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Starting a Fruit Food Forest in the desert

 
Posts: 11
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I need advice on preparing clay and sandy dirt to make it good for growing fruit trees/ tropicals. I don't want to break the bank with buying soil for a acre of land so what can I do to make it better?
I have seen people use mulch. Does this work?  I have about 1 year prep time then I would like to get some more trees in the ground. I'm in grow zone 10

I did plant a fig tree, peach, cara cara orange and a tarano orange, and moringa and they are doing well but I bought soil to plant them. I also made 3 huge garden beds again bought soil but the plants are doing well.

thanks
cj

 
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I lived in Arizona for 10 years so I know what "full sun" means.    If it were me I'd look at acacias, nitrogen fixers, to build biomass, trios, and shade.  Pick a spot where you can drive the water from your roof and build an oasis.  Build out from there.   Mulch get's vaporized in AZ (if you are in the valley), shade is king.

I had really good luck with Spanish Arbequina olives, olives, and some Tuscan varieties.   A lot of trees that do well in the dry areas of Australia do really well in AZ.   Paloverdes are nice but they don't build as much biomass.  

I'd also consider creating some kind of shade cloth area.  

Water, Shade, and Biomass would be my initial goals.
 
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In what part of Arizona are you located?

As you are in the desert, I would suggest reading as much as you can get your hands on with regards to water harvesting land features, and what can be done to increase water infiltration.

Clay and sandy dirt will need a lot of organic matter. If there aren't any pioneers that you can chop-and-drop, you should find out what leguminous shrubs live there, and what herbaceous weeds survive well where you are. I would suggest you make a list of these, and make sure that before the seasonal rains come, that you seed the whole acre with them.

Yes, I am telling you to plant everything in weeds. Only they're not weeds. They are the plants, and probably the only useful plants, that will grow in your conditions without soil, which you don't want to bring in for a whole acre.

I would grow them out and let them go to seed, chop-and-drop them and let everything grow again. If you want to bring in more soil to plant more trees, that's up to you, but actual soil-building takes more than a season, especially in the desert.

I would consider building stacked stone air wells, basically stacked stone piles, or arranged across the prevailing wind, probably on your north and west perimeters, arranged so that humid air can pass through the rock mass to that cool part constantly sheltered by the outer stone, cool enough to condense the moisture out of the air and into the soil.

On the windward side of the air well, I would plant a row of whatever leguminous shrub is local to the area, and whatever plant guild that naturally occurs or that you can add to around them. Such a barrier would serve to shade the air wells in the afternoon heat, making them more effective.

On the leeward side of the air wells is where I would concentrate natural soil building through planting of pioneer species and strategic chop-and-drop. The shelter and water of the air well nurtures new growth, which creates shelter and nurtures new growth, which creates shelter and nurtures new growth, and before you know it, you're planting with your back to your eastern and southern boundaries with verdant greenery stretching for an acre in front of you.

That you have clay in your soil is great for water retention, and that you already have sand there suggests that, once you get more organic matter there for bacteria to live on, and fungi to eat the bacteria and assist in the movement of soil resources from plant to plant, that all you will have to worry about is keeping the soil moisture levels above critical levels. For the bacteria, incidentally, I would suggest brewing aerated compost extracts to apply over your whole acreage, and fungal slurries to follow that. This might be a wet-season thing to do, but it's the single best way to amend your soil.

Check out The List of Dr. Redhawk's Epic Soil Threads. There is so much information about how soil-building works in those pages, if you don't find all the answers you need, you will at least know which questions to ask.

I hope your current plantings do well. I suggest your first air well experiments include your fig, peach, oranges and moringa. If you can get them to survive, they and any supportive guilds you plant around them will nurture the surrounding soil, and you will notice increased fertility downplume from your plantings.

In any case, good on you for just aspiring to do what you're doing. Pictures are always appreciated. But keep us posted, and good luck.

