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Pasture conversion question  RSS feed

 
Posts: 6
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Hello everyone,

First of all thanks for taking your time to read my post.
Iv recently aquired some land and am planing to start a food forest, sadly for the last years its been abused by over grasing and soil disturbance and the only things that ar growing at the moment are Spear Thistle, some dog rose shurbs and 1-2 unidentified trees in some little depressions that i assume are some water loving species.
(Ill attach some photos)

Considering the poor condition the soil is in im pretty sure its not ready to plant a food forest.

My hope is that you guys could help me guide me on the right first step.

I have a few ideeas in my head but i would like to keep them to my self as not to influence the suggestions.

Thanks in advance,
Your PurpleClover.
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pollinator
Posts: 285
Location: Quebec, Canada
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I suggest that you first make a plan.  Put your plan on paper and then share it with us.

The issue of poor soil is not a reason not to start a food forest.  One can easily add much, straw, compost etc. around any young plants you plant to give it the nutrients it needs.   You need to make sure that the first couple of years that the plants have adequate water.  There are many water harvesting technics that you can do to help you with this.   Choose plants that will work in your climate and soil.  If your climate is dry then you would not plant water hogging plants or vise versus. 





 
pollinator
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Unless you are planning earthworks (swales, berms, etc) i would plant the trees now. 

Earthworks becomes tricky to plant beforehand cause so much changes.
 
garden master
Posts: 4770
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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As has been suggested the first step is always observe, observe, observe. That land looks to me like you need to stand there in a rain and see how the water moves across the slopes before you do anything else.

Water control always comes first because once you do any other step, you can't get the water control exactly where it needs to be without undoing something else.
 
Mihai Buldus
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Thanks alot for the replies guys!

I cant plant right away since the nearby shepards graze everything down with theyr sheep, even small trees, i first have to setup my fence.
Thats gonna take me 2/3 Monts from now onwards.

My plans were actualy to split the land into 3x30 meters(90 feet) teraces as to retains as much water as posible since it gets really dry in summer and all the water flows down to the lake.
The slope is around 7 degrees, my plan might be too abitious tough, the surface area is pretty big and im planning to do this with a showel and some friends.

I was thinking about tilling the field one last time and seeding some cover crops to build soil fertility till the land is ready to plant.

Maybe i could set up some earth mounds where i could plant trees that would later support the edges of the teraces, i dont know if this is doable tought,is it?

What do you guys think?

 
Michelle Bisson
pollinator
Posts: 285
Location: Quebec, Canada
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It depends what equipment you have to work with if you start doing terraces and mounts.  Since you cannot plant now anyways, use this time to observe and draw out on paper your design ideas.


 
Posts: 129
Location: Maritimes , Eastern Canada
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Interesting project !  Well done for taking it on. Where are you located?  Looks like central Eastern Europe.

I see blackberry and what looks like wild plum in the photos. Fruit will do well no doubt. I like to take a hint from what naturally thrives in an area. Fruit and berries thrive on "poor " soil. 

Looks like pretty high ground, also in terms of elevation. I suppose pumping water from the lake will be against the law there? Thinking irrigation. Hopefully if you own the land down to the lake you can also take some water, but you would know if its protected or not.

You are right to want to fence it first as looks like the general land use in the area is open grazing.

Nice to have a "blank slate" to work with! 

Good luck , will follow your development!

Photo shows hawthorn in bloom(last june) a very hardy berry producer that also makes a good natural fence/hedgerow.





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Mihai Buldus
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Hey there Michelle, thanks for your reply!

I woul love to start designing it but its hard to do if i dont make a decision on the land works in gonna do, im still undecided, thats why i asked for help here.

Should i try and level out 3 slopes in the hillside?
Should i make 3-4 swales, one before each planting "region"? I still dont know which one would work best.


Thank you too Mark for your reply!
You are exactly right, you have a good eye, the property is located in northen Transilvania(Romania) near Cluj-Napoca city.
Thanks for identifing the trees/shrubs, im pretty set on keeping them there, i feel like i would take the soul away by replacing them with something els.

Berries, the place was full of them last autumn when i first got here.

I dont think ill be able to use the lake water, my property stops 15 meters to the shore, but im planning on digging a well and making a small pond later on.

Some more information on the layout, ita about 130 meters long and 17 meters wide, the short side beeing paralel to the lake.

Im really glad about all the information i got till now, thanks again!
 
Mark Deichmann
Posts: 129
Location: Maritimes , Eastern Canada
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Sounds good. Probably quite windy there, which is good for short bushes/trees . Great potential, especially if you get a pond/well. Too bad no waterfront but that is normal. Hard to get that stuff.

In my view I'm not sure you should do too much with the ground unless to capture water, but then again it looks like fruit and berries will thrive without too much assistance.

