I can’t emphasize enough how important micro climates are to achieving successful outcomes, especially for those of us who inhabit Cold Semi- Arid and Arid Climates. The myriad of challenges are enormous and the Talus Garland, invented by Nature, provides multiple solutions.


Talus Garland Communities

Kyle Chamberlain calls himself a practical naturalist and in our humble opinion is an amazing individual.  He has been traveling, experiencing, foraging and observing natural environments in the Columbia Basin region for years.  He began to correlate connections between natural guilds of plants occurring around steep basalt structures (Talus Garlands) and communicated this to Will Kearns during a visit to Columbia Basin Permaculture (CBP) in 2009.



Fish Trap WA

They worked together to construct a model in the front yard.

Kyle 2009

Human Habitat Website https://sites.google.com/site/humanhabitatproject/

Kyle is far more proficient, then I can be, in presenting his “aha moment” and subsequent understanding of Talus Garland Communities. He describes the concept in detail in the following PRI article: http://permaculturenews.org/2009/11/02/rethinking-water-a-permaculture-tour-of-the-inland-northwest/


As all nursery catalogues carefully point out – even drought hardy plants must receive supplemental watering in their first three years of establishment. Yeah, well the plum pits Kyle collected from a property in Idaho and scattered amongst the rock wall didn’t receive any irrigation. None.

In 2012 those pits sprouted and grew into the very healthy young trees they are today. Our annual precip is between 9”-12” – that fact alone is astonishing.







Best 2015

We added 1/2gph drip this spring when Cliff Mass pointed out that this year would be a trial run for 2070 in the North West.

I found this project to be intriguing.  The implications are huge; developing edible landscapes without tapping the well dry, using sparse annual rainfall to sustain trees in a region that hasn’t seen forests in at least 13 Million years. (http://hugefloods.com/Basalt.html)

We built four more in the winter of 2013/2014 between the adult Austrian Pines.


Nest Best

…and planted in the spring of 2014. To hedge our bets, given hotter summers, drought and increased ET we installed 1/2gph drip irrigation.


These Talus Garlands will become full blown “guilds” as each layer of plant groups are added over time. We are using the term Guild to describe the first wave of plantings of Trees & Shrubs and their relationships to each other. They will begin to establish the Talus Garland areas. We are well aware of the technical definition of a Guild: six separate categories of plants within a system; root, herbaceous, shrub, small tree, over story tree, vine – so yes each Talus Garland will eventually contain all this. This year (2015) we added native grasses and forbes.


The Design

Wall Design

The goal of the wall design is to provide;

  • Wind break
  • Collect wind carried sediment
  • Create shade for initial seedlings
  • Shed a high percentage of rain water
  • Mulch
  • Increase solar gain during cold weather
  • Prevent hot sun from heating root areas of young trees during summer.


But what shape?  W’s, straight lines, V’s?

It was decided the worst approach is uniformity.

Instead two shapes were designed that interlock and could be shifted around to give each rock wall a different configuration more reflective of how nature actually works.

Rock Wall Guild

The two separate “lines” in the above drawing can be rearranged to create ten completely different patterns.



Species Guild Selection

Best advice – is in David Jacke’s Edible Forest Gardens book. He strongly suggests identifying the Family of each selected plant in addition to the Genus & Species to discourage disease and insect damage.

So What’s the Criteria?

The species will be selected based upon their ability to provide:

  • Nitrogen fixation
  • Biodynamic accumulation
  • Food
  • Medicine
  • Benefit to Wildlife
  • Drought tolerance
  • Wind reduction
  • Coppicing (fuel)


They will interact with one another. This means they are not a collection as in Horror Culture. The emphasis is on relationship to one another and the sectors:

  • Wind direction
  • Sun azimuths
  • Rainfall
  • Temps
  • Humidity

You know like this

So what are the species?

Austrian Pine

Black Locust

Yellow Horn

Hybrid Poplar

Mountain Mohagony

Siberian Pea Shrub

Buffalo Berry

Stone Fruits

Edible Dogwood


Wolf Berry (Goji)

Goumi Berry

Pinyon Pine

Yellow Birch


The trees will be planted closely together. We have discovered that traditional spacing leads to stress & death for the saplings primarily caused by desiccation.

Talus Garland Guild - Copy

Then the Talus Garlands were fenced to keep the deer out for 3 years to give the TG a chance to establish.


Thanks for reading