-CK
 
pollinator
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Hey Cj,

I live in zone 10. Bury stuff. If mulch is in full sun the top of it will not decompose. That's fine if you have such deep mulch that there are layers underneath that are staying moist. But I have concluded that burying the mulch is more effective in extreme heat.

Two principles that really help me:
1, The intensive nucleus. Pick one spot near the house that you will see and walk by multiple time a day, and really spoil that spot. Dig a huge pit, fill it with lots of mulch of any kind. Add some manure on top if you have it. If you don't, take a laxative (kidding!!! But you get my point.) Cover it all with dirt and plant a trees in it as closely together as you can allow. Then garden under the trees with your precious potting soil. Focus your watering and composting on that spot. It's an intensive nucleus. Year by year you can build out from there, but you know you will not get over-extended, and your getting double and triple duty from all of your nutrient and water applications.

Rather than composting kitchen scraps, just keep a shovel nearby and put your scraps under the surface of the soil in this area. With the heat you have they will decompose in no time. This sort of project can keep you happliy occupied for at least the first year. Just keep working out from there. You can dig more pits or trenches around your first one as your time and resources allow. If you have a slope on the property, put in swales on contour and double dig them and bury the mulch IN the swale. Spread the berm out. This is all a lot of work, but if you work from the intensive nucleus approach you only ever take on what you have the time for and can keep up with. My yard is an acre, and sometimes it's overwhealming. But today I just HARVESTED potting soil from my first intensive nucleus pit (as well as eating bananas and papayas out of it.) Now that pit is flanked by a laundry washing station to take all the grey water, and by a moringa garden on the other side. This year I added several more rows of moringas, olives and cherimoyas. Just working outward...
2, The niche in time and space. As for the rest of your property, I would stick stuff wherever you see a real niche for it. See a lightly shaded spot? put a few pomegranate trees there--if you can keep up with watering it. Do you have a place where water sits after a huge rain? Put in some almond or citrus trees. Big bare spot that you want to develop? Put in some mesquite trees that will creat shade for other stuff. Just always be looking for that perfect spot for something. But always keep in mind the energy and time needed to maintain it. And only do what you have the mulch to do properly to create a rich soil. There's nothing more frustrating that trees that don't grow.

One more suggestion: for a good fruit prickly pear does great in Arizona! You can plant a tree right next to it and the prickly pear will become a living mulch at its base to keep the ground cool.

-Nathanael
 
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Nathanael Szobody wrote:Hey Cj,

I live in zone 10. Bury stuff. If mulch is in full sun the top of it will not decompose. That's fine if you have such deep mulch that there are layers underneath that are staying moist. But I have concluded that burying the mulch is more effective in extreme heat.

Two principles that really help me:
1, The intensive nucleus. Pick one spot near the house that you will see and walk by multiple time a day, and really spoil that spot. Dig a huge pit, fill it with lots of mulch of any kind. Add some manure on top if you have it. If you don't, take a laxative (kidding!!! But you get my point.) Cover it all with dirt and plant a trees in it as closely together as you can allow. Then garden under the trees with your precious potting soil. Focus your watering and composting on that spot. It's an intensive nucleus. Year by year you can build out from there, but you know you will not get over-extended, and your getting double and triple duty from all of your nutrient and water applications.

