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Failing miserably at what I thought was a pretty modest permaculture garden.  RSS feed

 
Posts: 146
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Geez, where do I start. I have sandy soil on a slope, South Texas, garden area about 75 feet by 15 feet. Hot, nearly desert-like conditions, maybe eight out of ten days top 100F.  I noticed that weeds (species of sunflower, and some kind of rapacious vine with heart-shaped leaves) only thrive in the shade of two small trees, so I've focused my effort around there (and left the sunflowers and vines, with the hope that they will provide some protection to other more useful plants.

I spread nine bails of hay across the sand, and water it frequently, since about 3 months ago.  They are in a breaking down stage on the surface of the sand, under about six to eight inches of dry hay. The surface is dark and starting to look humussy (is that a word?), and I have been experimentally planting some (probably poor or lame) seed stock back there. Meaning I have paid exactly nothing: they include seeds from a zucchini I planted elsewhere a year ago, seeds from melons that I thought tasted great, basil starts from cuttings rooted in plain water, organic popcorn, leftover green onion toes, sweet potatoes, wild dewberries transplanted from near a cattle tank, seven whole chayote I bought for stupid cheap (like .35 each) and black beans, just from a bag of Mexican black beans. Plain ol' beans.

Two of the seven chayote actually came up, one sheltered by the sunflowers and the other I put a produce crate around it, spent about three weeks getting a foot or two--then shrivelled up like the wicked witch one night. Couldn't have killed them faster with a microwave. Mold?

The green onions refuse to die, but refuse to grow either. The popcorn I planted into (a.) buckets of soil-ish crap raked up from my sheep area--dried compost and crushed biological material and sheep pellets, and mixed in some of the pee-soaked polymer from my baby's diapers, and (b.) direct sow into ground, companion planted with black beans with the hope of coaxing some nitrogen out of them. The ones in the bucket are standing about a foot tall (beans are getting eaten by a small black beetle at night). All the beans on the ground sprouted awesome, and are being absolutely destroyed by insect pressure. Corn on the ground disappeared too.

The sweet potatoes, more than half of them came up, and they get a few shotgun holes from some critter, but seem to do pretty good so far--about six of eight took and are now between one and three feet long. Dewberries also slowly setting up shop too.

The four or five basil was gone the very morning after planting. Poof: not even a stick.

There are a few zucchini plants (like two) that so far look promising, at maybe eight inches, and there are a couple of melon plants that look slightly convincing--but with the exception of the sweets and the dewberries, everything is getting Normandy Invasion Day treatment by something--bugs where there are clear chewing, and I don't know what kills the entire plant overnight like that.

If you pick up an object (bottle, rock, whatever), there are like fifty rolly pollies under an object the size of a coke bottle. Really really crammed in there.

I put two chickens in there to eat insects, but they hide under the house--nobody in their right mind would be out in that 107F sun--the bugs neither. Trouble is, chickens sleep at night and bugs are having a party.

Looks like there may be some beans that get through, but more than 80% of my efforts are toast. I was hoping for some more positive reiforcement out of SOME of these projects. But I am becoming discouraged.

 
Posts: 144
Location: Boudamasa, Chad
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I hear ya, Michael. For about four months out of the year I have the same conditions you describe: high heat and not a drop off rain. Any green thing that shows its head gets nipped of by grasshoppers. So I have three suggestions for you.
1, You were doing well to start with observation,  that some things are growing well in the shade. Push that observation a little farther: What grows without ANY help? Prickly pears? Their fruit is delicious, like watermelon. Mesquite? They fertilize the soil and provide the perfect partial shade for a desert garden. You need to start by putting the "permanent" framework in place that will nurture more fragile food elements. So your sweet potatoes are doing well? Major on sweet potatoes! They're really awsome because they are perrennial, resistant to insect attack, the leaves are delicious sautéed, they produce loads of mulch, and when they cover the ground you can plant other things in the the protection of their leaves. I know from living in Arizona in my childhood that the Sonoran desert is extremely rich in native biology. You have a lot to work with if you get to know your biome, and you'll be more encouraged to see permanent elements flourishing with little input.
2, Do you have a way to use your gray water? You can easily grow banana, arrowroot and papaya on gray water, and they will provide a microclimate for more fragile elements. Also, bananas and arrowroot are great mulch. Even if you want to just water them by hand, think about some perennials that you can plant already grown a bit because they won't be as vulnerable to insects.
3, Check out nativeseeds.org. They're in Tuscon. It will really help to grow varieties adapted to your climate. I have had huge success with their tepary bean varieties. Insects don't touch them because their leaves are bitter.

