Permaculture forum: land contouring, swales, water capture basins...oh my

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Name: Catherine
NW Illinois (Zone 5a)
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jerseyridgearts
Mar 3, 2015 7:47 PM CST
well, I've overwhelmed myself with permaculture terms. Confused

My small place is flat so I've thought to try and incorporate a hugel bed...but maybe I should be contouring and installing some water catchment systems....or.....

what have you done that's worked best on your property - and what do you wish you hadn't done? I'm thinking of ordering the Ben Falk book ($$$) but hoping someone can share personal success on their small scale project

Catherine
Name: Dave Whitinger
Jacksonville, Texas (Zone 8b)
Charter ATP Member Region: Texas Master Gardener: Texas Permaculture Raises cows I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
Garden Ideas: Master Level Beekeeper Garden Sages Avid Green Pages Reviewer Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier
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dave
Mar 3, 2015 8:06 PM CST

Garden.org Admin

Hi Catherine,

It's easy to get overwhelmed because there is such a vast richness to permaculture!!

Contouring is great and hugelkultur combined with contouring is quite powerful. We've done a lot of hugelkultur and I'm always glad we did. Sheet mulching is another excellent way to build soil. Planting or encouraging good "weeds" to help the soil get better, too.

I'm a big fan of the book Gaia's Garden. If you haven't seen that book, I'd highly recommend you give it a look.

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hazelnut
Mar 5, 2015 9:21 AM CST
Hi Catherine! Welcome to the Permaculture forum. You will find many useful applications of permaculture looking through this forum. Hugelkultur beds are a great place to start -- to get some healthy vegetables growing. A close second would be Dave's herb spirals. Dave's swales have involved the use of heavy equipment, but you can divert water with a simple trench. Capturing run-off water is a good idea, as well as using rain barrels.

Right now I am working on a method to stop my gravel driveway from eroding out into the street.
Name: Dave Whitinger
Jacksonville, Texas (Zone 8b)
Charter ATP Member Region: Texas Master Gardener: Texas Permaculture Raises cows I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
Garden Ideas: Master Level Beekeeper Garden Sages Avid Green Pages Reviewer Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier
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dave
Mar 5, 2015 9:24 AM CST

Garden.org Admin

Actually, I dug my swales by hand using a regular shovel. Smiling
Name: Catherine
NW Illinois (Zone 5a)
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jerseyridgearts
Mar 6, 2015 4:59 AM CST
Thanks Dave and Hazelnut for the resources and encouragement. With warmer weather on the horizon I'll be able to assess storm damage and make a plan to use downed trees to build my first hugelkulture bed.

I'm not yet clear where to get sufficient top soil to cover the bed. I do have several well aged manure piles to add to the mix. Am planning to skim the turf off my site with the tractor bucket and then add it back on top before planting.

Although we've been mulling over the idea of moving far south this year I've decided to go ahead with my permaculture plans. There are fruit trees to replace in the Orchard and I'm moving the veg garden to the former goat pasture...big plans *grin*

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hazelnut
Mar 6, 2015 10:20 AM CST
Well Im in central Alabama, zone 8 (born and raised in Northern Michigan) and I can tell you unless you are moving further south than this, its still too early to plant. In fact old timers here say you can't plant out until after Easter. On the other hand we have experienced knee deep snow as late as April (this is probably a 50 year occurrence though).

And there are some things you can't grow here: apples, cherries, tulips, lilacs.

Where did the goats go?

Name: Catherine
NW Illinois (Zone 5a)
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jerseyridgearts
Mar 6, 2015 1:42 PM CST
Our wether Barney went to live on another homestead when both my husband and I had some medical issues. I gave up my hens then too. Crying

no chance of planting here for a couple of months at least...we have snow drifts still in the 2ft+ range. Moving south (sw LA) is appealing some days but when I lived there years ago I missed having 4 seasons....no lilacs, no peonies....but I'd gain camellias, crape myrtles....hard decision

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hazelnut
Mar 7, 2015 8:45 AM CST
Yeah. Camellias are blooming here now, but the freezing weather has frosted them around the edges. I used to live in Santa Barbara, between school and work at Vandenberg AFB there was not much time to garden. But you could always plant over Christmas vacation!

