south of france - difficult weather/soil - who can help?

Discussion in 'Introduce Yourself Here' started by fretje, Jul 4, 2012.

  1. fretje

    fretje New Member

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    hello there!

    i'm writing from the south of france, where i'm living and gardening/farming in a big community which has existed for about 40 years now... we have almost all sectors of agriculture present (lots of different animals, cereals, vegetables, orchards, fruit, ...) only, we have never really put into place any real permaculture approach... there have been times when the agriculture was very close to the industrial system, but it's becoming more and more organic and bio-dynamic too...
    personally i've been inspired by many permaculture ideas for many years, but one thing which seems particularly difficult here are the climate and soil conditions. we have a very dry climate in summer (sometimes a few months without rain and temperatures until 35°C (hot!)) and it can freeze quite hard at some moments during winter, with weeks or even months of snow, as we're at an altitude of 700m ... the soil type is clay, with a lot of limestone - heavy to work, and not easy to penetrate for root systems - on top of this, it can rain very hard at times, making everything compact and washing away considerable amounts of soil.

    does anybody have any experience with this kind of conditions? which kind of permaculture methods might compete with more traditional methods of working the land in regard of productivity (because all the other advantages are obvious of course :) ?

    thanks heaps for any advice or suggestions!

    greets!

    erik
     
  2. hardworkinghippy

    hardworkinghippy Junior Member

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    Hi Erik,

    I live in the South West of France where the weather sounds very similar to yours. We had a low of -17°C in February and in summer regularly have days in the high 30s. Water is a big problem in the summer months.

    I came here twenty years ago with the intention of applying permaculture principles to our land and I'm so glad I had the benefit of that knowledge because, as you say, the conditions are very extreme and gardening can be heartbreaking at times.

    Some of the best things we've done are :

    a) Protect the land and provide shade and mulch with a lot of trees and shrubs around and inside the potager. Keep existing trees if at all possible and if you need to cut them down do it gradually over a few years.

    b) Terrace most of the land in zones one and two following the altitude lines to capture and conserve water. We dug a lot of swales and ponds to conserve the water as high as possible and as long as possible on the land.

    c) Using French drains instead of gutters to collect water from the larger roofs. When there's a storm plastic or even galvanised gutters just overflow and bend so we followed the local architectural style and made roofs with flatish edges to take the water away from the buildings into the drains which go into ponds used for watering the gardens.

    d) Almost all our gardens are raised beds as our soil is similar to yours and the raised beds are ideal to get good results on difficult soil.

    e) Loads of animal manure and organic materials like sheep wool applied to the ground then mulch, mulch, mulch.

    If you need more details or would like to see photographs to illustrate what I mean, let me know.

    Irene
     
  3. Michaelangelica

    Michaelangelica Junior Member

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    I only rember the herbs i had struggled with (sage, thyme, lavender, clary sage etc)growing like weeds around Provence/ lower alps. Lavender popping up as a roadside weed!
    Obviously some local plants love those conditions (Lindens?)
    Have you done a local survey?
    I am a bit puzzled by this; usually limestone breaks up clay.
    But both soak up organic matter at a furious rate. You would need truckloads on a constant basis, so raised beds might be one answer
    PS
    What is your soil pH?
    PSS
    Is it limestone or dolomite?
    PSSS
    As for water look at contorting/dams and especially swales to slow run off
    https://www.wikihow.com/Dig-Swales
    Where exactly are you?
    https://www.telegraph.co.uk/gardening/gardenstovisit/3349249/Hidden-gardens-of-southern-France.html
     
  4. fretje

    fretje New Member

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    hey Irene :)

    i'm sorry i'm replying so late ...

    i would love to see some pictures of your garden; where exactly are you, what's the soil like?

    what you're writing sounds very interesting in any case, i think i will try digging some swales; do they stay moist for a long time when summers are dry and hot? do you water your vegetables/fruits? if so, how much? how do you get the water out of the ponds?

    where i live we water a lot - and the soil lies uncovered a lot of the year too; as it's a big garden feeding lots of people i have to divide my attention to be able to experiment on the side :)

    don't you have to work a lot? - is this permaculture or more bio-intensive?

    again, curious to see pictures and who know maybe visit one day...?

    thanks in any case for the long reply!

    erik
     
  5. fretje

    fretje New Member

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    hey Michaelangelica :)

    yeah lots of great herbs which we harvest to transform into natural medicine (as well as lindens :)) what do you mean by a local survey?

    in french we call the soil 'calcaire', so the pH should be over 7 (or maybe 6,8 or so) - i don't really know the difference between limestone and dolomite...

    we are in the 04th department, les alpes de haute provence, near Limans, near Forcalquier

    thanks for the info anyway, quite sure i'll try digging some swales :)

    erik
     

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