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Hello friends. I need help with suggestions on another farmscape project.

I need help identifying:

  1. Crops and plants that grow well in sandy dirt (not soil).
  2. Animals.
  3. Identify possible attractions.

It covers an area of about 166 acres, at an elevation of around 1,500 feet above sea level.

The geology is rocky sand, high plateau/ high desert, similar to Sierra Nevada high plateau/ high desert.

Its climate is considered continental monsoon, semi-arid and sub-humid transition zone. The annual average temperature is 23 C with the coldest being –8.8 C, in January and the hottest being 26.1 Deg C in July. Springs and autumns are quite short while winters are relatively long.

Annual average relative humidity is 57%, average annual rainfall reaches 447.8mm, with 180 frostless days. With obvious temperature difference between day and night with daily winds during sunup and sunset. Dominant wind direction is southwest and southeast winds. The southwest wind velocity is stronger.

At present, the local communities grow wine grapes, apples and raise ducks to the west (near the lake), with some grain production (wheat, buckwheat & corn). Most of the soil is alkaline; much of it is low in nitrogen and poor in physical characteristics.

Plants planed for use so far include:

Trees (shade): The tree-of-Heaven ailanthus, often called simply ailanthus, Green ash, Velvet ash, Aspen, Boxelder, Siberian/ Chinese elm, Mesquique, low Pinyons, Junipers, Hackberry, Norway Maple, Thornless honeylocust, Red mulberry, Russian mulberry and Bur oak.

Trees (fruit):







Entertainment & Attractions:

Camping, fishing, goat carts (as main transportation within the community), Aquapoonic demonstration, my “tractor style” cow/ deer/ fowl portable pens, petting zoo, ATV/ motorcross track.

The major limiting factor not including climate and poor soil is that only one percent of land can be used to build permanent structure/s. At present, I plant to build a community/ activilies center with commercial kitchen and dining room.

Portable residences will be made out of recycled shipping containers and busses.

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@ Steve: Thanks for your understanding and support.

@ Robert: Yes, that includes snowfall, however snow here does not count because the snow evaporates before it melts. Only a small amount that is in shadows might have a chance to melt into the ground. Thanks for the suggestion about using sugar maples. I'll check into it.

Thank you my friends for your suggestions. Please keep them coming.

Anyone with more suggestions? I'm still having trouble with grasses. Any fast growing, drought tolerant grasses? What do you all grow for grass in Arizona, Texas?

Hi Carey,

wanted to know if you have a time limit for your project?

For me it sounds like it should be more landscape design than farming land.

crops - For growing crops it depends in which way you want to grow them and what kind of agricultural equipment you have.

To recreate the soil with humus and microorganism it will take a lot of time. Cover cropping with clover in first season, deep rooting legumes in summer, clover over winter again is a good start with no need of equipment. the sustainable way.

You can go the other way, by deep ploughing, adding organic matter and use of chemical fertilizer, you will be able to grow your crops soon, but it wont be sustainable and you will always have to use chemical fertilzer.

-For attractions.

I can see it here in Thailand, people love Cowboy ranches. Its a big attraction here. People can ride some horses, dress in costumes, do some gold digging (even there is no gold :D ) they love to milk cows and take pictures of calfs. And they  love to eat Steak (thai style - super well done - sole of a shoe style) and drink beer. Im 100% sure it will work for china too.

The concept so far is to turn this property into a Bio-dynamic vineyard/ winery. The owners are hoping to change the zoning so they can use 3% of the land to build permanent structures instead of the 1% it is currently zoned for. With three percent, they will build Beijing's first and only wine cellar to store expensive wines, where the "chateaux" will be used to entertain instead of making wine. They will need some grapes but wine making will not be the focus. This leaves fifty to eighty percent available for me to use as I please, growing and raising all sorts of food and flowers for guests and/or a CSA.

This land will first be leveled and graded. Rocks will be removed to accommodate a vineyard. However if they cannot get the rezoning permit I will have the entire parcel at my disposal to build a CSA program for a nearby villa community with over a thousand single family homes. This community is called "Jackson Hole", which would enhance their cowboy theme wonderfully. Greenhouses will be built for members with raised beds and import topsoil from real estate projects in city. Inside some (most) of the greenhouses, I plan to run AP systems to maximize food output.

