I thought I would start a thread on reclamation of dryland pasture in a truly arid environment as my husband and I continue to turn our property into a horse property. Some may find this ultra boring, I am sorry, but I thought others might find this interesting and/or useful. I am a soil scientist and conservation planner so I am kind of methodical when i do these things. Here goes:
Our property is split rougly into 3 sections, with 2/3 on an upper terrace and 1/3 sitting below a rock ledge (we call it a cliff, but it is only about 10-12 feet high). The upper 2/3 is divided, with our house, garden, water well, and septic system taking up half of it. So 1/3 usable for horses on the upper terrace, 1/3 for the house on the upper terrace, and 1/3 usable for horses below the cliff. We are currently getting perimeter fencing up, concentrating on the upper terrace this summer, and doing below the cliff next summer. We will be implementing paddock paradise, with 2 loops, 1 loop on the upper terrace, a lane chute behind the house, and a second loop below the cliff. The arena is in the middle of the upper loop.
Property is a total of 4.2 acres (so we are talking small scale).
Climate and soils:
We are at the convergence of the Blue Mountain, East Slope Cascades, High Desert and Great Basin biomes. We get about 9-11 inches of precip per year (combination rain and snow-water content). Our soils are cobbly loamy sands with high ash content from Mt Mazama (now Crater Lake).
For phase 1 (upper terrace), we are going to seed the area between the paddock paradise lane and the riding arena with a dryland pasture mix. This will be for a combination of erosion control, dust abatement and occasional light grazing. We will also seed the area between the paddock lane and the road for aesthetics, dust abatement and weed control. Currently the entire area has a lot of cheat grass, asyllum, tumble mustard and various brassicaes. There is also a few native bunch grasses and native wildflowers hanging on, but sucumbing to the invasives. These include Indian Ricegrass, Sandbergs Bluegrass, Thickspike Wheatgrass, and Foxtail Barley. Mariposa Lilies were abundant this year, and a few asters and blue flax were noted.
To combat weeds, we have opted for non-natives at this time that can better compete with cheat grass. In a few years we will look at transitioning to native bunch grasses once the cheat is controled.
The seed mix includes:
5 lbs Russian Wildrye (Swift cultivar), 5 lbs Hycrest Crested Wheatgrass, 5 lbs Siberian Wheatgrass, and 10 lbs Alfalfa (Ladak 65 cultivar).
I will try to remember to get photos as we progress, I am very bad at doing that.