Ben Waimata

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since Jun 11, 2017
Organic farmer, orchardist and forester.
New Zealand
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Recent posts by Ben Waimata

I'm also in an area where the USDA zones don't mean much. Our 600 acres rises from sea level to 1000" elevation, and changes from a USDA 11a right up to 9b. But I'm at close to latitude 40S, and the temperature very rarely hits 90F in summer, and can go for years between night dropping below 40F. The summer heat accumulation is more like Canada than the South Florida zone 11a suggests.

I see a logical way around it though, use USDA zone (which records only the one factor, the mean figure of the extreme yearly low) with the annual average air temperature. When you do this, you get a good picture of the temperature range in any area (rainfall, sunshine etc are a different matter!). Example, most of my farm is in USDA 10b, the same USDA zone as Miami. Miami has a long term average temperature around 77F. Immediately we know Miami is an essentially tropical climate that occaisonally gets coolish in winter. My climate is USDA zone 10b as well, meaning the extreme low is reasonably mild. But the long term mean air temperature is about 59F. Immediately it is obvious that it is a cool climate without extremes of temperature. I think San Francisco is zone 9b or 10a, mean annual air temperature of 57F, so pretty similar, but with slightly higher frost potential.

One interesting thing when comparing zones for plant growth is that some plants need heat, some don't. So a climate 10b tree like a coconut palm can be grown easily in Miami but will not even survive an entire summer here. Another zone 10b tree like a banyan fig can grow easily in Miami but also grows easily (but significantly slower) here. The banyan is a good example, as it becomes hard to grow as you go further north in Florida. 8b and 9a areas of Florida are still far warmer than my climate, but those places cannot grow banyan trees due to the occaisonal cold night,  I can. So the USDA zones are designed for continental USA where they work well, but are still applicable to other areas if we take into account heat accumulation factors.

Another example of the difficulty in climate zones; 30 years ago New Zealand researchers were attempting to find suitable genetics for a pecan trial here. The two most important factors are winter chilling and heat accumulation. The parts of the pecan natural range that have winter chilling anything like the NZ climate where only the extreme southernmost part of their natural range, but these provenances required far more summer heat than we get and failed to fruit here.  The extreme north of the range provided climates with cool summers comparable to ours, but these selections failed totally here without enough winter chilling. There was talk of hybridsing to try to get a more neutral pecan tree, but there is still no pecan industry here. We've got pecan trees on our farm, at least the foliage is nice, there has never been even nuts.
1 month ago
My grandmother had a runner bean plant that resprouted every year for at least 30 years in her vegie garden. They are herbaceous perennials here rather than evergreens.  I tried them as a living mulch but the cultivars I tried only survived a few seasons. They are best in a coolish moist climate, my 3" rain per month summer is too dry for them to remain perennial without irrigation.
1 month ago

Tj Jefferson wrote:

  ...the soil that was laid down during the Cretaceous period is approximately 150 feet (or more) below the surface...

Ugh, I'm going to need a much bigger subsoiler.

If all you need is a bigger subsoiler I'd really like to know what kind of tractor you're running there!
1 month ago

Nicole Alderman wrote:True, but on the phone, who can tell which bear/bare one is talking about!

Interesting, where I am in New Zealand these words sound the same, but my Australian wife gets very annoyed that when she hears it, as she says them in a way that is distinct.

"bare with me" is probably a common expression in naturist communities? I'm surprised the number of people here making an immediate nudity = sex connection.
1 month ago

Steve Farmer wrote:Agree with Ben, good chance it's a delonix regia also known as red flame tree and often wrongly called a jacaranda. A possibly boring fact about the delonix regia is that it is a legume but it doesn't fix nitrogen, I believe the only example of a non nitrogen fixing legume known to mankind.

Hi Steve, does Acrocarpus fraxinifolius nodulate in your country? Another beautiful legume tree that is almost but not quite cool tolerant enough to grow here (there are some, but not many).  N-fixing trees that don't fix N without their appropriate rhizobia never seem to do well here, even if climatically suited. Mimosa scabrella is a perfect example, grows in a cooler climate in habitat but here they just germinate easily, grow about 100mm then stop. Tipuana tipu is another example, most don't seem to want to grow much  but for some reason there is one strain I have found that nodulates here and grows very well. There is a whole lot going on there that no one seems to understand.
1 month ago
I'm pretty sure it's not an Acacia. My first guess was Albizia, but now I think it might be Delonix regia? Once it flowers the id will be more obvious, VERY obvious if it is Delonix! Beautiful tree.
1 month ago

F Agricola wrote:
A Kiwi growing Eucalypts across the ditch? The next thing you guys will be doing is farming ‘our’ possums!

