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Keyline Question- Water Management vs Solar efficiency

 
Posts: 3
Location: Bellows Falls, VT
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Hi all, My name is Liam, I live is southeastern VT, zone 5b. I am strategizing a landscape design (roughly 10 acres) that will integrate animals into a diverse tree-pasture system. (Silvopasture).

I have a question pertaining to orientation that you might be able to help me with... the land is eastward sloping, so if I put tree rows on a (roughly)  keyline contour, I'd be using the sunlight inefficiently for my shrub layer, ie the trees would obstruct half the sun from the berries next to them... I'm inclined to plant tree rows on an east west axis so that smaller plants still receive all the southern sun, even if it's perpendicular to the "keylines" (mine will be much cruder and incremental than a formal keyline system... kinda like a rough Sepp Holzer strategy). Do you have any thoughts on the sunlight efficiency vs water management question here? Does it defeat the point of channeling water gradually across the slope (keyline) if my plantings are perpendicular to the "keylines"?

Respect,

Liam

"You never change things by fighting against the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete." - Buckminster Fuller
 
gardener
Posts: 2688
Location: Central Texas zone 8a
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I planted a row of trees on contour and built a swale to keep soil hydrated. We had a very wet spring and the swale stayed full for weeks.  The trees got a fungus and lost all it's leaves.  Some died.

Since then I've planted trees randomly.  My thought being , the randomness will show itself in trees that do well, and some that don't. If there are no variables, then All will do good or all will do bad.

Mines on a slope also.

Is it possible, that a peach tree higher up will keep it's blooms while one lower down will lose it due to a frost? I don't know the answer,  but some day I might.

 
Liam Madden
Posts: 3
Location: Bellows Falls, VT
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Hi Wayne,

That's terrible to hear about the root fungus. Swales on contour will hold the water and let it sit, which increased the risk of the fungus. That's one reason why I'm inclined to do slightly off contour water management, to keep things flowing and draining. Your story is very instructive to learn from. I think I'm gonna stick to a system instead of random plantings to help make a more efficient management plan. It seems like it'd be hard to maximize efficiency with random plantings, but there are certainly virtues other than maximum efficiency to be had...

On the peach/frost issue: I'm not sure if your comment was rhetorical or not, but I definitely see a huge difference in frost/temperature between the low part of my slope and higher up. I plant the more vulnerable stuff higher up accordingly, but my neighbor has a 30+ year old plum tree (same family as peach) near the bottom of the hill and it is kicking tail and produces abundantly. So... who knows, I guess all we can do is try to learn from other's experiences, and nature will throw curves at us constantly. Thank you for helping me learn from your experience.

Respect and gratitude,

Liam
 
Posts: 15
Location: Southern Colorado
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I am also on an east facing slope but out in semi arid Colorado.  I have thought of North-South tree planting lines as a positive, giving some shade to the shrubs and grasses on either side depending on the time of day.  Our sun is so strong at 6300' though that even full sun plants tend to like some shade.

If your run fences, livestock and equipment contrary to the keylines, I am afraid you can't help but incur inefficient water distribution through these activities.  That is kinda the whole point of keyline, lay things out such that through normal operations good water distribution is promoted.
 
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Does it defeat the point of channeling water gradually across the slope (keyline) if my plantings are perpendicular to the "keylines?



What is the context, what are the goals and main intentions for this land?
If it's silvopasture with focus on high quality pasture, than shrubs are not your concern and you should respect keyline geometry for your tree system!
What will defeat the purpose is water runoff and soil erosion becuase of management and access.
Especialy animal and machinery impact.
It's very DESTRUCITVE to have overall downslope pattern, it's not practical and healthy for the animals, humans, tractors etc.
 
pollinator
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Location: Virginia USDA 7a/b
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What is the context, what are the goals and main intentions for this land?



Yes! Look up some of Travis Johnson's posts referencing this climate. He has an issue in VT with water retention after increasing his organic matter and is a really robust resource, has done miles of earthworks and has learned some hard lessons. Know your climate and what it will likely look like if your plan works. Swales and terraces may not be the answer. I think Aljaz makes some good points! If you are basically planning on a silvopasture, which maximizes production of two strips (forage and trees), the shrubs are just a bonus. If you are as wet as Travis' posts indicate or will be after appropriate soil building, your erosion control may be water removal rather than retention. Most of us don't have that issue, so I don't feel very qualified, I would just be regurgitating Travis' info.

It's very DESTRUCITVE to have overall downslope pattern


I am using smaller fishscale swales because they are hard to screw up and they allow me some flexibility when I have better percolation. I am very happy with a 1 percent grade for small swales (including hugelswales which suck up huge water quantities but have some liabilities), but I understand that a long one would turn into a river with a measurable rain, and from Travis' posts if you have an erosion event, you are on bedrock quick. All of this comes back to the moisture levels. Not every strategy is good or transferrable, mine is likely a terrible idea at your place with the available information. Not every strategy is permanently smart in a dynamic ecosystem. I work to minimize the possibility I make a 20 year headache (I'm sure somewhere on this place I will want to borrow a time machine).  For instance, once I have shade cover from my tree strips, I will lose less to evaporation due to lower soil temperature, and may have to channel water. This has so many variables I haven't figured out how to predict it. Maybe my infiltration will improve at the same rate, but I don't know. It's fun!  

Stacking functions is Permaculture code for bonus points. This is true about the frost pockets and shrub/perennial layers and lots of stuff. It will drive you mad trying to get it perfect at the jump. Get the big stuff right- water, soil and sun. If you have to replant/cut down/move stuff- all part of the bargain. Honestly I have neglected my shrub layer entirely because I intend to steal/long-term borrow some of Travis' sheep and they would probably eat it anyhow.  
 
a fool thinks himself to be wise, but a wise man knows himself to be a fool - shakespeare. foolish tiny ad:
dry stack retaining wall
https://permies.com/t/85178/dry-stack-retaining-wall
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