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Screaming hot spot in the garden where nothing can grow. Cheap/free suggestions anyone?

 
pollinator
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This is a companion thread to “Why shade is so important in hot climates” which I just posted.

Wanted to live in the high desert country of Sedona. Also wanted to grow food and flowers. To grow here I knew I had to have lots of shade so I chose a property with lots of big trees. Turns out I need even more shade if I want stuff to grow well and I don't want to use so much water!  A lot more shade! O.K. So now I'm planting lots of semi-dwarf fruit trees. I got 10 this year but I need many, many more! Couldn't find a lot of what I wanted locally. No apricots, jujubes, persimmons, ------ Bummer. Will keep looking. But, the plan is working well in most of the yard.

But, I have this one spot where I can't do this. Picture # 1. I don't do raised beds or hugels or many containers here because they dry out almost immediately due to the intense sun and on and off wind. So I dig all my beds. I did manage to dig small  beds on each side of this spot where there is some dirt. Got down about 18” but soon realized I couldn't make them any bigger. This whole spot is solid rock with about 1” of dirt on top. Some of it is even bare rock. If humans like me weren't here messing with it, in a hundred years or so this spot would look just like the mountain in picture # 2 facing north. That's my neighbors yard with the grape vines growing.

In picture # 3 I am facing west. Due to gushing monsoon rains I realized 5 years ago that this hill is/was eroding pretty fast. I think it has lost about 6” in the last 12 years. So if anyone has suggestions for what ground cover I can put down here that can handle screaming hot sun with no water I would really appreciate it. It's mostly rock and rock hard dirt. (Did somebody just laugh and say plastic?) I have lots of garden ties and rocks on one side to hold it back but I'd really like to do something different here. Enough with the rocks already!  I've tried a few things but they soon died or just looked like crap for most of the year. I'm open for suggestions.  And that funky white thing in the pictures is made out of concrete. I think it used to be the base for a 2 way radio tower.

So now you're thinking.... If the hill is eroding isn't it dumping dirt on the hot spot? Unfortunately, no. I give you picture # 4 which is also facing east. During monsoon rains all the dirt rolls down the first hill, rolls across the hot spot and continues down the next hill to the bottom. I could stop it but it would be years before it built up into something I could grow in. In fact, I would love to put a bunch of pistachio trees down there at the bottom some day if I can ever get to it. The soil down there stays slightly damp all year! Yes, this can happen in high desert country. But we haven't had any monsoon rains for the last 3 years so maybe things have changed permanently and this won't be part of the equation any more. However, I digress.

So this is my hot spot. I'd like to turn it into something nice and really cool it down if at all possible. Can't plant into the rock. But I am hoping that I could find some drought tolerant, fast growing trees with shallow roots that are kind of pretty to plant around the edges where there is a little dirt to provide a bit of shade. Can't put down wood chips or mulch. (See my companion thread.. Why shade is so important in hot climates) I saw a really nice and free gazebo on Craigslist a few years back but I couldn't find a second person to help me tear it down at the time. But it would still be screaming hot there. Been pondering this for years. Hope some of you have some good suggestions. You usually do! Happy gardening everyone.
DSC05071.JPG
My hot spot. Facing east
My hot spot. Facing east
DSC05077.JPG
Facing north.
Facing north.
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Facing west.
Facing west.
DSC05076.JPG
Facing east again , hot spot behind me
Facing east again , hot spot behind me
 
gardener
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So I read three main issues:

1. Heat.
2. Lack of soil.
3. Continuing erosion.

For dealing with the heat, could you put up an artificial shade structure until you build up the soil enough to get trees or shrubs growing? Maybe something fun and permie like a moisture harvesting net.
 
gardener
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Could this be a spot for water storage?
The idea being you create a covered storage tank using the natural "foundation" that already  exists.
 
gardener
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I'm tempted to offer you some of my unkillable cemetery irises just to see if you've finally found the site they can't handle.   Just getting something in that spot might start the soil building process. PM if you're interested.   I have plenty of spot where I could divide the stands.
 
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I just watched a documentary on Agave being used in Mexico to reclaim moisture and soil. They also planted small trees to accompany the agave. Here's the link  
 
Debbie Ann
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What great suggestions! This is such a difficult spot! It is why I have been considering it for SO MANY YEARS NOW! Thank you all so much for giving this some thought.

Hi L. J.   A synopsis...
Heat would be the biggest one. I can't change the climate but it would be very helpful if I can cool the area down so nearby stuff can start to grow and I could enjoy the area more. Or find a better use for this really hot area altogether. I really like 'pretty'.
Lack of soil... I think it would take many years and lots of money to build up soil in this area so I should try something else.
Controlling erosion on the hill would be great. But if the current weather pattern (severe drought in my area)+(20 year drought in the southwest) doesn't change soon I don't expect much more erosion on the hill. A moot point.  But it would be good to plan for it in case we go back to our old weather pattern. I would like my hill to remain a hill. I can watch really great sunsets from that hill and the mountains change all kinds of colors!

Hi William, I thought of that too! In picture # 3 you can see a long black tarp on the ground. That's the bare spot of nothing but rock. When we still had monsoons the water would just pool there and remain for several days. Solid rock. So I built a hugelculture to attempt to capture that rainwater, save it and put it to good use. And then... we haven't had any monsoon rain for 3 years now. Our local meteorologist says that the monsoon pattern keeps setting up and is in place. But it hasn't produced any rain for 3 years now. A fluke? Or climate change? Either way I am not going to hold my breath any more. I tore the hugel down and will compost the remains and add it to the beds next year. But a really good suggestion.

Thanks Cassie, One of the things I tried to control the erosion on the hill was to cover it with iris. I have them everywhere. They don't die but they spend most of the year just looking brown and awful. But it does control the erosion. Good suggestion!

