What I have been up to... Food Forest - Warwick

Discussion in 'Members' Systems' started by 4G's, May 26, 2013.

  1. 4G's

    4G's Junior Member

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    Hi all,
    Firstly a big thanks to all the kind members who sent seeds to me. It was very generous and really help me start my nursery. Also all the posts with lots of useful information really helped too - so keep up the good work.

    In April this year I got two swales dug on contour. These were place in an area where all natural water courses for our block lead to, at the highest point possible.

    The area was fenced in Feb this year - 170m x 60 meters. This is to stop the wallaby's and cattle from entering.

    So basically it is one long swale about 140 meters. Then another one under it to catch any over flow and to collect any water from a saddle water course - about 40 m long.

    I got a 13 ton excavator - with a 1.5 bucket. So the swale is 1.5 m wide + another 1.5 m for the batter. (check out the pics) I estimate that this could hold 143,000 litres.

    Initially I got the driver to put the top soil to one side and then pour it on top. The land I have is the clay black soil - that just clumps. But after a few piles he just added the top soil to top of the piles. View attachment 1638 View attachment 1639 View attachment 1637

    Once the swale was dug, my husband and I started planting trees and mulch.. It worked out I planted between 6-8 nitrogen fixing trees for each fruit tree. I also scattered the nitrogen fixer crop (inoculated) of cowpea and lupin, with a light mulch.

    The day after we finished planting about 500 trees - it rained 40mls - which we thought was swell as I didn't think through a water solution very well. I just planned to use a watering can. This did get modified by hooking up a garden hose to the 1000Litre tank - but that still took about 3 hours to empty 3/4 of it.
    View attachment 1640 View attachment 1636
    After two weeks I visited the property and the cover crop had come up and it was looking fantastic. A couple of trees have died due to the lack of water - as we don't live at the property. (pics)

    I did add some dolomite lime and lots of worms with the trees.

    I did also try to plant sweet potato but due to the lack of water, they all died.

    I still have about another 300 trees to go, but think i have miss the window as it getting quite cold/frosty now.

    In Mid May the nights were getting down to 0-5' so i started to make little plastic cocoons for the fruit trees. (photo) I also re-mulched all the trees hoping these will give a bit more protection.

    As you can only post 5 pics - i will do another post to add the other pics.

    Questions I have:
    What type of watering solutions do people use in the darling downs/north nsw areas to water a new food forest and what are the ongoing watering requirements?

    Do we need to install drip irrigation? Or do some use a fire fighting pump?

    Cold/frosty nights - what are the solutions to get the trees to survive the cold winter?

    Is it too late in the season to plant trees?

    Anything else I can do to help my trees?


    Lessons learned -
    Get more sets of hands to help you plant/mulch. 2 people can do it, but it takes a long time...
    Get extra mulch - you can never have too much...
    A Watering solution that is well thought out...
    Read and read - then read some more :)

    Thanks again all. I look forward to reading some responses.

    R
     

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  2. 4G's

    4G's Junior Member

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    A few more pics

    A few more pics
     

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  3. Raymondo

    Raymondo Junior Member

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    The swale looks great. Is this part of a larger plan? What trees are you planting? If they are evergreens, then I'd hold off now until spring. Dormant trees could planted over winter though. As far as watering goes, you might have to keep an eye on them as we enter the dry part of the year. The combination of dry and cold is not a good one for small trees trying to establish themselves.

    Just a question about the soil. Have you done a soil test to see what the make up is? I ask because where I am, south of you on the Northern Tablelands, the magnesium levels are quite high, relative to other minerals, particularly calcium, so I avoid dolomitic lime.
     
  4. eco4560

    eco4560 New Member

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    Can you access a large enough water supply to flood the swales to saturate the ground to achieve the watering for you?
     
  5. andrew curr

    andrew curr Moderator

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    nice work just sit back and wait for another big downpour ,hopefully this side of spring
    Ja want some shipmast locusts?
    :sweat: seedbombs?
     
  6. 4G's

    4G's Junior Member

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    Hi,
    The swales are a start to the food forest which I plan to keep growing further down the hill. I have also built a dam at the highest point possible (but its empty). The dam will over flow down to the food forest as well. At this point in time, there won't be much more earthworks due to $$$ - but I have about another 4 km's of swales that i would like to put in. (I am sure this will turn into 40kms over the next 10 years). So basically the swales were build that deep, so I could catch more water, as its going to be my only one for the next few years.