Rather than composting kitchen scraps, just keep a shovel nearby and put your scraps under the surface of the soil in this area. With the heat you have they will decompose in no time. This sort of project can keep you happliy occupied for at least the first year. Just keep working out from there. You can dig more pits or trenches around your first one as your time and resources allow. If you have a slope on the property, put in swales on contour and double dig them and bury the mulch IN the swale. Spread the berm out. This is all a lot of work, but if you work from the intensive nucleus approach you only ever take on what you have the time for and can keep up with. My yard is an acre, and sometimes it's overwhealming. But today I just HARVESTED potting soil from my first intensive nucleus pit (as well as eating bananas and papayas out of it.) Now that pit is flanked by a laundry washing station to take all the grey water, and by a moringa garden on the other side. This year I added several more rows of moringas, olives and cherimoyas. Just working outward...
2, The niche in time and space. As for the rest of your property, I would stick stuff wherever you see a real niche for it. See a lightly shaded spot? put a few pomegranate trees there--if you can keep up with watering it. Do you have a place where water sits after a huge rain? Put in some almond or citrus trees. Big bare spot that you want to develop? Put in some mesquite trees that will creat shade for other stuff. Just always be looking for that perfect spot for something. But always keep in mind the energy and time needed to maintain it. And only do what you have the mulch to do properly to create a rich soil. There's nothing more frustrating that trees that don't grow.

One more suggestion: for a good fruit prickly pear does great in Arizona! You can plant a tree right next to it and the prickly pear will become a living mulch at its base to keep the ground cool.

-Nathanael



This is really great advice.  I lived in the desert as well, and mulch on the ground desiccates and lies there forever.  Your suggestions are dead-on.
 
pollinator
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Mulch like crazy. I had great luck using Mulberry leaves in Phoenix.
The worm population absolutely exploded.
 
Cj Costa
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Thank you all for your help. It has been over whelming but I will take all of the advice I can get.

This has been a huge change in our families lives both me and my wife had serious health issues and had to make some dramatic food changes.
We both only eat fruits and veggies. It is getting extremely expensive to buy everything.
That is what lead us to plant our own food even if we can get something it will help on the bills.
It is a  long time goal but you have to start somewhere. right

I thank everyone for your responses I will look over them and try. I will keep everyone updated.

At this point. I am working on irrigation and how to mulch some dead trees on the property also looking for places with free manure.
and so we start our food forest adventure.

 
Cj Costa
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Wayne Mackenzie wrote:Mulch like crazy. I had great luck using Mulberry leaves in Phoenix.
The worm population absolutely exploded.



yes this is a great idea I already ordered 2 types of mulberries. they are my favorite so it is a must to have. thanks
 
Cj Costa
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Trace Oswald wrote:

Nathanael Szobody wrote:Hey Cj,

I live in zone 10. Bury stuff. If mulch is in full sun the top of it will not decompose. That's fine if you have such deep mulch that there are layers underneath that are staying moist. But I have concluded that burying the mulch is more effective in extreme heat.

Two principles that really help me:
1, The intensive nucleus. Pick one spot near the house that you will see and walk by multiple time a day, and really spoil that spot. Dig a huge pit, fill it with lots of mulch of any kind. Add some manure on top if you have it. If you don't, take a laxative (kidding!!! But you get my point.) Cover it all with dirt and plant a trees in it as closely together as you can allow. Then garden under the trees with your precious potting soil. Focus your watering and composting on that spot. It's an intensive nucleus. Year by year you can build out from there, but you know you will not get over-extended, and your getting double and triple duty from all of your nutrient and water applications.

Rather than composting kitchen scraps, just keep a shovel nearby and put your scraps under the surface of the soil in this area. With the heat you have they will decompose in no time. This sort of project can keep you happliy occupied for at least the first year. Just keep working out from there. You can dig more pits or trenches around your first one as your time and resources allow. If you have a slope on the property, put in swales on contour and double dig them and bury the mulch IN the swale. Spread the berm out. This is all a lot of work, but if you work from the intensive nucleus approach you only ever take on what you have the time for and can keep up with. My yard is an acre, and sometimes it's overwhealming. But today I just HARVESTED potting soil from my first intensive nucleus pit (as well as eating bananas and papayas out of it.) Now that pit is flanked by a laundry washing station to take all the grey water, and by a moringa garden on the other side. This year I added several more rows of moringas, olives and cherimoyas. Just working outward...
2, The niche in time and space. As for the rest of your property, I would stick stuff wherever you see a real niche for it. See a lightly shaded spot? put a few pomegranate trees there--if you can keep up with watering it. Do you have a place where water sits after a huge rain? Put in some almond or citrus trees. Big bare spot that you want to develop? Put in some mesquite trees that will creat shade for other stuff. Just always be looking for that perfect spot for something. But always keep in mind the energy and time needed to maintain it. And only do what you have the mulch to do properly to create a rich soil. There's nothing more frustrating that trees that don't grow.

