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Drought tolerant vegetables

 
master pollinator
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I've never been able to get orach established here, though I've grown it a few times.  There's a good amount of amaranth seed in the soil, so it's springing up all over after the last rain.

Looks like almost all of my asparagus survived and is now sending up shoots.  I won't be harvesting them, probably, because I don't want to weaken the plants more.  But this encourages me to plant a lot more asparagus. 
 
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Hi Ludi
Have you read 'Dry Farming' by Widstoe? It can be read free by following the link below.
http://www.soilandhealth.org/01aglibrary/010102/01010200frame.html
Steve Solomon also wrote a decent book,
http://www.soilandhealth.org/03sov/0302hsted/030201/03020100frame.html
Hope that helps
Deano
 
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Location: Eastern Kansas
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That is a very interesting book! I have only scanned it at this time, but I will read more on it by and by.

I have heard that in drier areas that farmers only plant a field every other year. This allows the soil to become more moist.

Here in Kansas a more extreme version was once followed: instead of plowing in the spring and the fall the farmer would plow after every snow fall. This meant that more water would be trapped in the soil and less would evaporate.

But, if some is good more is NOT better!!!

The soil at the surface became too fine. This set the scene for the Dust Bowl. The top soil literally all blew away.

When a Kansas farmer plows in the Fall now, S/he leaves large clods. They do not try for a fine tilth. That is for the spring when there is less risk of having the soil blow away.
 
Tyler Ludens
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I'm not big on annual plowing, personally.  One of the things I like a lot about permaculture is the move away from plow agriculture. 

 
                              
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Location: Eastern Texas - zone 8a
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H Ludi Tyler wrote:
I've become convinced the key is buried wood pits or similar ways to store moisture in the soil.  I wish I had the energy to produce biochar, but I need to be realistic about my abilities, as a not very robust woman approaching 50.  Digging holes and burying wood is about the most I can manage.     I plan to do as much of this as possible, as my kitchen garden where I have buried wood did quite well throughout our insane summer (100F for days or weeks and no rain).  Though I had to irrigate, the plants in the "hugel beds" actually grew and produced whereas the parts of the garden where I had only added organic material to the surface (sheet mulching) all died.  I'm totally sold on the hugelkulture idea and owe a huge debt of gratitude to Paul Wheaton for informing me about the practice. 



I can appreciate that having done two small experimental beds this past spring.  Who would have guessed they received such a test this summer with the drought and incredible temps. 

I wonder if you had planted any annuals in your Hugel bed?  If so, did you dig them up to see where/how the roots to those plants performed?
 
Tyler Ludens
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I did not dig any annuals up to see how their roots did in the "hugel pits".  That they survived and grew was all I felt I needed to know about them.  Some are now revived after the heat of summer has gone and producing anew.  We'll be eating some Arugula from the garden this evening which survived the miserable summer in the "hugel pits". 

 
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If your worried that in an event of longer drought; certain south african relatives of asparagus are edible.

I will say however that arid plants have a tendency to survive by going dormant during extreme drought. There are few reasons a plant would want to survive in extremely hostile conditions.

Although I was very upset seeing the word permaculture being applied to it; Juu–ǂHoan speaking people in Botswana who practice independant horticultural techniques depended on the horned melon and marama that resprouted in the very erratic rains, they were tended in gardens that weeded out the bitter tasting ones and left the sweet ones to the point that the author claimed the green fruit tasted just like cucumber.

If you do have caliche or some sort of rather inpervious layer below the sand at a deep depths utilize it! It keeps a lens of water long taproots can reach; again the book I was reading actually said that the compated soil created a bowl to extract drinking water (sipwells) and also give water to another staple Baobab.

I have an interest in Southern Hemisphere biomes; including but not limited to Fynbos, Kwongan/Mallee, and the deserts of Central Australia, and Southern Africa.

Many plants are quite useful and I believe its because of their long history of human interactions; Quandong, Kutjera, Marsdenia, Gemsbok Bean, Acacia, Ipomoea costata, Egusi and the aforementioned Horned melon. All are atleast hardy to zone 8 and/or treated as annuals.
 
