Ask Geoff Lawton a question - Round 4

Discussion in 'Put Your Questions to the Experts!' started by CraigMackintosh, Jan 10, 2013.

  1. CraigMackintosh

    CraigMackintosh *****

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    Round 4 of the 'Ask an Expert' series is underway herewith!

    If you've ever wanted to put a question directly to Geoff Lawton for answering, now's your chance! Reply to this post with your question(s), and after I've collected enough worthy questions, I'll record a Skype conversation with Geoff, where he'll answer them for us. I'll then post the video response at bottom of this thread.

    Then we'll start a new thread, with new questions, and so on.

    And, we'll also (in other threads I'll start in this sub-forum) ask other permie experts questions - so we can get responses from different angles and different specialties (different climates, areas of expertise, etc.).

    So, please send in your thoughtful questions, and please keep them succinct and to the point, eliminating any superfluous writings.

    Note: In this particular sub-forum ('Put your questions to the Experts!'), please do not attempt to start new threads, as they will be deleted. Only site admin, who will be putting the questions to the expert, will start the threads in this sub-forum. Each thread will begin with questions, and end with the resulting video with answers. Thanks all.)
     
  2. alexizorbas

    alexizorbas Junior Member

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    Hi,
    I am looking at purchasing land in East Tennessee and starting a small scale food forest and kitchen garden for my family. Avg rainfall is 45 inches, about 4 inches per month throughout entire year. The soil is clay and acidic. I have been thinking of the best method to start soil improvements, while at the same time getting my forest going as soon as possible, as I know it takes years for nut and fruit trees to become productive.

    1. Since the soil is dense and we get lots of rain, do you recommend putting in swales and just planting all my trees on the mound to increase drainage? If so, how high would you build the mounds to give adequate root penetration for my trees before hitting the compacted soil below the mound?
    2. Would you plant tap-rooted perennials on the inside and on the backside of the mound to break up the compacted soil to give my trees a better opportunity to spread their roots horizontally?

    I know compact, water logged soil will slow plant growth, so I am looking for the best method to quickly improve soil quality/drainage on compacted clay soil while at the same time establishing a small food forest. Any advice would be so appreciated. Thanks guys!
     
  3. robbob

    robbob Junior Member

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    Hello,
    I am about to begin the layout with permaculture design and principles of a 500 hectare that has been a meat cow farm for a very long time. It hardly has trees, but has many contours and a steep slope where rain water runoff can be collected and damed.
    Villacastin, Spain: 45 min drive from Madrid. The climate I would say is Cool temperate/cold mediteranean. I would love some guidance with the seeds. I have seen the Permaculture course, and loved it by the way. I cant say enough on how much gratitude I feel for Bill and Geoff, two wonderful and brilliant people.
    I was planning on implementing very few dairy cows, some sheep, goats, chickens, guinea fowl, pigs, ducks, geese, fish and other acuaculture anfibia.
    I could really use some other pointers. In Spain there is no Permaculture.
    I need help with the seeds. Which should i plant, where to buy? Can I plant Mangos? Is it all about the mulch to deal with the cold?
    I have an idea from the course, but would love some more help. I have a huge project in front of me and no help here in Spain. I am absolutely thrilled to be able to begin such a beautiful project.
    I dont have to much capital to go on, but access to the such a large piece of land is a praise.
    Thanks.
     
  4. gabe22

    gabe22 Junior Member

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    My question is about a sort of food forest in a cold temperate climate (-20 celsius in the wet snowy winter with hot dry summers, and damp springs and especially autumns.

    I've planted all my trees and shurbs in the autumn and now I'm preparing to tractor with the chickens in the spring.