Thank you all for giving your attention to my issue. Have a nice evening.
Debbie
 
pollinator
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I’ve had great success using deep mulch of tree and shrub prunings, leaves, and wood chips to transform an overly hot exposed rocky clay soil.  About three years ago the garden was a dead Bermuda grass lawn with a couple of tiny sad fruit trees. Now the little peach tree is huge and bearing peaches.
20220510_095040_HDR.jpg
Food forest
Food forest
 
pollinator
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We had great success growing garlic chives on the sides of our driveway in Denver. Gravel base, raised above ground level, not watered, mile-high scorching sun. I liberally seeded this area because not much useful would grow there. The plants were not as big and lush as in the garden, but they grew, flowered, and continued to seed the area in a carpet. Bees love the blossoms and I'm sure some poor beekeeper in the area was complaining about the garlic flavored honey.
 
pollinator
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How cold are your winters? Do you get deep freezes?

It seems to me like the first step needs to be building soil. The current erosion issue means you are perpetually fighting an uphill battle. No soil, so no soil moisture = dead plants.

I seem to be for ever recommending this here, but can you look into establishing a vetiver hedge at the down-slope edge of that terrace? Once established the roots go deep through rock cracks to find moisture, and wick it up to the root zone of other plants. When the rains come it acts like dense screen stopping sediment being washed down slop. Over time you will get a natural soil terrace forming on the upslope side. One to two rain events will likely build considerable soil behind such a hedge in your conditions.
 
pollinator
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Hi Debbie, here's my suggestion.  

The eroding hill seems like a big deal to me.  If you can, putting swales on contour would help slow and catch the water when it comes, hopefully reducing erosion.  If digging swales isn't feasible, I've also read about rock swales (I'm not entirely sure if they're called that);  these are lines of rocks piled up on contour on the side of the hill, like a swale.  The piles don't even have to be very high--a single layer would be better than nothing.  I would suggest plenty of swales (traditional or rock) and spacing them pretty close together, because a monsoon rain event would probably overwhelm a solitary swale.

If you can't do anything like this to the hillside, maybe you can do it to the hot spot itself.  You have a pile of rocks at the bottom of it which you say doesn't do enough.  Several swales across it, probably rock swales, might mitigate the rain and help catch some soil coming through.

It's not a quick fix, but if you could catch some of that sediment and rain, I would think some natives would seed themselves there eventually.

This is not something I've done, only read about.  I have been to Sedona though:  lovely place!
 
master steward
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Everything that I have growing is in mostly full sun.

Picture #4 I would suggest a hedge of rosemary and Turk's cap.

Rosemary is very drought resistant and evergreen. Edible and medicinal.

Surprisingly, I think of Turk's cap as a midwest forest plant.  Though once established it is drought resistant.  Hummingbirds love it as do the butterflies. It will die back in winter.

Garlic chives worked well for me.  Pretty lavender blooms. Unfortunately, my deer liked them a lot, and finally, I notice they were all gone.

I also have Egyptian Walking Onions that have been coming back year after year until we had ferel hogs move in who seem to like them.
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
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I also recommend Garlic Chives!  They are utterly unkillable and pollinators love the flowers.
 
gardener
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do you have or need a compost-processing type spot? Because if I had a spot like that I think what I would do it make a keyhole type compost garden right there (the kind that has a basket or tube of compostables in the middle). I`d start it with whatever browns and greens I had around (go hunting- here my best candidates are sugarcane bagasse, or shredded paper, I realize you also probably don't have wood chips!), contain it in some kind of chicken or hog wire, and let it rot down [dump pee or comfrey tea on it every so often, also water if you can spare it.... even nasty water] and add to the soil and call whatever soil life you have there. Next year or the year after, it will be a great round bed in the middle of your space. Then move over a few feet and start again.
 
Debbie Ann
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Hi Nice People!
Thank you wonderful souls for taking the time to consider my issue. You've given me some good suggestions and a few ideas! I do think I should have been more explicit from the get go. Here, when the temp goes over 100* almost everything in my garden takes a siesta. They sort of go semi-dormant and just wait patiently every day for me to come and water them. They might continue to grow a tiny bit and an occasional tomato might very slowly ripen but mostly they just snooze and wait for it to cool down so they can start growing again. It often takes a couple of months. But I have a lot of great spots where I grow in the dappling shade of my trees where the temps can stay around 94-95* even on the hottest of days and they do keep growing. It would be great if I could achieve that everywhere. That's why I'm creating more shade and planting more trees.

I'm looking for some/any kind of use for this 'hot spot' or even better would be a way to cool it down so I can grow more but I might be hoping for too much. And when it's 110* in the rest of the yard for days and days on end, it's closer to 120* here in the 'hot spot'. It's hard to get anything to grow at all until I find a way to cool it down, either naturally or artificially. But I keep trying! I created the beds on either side of it because there was some dirt there. I didn't realize the bigger issue was the temperature! So this is what I'm trying to solve. Cool it down or find some other use. I've watched lots of videos about growing food in the desert by simply starting out growing trees and creating shade. But I can't grow a tree in rock. And it would take a lot of time and money to put down a couple of feet of dirt here.

And Tereza, I love the way you think. I actually did something similar, only in 3 parts. My 3rd year gardening I created compost piles (similar to keyholes) right next to each of my beds. And within 2 months all hell broke loose! Everything in my gardens were covered in pill bugs and earwigs and lots of other bugs. They never stopped at the compost! They ate everything and multiplied like crazy. After a year I got control of all but the pill bugs. They have been wreaking havoc ever since. They still rule my gardens and I can only do what they will let me. I wrote about it in this companion thread. https://permies.com/t/180638/shade-important-hot-climates So I can't use mulch and I keep my compost far away from my vegies.

