Lonely Palm Ranch

~ Level 2 Whole Site Design ~

~ Level 3 – Market Garden + Passive Water Harvesting Earthworks + Irrigation Implementation ~

~ Level 3 – Orchard Terracing + Irrigation Implementation ~

Level 2 – Whole Site Design

Location: Arroyo Grande, CA

Project Scope: 7th Generation Design was invited by the Pfleeger family to develop a Level 2 Whole Site Design for their 15 acre family homestead with a vision of creating a living and working homestead that is a community gathering spot, thriving farm, artist retreat center, and natural capital resource base to support themselves and others. You can follow the awesomely artistic evolution of Lonely Palm Ranch on their Instagram @lonelypalmranch.

Needs: Developing a comprehensive water reticulation system to help the property receive, recharge, retain, and ultimately release its annual precipitation income in the most beneficial and productive way was of critical importance and underlaid all other design considerations. Functional access planning around water reticulation earthworks, windbreaks and shelter belts, and soil fertility strategies for reviving the denuded pasture land to a healthy and productive state were also critical design elements.

The Land: The 15.53 acre property sits atop the toe of a primary ridge, and is effectively isolated from other parts of the surrounding watershed. The property had over 7 acres of fenced pastures with heavy clay soils, as well as some steep eroding slopes and gulleys, along with an existing but stunted home fruit orchard. In an average rain year (19.4″) the property has over 8 million gallons of water fall on it, though the vast majority is lost to run-off and rapid evaporation due to compacted soils.

Lonely Palm Ranch as we first saw it, enjoying the spring flush of green.
Existing Conditions Basemap with contour of Lonely Palm Ranch.

Work Performed

  • Full Site Work Up and assessment of existing conditions for Water, Access and Structures.
  • Level 2 Whole Site Design Report, with specific focus on:
    • Whole site passive water harvesting earthworks and access
    • Continuous-yield agroforestry system for human and livestock needs
    • Rotational grazing patterning and pasture health restoration plan.
    • Annual food production systems – including a market garden and associated nutrient cycling elements.
Silvopasture paddocks arranged around water harvesting earthworks.

Design Maps

Level 3 – Market Garden + Water Harvesting Earthworks + Irrigation System Implementation

Project Scope: A 7,500 square foot market garden was installed on a south x southwest facing slope adjacent to the main residence. A total of 25 market garden beds were formed on contour, each 30″ wide to allow for easy tending and harvesting as well as fitting standard hand-operated market gardening implements. Nearly 600 linear feet of garden beds have been installed to date, amounting to nearly 1,500 square feet of growing area.

A central swale was also constructed to capture run-off from the main residence roof as well as potential greywater in the future. This swale links in with a rolling dip constructed across the main driveway to keep water on the property longer and pattern it out into the northwest pasture. Contour pathways allow for easy navigation of each of the four separate market garden blocks. An Off-Grid Irrigation System was built and installed to serve as the irrigation brain for the entire market garden. The northwest corner of the market garden will have a greenhouse, and a berry patch has been added to the west of the market garden fence line.

Proposed Market Garden footprint with access and water harvesting earthworks.

Before & After

Market garden footprint before and after installation and fencing.

Implementation Gallery

Level 3 – Orchard Terracing, Water Harvesting Earthworks & Irrigation Systems Implementation

Project Details: The old, struggling orchard trees were removed an in their place four bench terraces, each 12′ wide, were installed, creating nearly 400′ linear feet of level ground. Orchard planting lines were organized by ripening time to create “grocery aisle” orchard lines where everything in that line ripens in roughly the same window of time. A 5 ton excavator and a skip loader were used to perform the work.

A total of 55 trees were planted on and around the terraces (more to come in the near future) for a diverse orchard showcasing locally adapted varieties of stonefruit, apples, olives, citrus, figs, pomegranates, mulberries and more. Each planting row has support guilds associated with each of the fruit trees designed to provide integrated pest management, fertility, windbreak, shade, and groundcover as well as serve as quality forage for the flock of sheep at Lonely Palm Ranch as they are rotated through the orchard, fertilizing and weeding as they go. An Off-Grid Irrigation System was constructed for the orchard and planned future expansion plantings further downslope as the orchard expands in the coming years.

Originally proposed orchard retrofit and additional planting lines from the Level 2 Whole Site Design.
Final fruit tree varietal selection and organization along the proposed orchard terrace lines.

Before & After

Orchard before and after terracing and planting.

Implementation Gallery