Alicia Metz

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since Dec 04, 2017
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Recent posts by Alicia Metz

I’m located in the Central Valley in California and as I migrate to the higher elevations to live in Sequoia National Park during the summers, I plan on using my garden in the winter. People around here typically have different garden beds for the summer and winter since the growing season lasts so long.

There is typically very little rainfall here which is why I’m thinking sunken beds would work well. I also spoke with someone a little while ago who did hugelkulter beds nearby and they were destroyed by squirrels. I think they buried the wood and then placed mesh overtop so I am thinking that if possible I would place a layer of mesh down and then put wood on top of that.

Gophers are the reason I’m not planting directly into the soil without protection because they are rampant here.
Thanks for the suggestions so far. I have not set up a compost pile yet that I can use on a large scale since it needs to be fully contained to be animal proof in my area. I do have a worm bin where I am able to compost most of my scraps.

I’ve been doing a little more research and it seems that it might be even better in my area to do sunken beds rather than raised beds. It seems like I would need less materials if I could dig the necessary space out and line it with poultry netting to keep gophers out and then just stack some conderblocks around the top or ground layer to hold the netting in place.

Does anyone have experience or suggestions?
Hi All,

I finally have found the funds to install a fence and am trying to figure out which type of material to use for raised beds I'll build. The reason I'm going with raised beds is to protect against gophers. I would like to go with the most affordable option but I also don't want to use wood that will break down quickly.

I have been considering using either cedar planks or cinderblocks. I will be laying down poultry wire underneath the beds to protect against gophers and am wondering how tall my beds need to be. I would prefer to use cinderblocks because they will last and I can move the beds around later on if I want to but it will be more expensive than cedar planks if the beds need to be 12" and I need two rows.

Anyone have tips on how high I should make my beds?

I'm also looking for advice on the best way to prep my beds for fall planting. I live in the Central Valley in CA and there are a lot of crops that grow well here in the winter so I would like to build beds and prep them soon so I can plant in the fall, but I don't have the money to buy topsoil. Looking into sheet mulching, it looks like that would need to sit for a year to be ready so I'm wondering if I could add materials to the beds and then plant cover crops to prep for the fall?

I have easy access to manure, composted manure and lots of dead leaves. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.
Hi All,

I'm hoping to begin installation and prepping for a garden bed. I would like to construct fencing and beds this springs and plant them with some sort of cover crop for the summer and plant veggies in the fall. My husband and I work in a National Park and live up there for the summer, so we will not be interacting with this space for a few months beginning late May. We have a friend who stays at our house but would like the setup to not require any work over the summer. I know this is not ideal for gardening but it's the situation that we have.

I imagine I will have to install an irrigation system but would really like the whole system to require as little water as possible and be super efficient. We have lots of wildlife in our area some being deer, dogs, birds, gopher and rabbits. It seems like the gopher are the biggest issue for gardeners around here. We are located near the Central Valley in California and temperatures are often above 100 in the summer and there is little to no precipitation.

I would love to do hugel beds but am afraid that any veggies planted in the earth will be devoured by gophers and can't imagine lining the beds with a screen or cloth with the size that I would like to cover. Does anyone have any good suggestions for the best way to go about constructing beds that will be water efficient as well as low cost and relatively critter proof?? I was thinking about putting in posts and wrapping with fishing line for most of the fence to keep deer out since this seems to be the cheapest way I have come across.

Our land is clay. Heavy clay. It was sprayed with chemicals and bare before we moved in (two years ago) and last year I just let the annual grasses grow in the spring and chopped them down early summer. Now they are growing again but the soil is very compact. Would it be best to do raised beds and do sheet mulch in the beds with cover crops over the summer? Has anyone used hay bales to plant in? Open to any and all suggestions. Thanks in advance!
Jack, I will look more into the bone sauce that seems very interesting. I didn't mean to imply that it wouldn't be efficient in general, just that I don't have those materials on hand and it would be great to find another method of deterring deer and other critters if possible. I wish I had a supply like it you had!

Still coming up with a plan for an irrigation system and exact locations for the trees. I have a larger area for a fig and persimmon tree that would be getting some direct sun and some dappled sun. I know full sun would be preferred but I just don't have a large enough space with full sun since I have lots of mature oaks on my property.

I have another space that would get full sun where I would have to plant trees more closely together. I'm thinking of some citrus trees for that area maybe lemon, lime and grapefruit to start. Has anyone had success planting citrus trees just 5 feet apart and keeping them pruned to be quite small? This area would be much closer to the road and my driveway so I want to make sure the roots would not damage either. I've read different things about pruning in the winter vs. the summer to keep the trees small but still producing. Can I mulch the citrus trees the same as fig and persimmon? I have read somewhere that mulching is not advised for citrus trees but I'm unsure if this is just traditional lore.

As far as wood chips go, any recommendations for whether or not a pretty constant supply of dead leaves would work? I have access to a TON of leaves very easily but I will have to do more research on where I can get wood chips in my area (it's pretty rural where I am).

