Thursday, May 31, 2012

Swale and 2nd Food Forest

Now that things are in swing in Zones 0-2, it's time to start taking steps in Zone 3. The plan - to have a self-sustaining food forest which doesn't rely on watering - so hardy species down here as opposed to the higher maintennance ones near the house.

The bottom paddock, as we've always called it, has sat barren for the last 15 years. We've let our neighbours sheep through it once or twice to get the vegetation down so the paddock can act as a firebreak, and we've ploughed it once to turn over the weeds but other than that it's just been a plain old paddock.

On May 25th our neighbour came over to rip some tree roots out with his backhoe. While he was here I snaffled him down to the paddock and ..voila! 5 minutes later a swale was brought into existence. It was so quick and easy with the machinery. It would have taken me weeks to dig it by hand. The swale isn't very long - about 8m. It should affect 1/3 of the paddock - which is intentional. Small nucleus to start, work outwards from there in years to come.

So, following the suggestions in Geoff Lawtons's '7 Food forests in 7 minutes' clip, I planted 3 pecans below the swale. Wide enough that their canopies should just touch when full grown. Next I sowed a winter cover crop, 1 metre up from the swale, along the mound and for about 5 metres below the swale. this should stop erosion from the mound and start providing some good ground cover. I also planted a few sweet potato cuttings.

Last night, 31st May, we had a lovely storm come over and I was dying to go down and see the swale in action, but there was so much lightning it wasn't a good time. This is the swale at 7am this morning however....

 The sand  in the bottom left hand corner is the run off from the new path the water created to to swale. Now that there is a ridge, there shouldn't be this much erosion in future rains.
 The swale is a little lower at one side - which I need to remedy however, this photo shows how deep the water seems to have been at one point (40cm). The black is silty mud which would have settled at it drained.
And here are the grains from the winter cover crop, swelling nicely in this moisture. The grains are a mix of vetch, lupins and a few others I'm not sure of.

And now we wait, for some growth, and if we're lucky, some more rain!

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