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plants for san diego climate?  RSS feed

 
laura sharpe
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Leaving to stay with a friend in san diego. I am unfamiliar with the area and what can grow and I am having a bit of troubles finding information. The area she lives is apparantly never frosts. Looking for food plant suggestions.

There is a low water landscape in place already which apparently needs some tweeking. There is an automatic watering system in place, not sure if it is drip or sprinkler yet.

I willl need to identify existing plants but i assume visits to local nurseries will help with that.

Plants I am hoping will work are some which I cannot grow in Illinois, at least outside, artichoke (possibly too big for the land i have to see), ginger, capers (mostly chosen because i understand it likes this sort of place)

More than anything though, plants which grow and look good much of the time and low maintenance are very desirable traits. My friend does not garden (he husband does a bit but is not experienced) so looking into a slow introduction to growing some of your own foods....they know i will be planting this but more or less i am thinking they will forget until they see food...hey look at that...its an artichoke!


 
John Elliott
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Artichoke is a very good selection. I have seen them growing wild south into Baja. But you have to be along the coast. If you get even 10 miles inland, it can get too hot for them. If you are in El Cajon, I wouldn't even try it.

Avocado is a good tree to have. San Diego county is full of avocado trees, but another one wouldn't hurt. I often wonder why the people who have houses that back onto an arroyo don't plant the arroyo with avocado trees. The hills around Fallbrook are steeper and they are planted with avocados.

Another thing that works well is to plant a variety of hot peppers and trellis them or train them to form a hedge. When I lived in Ventura county, the previous owners of my house had a hedge of jalapeno and serrano chilies and some chili pequins trained to an espalier outside the back door. Very handy for making salsa, just walk outside and harvest them.

Lemons are also a good no-fuss plant. You can stick one in a small planter and being root bound will limit its size. In a 3'x3' planter, a lemon is more of a bush than a tree, but it will still produce more lemons than one family can use and you will be giving them away.

Perennial onions are also a good thing to use as borders for flower beds and other small spaces. Get a good patch of them started and you will never need to buy scallions at the grocery store.

So we've got onions, lemons, hot pepper, and avocado -- everything you need for a permanent source of guacamole.

 
Jennifer Wadsworth
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Location: Phoenix, AZ (9b)
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@John Elliot - always enjoy reading your posts - they are a pleasure!

@Laura - I'm here in Phoenix and while we are significantly hotter than you in the summer, we get about the same amount of rainfall only we get some in summer, whereas I believe your rain is mostly in the winter.

So here's what grows well here that should do well in San Diego too:
--Pomegranate ("Wonderful" is the most popular here)
--Figs ("Black Mission" is a big favorite)
--Dates
--Citrus of all kinds (they take more water so I plant them close to the house where I can vent my greywater to them)
--Low chill apricots, peaches, plums, apriums, grapes, almonds
--artichoke grows very well in Phoenix

Other thoughts
--I would kill to have an avocado tree - but they don't do well here - plant one if you can! (they like to live in their own leaf litter, removing it will stress or kill them, so maybe in the backyard?)
--contact the local extension office for planting seasons - they will vary pretty drastically from IL.
--because this is a dryland environment, think water conservation. Raised beds, so typical in the Midwest get really dry and waste water in arid climates (unless you build wicking beds:
or search IBC wicking beds - IBC is "International Bulk Containers" - you can usually source these anywhere in the world - check Craigslist. If you want to pretty them up, you can build a wood box around them. They are, hands down, the best "raised" bed for drylands. Typically we sink things down to harvest water, rather than raising them up to shed water or be "well drained" like one does in the Midwest.
--here's a PDF on Deciduous fruit trees in SoCal: http://crfgsandiego.org/Presentations/Deciduous%20Fruit%20Trees%20in%20Southern%20California.pdf with some great info in it.
--a good source for water harvesting and calculating your "water budget" can be found here: http://www.harvestingrainwater.com/rainwater-harvesting-inforesources/rainwater-harvesting-online-calculator/ This is extremely useful if you want to water most of the yard with rain and reclaimed greywater (which is becoming increasingly popular in the arid West.)

Best of luck - you'll be in a beautiful part of the country!
Jen in Phoenix
 
John Elliott
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Jennifer Wadsworth wrote:
--I would kill to have an avocado tree - but they don't do well here - plant one if you can! (they like to live in their own leaf litter, removing it will stress or kill them, so maybe in the backyard?)