Dont give up, have fun and do let us know how it goes!

-Nathanael
 
pioneer
garden master
Posts: 1955
Location: USDA Zone 8a
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I don't have failures as these are just experiments.  You now know what will work and what won't.

Maybe a Fall Garden would work better for you.


This nursery in Austin has a nice calendar for what to do each month.  Here is what to do in August:

https://www.naturalgardeneraustin.com/what-to-do-in-august.html

 
pollinator
Posts: 588
Location: Southern Arizona. Zone 8b
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I think you need to grow your soil first.  While you're growing your soil you can grow vegetables in containers or raised beds with good soil.

With sandy soil the water just drains away, with temps up around 100 degrees you might need to water 3-4 times a day. 
TO get good soil you need to add a LOT of organic material.  If you mix compost in with sand at a 50% ratio, in a few months you will only have 5% (or less) organic material.  So mix in 50% compost, and in six months do it again, etc. and in a year or two you should have soil that can support vegetables.

If you can make, or buy some, add biochar as well.

Things I've found that do well here in Southern Arizona, once I added a lot of organic material and water regularly:  Onions, tomatoes, peppers, squash, melons, sweet potatoes, grapes, peaches & nectarines,  I'm sure there are other plants that will do well, those are just the ones that have worked well for me.   In the fall & early winter lettuce grows well.

I've never had any luck with corn, it wants to much water.
 
Posts: 235
Location: Northern New Mexico, Latitude:35 degrees N, Elevation:6000'
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It kinda sounds like your biggest issue is that your ground isn't quite soil yet and it's still sand without much life in it.  Laying down mulch will help build the soil and bring it to life, but if you want to speed things along you can till compost into the sand.  Aged manure/compost tilled into your sand would go a long ways to getting the organic matter mixed with the sand so that it will begin to hold microorganisms.  I wouldn't till in the mulch/hay though. 

You could also use compost tea, it will help a lot and you can start implementing this right away.  I don't have sandy soil, but I have dry dead desert soil, and compost tea is incredible at getting life into the soil and turning the area into an oasis of green.

You mentioned that your garden is on a slight slope.  It may be worth it to dig in some small swales into your garden, it can make a big difference.  I did this two years ago when I moved here.  I dug tiny swales in my garden area, put aged horse manure and mulch in the swale depression, and that's where I planted...in the depression instead of on the mound.  These were tiny micro swales maybe only 6-8 inches deep at most....but it made a big difference, I also used compost tea, and a cover crop mix.

Planting tall hardy plants around the perimeter of your garden could help if you use them as a wind block.  You could use the hardy sunflower in your area if it's big enough.  This will help reduce the hot dry desiccating wind from causing your plants to wilt up so quickly.

Plant your garden densely.  Many gardens you see have neat rows with lots of exposed ground between the mature plants/rows.  All of that exposed ground in the desert heats up and evaporates moisture.  If your plants are densely planted then it will keep the ground shaded and more moisture in the ground.  And your plants will grow better, be happier.

