I live in San Antonio, Texas. We get about 30in of rainfall on an avg. There is a spot on my property that is facing the southeast and is guarded from the north by the house itself. So it does get scorched by the summer sun. I was wondering if I can grow a small tropical food forest in there. I need some reference materials to research what species of plants I can grow there and how they might perform. I prefer plants including trees that can serve multiple functions. Any idea on what earthworks might be helpful in creating even a better environment for these plants? Thanks in advance for your help.
There definitely is some potential to grow some tropical plants in our area (I'm a few hours north of you), particularly as the climate continues to shift. I think the biggest limitations you'll find are the water needs and having a plan in place for killing freezes.
Many tropical plants might be okay with nothing more than a blanket and some nonLED christmas lights during cold snaps. I overwintered a pepper in the ground like that last winter. I'd be researching each plant to determine if that would be enough.
This year I'm trying to grow a mango tree from seed, but since it can't handle sustained chilly temperatures (not freezing) I'm going to keep it in a pot a aggressively prune for size. I don't think I could keep it going outside over the winter.
There are some tropical plants which have varieties that will fruit at least as far north as Austin. I don't know the varieties of the top of my head, but Central Texas Gardner had a recent episode that mentioned a fruiting palm, and my mother had a friend with fruiting bananas.
I'm going to give you a link to a nursery near me that specializes in native and adapted edible for forest gardens in this area. http://hillcountrynatives.net/ in particular I would suggest browsing his plant lists. Not everything on those lists is tropical, but many of them are. He also goes so far as to have a separate listing of nitrogen fixing plants for support species.
For earthworks, I suggest you spend some time browsing the earthworks forums on this site. Since you say you are in San Antonio I'm guessing you have a suburban or urban yard to work with. In my experience, swales and heavy mulching, and infiltration basins can all, with careful planning, be used without offending the neighbors.
Can you shoot lasers out of your eyes? Don't look at this tiny ad:
3 Plant Types You Need to Know: Perennial, Biennial, and Annual