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Looking for others in Mountain SW - espcially high desert / seasonal monsoon areas  RSS feed

 
Posts: 16
Location: Northen New Mexico, 7500', zone 6b
chicken food preservation cooking
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Hey All!  
I am new to premies, but am loving it so far!  I am looking for anyone else living in a high desert area with seasonal monsoons.  We have a unique weather pattern ( I laugh when I hear "April showers..." since April is one of our driest months!) - not till late Jul do we get rain!

I am at about 7500', and also have alkaline clayey soil, and I am looking for wisdom of anyone else dealing with this challenging set of conditions.

Thanks!

Sandy

 
steward
Posts: 4470
Location: Zones 2-4 Wyoming and 4-5 Colorado
351
bee books forest garden fungi greening the desert hugelkultur
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Howdy Sandy, I have added your post to a couple of other forums to get some better visibility and hopefully some discussion going.
 
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Hello Sandy. I live in southern Colorado Crestone area so I'm in the same type of geographic area. My zone is 5. I'm from CA so growing things has been a challenge. I'd like to hear about your successes.
Rick
 
Posts: 139
Location: Sunizona Az., USA @ 4,500' Zone 8a
4
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Hi Sandy.
There are a lot of us in the SW high desert.
 
gardener
Posts: 1530
Location: Ladakh, Indian Himalayas at 10,500 feet, zone 5
203
food preservation greening the desert solar trees
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I'm halfway around the world from you but also in high desert. 10,500 feet, approx, and no rain to speak of. Pretty much everything has to be grown with irrigation, which is mostly from the snowmelt streams.
 
Posts: 17
Location: Zone 6, High Desert
3
food preservation greening the desert urban
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Howdy, Sandy!

The two things that I’m grooving on recently -

1. Coffee grounds as a soil amendment. There’s keen competition among gardeners where I work for the breakroom coffee grounds as a soil acidifier. I haven’t re-checked PH on the patch I’ve innoculated yet, as it takes a while to build up enough, unless you have an ‘in’ at a cafe.

2. Cheese weed - Malva neglecta - has 10-100x the nutritional value of grocery store kale, a mild taste, stands up to cooking (don’t fry, odd texture), and is delicious in salad, palak paneer, and spanikopita. It seems to grow best as a 3-season annual in the un-irrigated, high-traffic, gravel-and-weed-barrier footpaths of xeric landscaping, ideally with a gardener jumping up and down on it, swearing, and tearing at it with a stirrup hoe weekly to bi-weekly.  
 
Posts: 16
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I'm in the low desert here (541')-- at the bottom of a bowl of mountains (i.e. surrounded by high desert). Digging irrigation trenches and mulching very, very heavily should maximize whatever water you get. My soil is heavy clay, so drainage is an issue even with otherwise well-suited plants. I mulch specifically with pine needles-- anything highly acidic, to counteract the alkaline soil. I put down solid layers of pine wood chips, then continuously add more of whatever mulch my yard itself produces. When I put a tree in, I dig a very large hole and also raise the entire ground level up in that spot with a barrier to keep the water from running off. Periodically, I throw a bunch of birdseed into my yard to encourage birds to gather and...fertilize my plants. Sometimes the birdseed sprouts and I let it grow a bit before turning it under.

Now, most people up the hill are able to grow stone fruits and wine grapes. I'm also able to grow them down here (albeit different species). Mondell pines are a good choice-- pines help insulate homes against the cold when planted close and will assist in further neutralizing the alkaline clay with their shedding. They are a "desert" pine, so if you get a bit too cold for them I'm sure there's another suitable species. If there's some sort of indigenous "weed" grass that's prone to growing in your area, consider inviting someone's livestock (big or small) to graze on it each season. The trampling, urine, and manure will further enrich the soil. The soil is the hardest, most time consuming step. It takes time and patience but is absolutely critical to the health of your plants.
 
Posts: 112
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Hi
I'm at 6000 feet accross the border in Arizona.
My soil is hopeless so i pay attention to anything that grows without care.
Siberian elm and siberian olive do well. I have some arizona cypress are plodding along.

New mexico has a forrestry seedling program online.

Last year i started mesquite, acacia and a bunch of tree seeds i saw along the road. This year i will start them in the hundreds.
Come this spring i will see how last year's seedlings survived the winter.(though failure won't stop me from tying again)

I use composting worms in garbage cans. Nothing fancy, just keep pouring worm food into it.(pow plop porridge, they love it).  The freezing winter nights don't seem to kill them, go figure.

