I was interested in growing a peach tree in an area that has temperatures varying from over 110 degrees for at least a month out of the year to below freezing during a few a days of winter, only gets 2 inches(if that) of precipitation a year, is at sea level, and is frequently windy. Is this possible? What sort of varieties can handle the temperature swings? The water, I am not so worried about. Per Brad Lancaster's rainwater harvesting book, I thought that digging a hole and filling it with lots of newspaper, cardboard, and other spongy-humus-type stuff would take care of that. If not, sprinklers might be available. Logs from salt cedars are available as a resource as well if that helps any.
I grow peaches here in Phoenix pretty successfully. Apricots are a known dryland tree as well.
Gilbert's right about the chill hours. We get about 350 chill hrs here in Phoenix. First thing is to find out what your chill hours are. Next I'd plant a wind buffer if wind is a problem. Legume trees or shrubs would be great.
Check out these resources from Dave Wilson Nursery:
Chilling Requirement: http://davewilson.com/product-information-general/special-topics/fruit-tree-chilling-requirement
Peach List with Chilling Hrs: http://davewilson.com/product-information/product/peaches
Phil Carlson wrote:Believe it or not, I reside on private property in Death Valley. Recently, I spoke with a gentleman who said his drip-irrigated rosemary will wilt a bit during the high heat of summer. So, I am quite iffy about the peach growing. Yet, date palms grow here. And with the application of permaculture, I was hoping to make it possible. How could one cool and humidify the air around a tree without overshading it? Would a stack of rocks positioned to where air would cool as it passes through be plausible? Or, a shallowly buried tube?
Wow Phil - some people REALLY like a challenge, eh?
So here's what Geoff outlines in his PDC for extreme dryland food forests. First - don't worry about overshading - get some overstory trees growing. In our climate, we need sun/heat/evaporation protection more than "exposure to sunlight".
For your overstory trees - your date palms are going to be your "emergent" species. Then whatever legume trees grow there will be your main canopy - mesquite, palo breas, acacia, etc. Then your fruit trees will form an understory. Figs, pomegranates, apricots, some peaches - you will probably be able to grow all these and more. One of my most successful fruit trees is an "aprium" - a cross between a plum and an apricot that favors the apricot. The taste is divine! It is my favorite fruit from my fruit tree hedge.
Before you start planting trees, make sure you have your water harvesting system set up. Your water is mostly going to come from greywater from your house (sinks, shower, laundry). If your property has any kind of slope to it, swales are the next thing. Make 'em wide! In extreme drylands we typically plant right inside the swale.
OK - going to have to follow this with "Part 2" as my guests are here.
So....one of the things that people don't realize in drylands is that you can increase the amount of water you get naturally (rainfall, snow) by 80% through CONDENSATION created by trees. So in drylands, if you plant 75% native support species (legumes) to 25% more tender species - like your peaches - the legumes will actually create additional water for you in the form of condensation.
How much rainfall do you get where you live? Multiply that by .8 and that is the increased moisture that these trees could create for you. Both the shade and the added moisture will create a beneficial microclimate for your peach. As your land starts to rehydrate (Geoff says it usually takes about 7 years for hardcore drylands to rehydrate), you can start selectively pruning your support trees to let a little more light in if you want to.
Here's what was key for me to understand about HOT drylands as opposed to any other climate:
--your limiting factors are high heat, high evaporation, intense sunlight, soils that are extremely low in organic matter and alkaline and with high salt content, LOW rainfall
--water systems and tree canopy coverage are critical. Native trees need to be used in abundance because they can deal with these extreme conditions. They can also build soil by sequestering nitrogen, adding leaf litter, attracting wildlife (poop, aeration of soil through burrowing).
--Once you have your water and tree systems in place, you will notice that you've moderated your climate so that you can bring in species that may not have done well before, like peaches.
Drylands, especially HOT drylands are just not like other parts of the country. The carrying capacity of the land can be quite low at first. But they can turn out to be some of the satisfying areas to create abundance in - mostly because they ARE challenging.
You might also want to check out Neal Spackman's project in Saudi Arabia. He sometimes posts his updates here on permies. His website is: http://www.albaydha.org/al-baydha-project.html If I can, I'm going to see if I can visit him this fall when I am in Jordan for an internship. I would so like to see this project in person!
I second Jen's comment on viewing Neal Spackman's work. His conditions now are what you will be likely facing over the lifetime of the tree.
IMO, keeping what moisture you have in the ground is vital. Growing the tree on the north side of your house to prevent solar evaporation, mulching (rock or organic matter) to prevent wind evaporation.
You may have more luck with desert trees that are already adapted to the desert environment, acacia or mesquite. The roots of a peach tree might go 20 or 30 feet looking for moisture. The roots of the acacia or mesquite have been know to travel a hundred feet. Once you got some trees established, a feel for the climate and water resources, then go for a peach.