Since I couldn't find any use for the 'hot spot' because it was solid rock The 4th year I attempted to put my compost pile there. It was a big circle about the size of a big trampoline and 4' deep. Soon realized I couldn't keep the pile damp enough for anything to rot down. I would pour the water on and it would be bone dry in a couple of hours. But I wasn't about to move all that stuff by wheelbarrow loads to somewhere else so I watered it 3-4 times a day and tarped it in vinyl to keep the moisture in! That sucked. But by the next summer it was finally about 1 and1/2' of finished compost and I just refused to give up. I was like a hell bent crazy person. So I placed a little toddler ornamental cherry tree right in the middle hoping it would grow and give me shade. And I planted a couple dozen watermelon seeds into it so the vines would create shade for the pile. And again watered it like a crazy woman The little tree didn't last very long. And the watermelon was hysterical. As soon as each vine would grow down off the pile and hit the burning hot rock it would turn completely around and try to climb back up on the dirt. They all did that! I kept thinking about being a kid and we went to the beach for the weekend. And as soon as the car was parked we all bolted out of the car onto the screaming hot sand! And immediately turned around and hauled ass back into the car! Watermelons are so funny.

And about the eroding hill....
Michael Cox, A vetiver hedge is a really good suggestion!! They sound like pretty awesome plants. And it just might work here in my climate. You have to plant them just an inch or two apart which means anywhere between 3 and 5 per foot which would be a lot of plants. The going price appears to be $5-6 for 3 clumps/plants which would be pricey. But I can always get a few and propagate more. I will read up on them some more. Thank you!
And Anne, the rosemary would actually be another good suggestion for the eroding hill. Rosemary and Vetiver grass would look pretty!  I have several rosemary plants around the yard and I will start taking cuttings now.
And as I mentioned earlier... I use rocks for swales and terraces all the time. This is a picture of the south side of that hill. And thank you all so much for helping me!!!  I knew you would have great suggestions!
DSC05088(1).JPG
South side of the eroding hill
South side of the eroding hill
 
master pollinator
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Steve Farmer has a successful method of planting trees in solid rock here.
 
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How about a trellis covered with vines (maybe grapes) to shade this hot spot. The birds would love this too. Or even a shade cloth over a frame which lets some light through. For some extra cooling you could add misters...

D0C4BAF4-7989-4172-88F3-1F157C6834E5.jpeg
[Thumbnail for D0C4BAF4-7989-4172-88F3-1F157C6834E5.jpeg]
 
William Kellogg
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This could also serve as your composting area, which will naturally build the soil and keep it moist.
 
pollinator
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It may not be as useful for gardening, but maybe that spot could be good for a solar dehydrator or solar cooker? There might also be some way you could use it to generate power by heating up water, but I am not too familiar with that.
 
steward
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Debbie Ann wrote: Everything in my gardens were covered in pill bugs and earwigs and lots of other bugs. They never stopped at the compost! They ate everything and multiplied like crazy. After a year I got control of all but the pill bugs. They have been wreaking havoc ever since. They still rule my gardens and I can only do what they will let me. I wrote about it in this companion thread. https://permies.com/t/180638/shade-important-hot-climates So I can't use mulch and I keep my compost far away from my vegies.



I'm not sure if this would help, but my mallard-type ducks LOVE pillbugs/rollypollies/isopods/potato bugs/what-ever-they're-called-regionally. Sluggo also works on them. Mallard ducks probably wouldn't care for the super-hot heat in your hot spot (mine were unhappy when we got to 110ish last year), but maybe muscovies ducks can handle the heat better? My ducks generally leave my plants alone...but we also have a lot of grass and weeds to entertain them (i.e. hungry, bored ducks might eat your seedlings, especially if left to roam a long time. Usually mine go for the bugs first, then plants, though).

I feel like most any suggestion I have would be terribly off the mark, because I generally have the opposite problem as you: too much moisture and not enough sun/heat!

 
pollinator
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About the erosion: I suggest you read Gary Paul Nabhan's books about Native American gardening in that environment. He found agave terraces that were still extant, and still functioning to concentrate moisture, 400 years after people stopped living there. (in the wake of conquest.) If you haven't read his book Growing Food in a Hotter, Drier Land – Lessons from Desert Farmers on Adapting to Climate Uncertainty I would stop where you are and use the midday heat to read it before you do anything else.

You are quite right that most plants go into stress above 90 degrees or so. Also, the brightness of the sun is like a laser--the light rays are scattered and refracted by humidity in the air, so that your plants can get sunscald when plants in the MIdwest or the South would not, even at the same temperatures. If you are able to plant native trees or shrubs I would do so. Mesquite would be wonderful if it is hardy at your elevation, because it's a nitrogen fixer. But whatever shrubs live there naturally, I would get more of them and use them as nurse plants. People concentrate a lot on "trees" when often a shrub is faster, tougher, and more adapted to the spot.

About your screaming hot place. Is there some reason why you have to grow something there?
It's really easy to get caught up in ideas and enthusiasms and shoulds and oughts, instead of just looking at the place and observing without judgement....
If you go to wild places within that ecosystem, places where the ecosystem is intact, what--if anything--is growing in places with the same orientation, soil, and rock?

I would also not dismiss the idea of built structures. Ramadas, brush arbors, and even just a pole with shadecloth are all appropriate and don't need water or soil. Perhaps some spot that is not good for plants is begging to be an outdoor dining or sleeping area, a fire circle for nighttime, or just a place to build a shed. Again, desert peoples have figured out ways of using convection, chimneys that use a venturi to increase air flow, evaporative cooling, etc etc. so one of these traditional structures may be able to make the area habitable. And then there is the nighttime. Most people never go outside at night. Maybe what your spot is perfect for is viewing the stars. I know that we felt ten times more at home on our land once we had a spot to sit around a campfire at night.

Remember the story about the two sisters who restored the native species on their land by starting with the few plants that were thriving and working from there? Perhaps if you just work out from your areas of success, obsetrve your own patterns of use and the patterns of the land, your plan will grow organically and the right thing will become apparent.
 
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I think I see some nopales (prickly pear) in your photos--why not more? and other cactus fruits? A Dragon fruit vine on a structure could work well there. And more nopales, I love nopales so much and there are many varieties.
 
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Chapparel?  Highly medicinal (though not a favorite taste of mine). Not a ground cover, though.