I have tons of wild apple and blackberries and I only tend them minimally, removing deadwood/stalks mostly. The less work the better. They all gives lots of food for winter.

It looks like fencing  should be a priority, if you can't fence the whole perimeter then fence around what you plant. That is how open grazing areas are usually dealt with.

Your idea of dividing the land up is also wise. Maybe you can concentrate on one area at a time , but spend some time designing the whole as Michelle says so that you have some kind of direction/plan.

 
Mihai Buldus
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Thanks for the tips Mark, ill start designing the layout soon and share it with you guys.

Mark, if you woudnt mind sharing your design i wouls be veey happy. It seems your forest garden is on a pretty similar site.
 
pollinator
Posts: 187
Location: Sask, Canada - Zone 3b
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Welcome to Permies, Purpleclover :)

I have been looking at a buying a property for my own projects which is very similar to yours, so I've thought about "how to start from scratch" a lot this last year.

Mihai Buldus wrote:
I woul love to start designing it but its hard to do if i dont make a decision on the land works in gonna do, im still undecided, thats why i asked for help here.



From what you've said so far:
  • You want a food forest
  • You aren't sure how to get from a bare patch of pasture to a food forest
  • You want to plant leguminous cover-crops, but you need to set up a fence first
  • You are doing the work with a shovel and some friends (earthworks is hard work by hand)
  • You are playing with the idea of terraces


  • These are the comments I can think of right now:
  • What kind of food forest do you want though? Without an end-goal that can be visualized, starting this project will be quite challenging. Example: Some people want food-forests that include every kind of plant that will grow in their area, others want a food-forest that produces things they can market. Then there are those who want a tidy, organized food-forest mostly for visual-appeal.
  • I wouldn't assume just because you are next to a body of water that the plant life is water-loving. Many times the soil on the edges of large ponds like that can be "hill-wash" which is a sort of rocky/sandy soil. I'd dig down at least 0.5M in different areas to see what the soil is like. (since there are wild plums/blackberries though, this likely means it's sandy soil)
  • Cover-Crops are a good starting point as far as vegetation is concerned, but you will still need some form of water reserves ASAP. Assuming the soil ends up being Sandy/Loam, you could try for a few Sand Point Wells near the edge of the property closest to the water - it'd be the least amount of work to gain access to water as far as I can tell.
  • If you managed to get water this way, you could develop the property from the top and the bottom at the same time. Start with some water-storage Earthworks(ponds/terrace) at the top, and then put in basic pioneer trees/shrubs that you could water with the Sand Point Wells at the bottom. Trees near the bottom would form a sort of bio-net through the soil with their roots and help keep the water on the property while also giving you much needed biomass.
  • Terracing seems like a lot of work, especially when the end-goal is uncertain. There are other methods for tree establishment like net-and-pan that work just as well.








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    Michelle Bisson
    pollinator
    Posts: 285
    Location: Quebec, Canada
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    First, putting your design on paper / computer software is not a one time event.  It is a process.  You might go through hundreds of "designs" before you decide your route to take.  And it might be easier to design for smaller areas first then everything at once.

    Remember there are ways to "harvest" water without earthworks, especially if you do not have the equipment for earthworks.  Mulch "berms" will help to slow down and sink in the rain. 

    Try to choose plants, scrubs and trees that are more suitable for your climate.  You do not want to plant water hungry plants if you can not find a realistic way to harvest the water for them in dryer climates

    The tiny "valleys" on the surface of the land will naturally get more of the run off, so then you plant your plants that need more moisture in those locations.




     
    Mark Deichmann
    Posts: 129
    Location: Maritimes , Eastern Canada
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    Hi Mihai ,

    My situation is  different because it is already grown back from being what you have. But similar I think because it is not super rich soil and berry bushes and trees thrive. My land was pasture like you have in my fathers childhood( 1940's)  He later planted alot of spruce trees, all throughout are patches of blackberries that have grown up, and apple trees that survived from the pasture days.  I have been harvesting for cash mature spruce to let it get more light. Ash trees and elder are growing up.
    This has given me established permanent beds to tend . I have also added more Elderberry , which was propogated from 2 bushes my grandfather planted in 1930 s. I now have 100 + bearing fruit. ( Sambucus)
    We also have the Hawthorn( Posted photo above) Serviceberry(amalancier) lots of wild rose( give nice vitamin rich jam), blueberries( lowbush) Hazelnuts, Vibernum and also local delicacy "fiddleheads"( ostrich fern) you eat the young shoots.
    So I am lucky because I don't have to plant too much on the permaculture side, as I have alot already established, which I do look after by cutting out deadwood etc.
    This is also the reason why I believe in these plants. My family has been on this land since 1930. Nature itself has been my biggest helper. ANd it has inspired me , I encourage certain trees and discourage others.
    I will start a thread on the Elderberry, as I will soon be making new cuttings. They are very easy to propagate. They are also common in Europe ( Sambucus nigra) .
    The Elder is very special, almost magical. Maybe in Romania too?  We are from Denmark originally. THe Elder is associated with the goddess of life and death.  The ripe fruit is good for the health( must be cooked) and the raw fruit and leaves are poison. It is considered good luck for family health to grow it. In English " The Lady Tree".
    All in all the blackberry is my favourite. You have a long one in your photo. Some people don't like them because of the thorns. The thorns also prevent animals and birds from stealing the fruit. Also the stem that bears fruit can be cut away at harvest as it will not produce again. These vines get really long and produce alot of food. I can almost never pick it all. They make a very good syrup for winter. Elderberry too. It is the easiest to pick. Blackberry is slow picking but they produce berries in two stages about 2-3 weeks apart.
    Only problem for you might be if its too dry the berries dry up on the vine and are hard to remove. Then they can be used dried in worse case.

