Thursday, April 2, 2015

Gardening in the California Drought

California is in the middle of a multiyear, perhaps decades long drought.  Governor Jerry Brown is imposing the first mandatory water conservation restrictions ever for the state.  The Sierra Nevada snowpack, from which a third of the state gets its water, is at 5% of normal after a nearly snowless winter.
Photo of Trinity Lake, CA taken on 04 February 2014 showing the impact of the drought on water level.
From USGS - Trinity Lake Reservoir, completely dry, usually holds up to 2.5 million acre feet (or 797,684,293,296 gallons) 
This is a shame for the county's most populous and biggest agricultural state.  More water in California is used for irrigation than for any other purpose.  However, in the large urban areas in southern and central California, water is primarily used directly by people.


U.S. Drought Monitor forCalifornia
From U.S. Drought Monitor - Darker red areas are in more severe drought

Over 37 million Californians (over ten percent of the country) have been affected by the drought.  Those who like to garden or landscape have likely been more affected by this drought - with no end in sight.

So, what is the plant lover to do without sufficient water?  The answer is to use water more intelligently, and to do this by using the Groasis Waterboxx.


The Groasis Waterboxx


Most water poured into the soil is not directly used by the plant.  It either flows away through the soil or evaporates into the air (especially in hotter climates).  There are multiple techniques to prevent these losses (planting in containers, using mulch) but these have serious drawbacks (cost, easy drying out of roots, poor evaporation blocking ability of mulch).  The Groasis Waterboxx deals with all of these issues, as explained below.


The Groasis Waterboxx was initially designed to plant and grow trees in the desert, with water only added at planting.  In this it has been remarkably successful.  In a Saharan Desert planting trial, single trees planted with the Waterboxx had 88% one year survival (vs. 11% survival for trees watered once weekly but without the Waterboxx).  The survival rate for at least one tree increased to 99% when two trees were planted in the Waterboxx as intended.  When planting a tree with the Waterboxx, 10 gallons is poured into the soil before planting, the bare root tree is planted, and then the Waterboxx is filled with 4 gallons of water.  No water ever again needs to be added as the Waterboxx collects dew and rain water and slowly releases it to the growing plant through a wick in the base of the Waterboxx.  The Waterboxx is left in place until the tree outgrows it and can be reused for up to ten years.  The Waterboxx planted tree is then resistant to drought because of its deep, capillary water fed roots.

What about gardening?  Well the Waterboxx can be used to grow many fruits and vegetables as well.  Generally, since vegetables require more water than trees, we recommend inserting a second wick into the base of the Waterboxx for water loving garden plants.  If this is done, water generally needs to be added to the Waterboxx every 3-4 weeks - again 4 gallons.  However, as the Waterboxx prevents evaporation of soil moisture immediately beneath it (by acting as a type of impermeable evaporation barrier, a far better alternative to mulch), the roots of the plant won't dry out. Below you can see results of a customer growing tomatoes with the Waterboxx (with extra wicks inserted) in Hemet, California in late 2014.


Three weeks growth of tomatoes with the Groasis Waterboxx by a gardener in Hemet, California

Can the Waterboxx also be used to grow greens rather than traditional vegetables?  Yes.  The same avid gardener in California ingeniously found a way to extend the reach of the Waterboxx by adding 3 extra wicks, adding water permeable material to each of the wicks and then spreading these out into the soil raised bed.  The gardener then planted 27 greens on either side of the Waterboxx, and placed a evaporation cover over them as they began to grow.  The customer found that the greens grow great with only 2.5 to 3 gallons of Water per week (all poured into the Waterboxx), and no need for overhead watering.  He is able to enjoy fresh greens every day now.



If you want to start gardening with the Waterboxx (or growing trees), please visit our main website, www.dewharvest.com.  There you will be able to see many other garden plants growing with the Waterboxx, including zucchini, cucumbers, watermelon, pumpkin and eggplant.