All of the bugs will be attracted to the oasis of lush green in the desert.  Lots of smelly plants and dynamic accumulators will help with this.  The plants that attract beneficial insects to your garden will help with the pests.  You can also purchase predatory insects to help get the population established.  Here's a link with a good list of plants for this. -- Plants That Attract Beneficial Insects
 
pollinator
Posts: 806
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Maybe fall and winter crops would be more successful there?
 
Ken W Wilson
pollinator
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Location: Nevada, Mo 64772
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Your climate sounds Mediterranean? Maybe figs? They grow fast and produce in a few years. They can be kept small.
 
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First of all, way to go. It sounds to me like you did some real work out there and your garden is certainly on the up swing. I think that your main issue is one that many of us face when trying to transition a piece of land (whether it's a few square feet or a few hundred acres), and that is that moving toward permaculture makes the land more hospitable to all of life but most of the time we are transitioning from a situation where only parasitic life or 'pests' were surviving outside of the patients.. er i mean crops. So when we make this great new home for life these pests are already there and move right in. It then takes some time for the rest of the ecosystem to catch up and for the appropriate predators to realize that there is food and it is safe in this new oasis you are building. Persist, and if you do I suspect you will start to see results in the next growing season.
 
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I would highly recommend guinea hens. Our chickens all nap in the shade when it’s 100-degrees and dry, and the chickens scratch all the newly planted beds. But the guinea hens hunt insects all day delicately and with precision. They don’t scratch the soil and they continue to hunt in the heat. Plus they will tell you if any new person or animal comes around. 

Also, maybe:
Date palms
Coconuts
Almonds
Pistachios
 
Michael Sohocki
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Thanks, Cayo.
I've got a lot on my plate right now.
Seems my wife is probably not going to stay.
But I have thought about guineas. I very much like the idea.
 
pollinator
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Michael, you didn't give calendar times for your plantings. We have 2 seasons a year for annuals(centex), and we are in between those seasons right now. I would not fret and try again end of august. Keep amending and each season will get easier.

Asparagus has no known pest enemies in our area so is a no brainer.

You mentioned blackberries. I have had no pest issues with native or thornless varieties other than birds getting their share.

Things like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower are pest free if you plant at the right time. They can be harvested well before the cabbage beetles come to eat them. Wait too long and you are screwed. Last year i was out with a vacuum cleaner sucking them up.

I lost some tomatos to rollie pollies. They weren't staked and any fruit that touched the ground were devoured by them. The cause of this was heavy mulching of hay. This gave them a moist environment they loved. Another plot that i let reseed by letting some fruit fall on ground, i got hornworms. They are easy. Just pick them off.

Potatos i get a few ant bites on them. Other than that they are pest free. I had posted my theories about potatos.  Use them as your first crop for a new garden section. Plant them shallow (2"). As they sprout, start covering them up. Hay, manure, whatever you got. Keep doing it till you've added 6 or 8". Think how that soil will be next season. Plant something different next year, start a new tater bed in next location.

With all that, water is still the major factor. That trumps everything. The end goal being your sands ability to hold moisture. Mulching, manure, use what you got. Keep at it.



 
gardener
Posts: 4956
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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hau Michael, It sounds like you have parts of a good desert system already working for you but you need some other items so you can build good soil.

Your part of Texas has a fairly deep sand surface layer, this means you will need to add a bit of clay so that water and humus has something to cling on to so it will stay around.
Tricky part of doing this is to not over do the clay (pretty hard at first to do this but it can be done) and to get some clay particles down deep enough that you will hold on to any rainfall you happen to get.
Two feet depth is the goal for clay additions to sink to. Most mechanical means of turning things into the soil only go down around 12 inches (1/2 the goal depth), but that deep and the clay will slowly migrate deeper.
If you did a spread of dried clay mixed with biochar, you could add more water holding ability as well as some biome organisms you need. (Until you get the sand capable of holding at least some water, compost teas won't work well for you)

With a slope you have to think about water control first, this can be swales and berms that spread the water along their length so it soaks down into the soil (this is where adding some clay really pays off huge).

