So, in the spring of this year I planted 12 new fruittrees on my property and my girlfriend's property in the northern AZ high desert. Six apples, two apricots, two pears, one cherry, and two peaches. Each tree went into a hole prepped with a bed of wood and horse manure (see that process here), with the intent of reducing irrigation needs and frankly just getting them to survive at all. Our annual rainfall here is about 14-16 inches per year, with a significant chunk of that coming in the late summer monsoon season. Well, we're heading into the end of that monsoon season, and so it looks like we'll have to start irrigating again soon (in the last few months, the trees have only been watered once, thanks to the regular rain we get this time of year). The seeds I planted around the saplings have done pretty well, despite receiving literally zero attention. We actually harvested food (real food! from the property!) this weekend, including green beans, turnips, and a nice squash.
Here are some photos:
My two oldest apples, planted two season ago. The left one has never done great, and now looks like it's dying. The right one is very happy, though. Beans are climbing the fencing, and there are some turnips or radishes amongst the local weeds as well.
One of the peach trees, with lots of blooming squash vines.
...like this big ol' squash vine.
Native heirloom squash (I need to check my notes to see which variety; I planted several different ones). Tasted good in a stir-fry Saturday night!
According to my kitchen scale, this is a 2lb turnip. It grew in some really gunky ash/clay soil (we have big deposits of volcanic ash here) near an apricot. It was half in and half out of the ground, and right next to a second one nearly as big.
A single stalk of corn from the packet of heirloom local corn that I planted. Most of it probably got eaten by rodents before sprouting. This one has no hope of actually producing a mature ear, but it's still neat to see it surviving without any assistance.
Holy crap, something edible growing!
The happiest tree of all; a peach. With lots of beans to keep it company.
This is the lone cherry tree, which has completely died (I think its irrigation line failed in early summer, before the monsoon started). The beans like its fencing, though. I think this will probably be replanted with another peach next spring.
Overall, I am extremely happy with the performance of my hugel/woody beds. Everything is green right now because of the monsoon, but the tree beds have all become little epicenters of fertility. The companion plants were intended simply to fix nitrogen and provide ground cover to retain moisture - that I was able to actually harvest food from them is just a huge bonus.
Next spring, I will skip some of the species that didn't grow at all, and really go nuts with squash, melon, bean, and pea plants. I think we will also add in more root veggies - onions, garlic, sweet potatoes, white potatoes, and more turnips and radishes. Assuming they grow, we'll harvest some and leave some in the ground to help improve the soil.
Just to recap on why I'm so excited about this progress, here's what the place normally looks like:
Looking good! I'm glad you are able to get some green in the desert. I too am always amazed when something that looks green and lush actually survives in the desert climate. Yet, it is not luck... it is by design. Right?
Very cool. I'm new here and am trying to grow some stuff (Jujube, Palo, Mesquite, & other plants) on my 12.5 acres of raw land with a capped well in S.E. Arizona. We had an awesome rainy season this year and it looks like you did too. I hope to get my well dripping this year so I can stop the hand watering. The 5 gallon bottles are getting tough @ my age. I hope to get some stone fruits growing when the well works.
I hope you are able to grow some of your stone fruits. I'm certain you'll discover that capturing and managing water is key. I recommend looking into swales, rainwater harvesting, drip lines, burried terra cotta pot passive watering, hugelkultur (naturally), the book "Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands". The author of that book is in Arizona, his website: harvestingrainwater.com
I've been looking at "swales" here, but I'm not sure they will help me. My soil is very sandy and deep. It absorbs water super quick. I have a large wash that runs across the back though. That creek really adds a lot of moisture to my property as evidenced by the vegetation that grows from the creek to the front every monsoon season. The weeds and grass are over 3' high in the front and up to 6' high in the back.
Try looking up the archeo or paleo rock mulches on this site, and check out the Negev and Israeli tree planting strategies.
They tend to scrape a diamond shape, with the trees planted at the bottom angle of the diamond. this funnels a LOT of the surface area, down to the tree.
Up there, i would be tempted to go down to the Little Colorodo, and pick up a truck load of clay to put on the upper section of the diamond, to cause more flow down to the buried wood, and the trees.
There was a study done at the Salton Sea, over in the low desert, that showed bio mulches actually increase evap of rainfall, by capturing the water before it has a chance to soak into the soil, and re-evaping it.
Also try charring the wood you are burying, or put in some compost tea soaked biochar. will help hold nutrients and mycobio , which you should add too.
Get a catalog of seeds from Seed Search/Native Seeds, out of Tucson for seeds for your area.
Hopis plant their corn deep, about 6 inches down, and cover that 6 inches with sand, to trap the moisture, hold the plants up in the wind, and discourage dig ups.
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Morgan Morrigan wrote:There was a study done at the Salton Sea, over in the low desert, that showed bio mulches actually increase evap of rainfall, by capturing the water before it has a chance to soak into the soil, and re-evaping it.
Hi Morgan - could you point me to that study? I have often wondered if biomulches increased evaporation during light rainfall.
Subtropical desert (Köppen: BWh)
Elevation: 1090 ft Annual rainfall: 7"