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Zone 1 ideas for HOT climates.

 
pollinator
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Location: Boudamasa, Chad
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I have a few go-to techniques I thought I would share, but I'd love to get some more ideas.

I want to accomplish three top priorities in zone 1: produce food, create shade and use a minimum of water.

First thing is to reuse all grey water fairly close to the house. I have a hose from every sink and shower going out to one of four types of plants: banana, papaya, chaya, and bamboo. We wash water on a slab that slopes toward a banana and papaya trench. We only use a traditional cotton seed oil soap that's fairly ubiquitous in this part of the world, so no toxins involved.

Secondly, zone 1 usually has a perennial garden. Here also, I keep it close to the house. That's not just for convenience. Water is in short supply here, so I use it twice in a perennial garden. In the middle of all my beds I put chaya sticks in the ground and plant moringa seeds and pigeon pea seeds down the center of the beds among all the other stuff. They all start pretty slow so they don't bother the perennial plants, but after the garden is over I have a food forest in its place.

Put strategically, both the chaya and the papaya trees end up shading the house.

Love to hear your ideas!

-Nathanael
 
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Location: Cape Town
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Nathaniel,  Great system! My grey water feeds a lemon tree and a stand of vetiver. It is the only way I can grow vetiver in this dry climate, the roots of which I harvest regularly for soap scenting. The leaves are also really useful for repelling flies and insects and make a long lasting mulch.

Using water twice is something I do a lot of. My favourite is to put holes in the bottom of a tin drum - instant wormfarm. I will put some leguminous wood at the bottom - Acacia spp here - and then start filling up with vegetable peelings and whatever I can get my hands on: coffee grounds, ashes from the fire, lawn clippings, seasand, etc. And some worms. I plant around it those vegetables which are hungry like tomatoes or pumpkins, and then the once daily watering the worms receive also feeds the plants at its feet. Normally I use rainwater for this which I collect off the gutters. When the drum is half full I will plant in it, tomatoes, chillies or eggplants seem to like this situation, and keep mulching on top.  One can keep planting as long as it is warm, when the tomato is done plant a pumpkin, when the pumpkin is done put some beans in, the old plants just adding to the compost. So now I am watering four plants from one bucket of water a day. When the drum is full I still have perfect worm compost for my trees, plus some nicely inoculated wood to throw in my beds.

The wood at the bottom helps retain water on the days I go to market, and if you run the drum long enough the worms seem to like nibbling them. I will make some comfrey kombucha and throw in the drum once or twice to get the micro-organisms going, but that is just spoiling the worms and isn't really necessary.

Total side-track: Love the idea of cotton seed soap. Now I am going to have to get some :)
 
Nathanael Szobody
pollinator
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Brilliant Natasha! I think I'm going to have to do that drum garden. Only I'll do moringa on the outside. Thanks!
 
Natasha Abrahams
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Nathaniel, indeed this system is great to get your trees off to a flying start. Moringa sulks a bit in the winter here but you inspire me to find some seed and try again.
 
Nathanael Szobody
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Natasha Abrahams wrote:Nathaniel, indeed this system is great to get your trees off to a flying start. Moringa sulks a bit in the winter here but you inspire me to find some seed and try again.



Moringa doesn't grow for months at a time here because of the long dry hot season. But when it's ready to grow it really takes off! It can be kept cut at any size for easy of harvesting the leaves.

What other perennials do you use?
 
Natasha Abrahams
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Nathaniel for understory my favourite is rose geranium, simply because it copes with our very difficult climate, yields high amounts of biomass for minute amounts of work, and can be used for the soaps. Its leaves can be used in cooking to flavour cakes and in a cordial. Our situation is a little different from yours in that it is not only very dry in summer but also very wet in winter. So plants need to be versatile. Tried pigeon pea once but the snails ate it in the winter. You make it sound so good I feel like trying it again with more care this time.

It looks like winter is starting early too, climate change has cut our rainfall by about 30 % but it is more evenly spread throughout the year. So I can't be sure if these are early winter rains or late summer rains but of late it has been raining once a week. Which is lovely but not if it is to flood this winter.

This means I can't plant pure desert plants because they will rot. Geraniums are the next best thing because they are adapted to extremes. I grow a lot of native species and the rose one is the best. Grows easily from cuttings, needs no water once established and will grow in the most humus deprived soil. Obviously it will grow better if you can throw some water and manure its way but will still deliver harvestable quantities in a drought. This is something people tend to overlook: lots of plants will survive a drought but if you want them to produce fruit or whatever you are harvesting they will need water. Plants that can deliver even in a drought are very rare, I only know a few.

If you don't cut it rose geranium will grow old gnarly branches that make long lasting coals. Its best quality for me is the beautiful humus it produces, when one looks at the foot of a rose geranium the soil is black and comely.  I use it a lot to make soil from the 16 m deep solid clay I farm on.  I chop for mulch - for which it is very handy since it doesn't seed and will not self root if you lay it on its side - and compost heaps. Once I am done extracting from leaves for soap these go onto the worms which they love.

I have been thinking a lot about the landscape as a total system of water and energy flows, there is a way you can see plants as water pumping mechanisms powered by the sun. That is affecting how I evaluate plants. Key to making this work is to accumulate humus in the soil and so 90% of what I do is aimed at that. If I were to start over I would simply plant guilds of sweet thorn (Acacia karoo), rose geranium (pelargonium graveolens) and silver wormwood, water till established and then do nothing for a couple of years while they sorted out the ecosystem.  I did everything backwards (planted fruit trees first) but then hindsight is 20/20 vision :)
 
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Location: Australia, New South Wales. Köppen: Cfa (Humid Subtropical), USDA: 10/11
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When I was in Papua New Guinea up in the Highland villages, a few of them had outdoor showers contained within a banana and bamboo grove, surrounded with nasturtium plants. A rough timber platform stopped muddy feet and a wooden/bamboo door attached to one of the mature bamboo stems provided privacy - it was impossible to see into or out of the grove, in fact, it needed a light!