Once you get your soil capable of holding water, containing some carbon (humus makers (straw, hay, wood chips), compost,) you will be able to add microbes that will do even more to change the soil structure and at that point you should also benefit from plant roots.
Until you get that soil containing a good biodiversity of microbes you will have weeds and insects to content with on a large scale, get the microbiome going strong and those issues will diminish rapidly.

Working on rain water control first then adding soil building then adding plant growing is a successful progression in the sandy parts of Texas.

Redhawk
 
Michael Sohocki
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Redhawk,

...how do you know how MUCH clay? 

And whether what you're doing is working? Is there a mason jar-type test for this, where you can measure the absorption speed/volume, then calculate pounds of clay per foot of surface of x material?

It seems someone would have come up with a model for this. It would sure be a useful step for a lot of people to circumvent the costs of a laboratory.
 
pollinator
Posts: 368
Location: Redwood Country, Zone 9, 60" rain/yr,
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I agree with the soil building suggestions above. You also seem to be in a place where the summer is your winter, meaning your dormant season is opposite to us in more temperate zones. I would also bet you are facing some tough animal pressures if you have the juiciest plants around after being the only person providing water and organic matter. It takes a lot of time to learn how to build soil in your given bio region , but I am glad you are doing it and your frugal approach makes it an inexpensive education.
 
Bryant RedHawk
gardener
Posts: 4956
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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Michael Sohocki wrote:Redhawk,

...how do you know how MUCH clay? 

And whether what you're doing is working? Is there a mason jar-type test for this, where you can measure the absorption speed/volume, then calculate pounds of clay per foot of surface of x material?

It seems someone would have come up with a model for this. It would sure be a useful step for a lot of people to circumvent the costs of a laboratory.



To determine how much clay any given sandy area needs first you need to know how fast the current "soil" adsorbs a gallon of water on 1 sq. ft. I like to make a 2x4 box that measures 1 foot per inside wall then set this on the soil and pour my gallon of water in, timing it with a stop watch or sweep second hand watch.
Ideal soil will take in one gallon of water on 1 sq. ft. in right around 10 minutes.
Faster soak in time means more sandy soil, forest loams soak up water at the 10 minute mark or a bit longer.
What we want is to soak up as much water as we can and we want it to stay in that top 2-3 feet of soil as long as possible, but we also don't want "pooling" or "ponding" of the water.

I love the mason jar test, for a sandy soil I like to use 3" of test soil (quart jar with lid works best for this test) Once I have shaken the dickens out of the sample jar I set it down and watch the "fall out".
I want to see layers of sand and heavy humus make up over 1/3 of the 3" and hopefully there will be a silt layer then the clay layer each of the layers should be thinner than the one below it. pure clay should end up at about 1/4" to 1/2" thick.
That will be a soil profile that will let water infiltrate quickly but it will also hold onto a lot of that water. This is not a set in stone set of measurements, if out of a 3" thick soil sample you get a one inch thick layer of silt and clay, that is probably going to work well too.

If you want you can make some "test" runs by filling a piece of 4" pvc pipe with a mix you come up with and pouring water through your mix, use a bucket to set the pipe in so you collect the water that runs through your test soil, this can be measured to see how much of your 1 gallon is held by that soil.
By doing this experiment you can come up with your "optimum" soil mix component amounts.

Redhawk
 
gardener
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Great ideas, people.  Also think about pomegranates, apricots, and all kinds of fruit bearing palms when your soil is ready.
John S
PDX OR
 
Posts: 129
Location: Sunizona Az., USA @ 4,500' Zone 8a
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I know the feeling...

I lost everything the first few years. Every time I thought I had it figured out, stuff just died.

I planted real tough trees and shrubs people and books recommended. I was fit to be tied.

