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Cohan Fulford

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since Mar 17, 2013
Currently working with about 6 acres, which was part of the family farm (native bush pasture) several decades ago, and at least half of which is native vegetation, including dryish, mesic and moist to wet mixed forest, and forest clearings with many wildflowers throughout. Some mowed areas ( to keep forest from reclaiming the whole area and keep flammable build-up down. Open areas have a mix of native plants and shrubs with presumably native and exotic grasses as well as common agricultural weeds, also some long established perennial ornamentals, some exotic woodies including a few fruits, and newer rock and berm gardens and woodland ornamental gardens etc... Finding ways to use materials I have at hand, exposures that currently exist, and add a lot more food plants and encourage and use the many that are here already..
West Central Alberta, Canada
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Recent posts by Cohan Fulford

In the Sepp article I mentioned earlier (which I think is a book excerpt?) , his main emphasis is on the angle of the beds, and the whole point is to keep them steep enough to avoid soil compaction, and allow oxygenation - he mentions too flat beds run the risk of anaerobic decomposition of the organic material- which would mean a smelly mess.
Clearly that is not always an issue, since there are many examples of folks on here using flatter beds that work fine.. I'm personally working with wood that is already quite rotted, so I think probably not a problem, maybe more so with really green wood?
As for stepping stones, at a couple of points on the bed I've been building, I've used blocks of wood- i.e. chunks of tree trunks cut for various reasons, a few fresh and green, some old and rotten to contain soil around the bottom, and secondarily, they will also provide steps to more easily access some sections of the bed (especially the non-rotten ones

BTWm Brenda, I think your bed is plenty big enough for a terrace in the sense I understood it, more of a path- I would put it a foot or so above the bottom- just enough to allow you to reach the top easily, and just creat a flat section wide enough to stand/walk on- either all around or just in periodic spots to allow access. You could even lay planks around at that point, or insert blocks of wood to stand on as I mentioned above..
6 years ago
Its looking good anyway, Brenda
Another thought for the top could be hardy small native shrubs like currants/gooseberries- Ribes species. Super tough and adaptable. I'm hoping not to have problems reaching the top of the bed I'm building , but was thinking of some native Ribes for stabilisation and tolerance of drought.
Yours looks like it went a lot faster than mine that I am doing by I'll also be doing some lower beds just because I don't have that much time available
6 years ago
When building any kind of garden bed, I always practise reaching across during construction at various phases to make sure that every point can be reached from somewhere outside- this applies to width as well as height.
Read the ( I think it's second) article on this page, Sepp discusses some of the basic issues with hugelbeets, he talks about height and angle, and mentions a terrace on the top for really high beds- no picture of that unfortunately, so not sure if he means a path right along the ridge, or a terrace/path somewhere on the side- the latter I think would work well for you, Brenda- maybe a third of the way up....
6 years ago
Interesting stuff so far, Chris, looking forward to updates.
Have you seen or heard of something similar to the denim wicking? I've had vague thoughts in those directions- more thinking about using fabric etc to slow water loss from shallow reservoir areas near beds, the wicking adds another element.. curious to hear how it goes..
6 years ago
Our snow is mostly gone (still some big piles along the driveway in shade) especially in the areas where there are usually voles- little or no sign of them this year- I guess they must have had a natural population crash last year, so in spite of the long snow season when they usually thrive, no activity in or near any beds..
6 years ago
Good topic
I'm not in a really dry area, but not wet either- we are in an area naturally covered with mixed boreal forest, so definitely a bit more moisture than the parkland and then grassland to the east of here. We get around 500mm/19inches average, but varies a lot from year to year. Luckily, much of our rain comes in early through mid summer when it's needed most, but a good chunk of our precip is also in snow.
I've definitely been watching snowfall/ snow collection patterns on our acreage, the farm beyond, and the area in general. I haven't figured out all of the mechanisms, but the variations are huge even in a small area, and clearly area factor in growing season moisture for specific sites.
For example, even on my just under 6 acres, which is almost completely surrounded by trees on all sides, and about half of which is forest, so wind is not much of a factor, snowcover in midwinter can vary from a couple of inches or less to well over a foot! (not counting the areas where it is piled from shovelling, where it can bee from a couple of feet to over 6 feet).
The areas with least snow are inside mostly coniferous woods, and under/near individual spruce trees in the open. Of course these are shady areas, mostly dryish in summer, and while there are native plants that grow there, including some berries and potential medicinals, they will not be the focus of intensive planting.
The second area with lightish snow cover, and which melts the fastest (warm spells during winter as well as in spring) is the south side of a solid line of woods- esp spruce- and again, in front of individual spruce trees. So these areas will tend to be dry, but also warm far in advance of other sites- I started some advance work for new plantings already weeks ago in a strip like this, when the snow was still knee deep a few metres farther out! I plan on using this warm strip to plant crops that have difficulties in our short/cool summer, as well as some dryland species that I like to grow, and I'll have to work carefully with mulching and hugeling to conserve enough moisture for the mesic plants, trenching/swales for moisture loving plants and reservoirs of moisture for the others.

