This page shares a large-scale soil amendment and initial off-grid site preparation strategy. It covers surveying, site selection, soil preparation, swale creation, initial planting and more for improving 3 acres of low-quality soil, enough space to grow sufficient food to feed 100 people within 1 year. We are open source sharing this comprehensive soil amendment and land preparation strategy because we know that doing so will significantly increase the land options for people seeking to grow their own food. As we arrive on the property and start preparing it, this page will evolve with open source videos, updated labor investment details, cost analysis details, and all other specifics needed to duplicate our efforts. It contains the following sections:
The One Community soil amendment strategy from our horticulturalist and botanist prepares a property of below-average soil to become a successful growing environment. It covers all aspects of the preparation process from surveying the land and site selection to fencing, grading, cover crop planting, composting and more. This is being done for the following three key areas of our food infrastructure:
Ideally, the initial soil amendment and property preparation team will begin with 15-18 people including 2 permaculturalists, a general contractor, an architect, a civil engineer, a survey team, a soil scientist, a hydrologist, a botanist, and a horticulturalist. For our open source goals, we will also include a videographer and one web designer/open source tech on the initial team; coordinating the bulk of the open source design and sharing through the rest of our team off-site. The second arrival of participants (4 weeks later) will consist of the remainder of the Pioneers and, due to the comprehensive nature of our open source goals, include the additional essential skill sets of 1-2 heavy equipment operators for the backhoe and excavator, 4 well versed in carpentry, 2 with electrical, plumbing and mechanical backgrounds (with knowledge of pumps and pump capabilities), and an experienced mechanic to keep all our equipment running (heavy equipment, vehicles, and small engine service & repair). Everything this team does will be open source shared by as as a strategy and blueprint for others to use too.
Open source sharing a comprehensive soil amendment strategy is essential to helping people create food self-sufficiency. We feel our strategy for doing this on enough land to feed 100 people within 1 year is essential to our global-change methodology and self-replicating teacher/demonstration community, village, and city approach because it significantly increases the options for people seeking to grow their own food. In developing this approach we are bringing together the best of the best with the intent to evolve it indefinitely through global collaboration and input.
Surveying the land is the first step of the soil amendment process and it will commence during the 1st week of us owning the property and continue intermittently throughout the project even after the initial survey. We will do this for contours and possible increased resolution of the contour map for swale planning and other earthwork, identification of building sites for POD 1 and The Duplicable City Center, and locating water holding tanks and planning other water infrastructure.
We have calculated 3 acres will be necessary for food production capable of growing enough food to feed 100 people within 1 year. We will also begin with a small amount of rabbits, chickens, and goats. Site selection to accomplish both our short-term and long-term goals will be for large-scale gardens, hoop houses, and food forest creation. Here are the important criteria:
Once the specific sites have been selected, the next steps are to:
Once the specific growing sites are designated, the next step is identifying the need for the following (and implementing immediately):
Swale creation is part of the One Community water conservation plan, large-scale garden strategy, and food forest design. In addition to water collection off all the structures of One Community, we will also open source project-launch blueprint the effectiveness and value of swale creation for land restoration, food forest establishment and support, and greywater processing.
|For those that don’t know, a swale is a ditch and berm system designed to halt overland water flow and maximize water infiltration. The design calls for a ditch to be excavated along the contour lines of a property such that the ditch is always following the level contour of the land. The soil excavated from the ditch is moved to the downslope side to form a berm. It is important to make sure that the top of the berm is level, in order to prevent accumulated water in the swale from finding a low spot and washing out the berm. The entire area is raked smooth, mulched, and densely planted with a broad mix of annual and perennial species. Note: In dry climates it may be necessary to irrigate the plantings until the first rain event, or until the plantings take hold.|
|A properly designed and constructed swale accomplishes a number of important functions. First and foremost is the retention in the landscape of the maximum amount of precipitation or inflow. As the infiltrated water moves down and out through the soil profile, it enables the growth of trees and other plants upslope and downslope of the swales that would not otherwise survive on the site. The tree cover in turn shades and mulches the swale, maintaining and enhancing the infiltration; as the trees grow, their roots help guide moisture ever deeper into the soil profile. This synergistic feedback loop makes possible the reforestation or afforestation of even the driest regions. The system is expanded with additional swales upslope and downslope across the landscape.|
|It is important to understand that a swale is NOT meant to direct or divert the flow of water across the slope. Rather, the design and intention of a swale is to HALT the flow of water, so that it collects in the swale and has the chance to sink into the soil. Understanding the soil structure where a swale is being considered is important to achieve the aim of maximum infiltration. On most soils, the mulch layer starts the generation of the soils microbiota, which improves the crumb structure and drainage of the soil. In the case of clay, treatment with gypsum (calcium sulfate) followed by mulch, will help the clay flocculate and achieve percolation. In extremely rocky or shale situations, mechanically ripping the bottom of the swale with a dozer shank may be necessary.|
As a swale establishes its associated habitat, an accelerated turnover in species composition is seen. The initial annuals and short-lived perennials are soon shaded out by taller, longer-lived trees and shrubs, which in turn are succeeded by slower growing climax forest species. At each stage of this evolution, niches are created for new species, and “edge” increases at the peripheries. Properly managed, each of these niches is an opportunity for developing an ever-widening array of yields.
