High Desert forest garden

Discussion in 'Members' Systems' started by edcolmar, Jul 30, 2012.

  1. edcolmar

    edcolmar Junior Member

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  2. pebble

    pebble Junior Member

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    Location:
    inland Otago, NZ
    Climate:
    Inland maritime/hot/dry/frosty
    Cool! Can you please post your climate, soil etc details?
     
  3. edcolmar

    edcolmar Junior Member

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    More details

    For some reason my post was not showing up so I was not able to post all the details. Here it is!

    Here is what my backyard looked like before.

    [​IMG]


    This is actually the neighbor's yard, but same difference. Everything was dead. The few patches of life would get eaten regularly by roaming packs of deer.

    My first priority was to fence off the lot. I used 6' welded wire fencing, with 6.5' metal stakes. Pounding them in was hard work, so I would do 4-5 a day, and eventually it was all done.

    Once the fence was up, I explored and observed for about a year, taking note of the systems and changes that took place over time naturally. During this time I was thinking about the objective and overall design strategy for the land.

    Goals: food producing trees/perennials, medicinal perennials, food producing annuals, and native flowers/shrubs (in that priority). Human labor should be as minimal as possible. Planting distance is designed to optimize for diversity, not yield, so trees are closer together than would be expected on a high output orchard. Leguminous nitrogen fixing plants are to be utilized as centerpieces in the garden as well as scattered throughout for specific area support.

    Once the overall design and site plan was done, I had more manual labor to do: Digging the swale. This was probably the single most important part of the changes I made on this land.

    [​IMG]

    In the summer months, the monsoons and the swale could handle almost all of the irrigation, but the rest of the year, more active irrigation is required.

    There are 4 runs of 1/2 inch drip tubing that act as the water arteries. Loops of 1/4 tubing are run off it with drip emitters placed as needed. The entire rig runs off a timer, which can be adjusted or disabled easily.

    With the basics handled, the next step was ordering the big trees, seeds and live plants, then starting the process of planting. I ordered pretty much every plant that could survive frost from horizonherbs.com. I ordered a suite of native and localized trees from Lone Mountain Natives. Then I went on several hunts for specific plants that I wanted.

    Planting planting planting. Run drip, then more planting.

    Two years later, and it looks something like this:

    [​IMG]

    This picture was taken from the bottom of the property looking up. The chickens are right behind, and the vertical walls of green are this year's bean crop. My goal is 20 lbs dried beans this year. I think I'm going to make it based on the swarms of fatty honeybees that are dominating the skies.

    [​IMG]

    This concrete pathway is the border between the annual area (left) and perennial forest garden area (right). Ultimately, I will bring the forest garden area all the way to the bottom, but I want to get the density thick enough above first.

    [​IMG]

    This picture is taken by the steps of the porch looking down. The area close to the house is surrounded by culinary herbs for easy access. The archway in this picture is a vine trellis with 4 species of grape, hops, and a medicinal chinese vine that will eventually take over and make it green. The canopy will fill out much more as the fruit trees mature.

    [​IMG]

    Here is an overview map:

    [​IMG]

    And an interactive map where you can see what all of the plants are, and enable/disable layers.

    https://www.plant-life.us/garden/view/agxzfnBsYW50LWxpZmVyEQsSCkdhcmRlblBsb3QYjicM
     
  4. Finchj

    Finchj Junior Member

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    How is it looking now at the end of summer?
     
  5. pebble

    pebble Junior Member

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    Location:
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    Climate:
    Inland maritime/hot/dry/frosty
    Great report of your project, thanks. I'm impressed that you studied the site for a year.

    What is your elevation above sea level? Annual rainfall? Wind patterns?
     
  6. edcolmar

    edcolmar Junior Member

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    Hi Pebble and Finchj.

    Thanks for the replies.

    Many of the perennials that have been established for a while are seeding, and I let some of the annuals go to seed as well, which the bees just went crazy for. Most of the annuals got cut back and tossed in the mulch pile after collecting seed. I released the chickens into a portion of the bean production area, as the beans are nearing the end of the growth cycle - harvesting these as they dry now. The baby fig tree I put in this year has two little figs on it!!! I'm absolutely shocked, and I expect this to be a big producer as it gets older.

    Studying the site... Yea part of it was to learn the existing system. Part of it was financial and logistics considerations. I could only afford to buy a portion of the perimeter fence every couple months, plus installation took a while. I was eager to start planting though, that's for sure. =)

    Elevation is about 6000 feet.

    Annual rain is about 16 inches, though the majority of that is during the summer monsoon season when it is needed the most.

    Wind is erratic and there is a period of strong gusts out of the west usually mid spring. One of the longer term projects is to build up a wind break along that side. I just transplanted a tiny evergreen yesterday. =)
     

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