Rocks also will heat up during the day, cool off during the night, and provide a little bit of condensation and shade, so that you might be able to start seeds at the base.

Not sure if purslane will take that heat, but maybe a bunch of herbs like that...iceplant, plantain (I think this needs more water, though), amaranth, purslane, garlic chives, Bidens...seeds planted near the bottom of the rocks, and see what survives?

Any roots in the soil will help erosion and cool the soil, encouraging microbial growth and continued succession to soil building and fertility.

There must be some native grass-type species that will work.  I recall watching (was it one of Brad Lancaster's?) a video where they sprinkled grass seed in an area that would end up a shallow overflow area during a large rain event.  I think they put small rocks throughout, in a one-rock-deep layer.

And the next time it rained, the seeds sprouted and took hold, and expanded from there.  The rocks held moisture and debris from the air/water, to start building soil and sustain the grass.
 
Debbie Ann
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Well goodness, I wasn't expecting to hear back from anyone else. You are all so super! And your suggestions always give me more to think about.

William Kellogg, I love those types of trellis'. Somehow, they are always so comforting. And I thought of that too! But something on that scale would be way over my budget. So last fall I bought 2 cattle panels. Just $30. each. I cemented some big old tree limbs in the ground from some of my dead trees and created 2 five foot wide trellis'. If you look really close to the very first picture above you can see one of them. I planted Joseph's Coat climbing roses on each side that I propagated from cuttings. The roses are just 2' tall now but they are blooming like crazy today and it should look really nice by next year when it covers the trellis. That was a great suggestion, that's what I'm talking about!

Logan Byrd, It's funny you should mention a solar dehydrator!! I mean.... I'm so surprised you mentioned that because I just finished building my solar dehydrator 6 weeks ago! I quickly placed it in the perfect spot next to my house to test the temperature. It turned out that spot wasn't so perfect. I didn't realize it was in the shade from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. I chose a property with a lot of trees for shade and apparently I did much better than I had ever imagined. I moved the dehydrator 5 times and still couldn't find a spot fairly close to the house (or the garage, if necessary) that got full sun all day! Then it dawned on me that the 'hot spot' might be the only place to put it! The only drawbacks were that the hot spot is about 75 yards out back AND later on this summer when I will have a lot to dehydrate it will be 100*-115* in the yard and the hot spot is even hotter! I would have to find a way to put shade over the box or just use it as a solar cooker. But it was a good suggestion. Thank you. Luckily, the sun has now shifted and I placed it back in the first spot in the middle of my driveway next to the house and I think it will do well.

Nicole Alderman, I would love to have a couple of ducks or any kind of fowl! I think it would be terrific to to have a couple of little dudes or dudettes wandering around the garden with me. I haven't considered it for a few reasons. I would have to take the time to learn so much about their care and feeding and I'm always short of time. And I don't know that I could keep them safe from predators. My 6' chain link fence with 2' of supplemental chicken wire keeps most animals out but right now I'm being harassed by a nasty raccoon. And I regularly see hawks flying low through the yard. They mostly go after the pigeons (easy meal for them) but they're pretty aggressive and don't back off or give up easily, especially if you interrupt their meal! And I think it would be a bit expensive to feed them since  there is nothing they could forage here.

And I used Sluggo one year for slugs. (iron phosphate) But I have lots of little lizards around the yard that eat all the slugs. I used Sluggo Plus the next year. (iron phosphate and Spinosad) and realized the Spinosad did the trick on pill bugs. It's just a whole lot cheaper to buy the Spinosad in liquid concentrate.  I found if I don't use any mulch at all and spray every 3 days from the minute I sow or plant something until the seedlings get pretty big that I have a chance at getting a harvest. It works well enough until I find a better solution. (One that lets me use mulch and save water). And I would love to have ducks!

Jamie Chevalier, You asked if I have to grow something in the 'hot spot'. Well no, I'm getting pretty old and a bit belligerent and I don't have to do anything and you can't make me! Just a joke, son. My sense of humor has changed and evolved a little bit since I've been  been reading some of John Daley's correspondence. (Thank you John!) And lately, Sophia from the 'Golden Girl's' has become my mentor. Please don't take offense. But I love greening the desert. I've wanted to do this my whole life and I am enjoying it big time! It was totally worth the wait.

And yes, I am planning on adding some more native trees and bushes to the yard, especially anything that fixes nitrogen. That's good, common sense. I have a mesquite tree here but it doesn't provide a whole lot of shade. But I also agree with Paul. I read a whole piece he wrote about how good native flora can be but non-native species can be equally good. And if you've ever spent time in the high desert country most native flora aren't so pretty. And I really like pretty!!! And I grew up in New jersey. If I can acclimate to this environment then so can lots of other things, much prettier things.

And as I mentioned before, I already dug down and created beds on either side of this rock before I realized what this area was. I would like to cool the area down so things will grow better here. And an arbor or ramada or even a lean to would all work to start the ball rolling. If I could have gotten that gazebo a few years back I would have put it on the southwest corner and filled it with plants (in shade) and then maybe put some shrubs on the north and east sides in it's shade. I'm always watching for old rowboats or canoes that I could put out there and fill with dirt.

Often, when I am trying to come up with ideas I will google the term.... whimsical flower garden or whimsical garden path or whimsical trellis etc. My yard is starting to look pretty but I would like to add whimsical to it. I have one other smaller bare hunk of rock and the best use I found for it was my clothesline! I have never been to Disneyland or their other world. But I would so love to go through their boneyard! I would be ecstatic to bring home an old dwarf house or  elf castle! I would love it!! I'm open to all kinds of ideas. So please humor me and keep them coming. Thank you all.

Happy gardening.
 