Image Sources:
Trinity Lake Image:  
Credit: U.S. Geological Survey,
Department of the Interior/USGS
Photo by: Tim Reed, USGS California Water Science Center Supervisory Hydrologist; taken February 4, 2014.

California Drought Map:
US Drought Monitor
  The U.S. Drought Monitor is jointly produced by the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the United States Department of Agriculture, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Map courtesy of NDMC-UNL.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Can Trees Grow in the Desert?

Deserts make up about one third of the Earth's land area, an incredible amount considering that 70% of the Earth is covered by ocean. This desert area, defined as that which gets less than 10 inches of rain a year, cannot produce much of value for mankind or for wildlife.  In many of these deserts, there is sufficient rainfall for well adapted trees to grow, but that rainfall all falls over a very short period (sometimes in one monsoon rainstorm).  Most previous efforts at growing trees and other plants in the desert have focused on collecting water in large reservoirs and distributing it via canals to crops and trees.  This method is as old as civilization itself, but it is very wasteful and inefficient (as most water in open canals is subject to evaporation, and that within pipes frequently requires electricity to move).  Also, in many places (like the Sahara and increasingly in the southwest U.S.), there is not enough water to widely distribute continuously.  So is there a way to grow trees in the desert without continuing irrigation - yes, with the Groasis Waterboxx.


The Deserts of the world are tan on this map from Climate.gov


The Groasis Waterboxx was invented by Pieter Hoff, a Dutch tulip exporter who retired to find a way to help green the deserts.  After copying the best concepts nature had to offer (from the lessons of bird droppings to the Lotus Effect to capillary water), Mr. Hoff had developed the Groasis Waterboxx.  This device, which is initially filled up with 4 gallons of water, with another 10 poured into the soil where the plant is to be planted, is a self refilling water battery for trees and other plants.  The tree is planted in the central opening of the Waterboxx, and its roots grow straight down to access the soil water column released by the Waterboxx.  The Waterboxx collects dew whenever present and is completely refilled by just 4 inches of rainwater.  The whole process of the Waterboxx is explained below:



The Groasis Waterboxx has been tested in several deserts around the world.  Its first large scale test was in the great Sahara Desert in Morocco.  Below you see the initial planting of Tamarix (salt cedar) trees in a land of nothing but dry sand.  This planting took place in 2010 initially.

october 2014
Setting up a Groasis Waterboxx to plant a Tamarix Tree in 2010 - From Groasis.com

These trees thrived.  Using the Waterboxx, tree plantings in Morocco had a 88% first year survival rate, compared to 11% with the non-Waterboxx trees, which were watered weekly.  When two trees are planted per Waterboxx (as intended) the chance that one of them survives is 99%.  The Waterboxx was left in place until the trees outgrew them, and the results are seen below.


grote afbeelding
The same Tamarix trees 4 years later in 2014 - also from Groasis

Tree plantings in the desert of Ecuador were even more impressive.  Below you see over one year's growth of a Beechwood tree planted with the Waterboxx.  Because deserts tend to be in areas with more sun (due to location and less cloud cover), once the critical shortage of water is solved by the Waterboxx, the desert can truly bloom.

14 month growth of a tree with the Waterboxx - compiled from photos at Groasis.com

So yes, trees can be grown in the desert with the Groasis Waterboxx.  The Waterboxx was initially designed to stop the spread of the deserts, planting trees along desertifying lands like the Sahel region in Africa.  We formed our company Dew Harvest because we saw the potential of the Waterboxx to change the American landscape, allowing many very dry areas in Western U.S. to have trees and other plants without irrigation.  You can buy the Waterboxx in the U.S. from Dew Harvest.

If we can establish enough trees throughout the world (for whatever reason - from lumber to nut and fruit production or shade or simple love of nature), we can not only improve the value of nearly worthless desert land to ourselves and wildlife, but we can sequester huge amount of carbon dioxide.  The Waterboxx was designed for this purpose.  Please send us your Waterboxx success story to testimonials@dewharvest.com

You can see all our blog posts about planting trees with the Waterboxx here.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Nut Trees for a Mediterranean Climate

In another post, we discussed good fruit trees for those lucky enough to live in a Mediterranean climate.  Here we will discuss the best nut trees for the same climate.

