Christine Baker

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since May 08, 2013
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Recent posts by Christine Baker

Charlotte, just lost a long post, so a brief summary:

Been following Steve Solomon's Soil & Health group for many years.  FYI someone posted he's in Oregon.  He actually renounced his citizenship and moved to Tasmania quite a few years ago.  He changed his advice substantially since he learned about mineralization.  There is the law of MINIMUMS and if you're missing a micro nutrient certain plants just won't do well.  

That's where azomite comes in and I was very excited about it too, but some people warn about excess ALUMINUM in very acidic or alkaline soil, such as mine with a pH of 8.2 - 8.7.  I'm not so enthusiastic about it anymore since I already have trouble with my memory, don't want to add to that by eating my own veggies.

The other thing about soil tests is that you'll get info about EXCESS metals etc. (if the tests work right.)  Wish I could afford actual plant and fruit / veggie testing.

I also was very excited about Elaine Ingham's compost tea and immediately built a brewer about 5 years ago, but it's hard being off the grid and running a brewer 24 / 7 and not being able to apply it during the day.  I have a friend who built a big brewer, but he's got power.  And, Elaine didn't say that all soil has everything a plant needs (that's ridiculous!), but she referred to "agricultural soil", it was a big argument in Solomon's group.  There IS very interesting science claiming that bacteria actually CHANGE elements or create elements out of nothing and we have a lot to learn.

I find biodynamics fascinating and use the biodynamic planting calendar -- it can't hurt.  

So many cool things to try ...

You have a MUCH bigger property and that's great, but it also costs a lot more and is a lot more work!

I have to do some work now, but will read your website later.
7 years ago

Tyler Ludens wrote:The stones are white and tend to reflect - soil under them tends to be cooler and moister than bare soil.  But I can't know for certain how it would work without trying it.  The cooling effect might be even more pronounced under a canopy of sprawling foliage.

Not all rocks are white.  Here the only white rocks are caliche.  Most are grey, composite redish rocks and then there's black lava rock.  And, there's paint.  I used to spay paint gallon plastic jugs black, fill them with water and put them along the inside perimeter of a small greenhouse. Also had an 80 or so gallon black water barrel in the middle.  Raised the night time temps about 10 degrees, but the plastic jugs only lasted a year or two before they got brittle and it was really messy.  Water stores more heat than rocks, but rock sure works for Holzer and his citrus.
7 years ago

Gilbert Fritz wrote:Christine,

How do you keep the pressure consistent in your watering system? If found that with a drilled PVC pipe, most of the water came out of the first few holes, and that was with hose pressure. How does it work with low tank pressure?

The pressure is NOT consistent.  But neither is the amount of water per plant.   But with PERMACULTURE / POLY PLANTING that doesn't matter.    I run the the poly pipe in circles around trees and then in wiggly lines so it hits all the plants.    Then I make holes for every planted area, the trees all have water wells and I try to make water wells around veggies too.  Even for small trees I need at least two holes.   Much of my property is sloped so it's some work to level larger water wells and they need to be leveled before mulching.

Then I turn on the water, I see how much water I get and when I need more water, I just make more holes.   I also found that I can direct the water to go about 10 inches on either side in various directions just by using the hole punch and redoing an existing hole at a angle.  Not sure how that works, but it does.   If it squirts too far away, I just put a tall rock where I want the water to go, or I put a rock on the line if I want it right there.  And then there are goof plugs to close holes.

Occasionally I run a some 1/4" line if I need water further a few feet away, but that doesn't work well for longer runs on gravity.

Obviously, you have more pressure when the tank is full than when it's almost empty and it requires regular checking.  But I found that I need to check the plants anyway for tomato worms and whatever insects, to harvest, etc. so I do that after a few minutes of watering at least every few days.    As zucchini, tomatoes etc. get bigger, I direct the water further away from the stem, either by moving the line a little or by redirecting the water and I make new water wells.

In my hoophouse I have drip tape on a timer and therefore sometimes don't get in there for a few days or even a week when I'm busy.  That tank is probably 10 or so feet higher up on the hill and I run 3/4" poly to the hoophouse, so I have better pressure as that drip tape is not intended for gravity watering.

There is a new drip tape for gravity watering and I'll order that and try it out next time they have a sale.  

I'm NOT a believer in "consistent" watering and prefer the soil to dry out in the top 2 or 3 inches occasionally, deep watered at other times, and then of course rain goes everywhere (except the hoophouse, and that'll change as soon as the plastic goes bad) so that the roots branch out.  

Just got my new camera and plan on some pictures this week.  

We don't really have snow cover here. Snow comes, but goes away within a week or so as the weather warms up. We can get frosts in any month of the year but July and August, and snow from May to September. At the same time, February can get up to 80 degrees. So winter comes in little bursts all year.

Rye grows very well, planted in October, without irrigation it is ready for harvest in July.

It is cooler here in the summer, the highest I have seen is 100F, the lowest is 0F.

Very much like Santa Fe, I have friends there.    You definitely have a VERY SHORT growing season and it would help to create micro climates, place big rocks to store heat on the north side of plants, etc.
7 years ago
Catherine, I could not stand the heat in Phoenix, but it's actually easier to get a system established because you don't have the freezes and basically a 12 months growing season.  I wish I could grow lemons and oranges.   Used to have neighbors that brought them up from their house in Scottsdale, they were so good!