Open wooded areas of poplars, birch and scattered spruce get medium to deep snow, clearings get med to deep snow, and open areas on the north side of trees get med to deep snow which can last a really long time- many weeks after the south exposure areas are dry.
Interestingly, I've noticed the deepest snow of all is in the low, wetland areas (not talking about tiny depressions, but what we call sloughs, with small to medium woodies or only grass and sedges, areas which can span many acres). Presumably this is partly due to wind depositing snow in the lowest areas, but these sloughs are not necessarily surrounded by open land, could be forest all around, so not that much snow could be blowing in. And presumably partly because low areas receive less sun when the sun is low, but again, some of these areas are not wooded, fully exposed to sun, and still have deep snow. I feel there must be another mechanism/s that I haven't figured out yet, but the end result is that the same areas that receive spring run off and run off from heavy rains, which are lowest and wettest in summer also receive the most snow of all the local land types.
Not yet sure how these observations can amount to useful strategies, but I think it's worth noting the complexities in the water patterns even over a small area.

To get the most from snow, some of my initial thoughts would be: a snow fence as mentioned above, particularly for a windy site- noting it may do a couple of things: the slats slow the wind passing through, causing it to drop its load of snow, mostly on the lee side- that is, carry the snow through and drop it. That may be the sunny or shady side, depending where your wind comes from. If its the sunny side, I'd suggest a second fence to shade the resulting drift and help it melt more slowly (and of course, stop some more snow of its own). Once you worked out the ideal site with the fences (and ideal distance between- a metre or two?), you could plant a twin row of shrubs/hedges to slow the snow and shade it between them, trapping the moisture to support their own growth. You could most likely enhance the whole process even more by having the shrubs on hugels to raise their windstopping profile, and a swale between to hold more moisture longer. In a dry climate, that intermound swale might be the spot for trees, and of course could be used for any other more moisture loving plants, which would also benefit from reduction of dessicating wind in the growing season. I'd probably also put a depression in front of and behind the hugels/shrub lines, though you could probably reach a point where too much depression on the windward side of the first windbreak, and too high a windbreak, might stop all of the snow at the back, with none to go through....

Another thought is that if you have enough snow to need shovelling/removal you can strategise to move some of that snow to areas that need it more. We have numerous paths to shovel here, besides a lot of driveway, and I am both deliberately throwing snow onto dry areas when they are reachable, and trying to move it away from areas that I know collect excessive moisture in the spring... This could be taken further if you were using mechanical snow removal- eg piling the snow by a pond/swale or other reservoir area- I would suggest not piling the snow on the pond as it might take too long to melt, but rather piling it above/behind so the sun would hit the front of the pile and melt it down into the pond/swale.

I also have depressions dug around all of my ornamental beds- rock gardens and woodland gardens etc- besides providing soil to raise the bed, this makes it easier to mow around for one thing, and prevent grass etc from spreading into the beds, but of course after snow and rain these fill with water temporarily, keeping moisture in the vicinity of the beds to wick up. Naturally I will be doing this with edible beds I'm building as well, and in some cases I am looking at edible and medicinal plants that specifically want to grow in low/moist areas....
6 years ago
Hi DJ- I agree the smaller, really spiny Opuntias would be a drag to de-spine- burning would be one approach, or heavy gloves and a sharp knife. However, you should be able to grow in your zone some forms that are larger and less spiny (they all have glochids- small insignificant looking hairy fuzzy things in the areoles around the spines that will stick in your skin- never tough them bare handed even if they look spineless) and would be better. There are a lot of cactus growers in Co, so if you start googling you should be able to find some good stuff.

We don't have the hot days, so we can often grow cooler weather crops all summer, but definitely long season things have a hard time ripening here, and I wouldn't even consider planting things in the fall unless they are hardy enough to live over winter- the season is not long enough to accomplish anything, so I can relate to you on that!