One more suggestion: for a good fruit prickly pear does great in Arizona! You can plant a tree right next to it and the prickly pear will become a living mulch at its base to keep the ground cool.

-Nathanael



This is really great advice.  I lived in the desert as well, and mulch on the ground desiccates and lies there forever.  Your suggestions are dead-on.




unfortunately I can't plant right near the house due to house set up. I have a septic on one side and road on the other. but beyond the porch I can plant.


I have already planted 5 types of cactus ( they are doing great)and a Peruvian apple (already fruited) and dragon fruit. I'm just planting like a crazy person but seeing what works. I even planted sunflower which came out amazing.

I uploaded the picture of the Peruvian apple cactus in blossom. it was an amazing process. THe apple taste just like a dragon fruit but smaller. I have so far planted all the cactus , aloe, sunflowers, herbs in the front of the house, and all the fruit in the back and veggies on the side. not sure this will work but giving it a try.

peruvianapple.jpg
[Thumbnail for peruvianapple.jpg]
 
Cj Costa
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Chris Kott wrote:In what part of Arizona are you located?

As you are in the desert, I would suggest reading as much as you can get your hands on with regards to water harvesting land features, and what can be done to increase water infiltration.

Clay and sandy dirt will need a lot of organic matter. If there aren't any pioneers that you can chop-and-drop, you should find out what leguminous shrubs live there, and what herbaceous weeds survive well where you are. I would suggest you make a list of these, and make sure that before the seasonal rains come, that you seed the whole acre with them.

Yes, I am telling you to plant everything in weeds. Only they're not weeds. They are the plants, and probably the only useful plants, that will grow in your conditions without soil, which you don't want to bring in for a whole acre.

I would grow them out and let them go to seed, chop-and-drop them and let everything grow again. If you want to bring in more soil to plant more trees, that's up to you, but actual soil-building takes more than a season, especially in the desert.

I would consider building stacked stone air wells, basically stacked stone piles, or arranged across the prevailing wind, probably on your north and west perimeters, arranged so that humid air can pass through the rock mass to that cool part constantly sheltered by the outer stone, cool enough to condense the moisture out of the air and into the soil.

On the windward side of the air well, I would plant a row of whatever leguminous shrub is local to the area, and whatever plant guild that naturally occurs or that you can add to around them. Such a barrier would serve to shade the air wells in the afternoon heat, making them more effective.

On the leeward side of the air wells is where I would concentrate natural soil building through planting of pioneer species and strategic chop-and-drop. The shelter and water of the air well nurtures new growth, which creates shelter and nurtures new growth, which creates shelter and nurtures new growth, and before you know it, you're planting with your back to your eastern and southern boundaries with verdant greenery stretching for an acre in front of you.

That you have clay in your soil is great for water retention, and that you already have sand there suggests that, once you get more organic matter there for bacteria to live on, and fungi to eat the bacteria and assist in the movement of soil resources from plant to plant, that all you will have to worry about is keeping the soil moisture levels above critical levels. For the bacteria, incidentally, I would suggest brewing aerated compost extracts to apply over your whole acreage, and fungal slurries to follow that. This might be a wet-season thing to do, but it's the single best way to amend your soil.

Check out The List of Dr. Redhawk's Epic Soil Threads. There is so much information about how soil-building works in those pages, if you don't find all the answers you need, you will at least know which questions to ask.

