If At First

There are so many lush, wonderful gardens being posted online that are producing enviable harvests, not to mention their beauty alone. Sometimes it’s discouraging to realize what meager pittance is coming out of this desert dweller’s attempt to live a sustainable existence, trying to provide my own food in this extreme heat with so little rain. It’s a little heart breaking to watch the plants struggle so to endure.

I’m not too hard on myself, because its clear that it will get better and better with time and that practice makes perfect. If all one does is fantasize what might be, it will be nothing. So it becomes in the doing.

Much has been learned. Studying what others do is great help. Realizing that there have been very successful, sustainable growing ventures right near where I live is all of the encouragement I need.

This is probably the 5th time this book has been mentioned on this blog and the Facebook page related; but the further I get into it, the more it becomes clear that it is a book for everyone, not just desert dwellers: Growing Food in a Hotter Drier Land, Lessons from Desert Farmers on Adapting to Climate Uncertainty by Gary Paul Nabhan

It is about sustainability and leaving as little of a footprint as is possible.

Last night, I was reading to where it started mentioning Principles and Premises and got into conventional irrigation technologies, including laser-leveling fields, installing center pivot or automated drip technologies and that farmers are often exhausted and broke by that time and unable to further tweak their system for even greater water use.

That is why ecologist David Bainbridge suggests that we must look beyond drip irrigation to various other means of micro-irrigation that do not demand such high maintenance and periodic technological replacement costs.

I have been wasting so much water trying to figure things out. Of course everything has been being done all along to establish the compound in such a way that water is maximized, i.e., Hugelkultur, raised beds, mulch, cover crops, chop and drop, rain water harvesting, layering, nurse planting. This book is a wonderful tool to get steered onto an even better path.

  • buried pitcher irrigation
  • wick irrigation
  • porous capsule irrigation
  • deep pipe irrigation
  • perforated drainpipe irrigation
  • porous hose irrigation

are named as a few of the strategies and it’s exciting to think of how much better things will get.

The book gives a list of rules of thumb to keep in mind when directing water to the root zones of plants; timing planting and harvesting with respect to timing of rains, putting plants that require the same water needs together, watering when temps are lowest for the least evaporation, not leaving surface areas bare, directing water flow less broadly, just to name a few.

I think that part of the problem this year may have been the straw. It may have had herbicide residue that is effecting the growth habits. This is why it is so important to need as few external inputs as possible.

Tons of new growth every year

Tons of new growth every year

The big #Toughnut tree in the #SouthFortyTriangleLot grows and grows each year, producing lots of fodder for arbor mulch. It might just be a good investment to purchase a chipper/shredder now.

It’s branches extend out every year and offer long, droopy limbs to trim for shredding. Up to now, they have been lopped and used as Hugelkultur material. Doves love to make their nests in the lower branches. This tree is so ‘messy’ it has lots of criss-crossed limbs that make good anchors for their wimpy seeming builds.

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Aside from ground cover, which can be many things; mulch, clover, rocks, there needs to be layers in a desert garden, any garden that wants to be sustainable the permaculture way. And you can scarcely have too much material for building Hugelkultur or chipping/shredding for mulch.

I took my camera to run errands yesterday because I had seen a tree in the Walmart parking lot and wanted to try to identify it. It was wispy and airy and not too big. After inspecting it carefully and taking shots, I went through the garden entrance, as per usual, and there was one sitting in a big 41.031 qt. pot, actually several. They wanted $56 each. Funny that I hadn’t noticed them before.

chilopsis linearis, Desert Willow

chilopsis linearis, Desert Willow

That allowed for it’s identification. The trees planted on their grounds were dripping with pods. I looked for some laying on the ground but soon discovered that they open and drop seeds first; so I pulled a few dried pods, that hadn’t opened, off of the tree itself to see if I might try to get some seedlings going.

Pods of the chilopsis linearis, Desert Willow

Pods of the chilopsis linearis, Desert Willow

There was another tree I thought interesting, but have no idea what it is?

Anyone know what this tree is?

Anyone know what this tree is?

Need to identify this tree

Here’s a close-up. Need to identify this tree.

Ravine planted for erosion control

Ravine planted for erosion control

When Walmart came to Benson, I guess 9 years ago now, it planted out the surrounding properties. This area was planted for erosion control. It’s a deep ravine. It looks like a park to me and I wonder why they don’t set up the surrounds for just that.

Desert Willow

Desert Willow

Blue Skies and Wide Open Spaces, Arizona

Blue Skies and Wide Open Spaces, Arizona

Needless to say, there is lots of beauty and diversity in the desert and I look forward to continually finding new and better ways to increase the productivity, sustainability and beauty of my little clip of heaven.

Beautiful desert diversity

Beautiful desert diversity

And no shortness of purples, which suits me just fine.

This would look nice in the #ParkwayProject

This would look nice in the #ParkwayProject

Butterfly center

Butterfly center

Beautiful butterfly seems to love this plant

Beautiful blue butterfly seems to love this plant

So, the moral of this story is: If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. And look to nature for advice.

Pine cones and Desert Willow pods

Pine cones and Desert Willow pods

And, of course, plant, plant, plant!

Happy planting.