And I totally agree with you, it's all about density and minimizing evaporation, but veggies still need sun.   Takes some planning and then pruning and maybe even transplanting.
7 years ago

I have access to fields that I can use free so long as I give some produce to the owners. I work with a group of others growing vegetables and fruit trees. We have irrigation, but I'd like to cut way back.

Eventually, I will be buying a plot outside of town, which may not have irrigation access. (Water rights here in Colorado are hard to get.)

This is a cold, high desert, with large temperature swings between day and night, cold and changeable winters, and a short season.

My primary concern is that it's a LOT of work (and money too) to get this "field" going.  I suppose you could consider it a practice run for when you buy property.  Why did the trees die on your field?

You mention a hedge around it and how effective it is as a wind break depends on the size of the field.   I put up a 6 foot shade cloth in our new orchard, but it doesn't protect plants from wind more than a few feed away.  Maybe 10 ft?  I'm still trying to figure out where I could plant tall trees strategically throughout the orchard without shading the fruit trees too much, but providing a more effective windbreak and some frost protection.

We have a very similar climate here at about 3800 ft, every few years have nights with single digits to kill off the Palo Verde and other sensitive trees/shrubs.   110 F or so during heatwaves in summer.  Add the wind, which is probably the most destructive and it's really difficult to get things going, especially since we get 40+ mph winds about 20 - 25 days/month in April and May when we want to get veggies started.   We get rain maybe once a month in April / May (in a good year), without irrigation it's not going to happen.  Your season is even shorter, I hope you don't have winds like that.

But, once trees and bushes are established it's hard to kill them by not watering.

I've seen pistachio trees after several years on a vacant property with pistachios.  However, they may eventually die as they get stressed during heatwaves and no water for possibly a couple months.  Rain and monsoon is different every year.  And the quality of the nuts may not be great.

I would not want to try to grow veggies without irrigation no matter what.  Even in the BEST year we wouldn't get rain more than a few times a month, not nearly enough water for zucchini or tomatoes.  I suppose it's a little cooler in summer in Denver.  I'm surprised you have rye in winter, thought everything would be covered in snow, suppose it's like Santa Fe.

I like interplanting and of course shade and lots of mulch and good soil helps.   I haul my water from a community well 1.5 miles away in a 320 gallon tank.  I "should" get a bigger tank, but it really doesn't bother me enough to make an effort.   When it doesn't rain I haul water at least once a day, sometimes twice, and I actually enjoy it.  A few minutes of rest    Maybe around 35,000 gallons / month in May and June when we rarely get rain and I know people who use that much in their house and for a few trees.  

Almost everything is gravity irrigated, first gravity from the water truck into six 220 or so gallon tanks throughout the property and from there to manifolds with 1/2" poly pipe.  No drip attachments, just the drip holes wherever I need water and I redo it in many areas once a year as trees get bigger and when I add more plants.  

I'm experimenting with various timers, almost all reduce the pressure too much.  In most areas I manually open the valves and if I forget to close it, it's not that big a deal -- at most 200 gallons wasted, and not really wasted, just "deep watered."

I also have a 20 x 40 hoophouse and a "lower garden" with around 7 or so mimosas, several goji berries, chaste tree, AZ reeds and some natives, hopefully will get to planting berries there this fall.  When it doesn't rain that garden gets about 300 gallons / week and I used to grow veggies there too, but didn't have enough time this year.

About 10 fruit trees are outside the orchard, 50 ft of grapes, lots of pomegranates,  some figs, chaste trees, black locusts, honey locusts, mesquite and palo verdes.  And some junk trees like trees of heaven (stink trees). And of course many native plants too.

Speaking of AZ reeds, I'm so happy that a couple of clusters that have not been watered in years are really thriving now after several good monsoon rains.  They make great windbreaks, but don't provide a lot of shade so maybe I'll put a few in the orchard.  Have to think it through, put them on the north side of trees so they still get sunshine in spring.

Also have some swales and am still in the middle of planting, got a 2nd acre a couple of years ago for the little orchard (maybe 1/4 acre, 12 trees) that serves as veggie garden until the fruit trees provide too much shade. I hope I live to see that!

I started in 2009 and it was very frustrating with the WRONG trees that froze during really cold winters in 2010 and 2012 and we couldn't even get yellow bird of paradise and other plants going that just grow by the side of the road.  And then all of a sudden everything was taking off.    I know one thing,  the more you water (within reason, maybe twice a week in summer), the better and faster even natives grow.

It's a TON of work.   I'm very grateful to our WWOOFers, could have never done it by myself.  Speaking of which, if anyone is interested in visiting, let me know, the worst of the summer is over.
7 years ago
I just tried to read the entire thread and am not sure what Gilbert is trying to do.   I understand there is a "field" and that "[t]he owners of the field I use just cut down 30 dead or dying cotton wood and elm trees."

What is the goal?  Plant a cash crop without water?  

Are you buying the field?
7 years ago
Didn't realize that.  In fact, never even heard of the town before.   Just looked it up, haven't been south of Phoenix in over 15 years, was over in the Florence area.  Definitely a lot warmer than Flag!

Between the rez and the national monument, could be real nice as long as the commuters don't move in.
7 years ago