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Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Plans for the new season

Slowly the temperatures are creeping up again, onto the plus side of the Celsius scale, the bitter wind has finally blown itself out, the neighbours are poking their noses out of their doors again, with the help of them we have cleared out a ton of rubble from our doorstep which was still lying there since the earthquake, hopefully we have now survived the worst of winter and we'll remain catastrophe free for a while.  This has been the longest sub-zero spell we have known here, not so much snow, but a cold wind.  Most producing plants look rather sad on my land now.  Even the broad beans have suffered damage, I hope they will recover.  The only thing quite happy with the temperatures is this Japanese spinach.

Anyway, with the weather finally improving we have ventured out again taking a look at the land.  I've used the time being holed up indoors to work on this free permaculture course and as I said before I'm planning to turn our land into a food forest now.  So one of the things it tells you is to start your planning by making a map of your plot of land including all outside influences.  Now this is easier said then done.  I envy those people who have a flat square or rectangular plot of land where they can draw in everything neatly and show there crop rotations and all, neat beds etc.

My land is roughly triangular in shape, but that isn't the real problem it is also on a steep slop.  I have now worked it out: along our southeastern border where the landslides of 2010 have actually created a fairly even slope rather than being interupted by terraces, I have a 43% downward gradient.  In other words in the parts where I still have terraces I have almost as much vertical areas as I have horizontal ones.  Try drawing that onto a flat piece of paper!  I need to have some sophisticated computer software to make a 3d map, which needless to say I don't.

Anyway, here's my attempt of a 2d map.  I used my original ground survey map which we received when we purchased the plot and then drew around it a bit.  The first one shows a lot of the neighbouring land for a general impression of where water and wind come from.

Our plot is the little triangle in the centre, number 299 with a rough idea of the tree cover.  We are located in the southwestern corner of a kind of amphitheatre.  Our terraces face east with slight northern inclination.  The large plot to our southeast is badly overgrown and has suffered a lot worse from the landslides.  It shades  the area of our land that borders ours as it is a kind of a fold in the land.  This is where most of the water has come down too causing most of the devastation.  Much of it we haven't even attempted to fix yet, except that we have diverted water off the top to down along the road rather than down our land.

The plot to the north of us is a well tended vineyard facing the same way as us.  The plots to the north of that are also vineyards and some woodland facing south.  Water runs off in a seasonal gully in an easterly direction.  To our west is some woodland on a steep upwards slope, so we are sheltered from all prevailing winds.  The little purple circle incidentally represents our caravan.  The elevation of the plot is between 100 m (300 feet) at the eastern corner of our land to 130 metres (400 feet) at the western end.  For scale, the line representing our southeastern border is about 70 metres in length.

Now we zoom in a bit and show what trees currently grow where:

You may have to click on the image to enlarge it a bit.  I've named some of the trees, not that all have a name, but I didn't have room to give each their name.  The incline is sharper at the top end, so the terraces at the bottom are lower and wider.  At the top they are only about a metre (3 feet) wide in places.  However the top end, especially the northern half, gets the most sunshine, whilst the bottom, especially the southern side, is colder, damper and more likely to catch frost.

As you can see there are still plenty of white spots that can be filled in.  I am looking for biodiversity, including some species that don't imediately come to mind as edible species.  I have already bought a strawberry tree, a classic forest edge variety around here, and an eleagnus ebingii, which is good for stabilising soil, is a nitrogene fixer, attracts wildlife and produces edible and nutritious fruit.  All the kind of things I'm looking for.

If any of you out there have any other suggestions I'd be really grateful, especially combinations of plants benefitting each other.  Below the caravan we have built some sub-terraces to strengthen that particular terrace.  As posts to hold up the boards I have used freshly cut elder wood, some of them have now started sprouting.  The most vigorous one I have now named Pliny (the Elder...).  This should hopefully strengthen that area even more as well as giving us elderflowers and berries.

And finally a request to anybody likely to visit us anytime soon: instead of bringing us chocolate and wine, bring a tree :)  Thank you!


Mr. H. said...

Here is a good plant list for a permaculture forest garden type situation that should do well in your climate - http://powerswitch.org.uk/forum/viewtopic.php?t=11778

It's a bit messy and some of the comma's are missing but it gives one a good idea of edible plants for this type of project.

Also, check out the permaculture blogs I have listed under "permaculture blogs" on my side bar for more great ideas.

Heiko said...

Thanks Mr.H. Quite a few of those plants were already on my radar, but there a few other ideas to consider and research. I shall do some more looking around. I'm specifically interested in guilds, groups of plants going well together.

Ruth Trowbridge said...

Don't underestimate the lowly birch, it is just so useful. You sure do have your work cut out for you. Peace

Heiko said...

Thanks Ruth, Not sure if the birch thrives with us. I have not seen one anywhere here...

LindyLouMac in Italy said...

Roll on Spring and all the best with your plans and lets hope mother nature does not throw any more surprises at Italy!

Andrej said...

Hi. Let me first say that I've been enjoying your blog posts very much. Not only are they fun to read but also full of nice ideas. As a beginner in gardening I find them useful, not least because I live in submediterranean part of Slovenia, which is ecologically comparable to Liguria.

I wonder did your artichokes survive the wind and cold? All of mine unfortunately fell victim to the two weeks of subzero bora wind, despite being carefully covered with fabric. What methods of winter protection of artichokes is used in your parts?

Regarding what tree to plant at your plot, as a principle I would stick to the locally known species and varieties as much as possible, because they are the most adapted to local weather and soil. This should probably minimize your farming effort.

Heiko said...

Hi Andrej, welcome to my blog. As for artichokes, mine didn't survive the landslides of the previous year and I haven't got around replacing them. Generally it doesn't get cold enough to damage them, but this winter may have been different. I know with cardoons, which are realites, people wrap them in cardboard, mostly to blanch the stems though. But I would imagine that would also protect them from frost..