The Mediterranean climate, also known as a dry summer subtropical climate, is characterized by warm summers and mild, wet winters, with temperatures rarely dipping below freezing.  Only a few portions of the world outside the Mediterranean basin have this climate, including parts of South Africa, Chile, Australia, and southern California here in the U.S.


From Wikipedia
The Mediterranean climate can be wonderful for those wishing to grow fruits and nuts due to its mild winters.  However, the lack of summer rain can make establishing trees very difficult - that was until the advent of the Groasis Waterboxx - a self refilling water battery for trees that slowly irrigates the roots of the young plant.

What nut trees grow best in a Mediterranean climate?  There are several, including many that are popular in the U.S.

Pecans
This wonder food, Carya illinoinesensis is probably best known as a pie topping, but if eating this nut alone it is remarkably healthy.  Pecans are very difficult to establish because they have a true, deep taproot that means their roots need to be constantly wet when planting - a job perfect for the Waterboxx.  It is important to get pecans suited to your area (see here for California).  The pecan is originally from the Mississippi Valley, so it does require water during the summer months.

Carya illinoinensis.jpg
Pecan, grown for shade - From Wikipedia

Walnuts
Walnut, or Juglans species, are very interesting trees.  Renowned for the quality of their wood, their nuts are also highly desired.  Walnut roots produce a chemical called juglone which prevents growth of nearby plants so any walnut groves need to be isolated from other plants and trees.  Although walnuts are monoecious (both male and female flowers on one tree) you need more than one for proper pollination due to differences in timing between shedding of male pollen and receptivity of female flowers (in other words, they are called dichogamus).  Walnuts need well drained soil.

Pistachio
These can be somewhat difficult to bring to full production because they do need watering during the summer nut ripening period.  Also, it is very important to properly process and store the nuts because a cancer causing chemical called aflatoxin can be produced by a fungus on improperly stored shells (as it is produced in many other plants under improper conditions).  These trees are also slow growing - taking a minimum of 5 years after planting grafted trees to get any nuts.  If you are patient and in for a challenge with a great reward, pistachio may be for you.  You will need one male tree for every 9 female trees.  Male trees do not produce the nuts.  Here is a list of nurseries where you can buy pistachio trees.  Planting with the Waterboxx can give the roots more consistent water and better growth early in the tree's life, potentially decreasing time to nut production.

Ripening Pistachio Nuts - From Wikipedia

Almonds
Prunus dulcis, almonds are actually a stone fruit that is treated like a nut.  These trees are superbly suited to a Mediterranean climate, and in the U.S. grow best in southern California.  They bloom in February, and need consistent watering after planting, best provided by the Waterboxx. Of note, it is very important to never eat wild almonds as they contains the chemical amydalin which can be converted into hydrogen cyanide, a very deadly poison.

Chestnuts
Castanea species, these are the only nut that contain vitamin C.  These trees can be harvested in October.  Chestnuts are very drought resistant once established, and the Groasis Waterboxx is the perfect device to establish deep roots without continued watering.  These trees prefer a soil pH of 4.5-6.5.  You will need at least two chestnut trees to have production of nuts.  More detailed instructions on planting chestnuts can be found here.  Chestnuts are generally cooked in aluminum foil until one pops - then the rest are eaten.  Without cooking they can be quite bitter.

