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Growing and interplanting polycultures of perennials with annuals in the hot dry arid climate

 
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Hello everyone. Please forgive my long post in advance.
I live in a very hot climate where it regularly gets around 48-50c in summers with no rain. Sometimes we don’t even have rain in winter, like was the case in the last two season. Thank God we had something this year, even if just a little. When it does rain in winter it’s usually a lot in a very short period of time, and then nothing. Temperature wise our winters are like some temperate climate summers, it can even get to 10c and on a few nights even colder, but the last few seasons it’s not too cold. When I read articles/books about perennial vegetables and fruits it’s usually geared towards the cold temperate climates. In the rare cases it mentions perennials for frost free climates it usually refers to subtropics/tropics that have lots of rain and not as high temperatures as ours, so even those veggies struggle as perennials here. When it comes to our climate, the advice is to grow perennials as annuals or omit them altogether. Either way we’re limited in what we can grow, and in the case of the former we’d have to start the seedlings yearly, or spend money to buy them, only to enjoy them for a few weeks. Well, not that it’s a bad choice, something is better than nothing, but I am not satisfied, there must be another way.  Summer growing is challenging but not impossible. With care, mulching, enough irrigation and a little shade we can grow food even in summer. A lot of it is annuals though. A lot of perennials suffer, but it’s not completely impossible to grow them too. I have just seen someone from my community post about their harvest of asparagus this year, after a 4 year wait. In another post in a neighboring country someone manages to keep their strawberries alive through summer by allowing them to go dormant. Yet others manage to keep their perennial herbs going through summer. So, in the spirit of permaculture I want to grow more perennials and I am determined, and I want to show others it’s possible. My biggest issue, is lack of information on our specific climate (most sources talk about the common annual veggies to be grown during the winter). Some people may have the info but they don’t share. I’ve bought various books but lots of info is pretty vague, or like I already mentioned talks about winter growing. I don’t mind letting the garden have a break, but in our brutal summers the soil life will die with bare soil, so it’s different from the winter break in colder climates. And I am coming close to my question. I recently saw a video of someone growing artichokes in a hot climate. The lady grows it in springs letting it go dormant in summer. While dormant she grows some annuals next to it, this provides shade and keeps the soil moist. So, one of my questions is this:
1) What are some annuals can you interplant with perennials in a hot climate in summer, that will provide shade yet won’t choke the perennial?

And my other question:
2) What are some perennial vegetables that will handle the heat by either growing through it, or going dormant and come back again after summer?

To give you a clearer picture let me give you an example of what we currently have. A vegetable that comes to mind is eggplant. It doesn’t fruit in summers, but once the weather starts cooling it starts producing again. Tomatoes don’t usually make it, they first stop producing and then die eventually. Cherry types can hang in there a little longer but eventually the heat kills them too. Kangkong will live all through summer, if adequate water is provided, but will choke anything it comes close to. Mulukhia (saluyot) loves the heat and is a possible choice to grow next to perennials.
What can you add? Any publication I should read? Videos to watch? I am always experimenting so would love to read other people’s experiences.
 
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I found your topic in our zero replies topics.

These may not offer an answer to your question though they may offer some suggestions:

https://permies.com/t/138792/tropical-food-forest#1255864

https://permies.com/t/146443/perennial-vegetables/Desert-Perennial-Vegetables

Maybe some of our forum members can answer your queations.

 
Yana Samir
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Anne Miller wrote:I found your topic in our zero replies topics.

These may not offer an answer to your question though they may offer some suggestions:

https://permies.com/t/138792/tropical-food-forest#1255864

https://permies.com/t/146443/perennial-vegetables/Desert-Perennial-Vegetables

Maybe some of our forum members can answer your queations.


Thank you
 
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Location: Sacramento, CA | Köppen Csa | USDA 9b
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50c is a challenge! There definitely aren't as many gardening resources for extremely hot/dry climates. If you're not already doing so, starting perennials in the fall might help. They might have an easier time establishing in the cool, mild weather. Then they'll already have well-developed roots when the brutal summer temperatures come.

These might be relevant to you:

https://permies.com/t/73449/Desert-food-guilds
https://www.permaculturenews.org/2016/05/06/mediterranean-tree-guilds-that-work/
https://thegrownetwork.com/a-perennial-food-guild-for-the-arid-american-southwest/
https://permies.com/t/156255/Mediterranean-Tree-Guilds

I like sprawling/vining annuals as companions for perennials. They provide low shade, but don't form dense-rooted thickets the way kangkong does. The perennials outgrow them and provide shade in return over time.

