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Is this permaculture and can it be done in the southwest desert?

 
Becky Pinaz
Posts: 69
Location: Maricopa, AZ
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Is this permaculture and can it be done in the southwest desert?

Where we live:
Our family recently purchased a home in Maricopa, AZ, which is about 45 minutes outside of Phoenix (Zone 9b, elevation 1175). It is a typical, fairly small suburban lot - however we purchased a corner lot which gives us a slightly wider side yard. We have an HOA that prohibits chickens and requires approval for front yard landscaping changes. The majority of homes in the area have desert landscaping with rock mulch. There are a few grass lawns.

Water is expensive and the summer climate is brutal with regular temperatures exceeding 110 degrees. Winters are mild and beautiful with occasional hard freezes. Our average annual rainfall is 7 inches or less. Usually less. I know that I can mulch to conserve water, but the water itself will have to come from drip irrigation. I doubt that this would be acceptable to most permaculturists, but it is a fact of life when you live on a suburban lot in the low southwestern desert. Unfortunately, I don't believe that using gray water will be an option for us.

At this point, we plan to leave our front yard with the desert/rock landscaping and concentrate on the back yard. Our back yard is currently covered with rocks and dead bermuda grass with a few bushes and trees that will be removed. I have a dream for this space and believe that I can make it happen.

I want:
• as much citrus and fruit as we can use and share, spreading the harvest to as many months as possible
• raised garden beds with mixed/companion plantings of vegetables, herbs, and flowers - as many square feet as I can fit in the yard
• trees, bushes and plants to draw birds, butterflies, and beneficial insects
• to use no chemicals (except to spray around the foundation of house for black widows)
• a seating area to watch birds and enjoy the flowers
• a significant number of roses mixed with blooming perennials around the seating area
• outside of paths and a seating area, very little bare ground and no wasted space

My only knowledge of permaculture comes from the book, Gaia's Garden by toby hemenway. The concept of guilds and nutrient accumulators was new and exciting to me, although I was familiar with sheet mulching, composting, building rich soil and the role of beneficial insects. This book made enormous sense to me and re-formed my idea of what is possible. I would like to take those concepts and use them to the extent that I am able.

Is there anyone on the forum who has done what I want to do in a small yard in the desert? I would love to find additional information and perhaps occasional advice. We will have to hire a landscaper to put in the irrigation system, garden beds, and trees but I doubt that I will find one with permaculture knowledge for ongoing help.

Suggestions?
 
Tyler Ludens
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Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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Here is a good reference for rainwater harvesting in the southwest:  http://www.harvestingrainwater.com/

Good reference about greywater (you might be able to do it!):  http://oasisdesign.net/greywater/index.htm
 
Pat Black
Posts: 123
Location: Northern New Mexico, USA
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I think you should look again at greywater for the backyard, where the HOA can't see what's happening, even if it has to be installed under the radar. Oasis Design has plans for laundry to landscape to irrigate your little citrus grove. You can also run many  of your indoor sinks into mulched basins in the backyard. Consider an outdoor shower that can drain to a few different areas of the landscape. Just be sure to spread that water around rather than dump it all in one place.

Create a ramada for a comfy shaded area outdoors while your plantings are maturing. Grow vines on it for beauty, food, and additional shade.

Think about having native-adapted plants further away from the house, and not on drip, but happy on native rainfall so you're not spending time and money on inappropriate landscaping. Save the drip for your food planting and flowers.

Make sure your water stays on your property rather than draining down the driveway and out into the street. If you can get your neighbor's roof water into your landscape too, make it happen!


 
Becky Pinaz
Posts: 69
Location: Maricopa, AZ
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I started thinking about using the gray water thing after I switched to using soap nuts to do my laundry, but my husband is not willing at this time. (I'll continue to work on him.)  Also, our laundry room is towards the front of the house and I think running a line and getting the plumbing in order might be a little pricey. I'm hoping we can do that sometime in the future. I'll have to explore the cost and go back to him, then nag, nag, nag...      I started looking at the Oasis Design site and it looks like there's a lot of info there. I'll go back to it for some serious reading time.

I'm locating the fruit and most of the citrus trees in the side yard on the east side of the house where they won't get as much intense sun and need quite as much water. I'm planning a couple of native low water use trees for shade, but there isn't much room for anything but essentials. I really wanted a larger lot, but oh well.  Will surely use vines for shade and garden as vertically as possible.