Planting nut trees with the Groasis Waterboxx
Areas with Mediterranean climate can be wonderful places to live, garden, and grow trees - if the trees can get deep roots established.  The Groasis Waterboxx solves this problem, and ends the need for irrigation of young trees, by slowly releasing stored water to the roots of the growing tree.  The water is also prevented from evaporation by the Waterboxx, meaning a column of water will grow directly beneath the tree, inducing the tap root to grow straight down to deeper capillary water.  The Waterboxx refills itself from rare rain and morning dew, funneling it into a reservoir for later use.  The Waterboxx is explained in the video below:

The Waterboxx can be reused for up to 10 years, and used for planting multiple different trees.  The Groasis Waterboxx can also be used for growing annual garden plants.  The Waterboxx can be purchased from Dew Harvest here.

Harvesting and Storage
As mentioned above, improper harvesting and storage of some nuts can lead to contamination with aflatoxin, which is potentially lethal due to liver damage and cancer causing properties.  The University of California has an excellent resource on how to harvest and store many of the nuts discussed above.

Try Out The Waterboxx
The Groasis Waterboxx is available for purchase from Dew Harvest in the United States.

You can see all our blog posts about planting trees with the Waterboxx here.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Copying Nature To Grow Plants in the Desert

Biomimicry is the process imitating the wisdom of nature to solve human problems, and it rightfully has received a great deal of attention lately. Nature's organisms have been struggling to adapt to and live in inhospitable environments for millenia, while modern human engineering attempting the same feat is only a few hundred years old. The most famous example of biomimicry is probably Velcro, which mimics the hooks of burrs to become adhesive to fabric and hair.  However, a more complete and just as useful example of biomimicry is the Groasis Waterboxx.

The Groasis Waterboxx is a brilliant device to grow trees and other plants in the desert without any continuing irrigation.  The Waterboxx uses multiple ideas from nature to accomplish this task - in fact, the Waterboxx is so effective that it allows up 88-99% of trees planted with it to survive in the Sahara desert.

Bird Droppings
Birds are like humans in that they can see in color (some can actually see into the ultraviolet spectrum) - likely to be able to pick out brightly colored flowers and berries from surrounding green leaves.  Plants have evolved bright colors for their fruits in order to have their seeds eaten by birds, have the outer coating of the seed digested, and then having the seed deposited far from the parent plant in a bird dropping.  Bird droppings cover the seed planted on the soil, allowing the seed to be in contact with the existing capillary channels of the soil, thus allowing capillary water to reach the seed, ensuring is survives after germination.  The droppings themselves cover the seed, preventing drying out from sun and wind.  The Waterboxx copies this ability of bird droppings to plant trees and other plants - allowing capillary channels in the soil to remain intact while preventing soil moisture from evaporating into the air - similar to how a stepping stone will always have a wet underside as that soil moisture can't evaporate either.  You can see an overview of the Waterboxx mechanism, including the bird dropping inspiration, in the video below.



Skin Dew Drinking Lizards
Lizards in different parts of the world have developed an amazing ability to literally drink dew off of their skin.  The Australian Thorny Devil and the Texan Horned Lizards both collect small amounts of rain water and much more frequent dew on their skin, which is then channeled into crevices between their "horns" or skin spikes.   This water is then conveyed over to the lizards' mouth to be drank, sustaining the lizards in very harsh and dry environments.  Because there is dew most days even in the desert, the lizards are able to survive.  Similarly, the Groasis Waterboxx collects dew and rain water along its lid, and is channeled into a 4 gallon reservoir where the water is protected from evaporation.  This water is then slowly released into the soil beneath to nourish a growing plant's roots.  The lid is even corrugated, mimicking the horns of the toad, which increases surface area on which water can collect.