A few heat-loving annuals that might work for this (not sure if they're tolerant up to 50c, though):

sweet potato
cowpeas/black-eyed peas (allow to sprawl instead of trellising)
vining moschata squash (trombocino or butternut)
watermelon (maybe try a variety like desert king)
melon (maybe try a variety like ha-ogen)
unstaked vining cherry tomatoes (they seem to handle the heat better this way)

There are a bunch of hot/dry tolerant plant suggestions in this thread, including a list of my favorite perennials, but again, not sure if they'll be quite heat-hardy enough for your climate:

https://permies.com/t/165230/Species-Dryland-Mediterranean-Food-Woodland
 
pollinator
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I'm not certain some of my growing experiences would also work in your area, but I will pass on what I've experienced, see if it will help. I live in a slightly cooler area - 37-43C is the common temp during summers, but can go up to 47C every once in a while. Winters a few degrees cooler, often little to no water then, and while mid-summer we get some monsoon rains, the crops have to survive the hotter 'dry' summer month before that, so a lot of folks here have that 'let it go dormant during the hottest season' mindset as well (although then there is planting just after it, when rain comes.

So, to answer your questions:
1) Sunflowers have worked well as shade here - I choose some local varieties that a local conservation group sells that grow very tall, and are more heat adapted, but they die in the summer heat, so I have shade left over from them.

Corn is the same, but needs more water. But a row of corn does well for providing shade as well. I also use some heat adapted varieties of these.

Have used small bamboo/wood poles to make a tripod kind of shape and grown heat adapted beans (tepary ones, around here) over the poles to provide extra shade.

amaranth is common here as well, although I don't use it as much so I'm not sure if it might have a bit more of a 'choking out' issue with other plants.

Also, while not a specific plant, a technique to help provide shade has been to plant things too close together. For example, tomatoes. Planting bush tomatoes (indeterminate) really close together, so they are growing into each other, ends up making this much denser planted area within the bushes. So while the outside fries and turns brown, it leaves this inner area that is cooler and a bit more humid, a little micro-ecosystem, and can stay green and still give tomatoes for longer. Some years, it means I can keep the tomatoes alive through the summer, where they will start producing again after the heat ebbs a bit. But some years, it just makes it last longer than it normally would, is all.  Again, I tend to use some local varieties that are desert adapted (we have a local library that has a 'seed library' where people can donate seeds of the garden plants that produced. They are trying to build up a collection of desert adapted varieties, and so far, seems to be working. )

2)
Mexican yellowshow  (Amoreuxia palmatifida ) - I love this particular plant. They are small herbaceous bushes that only poke green above the ground when it is over 37C and they get a little water. The leaves are mild and edible (raw or cooked), the seeds are edible (raw when tender, cooked when hard - but small seeds/beans), the flowers are edible, and if you get a big crop and can dig a few up, the root is edible as well (cooked or...dried, I think). When it starts to get cold, and they get no more water, they die back completely, so you can't even tell they are there, until it is over 37C again and they are getting some water (they are native in areas where they get between 5-12 inches of water a year, almost all of it during mid-summer).  

Asparagus has done well in my area. i planted a patch and forgot about it for a few years when that patch was abandoned, and the asparagus is still alive and grows every year.  Needs more water to be thick, but it is still kicking, anyway!

Chiltepin might be a good choice, if you can find the most heat tolerant varieties. these are small, perennial, chile pepper bushes. The chiles are small and round, sometimes only 1 cm or less in size, but most are very hot so you can use just 1-3 for an entire dish, if want only a little heat. Mine wild-seeded in my yard, but always just slightly NE of a large bush or tree, for the shade. But they do well with fairly low water and high heat.

Wolfberry or hackberry bushes- both give berries, both adapted to high heat, but both might require water during mid-summer as both are used to a monsoon season, so...not sure if they would work, you know? There are desert and non-desert varieties of hackberry bushes, but unsure about wolfberry (wolfberry tastes MUCH better though). These can also get quite large, so might do as something to give shade eventually for an entire garden patch, you know?

malabar spinach - this is a climbing vine, with leaves that are thicker, and does well in high heat. Often used here in summers because the spinach doesn't survive or goes bitter with the heat.




Some other plants for seeds or leaves that folks grow here that can be hard to grow elsewhere, that might do all right in your area (but that I don't have much experience with): sesame, safflower (sometimes see the seeds with the Spanish name, Corrales Azafrán), okra, panic grass (a native grass with a very large seed that can be harvested and eaten), chia (used for the seeds), and pignut (spanish name: Guarijio Conivari, latin: Hyptis suaveolens) (used as an herb or to make tea, seeds or leaves used).Some of these might do for shade purposes as well.