    So the water I have available on the block at the moment:
    Drinking water tank at the top of the hill, its only 9000L. It is approximately 140metres from the swale.
    Large dam which is about 3/4 full, at the bottom of the hill - about 200 meters away, and about a head height of 40 meters..
    There are plans to put in 2 x 26,000 Liter tanks - by the end of this year, which we will then have to wait to fill up.

    So to your question eco, no, there is no water source that i could add to the swale to just water it. (it is a really long swale too...)

    What we were thinking for water was to buy a fire fighting pump, which we can pump from the dam when we are out there, and use it to give everything a soak.
    We actually haven't had enough time to plan what we are going to grow/crop/livestock etc - so there is no point in even thinking about proper irrigation, until we can get out there permanently.
    Another option could be to put a header tank in the paddock to feed drip irrigation that we just top up...
    any thoughts? or other suggestions?

    Plants -
    So in the food forest i have planted: sticky wattle (thanks Andrew) tipuana tipus, ice cream beans, tagasaste, casauarinas, albizias lebbek, cassias (popcorn and bluta), acacias, leucaenas, avos, managos, jojoba, carob, lychees, coffee (i think these died), jackfruit, lemons, apples (and any fruit we ate, i planted the seeds in pots until they grew.. so basically others that i dont recall). I used my favourite book "permaculture plants" - and got the seeds from ebay.
    Did i mention i watched Geoff Lawtons DVD about 20 times?

    What i have left to plant: i still have a whole bunch of the nitrogen fixers/chop and drops supports, mangos, avoc, and the tephorosas as well. And a couple tipuanas.

    I am also looking at planting some sandalwood on the top side of the swale, as I am only planting nitrogen fixes only as the soil is really hard to dig. and these will be great hosts - and is within the paddock. So if anyone has any experience or hints that they want to share - please do... (which is also why i might be leaning toward the drip irrigation system.)

    Soil:
    No, i haven't done a test. I know my neighbour was using gypsum and his first crop of zucchinis weight at just over 3 kg's each. The reason i put the lime on, was to help the worms, as the soil is the black sticky clay. is there any way to tell if a plant has too much magnesium? can a plant OD on magnesium?

    Andrew - For sure. I will send you another self address envelope. Feel free to throw in any others too. :)

    And of course - SEND IN THE RAIN!!!
    P.S. We got 13mls over the weekend!! :)
     
  7. andrew curr

    andrew curr Moderator

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    did you get Allora Q suber ?
     
  8. 4G's

    4G's Junior Member

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    Huh?
     
  9. andrew curr

    andrew curr Moderator

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    just north of Allora are some high yielding cork oak trees
    u need to see em
    when it rains come up here and get some plants '; all sorts of things you can grub out
     
  10. andrew curr

    andrew curr Moderator

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    sandlewood is a parisite!

    ie you need a support species ie non eucalipt
    i got seeds from wa
    there used to be lots in western Queerland before some bloke decided to tie 2 large buldozers together
     
  11. 4G's

    4G's Junior Member

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    Thanks Andrew. The Cork Oak looks interesting.
    Will be heading out to Allora next weekend maybe... so will see if i can find them. Did you want me to collect you any seeds?

    With Sandalwood - I got the indian sandalwood seeds from someone who imports the seeds.
    Will plant them with all the leftover luceaneas and cassias.. and a few others... for variety.

    I still need to come up with a solution for water... :-(
     
  12. andrew curr

    andrew curr Moderator

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    yes please!
    it will rain soon??
     
  13. Raymondo

    Raymondo Junior Member

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    Can a plant OD on Mg? No, but if there's too much it may send the soil pH up to levels that have an impact on nutrient availability. Adding dolomitic lime is unlikely to do this though unless the soil pH was already high. If your soil is sticky clay, the chances are high that there's already plenty of Mg. Unless I was sure that the soil needed Mg, I would avoid dolomitic lime so as not to push up the Mg relative to the Ca. In fact, I try to avoid lime altogether, whether dolomitic or not, because my clay soil is slightly alkaline. When I add Ca I add it in the form of gypsum.
     
  14. Raymondo

    Raymondo Junior Member

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  15. andrew curr

    andrew curr Moderator

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    PP recons soil tests are for pussies!
     
  16. 4G's

    4G's Junior Member

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    I have a ph soil testing kit, so i will give that a whirl next time i am out there.
    how do you test for other nutrients?
     
  17. eco4560

    eco4560 New Member

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    Pay for an official comprehensive soil analysis.