Australian Thorny Devil - From Wikipedia


The Lotus Effect
Lotus leaves have an incredible ability to repel water, called superhydrophobicity by scientists and those fond of large words.  Lotus leaves have developed this ability in order to slick off dirt, bacteria and fungus which may damage the leaves of the plant.  This ability, called the Lotus Effect, is due to microscopic pyramids on the surface of the leaves which prevent small water droplets from attaching tightly to the surface with hydrogen bonds. The lid of the Groasis Waterboxx also has tiny pyramids which allows water to slide off the lid and down channels into the reservoir below for later use by the plant.
Graphic by William Thielicke showing pyramidal structure of the surface of the Lotus leaf.  This surface guarantees that water won't stick to the surface of the lotus leaf, or the Groasis Waterboxx lid that has similar microscopic pyramids on its surface.  
The Lake (Water) Effect
Water has incredible power to resist changes in temperature, referred to scientifically as high specific heat capacity.  This is very important in helping our planet (the surface of which is two thirds water) resist the massive changes in temperature of other planets like Mercury and the moon.  On a smaller scale, vessels of water can have a warm surface while still having a cool lower level of water.  This is familiar to almost anyone who has went swimming in a calm lake in the summer - the top most level of the water is warm, only to get much cooler farther down near a swimmer's feet.  This property of water can help a great deal in insulating plants against rapid changes in air temperature. Small plants still near the ground and the roots of larger plants are insulated from the heat of the sun in desert climates by the water residing in the Groasis Waterboxx.  In the photos below, you can see the how cool the Waterboxx keeps the soil below.

homepage-banner-verdampingsremmers-2014-ENG2
Yellow is hot, blue is cooler - the Waterboxx keeps the soil and roots of the plant cool even on hot days - from Groasis.com


Tree Trunk Effect
Trees are able to get water to their upper most leaves, even if several hundred feet high.  How do they do this - the don't have an electric pump at their base and running water.  They use capillary action, or the ability of water to pull itself up the sides of narrow tubes.  The Groasis Waterboxx takes advantage of this property in two ways.  First the Waterboxx slowly releases water from the reservoir to the soil beneath via a braided wick, similar to how torches slowly move oil for burning.  This allows a consistent supply of 10 teaspoons (50 mL) of water to be distributed to the roots every day.  Secondly, the Waterboxx planted tree takes advantage of capillary action to pull capillary water up from deep in the soil, preventing the death of the plant during times of drought.  You can see capillary action below in water rising up a paper towel.

video

The Groasis Waterboxx is a wonder of biomimicry - using many insights garnered from nature to increase nature - to plant trees and other plants on dry, fallow ground.  You can buy the Groasis Waterboxx from Dew Harvest  in the United States, with discounts on large orders.

You can see all our blog posts about planting trees with the Waterboxx here.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Grow Your Own Local Firewood Using the Groasis Waterboxx

The U.S. has entered another cold snap, even before winter has officially begun.  This, after the fact, that for much of the United States, the 2013-2014 winter was the coldest in recent memory.  We are spending a great deal of money and non-renewable fossil fuels to heat our homes.  This wasn't always the case.  Humans first tamed fire and heated homes with firewood, an affordable renewable resource.  With the recent interest in biofuels and cost saving (which is always popular), many have a renewed interest in humanity's first fuel.

Firewood can be an excellent heat source during winter, and of course does not add any new carbon dioxide to the atmosphere (all carbon in wood was pulled from the air during the tree's growth).  However, it is very, very important that any firewood you use be grown very close to the area you plan to use it.  Transporting firewood across any distance can allow invasive and destructive insects and other pests to invade new trees, threatening whole forests.  The number of invasive insects alone -Asian Longhorn Beetles and Emerald Ash Borer to name only two in the author's area- is long and keeps increasing.  Firewood must be grown close to the site of its use.

However, many areas do not have a great deal of naturally occurring trees, and many of those alive in such areas are too valuable to be cut for firewood.  What can be done in this situation?

The answer is simple - plant fast growing trees with the Groasis Waterboxx, stagger when you harvest the trees, and use these trees for firewood.  What trees are both fast growing and suitable for firewood?  The five we recommend at Dew Harvest are the poplar (Populus species), the silver maple (Acer saccharinum), the Red Oak (Quercus rubra), the thornless Honeylocust (Gleditsia triacanthos inermis) and the Hackberry (Celtis occidentalis).