Nicole Alderman
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Debbie Ann wrote:
Nicole Alderman, I would love to have a couple of ducks or any kind of fowl! I think it would be terrific to to have a couple of little dudes or dudettes wandering around the garden with me. I haven't considered it for a few reasons. I would have to take the time to learn so much about their care and feeding and I'm always short of time. And I don't know that I could keep them safe from predators. My 6' chain link fence with 2' of supplemental chicken wire keeps most animals out but right now I'm being harassed by a nasty raccoon. And I regularly see hawks flying low through the yard. They mostly go after the pigeons (easy meal for them) but they're pretty aggressive and don't back off or give up easily, especially if you interrupt their meal! And I think it would be a bit expensive to feed them since  there is nothing they could forage here.



I think that, as long as you have a secure home for them at night (think 1/4 inch hardware cloth all the way around, and under it), and the fenced garden during the day, the ducks should be pretty safe. Hawks never attack my ducks (they might go after ducklings), and the only way an eagle could get our ducks was by drowning it in a large body of water to carry it off. I think that raccoons are only really active at night, and so won't go after your ducks. We lost a lot of our ducks to (A) Owls when we didn't put them in their house in time, and (B) bobcats when we let them free-range and they walked next to the bramble where the bobcat likes to hide.

If you get ducks, I would just get 2-4 of them to start off with. Three ducks seems like a good number. That's enough ducks to eat pillbugs, but not too many to destroy your garden or cost too much to feed. I think (and my math might be a bit off, but I feed 3 geese, 13 ducks, and 5 chickens), that 3 ducks would probably cost, at most, $30/month to feed. That's the cost of a 40 pound bag of organic Scratch and Peck , which is what we buy locally. It's basically the most expensive stuff out there, I think. Ducks also lay a lot of extra large, eggs, too. (Muscovies seem to lay about 200/year, and some mallard-type ducks like Runners and Khaki Campbell lay 300/year). All they really need is a secure shelter, a pail to dunk their heads into for water, and a tray (like a cat littler tray) to bathe in. I like to dump the tray every day, and move it to a new spot frequently. That way, a different tree or bush gets nutrient-filled water everyday, and the ducks get clean water everyday. And, since the ducks hang out more by the water, it encourages them to hang out in different parts of the garden.

I TOTALLY understand waiting until you're ready for animals before getting them. I've been wanting sheep for years, but I know I'm not ready to figure out birthing animals. Ducks are a lot easier! But, I've also not spent too much time trying to figure out how to care for them in a hot climate. I do know that Burra Maluca kept muscovies in Portugal for many years, and it's pretty hot and dry there!
 
Debbie Ann
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Hi again Nice People,
Melissa Ferin,  Prickly Pear grows everywhere here. If I want some I can just go to the empty lot next door to get some. And truth be told, I got rid of everything in my yard that will stick, stab,draw blood or bite me. Somebody once said never, ever, EVER turn your back on a cactus. Boy, is that true! It's hard to get stickers out of places you can't see! But I have also never tried eating it. Can you tell us how you prepare it? (Without any bloodshed)? I've seen it mentioned on other posts. It seemed like too much trouble and didn't sound so tasty.

Alina Green,  Purslane and iceplants will thrive here if you give them a lot of water. Grasses don't grow here year round, just lots of really ugly weeds. But usually twice a year we will get a big flush of grasses and weeds. They always come together. A few are native but most of the grasses are considered invasive, like cheat grass which self seeds like crazy and come along with weeds that mostly all have thorns or burrs. But they only grow for a month, turn brown and die back until the next wave comes months later. Really ugly. But Michael Cox made a really good suggestion for using vetiver grass. I'm getting ready to order a few plants and start propagating them asap along with the rosemary that Anne suggested. It would be nice if I could add something pretty to the mix. Thank you for your suggestions.

Nicole Alderman,  Last night I went back and read a thread that I had read about 6-7 months ago. Ducks vs chickens. And now I am 98% convinced that I am going to get some ducks! I have been doing battle with these darned roly polys for 11 years now. I thought once I got the population down from the millions to just thousands that it would be easier. I was wrong. And I thought I would learn how to handle them. Again, I was wrong. And the last couple of years the grasshoppers have been getting worse. It seems that my solution to the grasshoppers is now making the roly poly problem even worse again!

And I spend about $30. a month for 4-5 months a year on Spinosad anyway. So not as expensive as I thought. And I could get eggs! (Bonus points!)  So I'm going to watch a lot of YouTube videos this week on raising ducks. And I just put a post on Craigslist in the Farm and Garden section that says.... Can I come and visit your ducks? I would like to get to know some up close and personal before I attempt this. But I want to thank you for your suggestion and for giving me some new hope. Just one question... Where do you get your ducks from? Never bought a live duck before!

Thank you all again and happy gardening everyone.
 
Nicole Alderman
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Debbie Ann wrote: Where do you get your ducks from? Never bought a live duck before!



All over the place! Though, with the Avian Flu spreading around this year, you might want to make sure there aren't any cases in your state (this seems to be a good map of avian flu cases). It looks like Arizona is dry and hot enough that it's been spared.

My first batch of ducks I got on craigslist. I highly recommend starting with adult ducks, or at least ducklings old enough to be out of the brooder. That's what we started with. That way, you just need to learn how to care for ducks, not how warm to keep ducklings at every stage of their development.

THOUGH! If you want to have a pet-like bond with your ducks, you might want to start with ducklings so they're more tame and used to you. Mine are all a bit skittish around us. We can herd them and catch them if we need to, and they don't run away when I'm out and about. But, they don't want to be pet.

Anyway, in summary, here's where we've sourced ducks:

- People selling ducks on craigslist (wait a month, and you might see a  bunch of people trying to off-load older ducks)
- Farm Co-Op or farm supply stores selling ducklings
- People selling ducks on facebook groups (though facebook technically doesn't allow animal sales, so people have to be sneaky)
- Friends/coworkers/etc who had too many ducks and wanted someone with a farm to take them
- Our old real estate agent who ended up with two ducks after he sold a house and remembered that we had ducks and so he gave them to us.

The easiest places to source them for us was the farm co-op and craigslist.