I changed my thinking and addressed the issues that hurt me without overthinking it. Grafted trees died at the grafts, so all future trees would not be grafts. Only rooted cuttings, seed grown, or tissue clones would be used. < This was big! Wind and UV was obviously causing my young trees to stress, so I went to tree tubes...and on and on.

By doing a few 180* turns and staying with it, I’m now having success with trees that I would have never thought of using for pioneers in my sandy desert soil without irrigation.

If it was easy, we wouldn’t have deserts.

Good Luck.

 
pioneer
gardener
Posts: 204
Location: Morongo Valley
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Wayne Mackenzie wrote:...I’m now having success with trees that I would have never thought of using for pioneers in my sandy desert soil without irrigation.



Can you share more about this, which plants?

Thanks!
 
Wayne Mackenzie
Posts: 129
Location: Sunizona Az., USA @ 4,500' Zone 8a
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^^^Live Oak, Monterey Oak, Oikos Tree Crops signature wild pear, Seckle Pear,  Pistachio, Sierra plum, thornless Honey Locust, Euro Hackberry, various Autumn Olives (<FYI: Yellow types don’t like the heat), Goji, Sand Cherry, and Jujube. These trees have proven to be bulletproof over the last 2 years without more than a few gallons of water each per month.

I’m concentrating on small nitrogen fixers right now.

Edit: The Pistachios are grafted because of the male/female deal and I feel confident they will thrive.
 
Posts: 576
Location: In the woods, West Coast USA
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I've had the best luck with trench hugelculture, logs soaked water and then in pee (or water with some form of nitrogen), or thick branches, with as much manure as you can drive there and shovel into that trench, despite the heat.  Back the truck up to the trench, put a piece of plywood leaned against an open tailgate and pull, shove, shovel it off into the trench.  Bury it all in the trench with the original soil, and keep the surface damp with deep mowed weed mulch, 5-6 inches, maintained weekly?  Biweekly? 

Be respectful of fresh manure and bacteria.  Wear rubber boots, even rubber gloves.  Rinse boots, gloves and tools and truck when done.  Keep the clothing/boots outside, don't wander in for a snack in those boots. Don't rub your eyes, nose or mouth with fingers that have any manure on them.

Starting from scratch takes patience, and the second year is usually better than the first.

PS....put a tarp on the bottom of the truck bed before loading it with manure or rocks or sand, and you can pull out the last 150 pounds of stuff, it stays much cleaner, the shovels don't scrape it as much.
 
Wayne Mackenzie
Posts: 129
Location: Sunizona Az., USA @ 4,500' Zone 8a
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Cristo Balete wrote:I've had the best luck with trench hugelculture,.


I’m on my phone and can’t see where you’re located.
What’s your zone, rainfall totals, and time of year you receive precipitation?






 
pollinator
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Location: Los Angeles, CA
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John Saltveit wrote:Great ideas, people.  Also think about pomegranates, apricots, and all kinds of fruit bearing palms when your soil is ready.



Ditto this ^^^^.  Apricots are tough trees.  Pomegranates are also indestructable.  Moringa is a great perennial green that will grow almost anywhere.  Start it in a pot, and then transplant when it's a foot tall.  Lemon trees are also pretty tough.  Try peanuts as a ground cover.  They are tough and the bugs don't seem to bother them.

Don't despair.  All those rolly-poly bugs (pill bugs) are feasting on the mulch you've laid down.  They'll also attack young seedlings until they are large enough.  So you'll need to pull the mulch back a good distance from new plants.

Try a fall/winter garden.  Cabbage are easy to grow from seed (start them in pots) and will grow well in your area in the winter.  Carrots, beets, salad greens . . . there are all sorts of things that will do well in the cooler months.

Keep composting, keep mulching and consider making biochar.  Your soil will continue to improve.

Hang in there.
 
pollinator
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Seems my wife is probably not going to stay. 



Michael, talk about burying the lede, my friend. I am very sorry you are having marital issues. This is a far more important issue. There is nothing more important in life than partnership. The rolly pollies will be here one way or another.

