British Columbia: Reversing an arid landscape

Discussion in 'Outdoor Gardening in the Pacific Northwest' started by Simon Oakley, Aug 14, 2018.

  1. Simon Oakley

    Simon Oakley New Member

    Messages:
    5
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Castlegar
    I have 5 acres of land in the interior of BC, and it was long ago logged to make way for a dairy farm. Some of the property is more grassy than others, and resists the drought better. It's all drying up though.

    My vision for the land is being able to keep it greener, for longer. Especially as the threat of forest fires seems to be growing. What are some good ways I can improve the quality of a few acres of land over time? I was thinking of scattering a lot of clover seeds in the spring, and maybe planting some more trees, but I'm not sure how many would be realistic on 3-5 acres.

    A portion of the land sees a lot of runoff in the spring, so I was also thinking of making a big pond in that area. Unfortunately that spot is a corner of the property furthest from everything else. Is it worth making a more centralized pond and just letting it fill with snow and rain? What does making a big pond reasonably cost?

    Lots of questions there...thanks in advance!
     
  2. Daniel Mosquin

    Daniel Mosquin Paragon of Plants UBC Botanical Garden Forums Administrator Forums Moderator 10 Years

    Messages:
    10,307
    Likes Received:
    455
    Location:
    Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
    Hmm. You're going to need to find the right person or organization to discuss this with. It's great that you are thinking of ways to improve the land.

    My suggestion? Start by contacting Home - Stewardship Centre for BC

    If you do, please report back so I can learn whether that was useful to you or not.
     
  3. Simon Oakley

    Simon Oakley New Member

    Messages:
    5
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Castlegar
    Thanks Daniel, I was not aware of the Stewardship Centre at all. I'll start reading!
     
  4. Georgia Strait

    Georgia Strait Contributor

    Messages:
    1,517
    Likes Received:
    457
    Location:
    South Okanagan & Greater Vancouver, BC Canada
    is this in the Castlegar area? I can speak only to similar acreage (former range land) near Penticton but there might be similarities

    is your place flat level land or ...

    how is the land oriented (is there a major mountain or hill behind or in front of you in a particular direction - in other words, do you get all-day sun or mainly morning or mainly facing west afternoon sun?)

    what about winter - is the ground solid frozen? how much snow do you have and for how long?

    what is your water source? (other than the proposed pond)

    the place I know in Penticton area has some existing Ponderosa pines - which are now being grown around by "volunteer" douglas fir. There is native Oregon grape, and native saskatoon berry bushes - plus the usual flowers are coming back now that the cattle have left (15 yrs ago). There are some small native maples (I think Douglas? or are they the interior version of Vine maples) - plus wild roses and maidens bower (I think a wild clematis)

    EDIT - in the wet areas - there are aspens growing back - which are very pretty and easy to manage

    the native bunch grass is coming back and there is that wheat grass too (the flower stems look like wheat)
    there is some sage and some rabbit brush (or bush)
    and milkweed (yay for the butterflies)

    WATCH OUT for the nasty invasives -- hounds tongue (sticks to cattle, horses, dogs, people and spreads like anything) // terrible knapweed // and toadflax // and thistles always.

    so - I think I'd make the plan for your property - like where your driveway is going, your parking, your buildings, utilities above and underground - and map it out on paper and with survey stakes etc. Look at your place on Google earth if you don't drone and see what the natural moist and dry rock areas are.

    are there any natural wildlife corridors? Assuming this is no longer a farm - then maybe you want to respect those nature pathways.

    FIRE - yes - it's a real concern and it will happen. FiresmartBC FireSmart - Wildfire Management Branch - Ministry of Forests and Range - Province of British Columbia
    (choose your building materials accordingly - and check with your insurer too about what they will currently insure and how far away is the nearest hydrant etc)

    maybe focus on the landscape / hardscape around your house and barn/shop --- keep it free of burnable material -- including your fire wood stash. Have a pool. Make sure your generator and pump (for the pond) work // metal roof and clean gutters. All the usual stuff they tell you at the FireSmart seminars.
    (also before you spend mega hours and dollars on house etc - make sure you are in the local "fire protection district" (ie that a fire truck will come out to help you with a house fire))

    POND - is it uphill side of your property? If so, that's a bonus. (gravity)

    This website from Kamloops might have some inspiration for you Home - Grasslands Conservation Council of BC

    Also - is there an NCC site near you somewhere that has open house days - The Nature Conservancy of Canada regional office - they have restoration and private land stewardship information and seminars
    NCC: BC conservation projects by name

    OVERALL - I think I'd be learning to live with and enhance how the land responds naturally now no more cattle on it - rather than change it. Probably not the input you seek however it is my experience because the Penticton acreage I am familiar with is not ever going to be a golf course perfect landscape (and NEVER another vineyard!) PLus there is not enuf water to make it so - nor the budget$ or human work hours to do it either
     
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2018
    wcutler and Daniel Mosquin like this.
  5. Georgia Strait

    Georgia Strait Contributor

    Messages:
    1,517
    Likes Received:
    457
    Location:
    South Okanagan & Greater Vancouver, BC Canada
  6. Georgia Strait

    Georgia Strait Contributor

    Messages:
    1,517
    Likes Received:
    457
    Location:
    South Okanagan & Greater Vancouver, BC Canada
    I've been thinking further about this - and I think one of the FIRST approaches (I'm not an expert, but with the Okanagan property cited above, have some experience) - is walking the land regularly with a shovel and large bag to remove any invasives - as above-mentioned. It borders on obsessive but it is the work required to let the land return to natural assuming that's your goal.