As the systems of multiple swales extend towards each other, the management of the interswale zone can be maintained as e.g. open meadow, agricultural field, home or village site, etc. Allowing these sites to be surrounded with swale-derived agroforest increases their soil moisture, reduces wind and evapo-transpiration, provides convenient access to wild foods, medicinal plants, and other forest yields. This approach brings Zones 3 and 4 closer to Zones 1 and 2 and, in the most well managed of instances can have truly transformational affects on the landscape as seen above.
In addition to swale creation, specific soil amendment strategies are essential too. One example is creating hügelkultur beds (in depressions and swales) from downfall, large limbs and other deadwood; an excellent amendment process. Place the wood in a natural depression (or dig out some of the soil) and cover the deadwood with soil; it can then be planted with vegetable crops (potatoes, zucchini, radish, peas, lettuce, carrots, tomatoes, etc.). Here is a great graphic:
North-side plantings seem to have better tasting crops according to Permies.com, it is said that the south and southwest side crops of a hügelkultur bed are slightly bitter. This process significantly reduces water requirement too. One limitation of using hügelkultur beds may be the lack of adequate soil for covering the beds, but that can be changed over time. Legumes planted over the hügelkultur beds will contribute nitrogen that would replace the tied up nitrogen in the initial construction of the beds. Wood is high in carbon and will consume nitrogen for composting. This could lock up the nitrogen and take it away from what we are growing. But well rotted wood doesn’t do this as much. If the wood is far enough along, it may have already taken in so much nitrogen that it is now putting out nitrogen! See this link for additional info: http://www.richsoil.com/hugelkultur/
Here’s a great hügelkultur video:
Chipping and shredding of dead wood, limb-ups from our ladder fuel removal of the fire prep work, pruning cuttings, corn stalks, etc. can all also be utilized for soil enhancement. Depending on the size of your chipper/shredder, you can run all possible organic matter through the machine. This soil enhancement is especially important for soils containing a high percentage of sand because a substantial amount of organic matter is necessary to enhance both water retention and soil fertility. Therefore collection of other existing organic material like leaves (from our deciduous trees), domestic animal manure (from goats, chickens and rabbits), and vermiculture compost should also be gathered and stockpiled in convenient locations to the growing sites.
For longterm use, we will also construct worm bins from pallets to provide 3 bins/180’ of hoop houses, located at the 30’, 90’, and 150’ intervals. That will mean a maximum distance of 30’ to any bin from anywhere in the hoop house. Others will be set up in the orchard area for leaves, grass, and small twigs; as well as in the food forest for a quicker breakdown of organic matter so we can utilize it wherever needed. Composting of kitchen scraps and some cardboard/paper products will also be integrated short-term with longterm strategies including large-scale collection at the Duplicable City Center and development and use of vermiculture toilets.
The process of composting all available organic matter, even if begun on the first days of occupancy, will not yield compost fast enough to help prepare the large-scale garden area for initial planting. It will, however, be an important contribution to soil fertility in subsequent growing seasons. The process of making compost, (as opposed to making humus, which many people mistakenly believe is compost) involves a series of steps and key formulae. The first step is particle sizing. Larger materials must be shredded or crushed into individual particles that are ⅛” to ¼” in diameter, in order to achieve a high surface area to volume ratio. These materials must then be blended in a ratio of between 1:5 to 1:4 of nitrogen:carbon. This means that one part of a nitrogen rich material such as green grass clipping, animal manures, green leaves, etc. is mixed with four to five parts of a high carbon materials such as sawdust, ground tree trimmings, shredded cardboard, etc. All materials must be thoroughly moistened as they are mixed- the final pile should be at “field capacity”, the level at which it will not soak up any more water, but instead begins to have water running out of it. A partial list of potential compost ingredients for kickstarting the soils fertility not mentioned above include:
The next key ingredient is oxygen. A moist pile of organic materials, with the correct nitrogen/carbon ratio, will heat up quickly from bacterial and fungal activity. These microorganisms require oxygen to live, so it is important that sufficient oxygen reach the interior of the pile to allow them to live and do the work of digesting the organic material into the target compost. This oxygenation is accomplished by turning the pile, making sure that the inner and bottom layers are removed and mixed with the upper and outer layers. Moisture levels are also checked and if necessary adjusted during turning, taking care to ensure that there are no dry spots developing in the pile that could overheat and begin to burn.
