[permaculture] Drylands water capture question

Dieter Brand diebrand at yahoo.com
Thu Apr 25 07:41:19 EDT 2013

Hi Koreen,

I live in a semi-arid region with dry spells ranging from 6 to 10 months a year, but temperatures are higher than where you are. We do get a little night frost in winter, and during the summer, temps sometimes top the 100 F mark. The heavy dry soil which is lacking humus dries out very quickly.

The single most important measure is to increase the humus level of the soil by any means possible (compost, mulch, manure). It is best to apply all uncomposted material to the surface. I even use whole tree trunks or branches. It doesn't matter if it looks a bit messy in the beginning. Nature will do its work and break everything down. 

By increasing the humus level, the humidity-retention properties of the soil is improved and you can plant many trees you would not otherwise be able to plant.

I planted some tilia in the beginning and was surprised at how well they cope with drought. Once they are established (after about 2 years) they can go 6 months without rain. Obviously the leaves start to look at bit suffering at the end of the dry season.

You can use the flowers to make very delicious herb tea. I have been using it for years. The flowers emit a very intensive scent and attract many insects. The whole air is buzzing when the tilias are in flower.


--- On Thu, 4/25/13, Koreen Brennan <cory8570 at yahoo.com> wrote:

> From: Koreen Brennan <cory8570 at yahoo.com>
> Subject: [permaculture] Drylands water capture question
> To: "permaculture" <permaculture at lists.ibiblio.org>
> Date: Thursday, April 25, 2013, 1:34 AM
> We are being given 500 trees to plant
> at Pine Ridge reservation this year and I'd like to
> experiment with some of them, using different drylands water
> capture techniques and creating a space to  be a demo site.
> We have the room on one of the sites we are working with.
> We've had a hard time working out the funding and logistics
> to plant deep root plants like alfalfa and then add trees so
> we're having to slam dunk the trees and somehow come up with
> ways to loosen the soil and replicate a forest setting that
> is more compatible with them. We're using mycorrhizae,
> compost tea, worm castings, mulch, etc, to give them a good
> base. The soil is compacted clay/silt, the wind gets pretty
> fierce sometimes and dries everything out (down to six
> inches sometimes, pretty routine for the first few inches to
> be dried out by wind), and we can go without rain for
> sometimes two months or more, and then just get a little
> bit. Most of the rain/snow melt comes in the spring.
>  The winter sometimes is pretty dry until late winter.
> Temperature extremes, sometimes from day to day (below
> freezing one day, 85 degrees the next , from 110 to -30 F
> extreme). Rainstorms coming through sometimes miss us
> totally, go to either side. So it is pretty hit or miss in
> the summer.The wind blows mulch off site, hard to mulch the
> trees (so we are going to mulch them under a layer of tamped
> down clay soil) The trees we're planting are fairly tough
> (cottonwood, Ponderosa Pine, Rocky Mountain cedar), and are
> native to the area except one (Tilia Americana). 
> Has anybody planted linden (tilia) in drylands? It does grow
> up there, and I planted some last year that is doing fine. I
> just don't know how much water/care it needs compared to the
> natives. Does anybody know of a way to preserve linden
> leaves or if they would have any nutrition value dried?  
> I would love to hear from people who are planting trees in
> similar environments and what your most successful actions
> have been. I'm a semitropical girl and still learning this
> environment. I will credit you for anything you share when I
> do my yearly write up. 
> We are using several techniques from Brad Lancaster's book,
> and also a technique I haven't heard of anyone using, but it
> makes sense to me. One of the successful modes of irrigation
> up there is a deep water pipe - a vertical 6 inch PVC pipe
> that has holes in it, stuck in the ground and filled with
> water to release slowly, beneath the surface where it forces
> the roots downward and where the soil can hold moisture
> better.  We can't afford 500 of these and plus we don't
> really want to put all that PVC in the ground, so we're
> going to dig holes with post hole diggers and stuff them
> with wood chips and sticks that we are getting from the fire
> department's fire suppression brush clearance. We're
> thinking of ways we can mimic what keyline does (we don't
> have funding for a plow), or a forest floor. Hugulkulture of
> course - we will try that as one method. We don't have
> enough logs to create hugulkulture mounds for 500 trees -
> that method is not practical on any
>  kind of scale there right now.  Maybe in 50 years after we
> plant thousands of trees, lol. 
> Anyone see anything I'm missing?
> We will irrigate the linden especially as a back up, but
> want to find ways to get these trees to survive without it
> because we could get a lot more planted if we could do that.
> We are establishing wind break systems in the areas where we
> are working now, and will keep doing that. We're working on
> funding to pay a Lakota to hand water from a truck, which is
> how the NRD does it with their windbreak tree projects where
> they plant thousands of them - watering 2-3 times per year
> is enough to keep those tough trees alive even in some
> drought. We've also had volunteers go out there and water
> (and welcome volunteers in summer time to check on the
> trees!) Trees make a huge difference in quality of life in
> that part of the world. There used to be more of them. When
> you go into a little pine forest there, it feels so good, in
> both winter and summer. Their houses would be protected, a
> lot of things would be better. The people there are careful
> with using trees for
>  firewood - there is a culture of sustainable harvest there
> of animals, trees, plants. If we plant enough of them, they
> have some for emergency fuel, fence posts, and of course,
> food.  Seven generation project.
> We would like to expand this tree planting program to 1000's
> of trees - looking for volunteers, especially grant
> writers/fund raisers, but other skill sets too, to make that
> happen, and there is much else needed - natural building,
> broad scale water catchment, etc. We are still fund raising
> too, for fuel for the machinery we're using, a truck to haul
> chips, chipper, etc. Our non-profit is http://www.permacultureguild.us/category/donate/  if
> anyone is moved to donate - even a small amount is hugely
> helpful!  We stretch those dollars.
> Koreen Brennan
> www.growpermaculture.com
> www.facebook.com/growpermaculturenow
> www.meetup.com/sustainable-urban-agriculture-coalition
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