    My goal is to grow and "perennialise" veggies in between the trees. So that brings 2 problems: light and self-seeding without alot of human effort

    I know the food forest should have a more open canopy in the temperate, so I'm experimenting with that, trying to find an optimal planting distance (E-W wise in between the trees and N-S in between the rows)

    So then comes the self-seeding. Do you think this would work?
    -we can plant a low growin perennial groundcover (white clover) and get the fruit vegetables seeding in that (we can squash the fruits - tomatos peppers eggplants melons cucumbers and throw then under the groundcover in the autumn-early winter and they will sprout in the spring if you mow or graze the clover with geese)
    -I've seen in my friend's urban garden that his cabbages and broccoli self-sowed in a thin mulch, so do you think that would work with most of the small seed vegetables?


    Thank you
     
  5. merrickvalley

    merrickvalley New Member

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    We have 120 Acres of wooded land in North Central Oklahoma that was abandoned for over 50 years. The land varies from 900ft-1200ft above sea level.

    We have divided the land into 3 portions (see Map):
    -10 acres of main farm (Zones 1-3)
    -80 acres permanently mesh fenced (Zone 4)
    -30 acres is kept in its natural state. (Zone 5)

    We have built a home, 3 acre pond and swales in the main valley of 10 acres. We planted over 3000 trees and bushes based on permaculture methods. This system is making progress.

    On the 80 acres we had 85 Kiko goats rotated around 80 acres starting a year ago. In the past year lost 50 goats to Coyotes and a mountain lion. We have tried dogs and electric fencing with no success. My observation is the goats are bring down the population of under-story in the 80 acres. My question is how can I optimize my system to make the 80 acres sustainable meat and or milk production. I have 35 goats remaining. I am open to any livestock or abandoning livestock all together. The 80 acres is mostly Oak with some cotton wood and willow in the valleys. Thank you for your books, and web based tools to promote our help between one-another.

    [​IMG]
     
  6. Waas Thissen

    Waas Thissen New Member

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    Hello!

    I'm working on a school assignment about Permaculture, and more specific, Permaculture and the food situation in Africa. I'm from the Netherlands and in my last year of high school, sorry for my dunglish sentence structures.

    I've got some big questions, maybe a bit too difficult to answer. Still, I'm very interested in your thoughts about them.

    Some African countries struggle with an explosive growth of people, desertification, unfair trading practices, general poverty, corruption, war, conflicts between ethic and religious parties, diseases, and urbanization. This enumeration is maybe a bit far fetched, since these problems do not necessarily occur all at the same time.

    My general question is: could Permaculture make a big difference solving some of these problems? Maybe the answer is already given: 'all the world's problems can be solved in a garden'...
    Yet all these problems ironically seem to be problem to their own solving. Because of those unstable situations, getting rid of those situations is difficult. Greening deserts is tough when there's a war going on. But once providing better food, followed by better health care and other developments that give prosperity, war over for example fertile lands will come to an end.

    The next question is then: what will it take to switch the direction of the current? A way to a sustainable ecosystem for Africa, and a reliable food production for the people?

    Some problems are in the way of this development to a sustainable future. But how to solve them? Better governance, investments? Would those governments make the right choices, and are those first world investments actually helping African nations? Will African governments see the advantages of sustainable development? For example, they could also choose to import GM-seeds, and start to cultivate GMO's...
    Briefly: what changes have to be made that lead to the acceptance of Permaculture throughout the continent of Africa?

    Thanks a lot!
     
  7. Ognjen

    Ognjen New Member

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    Hi!

    I'm writing from Bosnia but the question relates to most of the humid cool-to-cold temperate situations. So:

    During some months (at my place I reckon it’s 5 months) plants in cool and cold temperate climates cease taking up nutrients and water (regardless of being deciduous or not). Also, soil bacteria, fungi and other soil organisms reduce or stop their activity. How does that relate to:

    a) Water infiltration; meaning: are we, by putting in swales, trapping too much water underground and leaving it out of precipitation-evapotranspiration cycle?
    I understand that this issue is of some importance only if we are talking about big projects, but we might be also talking about the dynamics of the small local aquifers . Swales on the limestone soils (a fair part of it around here) could be an issue too (infiltration might be unpredictable, too fast and too deep).
    (Should we in cool temperate zones switch more to diversion drains and large surface accumulations instead of infiltration techniques?)