I hope your current plantings do well. I suggest your first air well experiments include your fig, peach, oranges and moringa. If you can get them to survive, they and any supportive guilds you plant around them will nurture the surrounding soil, and you will notice increased fertility downplume from your plantings.

In any case, good on you for just aspiring to do what you're doing. Pictures are always appreciated. But keep us posted, and good luck.

-CK



love this idea. I'm going to try this
 
Cj Costa
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Scott Foster wrote:I lived in Arizona for 10 years so I know what "full sun" means.    If it were me I'd look at acacias, nitrogen fixers, to build biomass, trios, and shade.  Pick a spot where you can drive the water from your roof and build an oasis.  Build out from there.   Mulch get's vaporized in AZ (if you are in the valley), shade is king.

I had really good luck with Spanish Arbequina olives, olives, and some Tuscan varieties.   A lot of trees that do well in the dry areas of Australia do really well in AZ.   Paloverdes are nice but they don't build as much biomass.  

I'd also consider creating some kind of shade cloth area.  

Water, Shade, and Biomass would be my initial goals.



I was thing a large shade structure like that have at nurseries for trees. or try to get the moringa large enough to do that.
 
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You can usually get free mulch from your local transfer station. If you dont have a truck, take a trash can, put trash bag in and fill up the bag. My back can handle about 6 bags,at a time. And find people with goats, horses, sheep, etc to harvest poop from. I use the same bag method from a neighbor with horses.
And start planting perrenials. I plant 2 year crowns of purple asparagus in the tree wells of every new tree. Buy on Amazon.
Also artichokes, and rhubarb. Im eating all 3 right now!
I have them planted in my hazelnut guild.
ive also been known to pick up bags of leaves left by the road on trash pickup day.
And you can call tree trimmer companies, they have to pay at the transfer station to dump their chipped trees. ive had them dump them in my yard for free.
 
Cj Costa
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Leila Blair wrote:You can usually get free mulch from your local transfer station. If you dont have a truck, take a trash can, put trash bag in and fill up the bag. My back can handle about 6 bags,at a time. And find people with goats, horses, sheep, etc to harvest poop from. I use the same bag method from a neighbor with horses.
And start planting perrenials. I plant 2 year crowns of purple asparagus in the tree wells of every new tree. Buy on Amazon.
Also artichokes, and rhubarb. Im eating all 3 right now!
I have them planted in my hazelnut guild.
ive also been known to pick up bags of leaves left by the road on trash pickup day.
And you can call tree trimmer companies, they have to pay at the transfer station to dump their chipped trees. Ive had them dump them in my yard for free.



fantastic idea. I'm going to track down some tree companies. I will need to cover about 1 acre of land in thick mulch for what I have planed. I'm thinking I need about 30 truck loads. But I will start small for now to get things going.
What is your advice on irrigation. Drip, soak or hose?
I'm going to try to focus on fruit trees and garden veggies and herbs.
 
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This guy built a food forest in Arizona that's pretty neat. He has a lot of videos:

 
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You might also get some ideas from the Greening the Desert project in Jordan:  


They're actually gardening on almost solid rock, so they have to make all their own soil.
 
Wayne Mackenzie
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Meg Mitchell wrote:This guy built a food forest in Arizona that's pretty neat. He has a lot of videos:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qQkU18uVZyY&t=8s


Not ripping the guy, but he will not answer when asked how much water he uses. He will only say a lot.
 
Meg Mitchell
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Wayne Mackenzie wrote:

Meg Mitchell wrote:This guy built a food forest in Arizona that's pretty neat. He has a lot of videos:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qQkU18uVZyY&t=8s


Not ripping the guy, but he will not answer when asked how much water he uses. He will only say a lot.



Oh, I had no idea. 🙊That's really too bad; I wasn't sure exactly how much rainfall Arizona gets and so I looked it up and it's 1/30 of what I get here and even I'm a bit concerned about water usage since I don't get my rainfall evenly throughout the year. From his videos (at least what I saw), he made it seem as though he was relying pretty heavily on his mulch and the tree canopy. It would be interesting to see what a more water-friendly food forest in AZ looks like.
 
