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Posts Tagged ‘Dry Farming’

California’s 2013 was the driest year on record since this type of data has been recorded, in 119 years. 

Think water capturing, slow the flow, Bioswales & Furrows this year! Plant IN your furrows, where the moisture collects. Carefully take a look at Holzer’s Hugelkultur type diagram. The lower areas are wind and drying protected. In the case of a regular level garden, furrows can do the same thing, and when you water, you water in the furrows. If you don’t plant on top of the furrows or plant plants with deep roots, all your plants will get water, and soil that doesn’t need water doesn’t get it. Plant taller plants where they can cut the flow of prevailing drying winds. See how the furrow in the image is lined with stones? Besides storing heat, they keep the slope from degrading when you water.

If needed, install some mini wiers, check dams, to slow the rush of the water, to make it possible to give some sections more water, as needed, than others. In a small garden area you could lay in some halved lengthwise PVC with holes drilled in it to let water drain through – plant along each side of it. If you can, do mini Hugelkultur strategies, or do it with full blown zest! Get a log/s and go for it!

One homeowner said: We built a really cool bioswale and rainwater storage system to collect not only rainwater runoff from the green roof, but also to collect any irrigation water seeping from our terra cotta pots and the water we use to wash off shoes and our feet after working in the nursery or with the animals.

Get creative with ‘furrows!’ Curve them, make some deeper, wider than others as needed. If you can’t do furrows, do wells, basins. Keep that water corralled where it will do the most good. Be mindful of your fruit trees. Feed them well, out to the drip line, and water that food in. Natural leaf drop, mulch on top of the ground, isn’t decomposing as usual with our dry weather. Watch for leaf curl and yellowing.

Self Mulching!  This is the cheapest, easiest mulching technique! Plant or Transplant seedlings close enough so that the leaves of mature plants will shade the soil between the plants. That’s all there is too it! Roots are cool and comfy, less water needed. Natural mulches feed your soil as they decompose. Avoid any that have been dyed. Strawberries and blueberries like loose, acid mulches – pine needles or rotted sawdust. Raspberries and blackberries enjoy SEEDLESS straw. Mulch is just so clever!  Besides the underground advantages, above ground, it keeps plant leaves off the soil where snails, other critters, soil diseases, climb on board. It keeps leaves drier, less molds, mildew. It keeps fruits off the soil, clean to harvest.

If you are gardening at home, install a grey water system – it is now legal in California. Our water is so precious. Let’s use it well and do what we can to save, slow down the use of, depleted water tables. In Santa Barbara area, check with the experts at Sweetwater Collaborative. Their next Laundry to Landscape Workshop is on Sat Feb 15!

Consider Dry Farming. Sometimes it’s doable, sometimes not. Here are practical tips from different people who have done it!

Consider aquaponics. At its best, that’s growing crops and fish together in a re-circulating system. Sounds good. For me, I love being outdoors, getting dirty in soil, the surprise volunteers that come from visiting birds. I like insects and worms, small animals, even snails! It makes me think my plants are wholly nutritious in ways no chemical formula could ever make them be. And I like that the plants are different from year to year. It calls on me to pay keen attention. I love weather, anticipating and responding to nature’s rhythm. Makes me feel alive! But if you love tinkering with pumps, siphons, filters and formulas, I totally understand. You can’t grow root veggies, but it certainly takes less land and plants grow fast, really fast, and you can grow tender plants all year if your system is indoors! You can get expensive towers or do it yourself inexpensively, with or without fish. There are numerous ways to do it to fit your needs!

In general, select seeds and plants that are heat and drought tolerant that require less water. Ask your nursery to carry them. Check into seed banks in warmer drier areas of the country, and the world, for their successful plants.

Compost, compost, compost! Compost is the single most thing you can do for your soil to add water holding capacity! Also, alternate plantings of soil nourishing legumes, then other plants. Keep your soil healthy and lively, with excellent friability, so it makes the most of what moisture it does receive. More you can do!

Live your techniques; talk with and show others how to do it! Bless you for your kind considerations.

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Ecosystems Restoration John D Liu
Forests keep drylands working – think big, think local!

January 17, 2014, California Governor Brown declared California is in a Drought State of Emergency. Many of us ask ‘What took so long?’ We have been having record breaking January high temps, no rain in sight. What will summer be like?! Our other concern is fires.

Nashville born Chinese American John D Liu has been greening deserts for 2 decades. As an environmental film maker, he has documented the successful restoration of large-scale ecosystems in some of the most difficult areas, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Jordan. He was first inspired by the seemingly miraculous recovery of China’s Loess Plateau, from desert to lush farmland! He has lived in China 30 years, so has seen it firsthand. Amazing results happen in 3 to 5 years, not only affecting the local areas, but all the areas below. As the soil becomes able to retain water, water flow is increased, giving water to farmlands and for hydroelectric power. Heads of state invite him to help their countries.

If we can green deserts, we can save our land and water locally! What they do, we can do in our landscapes and gardens on a smaller scale. Water capturing terraces are established on hillsides. Holes are dug and lined with rocks to keep the water there until plants recover and do that job. Plants are planted. Destructive grazing or land use is stopped. We can make major and mini bioswales and terraces, build a series of rock lined mini dams in steep gullies to slow water and let it sink in, restore the water table. We can cover our land as is natural, with plant debris sprinkled with manures. We can easily let crops grow to fruition, let those plants feed the birds with their seeds in winter, some seeds will fall into the soil. We can save some seeds from our best plants, and let the plant fall to the ground. Rather than let plants fall over and lay there in unbreathing straw-like mats, we can speed the soil building process, cut and break them up with our shovels, aerating the soil, increasing water holding capacity. We, can add manures, grow green manure crops, let land rest at times. Cover exposed soil with organic soil feeding, building, mulches. If you own herds, cattle, goats, sheep, chickens, move them around. Have a plan. Install a grey water system – it is now legal in California.

Consider Dry Farming. Sometimes it’s doable, sometimes not. Here are practical tips for the adventure from different people who have done it! In general, select seeds and plants that are heat and drought tolerant that require less water. Also, in your veggie gardens, alternate plantings of soil nourishing legumes, then other plants. Keep your soil healthy and lively, having excellent water holding capacity, so it makes the most of what moisture it does receive.

What we do in our landscapes and veggie gardens is a mini model of the world you want to see happen. If you are inclined, you can teach it to others verbally, by writing about it, or through images as well. Connect with local groups who specialize in water conservation land stewardship and have experience. In Santa Barbara CA that might be Sweetwater Collaborative that offers hands-on workshops.

Liu’s work is more than just talk. The success of this restoration is well documented. It is not just a tale of hope; it’s evidence of hope. Get out your shovel; it’s a New Year!

Watch the Green Gold video! 47:31 Minutes

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