Desert Willow:

Named for its resemblance to willows, this popular ornamental tree is actually related to catalpa trees, Yellowbells (Tecoma stans), and Trumpet vine (Campsis radicans). Its exotic-looking blooms, rapid growth, drought tolerance, and ease of maintenance have made it a sought-after plant within its range, which in nature is from south-central Texas south to Nuevo Leon and Zacatecas in Mexico and west all the way to southern California and Baja California. Adapted to desert washes, it does best with just enough water to keep it blooming and healthily green through the warm months. Many cultivars have been selected, with varying flower colors, leaf sizes, and amounts of seed pods.

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Practice Makes Perfect

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Cooling things down a bit

A bundle of synthetic rope found its way to the surface of hoarded stuff. It was stretchy, so made a much better lace from fence to fence because it could be pulled and made taut. The jute string was droopy and a total nuisance to try to navigate under. This puts it much higher. The string was installed to be able to drape things over to create some light shade over certain plants that are really affected by the heat.

All of the mesh that had been wrapped around the plums came off to harvest them and was used here for a very light sunscreen; trying to cool things down a bit.

Yesterday was hot but that didn’t stop Little Red-Haired Girl from sunbathing.

Late afternoon transpiration occuring

Late afternoon transpiration occurring

It rained for several days, so I have been trying to see how long things can go between waterings. They could probably go longer; but when things start looking like they are really transpiring, the hose comes out.

It was about 6:30pm when the hose finally came out this day.

First walk of the day

First walk of the day

It really seems to work better to water in the evening. It takes things a lot longer to show transpiration the next morning.

Front Yard Farmacy

Front Yard Farmacy

Soil building is a slow process. So is adding layers to create micro-climates. Micro-climates are essential in this desert heat and scorching Sun.

This year the focus was on planting as many sweet potatoes as possible since they are such a staple in my diet. Most of what is happening to date is practicing. Through the years, I have been saving seeds, so I started with sowing them in paper pots before spring to see what would germinate. Sweet potato slips have been growing on potatoes in water since long before spring, some still growing.

Sunflowers, tomatoes, cucumbers, cantaloupe were mostly it from seeds in pots. The sunflower transplants did okay, especially the biggest one that was transplanted to the #3HugelBed in the #SFTL. The ones doing the best overall were direct sown in spring.

Cucumbers are a fail, not sure why.

Cantaloupe are all doing well, but got off to a slow start.

Two varieties of tomatoes were germinated in pots. Black Krim from saved seeds are not doing well for the most part. The Brandywine are all doing very well. Trouble is that night shades are suspect in migraine headaches that are crippling me on a regular basis, so have been eliminated to see if they are the culprit. Need homes for tomatoes now.

Practice makes perfect. All the while the soil is developing to be healthier, whatever doesn’t produce a harvest will be more biomass for building it even further.

Beets, popcorn, sweet corn were all sown directly and mostly doing well. Watermelon all over are transplants from many that volunteered in the back yard in #CompostCorner where kitchen scraps get thrown from time to time. Flowers all over for the birds, bees and good bugs.

Squash and pumpkin are growing in the #SouthFortyTriangleLot. Potatoes under the straw in the front on the #1HugelkulturBed the ‘Ruth Stout Method‘. They are another night shade, but fun to see if they can be grown. So far, so good.

Blueberry bush in a container

Blueberry bush in a container

Taking the advice of one blogger, I planted the blueberry bush in a container and have moved it to here where it gets a little more Sun, but not too much. It may need a feeding. It seems to be suffering from chlorosis; leaves yellowing but veins remain green. Chlorosis can be watering issues, too much, leaching nutrients out; or something as simple as not enough sunlight. It has been getting mostly dappled light. Now it will get more.

Causes and Complicating Factors

The factors leading to iron chlorosis are complex and not fully understood. A number of chemical reactions govern iron availability and contribute to the complexity of iron chemistry in soils.

Many environmental factors also create or contribute to iron deficiency. These factors need to be evaluated and alleviated to the extent possible. In many situations, attention to watering and soil conditions will satisfactorily correct minor iron chlorosis problems.

Most of the container plants were moved from the patio area and placed in the pathway where it isn’t easy to plant other, in-ground things. The herbs were all moved over to the sitting area near the street on the East-most corner. The vintage table set was turned around so all sides can be accessed and will now be slated for painting. Some of the chairs have already been. Pavers will be added to extend the patio to the fence.  The table has a very nice piece of glass, but it stays covered to keep it from ruin as the set is valuable. A better top needs to be made. This is an old hollow core door, falling apart; but at least it isn’t such a worry to sit things on it.

Turquoise sky

Turquoise sky

The view to the street from the East-most corner.

The hibiscus recently rescued from the Walmart nursery perked right up and has now been planted in the #1HugelkulturBed near the tree stump and almost centered between the arch panels. There was a potato under the straw there, so its placement fell short of perfection.

More soil building, clover under the Apricot tree also lets me know when the ground gets too dry. It grew right up through the wood mulch and seems to love the shade. I’ll let it flower, if it will, for the bees and reseeding and then chop and drop it for more nutrition. All containers are kept on their sides so if a lizard finds its way in it can find its way back out. They have a tendency to fall into things.

Bird on a bowl

Bird on a bowl

Water features are all over for the creatures coming and going. Wherever it is a deep vessel, there is something added to allow the lizards a means of escape.

First Do No Harm you know.

Here’s a good little video of Ruth Stout taking you through her method.

Thanks for stopping. Come back soon.