Hi F.,

I apologise if I came across a bit harsh, re-reading that I could have put it better. I guess the problem is we're getting this increase of urban/rural divide and sometimes the anti-farming rhetoric gets totally out of hand. Sorry if I over-reacted to an old frustration from another country. Obviously you understand your NSW situation better than I do. I was involved in farming in NE NSW back in the early 1990's (and having an Aussie wife I have strong family links there), and while I love that Northern Rivers region I admit I found it hard going, rampant weed growth not quite matched by the crops! Also getting stung by hornets seemed to dampen my enthusiasm.

If any of those regenerative farms are still green now I guess the reaction from the rest should be enough to make this discussion redundant 5 years from now.

You can have all the possums back, just come over and collect them. Please. Any time will suit. They were originally imported to be farmed for their fur, but then released and protected until such times they became uncontrollable.  A few years back there was a classic article in one of the NZ farm newspapers, a very indignant letter to the editor from the 1930's  describing the horror experienced when a farmer had the audacity to shoot a possum, and what was wrong with farmers anyway, and when would a prosecution be pursued? Alongside was a contemporary letter to the editor bemoaning the plight of the indigenous forest and why have those farmers been allowed to get away with not controlling the possum population?

Yeah Eucs are great, as long as we're really careful about fire risk. There has been many millions of dollars going into a breeding program called NZDFI over the last few years, aiming at ground durable timbers. My favourite is tallowwood, whihc is the tree I grow the most. A little slower than others but worth the wait I think.
2 months ago

F Agricola wrote:Most of the farmers in the arid parts of Oz have destroyed their land from generations of ignorance e.g. Removal of trees and other plants along gullies, watercourses and boundary lines in the unsupported belief they remove water and take up productive cropping space.

The natural layers of grasses, shrubs and trees disturb wind flows that strip moisture from the surface and carry away topsoil. Trees along drain lines ensure water penetration and aid filtration.

Keeping wide strips of natural vegetation along boundary lines, paddocks, and drain lines keep stock and crops protected from inclement weather - sometimes I'd like to chain a farmer and their family in the hot sun in summer, the rain in winter, and see how they'd go, because they expose livestock to those circumstances.

It took decades for the dopey shits to accept the obvious idea that retaining stubble keeps moisture, carbon and soil flora alive and cropping productive!

With the current series of droughts in the Outback, it's sheer luck we're not experiencing a Dust Bowl event like 1930's America.

If layering plants in a garden creates microclimates, then it's just a matter of upscaling.

While you are correct in many points, I find these generalizations a bit hard going. Some of the best and most innovative sustainable farmers in the world are in Australia. Sure there are always going to be some people who are slow to improve things, but this might be for a lot of very valid reasons. There may well be some poor blighter out there who has spent the last 5 years planting trees, conserving water courses, practicing sustainable farming only to have all their work undone by this ongoing drought.  I lost 5000 Eucalyptus seedlings I planted last year to drought, and I'm in a 1200mm rainfall area in NZ!  I can well imagine that any innovative agricultural practices implemented in NSW for the last 5 years or so is probably now blowing in the wind.  Maybe there is some desperate blighter out there searching the net for inspiration on sustainable fixes for the current NSW drought only to find one of their own countrymen talking about them  as 'generations of ignorance' 'dopey shits' and wanting to tie their families up in the sun! Mate you had some valid points but it is very hard for this current bunch of farmers to correct 150 years of bad farming and to be honest I think your attitude needs some work.
2 months ago

J Argyle wrote:

That is a wild story. If only your friend would have been very clear that it was extremely rare. Sad you lost that plant. Does your friend still have his collection?

Here's the garden but these images give no idea of how incredibly diverse the plantings are, and how much rare genetics are conserved there. Absolutely incredible.
2 months ago
A few years back I was visiting a friend with an extremely diverse garden/botanical collection. He showed me something he said was a rare tree passionfruit, might have been Passiflora lindeniana or something similar. Anyway he casually broke  a piece off and gave it to me to try as a cutting. When I got home I placed it into my propagation system and got it going, eventually planted it out where it ended up getting killed by a renegade cow. Finally I got around to looking it up and discovered it was so super rare that there were less than 100 known specimens anywhere in the world, and only one that has ever flowered outside of habitat! If I'd known how rare it was I might have made more effort to keep the cows away.
2 months ago