Runoff? LOL! We only get enough rain to make puddles a couple of times a year. The water we get stays on the property unless there's a deluge - which happens rarely. Most of our rain evaporates almost as soon as it hits the ground. Creating a Garden of Eden in the desert takes quite a bit of thought and irrigation. I am really interested in using the gray water from the laundry though. I hate to waste it!
 
Jonathan Byron
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Some semi-random thoughts:

Your vision certainly overlaps with permaculture and is compatible with permaculture.

Have you thought about edible cacti for the front yard? Things like Opuntia (prickly pear) can provide both vegetable and fruit. Hopefully, the HOA would approve it if they are pro-desert landscaping.

Chayamansa (spinach tree) is another plant that loves the heat and is drought resistance once established, and it yields a leafy green vegetable that is high in protein. It needs to be briefly cooked before eating to remove a toxin, but is quite good once cooked.

Moringa is also be drought tolerant once established - this tree is cultivated in Ethiopia and India.

Avocado is a good plant for healthy fat calories if you can scrounge water from harvesting or grey water... its cultivation is similar to citrus in many ways.

Olive trees are very drought resistant, and could be an alternative to avocado. Olives might even be worked into a desert landscaping theme.

There is a legume tree that grows in the arid southwest that provides beans - a cognitive glitch is preventing me from recalling the name now, it will come to me as soon as I turn off my computer. (Edited to add: Mesquite!)

Some of the key elements to permaculture as I see it include:
* diversified system inspired by ecosystems - biodiversity, resilience
* use of plants that are adapted to local conditions
* good use of natural flows - sun, wind, water
* replacing most shallow rooted annuals with deep rooted perennials
* no heavy reliance on tilling
* using multi-story 3-D canopy (trees, shrubs, vines, ground covers) to create and use different niches
* sustainable / low inputs once the system is established - nitrogen fixation by legumes/bacteria, phosphorous provided by mycorrhizal fungi.
 
Pat Black
Posts: 123
Location: Northern New Mexico, USA
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I'd definitely size your earthworks catch basins for catching the rare big rain events that make a puddle. If your roof and driveway are 2000 square feet and you get 7 inches of rain, in a year, you have at least 5,000 gallons to channel and soak in where you want it, and that is assuming 60% efficiency.

Here's a rainwater collection calculator:
http://www.csgnetwork.com/rwcollectioncalc.html

 
Becky Pinaz
Posts: 69
Location: Maricopa, AZ
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Thanks for the rainwater collector link. Had no idea how fast it could add up! Our yard is graded well so that it drains away from the house. It wouldn't be hard at all to channel it to the areas with plantings, especially trees. It's just the storage that I'm not so sure about.

1/2" of rain could give us 375 gallons. An inch would give us approx 750 gallons of roof runoff. The question I have is, if we had gutters draining to a container, how do you get it out of the container to where you want it? What kind of storage would I use and, more importantly, how do you keep if from becoming a slimy, stinky bacteria producer?

I guess I have the same question about using gray water from my washing machine. On hot loads, it would need to sit in something to prevent it from burning the plants. The whole storage thing seems difficult - space for the container, keeping bacteria from growing in stored water, and getting the water from storage to planting bed or trees. Maybe I need to do some research.

My husband brushes me off when I talk about using gray water and probably would come up with the same questions as I did for rain storage. Seems like a lot of work and money for something that I might use only once or twice a year. Most of our rains come 1/4" at a time in the middle of a windy thunderstorm. Would this actually be worthwhile for us?

Our climate is very different from the rest of the country and I have to say I get pretty jealous of those lush green places we drive through on vacations to the northwest. But I guess people who live there don't have their best gardens in the winter. Vine ripe tomatoes taste awesome in November!
 
Becky Pinaz
Posts: 69
Location: Maricopa, AZ
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Also, thanks for your semi-random thoughts, Jonathan.  The Chayamansa tree looks interesting.  Avocado doesn't really grow here because it is so frost sensitive and non-fruiting olives are the only ones allowed by the HOA. There are mesquite trees everywhere, but I've never heard of eating the seed pods. I'll have to look it up. We can only tackle one major project at a time, so we are going to leave the front alone until we get the back in shape.

I was looking around the forum here and thinking that maybe I had the wrong idea about permaculture because there are a number of entries about rather extreme ways of living that don't really appeal to me, but the key elements of permaculture that you list are exactly what I want to achieve. We've lived here since last fall, and only now am I making serious site plans because I wanted to observe the sun and wind to see what will really work here Also, I have the tendency to change my mind and needed to let ideas percolate while I do my research. My husband agrees that it's a lot less work to move trees around on paper than in dirt!

