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Just moved to Tucson

 
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I moved in with my daughter in Tucson about two weeks ago and never realized I had stereotypical misconceptions about cactus plants. I just assumed they were all green.  Until this morning at the Tucson Botanical Gardens. There was a hairy albino that made me think it looked like the Abominable Snowman of the Desert in cactus form.



That wasn't the only thing that surprised me.  It seems even the cats in Arizona sharpen their claws on cactus! This particular kind of cactus develops a wood-like trunk as it grows taller and ages.  So it works just as well as any other tree as far as cat clawing is concerned.  I only have a picture of the cactus tree, not the cat using it as a scratching post.   When I first saw the cat sharpening it's claws I just stood there wowed, and by the time I even thought of taking a picture, the cat was gone and only the cactus tree remained.  There are community cats here which no one claims personal ownership of, but that everyone feeds, waters and pets.  They come to visit me throughout the day so I'm still hoping for another scratch fever photo op.



Even though I've lived in Texas most my life, Houston just doesn't have the desert landscape plants that Arizona does.  So it was quite novel for me to see what people have done in my daughter's apartment community courtyards.

Aloe vera in a strawberry planter next to a berry bush:


Who knew some cactus stalks might need to be staked?


Group planting:






Decorating with stone, brick, tree trunks:




The outside of my daughter's apartment hasn't really had a personal touch like the rest of the courtyards here.  Someone put down gravel rocks, probably thinking that would be an easy decorating solution, but failed to think about the shedding of the trees above.  My daughter asked if she could plant things there and was told to make it as care-free long term as possible, which is kind of a permaculture dream come true.  She hasn't had time to do anything with it yet but asked for my help.  I figured I'd start by trying to rake most of the stones out of it but beyond that I don't know.  I'm not a permie like she is.  It's mostly shaded and receives some afternoon sun about 2 feet up.  The trees above and fence and building on the sides shades the actual ground.  I haven't adjusted for the different path of the sun in summer, though, but don't imagine it's significantly different.  The patch runs north and south.  Anyone have any ideas I can pass along to her?  I really like that whoever built the fence made a point to cut out spaces for the tree branches and tree trunk.  That was really thoughtful.









 
Heather A. Downs
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I'm having problems getting the pictures to show up.  I tried sharing links from both facebook posts and google drive.  Anyone know where I can host them so I can share them here?
 
gardener & hugelmaster
Posts: 2007
Location: mountains of Tennessee
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Hi Heather. Welcome to permies. You can post them here by using the attachment tab (below the box used for typing messages) then by selecting upload a file. There are a couple other methods but that one seems easiest. Please feel free to use the report button if you need additional assistance.
 
Heather A. Downs
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Thank you Mike, found a temporary workaround.
 
steward & bricolagier
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Hi Heather!
Link to How to Post an Image on Permies.com  that may explain more to you.
That is one of the links on this list:  How permies.com works - links to useful threads
All kinds of neat info on that page.
One more link: we have a whole section called Tinkering with this site and asking a question there about how to do things, or get help, gets fast responses. Lots of nice, smart people watch that forum.

Other than the gravel, what is the soil like in that bed? Does she want ornamental, food production or just anything that might not die? Is she willing to water it? To improve the soil? Or does she want to work with what's there?
Fair warning, a classic permaculture answer is "it depends!" so what can grow there depends on at least those factors. More info will help us suggest things that might fit the goal.

Moving to the desert is a shock, isn't it? I fairly recently went the other way, New Mexico to Missouri, and it's just as shocking. Never thought I'd pull honeysuckle as a weed, I put so much work into growing it in NM.

Good to meet you!
:D





 
Heather A. Downs
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Hi Pearl!  Kristen said the soil is sandy/ loamy with clay and some caliche.  She wants something with a purpose, preferably vegetable and/or herbal and ornamental only if it feeds bees or hummingbirds.  She said she's willing to water it and add amendments.  She's worried about the lack of sun and it getting colder in winter.  The trees growing on the other side of the fence are mesquite.  There may be an hour or so of sunlight overhead filtered through the mesquite trees but I haven't seen any sun hit the ground directly except for the far corner in the afternoon, but maybe that's only because it's been overcast most days I've been here.  I told her  the sun I see hits the fence two feet up in the afternoon so she might want to start planting there for vegetables, maybe in containers on tables.  She also REALLY wants to make an herbal spiral, but I don't know if this is the best location for that.  The irony is that she knows more than I do about gardening and permaculture, but I have more time.  She's working two part time jobs that total 50 hours a week, so she hasn't had the time to really work this stuff out.