I understand your dilemma: I grew up in N. Michigan but I lived in California for 20 years--a rose grower's paradise. But I always missed the tulips, lilacs and peonies, and most of all the fall colors. However, if I had a choice, I think Id choose the 365 day gardener's year California offers, over the few months you have in the northern states. There are some practices, though, that can make winter gardening feasible.

I just posted a link to Mercola's article for today on permaculture for health. Its great to see permaculture promoted as an alternative to a gym membership!
Name: Catherine
NW Illinois (Zone 5a)
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jerseyridgearts
Mar 12, 2015 8:14 PM CST
Hey Hazelnut and Dave -

Did some Inspection today (55degrees!) and see I've got a lot of white pine damage. More than enough branches for a few hugelkulture beds. Does it matter if I use just one kind of wood or does wood species matter? Should I strip evergreen foliage? I don't see reference to my newby questions online and my books haven't arrived yet..

And Dave I reviewed your photos on the water trenches....is there a minimum depth? My husband started muttering about mosquito breeding when he heard my big plans... *Blush*
Name: Dave Whitinger
Jacksonville, Texas (Zone 8b)
Charter ATP Member Region: Texas Master Gardener: Texas Permaculture Raises cows I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
Garden Ideas: Master Level Beekeeper Garden Sages Avid Green Pages Reviewer Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier
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dave
Mar 13, 2015 6:51 AM CST

Garden.org Admin

I don't think it matters whether you use one kind of wood or not. It'll decay and once broken down, does it matter? Maybe different fungi prefer different woods, I don't really know. I wouldn't think twice to use all one kind of wood in a hugelkultur.

As for the water trenches, for us, the water penetrates into the ground pretty quick. I've never seen the water stand for more than 24 hours, especially since we have really sandy soil that drains quickly. The depth I've always subscribed to is that it should be as deep as it is wide. So a 2 feet wide swale would be 2 feet deep. Our little swales uphill from our hugelbeds are only about 6"x6".

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hazelnut
Mar 13, 2015 9:35 AM CST
http://www.permies.com/t/12206/hugelkultur/Hugelkultur-Good-...
according to this forum there are certain species that might cause problems in hugelkultur beds. My own experience is with black walnut which has a reputation for killing plants placed adjacent to it. Here in rural Alabama I found a pile of sawdust probably at least 100 years old. I thought I had a gold mine--but when I used it for mulch around some Asian lilies, my lilies died one by one. I later found out that the main constituent of the sawdust pile was black walnut. Later I bought a house with a black walnut tree in the yard (supporting a basketball hoop). I had the tree cut down. Since then the stump has been colonized with various plants--blackberry, and sand pear especially like that area. So some things don't mind growing in soil where a black walnut has been and others don't.

There are a few other trees that "poison the soil" similar to the black walnut. Cedar and black locust are mentioned in the above forum.
Name: Dave Whitinger
Jacksonville, Texas (Zone 8b)
Charter ATP Member Region: Texas Master Gardener: Texas Permaculture Raises cows I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
Garden Ideas: Master Level Beekeeper Garden Sages Avid Green Pages Reviewer Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier
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dave
Mar 13, 2015 10:32 AM CST

Garden.org Admin

I agree

My comment above was only addressing the matter of whether you should mix species of wood in your hugelkultur beds. Of course, you wouldn't want to use woods like walnut, cedar, etc.
Name: Catherine
NW Illinois (Zone 5a)
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jerseyridgearts
Mar 13, 2015 6:27 PM CST
Thanks both of you. I'm experienced with juglone . Looks like I'll use the pine for my trial beds

Charter ATP Member
hazelnut
Mar 13, 2015 7:13 PM CST
Pine is plant friendly. Ive done some work surveying coal lands (really sad to look at bare soil 20 ft below the original subsoil surface). They use a planting of pine to try to recover the soil. Still it takes 20 or 30 years to revive it.

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