I've worked and reworked my plan until everything has at least one purpose and almost everything produces food.  I'm going with dwarf or semi-dwarf fruit and citrus trees so that I can plant multiple varieties and spread out my harvest. This is the list of trees I think would work in the back yard.

1 semi-dwarf pomegranate tree
4 semi-dwarf orange trees
1 blue elderberry tree
1 semi-dwarf black mission fig tree
1 semi-dwarf nectaplum
1 semi-dwarf plum
1 semi-dwarf peaches
4 Cherry of the Rio Grande trees
1 Timeless Beauty Desert Willow (for light deciduous afternoon shade around the raised beds and because the flowers attract hummingbirds)
1 Chitalpa 'Morning Cloud' or Desert Museum Palo Verde (for bloom, light shade and privacy from a two-story neighbor)

I still need to talk to an experienced landscaper/nursery person/master gardener to see if everything on my plan will actually grow here. 

I can get in 350-450 sq ft of raised garden bed, depending on the plan I use.

Does anyone know of reading material other than Gaia's Garden that applies to home-scale permaculture?

Thanks so much for all your responses!
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
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Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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Becky Purvis wrote:
The question I have is, if we had gutters draining to a container, how do you get it out of the container to where you want it? What kind of storage would I use and, more importantly, how do you keep if from becoming a slimy, stinky bacteria producer?


You can buy tanks designed to store rain water.  These are usually black, so they block the sun from growing algae in the tank.  A tank of rainwater like this stays fresh for years.  The tanks have fittings you can attach plumbing to run the water where you want it.

http://www.southernarizonaraingutters.com/rain-harvesting-urban-tanks.html

http://www.plastic-mart.com/class.php?cat=9
 
Pat Black
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Location: Northern New Mexico, USA
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You never want to store grey water. You direct the water to mulched basins so the grey water is never exposed and soaks right into the soil.

For hot loads and/or bleached loads, you will drain that to the sewer and not the mulch basins. If you look at the laundry to landscape docs at Oasis Design, you will notice a 3-way valve. With this valve you select either to the sewer or the landscape.

You can just store the water in the soil and not buy any tanks. It's a matter of channeling the output of the roof and driveway into properly designed earthworks. It can all be accomplished with a shovel! Brad Lancaster's volume 1 rainwater harvesting book covers it well.

It's amazing that even today in the desert southwest they are still building suburban homes on lots designed to shed water OFF the property and then sell you water to irrigate the landscaping.

Raised beds aren't the greatest in hot climates. The soil heats up too much and dries out faster. Amend the soil and consider slightly sunken garden beds that will keep the soil cooler and allow no runoff.

I highly recommend you read Brad's books
http://www.harvestingrainwater.com/books/
 
Nathalie Poulin
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Check out this video with geoff lawton. He went to Israel and created an oasis in one of the world's harshest desert's.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sohI6vnWZmk

Hopefully it will inspire you!
 
Tyler Ludens
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NM Grower wrote:


I highly recommend you read Brad's books
http://www.harvestingrainwater.com/books/


100% agree! 
 
Becky Pinaz
Posts: 69
Location: Maricopa, AZ
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Loved Geoff Lawton's video! It blows my socks off to see stuff like that! We can do so much more than we have in the past. I just never really took the time to think about it. Now I'm thinking and learning and starting to make changes.

Also, thank you for the book suggestions. I now have a great reading list!

About using laundry gray water: This seems doable, especially since I use soap nut tea to wash most of my clothes and hardly ever use bleach. If I can switch the hot water to go down the drain and the cold wash to go outside (without paying a fortune for the plumbing), it would save a LOT of wasted water and I wouldn't have to leave trees on the auto drip system. I'll have to make sure the system is designed so that the trees are on a separate timer that can be turned off unless we are going to be out of town. I don't know anything about how the drip systems work but I can tell the landscaper what I want and go from there.

About harvesting rainwater: I can certainly design my yard to catch and keep the rain that falls. The holding tanks are very expensive when you consider that we get enough rain for runoff maybe once or twice a year (it hasn't happened for the last 8 months). Our neighborhood runoff goes into retention basins that filter it back down into the soil, so it's not like it's going into sewers.

I know that raised beds are not the best idea in our climate, but I am partially disabled with arthritis and back problems. I walk out to the garden and sit on an upside down bucket to plant and harvest. Perhaps I can use raised beds for only the shorter crops like salad greens, radishes and carrots and leave the rest at ground level. It would also save a considerable amount of money when putting in the garden.

