Fires, droughts, floods, insect pests, diseases, etc. These days with climate change the Earth is under constant assault from these and other forces. This includes our own little piece of the Earth--our yards, wild homesteads, farms, etc. So what can you do to in the face of these assaults?
This post is my response to the recent challenge post made by @naturalmedicine - THE CHALLENGE IS BACK! Win up to 40 Steem AND Lotus Coin!. The challenge post asks you to share "What is your preventative medicine?".
I decided to share what I do to prevent my own wild homestead from being damaged by droughts, floods, etc. Obviously, sometimes you can't fully prevent these assaults from happening but you can still make your land more resilient to them and in some cases immune.
Working with Nature to Build Soil
Have you noticed that all the pictures (like the one I used at the top of this post from Pixabay) of dry cracked land have almost no vegetation or organic material such as woody debris or fallen leaves?
The land only cracks and dries out in that way when it's left bare and exposed to the heat of the sun. Healthy forests, grasslands, prairies, etc. are always covered with life and the remains of past life. This combination of living and dead material protects the soil and builds it.
Not only does this prevent the sun's heat from reaching bare soil but it also increases the amount of water the soil can hold. For every 1% increase in organic matter in the soil, that soil can hold an extra 0.6 gallons (2.3 liters) of water per square foot (0.1 square meters)!
What does that look like in practice? That is essentially the same as giving your plants 1 inch of water over a week--this is the often recommended amount.
The picture for this section is of my relatively new food forest. The fruit trees were just planted earlier this year. This area used to be a gravel parking lot.
By mulching this area and by adding plants this area is transforming and will soon be a food forest with a closed canopy. But even now it never dried out over the summer despite being the hottest and driest part of my property. I never had to water the trees and since that picture they have put on a ton of growth.
When you stop tilling, when you mulch with organic material, and when you fill the land with plants you are working with nature to build soil. Soil life will thrive in the conditions you are creating and the result will be land that is much more resilient.
Healthy soil that is covered with plants is very resilient to both droughts and floods.
Working with Nature to Slow the Flow of Water
When you build the soil on your land you will help to slow the flow of water by keeping it in your soils longer. But you can also do more to further slow the water.
Planting your plants on contour, adding woody debris on contour, terracing, creating swales on contour, and creating ponds like the one in the above picture are all direct ways of slowing water flowing over your land.
These don't need to always be large features. If your land has a slope you can dig a simple swale on contour and plant trees at the base of the downhill side of the swale. This will help maintain the swale and the swale will in turn help the trees grow and thrive.
The scale of these projects really can be adjusted to your land--just placing your garden beds on contour can make a huge difference.
But what they all have in common is that water reaching these features slows down, spreads out, and soaks into the ground. This also means any soil being carried away by the water will have a chance to drop out instead of being washed away.
Your land will be far more resilient to droughts and damage from floods if you can slow the water down, spread it out, and soak it in.
Working with Nature by Planting Edible Perennial Plants
Often our food plants focus on annuals such as corn. But these plants often leave the soil bare for large chunks of the year. The solution is to plant more edible perennial plants.
Perennial plants can provide cover for the soil year round if they are evergreen but at a minimum their roots remain alive in the soil helping to hold it all together.
Perennial food systems also require much less soil disturbance, and because they have established root systems they tend to require much less watering and help to grow.
And I'm not just talking about fruit trees and berries though I highly recommend planting as many of those as you can. There are many perennial vegetables that often get ignored in garden books.
The plant in the above picture is called kosmic kale--it's a perennial kale that I'm trying out and so far it is doing great. As you can see it's very ornamental and also tastes great. Instead of planting regular kale that often dies in its second year this kale will keep producing for years to come.
Scarlet runner beans are another example that in warmer climates (USDA zone 8+) should come back each year.
In the picture you can also see one of my French sorrel plants growing next to the kosmic kale. Sorrel is another perennial vegetable.
The result of planting more edible perennial plants is that your soil will build faster (due to having less soil disturbance) and your food systems will be much more resilient to the assaults of climate change.
Working with Nature to Manage Pests
Oh aphids, slugs, and even pillbugs... these and many other pests can cause damage to your garden and make it harder to produce food for you and your family. But when you work with nature you can prevent much of this damage.
First, a stressed plant is much more likely to be bothered by pests. When a plant is stressed by too much water, too little water, poor soil, etc. it will be less resilient to pests. It really is no different then it is for us--if you are stressed out and not eating well you are more likely to get sick. The same goes for your plants.
If you follow the recommendations in this post to build soil, slow water, and plant more perennial plants then pests just won't be as much of an issue.
But you also need to create habitat for the predators that eat the pests. This way you can create a balance on your land where the pests are not eliminated but are instead kept at manageable levels by their predators.
Rock piles, logs, woody debris in general, and mulch are all great ways to provide habitat for beneficial critters. Planting flowers and specifically native flowers will also attract many beneficial insects including micro-wasps and other predatory insects.
Here in western Washington slugs are a big issue. So I have focused on creating habitat that their predators such as garter snakes like. After a couple years of doing this I'm noticing far less slugs and I'm seeing garter snakes using the habitat features I created.
Finally, plant a diversity of plants in a polyculture as opposed to monoculture rows. This might mean mixing 2-3 plants together in a row or just planting a mix of plants in each bed. Adding some perennial vegetables is a great way to increase the diversity of plants.
When you plant a diversity of plants you are mimicking a natural ecosystem and the result tends to be less pests.
Putting it All Together to Prevent Damage to Your Land and Creating Abundance of Life
Climate change is assaulting our lands--from droughts, to floods, to pests our lands are being stressed and challenged by the crisis we are facing. But if we all implemented even some of the methods I outlined in this post then each of our lands and in turn the Earth would be much more resilient to these assaults.
When you work with nature to build soil, slow water, plant perennial plants, and create a balance with pests you are creating a system that is resilient to shocks. And not only that you are also helping to reduce even the number of assaults that hit the Earth.
For example, floods would be much rarer if all lands were managed in ways to hold more water on them. Too often we have channelized streams and rivers and tried to get rid of the water. Instead we need to slow it, spread it, and sink it. This could make flooding much less common.
Droughts too are made worse by poor management of the land and the removal of natural vegetation. The dust bowl in the United States in the 1930s was partially caused by poor farming practices which caused the soil to be left bare so it just blew away in the winds when the heat came.
Here is my preventative prescription for each of us to help our lands and the Earth become more resilient to the assaults of climate change:
- Keep the soil covered with mulch and living vegetation.
- Slow down the water that flows over your land.
- Plant as many perennial plants as you can and add perennial vegetables to your garden.
- Create a balance between pests and predators on your land by mimicking a natural ecosystem.
Want a simple first step you can take today? In the northern hemisphere fall is here now. When the leaves fall just leave them where they fall or place them around your plants. Don't bag them up and haul them away. If you don't want large leaves then spread them out over your lawn and mow them up with a bagging lawnmower. Then spread the mix of grass clippings and chopped up leaves around your plants.
This simple step will result in improved soil, more soil life, and your plants will require much less watering come summer.
Thank you for reading this and please leave a comment with your thoughts on taking preventative action to minimize the assaults resulting from climate change.
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And check out my blog - www.wildhomesteading.com for weekly in-depth posts on how to work with nature, grow your own food, and build a wild homestead. When you work with nature, nature works with you.