Water was diverted from roofs into a steel water tank that was placed uphill - gravity fed water. Some were from an uphill spring using poly-pipe.

The bamboo was used for construction, cooking (like a steamer) and the young shoots eaten. The bananas and nasturtiums were used as snack food. (Best bananas I've ever had.) Also, they grew coffee bushes in the nearby moist soil.


 
Nathanael Szobody
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Natasha Abrahams wrote:Nathaniel for understory my favourite is rose geranium, simply because it copes with our very difficult climate, yields high amounts of biomass for minute amounts of work, and can be used for the soaps. Its leaves can be used in cooking to flavour cakes and in a cordial.



Wow, that sounds pretty useful. I'll have to see if i can find any in country, but i kind of doubt it.

Natasha Abrahams wrote:Tried pigeon pea once but the snails ate it in the winter. You make it sound so good I feel like trying it again with more care this time.



You've got snails, I've got termites :-) Pigeon pea should be perennial, living for about five it six years. Mine, however, get to well in the dry season and the termites attack. But i still get one good harvest out of them.
 
Nathanael Szobody
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F Agricola wrote:When I was in Papua New Guinea up in the Highland villages, a few of them had outdoor showers contained within a banana and bamboo grove, surrounded with nasturtium plants. A rough timber platform stopped muddy feet and a wooden/bamboo door attached to one of the mature bamboo stems provided privacy - it was impossible to see into or out of the grove, in fact, it needed a light!

Water was diverted from roofs into a steel water tank that was placed uphill - gravity fed water. Some were from an uphill spring using poly-pipe.

The bamboo was used for construction, cooking (like a steamer) and the young shoots eaten. The bananas and nasturtiums were used as snack food. (Best bananas I've ever had.) Also, they grew coffee bushes in the nearby moist soil.




Yeah, I'm kind of jealous of those wet tropics that don't have termites You can do some cool stuff with bamboo.
 
Natasha Abrahams
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Could there be an ecosystem problem with the termites? I can tell you that with snails there is a direct correlation between the number of snails and the number of cats I have in the house. Right now I have three and we are having a cool and rainy autumn - quite unlike the long dry one we used to have - so I am assuming that there will be plague of snails come spring. The baby ducks and guineafowls don't make it to adulthood when there are too many cats about and so the snails thrive. I am trying to grow more of a wetland in my dam in the hope that the trees and reeds will offer the birds more cover. Sure will miss it if there are no ducklings this spring.
What would be a parallel for termites?
 
Nathanael Szobody
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Interesting thought Natasha. I've noticed that termites leave when there is abundant humic topsoil or year round humidity. Basically they're holding down the top soil where the hot and long dry season would destroy it. They process the dry organic material, add nitrogen (according to one bit of research i read they likely have nitrogen fixing bacteria in their gut), and glue the soil together with their feces so that when the rains hit the fertility is ready to get to work.
 
Natasha Abrahams
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WOW! Sounds like they are worth a few pigeon peas :) So basically it is a problem that should resolve itself as your soil heals? If you have space maybe plant a sacrificial crop or a few extra plants so that they may be persuaded to leave you some.

I struggle with the rapid rate of breakdown as temperatures rise as well.  Couldn't seem to do better than chop and drop till I am tired. That is how I started getting interested in plants that produce a high degree of mulch material for little care.  Am very fond of pumpkins because they not only produce great mulch but also chop and drop themselves, all you have to do is cut off the water supply when they are where you want them. Oh, and they also produce food sometimes...
 
Nathanael Szobody
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Yeah, the rate of growth is certainly a big challenge in the hot tropics; but it is also our fertility motor. I hope to experiment with a scythe in the near future so the 'chop' becomes 'mow.' If a weekly mow is all that's needed to maintain fertility, then that would be a really sustainable system.
 
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Location: Qld, Australia. Zone 9a-10
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How much water do the bananas and papaya need? I thought they needed a lot of water, but have never tried growing them in drier places.
 
Nathanael Szobody
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Chris Wang wrote:How much water do the bananas and papaya need? I thought they needed a lot of water, but have never tried growing them in drier places.



They need LOTS of water! That's why I only really grow them off if my grey water runoff. Banana also produce copious mulch, so you get that product from the grey water as well.
 
Natasha Abrahams
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Scythe sounds great. I am planning to get a couple of sheep to cut back on my workload- they will cut, compost and distribute in the wilder areas if I ask them very nicely :)
 
Nathanael Szobody
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One of the zone 1 problems in Africa is critters: snakes and scorpions mainly. My shade trees and leaf plants need mulch to retain moisture in this hot climate, but critters love that cool spot too. Then if you have free range chickens that come up and scratch that mulch all over your outdoor living space...

On solution I've found is to bury the mulch. I did a trench around trees, bushes or plants, pack it with sticks and peanut shells, and then cover it all up with dirt a good 5cm deep. Chicken, snakes and scorpions don't like bare dirt, so the go on their merry way, while the tree benefits from an enormous amount of organic material and water retention under the ground. This year I happened to be digging around one of my zone 1 trees that I had done this to last year, and found a layer about 10 cm under the ground of pure compost--beautiful.
 
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