First, the poplar is extremely fast growing, with some hybrids growing up to 8 feet per year.  The poplar grows straight, with relatively short branches, allowing these trees to be packed densely.  Huge tree farms 25,000 acres large have been planted with nothing but hybrid poplars.

Poplars can also be grown from cuttings (vegetative reproduction).  This means several poplars can be started from cuttings every year.  This is remarkable simple, and can be done with the Groasis Waterboxx as well.

Because the poplar is so fast growing, it is not very dense and doesn't store as much energy per volume of wood (around 16 million BTU per cord) as other hardwoods.  As a comparison, natural gas currently costs $9.50 per million BTUs, while propane is $33.00 per million BTUs, and electricity is around $24.91 per million BTUs)  Because of this lower energy density, you can use poplar for kindling or starting a fire, and then chose another tree for its longer burning properties overnight.  For this, we recommend silver maple.

Silver maple is also very fast growing (the author has personally seen silver maple grow six feet in a year between a shed and fence with limited sunlight), but doesn't have quite as compact a form as the poplar.  Silver maple has branches that can spread out up to 40 feet, and will take slightly longer to reach maturity.  Silver maple, however, contains about 19 million BTU per cord and doesn't spark as much as poplar.

A third option for much of the country is red oak (Quercus rubra).  This oak is almost as fast growing as silver maple but gives 21.7 million BTU per cord.  Red oak grows in zones 3-8 (all but the most southern part of the country) and have some drought tolerance, improved when planted with the Waterboxx.   This tree can easily grow two feet a year even without the Waterboxx, and more with it.

File:Quercus rubra 20060624.jpg
Red Oak (Quercus rubra) - From Wikipedia

A very drought resistant tree with a high energy density is the Honey Locust (Gleditsia triacanthos inermis).  This tree has 25.8 million BTUs per cord, light smoke, and is easy to split.  It is so drought resistant that it is easily grown in most parts of the country if planted with a Groasis Waterboxx.  Buy the Thornless Honeylocust.

Slightly less drought resistant but a very tough tree is the Hackberry (Celtis occidentalis).  This tree grows in zones 3-9, withstands some drought, as well as strong winds and pollution.  It has 21 million BTUs per cord of firewood, doesn't spark, doesn't smoke, and is easy to split, making it and ideal firewood tree.   Buy the Hackberry here.

When growing these or any trees for firewood, you must obtain the young trees for a good initial price and ensure that they survive to adulthood.  Poplars are not generally available from garden centers; buying maples from these stores will be both expensive and futile since their roots are so malformed that they will grow very slowly.  Because of these issues, we recommend buying bare root trees from the Arbor Day Foundation.  With a ten dollar membership, bare root trees cost around five dollars each, and can be ordered in large quantities for significantly cheaper than that.

However, if these trees are planted and not cared for through a dry summer (another recent phenomenon in most of the country), they will be a wasted investment.  That is why the Groasis Waterboxx is used.  If you plant young bare root trees using the Waterboxx, you increase their chance of survival greatly, and increase their rate of growth.  The Waterboxx funnels dew and rainwater to the roots of the growing tree, ensuring the roots reach deeper for water and allowing them to survive future droughts.  In a Sahara planting trial, trees planted with the Groasis Waterboxx that received water only at planting had an 88% survival rate, versus only 11% survival for the trees watered weekly.  The Waterboxx is reusable for up to ten years, allowing you to plant trees year after year and harvest wood indefinitely.  Finally, the Groasis Waterboxx allows you to establish trees in areas that may be too dry for trees to start growing otherwise, harnessing the sunlight of summer for heat in winter.  The Groasis Waterboxx can be purchased from Dew Harvest.

The Groasis Waterboxx with an oak grown from seed.


Depending on your firewood needs, a set of five to ten Waterboxxes and as many young poplars or maples planted each year will likely keep you warm indefinitely, once the trees have had time to get established (three to five years). Since the Waterboxx can be reused, only the trees need to be purchased each year, not the Waterboxx.  This system will almost certainly be cheaper than electric or propane heating and will of course be better for the environment as no net carbon is released.