Do you have a venue for getting some support or counselling?
 
Cristo Balete
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Wayne, I'm in zone 8B approx.  It rains from Dec through April, May might get a little, it depends on the year.  I irrigate with drippers, so the buried wood in my clay trench stays wet, the clay stays wet.  I use rotted pine logs and limbs.

I use thick mulch, 5-6 inches on top of the soil, unless the voles become a problem, and lately I've put 3/4" gravel around perennials in about an 18-inch circle, with mowed weed mulch everywhere else.  That way the voles have to go into the open to run from the mulch to the base of the plant.  Or if they come in underneath, the rocks drop on them and fill in what they've dug.  I am impressed with how damp the rocks keep the soil.  I don't like to call it a rock mulch, because I think "mulch" should improve the soil.  It's a rock....layer....not sure what to call it.



 
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Some good ideas already mentioned. I did want to bring to your attention that hay or straw can be contaminated with herbicides or other chemicals and you might want to keep that in mind. It's great if you have a clean source though. If I were you I would focus on earthworks and overall water catchment for the area. Then as others have said...start building soil. It may be that the crops you are putting in are trying to do just that....only not quite as efficient as other pioneering/weedy type plants. I would start a very small part of that for crops you want.....but with the understanding that you still might not get anything much due to conditions. Then use a ton of cover crops of all types on both that area and the surrounding area you will eventually want to expand into. Polycultures and interplanting can do wonders for pest management and water usage. The more plants growing over the soil and shading it the better. It just takes time to create the conditions needed. You can use that time to learn about the best drought tolerant cover crops and edible native pioneering plants and use them to your advantage. Cactus, mesquite, agarita, greenbriar or any native fruit trees and bushes if you have them like persimmon or plum. Any hardy trees or bushes will do and the more the better...edible is just a plus at this stage. It's easy enough to chop and drop plants in a smaller area like that. So no need to be to defensive about keeping things out, even volunteers. Unless it's a plant that you think will take over or get out of your control. Go for it or let it go. You're making some great decisions by noticing the native things and how they grow like sunflowers and the other vine. Just don't be too scared of the native repair plants and maybe start minimal with your main crops and work your way back up to the bigger size to keep your sanity and gain some clear understandings, yields and confidence. Hang in there and let us know how it goes!
 
Posts: 508
Location: Eastern Kansas
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Michael, most people do not believe this, but I live in a VERY harsh climate. I live in an area where we will have snow one week and 3 weeks later (literally)  it will be in the upper 80's for day after day. And, believe it or not I live in the middle of the nation's breadbasket.

Sometimes you have to plant what is comfortable in your climate, because not much else will do well unless you hover over it. For Kansas one of the very few plants that will thrive with the wild temperature swings is grass, and so raising cattle is big business. And, grain is in the grass family and *IF* you choose the right cultivars then the grain will take hold in our rich soil and thrive like no place I have ever seen. But even so you have to take the climate into account: some types of plants will never be happy her unless you constantly fiddle with them.

So. Sweet potatos are growing for you: great! You have dewberries. Excellent. This is a serious start. These are things you may want to focus on next year.

Also, if you planted 4 months ago you might have planted a bit late for your area. If you started the plants as early as you can then you might have plants that are large enough to better withstand the insect pressure. You might also need to spray with BT, which is an organic that is harmless to people. Spraying with BT gives the insects an illness.

You live in in area that is 107 degrees: few plants will thrive under these conditions. Expect it. My parents in California used to plant tomatos in early January, harvest a lot of tomtos, and then the plants would stop setting tomatos when the temperature went over 100 degrees. BUT! they would set more tomatos in the Fall. She used to can 100 quarts of tomatos every year just from 4 tomato plants. BUT! She did not expect anything from the plants when the weather was over 100 degrees. When it is that hot it was enough just for the plants to survive: they would produce again when the weather cooled off in the Fall.