Even after growing the trees and building the soil you still have to deal with critters. A wire cage wrapped with shade cloth. I choose the heavier wire since i will re-use
Them for years.

Five years ago i hand dug swales. Not much good since we have had five years of drought, though this year has been better.  The soil is so poor the organic matter i put in the swales is still there.
Over the years i have dug rain catchment pits along sloped land and the grasses growing there are monsters compared to everywhere else.
So the proof is in the pudding.


 
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Just joined minutes ago but have been visiting this site for years. Getting ready to start developing a farmstead - trust for the grandkids on 36 acres in eastern Arizona 20 or so miles south of I-40 four mile west of the New Mexico border. At 6300' with a sandy loam soil covered in very mature Pinion Pines and Juniper trees that has awesome south sloping exposures the monsoon moisture is very much in play. Getting ready to drill a well into the shallow (320') aquifer at the high point on the property to use gravity to fill tanks for sprinkler irrigation in select areas.

Average annual rainfall in the area is said to be 12-14" but we're thinking it's more like 16-18" given the weather pattern during the monsoon.
 
kevin stewart
Posts: 112
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Hi
Welcome to mars.
If you don't think you are on mars i will give you time to rethink that.(also a bit wild west)

There has been more moisture this year but my place is near a giant water pit and it's been empty for five years.

Just think that everything you put in the ground is in danger and must be protected. Who knew cute bunnies could cause such problems.

If you need to go to sanders in the summer the trading post has nice hand scooped ice cream.

I'll send a purple moose to youse.
 
kevin stewart
Posts: 112
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Hey, i just got a message that you have a good seven inches of snow!
That's lots of moisture.
Wait till april, it will be so green you'll think you're in ireland.  Flower have been waiting.

I have obligations in california so i only visit my place every five weeks or so.

Joe, i sent you my email address
 
Posts: 6
Location: Cedar Crest, NM
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I would like to join this group as I live in the East Mountains of ABQ at 7500 feet.
 
Joe Danielek
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Kevin... friend on the plateau 24 miles south of Sanders has gotten 22" of snow starting Christmas day at an elevation of 6600'. It's sticking in the shade but otherwise melts off in a short time. He's starting a Heirloom Seed business with the plan of growing nearly all the seeds being sold. In the two years they've been up there all critters large and small have been dealt with effectively. The wild donkeys were the biggest problem solved by a trip wire 2' off the ground around the garden that is protected from wood rats and rabbits by chicken wire.
 
Shawn Dietrich
Posts: 6
Location: Cedar Crest, NM
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I put in water catch barrels on each of my structures:
1. The run off on dry hard soils will create erosion
2. Using them to irrigate using a drip system helps with absorption as it is slower
3. This also helps grow longer root systems and the water will over time help the overall health of the area instead of runnin off which is a problem in the high desert which evident in the arroyos

Next spring, I am going to continue, like Kevin to build catch ponds in any area where there is already some erosion happening. Bill Zeedyk has a couple of great books on high mountain wetland restoration that may help.
https://www.amazon.com/Let-Water-Work-Meandering-Restoring/dp/1603585699/ref=sr_1_1/146-9579742-7025105?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1546094633&sr=1-1&refinements=p_27%3ABill+Zeedyk

Joe mentioned that Kevin has started a seed bank, I am interested 👽
Shawn
 
Joe Danielek
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I’m sorry Shawn, I was addressing my comment to Kevin, and Kevin hasn’t starting a seed bank. My friends, a couple is starting up an Heirloom Seed business in a remote location for growing open pollinated seeds. This is a link to their site http://painted-desert.com/sample-page/ and again it’s a startup. I assume you’re on the western slope of the mountains southeast of Albuquerque.
 
Shawn Dietrich
Posts: 6
Location: Cedar Crest, NM
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Eastern slope, Cedar Crest
I will look into the seeds 👽
 
kevin stewart
Posts: 112
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Sandy
I assume you are west of flagstaff. I'll wave as i drive by.

Actally i did have april showers the first april i was out there. It snowed. I was so worried about my "primitive" roads turning into slush that i took off, not to return for months.

I don't have a "seed bank" as much as i save seeds, or is that the same thing? This year is the big seedling starter.