Jen in Phoenix


Jen from Phoenix, what have you tried to keep an avocado tree growing? I don't think it is the heat in Phoenix that is the problem, but the low humidity. If you drive along I-10 from Redlands to Palm Springs, you go from a place that has commercial avocado orchards to low desert with none. Redlands is not that much different temperature wise from Palm Springs (as well as Phoenix), but what makes it different is that it is the easternmost extent of the coastal low clouds and fog that is so common in Southern California.

While that might not make much difference to citrus trees (common in both places), it must make a difference to the avocado trees. Have you tried putting an avocado tree where it can get artificial fog -- like that coming out of those patio spray misting systems? If you wanted to get really fancy, you could install a ring of patio misters around your avocado tree and put it on a timer to come on at midnight and fog the area until like 3 or 4 am.

Just a few thoughts.
 
Jennifer Wadsworth
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Location: Phoenix, AZ (9b)
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It's definitely the low humidity, like you say. You know, the longer I garden/practice permaculture here, the less I like fiddling with "high maintenance" plants. I've done it, and then become very frustrated (mostly because I am an inconsistent gardener due to flares of an autoimmune disease). Anything that needs constant attention is pretty much doomed in my yard at the moment. However, my current plan is to get yet more shade overstory and see if I can, over time, raise the condensation % under the trees to make it more favorable to something like an avocado. It will take some time to grow the right conditions, but I'm here for the long haul, so we will see!
 
Adam Klaus
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passionfruit is a real winner in San Diego. prolific, beautiful, and tasty as they come.

like John said, the big thing is how many miles from the coast are you? your options go from orchids along the coast, to persimmons further inland. some things will do well regardless, like the passion fruit, but knowing how far from the water would be helpful info for giving good advice.
 
Jonathan 'yukkuri' Kame
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Location: Foothills north of L.A., zone 9ish mediterranean
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Citrus is very low maintenance, will like a little water.

As mentioned, San Diego county is avocado capital of the world. Avos also will need some water. I wouldn't worry too much about the humidity. We are very dry up here in the foothills and little inland - our Haas is a champ.

Pomegranates are no-fuss low water. Grapes do well. Mulberry. Loquat. Blackberries and figs will go feral, so obviously well-suited.

If you are frost-free, Moringa oleifera should do well.

Without frosts, be careful about choosing stone fruit varieties - also stone fruits often do better with a bit more pruning and thinning - not the best for non-attentive growers.

Rats are an issue in CA when there is abundant fruit, especially if neglected. Having a cat or dog around will help keep them under control.

Kales and chard are productive and relatively low maintenance once established.

As mentioned, chile peppers will be perennial and productive. You can probably overwinter sweet pepper in a sheltered spot, I've even overwintered tomatoes, and I do get occasional frosts.

Pay attention to the wild edibles to see what is growing locally: We get a seasonal abundance of sow thistle, chickweed, dandelion, wild mustard, purslane...just noticed some mallow popping up. Also look for lambs quarters and curly dock.

Prickly pear fruits are delicious, once you figure out how to clean them.


 
Jennifer Wadsworth
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Location: Phoenix, AZ (9b)
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@Yukkuri - you reminded me of the "low maintenance" aspect of this project. (thanks)
--mulberries are awesome but they have high litter and if you get the wrong kind (staining) you can inadvertently walk through them and drag their staining juice all over the house (ask me how I know! LOL)
--blackberries and prickly pear - you might ask how willing your friends are to getting stabbed when they harvest the fruit. Blackberries can be hell to get at without looking like you were in a bag with a feral cat. And they do spread. Those of us who love blackberries will put up with that (and grow them in containers so that they can't spread all through the yard). Ditto prickly pear - the "blueberry of the desert" because they are unusually high in antioxidents. DELISH fruit but hard to pick and process until you've done it several times (then, no problem). Prickly pears are often used as barrier hedges to properties (several of my neighbors have planted them along the back wall fronting the alley to deter people climbing the wall) so that's an added bonus.
--stone fruit - I agree that they are higher maintenance than say citrus and do need to be pruned, etc.

@Adam - Passion Fruit! yes! Rarely is there a flower more beautiful and the fruits are tasty!