You have made a truly wonderful start, but you have the climate that you have and the Texas climate must be taken into account. Right now it takes REAL talent to keep your plants alive: feel proud that so far you have been able to do this. Next year you might consider planting as early as your climate will allow, and then hopefully you will be able to harvest BEFORE the heat sets in and again AFTER the heat breaks. Heck, you might even see if you can raise cold hardy vegetables during the winter.

Texas is famous for having a harsh climate, and most of your difficulties sound like they are due to that climate. But, MOST of Texas is also noted for being a food-producing state which is very promising: learn what does well in your area and learn when to plant it and I think that your garden will produce very heavily!
 
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Marco, you said Moringa would grow well in TX ... what of the frost and snow
Terri,  sweet potato in that climate also.
Sorry I am so confused here ... I have always been told Moringa is sub-tropical and sweet potato also .... must admit I was going to try the sweet potato this year ...  any tips?? I live Australia cool temperate. Today is 50F outside and was down to 33F over night but can  get colder.
 
Judy Jackson
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Can anyone answer these questions ??
 
wayne fajkus
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Sweet potatos are grown in texas as an annual. They are harvested prior to any frosts.
 
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Judy, you are at the mid to end of winter, correct? What is the coldest it gets?

I'm in north central Florida, climate zone 8b - we had a few nights in the 20s this past winter...I thought I lost my baby moringa tree, but to my surprise, it came back this spring. (I had cut the dead blackened stalk but left the roots, thinking they would decompose.) It started flowering 2 weeks ago.

As far as sweet potatoes go, I've always grown them as an annual. But that was when I lived in Maryland (zone 7b,) which has real winters. (I'm almost at the end of my first year in FL.) I'm planning to leave a couple plants in-ground to see what happens this year, although the gardeners in the area don't seem to think it can be done.
 
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I have had sweet potatoes winter over (dormant) except during very cold winters.  Perhaps with a little extra mulch they would have become truly perennial.
 
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I'm in north central fl and don't plan on getting anything except maybe okra, sweet tater leaves, malabar spinach, and Seminole pumpkins in June, July and aug. this year its too much rain and weeds are crazy and some kind of army worms have ate holes in everything. The fruit is softening early an green and the bees an squirrels are eating very well... I do wish I'd been able to plant more fruit trees tho, with the record rain fall, keeping them watered hasn't been a problem. Hands down best grow time here is fall/winter. Tomatoes, cukes an the like must be in in march and done, usually burned up by late may...  Can do some in the fall to if started in early aug and sheltered mid day. Its only been in mid 90's this summer but the humidity is stifling. A few years ago I took a drive out west and was surprised at the number of spegetti squash growing in desert areas... Every little homestead, community, hut in the middle of nowhere had several spegetti squash growing.
And for @Julie WinginIt I get perineal sweet potatoes just from roots left behind... I'll find several volunteers every year, but also plant slips I grow from a tater in a jar method... In zone 9a
 
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Not failing, learning.

Another option, if resources permit, is to create a garden surround of, say, two straw/hay bales high. The garden can be further 'corralled' into smaller plots for different veggies/trees. The bales help to reduce evaporation and break down to feed the soil. Branches/bamboo can be laid across the bales to support shade cloth in extreme hot/windy periods.

The soil between the bales can be a no dig garden - a lasagna of layers of old manure, lawn clipping, small branches, newspaper, etc.

The first bale could be placed into a shallow trench to strengthen the walls and fast track decomposition.

I've seen this used in our tropics, but it should work perfectly well in arid areas because the big problem is the hot wind and difficulty retaining soil moisture.

Over time the sandy soil beneath will change to a loam.

You may need to replenish the bales each year, perhaps longer, so it's relatively inexpensive and efficient once set up.

As someone said above, sourcing clean straw/hay may be a bit of an issue.

Good luck with it all.
 
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