Someone mentioned Eric Toensmeier, he doesn't list tons of things for either of our areas, but some interesting things- mesquite and buffalo gourd might be possible for you..
You should be able to do well with most of the traditional annual crops, there are varieties adapted to most regions, and I'm sure various permaculture strategies- mulching, hugels, water management should be able to help you get the most from your site; for perennials, I'd be looking into what native peoples in your areas ate... nothing more adapted than native plants!

RE: nut tree sources, on the thread I list above, we discuss a couple of Canadian sources; for the U.S. you could try googling unless any american forumists have suggestions
6 years ago
Hi all- we've discussed some similar issues in this thread, lots of possible perennial food options:

As a non-meat eater, I've come to the conclusion that, as romantic as the 'food forest' idea sounds, I have yet to see any realistic set of plants that could fuel a filling and balanced diet in a cold winter forest garden without including animal foods (which I'm not going to) or some annual crops on a permanent basis. There are interesting nut possibilities for sure- we discuss them in the thread above..

Re: cold and dry regions- my area is probably colder in winter than most of Colorado, but also cooler in summer, and less dry. However, there are chestnuts that are hardy here, so that could be an option. Also, as annuals, I don't think Quinoa was mentioned above- a great staple option which is not a cereal (grass) and also provides greens. Maybe Amaranth as well, if your summer nights aren't a problem- here short/cool night summers are a real issue for any of those hot summer crops, but I'm hoping some heat trapping hugel designs may help!
Outside of those staples, tons of native plants that provide berries, greens and some roots-- we need to look outside the veggie seed catalogues and develop selections from some of the native plants
You could look at Camassia ( a beautiful 'lily' with edible bulbs), Hedysarum ( a pea relative with edible root), there is an Astragalus also, from the prairies, (another pea relative) with edible seedpods, etc etc..

Neowerdermannia is not going to be a fast grower (understatement!), so even if they are hardy enough for Colorado (not a whole lot of South American cacti are hardy enough for North America) you would be waiting many years to get a plant the size of one potato. If they were hardy, I'd be putting them in a rock garden and never eating but that's me as a cactus lover Frankly, I'd have the same problme with Camassia- if I were ever to get a big patch going, I'd hate to dig any! No such qualms with daylilies
However, cacti is not a bad idea- you'd want mostly Opuntia/pricky pear of which there are many species, and quite a few growable in various parts of Colorado. Not all have juicy fruits, but many do, as well as edible pads- lots of info available on that subject, and many of them will grow quite abundantly, giving you a good harvest once you get a patch going.
6 years ago
Hi, DJ, I guess translation will depend on the browser you use- I use the free google chrome, and right at the top of any page not in english (or probably whatever language you have it set to) is a bar you can click on to translate the page. Usually not perfect translations, but enough with this kind of page to give you an idea. You can also open a google search page and click the drop down menu 'more' to the right at the top of the page, translate is one of the options, and then you can paste in sentences or paragraphs (?) to translate.

I haven't tried this yet myself, though I have done lots of mulching with leaves and grass, but my property is quite (not 100%) sheltered from wind. In the pics it seems they covered the soil in straw, then laid long branches with green leaves on top- these branches seem to go from bottom to top and should really help hold the straw in place. Then the 'spikes' driven in and cross pieces laid, to further hold the slope in place. I think if needed, you could even throw more branches on top while you wait for plants to sprout.. Are you able to wet your mulch? seems like that would make it less vulnerable to the wind...
I also think (I looked at so many pages the other day, they I read someone suggesting rooting currants or other vining/sprawling woodies at the beginning to help anchor the thing and provide shelter for seedlings. Wherever I got that idea, I am going to try this with a variety of our native currants and gooseberries, all of which have fairly open growth, so they will be easy to have other plants around, and several commonly grow on brushpiles etc here, so the habitat will be great for them...

The suggestion (assuming the translation and my interpretation of it are accurate) seems to be to tramp on the bottom of the hill only, to provide a solid base. I think (?) I also read somewhere to tramp down the inner layers- logs and other organic material, so it doesn't all collapse right away...
6 years ago
Lots of good stuff in this thread- I think I'm on about page 11!
Just thought there might be some others who find these links useful-
The first is a site which has pdfs on a range of related topcis, but of particular interest on this thread is one entitled 'Hugelkultur Raised Beds' which includes a couple of short articles and a longer one which I guess is an excerpt from one of Sepp Holzer's books- some good stuff in there, for those of us who have not seen the books, clarifying some of his approaches.

Second is a Romanian page with photos from an SH supervised hugel build in Ukraine. Text is in Romanian, and while many photos are self explanatory, google chrome was able to more or less translate the page, and some of the comments are helpful- dealing with the angle of the slope, bracing etc and some idea of what was seeded where..
6 years ago