You want either all females or one male and the rest females (a good boy-to-girl ratio is 1 boy to 5 girls. It often works with 1 boy and 2 girls, but you'll want to make sure the boy isn't too amorous and injures the ladies in his frequent advances. You'll notice a lack of feathers on their neck and back if this is the case.) You don't need a male to get eggs, and if you don't want them to hatch out ducklings, it's easier to just have all females.
 
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Nicole Alderman wrote:

Debbie Ann wrote: Everything in my gardens were covered in pill bugs and earwigs and lots of other bugs. They never stopped at the compost! They ate everything and multiplied like crazy.



I'm not sure if this would help, but my mallard-type ducks LOVE pillbugs/rollypollies/isopods/potato bugs/what-ever-they're-called-regionally. Sluggo also works on them. Mallard ducks probably wouldn't care for the super-hot heat in your hot spot (mine were unhappy when we got to 110ish last year), but maybe muscovies ducks can handle the heat better?



Maybe lizards would work better than ducks there? What other local critters munch bugs? How to make them feel welcome?
 
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Lots of great ideas! When I lived in Phoenix. I noticed some native trees tasted better than others. Honey Mesquite, or the purple striped pod tasted better than other varities. Also Palo Verde and Ironwood make edible pods. Ironwood seeds taste like peanuts. Palo Verde taste a little like a pea. When you are out and about sample some pods. See which ones you like best. A native tree wouldn't create much shade, but it would a start. And you'd get a snack.
 
Erik van Lennep
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Been scrolling through the replies to this question, and reflecting on likely candidates for surviving the rock desert conditions.
Were it my spot, I think I would approach it by fattening the margins provided close to the rocky space; using the established zones as pioneers to change adjacent conditions. Think of them as leaning into the sun and casting a bit more shade, ideally also creating soil in that shadow zone.

I'd be seeding natives that have proven themselves, especially legumes, and with an emphasis on deciduous, because in this situation, "messy" leaf drop is what I'm after if I want to build soil.  And for sure, I'd be berming and making micro-catchments with stones for every single plant I add. You can see some good examples by googling "micro catchments". It's been a standard technique for reclaiming eroding hill sides and hostile environments for a long time, especially in places like Africa where funding is scarce and needs are high. The images show it works well.

Here is a pic of a system being used by Geoff Lawton in his desert reclamation work

And a longer project discussion that might give you further inspiration: Greening the Desert-The Sequel

I wouldn't mind how these native soil builders and shade makers actually look, because the primary function is to serve as "nurse plants". They create conditions where others can establish themselves. You can decide in a few years which to keep and which have done the job and can be chipped. I'd plant in mutualistic 'guilds' of shrubs, trees, herbs, bulbs, etc.

Species that cast less shade, such as Mesquite or Palo Verde still offer tons of ecological value, and maybe could support native vines that add to the shade they cast.

Around here (Spain), I have seen boulder-strewn hillsides with no irrigation happily occupied by Carob trees, which while not native, are well adapted. They make soil, cast good shade, provide sweet pods, and break apart the rocks with their roots. I'd try them in Sedona. From the looks of the climate data I just saw, they should do well. Same for date palms and figs, which also go wild here in difficult landscapes such as you have. I also wouldn't be waiting to budget for apricot trees. I'd save all my pits and plant them on my walks. Some will sprout. Some will do better than others. Some may actually thrive. They fruit in just a few years.
 
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Not sure if there are any native or available relatives of this in your area.  It is certainly pretty hardy here.

https://www.sgaonline.org.au/pigface-carpobrotus-glaucescens/

Do you know what kind of rock you have?  With soil that colour over here it would be sandstone or mudstone.  There are usually plenty of fault lines in it that tree roots have a habit of finding and making bigger.  Again, here the suggestion would be acacia species.

There is an Australian youtube channel called Polyculture Farms Dryland Permaculture https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCEkuV0v62-S77iczDrCLtzQ that might give some useful ideas.  One idea which they used early on was to use logs on the ground to catch eroding soil.  

There are plenty of mainstream erosion control measures which might help otherwise.  How about strawbales arranged in crescents across a slope to create mini leaky dams.  I'm pretty sure this is used in other hot dry climates (like Portugal and Spain?) planting trees in the crescent.  Kind of look like an eye on a potato!

Good luck!
 
Anne Miller
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Erik van Lennep wrote:Maybe lizards would work better than ducks there? What other local critters munch bugs? How to make them feel welcome?



Lizards might work too.

And making shelters for them that would attract them can be done.

Like this:

https://permies.com/wiki/42/108150/pep-animal-care/Brush-Pile-PEP-BB-animal


source


source

And furnishing water like this:

https://permies.com/wiki/25/108073/pep-animal-care/Bee-Insect-Watering-Station-PEP#1425439


source


source
 
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Don’t know if this has already been mentioned, but have you watched any of the videos on greening the desert with Geoff Lawton.  There’s a wealth of information there. There are several videos. I think animals are crucial to building soil as well…I live in Utah where we get at least three months of drought…I’ve had my French Guinea now for almost 2years and now I have areas where I can finally see some mushrooms growing in areas I do not water.  I let them free room my 2+acre property and they keep the pest population down considerably.  Chickens are great for bug control…had apricot trees infested with earwigs, put some chickens there and last year’s harvest was amazing with earwigs population drastically reduced. I’ve added rabbits and goats.  Find the manure from all the animals really making a difference on the quality of the soil.  I also catch all my water from my buildings.  They help to water the animals or plants.  Still don’t have enough to supply all the needs for the full drought duration so I do still supplement with tap using drip or soaker hose methods. I also acquired those 250gallon IBC tanks, several videos on that too. I find any plant with big broad leaves that have  tap roots growing close to the ground helps provide shade. I have a lot of burdock volunteers. Sea buckthorn has been great for me as they are drought tolerant and quickly grows shoots creating a nice thicket of trees which has helped so much with our wind storms here, not to mention their nitrogen fixing help.  Bill Mollison’s book has a whole chapter for dry land strategies as well…there are several videos on YouTube with him that are helpful…I came to the conclusion at one point that I must figure out ways to hold water as my priority, because without some type of water everything will die…to hold water is not just tank systems but moisture holding properties in the soil itself…found a video long time ago how a couple actually dropped their property temperature in the desert but can’t find it but found this one…  
 
wishing you the best on your discoveries to help with your unique features.
 
