Far North 5 acre pasture to food forest

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9 years 8 months ago #33161 by ablears
Hi folks. We've bought a 5 acre pasture block in Victoria Valley, Far North and plan to guide the succession from pasture into a productive food forest. There's never been a frost there so we will hopefulyl have some subtropical bounty in a few years :D

It's surrounded by 25 year old pines on the E/S/W and our first job is to get some mid sized clumping bamboo in to increase the shelter from the prevailing SW wind.

Then we'll plan the whole design out and start planting trees next spring. We live on Waiheke and won't be on the land full time for a year. We don't have any experience on this size plot - my wife and I are a web design and web development duo so sitting in front of computers is what we've done for too many years. We'll make a lot of mistakes I'm sure... I just hope we learn from them!

Anyone else in the Far North doing any permaculture stuff, or anyone in NZ with a food forest?

cheers
Anthony

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9 years 8 months ago #440869 by thevarneys
Welcome to the Far North. And congratulations on your purchase. You might not have broadband in the Valley :D :D :D
What kind of contour is your land?
We too are trying to best utilise our 5 acres into producing stuff to eat/use. But we do have a big forest of gorse and manuka to deal with still :D

Some people are so poor, all they have is money.

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9 years 8 months ago #440877 by LongRidge
Good luck :-). The problem with NZ soil is that most of it has only been farmed for 100 years, so only grows natives and weeds well. Thus, don't expect everything that you plant to produce, or even live. Until the soil has been altered to suit the plants, then you have not much hope. So don't give up your day jobs :-)

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9 years 8 months ago #440885 by Ruth

ablears;440354 wrote: ... There's never been a frost there so we will hopefully have some subtropical bounty in a few years :D...

You'll be round for your free lunch next! Oh, there is such a thing as a free lunch, but I doubt it's true about the frosts! Who told you that?

Welcome to the forum and the area. :D

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9 years 8 months ago #440901 by Ronney

LongRidge;440391 wrote: Good luck :-). The problem with NZ soil is that most of it has only been farmed for 100 years, so only grows natives and weeds well. Thus, don't expect everything that you plant to produce, or even live. Until the soil has been altered to suit the plants, then you have not much hope. So don't give up your day jobs :-)


And this is very true of the Far North!

Ruth;440401 wrote: You'll be round for your free lunch next! Oh, there is such a thing as a free lunch, but I doubt it's true about the frosts! Who told you that?

Welcome to the forum and the area. :D


I too wonder who told you about the frosts. I live one valley over from you (Peria Valley) and have frosts sufficiently bad to freeze the water lines several times a year - that's about -3C at my cowshed and the land will be white. Unless you are reasonably high up on a hill somewhere I wouldn't be betting on having no frosts.

So after that depressing start, welcome to the Far North and good luck with your plans. :)

Cheers,
Ronnie

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9 years 8 months ago #440919 by Leonie
Hi, welcome to the Far North. We live in a valley up behind Kaeo & we get nasty frosts in winter. With the surrounding hills & lack of sun during that time it's not surprising.

'REGRET IS A DULL AND RUSTED BLADE'

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9 years 8 months ago #440941 by ablears
Hey guys. Thankfully we do get broadband. That's the first thing I check whenever we look at places :D

The land is on the highest point of Te Rore Rd near Takahue. It's rolling hills and level land, a stream on the western boundary. I think the elevation and open north aspect help prevent frosts, certainly I know lower down areas get frosts but as far as I know this spot hasn't (according to the farmer who's been grazing the land on and off for 40 years, as well as the previous owner who's been there 25 years). Only one way to find out though...

The land, being pasture for so long, certainly won't be fertile or free draining. Grass is useless for the soil structure, with its tiny shallow roots, and the cattle that have been grazing it have left pretty bad pugging in places, and that just destroys the soil surface. That's why we're focusing on n-fixing cover crops and trees initially (alfalfa, goumi, lupine, black locust, inga bean etc), plus nutrient recyclers like comfrey that will help draw nutrients from deep down (5m) and leave them on the surface as mulch. It'll take years but hey, no rush... :)

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9 years 8 months ago #440942 by ablears
Hey guys. Thankfully we do get broadband. That's the first thing I check whenever we look at places :D

The land is on the highest point of Te Rore Rd near Takahue. It's rolling hills and level land, a stream on the western boundary. I think the elevation and open north aspect help prevent frosts, certainly I know lower down areas get frosts but as far as I know this spot hasn't (according to the farmer who's been grazing the land on and off for 40 years, as well as the previous owner who's been there 25 years). Only one way to find out though...