Buy Hybrid Poplar from Arbor Day

Buy Silver Maple from Arbor Day

Buy Red Oak from Arbor Day

The Groasis Waterboxx can be purchased for around fifty dollars from Dew Harvest, with discounts on orders of five or more.  The Waterboxx can be used to establish new trees for any purpose (such as landscaping or to prevent soil erosion), not just firewood growth.

You can see all our blog posts about planting trees with the Waterboxx here.

Our Sources not linked above

http://www.offroaders.com/tech/firewood-BTU.htm


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Grow Healthier Food with the Groasis Waterboxx

There is growing evidence that diet does have a significant effect on health, including longevity.  What we are learning is that what we have traditionally grown so much in the United States - corn and corn fed animals, are likely not what is best for our health.

What foods are healthy?  There is growing evidence that what is called in medical literature "The Mediterranean Diet" is the healthiest palatable diet available.  Among sources of protein, fish is clearly most strongly associated with longer life.  Limiting red meat to once weekly, and white meat (poultry) up to 3-4 times weekly, also helps.

Also very important to the health effects of the Mediterranean Diet is olive oil.  People who have a diet high in extra virgin olive oil also have a decreased mortality rate.  It is important that olive oil be extra virgin (minimally processed), and that means it is best to grow it close to home.  Olives can be grown in only a few select southern locations in the United States, ideally in zone 10 and 11, but some varieties in zone 8 and 9.  Olive trees have a tap root, meaning they send a root down deep into the soil to have access to capillary water.  Because of this tap root, it is very difficult to establish olive trees without irrigation - that was until the Groasis Waterboxx.

The Groasis Waterboxx is a intelligent tree incubator that collects dew and rainwater, stores it, and slowly tunnels it to the roots of a growing plant.  It prevents water from evaporating from the soil, establishing a water column immediately beneath the plant.  In the case of the olive tree, this induces the tap root to grow straight and deep until it can tap into the underground moisture of soil capillaries.  The Waterboxx can then be removed and reused the the Waterboxx established tree will be much more drought resistant in the future.

Besides extra virgin olive oil, it is believed grapes (and especially wine) contribute to the health effects of the Mediterranean Diet.  Grapes need consistent but not excessive moisture, something the Waterboxx excels at providing.  The Waterboxx has been used at the Mondavi Winery in California, in the wineries of our customers, and as seen below, in Chile to grow grapes.

Control of trials with grapes with the Groasis waterboxx in March 2012
The Waterboxx growing grapes in Chile; From Groasis
Nuts are also very important in the healthy Mediterranean Diet.  Nut trees offer great pleasure in the landscape both for beauty and nut production, but can be very hard to establish as well due to their tap root.  If growing trees for nuts, it is important to get a grafted tree from a reputable nursery (we recommend Stark Brothers) to get the best yield of nuts as early as possible.  When investing in grafted trees, any with trunks less than 2 inches in diameter can be planted using the Groasis Waterboxx.  The Waterboxx allows you to water planted nut trees only at planting (with 4-10 gallons in the soil and then 4 gallons in the Waterboxx basin) and then only revisit them to watch their progress or remove the Waterboxx when the tree outgrows it.
The Waterboxx growing roma tomatoes.  

The Waterboxx growing ab eggplant

Fruits and vegetables are also a very important (and tasty) part of the Mediterranean diet.  We have found that starchy row crops (corn, wheat) are great sources of large numbers of calories, but are not particularly healthy.  Vegetables like cucumbers, eggplant and tomatoes (which can be considered a fruit), are easily grown with the Waterboxx.  Vine fruits like watermelon and cantaloupe can also be grown with the Waterboxx.  You can see examples of all of these garden staples at our main website, www.dewharvest.com.
Picture
Zucchinn grown with the Groasis Waterboxx - originally from Groasis.com
What about greens?  One Dew Harvest in Hemet, California came up with an ingenious was to grow greens in the middle of a drought by filling the Waterboxx only once weekly.  He added three extra wicks, attacked absorbent material to these wicks, spread this out in a raised bed, and planted greens on top of this Waterboxx irrigated soil.