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I just made a post in another thread that might give you ideas:
https://permies.com/t/172148/perennial-vegetables/Growing-interplanting-polycultures-perennials-annuals

Someone mentioned iceplant above. That does love hot and dry and there are now ones that are not very invasive available. High Country Gardens carries some.  They have a great way to search by water use, heat and drought tolerance.  You might like that site for more ornamental ideas.

Here are some thoughts on how to add shade:

How to create shade in the desert

Plants that need shade in desert gardens, ans ways to add it

It's nice because it's very simple and can be taken down seasonally.  We have shade cloth up in summer to block the west sun from our house.  It even survives our very high winds and sandstorms we get here.




 
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Location: High desert, Central Oregon, USA, Zone 3
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I live in the high desert of Central Oregon. Our hot spots don't get to 120, but over 100 is definitely common.

Without water, without adding mulch and soil, and without putting up shade structures, I'm afraid there's probably not much you can do. I'm not trying to be negative here, but it's an extreme environment that we live in and it takes money and resources to change.

My suggestion would be to buy one piece of lumber at a time and eventually put up a pergola. Save your pennies and buy a rain catch system for the hot spot, one piece at a time.

Trust me, I feel your pain. When I moved to this Godforsaken place from Pittsburgh, PA, I verbally cursed it every single day (without fail) for a year. You can't compost here without a whole lot of effort.

It's too hot during the day and then it's too cold at night. If a plant can tolerate the 95-degree heat during the day, then it probably can't tolerate the 35-degree temperature that the night brings. And even if it can tolerate both the heat and the cold, it probably can't tolerate the drastic temperature swing. *sigh* But, I love my husband, so in the high desert I stay. LOL!

Extreme environments require extreme measures.
 
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I also wanted to suggest iceplant aka Carpobrotus - maybe plant it at the edge of the hot spot, where there is some soil, and direct it to cover the hot spot zone. If it wants to grow there you can have a nice thick green carpet over hot rock, which can lower the temperature of the area and in time add much needed organic matter on top. Think of it as a pretty plant on it's own that can also function as a support plant for others.
Where I live - Mediterranean island with shallow, rocky and poor soils with strong and harsh dessicating winds - it easily grows on rocky terrain, withstanding several months of drought. While temperature here doesn't go as high as in your area (our maximum is around 100F but usually it's somewhat lower), I still think it's worth to try.
 
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Debbie Ann wrote:
I'm looking for some/any kind of use for this 'hot spot' or even better would be a way to cool it down so I can grow more but I might be hoping for too much. And when it's 110* in the rest of the yard for days and days on end, it's closer to 120* here in the 'hot spot'. It's hard to get anything to grow at all until I find a way to cool it down, either naturally or artificially. But I keep trying!  



Hi Debbie Ann, your conditions are similar to what we had when I lived/gardened in New Mexico (back in the 1980-1990s). We used a 2-prong approach: (a) home-made shade structures over (b) wicking beds.

Like you we also found sunken beds far more viable than raised beds — rare were places where you could dig and not hit bedrock.  For shade cloth we purchased used cotton and flannel sheets from the local thrift store (queen and king size). Lots of them. Then we set them up over cattle-panel hoop houses, old swingsets, re-purposed laundry lines, even a donated pergola. We tied ours on securely with baling twine so they'd sustain winds and hail. At first, our success in the garden was only under these shaded areas! Nowdays, there's shade cloth—of the plastic variety—but I'm not a fan of adding more microplastics to our bodies nor the earth's.   Back to the topic at hand: we found the wicking beds so helpful for giving a bit of evaporative moisture under the bedsheet shade structures to cool the temperatures adequately, for plants and for we humans working (playing!) in the garden. It made a very noticable difference. We kept a large-scale composting area in a shed so it would stay moist enough to help us build soil. We were lucky to have both a well and large rainwater harvest system w/gravity feed to the garden. We found sedums tolerated the heat and shallow soils very well: grown in abudance for chop and drop or composing. Ditto sorghum (lots of biomass, very heat tolerant), and local trees (Russian olive, palo verde, mesquite...whatever you have on hand).

A friend in Arizona did her gardening under a shade pergola made of salvaged wood and cholla skeletons. The roof slats were spaced every 2-3". It cut the heat just enough to give the plants underneath a chance together with a log knee-wall on the south-facing side. She also sited plants on the north side of rocks/boulders, plants, buildings. Her motto: Observe the microclimates available and, instead of planting all of the garden in one spot, place your plantings across the site as needed.

I've wondered if the intense heat and sun was a driving factor giving rise to indigenous methods of interplanting (e.g., Three Sisters). A tall crop of corn (or sunflowers) gives just the shade needed to permit other crops to survive in desert conditions.
 
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Hi Debbie,

I have read both of your threads--great work! Even with the big hot spot your gardens look very inviting And, more importantly, it sounds like it brings you much fulfillment.

I have lived in Arizona, and currenly live in very hot Africa, so I know what you're dealing with. I have three main ideas, listed from least to most expensive:

1. Make micro-catchments out of stone and plant mesquite trees in them. They're native, grow fast, and will help create the microclimate that will enable other things.

2. Make microcatchments out of stone, level them with a mixture of sand and compost and plant date palms in them. There is no heat on this earth that date palms can't handle as long as they have water. If you cannot procure any date palms them purchase some tasty dates and plant the seeds in pots. They usually take a month to germinate, less if you soak them for a week first. But I've never had a date pit not germinate. Plant them out when they are a year old.

These first two ideas will take a long time, but that's one of our principles: slow and steady. The third idea can be implemented more quickly...

