For treating lumber (naturally), I recommend brushing it with a 50/50 mixture of raw linseed oil and turpentine. Keep doing this until it will absorb no more, and then put on a few coats of boiled linseed oil. In your dry climate, that should add many years to the wood's life.
Be careful when buying both the turpentine and the boiled oil. Some of it is organic, and some is processed with chemicals. If the turpentine is labeled "Pure gum", it should be OK, but there is more and more synthetic "turpentine" on the market these days. Same with the boiled oil. some is simply boiled, and some is synthetically "boiled" with chemicals. Turpentine is a byproduct of making wood pulp, but it is not as readily available as one might think, as some pulp plants use the turpentine to power their factories.
Good luck on your future oasis . I have somewhat of an experience with drought and desert like conditions, in inland orange county. From my experiences focus on creating an edible drought tolerant plant list. I would start with looking at cactus and rely heavily for them on edible harvests. There is also a decent amount of perennial vegetables that would be relatively drought and heat tolerant.
Here is a small list off the top of my head (some of these were mentioned earlier in the thread).
Thank you for the plant suggestions. I'll look them up and see what appeals to me. It's always fun to try something new and even better when it is drought tolerant and tasty!
I am so excited! We finally found a landscaper to work with. We had been given the same name by a couple of people so we called her and she came by the other day. (I loved that it was a woman running the landscaping company!) I explained what we wanted to do and she totally understood. Not only that, she's really excited to be able to work on a project like this! She said that she would be glad to offer advice even if we didn't want to pay her. How often do you hear that?
It wasn't but 5 minutes into the conversation that she asked me where I was going to put my compost pile because (she stated emphatically) there was no way I could do this without one. Then she said that I had to be willing to do it in stages because you couldn't put a space like this together in one season. By then I figured she had real potential. We talked a little longer and looked at my plan (which I told her was just a jumping off point for her to think about) and then she was suggesting where I should put additional shade and asking what I wanted to grow in different seasons. She had some great suggestions and is going to be taking us out to visit some yards she has done and to look at different sites to get an idea of what I like and give me some ideas to think about. She suggested that we do some of the easy work ourselves, like planting 1 and 5 gallon plants, to save a lot of money and reusing some of what we have on site rather than toss it out and start from scratch. She even suggested moving trees and bushes to my son's yard because I don't want them but they are nice plants and a shame to throw away when they could be used.
I just liked the way she thinks. Lots of suggestions to do simple things like put a boulder near frost sensitive plants to hold heat in the winter or rocks to insulate the ground from the sun in the summer. Easy things that I hadn't thought of. She said that everything grows so much better if you work with the environment rather that fight against it. We just had a total meeting of minds - and not only that, I like her! I can see us working together for a long time and even becoming friends. I've already been invited to her pond building party - it's for just us girls.
There are some huge advantages to talking to people who really know how to grow things where you live. One tree that I loved in Mesa will not grow out here for some reason. I would never have guessed!
Okay, she had no idea what hugelkultur is (disappointing, but not surprising), but I figure that maybe I'll be able to teach her something along the way too. I seriously wanted to do the happy dance after she left! We won't start planting until fall, but I feel like I'm on my way!
Here is some more to rare heat/drought tolerant edibles to check out;
Dragon Fruit (Hylocereus Undatus); fruit (plant in shade of a tree) Barbados Gooseberry (Pereskia aculeata); fruit, leaves (cactus which has leaves that are edible) Natal Plum (Carissa macrocarpa); fruit (drought tolerant, and puts up with heat) Pitahaya Agria (Stenocereus gummosus); fruit (cactus native to Northern Mexico's deserts, reported to have a refreshing sour fruit) Carob (Ceratonia siliqua); pods Tamarind (Tamarindus indica); pods Argan (Argania spinosa); nuts (adapted to the deserts of Morocco, nuts are pressed into a very high quality oil)
Also I would check your yard and neighborhood areas to see if you can find adapted varieties of Purslane (Portulaca oleracea) and Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) to grow as annual salad greens.
Here's a couple of options on what to use for the sides of your raised beds in the desert.
- More soil. Yes, don't edge them in anything at all. You can grow low-growing groundcovers on the slope, salad greens in winter, just about anything that is short. Since your beds are only 12" high, You can slope it outward for 8-12" and it really won't move because it is such a short slope.