As for north and south moves... I just moved from Michigan where I spent most of the past five years back to Texas a couple months ago, and now here to Arizona.  I really love it in Michigan and might move back there but don't plan to real soon.  One of the things I couldn't help but notice is that 30 degrees might be one of the worst freezing days out of the year in the south, but its one of the best warmer days in Michigan winters.  Everyone is in such a better mood, takes a layer or two off and comments on the nice weather - whereas in the south in Houston, it being such a cold miserable day, everyone is bundled up, more tight lipped and less friendly, just wants to hurry back into the warm indoors.  My first summer in Michigan it was still snowing in May, which was completely shocking to me.  I kept saying, "But it's May!  May 15th!"  And they kept saying, "Yeah" like what did May 15th have anything to do with it - absolutely nothing!  I experienced plenty of other things I took for granted, unknowingly assumed without really thinking about, etc. - everything from not realizing mosquitos, ants and ticks were alive and well up north, even surviving the winters somehow, to common bear sightings crossing through towns, on back porches near trash cans and bird feeders, etc. and public warnings to "separate yourself from your food" while summer camping, which apparently is the kind of common sense that's uncommon for tourists and even some locals.  My first year there I told Kristen I was going to set up a booth at the Mesick Mushroom Festival, and she said, "Wait.  You mean they actually have a festival for fungus?"  I laughed and told her it sounded funny when she put it that way, "festival for fungus" but that yes, they did, that morels were considered a fine culinary mushroom, and sold for $50 lb.  People from all over the world come to mushroom hunt in the woods.  I used to go for walks in the woods of Louisiana for hours at a timewhen I lived there as a teenager, so being surrounded by the woods and hills of Michigan after years of Houston city congestion and depression was very therapeutic for me.  Now the mountains of Arizona call to me.  Hiking to a particular mountain peak configuration is in my near future.  I hope you enjoy where you are now, and make or already have good, solid friends, and share some of the local lore, habits and habitats with us.
 
gardener
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Location: South of Capricorn
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Hi there!! I had the pleasure of visiting Tucson some years ago and I fell in love with it. I also loved the mix between city and country (we saw a bobcat in town coming back one night) and the hiking was amazing. And the Botanical Garden was great!!!
Recently I heard about a program where cacti and other native plants are catalogued and stored when they are removed from building sites, and then people can acquire them. I've hunted high and low and can't seem to find out if it still exists, but it might be worth asking around. There is also a group that has some info on native plants that are adapted to dry spells, which might be helpful for you. http://www.amwua.org/plants
 
Heather A. Downs
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Thank you for that link Tereza!  I'm able to search through their plant profiles by amt. of sun, which is definitely a nice time-saver!

Here's a link to one of the sites I used when moving to Michigan because I wanted to feed the bees like I had been in Houston.  You just put in a zip code and get a regional pdf download of plant species.
Ecoregional Planting Guides for Pollinators


Here's a pic of the soil in that patch.  I scraped away some of the stones and mesquite leaves, about an two inches down:





 
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Location: Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep clay/loam with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
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Hi Heather,
Your cactus photos are great!

You are in good company there in Tucson.  Brad Lancaster lives there and there is a whole neighborhood where he has implemented his water harvesting techniques.  
https://www.mprnews.org/story/2014/05/29/ground-level-beneath-the-surface-tucson-rain-man
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brad_Lancaster

We have family there so take the train out every few years and wander.  Great public transportation and walking town too.  
We like staying at the Roadrunner hostel and the last time stayed at a wonderful airbnb in the historic barrio santa rosa neighborhood.

and the farmer's market on the west side...walking distance from the barrio...near A mountain...such excellent produce.  We filled up our bags with fresh dates and dried persimmons, little pippin apples for the train....might be a good place to get advice on growing there too?


There's a place called Native Seed Search (I think?) that has, among other things local seeds.


 
Heather A. Downs
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Hi Judith!  I've started a list of places to visit in Tucson, and Brad Lancaster's grey watered property is one at the top.  There's also a permaculture community here in Tucson I want to check out.  While I'm a nature lover in general, it's my daughter Kristen that is more the initial inspiration for my learning and getting more involved with all of this.  She's already done field harvesting, help managed a solar powered organic farm in Benson, ran a booth at their farmers market, gives local nature tours once a month, works at the botanical gardens, etc.  So my ignorance and lack of how-to isn't necessarily hers.  But she asked me for help without being specific, other than to say there was no way she'd be able to manage a vegetable garden by herself while working and going to school.  
I think this was something she didn't figure she'd have the time to do right away, so she didn't put a lot of thought into it past general ideas, but then realized my being here can provide woman-hours to get some of it done.  So now it's more feasible from a time and human resource perspective.  Maybe I should just ask her to give me a "Honey Dew" list.  LOL  Well, she did show me a whole list of 15+ downloaded books on her laptop (and said most of them came from this site) and told me "You can start by reading these".  But I'm one of those people who can come up with things like, "What if there's a geomagnetic storm that wipes out all the internet, or something worse than Fahrenheit 451, and someone needs to have this information but it was only stored in digital format?"  She agreed, but said a lot of the actual books are really expensive.  So for one of her Christmas presents I paid a pretty penny getting a hard copy of Permaculture I by Bill Mollison, one of the books not on her downloaded list.   Now that I've written all of this, I'm beginning to wonder exactly what plans she has for me that she hasn't told me about!  Honey Do list indeed!
 
Judith Browning
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Location: Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep clay/loam with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
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Now that I've written all of this, I'm beginning to wonder exactly what plans she has for me that she hasn't told me about!  Honey Do list indeed!


haha...can't wait to hear the projects.

When we travel I always look at areas in terms of growing a garden...Tucson looks difficult but not impossible

Good luck!
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