Heda Ledus
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I would also caution a focus on only or mostly perennials; in erractic conditions that disturb soils why not grow millet, sorghum, teff with bambara/peanut? That is quick growing, starch-rich foods?
 
deano Martin
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One of the strategies that I've seen written about, possibly in one of the books that I metioned in a previous post, was the creation of diamond shaped beds, with a low retaining bank/bund, to capture water. The planting was done at the base/lower end of the diamond, and the amount of space used was related to the rainfall, and crop demands. So if you only get hald of the annual rainfall needed for corn, you only plant the lower half, and the upper half just collects water. The ratios would change depending on the particular plant, and the amount of rain.
The deep ploughing/cultivation was done in order to allow the rain to penetrate into the subsoil, wher it would be accessible to plant roots, but not evaporate. That could be replicated using a broadfork/u bar/grelinette.
You would also have to plant more widely spaced, which is the opposite of what most books/systems are advising. The people who do this believe that the water lost through transpiration is higher than evaporation, particularly if the surface is kept hoed ( reduces capillary action), so that it's better to give the plant roots more room to forage for the available water, than to shade the soil with leaves.
Please be aware that I am only repeating what I've read. With about 24 inches of rain a year, and access to mains water, I've not had to put any of this into practise. I'm just researching in case I ever need to adapt.
Wishing you well
Deano
 
Tyler Ludens
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Ahipa wrote:
why not grow millet, sorghum, teff with bambara/peanut? That is quick growing, starch-rich foods?



Though I have grown sorghum in the past, I'm not looking at growing much in the way of grains because they take too much room - they would have to be fenced here. Also, this is a thread about vegetables (or trying to be).


 
Heda Ledus
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Apologizes! I went into drought tolerant plant list babble (I have a series of plant lists I remember). I can keep it vegetables; hopefully the other plants will be of some help.

Between silverhillseeds for south african plants and herbalistics & nindethana.net.au for australian plants; you'll probably be in good shape!

I always like to think I like in an arid/semi-arid region (which is to some extent true; for one, the next town over my hometown is listed under desert in the Manual) however I totally realize the rains will come atleast in december/january and can plan accordingly.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Thank you for those references.    They don't seem to have a category for edible plants, though....
 
Heda Ledus
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H Ludi Tyler wrote:
Thank you for those references.    They don't seem to have a category for edible plants, though....



Botanical Latin for Nindethana; edibles list on herbalistics apparent; description search "edible" for silverhillseeds
 
Tyler Ludens
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Thank you! 

 
Heda Ledus
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Also for siliverhillseeds; their hardiness indicator is hardiness based on top growth damage, not taking into account the possibilities of dieback perennials (something common in the winter rainfall regions, although fire not frost is the main reason the top-growth gets cut back).

Edit: The name of the book I read regarding reference that I think you might like is

Heart of Dryness: How the Last Bushmen Can Help Us Endure the Coming Age of Permanent Drought.

Its a good read; my favorite being that even though there is some western romanticizing of Juu traditions displays Qoroxloo (The Matriarch of the band and main focus) and her children in a contemporary light. Very rare with authors who I feel mostly try and make a picture of either the "pure-untouched " Noble Savage or the in-touch earth people who because of them adopting western ways fall from grace.

Goodluck!
 
Tyler Ludens
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One drought tolerant native vegetable I'm growing is Sotol Dasylirion texanum which was a staple food of the natives here and to the west.  It takes a long time to cook and isn't great, but it isn't horrible.  Like many drought-tolerant plants, it grows rather slowly.  Entire hillsides are covered with it because it is one of the few plants which survive severe over-grazing.  We didn't have any on our place until I planted them, and I hope to plant more and get them established in various locations. 

 
                    
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I did a full on salad market garden without water in the middle of summer, I was the only one at market with Spinach too.