Wish I had more in terms of garden veggies, but most of the really desert adapted things here are the larger perennials, like cactus and trees.

As for publications - while this guy might not be a perfect fit, this particular youtuber lives in a very hot desert as well, so often has a lot of desert-friendly plants and advice (this video is where he's visiting another desert gardener, so you get a two for one, sort of. ^_^ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XHgMrprGgIY&list=PL0SCyGoq8S_eEk33zMgiOJ1Olk0StYgCG&index=3 )

I am sure there are more, but I'm blanking at the moment. I'll pop back in to add more when I think of any.
 
Yana Samir
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Thank for such a detailed response

shauna carr wrote:
I'm not certain some of my growing experiences would also work in your area, but I will pass on what I've experienced, see if it will help. I live in a slightly cooler area - 37-43C is the common temp during summers, but can go up to 47C every once in a while. Winters a few degrees cooler, often little to no water then, and while mid-summer we get some monsoon rains, the crops have to survive the hotter 'dry' summer month before that, so a lot of folks here have that 'let it go dormant during the hottest season' mindset as well (although then there is planting just after it, when rain comes.

So, to answer your questions:
1) Sunflowers have worked well as shade here - I choose some local varieties that a local conservation group sells that grow very tall, and are more heat adapted, but they die in the summer heat, so I have shade left over from them.

Corn is the same, but needs more water. But a row of corn does well for providing shade as well. I also use some heat adapted varieties of these.

Have used small bamboo/wood poles to make a tripod kind of shape and grown heat adapted beans (tepary ones, around here) over the poles to provide extra shade.

amaranth is common here as well, although I don't use it as much so I'm not sure if it might have a bit more of a 'choking out' issue with other plants.

Also, while not a specific plant, a technique to help provide shade has been to plant things too close together. For example, tomatoes. Planting bush tomatoes (indeterminate) really close together, so they are growing into each other, ends up making this much denser planted area within the bushes. So while the outside fries and turns brown, it leaves this inner area that is cooler and a bit more humid, a little micro-ecosystem, and can stay green and still give tomatoes for longer. Some years, it means I can keep the tomatoes alive through the summer, where they will start producing again after the heat ebbs a bit. But some years, it just makes it last longer than it normally would, is all.  Again, I tend to use some local varieties that are desert adapted (we have a local library that has a 'seed library' where people can donate seeds of the garden plants that produced. They are trying to build up a collection of desert adapted varieties, and so far, seems to be working. )

2)
Mexican yellowshow  (Amoreuxia palmatifida ) - I love this particular plant. They are small herbaceous bushes that only poke green above the ground when it is over 37C and they get a little water. The leaves are mild and edible (raw or cooked), the seeds are edible (raw when tender, cooked when hard - but small seeds/beans), the flowers are edible, and if you get a big crop and can dig a few up, the root is edible as well (cooked or...dried, I think). When it starts to get cold, and they get no more water, they die back completely, so you can't even tell they are there, until it is over 37C again and they are getting some water (they are native in areas where they get between 5-12 inches of water a year, almost all of it during mid-summer).  

Asparagus has done well in my area. i planted a patch and forgot about it for a few years when that patch was abandoned, and the asparagus is still alive and grows every year.  Needs more water to be thick, but it is still kicking, anyway!

Chiltepin might be a good choice, if you can find the most heat tolerant varieties. these are small, perennial, chile pepper bushes. The chiles are small and round, sometimes only 1 cm or less in size, but most are very hot so you can use just 1-3 for an entire dish, if want only a little heat. Mine wild-seeded in my yard, but always just slightly NE of a large bush or tree, for the shade. But they do well with fairly low water and high heat.

Wolfberry or hackberry bushes- both give berries, both adapted to high heat, but both might require water during mid-summer as both are used to a monsoon season, so...not sure if they would work, you know? There are desert and non-desert varieties of hackberry bushes, but unsure about wolfberry (wolfberry tastes MUCH better though). These can also get quite large, so might do as something to give shade eventually for an entire garden patch, you know?

malabar spinach - this is a climbing vine, with leaves that are thicker, and does well in high heat. Often used here in summers because the spinach doesn't survive or goes bitter with the heat.




Some other plants for seeds or leaves that folks grow here that can be hard to grow elsewhere, that might do all right in your area (but that I don't have much experience with): sesame, safflower (sometimes see the seeds with the Spanish name, Corrales Azafrán), okra, panic grass (a native grass with a very large seed that can be harvested and eaten), chia (used for the seeds), and pignut (spanish name: Guarijio Conivari, latin: Hyptis suaveolens) (used as an herb or to make tea, seeds or leaves used).Some of these might do for shade purposes as well.