The land, being pasture for so long, certainly won't be fertile or free draining. Grass is useless for the soil structure, with its tiny shallow roots, and the cattle that have been grazing it have left pretty bad pugging in places, and that just destroys the soil surface. That's why we're focusing on n-fixing cover crops and trees initially (alfalfa, goumi, lupine, black locust, inga bean etc), plus nutrient recyclers like comfrey that will help draw nutrients from deep down (5m) and leave them on the surface as mulch. It'll take years but hey, no rush... :)

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9 years 8 months ago #440969 by hilldweller
Frost can be very particular about where it sits - aspect and contour play a big part. There's a huge difference here between south facing slopes, north facing slopes only a few metres away, and lower lying flat land (which is the worst unless it's very close to the sea).

Deeper rooting grasses can be very good for soil structure - don't write them all off!

Good luck with your venture :)

hilldweller

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9 years 8 months ago #440978 by Ruth

ablears;440461 wrote: ...The land is on the highest point of Te Rore Rd near Takahue....
Grass is useless for the soil structure, with its tiny shallow roots, ...

I believe you about the frost then. Up there makes all the difference.

You're not awfully familiar with Kikuyu, I take it, from your comment about shallow roots?

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9 years 8 months ago #441022 by jimminette

Ruth;440505 wrote: You're not awfully familiar with Kikuyu, I take it, from your comment about shallow roots?


:D :D :D :D :D

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9 years 8 months ago #441086 by ablears

Ruth;440505 wrote:
You're not awfully familiar with Kikuyu, I take it, from your comment about shallow roots?

Ha! Now I know.

So are there any beneficial grasses for improving soil structure, particularly a clay soil? I'm looking for something that can really loosen it up with a big root structure.

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9 years 8 months ago #441092 by PeJay
We're one year into establishing a one acre food forest here in the far north.
I researched and planted a range on n-fixing / beneficial plants last year.
Our soil is very free draining boney and dry. By far the most successful planting has been tree lucerne (6 feet of growth in the first year). Second would be acacia (wattle) trees.
These two species have outpaced the kikuyu easily so far.
Less successful was my attempt at a herbal ley. I got a digger in to recontour half of the acre where we are planting more traditional orchard species. The northern slope is very steep, so we terraced it with inward sloping terraces / swales. The digger scraped most of the kikuyu off in recontouring. I planted comfrey, red clover, chicory, plantain, phacelia and yarrow. The kikuyu beat these in most areas. I put my lack of success with this down to a lack of irrigation. Not to be beaten, this year I have the irrigation installed and another bag of seed mix! I resorted to spraying the kikuyu before re-sowing. Waiting to see now who is going to win this year. Hopefully if the herbal let comes away the spray will have been a one-off....

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9 years 8 months ago #441093 by Ruth
Kikuyu has a very big root structure, but if your trees aren't up to it, the Kikuyu will beat them! We grow fruit and other trees in Kikuyu, but if a tree is struggling, it may be because there is too much Kikuyu amongst its roots.

Kikuyu is good on hills: holds them together! I think it's a great grass.

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9 years 8 months ago #441097 by PeJay
We're one year into establishing a one acre food forest here in the far north.
Half of it is traditional orchard trees, while the other half we are letting go wild in the hope of creating a jungle food forest.
I researched and planted a range on n-fixing / beneficial plants on the jungle half last year.
Our soil is very free draining boney and dry. By far the most successful planting has been tree lucerne (6 feet of growth in the first year). Second would be acacia (wattle) trees.
These two species have outpaced the kikuyu easily so far. I expect it will be a few years before it beats it completely and starts to provide mulch and a suitable habitat for food trees however.
On the half acre where we are planting more traditional orchard species. I got a digger in to re-contour. The northern slope is very steep, so we terraced it with inward sloping terraces / swales. The digger scraped most of the kikuyu off in recontouring. I planted comfrey, red clover, chicory, plantain, phacelia and yarrow. The kikuyu beat these in most areas. I put my lack of success with this down to a lack of irrigation and fertilizer. Not to be beaten, this year I have the irrigation installed and another bag of seed mix! I took my permaculture hat off momentarily and resorted to spraying the kikuyu before re-sowing. Waiting to see now who is going to win this year. Hopefully if the herbal let comes away the spray will have been a one-off....

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