The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Wetland garden

Net primary productivity of wetlands, tropical forest, temperate forest, coniferous forest, and agricultural land.Jacke used the numbers shown here as one of his arguments for forest gardening.  He noted that forests are much more productive environments than annual agricultural land in terms of the amount of solar energy converted to biomass after the needs of the plants in the ecosystem are met.

His point is well taken, but I was more intrigued by another part of the graph.  Notice how wetlands are just as productive as tropical forests --- nearly double the productivity of temperate forests?  Can we create swamp gardens that mimic wetlands just like forest gardens mimic forests?

Some folks already make use of wetlands, but they seem to focus on the potential of wetlands to break down contaminants in graywater or sewage.  Since we have lots of floodplain land on our property, I can't help wonder if we could do something more interesting with it.  Maybe find a way to harvest biomass for mulch and compost to feed my hungry vegetable garden?  Rotate animals through it at a low enough rate that they take advantage of the fertility without causing erosion?  I'd be curious to hear if anyone has better ideas!

While we're on the topic of water, check out our homemade chicken waterer.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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You might want to try deep rooted high protein crops like alfalfa or kudzu, planting it in a season when the wetlands are not prone to flooding.
Comment by Errol Sun Nov 8 09:02:04 2009
I'm thinking something perennial instead of annual --- the problem with the floodplain is that I'd have serious erosion potential if I did much soil disturbance. (Not kudzu, are you nuts! :-)
Comment by anna Sun Nov 8 14:52:18 2009
Both alfalfa and kudzu are perennials.
Comment by Errol Mon Nov 9 07:57:41 2009
Show's what I know! (Nothing... :-) That makes alfalfa look a lot more appealing. I'll have to add that to my thought experiment, which is the stage the floodplain is currently at. :-)
Comment by anna Mon Nov 9 13:59:16 2009

One can actually combine the waste-water processing with bio-mass production. I am interested in willow crops for compost material to create hot water and natural gas via the Jean Pain method.

However, I imagine that the wetlands production level referenced in the graph is specific to climates, unlike here in Alberta, where the wetlands can produce year round.

Comment by Jerry Mon Nov 9 22:50:18 2009

Willows are a very good idea (especially since I already have some growing wild down there. :-) I'll have to look into the Jean Pain method.

I also enjoyed following the link to your blog. Thanks for commenting so that I could find you! :-)

Comment by anna Tue Nov 10 07:53:03 2009

Check out the Taranaki Farms link at my blog. They have a video which outlines the Jean Pain method, and talks some about Jean Pain himself. Both it and the Taranaki site itself are excellent, I think.

I`m glad to meet you both as well.

Comment by Jerry Tue Nov 10 12:54:18 2009
I wandered around over there for a while, saw some stunning photos, but couldn't seem to find the video you were talking about. Do you have a URL for the specific page it was on?
Comment by anna Tue Nov 10 18:41:49 2009
I did google Jean Pain, though --- very fascinating character!
Comment by anna Tue Nov 10 18:44:07 2009

Here you go:

Unfortunately, to really work it has to be done on a similar size scale as they are using, or larger I its quite a job.

Comment by Jerry Thu Nov 12 22:12:02 2009
I finally got around to watching this. Wow! Thank you for posting it! I'm blown away! I can't figure out why I haven't heard of Jean Pain before, and why we don't see this type of system all over the U.S. The forest service is currently treating huge acres of forests with prescribed burns to cut down on the fire threat out west, exactly like they were talking about on the video. I'll have to kick this idea around the block...
Comment by anna Sun Nov 15 09:40:49 2009

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