    (clearly you will likely want to ID and inventory the welcome native plants too and help them re-colonize the property)

    there was huge weed invasion on this Okanagan place after the cattle left and the various human disturbances (burning trash fires and tons of pallet nails and other waste laying about) was cleaned up - plus the former owner would drive and bulldoze random roads and paths which were very susceptible to invasive weeks taking over first - so start restoring if any human damage like that on your Castlegar acreage - AND - plan ahead so as to minimize your future disturbances on the land.

    so have a outdoor work party (who wouldn't like to be invited to a bonfire picnic during safe campfire season in the countryside!) in spring before the seed heads develop and spread in the wind or on the deer wandering thru. Probably you cannot put these invasives in the city compost - so read up on the proper disposal method for your local area.

    I don't know how hot the resulting compost has to be professionally heated to kill invasive weed seeds.
    ===============
    I will also add that if the logging left some fallen logs and stumps etc - if they are far from your structures (fire smart rules) - then consider leaving them for the wildlife to move back in.

    my experience is how quickly - despite the human and agricultural damage - the Penticton land self-healed without any irrigation other than rain and snow - tho with considerable respect from the new human "owners" (guardians) (foot paths only, designated driveway and parking and human use areas (picnic site, winter fire pit, etc), no smoking and no motorized off-road vehicles - and installing the type of perimeter fence that allowed natural wildlife trails to meander thru.

    hope that helps and inspires.
     
    Daniel Mosquin likes this.
  7. Simon Oakley

    Simon Oakley New Member

    Messages:
    5
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Castlegar
    Thanks Georgia, this is great advice and an easy place for me to start. I'll have to determine what is invasive, but I actually don't think there are too many plants in that category. Most of the property is just nice grasses and clover.


     
  8. Daniel Mosquin

    Daniel Mosquin Paragon of Plants UBC Botanical Garden Forums Administrator Forums Moderator 10 Years

    Messages:
    10,307
    Likes Received:
    455
    Location:
    Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
    Nice grasses could be European introductions, of which there are many.
     
  9. Simon Oakley

    Simon Oakley New Member

    Messages:
    5
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Castlegar
    Fair enough, but removing all the grass on several acres would be unrealistic. I'd settle for a stable local biome.

     
  10. Georgia Strait

    Georgia Strait Contributor

    Messages:
    1,517
    Likes Received:
    457
    Location:
    South Okanagan & Greater Vancouver, BC Canada
    i wonder if some of what appears to be clover is actually alfalfa (the livestock "hay" plant)

    my armchair expertise says it is borderline invasive in the native areas of the Okanagan - it's surprising where one finds it up in the ponderosa pine forests (where hay has been dumped off for the range cattle)
    For example, there is a BC provincial park west of Williams Lake that allows horse camping (Big Creek) - and one is not supposed to take bales from OUTSIDE the valley in to that park (you are supposed to take pelleted hay) because they don't want invasive hay species in the park.
    Alfalfa - Wikipedia
    ========================
    this group might have resources for your Kootenay project -
    Kootenay Native Plant Society |

    i see there are events in Nelson and Castlegar

    for handy reference that doesn't gulp up all your phone data - take this out in the field - good ol' Lone Pine Publishing (I am not associated with this company in any way) - Plants of Southern Interior British Columbia and the Inland Northwest - Lone Pine Publishing
    I sometimes take a pack of sticky notes to bookmark (in the old sense of term) and then when I'm back at the computer internet - I can compare with book and phone photos and try to ascertain

    - and of course, there is the Native Plant category on this same UBC forum
    EDIT - here is the link Pacific Northwest Native Plants

    =====
    I realize your initial post expressed concern about landscaping for wildfire reduction - however, in the meanwhile, I say invest your time and get to know and enjoy your property and be sensible and aware of the practical reality of that possible outcome - (firesmart)


    PS - the other macro considerations are (in addition to fire protection district and insurance etc) - thinking back on my experience in Okanagan
    1. are you in ALR - and what limits are there to your plans (plus your local zoning and local bylaws, of course)
    2. are you allowed (required?) to have a minimum amount of farm income (if enuf water) to keep your property tax status legitimately at the farm level
    3. if a small farm is of interest - are you allowed a farm-gate sales stand? (some neighborhoods do not allow)

    i hope you will have time to keep us updated on your project - it sounds like what many dream of! (tiny house on big acreage)
     
  11. Georgia Strait

    Georgia Strait Contributor

    Messages:
    1,517
    Likes Received:
    457
    Location:
    South Okanagan & Greater Vancouver, BC Canada
    water dugout reservoirs -- I saw this resource on the Govt of Alberta website and thought it might interest the Original Poster
    Quality Farm Dugouts
     
  12. Simon Oakley

    Simon Oakley New Member

    Messages:
    5
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Castlegar
    This is excellent - just the kind of thing I was looking for regarding reservoirs. Thanks!
     

Share This Page