As the pile begins “cooking” it will attain temperatures in the 170-180F range. This should be monitored with a temperature probe. There is a staged series of particular organisms that are responsible for initial heating; these are actually suppressed or reduced by the pasteurization temperatures created in the pile, and another set of thermophilic (heat-loving) organisms begin dominating the pile. This is another reason that turning is important; to distribute and redistribute the organisms throughout and avoid a layering effect in which the core is fully digested, but the outer shell of the pile is still in a raw state. Another very important reason for oxygenating the pile is that if the cascade of composting organisms is deprived of oxygen and begin dying off, there is another group of anaerobic organisms whose population will bloom and begin to ferment the material. Signs of this are strong odors of sulphur or sewage. While this material can still be used as a soil amendment, it is of a different nutritional/chemical composition, and is not as useful for long-term soil improvement as aerobic “hot” compost.
Due to on-site convenience and not having to transport materials from off-site, seed planting of cover crops (green manure) is a highly efficient multi-purpose and important management tool regarding the management of soil fertility and quality, water, weeds, pests, diseases, biodiversity and wildlife in an agroecosystem. This will be a high priority in our soil preparation process and will consist of the following choices and volumes of seeds purchased from Territorial Seed Company (prices accurate as of June 2014):
See the following links for additional information:
The primary objective for fencing is minimizing wildlife crop damage. It should be constructed for easy transport of equipment and vehicles through gates and for the convenience of cultivation, harvesting, and maintenance; remembering to allow adequate space for maneuvering equipment at end rows. Complete fencing of a food production area able to grow sufficient food to feed 100 people within 1 year will require 3 acres of fencing if all food acres can be located in the same area. Four or more acres may need to be fenced if maximally efficient growing turns out to be impossible. Fencing options include wire fencing, plastic mesh fencing/netting, and green fencing. Possible options for green fencing include caragana, sea buckthorn, prickly pear cactus, etc. where the density and thorns of the green fence act as a deterrent. A dense green fence also serves as a windbreak and helps combat erosion.
Once the site has been selected, analyzed, swaled and earthworked, soil profiled, fenced, irrigation installed, and cover cropped, we are ready to plant. The planting phase will happen in the following ordered steps:
Seedling starts should be planted as soon as possible using all available temperature controlled and well-lit space so that they are ready by the time hoop house construction is complete. They will be planted in the winter for both spring and summer planting and, once ready, they will be used in the hoop houses first and transplanted into the large-scale gardens and food forest later. Estimated space needs for seedling starters to grow sufficient food to feed 100 people within 1 year is about 200 square feet (18.6 sq meters).
In the case of One Community, if we arrive mid-spring to summer a seed starter house will not be immediately needed and we would plan to have a 10′ x 20′ test version of the aquapini/walipini temperature-controlled indoor growing structures built and finished by mid winter; beginning work on it as soon as we have the outdoor gardens planted and estimating 1-2 months to complete it while focusing on all other infrastructure areas too. If we arrive late fall/early winter, we will try to have it completed over the winter or by early spring to use immediately. If for some reason we cannot get it built that first winter, we’ll just do the best we can with existing indoor space and count on the over planting of everything to compensate for poor soil, no seed house, inadequate arrival on property, etc.
We project 8 people working in two-person teams should be able to complete the construction of 18 hoop houses in less than 8 weeks. See the Hoop House Construction and Costs section of the open source hoop house portal for complete details on what a hoop house is, why they are useful, how to build them, how much they cost, smaller options, and more.