Thank you all for your responses. I'll be making adjustments on my yard plans and talking to a plumber. We are planning to put the yard in this fall so we do have time to plan it properly.
 
                      
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Location: Burbank , Washington (south central)
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Concerning water storage.
  You mentioned that the neighborhood stormwater is directed to a retention basin.  You could do the same thing on a smaller scale in your yard, a long (10-15) deep (2-3 foot) hole filled with mulch (wood chips, straw, what-not).  This could also be used as the basin for the gray water system.  Planting some of the fruit trees around the edges of the pit will allow the trees access to the water and organic matter as it breaks down.  Roof run off can also be sent there.

Dave , DaBearded1
   
 
Becky Pinaz
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Location: Maricopa, AZ
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Oh rats! I was thinking about the laundry water and realized that we won't be able to use it in the garden because we have a water softener. Our soil certainly doesn't need more salt in it.
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
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Oh that's sad you won't be able to use any greywater. 
 
Becky Pinaz
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Location: Maricopa, AZ
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DaBearded1 wrote:
You mentioned that the neighborhood stormwater is directed to a retention basin.  You could do the same thing on a smaller scale in your yard, a long (10-15) deep (2-3 foot) hole filled with mulch (wood chips, straw, what-not).  This could also be used as the basin for the gray water system.  Planting some of the fruit trees around the edges of the pit will allow the trees access to the water and organic matter as it breaks down.  Roof run off can also be sent there.
Dave , DaBearded1


I could fit an 80' long trench that is 2' wide down the side of our house from the back of the yard to the front of the side yard. This is where the yard is graded to drain to anyway, so digging a pit there would be relatively easy and make perfect sense!  We could just skip the gutters on that side of the house and let the water drain naturally to the pit. It would run next to or between almost all our fruit trees. Any overflow from there would lead out to the natural drainage that goes through the front yard to the street and from there to the retention basin. It doesn't rain often, but we could get a really good deep watering to those trees when it does.

How much space would I have to leave between the edge of the pit and the trunk of the trees, and how deep should the pit be? I don't have any filler on site, so could I just use wood chips or any branch trimmings that I can scrounge up? I'm hoping to develop a good relationship with a particular landscaper here in town and it could be that they would let us have some of their trimmings rather than have to haul them to the dump.

Great idea!!!
 
Tyler Ludens
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You should do your best to make sure there is no run-off leaving your property - I bet you can use all the water! 

Rainwater Harvesting videos:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2iQ-FBAmvBw
 
Becky Pinaz
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Location: Maricopa, AZ
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H Ludi Tyler wrote:
Oh that's sad you won't be able to use any greywater.   


Yeah, I'm kind of bummed. I was set to call the plumber and get an estimate that I could present to my husband and explain how much water we would save. I was actually out watering my plants when I realized that it wasn't going to be possible. Sigh.
 
Pat Black
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Is the water softener really a necessity?
 
Becky Pinaz
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Location: Maricopa, AZ
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NM Grower wrote:
Is the water softener really a necessity?


Yes, it really is. Our water is so hard that it corrodes appliances and ruins faucets. It was bad when we lived in Mesa, but so much worse out here in Maricopa. Different well, different water.
 
Becky Pinaz
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Can anyone tell me how far away from a citrus or fruit tree trunk a pit (to collect rain - see above) would have to be? Would 5' between trunk and pit edge be adequate?  Could I just fill it with wood chips and misc small tree/brush trimmings?

I'm thinking it would work very well to collect rain so it didn't run off our property in the very rare times that we get enough to puddle.
Thank you for the suggestion from Dave, DaBearded1. It's a perfect idea for our property.
 
Isaac Hill
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Get your hands on some wood and hugelkulture extensively.
 
John Polk
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Besides the Indian Goj Berry that I mentioned in another thread, there is a seed company that deals with the native crops of the SW desert.  You should bookmark their site, and check them out (I understand that the seeds are free to natives).

http://www.nativeseeds.org/Home

Picking native varieties could mean the difference between bounty and failure in your climate and soil.

Good luck, John
 
                      
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Location: Burbank , Washington (south central)
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There are videos of banana trees planted on the edge of such a pits but I would think that spreading fruit trees would be planted farther away than that as you need to access the the fruit as the tree matures.  Three to five feet should work.

