You know those Facebook memory posts the site gives you? I keep getting little updates about what my garden looked like a year, 2 years, 3 years, ago.... and I'm impressed! Despite a move where I had to dig up a lot of plants, and then move 7 tons of landscaping rock by hand to get room to put them back in the ground at my new place, a lot of successes have occurred. I've been using permaculture techniques, and am amazed that the desert can bloom.
I wanted to share a few things that helped with this success in my particular environment.
These are some plants that handled the weather extremes and transplanting like a bunch of bosses! I even obtained benefits/yields from many of them. If you are in an arid area with minimal frost days, these plants may be great for you, too:
1: Hollyhock. This gorgeous flower is perennial, drought tolerant, brings in pollinators, and is just fun! It has a wide base of broad leaves, so its great to shade soil. It gives a lot of fibrous material as the flower stalks die.
2: Acacia: This tree is a nitrogen fixer, drought tolerant, and at least the variety I have has very intense spikes on it! I have a guild of 2 fruittrees, fruiting vines, local pollinator fodder, some herbs, root crop, and on the southwest corner, an Acacia for shade, nutrition, and protection. One thing about the desert is that there are lots of hungry things that love new, juicy fruit! I don't mind sharing to some degree, but.... I do want some of the bounty! The acacia has seemed to keep many pigeons away from this little baby guild.
3: Fig: I have a fig that impressed the HECK out of me! I moved, uprooted it, and it still fruited months after the transplant. It is drought hardy, vigorous, and delicious!
4: Egyptian Walking Onion: This onion self seeds, has a bit of invasive quality to it, actually, which makes it ideal for the desert in my opinion. The plants that have a stubborn will to live and spread can out stubborn 2 months straight of over 100 degree F temps. This onion is good for chives, or smallish bulbs. Very pungent! So a little goes a long way. The roots are very interesting. They seem to secrete some kind of substance like a gel. That's my observation, anyway.... the soil after the onions is markedly more moist, has more water retention, and is more crumbly. I haven't looked up if this is scientifically proven, though. If you let the stalks grow, they have very thick fibers good for slow breakdown mulch. I used them under my fig, trying a little guild, and it worked great! The onions shaded the fig trunk, and improved moisture retention, and the fig protected and shaded the onions. Then I did a harvest and chop/drop mulch in place.
5: Spagetti Squash: I've tried to grow many squash, and had success. However, sometimes the heat really does a number on the leaves and pollination ability of the flowers. Not Spagetti Squash, though. These babies thrive! I'm trying for 2 harvests this year.
6: Sweet Potatoes: I love this plant! You go to bed after seeing a small little vine, wake up and there is a jungle in your back yard! My chickens have broken THROUGH their door to get at the sweet potato vines. :O My chickens and I enjoyed the leaves, and my family and I enjoyed the potatoes at Thanksgiving!
7: Chocolate Mint: I've had about 3 varieties of mint die in the summer, but chocolate mint did great! I use it as a ground cover and herb, of course. It smells amazing! I have a bunch of aromatic plants on the walkway to my front door. So as I come home, I get aroma therapy!
These were just a few of my favorites, but I thought I'd share a few. I have a ton of new stuff going in this year: Moringa, Barbados cherry, Guava, Olive, Mulberry, Passion Fruit, Kiwi, etc.
So, don't give up if you live in an oven like I do. It just means you need to find stubborn plants :D
Also, here are a few tricks I used... I don't know if they have official names or not:
1: Rock Pit: Under pathways, I dug down about 2-3 feet and filled them with the landscaping rock I had in abundance. My goal was to have an underground water reservoir. This worked! In the rainy months, these pathways get flooded, and do that permaculture thing.... you know, contain, slow, and soak the water into your landscape. The plants around these walkways have had incredible increase in growth, resiliency, and production. I have one rose in particular that just went nuts after I installed one of these. My watering needs in these areas have dramatically decreased. The pathways are covered with brick and urbanite and such to make evaporation as little as possible.
2: Terracing: I decided to do a terrace to provide multiple shady microclimates. The sunward South facing direction is the highest point of my yard. I've built it up a little. This way, There is always some shade on the lower north-side of the terraces for more delicate plants. I also plant hardy insect repelling plants on the edges of the terraces to keep the delicate plants safe... the scent of the undesirable plants should be more prevalent due to being exposed on the higher edge, than the yummy things tucked in below, like my basil. Yummy, yummy basil!
3: The Power of the SUN!: Seeing as how I have sunlight in extreme amounts, I decided to use it to do some of my labor for me. I have a Fresnel Lens that I use to cut (burn in half, really) my garden stakes and such. So much easier and way more fun than sawing something!
Be curious! Try stuff! I've gone from having a black thumb to having successes.
"Tell me not in mournful numbers, life if but an empty dream." Longfellow
1: Rock Pit: Under pathways, I dug down about 2-3 feet and filled them with the landscaping rock I had in abundance.
Sounds like a rock-filled version of a swale! I did similar where I wanted to redirect the water run-off from a roof, but didn't want a tripping hazard. I've also done a similar idea by burying logs I split in half, so that the flat side was up and covered with dirt, and made water-holding paths that way.
OK, I was going to say, "that was a cool use for a Fresnel lens", but let's say it's a "hot" use instead! I agree and add - be curious, experiment, think outside the box!