Plants & Permaculture at TSVOur terrain:
Sloping gently from the 6000-ft Sierrita mountains toward Brawley wash at 2400-ft, the Altar/Avra valley is now a mesquite forest, but before the cattle of the 1800's it was a vast grassland with occasional mesquite and cactus. The soil is good, mostly rock free, and relatively rich in clay.
Native seed and desert harvest is collected, processed, and propogated at TerraSante Village. We have a barn and greenhouses which service the goal of providing seed for revegetation and a nursery for growing species which are locally sustainable food or materials. Many areas of TSV are cultivated oases for native and edible plants. Carbonaceous chaff from seed processing is used in compost to build soil as part of our ongoing task of encouraging a healthy, living soilbase. Native plants include mesquite, cactus, chia, wolfberry, chiltepine, grasses, wildflowers, herbs, etc. Native Seed Resource donates seed and chaff, and maintains native plantings at TSV.
Many garden areas and experiments of protective scheme exist. We avoid the use of pesticide or chemicals, and practice organic and biodynamic principles. The main garden is smallish, but well protected and productive. There are many satellite gardens and greenhouses. Controlling hungry critters, sun, humidity, wind, etc. all figure in yield. Layers protect the plants: mulch, grasses, herbacious plants, trees, shadecloth, etc. Some of the larger swales are planted with fruit trees. Apples, grapes, and jujubes have done well. We are experimenting with various interesting heirloom plants. Largish container gardens are also an area of active research. Some large plots are planted with garlic.
Ultimately we hope to optimize the food output while minimizing energy & water input, and see how this compares (local vs. imported from California or Mexico) in terms of carbon footprint, food quality, etc.
Earth scooped from open places creates crescent shaped depressions (swales) where water collects. Retaining the water from rainfall mitigates flooding and increases local soil moisture to the benefit of plants. Mesquite trees near the swales easily double their water uptake, thus leafing earlier and more lushly, providing more shade, and more food in the form of mesquite beans. They fix more nitrogen & carbon than their unswaled neighbors!
Over a short time, the swales go from barren to fertile shady bosques full of plants! The new swales become filled with numerous tadpoles after the summer rain. Sculpting the earth in this way promotes oasification, the opposite of desertification.
Rain Water Catchment
Experts say that there is enough rain water in our region to meet drinking, and most domestic needs from roof captured rainwater. We are currently working to complete gutters and rainwater collection within a cistern. The cistern project will include a cooling tower, both of ferrocement.
Drip irrigation is a very efficient way to deliver and conserve water. We have made extensive use of it, esp. in keeping plants alive during the hottest months, when the fewest people are here to tend to plants. Automated systems still require regular checking, and an investment of time and planning. Tubing assembly requires arm strength.
Sprout growing has been a seasonal endeavor here over the years, and various incarnations of sprout houses. Many people have come and gone bringing their sprout related experience to share. Fresh vital foods like sprouts were important to humans even in biblical times. Nutritional content and digestability rise dramatically after sprouting.
Recently we have begun to cultivate chickens, and have been creatively successful at generating high quality eggs. These eggs have bright orange yolks. The chickens also create a valuable high nitrogen compost amendment- chicken manure.
One future project could be a large, deep, terraced, inground garden, covered with a geodesic dome. A "baby biosphere" underground garden. The dome could be fitted with covers to control moisture, temperature, etc. The goal again would be to provide a diversity of food and medicine in a way that is long-term sustainable.
Another challenging project would be a solar heated greenhouse capable of keeping tropicals warm and humid.
Terra Sante means sacred earth.