Salamander has a good idea, combine the two, bury the tree that you are removing in the pit.   And yes wood chips would be ideal, any woody material would work.  Basically you want a compost pile in a long thin pit, organic matter to feed the trees/polycultures and absorb and store water.  That organic matter will also change the PH of the soil (which I would assume to be in the 7-8 range).


Dave, Dabearded1
 
Becky Pinaz
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Location: Maricopa, AZ
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Sweet! 5 feet is the most I can manage in that space and the trench seems like a great (and inexpensive) idea to keep the rain on the property and deep water the trees at the same time. I'm going to see if I can get wood chips from the city or a local landscaper. The trees will be semi-dwarf, so I can extend the harvest with multiple varieties. The stuff we will be removing won't be that large, but we can definitely use it. I suppose as the wood decomposes and sinks, we could just toss more on top to fill it in?

I will research Lycium exsertum (wolfberries) and hugelkulture (I have absolutely no clue). I'm such a beginner here. I read Gaia's Garden and my gardening world was changed forever! That book is the total extent of my knowledge of permaculture, but I'm learning. It's an exciting way to think about growing things and opens up so many possibilities!

Nativeseeds.org has been bookmarked for further exploration.

Thank you all for your suggestions. I really, really appreciate your help!


 
Becky Pinaz
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Location: Maricopa, AZ
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Hugelkultur (or hugoculture, as I've been mispronouncing it)
Big piles of wood in a trench with dirt thrown on top so the wood decomposes, enriches the soil and stores water better. It's what you guys were talking about, I just didn't know the word and hadn't looked at pictures. Builds great soil with a minimum of money, some work and a little time. Does it get any better than that?

 
Jan Sebastian Dunkelheit
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Hugelkultur! I had a very dry and hot place in my garden below a magnolia tree, nothing was growing there. It really was the only place in my garden where nothing was growing. Hard clay soil. Last year I buried some rotten wood of a willow tree there. Now I have some brokkoli and tomatoes growing on. No watering needed.

The praisals about hugelkultur are not exagerated.
 
                            
Posts: 27
Location: Southern California, Zone 10
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The Phoenix Permaculture Guild may also have some resources that would be applicable to your situation: http://www.phoenixpermaculture.org/
 
Becky Pinaz
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Location: Maricopa, AZ
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Low Arizona desert = extremely hot, dry, alkaline soil with daunting layers of caliche. Hugelkultur sounds like it would do a fabulous job of making it plant friendly. The caliche will still have to be broken up, but the rest will be relatively simple. (Notice I didn't say easy!) Wish I'd know about hugelkultur last fall when we moved in. Just think how nicely it would be percolating along if I'd gotten going right away. I think I'll have to save the hugelculture for the rain gathering trench and a few beds here and there, and use sheet mulch and purchased organic compost for the rest.

I can't stand the thought of waiting another year to plant trees. Green growing things take me to my happy place. Hard dirt and gravel mulch is waaay too depressing to live with for much longer. Of course when I think back, I didn't even know what sheet mulch was last fall. I've only had traditional row gardens with the normal "grass, bushes and 2 trees" landscaping in the past. I've learned a lot since I started reading this past winter.  I've learned a lot since I found this forum a few days ago!

Thank you.
 
Becky Pinaz
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Location: Maricopa, AZ
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Henevere wrote:
The Phoenix Permaculture Guild may also have some resources that would be applicable to your situation: http://www.phoenixpermaculture.org/


I missed this and it should be very helpful. Thank you, Henevere!
 
John Polk
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While researching L. exsertum (Wolfberry, aka "Arizona Desert Thorn", stop by here:
http://jlhudsonseeds.net/SeedlistLO-LZ.htm
scroll to the bottom of the page (it's the last listing) for their description (the "a!" means there are at least 1,000 seeds/packet, and the "h" means high germination).  The listing directly above it is for L. chinense "Chinese Wolfberry" aka Goji Berry (that high priced 'wonder food' sold in health food stores for premium prices!).

When done, go to the top of the page, and click on "Home", which will take you to the intro page (I suggest bookmarking it).  He has hundreds of species/varieties from the SW deserts, Australia, tropics and other regions.  He offers hundreds of varieties that are very hard to find elsewhere.  Make certain to request a catalog.  I have dealt with him for years, and have no complaints.  He gives good service, you know what you are getting for seed count, and prices are very reasonable.  Every permaculturist should buy one thing from him, and get the catalog (to study, and drool over).

His catalog is not called "garden seeds",  it is "The Ethnobotanical Catalog of Seeds", which pretty well describes it. (They are now in their 100th year of business)
 
Tyler Ludens
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I'm also a huge fan of JL Hudson. 