- Untreated rough cut 2" thick pine lumber. You'd probably find this at a local sawmill in northern AZ. Yes, this won't rot very fast at all. In the desert with one side and the top exposed to the elements, the wood will petrify and weather to a nice grey color. I have raised beds built at least 20 years ago and the untreated wood is still holding up. Untreated lumber is preferred to any type of wood treatment because it reduces the toxin load. You can't do this in a wet climate, but it works in dry climates.
Unless you have a good reason to dig up the topsoil prior to building the raised beds, you can just use a broad fork to loosen it up but leave it in place. Less work and then your topsoil becomes pretty good subsoil when it gets covered up.
Wind - Assists the Sun in driving the water from the earth, and from plants. Wind is a powerful dessicating agent in the desert.
Earth - tending towards alkaline, compacted, poor in organic matter. Does a poor job of holding water.
So, the soil needs mulch both to protect from sun and wind so it will retain more water, to provide organic "sponge" to retain water, to buffer the alkaline soil and provide fertility.
Much of the life in the desert lives under low trees with umbrella-like growth habits, such as mesquite and palo verde. These trees provide shelter from sun and wind, their leaf-drop provides the much needed mulch. Their roots help open up the soil to increase infiltration of water.
It would be wise to emulate that in your garden, providing as much filtered shade as possible for the plants, with oodles of mulch underneath. It would also be good to identify the direction of the prevailing wind and establish windbreaks as necessary.
If you like raised beds, go for it. I think that sometimes raised beds are like tilling; We do it out of habit without really examining whether circumstances require it. In a desert setting where plants need protection from sun and wind, putting them in a raised bed that is elevated up into the sun and wind seems counterintuitive to me. I would think that this would be setting better situated to Zuni waffle beds or mulch basins, where the plants are actually a little lower, and sheltered a wee bit by the surrounding soil from the sun and wind.
There is also the fact that raised beds are raised, whereas water seeks the low spots. So runoff into a raised bed is unlikely. Creating low spots for planting OTOH can be water-wise.
Trees also can be water harvesting structures.
One day I was driving on the plains of northern New Mexico in a dense fog. Sabino, juniper, was growing everywhere, and I soon noticed that there was a circle of wetness beneath each juniper. The leaves were harvesting the condensation and dripping it on to the root zone beneath each tree. The leaves were positioned and shaped presumably just right to do so. Trees know how to be trees.
I'm in a pretty similar situation! I just learned about permaculture and live in east san diego county. we get a LITTLE more rain than you (about 11 in)... so I'm trying to figure out what I can do with what I have. I know that we've had some issues with our use of laundry water directed at orange trees, but I'm hoping that I can do greywater and not get in trouble.
Hmm, we are looking to get a water softener for our well as well as our water is so hard on our pipes, skin, and clothes. Wanted to also use greywater. Sigh. Seems like there would be some way to naturally filter out the salt and be able to use the resulting greywater. Maybe particular types of plants that can absorb the salt and the resulting moisture for dwarf fruit trees? Thoughts? Here's a photo of one of our outside faucets which we'll be replacing as they all leak when turned on. H Ludi Tyler looks like we have similar Texas yards
you should still be able to bypass any softener with drinking water and cooking and save the diswashing water etc for your greywater use..and find a way to store it ina cistern and run it through your drip system if you want to..under the radar.
you picked a good book to model your ideas from, I love Gaia's garden and reread it several times a year
Bloom where you are planted.
Hi, Becky we also live in AZ, in golden valley next to kingman. They say we get about 8 inches of rain per year. Not much so far. You should look into rain water harvesting, you could save thousands of gallons of free water. Your roof get's about 700 to 1,000gallons of rain water per 1/2 hour. Free! Also check out craigslist in your city there always free tree clippings. You can also use grass cutting to make fast compost. Just put the compost away from your house, it can get really hot.also check out on YouTube veganathlete, just look at what his yard looks like. Just remember we get water but it'seems come in downpours, catch it , keep it! Do you have a above ground pool you never use, well a 15 foot pool can store upto 5,000 gallons, just keep it covered all the time.