3. Cover that area with a pergola! In Africa we call it a "hangar". It's posts with cross beams on top. I would cover that with sticks placed side-by-side to create filtered shade underneath. If you can talk to a landscaper, they could probably get you palm branches to cover the top with. And voila, shade! If you added a misting system underneath it then you would have a rain forest climate in which to grow many bananas--and many other things. That's what they do at the Phoenix zoo.

The above ideas notwithstanding, I would really leave you with a friendly suggestion. You mentiona a place near the bottom of the property that is nearly always moist? Go invest your energies there--plant the pistachio trees now! Put the most of your energy into the place that can give the greatest yield. It's called an intensive nucleus. And then build out from there. You will likely be encouraged with the result.
 
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Have you looked into Elf thyme? Its a low growing ground cover that loves rock gardens and  sun and  a bit of soil and some water every once in awhile.
 
Debbie Ann
pollinator
Posts: 236
Location: Sedona Az Zone 8b
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Hello Everyone!
What a pleasure it is to hear from so many kind and helpful people!

Hi Erik, I have so wished I could find something that ate the darned roly polys which is why I am so excited that Nicole said her ducks eat them! From my years long online search and people I've asked, only a very few, occasional chickens will eat them. If ducks will eat pill bugs then I am going to get me some ducks! I asked Google... will ducks eat pill bugs/roly polys/sow bugs/wood lice/sliders and just a couple of people said yes but there is very little info about them. Just general info about eating insects. Not too many people around here have ducks but I am trying to find some ducks that I can visit and I will bring them a great big box of pill bugs to see what happens. It's polite to bring a gift when visiting someone.

For 10 years my yard was always filled with birds. In fact they were a huge pain because they would eat most of my crops and were incredibly hard to stop. But none of them ate the pill bugs. And 2 years ago most all of them just up and left, a mass Exodus! Jays, cardinals, sparrows, finches and more all gone. There are only a few kinds of new birds here now that are very small and I haven't been able to get a good look at them because they take off as soon as I get anywhere near them. I still see an occasional Gamble's quail but the coyotes have decimated their population in the last few years and now most of the coyotes are gone too. We have been in extreme drought for 3 years now. Haven't hardly had any monsoon rains. I wonder if the monsoons are gone for good? It looks like the extreme drought is bringing huge changes to my area. All the animals are on the move.

Yes, fattening the margins is exactly the way to go! When I first got here I was so very intent on catching all the water. I have berms and swales everywhere. But now we have no rain! Still going to stop the hill from possibly eroding though. So I'm now focused on making it cooler. It can usually be 10-12* cooler in the shade and that's a big deal and that is now my goal. And Carob trees, I will look into that! Thank you so much. Figs are very common here. They are drought tolerant and I've got 2.

Hi Anne, The only things to keep me company in the yard now are lots of tiny little lizards. They won't touch the pill bugs but they do eat all the snails and slugs. And their favorite hangouts are wherever there is a hose hooked up!

Sena, I had no idea that honey mesquite, ironwood and palo verde trees had edible pods!  I will have to see if our local nursery carries them, good things to add to the gardens. I just learned 2 years ago that all my big, old, kind of ugly pine trees are 'single leaf' pines and they have some of the biggest pine nuts! In years past the Mexican jays would tear all the pine cones right off the trees and shred them. But now they have all left and this will be the first year that I will harvest them. Thank you for the idea.

Hi Paul, don't know what kind our rock is but it seems to often be in layers, 2, 6, 12 inches thick and I often get it wet and break it up whenever possible. All the trees here survive by doing that too. Unfortunately my hot spot is solid which is why nothing was growing on it. It will eventually look like the mountain in picture # 2. Pigface.... you gave me a good chuckle. They sell a variety of iceplants here but these require a good bit of water to survive. I tried a similar plant 2 years ago, Delosperma which originated in Africa I believe. Looks  and acts exactly the same. The pill bugs ate it overnight! But it was so pretty while it lasted! And yes, if you look at one of the pictures above I use lots of rocks and logs and garden ties to hold back the dirt. In fact, ever since I moved here..... when I have a problem to solve... 30% of the time my solution is a rock! I'm just tired of looking at so much rock. The Polyculture Farms video looks very interesting. I am going to check it out. Thank you.

Hi Monica,  and welcome to Permies. Every time someone mentions this or that  that Geoff  Lawton has done it has always been something I was already doing. Perhaps if we ever have a rainy day again (fingers crossed) I will watch some of his videos. Have you ever seen your French Guinea eat a pill bug? Inquiring minds would like to know. And I just planted some burdock seed this morning for the first time. Wish me luck, please.

And I wrote this as a companion piece to another thread...
https://permies.com/t/180638/shade-important-hot-climates I mentioned that I am using a lot of artificial shade until I can plant more trees. I have strategically placed lawn chairs and potted plants. I set up my old tent. I have shade cloths and screen material. I bought a bunch of white bed sheets from a thrift store and they are hanging up everywhere. Whenever I get a bit of free time I am going to tie dye them all!  And soon some of my neighbors just might see a whole lot of my underwear hanging up in unusual places! They are so good at humoring me!

I thank you all for your wonderful suggestions. You have cheered me up immensely!
Happy gardening my friends.
 
Posts: 61
Location: Meriden, NH
11
chicken homestead
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I'm surprised no one has mentioned lemons and oranges, olive trees, seasonality goes with a short winter rainy season and no rain the rest of the year.  Not sure how much water Almond or Pomegranite require.  I second fig trees as a good choice.  Date palms and rosemary have both been mentioned.  I've also seen hedges of jade plants/bushes handle drought well too.   Bogenviallia (sp?)is beautiful and thorny, but grows very aggressively in very dry climates.  Could be grown over your cattle panel trellises for quick shade cover.
 
When all four tires fall off your canoe, how many tiny ads does it take to build a doghouse?
List of Rocket Mass Heater Builders
https://permies.com/wiki/122347/List-Rocket-Mass-Heater-Builders
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