Shawn, have a look at the new mexico seedling program.
It's for people who own land in new mexico.



 
Wayne Mackenzie
Posts: 139
Location: Sunizona Az., USA @ 4,500' Zone 8a
4
greening the desert
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All of this snow the past few days is awesome! We don’t usually get this much down here.
 
Posts: 2306
Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even Soil:SandyLoam pH6 Flat
107
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So there are 3 things that I can think of to focus on.

1) Earth
2) Soil Life
3) Plants.

For earth, I would say add biochar, subsoil ripping, swales, keyline, net and pan, sunken basin. Mulching, and spacing, sunken greenhouse/earthbermed

For soil life, I would say, EM+IMO+Water kefir+Worm compost tea+milk kefir, add them to some water then aerate for 36hours then apply to soil, compost, and leaves every 4 weeks.

For plants, I would do careful species and cultivar selections for drought tolerance/etc.
 
Shawn Dietrich
Posts: 6
Location: Cedar Crest, NM
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We have over three feet on the ground, if this keeps up it will be a great spring 👽
 
Posts: 63
Location: Zone 7a, Paulden, AZ
4
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We're in AZ about 40 miles north of Prescott.  Elevation is about 4500', very alkaline soil, windy, late frosts, seasonal monsoons.  We've been here about 2.5 years, still trying to figure it out.  Previous owner left us with a small orchard, large blackberry patch, and fairly good soil.  One of our biggest challenges is the late frost.  It warms up in Feb. and trees start to bud, then late frost in May kills it.  We got a fair crop off the apple trees this year.  One plum actually had about 7 fruit but the birds got them.  That was the only stone fruit that's actually set fruit.

We have a hoop house, but haven't had much success in there so far.  Thought I could overwinter some of my potted plants in there, but overnight freezes took them out.  I'm thinking I'll just use it to start seeds later.  

Bonnie
 
kevin stewart
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It took me a while to accept that i can't expect much seed sprouting in april. Just too cold at night.

My first greenhouse was a pit greenhouse to stay out of the wind but water can't gravity flow when you are in a hole, you are too close to the critters and i broke my back hand digging that pit.

I built a 10 ×16 pvc hoop house but it was at risk in the wind. Since i have all my seedlings on plywood watering trays i simply attached the hoop legs to the trays. It's not going anywhere. Two years later it's still standing.
Each tray can hold 100 one gallon pots.

Years ago when i was in a digging mood i dug a pit to hold water. It's no end of trouble, a jackrabbit fell in and destroyed the liner. Now i have multiple covers to keep creatures out. Sometimes the 12 volt pump has lift problems. I had a ton of water available to me this year and i found the liner had slipped down one side so i could only collect so much.

This year i will use an eight foot swimming pool inside the greenhouse. (A new, bigger house) i can keep an eye on it there.

Maybe big head minnows?
 
Joe Danielek
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Know what you mean about late freezes Bonnie, I put a data logger on my property for two winters to capture air temperature, soil temperature at 12”, humidity and light intensity (cloud cover). If we put an orchard in this is our or my plan once the farmstead is started and draws some interest from some of our kids’ friends to provide labor..  https://desertoasis.ning.com/blog/orchard?edited=1

Going to plant the trees late fall 2019 in critter protective cages with the idea we need to protect them from frosts in about 5 years... got to get them started. The cost of 25 small bare root trees out of Georgia is a minimal expense compared to the cage design to protect from ungulates, rabbits and pack rats.    

Our last frost is May 15th Kevin where direct seeding in the open with tender crops is safe. Once up there I’ll have various grow tunnels and start playing with heating techniques. Being a deep sandy loam soil I have the advantage of using the soil in a mixture with portland cement to build walls. Son, a union form carpenter has already designed a metal framed plywood slip form for building 3’ high earth berms/walls where all our grow areas slope south.        
 
kevin stewart
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More snow for you today.

Yes to the wire cages. I have been looking online and i think the prices are better than at the gallup home depot.
I also wrap my cages in shade cloth, the summer sun's a scorcher.

All of my planting is based on me not being there a month at a time....i plant trees in late november, when i planted in october it was still too warm.

I recently found that along the banks of the puerco river there are siberian olive trees. All around them are five foot tall saplings.
I need to remind myself to remember to go visit with a shovel while the trees are still dormant.

