He did say he has a small pond on his property in the area that is filled for a month or so in the spring and waterfowl use it on their migration and he marked a few places on the map where he thought were more promising than others, thankfully corresponded with some of mine. His suggestion was to use an excavation type pond (image below), 3-5 ft deep and 50-100 feet wide, but that seems counter-intuitive from what I've read, that you want a deeper and narrower pond in dryer climates to minimize evaporation.




For trees he basically said it was a waste of time and money to try any from seeds, which is a blow. Said without drip irrigation for the first five years or so and using seedlings from the conservation nursery instead of seeds, it was highly unlikely anything would grow. But, already ordered seeds and I'll put them down. Not going to be doing much good in my fridge and I don't have the space/time/pots to start 8000 seedlings. Even if 0.5% somehow grow, thats 40 of the toughest trees and maybe they'll be nurse trees to the rest. Can only hope.

He did say he'd love to come out and look at the property with me, so thats a bonus. Maybe he will have more insight and specifics after visiting. Maybe I can find some bored local teenager to truck water out to seedlings. Don't know if putting in a well 20 years before moving there would be the best idea.
 
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