Sunday, February 7, 2016

Of Bananas and Prickly Pears

This spring, we're turning our attention to an area on the east side of the house which, until recently, was home to two large oleanders.  This is a prime growing spot, with full to filtered morning sun, protection from the west wind, and shade during the hottest hours of the day.  And as easy and inexpensive as oleanders are to maintain, we can reap much more from this location than they were giving us.  Sorry oleanders.
In Sage Garden's first two years, we've kept our water budget pretty low by focusing on native and desert-adapted perennials.  This spring, we're going to splurge a little and start a subtropical plot where the oleanders used to be.  The area is about 6' x 18', and I'm planning to start it with four bananas, taro, and peanuts.  Since those plants all like sandier soil, I decided to pamper them a bit.
OK, I decided to pamper them a lot.  The existing soil is 15% - 20% sand, so we're double-digging down to two feet and mixing 1 part pure sand with 3 parts existing soil to bring that to about 40%.  For this task, I had some fabulous help.
Besides these two little farmers, I was fortunate to get help from a few neighbors from time to time.

So, what does this have to do with prickly pears?  Over the past year, we've been propagating - and eating - nopales (prickly pear), and we now have enough now to start 15 to 20 cacti as a visual barrier (and a low-input, high-yield crop) along our north wall.  All we need is some dirt to form a berm (which will double as a miniature Sonoran biome and part of our rainwater management system).  The extra dirt from the subtropical plot (aka the chunky monkey garden) will give us enough of a start on one out of two Sonoran berms to plant the prickly pears.

Our first step on the Sonoran berm was to clear away some gravel.
Then we marked where the cacti will go and wheeled over some of the extra dirt from the subtropical plot.

I'll try to post more pictures as the chunky monkey garden progresses.