Also had much success with seeds from NativeSeed/SEARCH.

A couple other sources which include some edible desert plants:

http://www.plantsofthesouthwest.com/

http://www.highcountrygardens.com/ ; (mostly ornamentals)
 
Becky Pinaz
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Location: Maricopa, AZ
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Thank you both for the reference to J Huson Seeds. I have requested a catalog and bookmarked the site.  I have been reading from recommended sites and watching videos about permaculture. Very helpful!

Just curious. Is there anyone on the forum who lives in the low Arizona desert or similar climate zone? I would love to hear what you have been able to accomplish, and how you did it in our hot dry climate. 
 
Becky Pinaz
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Location: Maricopa, AZ
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Henevere wrote:
The Phoenix Permaculture Guild may also have some resources that would be applicable to your situation: http://www.phoenixpermaculture.org/


Just joined The Phoenix Permaculture Guild. There is a tour being held next month that I will try to attend.
 
                                            
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You might want to use sunken beds instead of raised beds.  Raised beds are better for people that have drainage problems.  Sunken beds are better for people who have lack of water problems.

There's a blog I follow of someone who does surburban gardening in arizona

http://rachelstinyfarm.blogspot.com/

since im in inland southern california and i'm basically in a desert as well though not quite as severe as where you live.
 
Becky Pinaz
Posts: 69
Location: Maricopa, AZ
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Thank you for the link. I've bookmarked it and will keep my eye on it. I've been surprised that so many permaculturists (is that the correct terminology?) live in Arizona - mostly in slightly more hospitable areas. Despite the heat, the drought, and the kooky politicians, it really is a great place to live.

I know that raised beds are not the best thing for conserving water, but I am semi-disabled with a very bad back (and knees and hands, sigh) so when I'm tending my garden I usually do it while sitting on an upside down bucket. (The family knows it as mom's sittin' bucket.) I just trim and harvest, them move my bucket on down the bed to keep working. I can stand and walk but not for long periods and ground level work is difficult. I can put the larger plants in ground level beds, but smaller plants like salad greens have to be raised for me to tend and harvest.

Gardening takes me to my happy place and I'm not giving it up until somebody puts me in the ground. Then maybe I'll just compost. : )

Seriously, is there anything better than a garden full of good things to eat, birds and butterflies to watch, and insects to learn from? Don't forget the beauty of growing things. And flowers. Especially flowers. And hummingbirds and finches and towhees. Just think how fun it will be to sit in the middle of all that and watch nature work its magic. Raised beds are a small price to pay for such wonder. I hold tightly to my backyard dream as I look at the barren rocky mess put in by the previous owners. And I learn about permaculture and draw my site plans. And change them each time I learn something new. We're shooting for fall yard renovation but I'm hoping I can get some sheet mulch or cover crops in to do a little work for me this summer.
 
John Polk
steward
Posts: 8019
Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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Since you want the raised beds, I would suggest hugelkulture as a good option.  Some local landscapers/gardeners may be glad to give you tree trimmings, wood chips, etc.  It certainly beats buying that much top soil!
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9456
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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You might want to look at something like "Square Foot Gardening" to make the most of your raised beds.  Nothing says some raised beds can't fit into a permacultural scheme.  

http://www.squarefootgardening.com/

 
Becky Pinaz
Posts: 69
Location: Maricopa, AZ
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I did square foot gardening in large containers in my previous home and it worked well. I have some okra and squash growing in some now. The problem is that you have to spend a LOT of money to fill large beds with the mix that is recommended. I'm planning on 5 beds that are 4'x14' and about 12" high and then one that is in u shape maybe a bit higher.

If I have the beds built then dig out a some of the topsoil (and use it elsewhere) to lower the bottom a bit, I could put wood chips and chopped tree trimmings in the bottom and then fill the rest with organic compost. After that I could just continue to improve the soil with mulching. Would that work? Is there another idea that would work better? I did find a good source of inexpensive organic bulk compost.

Should I build the beds higher to contain fluffy mulch (that will later compact) so it doesn't get blown all over the place?

And finally, I really don't want to build the edging out of stone or block because the sun makes it so hot in the summer. If I go with wood, what kind should I use and how should I treat it so that it will last? I don't want to have to replace the edging down the line if I don't have to.
 
When it is used for evil, then watch out! When it is used for good, then things are much nicer. Like this tiny ad:
2017 Permaculture Design Course and Appropriate Technology Course at Wheaton Labs
http://richsoil.com/pdc
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