In Due Time

The main reason water is disappearing from the rivers is that rain has stopped falling. The first step we must take in countering desertification is not to redirect the flow of rivers, but to cause rain to fall again. This involves revegetation.

Trying to revegetate the deserts by using the scarce water remaining in the rivers is putting the cart before the horse. No, we must first revegetate vast stretches of desert at one time, thereby causing rain clouds to rise from the earth. ~ pg 60-61 Sowing Seeds in the Desert ~ Masanobu Fukuoka

What I have quickly discovered after removing straw and wood chips from my planting areas and instead, planting green cover crops is that the interspersed food crops are fairing better than they did last year with the carbon type covers. I think it is because of the humidity that the green cover crops create when they transpire, thereby cooling the area some as well.

As it is, in a desert, for carbon covers to be of value they have to be irrigated regularly to break down and they don’t seem all that efficient at holding much moisture; especially not straw. I decided to invest that same water in green covers that will be chopped and dropped eventually. It makes more sense, to me. Both clover and buckwheat flower. Bees love the clover. Turns out there is a honey that tastes like molasses that depends on buckwheat for the bees. Win-win.

Bees in the buckwheat

Here is something I would do if I could. Bees in a field of buckwheat seems too good to be true. The source of my all-time favorite honey, Fagopyrum esculentum, just doesn’t want to grow in my shady forest apiary. Believe me, I’ve tried. So I have to be content looking at a photo like this and dreaming about the molasses taste of buckwheat honey.

I’m also throwing out old seeds willy-nilly. Why not? Whatever should come up, can be more biomass or food if it ends up fairing well enough.

Here are a couple of stands of buckwheat that are doing especially well. They seem to like being up against something.


Behind the pomegranate tree, the straw was pulled away and buckwheat scattered.

The intention is to improve soil. The straw there did very little to improve the soil. This will be chopped and dropped closer to monsoon season when the rain will help it decompose more consistently.


The #WestMost corner of the #SouthForty Triangle lot was ‘clawed’ up and buckwheat broadcast.

The dirt in all areas of this compound is sandy. It is hard until watered well and then the water dissipates quickly. When developing this corner, it was watered heavily so it could be dug up to remove Bermuda grass. Nothing has been successful with Bermuda grass except to do this at the beginning. I suppose if lasagna beds were made, in due time, it would smother the grass; but there just weren’t resources for that.

After the Bermuda grass was removed, the dirt was leveled out and newspaper/cardboard/straw was laid over it. It had very little effect in a year’s time except that the newspaper and cardboard were broken down. That is now being use in the Humanure bin.

All of the straw was raked off and put into the paths this year and then I got out the ‘garden claw‘ and broke up the dirt enough that buckwheat could be broadcast and raked over to set it.

I’m so glad I decided to do this. I’m much happier with the results over carbon covers.

The other thing one might be afraid of is competition, but my experience thus far has been that everyone likes being crowded. Below is an image of what looks like a watermelon that has volunteered. To the left is a cage over a pumpkin that was transplanted from the patch on the down side of the #4HugelBed. It’s as lush as can be.


Looks like a volunteer watermelon in there among the buckwheat and zinnias.


The #PumpkinPatch has a fourth one sprouting. Two others were transplanted.

I have been using the raked off wood chips and some leaf mulch to cover transplants and seedlings where they are too exposed. As a result, volunteers are popping up all over from seeds that didn’t germinate in the areas that material came from. I always pulled back the covers to sow seeds, but the birds kick it back over; so when it got raked up, it brought seeds with it. Whatever works to get things started.


Tomato transplants covered with leaf mulch

Where the wood chips were laid, volunteers are popping up around the tomato transplants; beets and looks like radishes.


Bunching onions covered with a little bit of leaf mulch.

Where I sowed bunching onions was covered with a little bit of leaf mulch that also brought over some things to surprise sprout.


#5HugelBed with clover and buckwheat around a couple of food things

The #5HugelBed was just installed at the beginning of this season. Clover was immediately broadcast over it and later filled in some with buckwheat. I think it’s two cantaloupes growing there, not doing all that well, as well as a yellow squash and a nasturtium. Wood chips were added around them to help retain moisture some.



The #NorthFencePlot is home to many of the tomato transplants that are all doing well. This was thick with wood chips and several times sowed with beet seeds; pulling back the mulch to put in the seeds. Again the birds kicked it back over hunting for grubs and other bugs. It was mostly raked off so some of those seeds are popping up where the wood chips ended up. Now there are  some zinnias finally appearing along the fence where they were scratched into the improved soil minus the wood chips. The bricks were holding down the wire trashcans when the tomatoes were babies and needed some shelter; just haven’t bothered to move them.

The #RaisedBed still has some cabbages doing okay. The chicken wire has done little to thwart the white butterflies as they can navigate the wire easily. I see them in there all of the time. Some are more affected by chomping than others.

Popcorn rows between and aside the cabbages and some sweet potato slips put in the upper right area where leaf mulch was topped over the soil. The lower right had some cold-compost put over it and all kinds of things are volunteering there. Some will get transplanted when they get big enough.



Seems to be taking forever, but in time, it will become greener and greener; this season and hopefully long term as well. I find myself almost jealous when I visit images of Bealtaine Cottage and see how lush and vibrant her patch of heaven is; but, after all, she is in Ireland where there is so much more rain.

I wait with bated breath, but nature does things as she sees fit. All in due time. I can only try to help.

Water seems to be everything.

Well I for one will listen to the wisdom of Masanobu Fukuoku and do my best to green this little part of the desert. Maybe the water will come back if enough of us do.

The time has come and gone to get started, so let’s not waste any more of it.

If Humanity can regain its original kinship with nature, we should be able to live in peace and abundance. Seen through the eyes of modern civilization, however, this life of natural culture must appear to be monotonous and primitive, but not to me…

…We must realize that both in the past and today, there is only one “sustainable” course available to us. We must find our way back to true nature… pg. 16 ~ Sowing Seeds in the Desert ~ Masanobu Fukuoku


Fig tree


Plum tree


Chaste tree in bloom. The bees love it.


#2SquashPit planted with #ThreeSisters

Some of this had to be resown, hence the various heights of the popcorn. Not all of the squashes germinated but there are some extras on the #3SquashPit that will eventually be transplanted to here.

I’m not a big fan of sweet corn, and it doesn’t store all that well. Popcorn I love and it can be ground into meal to use for baking cornbread and stored.

I’m still reluctant to use external inputs because there is not really any telling if there is herbicide/pesticide residue that will contaminate the organic nature of what I hope to achieve, in the long run it isn’t really sustainable/regenerative and it isn’t what I am being lead to believe is the best way overall. Transportation and money are issues as well. For now, I work with what I have and can find locally and am trying to stick as much as possible to the Fukuoku method.

We’ll see. We’ll see. All in due time.



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.


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.