My secret is an obvious permaculture trick which i'll reiterate with this text diagram:

(Seasonal Pond)
        underground seepage
                      HUGGLE MOUND TO THE SUBSTRATUM andlower
                                        giant first year garden made of two year old horse manure/shaving compost 2'thick
                                              {walking path is dug out *swale* with chard and clovers planted
                                        More garden beds with spinach, arugula, continual lettuce lines
                                              {important to have tap root plants bring moisture up, and wall off the windy sides
                      HUGGLE AGAIN
                                        more gardens, repeat above


That is that,  the funny thing was is i haggled a guy for a 3 dollar sprinkler and I tested it on some spinach at the top where they looked behind the bottom of the hill spinach and it caused everything that got watered in a literal circle to bolt.

boo ya, do it
 
                              
Posts: 12
Location: Eastern Texas - zone 8a
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Ruso ~ what growing zone please?
 
Tyler Ludens
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Growing zone, amount of precipitation, etc.......
 
                                
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what's the chances you'll find something to grow without water that tastes any good?  
I bet the indigenous people don't even eat the stuff their ascestors had too.
why would someone that's interested in growing food live in a place that's as dry as that?
i'd sell and get the hell outta there.


 
Tyler Ludens
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My family lives here.

I have nostalgic fondness for this area, having grown up here.

It's not that easy to sell.

I'm not convinced its an appropriate permacultural response to run away from challenging environments.  Not everyone can live where its perfect.



 
                    
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oh sorry, Washington zone 8, we have a fragile climate, no summer rain
still multiple spinach successions in the summer, it was defiantly my money maker, no one had it
 
Tyler Ludens
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Can you clarify, Ruso:  You used no irrigation during the summer and got multiple pickings of spinach, with no rain?

 
steward
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Soils here in the Puget Sound tend to stay moist.  Typical rainfalls are in the 30-40 inch range, but temperatures in the 80's are few, and far between, (as are sunny days!) so evaporation is very low.  With proper mulching, you can keep soil moist year round.

 
Tyler Ludens
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Drought up there is VERY different from drought down here! 
 
                              
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H Ludi Tyler wrote:
I'm not convinced its an appropriate permacultural response to run away from challenging environments.  Not everyone can live where its perfect.




and the second verse is I'm not sure I'd want to live where everyone else does!!!
 
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Location: Vashon WA, near Seattle and Tacoma
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Ditto what John said. Granted that drought in western WA is nothing like drought in Central TX, but it can, and does, cease to rain for three months in the summer.

That's why I'm trying to add as much organic matter to my new beds as I can, and why I'm using biochar AND hugelkultur.
 
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Had luck this past year with malabar spinach (yeah, I know not a perennial and slimy to some).
Heard the growingyourgreens guy on youtube mention about a perennial corn (zea diploperennis from Mexico- has edible seeds). Haven't bought any yet. Ever tried runner beans?
I'm also in the central Tx. area and looking for perennial edible plants to grow well here. It's a challenge for sure.
 
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Here in dry Reno NV, I have been able to harvest garlic chives, yucca root, garlic, pine nuts, dandelion greens, and tatsoi with zero irrigation in drought years.

For the tatsoi, I dug oval shaped "bowls" with graduated sides in clay soil about 8 inches deep by 2 feet long by one feet wide. I filled the hole with "fluffy" dirt (1 part compost, 1 part aged manure, 1 part peat moss). When the rare rain forecast arrived, I sprinkled tatsoi seeds and then lightly patted a little fluffy dirt on top. The tatsoi matured faster than it's water supply evaporated. I have a strong hunch that this would work with other fast growing veggies. (Radish? Lettuce? Spinach?) The trick is to have a non-permeable soil "bowl" ready and move fast when the sky gets that extra bit of color in it.
I know you want to know only about vegetables, but in the desert every trick in the book must be used;vegetables, fruits, shrubs, herbs, and trees rely on each other. Beside those "bowls" of tatsoi were other non-vegetable edibles that didn't leach away the tatsoi's water, and kept them relatively shaded from evaporation. Other climates may have the luxury of segregating vegetables into their own separate geography, but we do not.
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