It is the areas that the vine yard occupy and the areas surrounding the greenhouses that need bio-dynamic soil building so we can grow decent grapes and eventually grow flowers to enhance visual appeal around the greenhouses.

Carey, keep in mind that at 180 frost free days you're at about the minimum for grapes (think about using a 'short season' variety perhaps)? Are they more or less 'for show' or does someone actually have to make wine out of them? 

Thanks Vlad. Strangely enough, the central government decided that this area is suitable for grape/ wine production and has designated it as China's wine country, claiming that in all respects, is similar to Bordeaux France. There are already twenty-five wineries "Chateaus" growing imported grape vines. This is all because China has obtained the right to hold the next international wine summit/ expo in 2014, so the gov is subsidizing construction and improvement costs. Once the summit is over, we can convert most of the land into farmland (vegetable, flower, animal). Additional subsidies are granted if it is geared towards eco attraction or sustainable production.

As our goal is not to produce wine but to store expensive wines (cellar) and host super magnificent wine parties we do not need real production but we do need grapes on the property so it at least has the feel of being in wine country.


Shouldn't be much of a problem then eh?

Something like a strain of V. labrusca might do well. It prefers the arid conditions and can certainly withstand brutal winters...

Does that area get a lot of due forming on the plants in the morning? Is it true that your country is big on golf,if so what types of grass do they use on the course? On that plot of land how far down do you have to dig till you get moisture? Are you going to be involved wiht the growing of the vinyard?

@ Vlad: Thanks again buddy. I'm definitely going to look into it.

@ Robert: Yes golf is REALLY BIG here. There are over 300 golf courses in Beijing alone. In fact there is a personal golf course not twenty minutes away. When I say personal, that is exactly what I mean. It is owned by one person as his personal course. It is not an exclusive club but personal...for ego. No matter how rich you are, he has to invite you before you can play on that green. Sorry I have no idea what grass he uses. I was there once to do a presentation but....

There is no moisture above or underground (unless it just rained). The water-table is more than fifty meters below the surface so we plan to drill a one hundred meter well through rocky ground (talk about expensive).

I (hope) to design, plan, implement and manage this farm for the next three to five years or more, depending on what opportunities come my way.

@ Randal: Thanks for your suggestions, I'll look into those. Personally, I like Riesling wines but red wines are much more popular here. Olive trees are one of the ones I would have suggested to myself.


For dry land grasses and wild flowers, research prairie restoration.  Buffalo grass was mentioned and I'm sure there are many other things to get a wide variety going so what will do well can find it's niche.

I expect you have done more research into permaculture than I have Carey but have you read much about Masanobu Fukuoka's farming methods?  Perhaps using some of his little tricks (like mixing up seed balls with clay) would be very appropriate to getting the natural succession going on this parcel you are talking about.  (I apologize if I'm re-stating the obvious that you are already planning but maybe it will help some one else too.)  Just gotta find enough of the right seeds for the local conditions.

Hi TC, thanks for your input. Yes I am familiar with Mr. Fukuoka's method. Although I have never tried this method, I believe it may be more appropriate in five years when the dirt has a bit more fertility/ soil character. One hundred and sixty acres is a lot of seeds! 

I'm thinking I need to talk to the two neighboring villages and see if they are willing to sort and deliver bio waste to my land instead of sending it to the landfill. Bio waste in this case would be refuse from open-air markets and home grown garden waste. Hopefully this can be a model for other villages as well. The only thing I'm kind of worried about is pesticide content but that should be pretty low due to the fact they mainly spray stuff on crops for sale and hardly use it on food grown for themselves.

Have you heard of Master Cho's Natural Farming.  I meet with a group here in Waianae and we are makingin IMO's and starting to put it on our soil.  Master Cho swears he can turn lava rock into fertile soil.  He has already proven here that he can make odorless pig farms that the pens never have to be cleaned.  I'll keep you up dated as to how our soil improves as we apply the IMO's to the ground.  They swear it is a miracle.  There are people in our group who have gone to Korea with Master Cho and seen the farms and they say it is awesome.  We have some good reports from farmers here in Hawaii.  Good luck Carey I like what you are doing

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