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Paul continues his review of Sepp Holzer’s Desert or Paradise with Mark, Katie, et al.  In this part, they talk about Sepp’s contribution to an orchard in Andalucia.

“Much of the citrus fruit burst open – a sure sign of a disturbed hydrological balance.  Most leaves were heavily mildewed, a result of the spray irrigation.  Spray irrigation is quite ineffective – only a part of the water actually reaching the roots.”  

“Frost-sensitive fruit like papayas and mangos should be protected from the morning sun – most important to protect from frost damage” If the tree freezes, then thaws slowly from convected, not from radiant heat, it should be fine.  But if the tree thaws quickly from the sun, the branches will burst and die.  

“The first retention lake was begun.  Terraces and hugelkulturs created.  New plants introduced.  Wind-break hedges planted.  An old well reactivated.  The irrigation system changed.  Mixed crops of grains and legumes were sown to protect the soil from being washed away from the coming winter rains.”  Looking at the pictures in the book, the group suspects that a bunch of what they did were crater gardens, although they can’t find confirmation.  They don’t think that letting the trees get flooded for a time each year is a good idea, but it seems to be working.  Paul doesn’t really like crater gardens due to concerns about frost pockets and CO2 puddles forming in them, although he concedes that they may be good and he just needs to try them more.

“Lots of different root vegetables are now growing between the rows of fruit trees.  They support the building of humus and activate soil life.  Selling the vegetables could become its own business, but they could also be given back to the soil to increase overall fertility.”  

Regarding the original nature of the property being an orchard, Katie asks if it’s better to have the trees apart so that they each get more sun, or closer together to shelter and protect each other.  Both seem to be right, so experimentation is required, particularly considering the differences in each bit of land.  Originally the lollypop-shape of trees seen in orchards was due to deer/goats/etc. eating the branches closer to the ground.

Relevant Threads

Earthworks forum
A thread about crater gardens

A thread on Paul's efforts on growing a lemon tree in Montana

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