    I would study the local botany. I was lucky , my father was a forester and botanist so I know alot of the bushes and collect cuttings this time of year. Put them in coffee cans with water and some nutrient in it( just a little soil or manure will do) or some root hormone(not my choice).

    You should be able to find Elder, Vibernum somewherein your area. The elder will like wetter ground but will grow on dry land too.  Blackberry is hard to make cuttings from. YOu will need to dig up the plant. There are likely lots of places, maybe roadside that you can get. I see alot of them under power transmission corridors. Look around. Hopefully you are already good at identification and know of some sources. Starting out we sometimes have to be a bit daring and adventurous. 
    Good Luck !





     
    Mihai Buldus
    Posts: 6
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    Hey there guys, thanks alot for your replies...it sure is alot of information to dig in, im gonna go through all the ideeas you guys shared with me and see what works best and come back with a design.

    Yesterday i moved in some concrete poles in, 150 to be precise, my back is now recovering from all the carrying.

    It was a adventrure, called in a truck to carry them from the seller and on to my land, after 4 hours of piling the poles on wooden pallets so we could load them on a truck. After loading them up using the trucks crane (aprox. 6 tons) we went to my property where the acces road is a muddy path created by tractors...the 14 ton truck got stuck and we had to run trough the village to find someone to toe us out... But, the poles got almost to the destination, they are now 1 km away from the property waiting to become a fence. Ill keep you guys posted on the progress.

    And hopefully share a design with you pretty soon!


    Thanks alot friends!
    Have a awesome weekend.
     
    Mark Deichmann
    Posts: 129
    Location: Maritimes , Eastern Canada
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    Good to hear you invested in fenceposts! 

    Too bad with the getting stuck on the way bit, I know what you're talking about. I find the logistics and moving of heavy material the most challenging.  I have a compact loader , but often it will fail when you need it the most. Thats just the way life seems to be.  We also plan all transport on the land for the coldest times when the ground is frozen.

    On a site like yours you may want to try to get a small "tracked dumper"  Cormidi or Messeri should be available in your area. THey do very little damage and the dumping/selfloading feature saves  a lot of work. Just a thought. They are also available for rent most places in Europe. I am looking to get one , even though I have a loader, because they are small and able to climb hills up narrow paths.

    Keep us posted !
     
    Mihai Buldus
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    Thanks again for all the replies!

    Iv made a first attempt on designing the layout of the trees and shrubs.(See atached Photo)
    The valey runs from the top of the hill side West, to the lake east.(West = left side of my Photo)

    The Red exetrior lines are the property boarders and the red lines crossing through the property are swales.
    I assume that the water supply around the swales is the highest and that the area beeing the distance 3/4 between 2 swales the driest.
    This is just an asumption, correct me if im wrong.

    The areas between southern fence and northern "tree line" will be my legume garden.

    The Trees/Shrubs are as follows:
    1.Hazelnut
    2.Walnut
    3.Apple(Semi Dwarf)
    4.Oak(Missing from sketch)
    5.Quince
    6.Sequoia Giganteum
    7.Sweet Cherry(Semi Dwarf)
    8.Elderberry
    9.Fig Tree
    10.Plum(Semi Dwarf)
    11.Lindens
    12.Grape Vine
    13.Hop Vine

    I wanted to share this with you guys before i start designing the other layers and guilds in case iv made mistakes at this stage.

    Info: The east side is not occupied cause im planning to build my house there.
    Everything in the sketch is scaled, so the dimension ratios are as seen in the png.

    Feel free to modify my design, id love me some good feedback!

    Thanks again for taking your time to read this.

    Land-Layout-trial-1.png
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    Mark Deichmann
    Posts: 129
    Location: Maritimes , Eastern Canada
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    What good thoughtful work !

    Great selection of plantings !


    Thanks for sharing. Will be interesting to follow your site development here. Cheers
     
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