I save gallon water bottles. If i don't refill them then i cut off the top and use them like a funnel on a three foot section of pvc pipe. The pipe directs any rain to the roots rather than the surface. I use the bottom halves as pots. I call them funnel pipes and every tree i grow will have several around them. Yes folks, it's dry here on mars.
Eventually my drip irrigation will have the drips attached to a short pipe to put the water deep.

By the way i did try juniper leaves as compost. I grew beans in pure leaf matter and then transferred the whole thing to a pot of soil.
The beans grew well enough but the leaves were smaller.


 
Wayne Mackenzie
Posts: 139
Location: Sunizona Az., USA @ 4,500' Zone 8a
4
greening the desert
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I use tree tubes.
They’ve worked well at protecting from desiccating wind, UV, and critters.
 
Sandy Smithsson
Posts: 16
Location: Northen New Mexico, 7500', zone 6b
chicken food preservation cooking
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kevin stewart wrote:Sandy
I assume you are west of flagstaff. I'll wave as i drive by.

Actally i did have april showers the first april i was out there. It snowed. I was so worried about my "primitive" roads turning into slush that i took off, not to return for months.

I don't have a "seed bank" as much as i save seeds, or is that the same thing? This year is the big seedling starter.

Shawn, have a look at the new mexico seedling program.
It's for people who own land in new mexico.





I am up north of Santa Fe.  We got DUMPED on with snow a week ago -  they are still piling it up in the parking lots as I write this.  
 
Sandy Smithsson
Posts: 16
Location: Northen New Mexico, 7500', zone 6b
chicken food preservation cooking
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Bonnie Kuhlman wrote:We're in AZ about 40 miles north of Prescott.  Elevation is about 4500', very alkaline soil, windy, late frosts, seasonal monsoons.  We've been here about 2.5 years, still trying to figure it out.  Previous owner left us with a small orchard, large blackberry patch, and fairly good soil.  One of our biggest challenges is the late frost.  It warms up in Feb. and trees start to bud, then late frost in May kills it.  We got a fair crop off the apple trees this year.  One plum actually had about 7 fruit but the birds got them.  That was the only stone fruit that's actually set fruit.

We have a hoop house, but haven't had much success in there so far.  Thought I could overwinter some of my potted plants in there, but overnight freezes took them out.  I'm thinking I'll just use it to start seeds later.  

Bonnie



We have the same late frost issues here.  Some of our trees that we have success with are (all late varieties) apples, peaches, an ornamental plum (that insists it is NOT an ornamental and produces huge amounts of the sweetest plums!), and a pie cherry.  The pie cherry does fantastic but buds later than sweet cherries, although one year out of five we dont have a crop due to a late freeze.

I see a LOT of apricots around me, I dont understand why when they just bloom wayyy too early to have reliable fruit.  But they make great shade trees so I guess the fruit is just a bonus.

Blackberries, raspberries, other brambles do well, and so do currants and their gooseberry cousins, they seems to not care about the cold and wind and the sun.

Oh, and wall-o-waters.  If we want tomatoes and peppers, have to use them!  One year I didnt, and had to replant the tomatoes THREE TIMES !  That was a lesson that I will never forget! Hard freeze in late May ARGHHHHHHHHHHH

 
Sandy Smithsson
Posts: 16
Location: Northen New Mexico, 7500', zone 6b
chicken food preservation cooking
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Wayne Mackenzie wrote:I use tree tubes.
They’ve worked well at protecting from desiccating wind, UV, and critters.



What are tree tubes?  

Sandy
 
Wayne Mackenzie
Posts: 139
Location: Sunizona Az., USA @ 4,500' Zone 8a
4
greening the desert
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Sandy Smithsson wrote:
What are tree tubes?  
Sandy

A3F3E9F0-E51E-4699-8FB3-1D923532EF1F.jpeg
[Thumbnail for A3F3E9F0-E51E-4699-8FB3-1D923532EF1F.jpeg]
 
Wayne Mackenzie
Posts: 139
Location: Sunizona Az., USA @ 4,500' Zone 8a
4
greening the desert
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I leave them on until they fall off.
A young Sierra Plum in a 4’ tube.
A39A2734-A48B-4297-9DFD-989A55B2EB0C.jpeg
[Thumbnail for A39A2734-A48B-4297-9DFD-989A55B2EB0C.jpeg]
 
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