I live on somewhat of a hill and recently the power company damaged the asphalt that blocks water from running down onto my property and a type of DG was put in its place. I am going to call and see specifically what kind of material it is but I can definitely dig it up easily. I was thinking of replacing the berm they created to stop water flow with a swale and creating a hugel mound behind that and then planting the citrus trees below. I suppose this would collect runoff water from the street so I wonder if I would need to plant specific filtering shrubs on the mound or if anything would work.

The more answers I get, the more questions I seem to have. I'm so appreciative for all of the suggestions already!
2 years ago
Joseph, thanks for your input. That set up sounds similar to a few spaces that are already in place here. I'm interested in buildings that would use renewable energy to run and be built with creative and sustainable resources, where some could be rented to tourists, which our local economy does depend on, but also for long term rentals with the revenue created from visitors used to make it possible to have the long term rentals affordable.
2 years ago
Thanks Jack. Yes, I do have deer that come through my yard as well as rabbits and gophers and lots of birds. I was planning on wrapping the root ball with some kind of gopher wire to protect it and protecting the trees at the onset of planting but haven't made a longer term plan yet. It doesn't seem like it would be very efficient to put in a fence around each tree and I would rather not put in a large fence in the area where I would like to plant my trees. I wonder if there is a more natural type of "fencing" that I could grow around the perimeter of where I plant my trees. I would like to plant a few trees in a few different areas that aren't connected to each other because of the layout of my space. Any suggestions?
2 years ago
Hi All,

I live in a community that like many, has been hit hard by Airbnb. Although I live in a rural community, we are located in the foothills of a very popular National Park, and the community is very divided about the impacts of short terms rentals on long term rental availability and affordability. Although no one has definitive data on the impacts, the general consensus is that more homes are being used to host short term Airbnb rentals, and that less houses are available for long term rentals. The housing market has also gone up and many homes are marketed to buyers as vacation rentals, making it less affordable for people to buy homes that want to live in them.

People here are divided and many think that the solution is to limit companies like Airbnb or to eliminate them completely. However, much of the local economy depends on tourism and Airbnb helps with our tourism industry and provides jobs for locals. The issue is that it is so difficult for locals who work these jobs to find affordable housing. To be clear, I am interested in creating a development that would construct buildings for rental homes and not for individual sale.

This is obviously not a unique issue. Many cities are trying to figure out how to work out this dilemma but I live in this beautiful rural town and love it here and want to figure out a way that we can address this issue. I have had a few different ideas and am very much in the planning stages of this. I'm trying to do research on how it would be possible to build structures in a way that would be affordable and also regenerative. I know there are LEED certified buildings but it looks like many of the criteria for this are still only geared towards just being more sustainable than traditional buildings. I'm wondering if it's possible to build a housing development in a relatively short amount of time (a year or two) that would require contractors and use materials and building practices that are truly sustainable. I would love to have a plan to be able to sequester more carbon than the housing development would produce.

Just to give you an idea for the framework that I am using, I'm wondering if it could work to build structures like this that could be used for short term rentals (possibly just going the route of paying hotel taxes) rather than use Airbnb, but that are studios or homes as to be more appealing for tourists, and use some of the profits from this to lower costs of the other buildings that would be used as long term rental units.

All my thoughts are currently in the theoretical phase but I do believe that it's necessary to think big and that we need this in our community. Any suggestions for where to start or other areas that implemented anything like this already?
2 years ago
Thanks for all the advice, I'm finding it very encouraging. Marco, just to be clear, what you are recommending is planting the trees in the soil as is, with the hole being dug as you suggested and then adding wood chips on top of the soil rather than adding anything to the soil? Would you recommend punching some holes in the clay below the hole that I have dug? It seems like I may be successful using this method, creating a moat around the tree as well as placing it below a swale?

I will keep you all posted on how this turns out, I plan on planting a few trees in late January or February which seems to be a good time around here. (I'm in Three Rivers, CA on the edge of the San Joaquin Valley) For those of you who have fig trees, has anyone pruned them to stay relatively small and still produce a good amount of fruit? I have around 1/5 an acre but already have numerous oak trees that produce shade so ultra sunny spots are somewhat limited. I don't know anyone in my area that has fig trees in particular so I am curious if fig trees would grow well here in dappled sun since the summer months get so incredibly hot. I
2 years ago
Hi All,

I have a number of China Berry trees in my yard that need to go. It looks a few of them must have been intentionally planted by previous owners but they are invasive and have cropped up all over my 1/5 acre plot of land. I have cut down a few and will use some for firewood. I have used a few branches and rounds for rustic furniture but am wondering if anyone has any suggestions with what I could do with most of the branches and wood that I end up getting. Although I could potentially save a lot of the wood for fires, the trees send of copious thing branches that would not be worth saving to burn in a wood stove and take up a lot of room.

The China Berry is allelopathic and so it seems that unfortunately they would not be suitable to be used in hugel beds. Does anyone have a suggestion for something productive I could do with these trees when I cut them down rather than have a burn them? I would hate to see them go to waste.

I'm also wondering if anyone has dealt with these trees or something similar and eradicated them successfully. Two that have been cut down have already grown back about 3 feet in 6 months. I would be interested to know what kind of natural herbicides people have used to successfully eradicate invasive trees. Thanks.
2 years ago