    Or - use the Purple Pear approach. Add organic matter until you have no more organic matter to add. Fixes everything. Speaking of which - haven't seen Purps in a while. Must be busy making compost.....
     
  18. andrew curr

    andrew curr Moderator

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    Some sugest using indipendent labs as the drug dealers { chemical companys} may not be above board
    is your soil the self mulching downs type? if so i dont think you will have too much problem
     
  19. Curramore1

    Curramore1 Junior Member

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    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    Primary Producer
    Location:
    Curramore, Blackall Range, S E Queensland, Aust.
    Climate:
    Sub-tropical to temperate 2000mm rain, elevated 350-475m
    In this type of soil from your pics and my past experience in soil core sampling and analysis as a soil conservation researcher in the area and presuming lots of things, that possibly the main thing that limits nutrient avail. and plant growth here are probably soil structure problems through compaction and lowered soil organic matter levels coupled with lowered soil nitrogen and possibly also phosphorous, sulphur and trace element issues.
    To improve the crumb structure, if this is the problem, mechanical soil aeration can be used eg. Yeoman plough in comb. with growing plant matter and mulching with a slasher, planting nitro fixing inoculated legumes like pigeon peas or bergundy beans in the summer , adding gypsum to break down the larger clay clumps and release some of the tied-up inorganic nutrients. Your pH is prob. alkaline, but without testing that and the soil inorganic nutrient and trace element levels then you don't yet have a reference point if you want to be analytical or systematic about it. Organic matter, no doubt about it at all will definitely improve soil structure, soil water holding ability, wettability and some macronutrient nutrient levels (depending where the organic matter was grown)and vastly improve the soil biota to boot.
    If you want to do a simple test for soil moisture weigh a sample, dry it on a very low heat less than 100 degrees until no more weight is lost. Calculate the weight difference and express as a % of the previous total weight. If you want to very roughly determine the soil organic matter levels take the now dried sample and put in a metal pan in a very hot oven for a couple of hours ( I place mine on the top of a roaring combustion fireplace for a few days), then weigh. Most of the carbon containing organic matter will be burnt off into the air. (Sorry about adding to the carbon dioxide load a little) Cool and reweigh before the moisture from the air re-enters. Measure the difference and calculate as a %. I do a few before and after tests here. Pea and Lucerne mulches give me the fastest and best per tonne soil organic matter increases on my volcanic red soil here. My fastest results here were from spreading twice used poultry shed sawdust litter ($60/tonne delivered, min. 20 tonne loads) onto blady grass, mulch the blady on top with a slasher to reduce gas losses from the litter and letting the grass and weeds grow from that then slashing then tested after 6 months. It is hard to believe that in your area the stubble from a harvested crop was generally burnt if it wasn't grazed until the mid to late 70's because the cultivation equipment could not handle large volumes of trash when ploughing or planting. Good to see the transitions from the darker ages to contour farming, trash working cultivation and planting, minimum tillage, strip cropping, better crop rotations and controlled traffic farming.
    Nice spot, I suppose you just have to do as you are beginning to, to increase the limited water infiltration of rain on your land, reduce runoff and increase soil water retention. Short 600mm lengths of 65mm PVC cut on a diagonal on the bottom and flat on top driven 100mm or so near the base of each plant, fill up with water every weekend in summer can work on a small scale. Maybe put some peat moss or similar to hold more water in the hole just outside the root zone. I also spray my plants away from supervision with eggs with a bit of veg oil to stop the wallabies and hares nibbling as much. Have fun.
    P.S Are those brigalow (Acacia harpophylla) trees in the background?
     
  20. 4G's

    4G's Junior Member

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    Hi all,
    Thanks Curramore for your response and tips. No, they are not Acacia Harpophyllas. I did plant some acacias.
    The land has not been cropped due to the angle of the land. it has been over grazed and the trees have been ring-barked. There have not been any cattle on the property for 1.5 years and the grass has returned, but there is still major erosion everywhere.

    I just spent the weekend out there, and some of my fruit trees look really bad.. I guess i need to sort out a watering solution soon. the nitrogen fixing trees are are not too bad. Then the rain came and I spent the rest of the weekend smiling. :). And the cover crop - is excellent. So green and lush. When is the best time to slash and dig in the winter cover crop?

    Sounds like I need to get the soil tested. But until then, i will keep growing the cover crop and keep putting in any compost/worm tea as i can. Its a big swale, so i understand why its good to have many hands to help.

    Andrew, I couldn't see any corky oaks around the town. And it was raining so didn't spend much time driving around. Can you get in touch with your contacts to get the location to find them?
     

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