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for the garden
desert gardening basics
the edible landscape project
The Edible Landscape Project
June, 2007, Page 95
Swales are another rainwater-harvesting method that Titmus incorporated into the design. Swales are earthen mounds and depressions that naturally channel rainwater, allowing it to soak into the ground in desired locations, rather than run off the property to disappear down storm drains.
“We don’t want water to collect near a home’s foundation, where moist soil encourages termites,” Titmus explains. Instead, his strategy is to move the rain away from the house, where plants can be placed to benefit from the moisture.
Low-water-use ‘Desert Museum’ thorn-less mesquite trees were planted in the front yard for color and shade. “I also wanted mesquite because the pods can be ground into a nutritious flour,” Baron says. “Every part of the tree has a useful function, a true holistic icon of what the desert has to offer us.”
The spiral garden is planted with seasonal vegetables such as beets, carrots, chard, kale and lettuce. Metal mesh wrapped around the cistern serves as trellising for melon, beans and other vines.
Along a narrow side yard, Johnson recommended growing guava and mango trees, frost-sensitive tropicals that benefit from the protected microclimate. In the backyard, edible plants include ‘Anna’ apple, Asian pear, ‘Desert Gold’ peach, fig, grape, lime, plum and pomegranate. A second rain gutter toward the back of the house directs rain below ground, where it travels through perforated pipe to deep-water the young fruit trees.
Tucked against the home’s back wall, a small herb garden thrives. With a southern exposure, its sunny location has allowed warm-season basil plants to survive into the winter. Bamboo screening provides relief from intense sun in summer.
Every plant in the new landscape has a function. Baron points out desert plants traditionally used for therapeutic purposes, including brittlebush, creosote, globe mallow and wolfberry. Even annual flowers such as calendula and nasturtium were added because they are edible. “They look great tossed in a salad,” she notes.
Baron believes gardens “welcome us to create community” in small steps, by sharing a bountiful harvest or helping a neighbor plant a shade tree. “Sometimes the challenges of the world seem overwhelming, making it hard for individuals to feel they have anything positive to offer,” states Baron. “I remind people to go out into the garden and put their hands into the soil. Reconnecting with the earth is powerful medicine.”
Baron’s permaculture landscape design drawing can be seen at 4dirs.com/fdpc/drawings.html.
Photos by Richard Maack
Baron created a gathering area with natural seating crafted from tree logs. Recycled concrete was used to make the benches.
Arizona poppies and an octopus agave flourish beside an ocotillo "fence" that is starting to bloom. The ocotillo's leaves and flowers can be used in teas.
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