Another thing that does really well in Mediterranean climates is herbs. And many herbs look great as landscape plants as well.
 
laura sharpe
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thank you all for the wonderful replies, the trip has been put off a week.

I highly suspect she is more than 10 miles from the coast but she is still in the middle of moving so I figure i will just be surprised...I will be there for plenty of time to think and look around.

I was highly excited at the idea of hot peppers growing as hedges, they are so pretty. I had not even thought of most of the fruits, i thought the trees would require too much water. Although my friend isnt much of a gardener, if told she should get a tree guy in there once a year she would likely do that to keep any fruits in good shape but there is tree litter to remember there as well.

Rats...yes that would be a problem. She has 3 male pugs all neutered so they wouldnt pee out a good amount of testosterone. I will have to avoid any fruits which might drop and attract rats. Will lemons attract rats? I know the illinois rat equivalents, skunks, squirrels and raccoon, have taken a nip or two off my hot peppers but they always spit them out . Not one of the cirtters have bothered my herbs and some...i would say most...are very pretty.

Btw yucca can grow well and is edible right? I think aloe is kinda ugly but I hope to slip a few in there because they are so useful .

thanks for all the suggestions.
 
Jennifer Wadsworth
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Location: Phoenix, AZ (9b)
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Laura - I'm just excited when people do cool things in dry climates.

Regarding rats and lemons - yes - rats will eat lemons. There are numerous neighborhoods in Phoenix that used to be old citrus groves - they have "tree rats". If the trees overhang the house, they will get into the attic and cause damage. You can greatly ameliorate this issue by keeping either keeping your trees pruned to picking height (6-8 ft tall - picking all the fruit so none is left for rodents). Or being proactive with fruit picking - rats are attracted to the fruit left on the tree - usually these are the hard-to-get-to fruit at the top. I know my parents (in their 70s) will get out the fruit picker and get all the lemons down at once and then juice the majority and freeze it or make it into the liqueur lemoncello. Planting the tree far enough away from the house so it doesn't get near the roof is also a good idea. Other fruits mentioned also fall prey to birds, who usually eat them about a week before people find them ripe. In downtown Phoenix where I am, there are several flocks of peach faced lovebirds (offspring from escaped pets) who have naturalized to this area. They wreak havoc with my stone fruit, grapes and pomegranates. I have to net these trees if I want any fruit. I am willing to share with wildlife but the lovebirds are like a marauding (yet very lovely) plague!

Yucca - you know, I've eaten a lot of desert plants but yucca is not one of them. Checked around on the web and found this from a trusted site: http://www.eattheweeds.com/yucca-yuca-which-is-edible-2/ The most popular desert edibles are: Prickly Pear fruit - called "tunas" (Opuntia engelmanii) - ripen in Sept here (possibly the best juice EVER for margaritas!), Staghorn cholla buds (Opuntia versicolor) - ripen in Apr/May here, young Nopale cactus pads (Opuntia ficus-indica) - Mar/April here and Ocotillo flowers (Fouquieria splendens) - which are soaked and made into a drink that tastes a little like pink lemonade. Ocotillos flower whenever they damned well feel like it! They are one of my fave desert plants - very dramatic. Oh and you want to make sure you get "medicinal aloe" (aloe vera) because there are dozens of aloe varieties - in Phoenix these grow best with some shade so they don't get that sunburned brown-grey color. Oh, and mesquite pods make a wonderful sweet flour but you have to be able to grind them. You can use a matate, but it takes WORK. Most grain mills are not up to the task. Here we use a commercial hammermill that comes up from Tucson once a year and mill the pods in bulk.

I've grown basil hedges, nasturtiums (flowers and leaves are edible), my lavenders grew so big I had to take them out they were choking my path (I wonder who planted them too close to the path??). I've grown 6 ft dill and 5 ft cilantro. Rosemary, thyme, oregano, Mexican oregano (epizote), garlic chives, garlic, mint (aggressive spreader) have all performed like rock stars here. Most winter over and we have much colder winters than San Diego.

Have fun with this project.
 
Socrates Raramuri
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Location: The Hague; Morocco asap
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Some links for you. Especially check out the vids Top 7 Crops that Thrive in the Hot Summer Desert Vegetable Garden & Edible Landscaping Plants for Desert Gardening from this guy from San Diego.

P.S. there are many species of avocado and if yours don't survive the heat, try another.
 
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