As you can see, you can begin to grow healthy Mediterranean Diet food in one growing season, and begin planting trees that will yield nut and olives in a few short years.  All of this is made possible by the Groasis Waterboxx, which can be purchased from Dew Harvest LLC.

There are many excellent Mediterranean Diet cookbooks on Amazon.com.

You can see all our blog posts about planting trees with the Waterboxx here

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Preventing Future Wildfires When Planting Trees in the Desert

Planting trees in the desert was always a tantalizing possibility that was usually right beyond reach, that is until the invention of the Groasis Waterboxx.  The Waterboxx is an intelligent plant incubator, a self refilling water battery for trees that allows trees to be established in areas without water or irrigation.  The Waterboxx, explained below, is available for purchase from Dew Harvest.


When planning to plant a large number of trees in the desert, however, one must plan to decrease the risk of future wildfire consuming your hard work and spreading to neighboring properties.

Fire is usually started by lightning in remote areas, and we can do little to control the frequency of such ignition sources.  However, we can, with careful planning, prevent spread of fires by careful placement and grooming of trees.

Planting Fire Resistant Trees
Some trees and shrubs, specifically deciduous (broadleaf) trees, have a relatively high moisture content and are therefore less likely to combust.  The resins produced by many conifers are  flammable.  Unfortunately, the conifers are generally more drought resistant than even the best broadleaf trees.  Therefore, if conifers need to be planted, the other principles must be followed.

Spacing
If planting trees on a flat surface, it is recommended that there be at least 10 feet between the outermost canopy of each tree to prevent flames from jumping from one tree to the next.  For trees planted on slight slopes (20-40%) 20 feet apart is recommended, and for steep slopes (greater than 40%), 30 feet between trees is recommended.  You may start with trees planted much closer than this, and then eventually cut down trees spaced too closely.

Pruning
Ensuring that there are no branches on mature trees for at least the bottom 6 feet of the tree is essential.  Fires are started and spread on the ground.  If these fires cannot spread up the tree, the fire is more likely to be extinguished.  Many of our recommended trees elsewhere on this blog do not regularly grow low branches.

If you have a large property, you may be well served by having animals graze periodically on your land.  It is very important these be steers or non-pregnant females as pine needles can cause abortions of new calfs. This will trim any grasses (which can be extremely flammable if fully grown and dried) and they will sometimes eat low lying branches.  There is also evidence that "holistic" grazing reduces desertification of your land as well.  You will want to wait until the Waterboxxes have been removed and are being used elsewhere before having cattle walk around your property to prevent damage to the Waterboxxes.

Ensuring Adequate Water
If trees are well supplied with water, they are much less likely to combust even with a significant spark.  For most trees, irrigation is out of the question due to cost and remoteness of planting site.  However, when trees are planted correctly with the Groasis Waterboxx, their roots are able to tap into the deeper capillary moisture in the soil.  Except in the most extreme of circumstances, this water is sufficient to keep trees alive and healthy.

Planting with the Waterboxx
When planting trees in extremely dry areas, we recommend pouring 10 gallons of water into the soil, and then planting the tree with the Waterboxx.  The Waterboxx is then filled with 4 gallons of water.  The Waterboxx should stay refilled with water from dew and occasional rainfall, and all of this water will eventually be funneled to the roots of the growing tree.  The Waterboxx can be removed when the tree is about to outgrow it, and reused.

Buy the Groasis Waterboxx here.  

You can see all our blog posts about planting trees with the Waterboxx here.

For further information, please visit:

http://www.kkl.org.il/eng/forestry-and-ecology/fire-prevention/forest-maintenance.aspx

http://anrcatalog.ucdavis.edu/pdf/8228.pdf

http://www.readyforwildfire.org/defensible_space/