Central Coast/Cal Poly Potent Info

Steve Diver steved at ncatark.uark.edu
Fri Nov 21 06:35:40 EST 1997


OK, let's make it simple.  Call your NRCS office (used to be 
SCS), call your UC Extension office, AND call your local 
FFA instructor at the local high school. 

Land evaluation is a regularly feature of these USDA/land-grant
system agencies.  

Future Farmers of America and 4-H have contests where KIDS
perform expert evaluations of land based on plant type, terrain, 
water features, and soils.  

The grownups in Extension and NRCS and FFA teach these kids
how to do it.  They also publish manuals on land evaluation.  Some of
the local offices can probably provide them for cheap.  If not, 
you can get photocopies from a university library through 
Inter-Library Loan. 

Thus, get with your local folks and learn from them.  They can 
point to grasses and wetland plants and brushy plants and tree
types and all kinds of plants that tell you so much about your

For example, I can walk onto a piece of land here in the Ozarks 
and say a whole lot about land:

* broomsedge grass (locals here call it "sage" grass) is an indicator 
of low pH (almost always below 6.0), poor grazing management,
and poor soil aeration
* oak species and trunk diameter tells a lot about soil type and soil depth
* vegetation type and height and spread of tree cover says alot about slope
*slope says alot about vegetation type and height and spread of tree cover 
* pennsylvania smartweed is an indicator of wet soils 
* and so on.....

At the basic level, you want to get a feel for your land.  This will
help you understand the proper location of a garden, outhouse, 
pond, orchard, the sacred spot, and all that.  

Evaluation of soil for production of garden plants is best done
through soil tests.  Regardless, you will need compost and 
rock minerals.  Cover crops are essential.  Worms eat garbage.  

One day in the future, after several years of learning and observing, 
when you are working in your garden or raising a market crop....you 
will look down and see a weed species and....poof!...you will realize 
that you need more calcium in your soil, or that you are compacting the 
hell out of your soil with that stupid roto-tiller (hmmm, better go ahead 
and invest in that mechanical spader you think to yourself, or try some of 
that no-till stuff I keep hearing about).  

But, do not get hung up on the minutia before you even get started. 

In other words, "get the engine running first, then adjust the 

Steve Diver

> Date:          Fri, 21 Nov 1997 06:14:08 -0500 (EST)
> Reply-to:      permaculture at listserv.oit.unc.edu
> From:          FranksFarm at aol.com
> To:            permaculture at listserv.oit.unc.edu
> Subject:       Re: Central Coast/Cal Poly Potent Info

> Hi, April
> Seems like the more we learn the more we realize we don't know.
> Here I was looking for common denominators/signs that could be applied to my
> farm. 
> I value your knowledge and experience and your logic here seems persuasive
> about  weeds having different indicator values depending on soil, locality
> and a host of possible other factors.
> After a while a lot of this becomes so complex that it becomes frustrating.
> I'd like fairly clear cut proven ideas and systems to emulate on the farm I
> hope to purchase real soon. I'd like to utilize best thinking , design it
> into a system that takes into account  soil, climate, natural patterns, and a
> host of other local factors, and human preferences etc.
> Appreciate your thoughts on such a system...is there a system that is adapted
> especially for given bioregions etc. that work with nature rather than
> against it, but still allows us to produce food, utilize pasture etc.
> I know this is very, very broad and subject to all sorts of qualifications,
> and outside factors.
> My dream is to have an old fashioned small scale farm with a variety of farm
> fitted enterprises that work with nature, and is sustainable, and
> economically feasible.
> Whew...anybody care to expand or comment on this.  frank

steved at ncatark.uark.edu

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