As the hoop houses are completed, the next step is to begin moving in seedling starts (weather permitting) that will do better in the longer growing season environment a hoop house provides. As soon as possible thereafter, cool season crops will be transplanted along with the grafted rootstock into their permanent sites. Click the planting plan image below for the Complete Planting Plans for the 18 Hoop Houses section of the large-scale gardening open source hub:
An earlier planting of cole crops will be followed by other crops. To assure we produce enough food to feed 100 people within 1 year, we will intentionally over plant the open gardens and use this initial planting as a gauge for following years and data collection for the One Community open source botanical garden model. Surplus produce will be preserved for winter use. Complete planting details for the large-scale gardens are included on the large-scale gardens page.
CLICK IMAGES OR LINKS FOR A COMPLETE PAGE ON EACH PLANT VARIETY
The food forest plantings should be an ongoing process that is started as soon as possible. In the case of One Community, the food forest project will also be part of our open source botanical garden model and ultimately expand to involve 100s of acres functioning as both food production and ultra-abundant wildlife habitat. Complete planting details for the food forest are included on the food forest page.
Grafting and planting of fruit trees will be the focus at the end of the planting phase along with food forest creation. Although many permaculturalists advocate planting fruit trees from seed, we feel water and climate may support flexibility around this idea when people are just getting started. In our case, the sub-optimal growing climate will be coupled with requiring supplemental irrigation on a fairly limited water budget (until water collection and swaling start to help). We feel it would therefore make more sense (in most cases) to plant and nurture a fruit tree of a known cultivar, rather than a seedling. As the years pass and the property develops an increased soil-moisture bank, and expands the above-ground vegetation, seedlings can then be used in outer zone plantings as pioneer trees. Initially, however, we recommend relying on food trees propagated from established cultivars (clones) whenever these can be sourced.
Essential action steps for grafting and planting of fruit and nut trees include:
In the case where material is not available as pre-grafted or commercially available stock, ordering rootstock for the main species of fruit trees and grafting your various accessions at the site is recommended. Improved clones of some species that do not require grafting (e.g. Ribes, Rubus), or rootstocks that are difficult to find or very expensive, can be placed in stool beds for multiplication. This will enable your cost for planting stock to diminish annually, and may become a source of revenue if you decide you have sufficient trees to sell surpluses. In the case of One Community and our diverse food forest, unique indoor growing plans, and open source botanical garden model, it is intended that One Community will develop an extensive collection of fruit varieties and little-known fruit species so we can promote, sell, and help preserve these plants that are, in many cases, threatened by extinction.
Labor projections are all educated estimates, only for items begun after the first team moves to the property, and based on individuals who can physically and efficiently carry out the tasks. Total hours will be part of community contribution and, in most cases, divided amongst multiple people. The re-evaluation and redefinition of these projections will be ongoing and tracked using our custom software until tasks are completed and a definitive and final hourly time investment can be assessed and shared for each task. The process of projecting, tracking, and updating labor investment in various tasks will continue indefinitely as part of One Community’s open source contribution to global transformation. Here are the projections:
To facilitate the planting process happening as quickly and efficiently as possible, certain additional considerations should be made. In our case, we are dependent upon funding, which will determine when we can purchase everything needed and when we can begin the land preparation process. The following important considerations therefore apply to One Community and may apply to others too:
Once the first spring garden is planted, we can fall into a seasonal routine of planting, cultivating, fertilizing, harvesting, seed saving, cover cropping, seed starting and potting, equipment maintenance, and replanting.
These additional projects will be initiated during the first week and continue indefinitely:
Here are some additional soil amendment resources and strategy details:
Open source sharing a comprehensive soil amendment strategy is essential to helping people create food self-sufficiency. We feel our strategy for doing this on enough land to feed 100 people within 1 year is essential to our global-change methodology and self-replicating teacher/demonstration community, village, and city approach because it significantly increases the options for people seeking to grow their own food. In developing this approach we are bringing together the best of the best with the intent to evolve it indefinitely through global collaboration and input. We will open source share this process as we amend 3 acres of low-quality soil and share the necessary tools, resources, videos, labor investment details, cost analysis details, and all other specifics needed to duplicate our efforts globally.
Q: Where do I learn more about what you will be growing? Please visit these three pages for complete planting details:
Q: Will you be teaching on-going classes about this?
We will offer on-going scholarship and participation programs for all components of One Community as we are building them. This means we will teach on-going classes in all developing areas and then refer to existing organizations and groups purposed specifically for teaching them from that point forward. Any area that is in continuous development (ex: the Education for Life Program, Food Forest, etc.) will provide ongoing classes. Any area that will have a definitive completion point (ex: the earthbag village) will be referred after completion to other teacher/demonstration hubs seeking help and existing organizations specifically purposed and experienced in teaching all aspects related to these areas.