Leila Blair
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i have a PVC drip system and it works pretty good, but i still have to drag hoses around and deep water some trees. The pineapple guavas are fine with just the drip, but the nut trees need more water.
i use 4 way splitters with shorter hoses on a long hose so i can water 4 trees at a time. That way i can leave it on overnight or when im gone all day.
My veggy garden is a 30 ft circle so i can use a sprinkler. Also use a sprinkler in the hazelnut guild.
And i have a hose system going to my  newer pine tree
guild. The older ones have hit ground water so dont have to water them anymore.
And i have volunteer mulberries and peach trees coming up everywhere. I give lots of baby trees away.
just found 3 four foot mulberries under the pine trees, gave the middle one away, leaving the other 2 there.
And these are all from a volunteer mulberry! ive never planted one!
ive been here 25 years and have 4 acres, so i can go crazy. But the back acre is fenced off for my miniature horse and 5 Nigerian goats.
my biggest problem is finding frost hardy food plants. i go down to 10 degrees on winter nights. Even had frost in the middle if MAY! A few burned leaves on my biggest pecan tree and the newest rhubarbs.
if you stay above 30 degrees try to find some Arivaca avocado trees. Makes me crazy that im too cold for them!
 
Cj Costa
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Leila Blair wrote:i have a PVC drip system and it works pretty good, but i still have to drag hoses around and deep water some trees. The pineapple guavas are fine with just the drip, but the nut trees need more water.
i use 4 way splitters with shorter hoses on a long hose so i can water 4 trees at a time. That way i can leave it on overnight or when im gone all day.
My veggy garden is a 30 ft circle so i can use a sprinkler. Also use a sprinkler in the hazelnut guild.
And i have a hose system going to my  newer pine tree
guild. The older ones have hit ground water so dont have to water them anymore.
And i have volunteer mulberries and peach trees coming up everywhere. I give lots of baby trees away.
just found 3 four foot mulberries under the pine trees, gave the middle one away, leaving the other 2 there.
And these are all from a volunteer mulberry! ive never planted one!
ive been here 25 years and have 4 acres, so i can go crazy. But the back acre is fenced off for my miniature horse and 5 Nigerian goats.
my biggest problem is finding frost hardy food plants. i go down to 10 degrees on winter nights. Even had frost in the middle if MAY! A few burned leaves on my biggest pecan tree and the newest rhubarbs.
if you stay above 30 degrees try to find some Arivaca avocado trees. Makes me crazy that im too cold for them!



Great advice. I'm thinking pvc drip too. I have been looking for mulberries but no one ships to az. That I found anyway and I'm looking for female and male date palms that I can eat the dates. I figure to start with plants that do very well in heat and are easy then move into the harder plants. I started some mangos, ice cream bean, and moringa and 3 garden beds so far. But I'm limited on what I can do due to health issues. but we will get there. Thank you for your info. It's very helpful.
 
Cj Costa
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Meg Mitchell wrote:This guy built a food forest in Arizona that's pretty neat. He has a lot of videos:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qQkU18uVZyY&t=8s



yes I have seen alot of the videos. That is what I'm going for but more fruit trees. thanks so much
 
Wayne Mackenzie
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Cj Costa wrote:

Great advice. I'm thinking pvc drip too. I have been looking for mulberries but no one ships to az. That I found anyway and I'm looking for female and male date palms that I can eat the dates. I figure to start with plants that do very well in heat and are easy then move into the harder plants. I started some mangos, ice cream bean, and moringa and 3 garden beds so far. But I'm limited on what I can do due to health issues. but we will get there. Thank you for your info. It's very helpful.


I’ve bought Mulberries online from Burnt Ridge and Rolling River.
My Mulberries always get hit with a late frost and die to the rootstock.
I have a Silk Hope that made it through this last winter, but it’s not happy for some reason.
 