    b) Water filtration. When plants, bacteria and fungi are not active, what happens with gray water, black water or manure wash off (if not covered or if scattered)?
    Best,
    Ognjen
    p.s.
    I would also like to see Geoff’s “The Book of Swales”
     
  8. Ognjen

    Ognjen New Member

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    One more (Craig, you can leave me out with this if it's too much, of course...):

    Where are we now with growing of cereals (especially of wheat, rye and barley)? I'm aware, of course, of the Masanobu Fukuoka's work. I've read also about a Frenchman named Marc Bonfils and his experiments with wheat. Wes Jackson and The Land Institute's efforts to perenialise grains are also there...
    So, where are we now with cereals apart from conservationists plowing and planting more chestnuts and oaks?

    Thanks Geoff!

    Thanks Craig!
     
  9. Dan French

    Dan French New Member

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    Hi Geoff,

    What do you consider to be the most essential texts, tools, skills and methods for a permaculture design consultant who is starting a small business in this field? Also, where or who do you most frequently refer to for progressive and reliable permaculture related information and research (apart from the PRI of course)?

    Cheers

    Dan
     
  10. Augusto Marban

    Augusto Marban New Member

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    Dear Craig and Geoff

    My land is in Jalisco, México. Highest point is 1935 meters above sea level and the lowest is 1895 m. Annual rainfall of 945 mm. The semi-arid climate with dry and hot winter and spring, without well-defined thermal change winter. The average annual temperature effect is 19.8 ° C, with a high of 29.3 ° C and minimum 10.8 ° C. The property is about 4 ha and its south faced, it is almost at the top of a hill that is 1970 m above sea level. The prevailing wind is from the north. The previous owner planted corn two years ago, burning the soil and using herbicides. Right now all is covered by Tithonia tubiformis (Asteraceae = Compositae) and Some trees mostly of Eysenhardtia polystachya, leguminous tree and some opuntia. Predominant soil is feozem and it has many rocks. The perimeter is delimited by drystone walls.
    My goal is to make a food forest also integrating timber and wood trees .There is no municipal water, so i will use only rain water and if it's possible dig a well. I want to encourage people to stop using agro chemicals and to learn together how to use better our local resources but i got nothing yet to show them and they are very Stubborn. i want to begin little by little and make earthworks by hand, at least untill i have the economy to get machinary. In the near future i want to introduce some livestock and move to live there. What do you recomend?

    Thank you
    Best regards
    Augusto
     
  11. Robert Knops

    Robert Knops Junior Member

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    Aquaponic temperate zone

    Hello i would like to have fish in our ponds that are edible and can reproduce very well in or temperate climate zone. Tilapia can't live here it is to cold. Do you no a fish that reproduces itself very well, is hardy to cold temperatures (especially in winter / around -4 to -10). In the ponds is no current and they are reasonable small (Pond 1: 1.70 m deep, 1,2 meter broad and 4,5 m long) / (Pond 2: 1.5 m deep, 5 meter broad and 5,5 meter long). There's a good vegetation in the ponds. I understand it when you don't now a specie, because it's a difficult place and climate. Greetings from the netherlands.
     
  12. Naveed

    Naveed Junior Member

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    I wanted to ask you a question specifically relating to your projects in Jordan. As far as economics are concerned, how much income are farmers generating per acre when establishing food forests? I know this varies with geography and climate but I specifically want you to answer this from arid degraded landscapes that are restored. Also, how much land is needed in these settings for a family to produce food to live on as well as surplus produce to sell?
     
  13. sherimenelli

    sherimenelli Junior Member

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    I'd like to understand more about salt in the desert. I was watching some old Mollison videos and he mentioned that you don't want to irrigate the desert. Something about you will increase the salt. I hear talk about salt all the time concerning the desert. Can you elaborate on why irrigating in the desert adds salt? Wouldn't rain do the same?
     