Wish I had more in terms of garden veggies, but most of the really desert adapted things here are the larger perennials, like cactus and trees.

As for publications - while this guy might not be a perfect fit, this particular youtuber lives in a very hot desert as well, so often has a lot of desert-friendly plants and advice (this video is where he's visiting another desert gardener, so you get a two for one, sort of. ^_^ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XHgMrprGgIY&list=PL0SCyGoq8S_eEk33zMgiOJ1Olk0StYgCG&index=3 )

I am sure there are more, but I'm blanking at the moment. I'll pop back in to add more when I think of any.

 
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I thought our area , south Texas USA was tough! We started getting 100 degree days in March-April and weeks of 100s in May. It's definitely getting hotter and drier here. I grow full sun plants in shade or part shade here. I'm 9a. You might try tree: jujubes, pomegranate, olive, citrus, opuntia cactus (the fruit are red, the green edible pads are called nopales/nopalitos). Mulberry bush/tree (with shade), pigweed/amaranth(greens and seed), cranberry hibiscus and roselle (maybe) bushes, date palm, acai palm, passioflower vine (P. edula), daylilies maybe as a winter annual, all parts are edible. Look at oasis pictures, take pictures of what fruit plants grow and send to local agriculture departments at local universities, if you have a smart phone and good Internet. Look at sites in Israel and the Middle East, depending on language translation ability, Australia (the interior is desert), where ever there is desert.  Keep trying! Good luck!
 
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I've lived in two regions that hit about 48C in the summer.  The one I'm in now is just under that.  Maybe what's worked for me would work for you?  Also I do have some great resources.

Here in the US, areas similar to what you describe are Palm Springs, California (and the greater region it's in is known as the Coachella Valley), and the areas around Phoenix, AZ and Tuscon, AZ.  Those areas are called the "Low Desert" here in the US.  They get to the temps you describe and don't have much of a winter. I live and lived in areas near those regions that are higher in elevation, and do get yearly freezes.

Here are some wonderful resources for growing in the low desert:

What plants need shade in a summer low desert garden

A Visual Guide to Growing Herbs in Low Desert

Garden Oracle - my favorite page on the site, this gives water use of different trees and shrubs Garden Oracle- Growing in Tucson, Phoenix, Arizona and California

Native Seed SEARCH Growing tips for the Low Desert

The Garden Oracle site does focus on fruit pretty heavily. I realize your asked about perennial vegetables that get along well with others.  Here is my list of what does well for me in my gardens.

Perennial arugula  - Diplotaxis erucoides  This makes a dense little stand, it has rhizomes, and you can pull it easily if it gets somewhere you don't want it. It is spicy. Yellow flowers attract pollinators.

Garlic chives - Allium tuberosum  These clump and expand, and you can break up the clumps and spread them easily. The flowers smell like hyacinth mixed with garlic. Butterflies go wild over this one.

Lemongrass - Cymbopogon citratus  Grows in thick clumps that spread very slowly in hot, dry areas.  Tough plant! Easiest and fastest way to start one is from a stalk from a store. Try lemongrass tea! So Good!

Cardoon - Cynara cardunculus I find cardoon way more vigorous and easy to grow than artichoke. They make a lot of leaves that can be composted, too.

Ginger & Turmeric - Here is a planting guide for growing ginger or turmeric in the low desert: How to grow ginger in the low desert I keep mine in a greenhouse, and that greenhouse easily, regularly is above 50C in the summers.

Moringa - Moringa oleifera and other species. You can keep moringa short by trimming it, or get a bush variety. Here is a great article about moringa from a Phoenix nursery: The Amazing Moringa Tree  

And an article about how to use moringa to purify water: Moringa seeds, how to use to purify water

Chufa - Cyperus esculentus var. sativus  It's a sedge that originated in Egypt. It grows in a wide range of environments. The tubers can be harvested, dried and stored a long time. They can be eaten as is or used to make a beverage that tastes similar to almond milk. It's the original horchata.  Delicious! Here are two articles about growing and using chufa:
Cultivariable- All about Chufa
Growing and using chufa

Parsley - Petroselinum crispum It is a biennial, but it survives surprisingly well in heat. Some shade helps, of course. I grow parsley both outside and in our very hot greenhouse.