Chris Kott
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It sounds like the diurnal temperature change is the hardest thing to deal with after the heat and lack of moisture. Do you people out there have any special techniques that you use to enhance your frost drainage?

-CK
 
Leila Blair
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Location: Palominas, az
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About frost:
since i go down to 10 degrees ive developed several tricks.
when i first planted my guavas i piled dead yucca bases around the trunks then threw old blankets and quilts over the tops. In spring had to cut off about 7 " of dead tops, but they lived. Dont have to protect now, theyre healthy and productive.
Ive collected a HUGE lot of glass cake toppers, cheese toppers and tall glass vases to use as cloches. I cover the young veggy plants with those and throw quilts over them at night.
Taller plants get tomato cages with sheer curtains durung the day and quilts at night.
i have a 6x8 greenhouse with a gravel filled  sink hole in the floor and grow light and big Chistmas lights.
It stays REALLY warm in there and was working great for starting plants until the mice tunneled in and started eating everything.
To thwart the grasshoppers i have a collection of wire trash cans to put over veggy plants.
i obviously spend ALOT of time in thrift shops, swap meets, garage sales gathering all this stuff. i also have 3 old wringer washing machines planted with chard, parsley and onions. They have tomato cages with sheer curtains over to keep birds out. Tomatos and potatos are planted in metal trash cans and covered.
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Cj Costa wrote:

Leila Blair wrote:You can usually get free mulch from your local transfer station. If you dont have a truck, take a trash can, put trash bag in and fill up the bag. My back can handle about 6 bags,at a time. And find people with goats, horses, sheep, etc to harvest poop from. I use the same bag method from a neighbor with horses.
And start planting perrenials. I plant 2 year crowns of purple asparagus in the tree wells of every new tree. Buy on Amazon.
Also artichokes, and rhubarb. Im eating all 3 right now!
I have them planted in my hazelnut guild.
ive also been known to pick up bags of leaves left by the road on trash pickup day.
And you can call tree trimmer companies, they have to pay at the transfer station to dump their chipped trees. Ive had them dump them in my yard for free.



fantastic idea. I'm going to track down some tree companies. I will need to cover about 1 acre of land in thick mulch for what I have planed. I'm thinking I need about 30 truck loads. But I will start small for now to get things going.
What is your advice on irrigation. Drip, soak or hose?
I'm going to try to focus on fruit trees and garden veggies and herbs.


Also electrical companies that do cutting under electrical lines. See if chipdrop is active in your area. Look for logging companies (although unlikely), landscapers, and farmers in the area that may need to dispose of waste. Anyone who might have waste you could use to build soil. With health problems I wouldn't even bother with spreading it much, just have them drop it in a designated spot and let it compost. Within a year or two you should be able to plant in between the piles into real soil rather than sand or clay. Saves them money by not having to pay to dump it, saves you time and money as well. Use your imagination. When you're driving through a city and someone is raking leaves, ask for them. Landscaper with bags of grass in the back, tell them where you live and that they're welcome to dump grass on your property. Or just get their phone number and call them later. Some grocery stores throw out a huge amount of produce, so ask them to keep it for you and pick it up once a week. Coffee companies as well.

Also check out this gentleman. He's growing in the Arizona dessert as well, but mostly vegetables under shelter. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K9Vk1iS0W5o
 
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I live in desert that is as dry as Arizona but colder. All gardens here are done with what I think is called waffle beds in the southwest US: low basins that you fill with water, either from a slow moving small canal, or from a hose. We don't use sprinklers here. I'm a great fan of mulch, as it visibly improves the soil even in the first season, keeps the top of the soil damp so it stays soft and absorbs water readily, keeps a living ecosystem in the topsoil, and starts to break down. Slower than in a rainier climate but yes it breaks down. I usually water using a hose to one corner of the bed, on top of the mulch.
 
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