  14. robbob

    robbob Junior Member

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    swales, dams and rainfall

    Before I asked for some advice about a project on a 500 hectare farm in Villacastin, Spain. The area receives around 500mm of rainfall a year. I have alot of slope on the property on a whole area of the property. Is 500mm enough for dams and swales? Here are 2 photos, one of the topography and the other with the topography over-laid on a google earth image of the area. Is round leaf cassia good for livestock, hens, etc? What are good forrage and ground cover for mediteranean cool.
     

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  15. alexizorbas

    alexizorbas Junior Member

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    Geoff,
    Does snowfall not infiltrate the earth as effectively as rainfall? Southwest USA for example, places may get a lot of snowfall, but then there are days full of sun and warmth. Would that snow melt not infiltrate swales as effectively as spring rains? I feel like so many climate summary's only deal with precipitation, often only rainfall, but leave out snowfall and its impact on re-hydrating the landscape. What is your opinion on snowfall and its re-hydrating properties. thanks so much
     
  16. markhamann

    markhamann New Member

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    Hi Geoff,

    A few days ago I read an article from 2010 (I think it was a few weeks after the earthquake) interviewing you about strategies for reforestation and erosion/flood mitigation in Haiti. Your answer focused on identifying key water-harvesting points in their respective watersheds for water distribution to land suited to agriculture. I was wondering if you could go into more detail about this topic, and if you could also suggest strategies for reforesting deforested and highly eroded areas higher in the mountains (eroded down to B and C soil horizons) in Haiti that are too steep for machinery. Suggestions for specific ground covers/N-fixing trees/useful trees (fruit/staple crops/fuel...)?

    Thanks!
     
  17. Synergy

    Synergy Junior Member

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    My question is if Geoff has seen or might speculate on any results or offer advice regarding trying to germinate and establish kanuka and manuka in a shelterbelt ? My locations is zone 8 cold maritime climate in coastal British Columbia , Canada on the 49th parallel, the property is at 120 m elevation ridge overlooking a valley with a southerly aspect in a suburban area of small lifestyle acreages and has reasonably decent clay soils ammended only with topdressing of manure and organic matter from stables in 20 years . My motivation is for a hedgerow shelter, biodiversity , medicinal qualities for honey bee production and possibly wood fibre fuel production .
     
  18. chook-in-eire

    chook-in-eire Junior Member

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    If I may tag on to Synergy's question: I'm at 53N in Ireland. I see that Manuka (Leptospermum scoparium) is native to Stewart Island/Rakiura, NZ but I wonder how frost-hardy it is. While Ireland generally has mild winters for its latitude, we do get occasional frosts down to as much as -10 or -12C. The British Royal Horticultural Society lists cultivars as only half-hardy, possibly needing protection below 0C. I would have thought that Stewart Island gets frosts?
    Thanks Geoff and Craig.
    Ute
     
  19. robbob

    robbob Junior Member

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    Hello Geoff and Craig,
    I was wondering if I could plant pine trees in a fruit/bee/lumber forest. Should I make a fruit forest on one part, a bee forest and then a lumber forest, and then again maybe a pine forest, or can it make one big forest intercalated in with one another? The property is a 500 hectare property in Villacastin, Spain, which is currently barren of trees with few shrubs and an occasional tree. There is a large slope on one end of the property with other smaller slopes throughout. Here is a link to a pic of the topography of the land. I think is has a huge potential. The area receives around 600-700 median precipitation annually.
    https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/8405492724/

    Thanks,
    Rob
     
  20. Pakanohida

    Pakanohida Junior Member

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    Alone & in need of help.

    Hello Geoff and Craig,

    I have a triage question. I very much have little to no money. I can't even leave the property to get materials very often. My partner is physically handicapped and as such, you can see I am doing everything myself.. ..slowly. I am at 43degrees N lattitude, on a northern & western slope over looking a geophysical anomaly. The wetlands in the valley below have been clear cut over the years and turned into cattle / sheep pastures. During summer it is pasture, during winter it is more often then not a lake or bay.

    Any suggestions on... ..well, anything because there is just so much to do it gets very overwhelming. What would be the triage, or should be the priorities?

    View attachment 1532
     

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