Green Onions -Allium Fistulosum - I let these grow in clumps, and move clumps when they get big enough. They can take all sorts of weather.
Also Potato Onions - I like green and potato onions better than walking onions, but many people in desert environments like walking onions a lot.  Here is a great thread about potato onions: Potato Onions the easy to grow perennial bulbing onion

Roselle - Hibiscus sabdariffa These plants grow large, to about 1m around and tall and are beautiful in flower.  The plants make a lot of shade under them. The young leaves can be eaten, but roselle is mostly used for the calcyes - the fleshy outer "leaves" of a pollinated fruit capsule.  This is an indepth article about roselle, it's uses and the history of it being grown in the US. History of Roselle in the US, plus uses and cultivation tips  Hibiscus acetosella is another heat-loving edible form of hibiscus, one used for it's leaves.

New Zealand Spinach - Tetragonia tetragonoides - This plant is more heat tolerant than it's normally listed as being. It takes a little while to get going, then makes these delightful, fleshy leaves.

Prickly Pear Cactus - There are many different species. How you eat them is the YOUNG pads are harvested, your cut off the edges, and scrape the little spines off the flat parts of the pad. Then you can eat them fresh or cooked.  The pads are quite tasty grilled whole that way (once prepared to remove the spines). I also pickle them. There are many methods, and it's good to read up about it. The pads are also useful as sort of a desert hugelculture. You dig a hole for a plant, and put the pads at the bottom to compost and hold water.  The fruits of many varieties are delicious. And this plant can take the heat like almost nothing else.

Other herbs - Rosemary, Oregano, Fennel, Lemon Verbena, and culinary Sage. Also a type of thyme called Orange Basalm Thyme, though I also  grow other thymes. These plants are all very tough and have taken intense heat in my garden. That specific variety of thyme seems to take the most heat and drought, in my experience.

A native plant here that is tasty and heat tolerant is Jewels of Opar.  Here's an article on using and growing it: Southern Exposure blog about Jewels of Opar, the heat tolerant green I don't know if you could find that where you are located.  

Purslane - Portulaca oleracea - tastes similar and loves heat, but is an annual.  It grows in cracks in the sidewalk in some areas of AZ.  Purslane is very fleshy and tasty and makes a wonderful vegetable.

I think I've listed most of the tastiest perennials in my garden. Hmm. Actually, there are also Sunchokes (tuberous Sunflower, Helianthus tuberosus), and LabLab (Hyacinth Bean, Lablab purpureus), and passionflower. I guess the list goes on, I'm probably forgetting something!

If I had a seed source for it, I'd also try:
Marama bean - Tylosema esculentum  https://worldcrops.org/crops/marama-bean  That's a plant from South Africa that is reportedly one of the most heat and drought tolerant food plants. The seeds and tubers are eaten.

More is written about marama bean and other African crops in this book found here: African Indigenous Vegetables: An Overview of the Cultivated Species

If I had more heat for a longer period I'd try African Potato Mint African Potato Mint - Coleus (Plectranthus) esculentus on Wikipedia

Here's another publication that might interest you: ECHO Forum - Perennial Vegetables

ECHO has lots of free information you might like.  Search around there. They have more pages and presentations about perennial vegetables, underutilized crops, and highly heat and drought resistant crops.

Hope that helps!

Here is a neighbor across the street from the Lawton's Greening the Desert site in Jordan. She's done wonders in just two years, in extreme heat:


And this is a great set of videos for the Greening the Desert, Jordan, site itself:


One more video for inspiration.  This guy in Phoenix used a lot of water ad bark chip input, a more expensive way to do it, but he did manage to grow an amazing garden in Phoenix.  I found these videos inspiring when I first started, though I grow things very differently.



Here are some of my pictures.
desert-garden-Sept-2021.jpg
Mid September in the desert garden zone 8a
Mid September in the desert garden zone 8a
trellis-2021-summer.jpg
Gardening under a trellis for wind and sun protection
Gardening under a trellis for wind and sun protection
potato-onion-clumps.jpg
Potato onions selected from seed make decent sizes
Potato onions selected from seed make decent sizes
 
pollinator
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Hello Everyone,
Hi Variya and welcome to Permies. Both you and Kim Goodwin had so many great suggestions! Thank you so much for sharing. And I'm sure Yana appreciates it to. I'm always looking for something else I can grow in this heat and I will spend days looking into both of your suggestions. Someone else just recently suggested a date palm and nopales. Do you eat yours and if so, can I ask how you prepare them?

This is part of what my garden is like and this is what happened to my passion vine. https://permies.com/t/180637/Screaming-hot-spot-garden-grow
https://permies.com/t/181323/absurd-plant-expected#1426653  Growing in high desert country can be a challenge. I hope you will let us know if you have more suggestions. And thank you.
 
Debbie Ann
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Kim Goodwin, I have been scanning your post a bit this morning and it is wonderful! Thank you so much for including so much info! In the next week or two I intend to research every bit of it. And the pictures of your garden are terrific! Thank you so much.
 
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