April 8, 2023 0 Comments

Texas Xeriscape Designs

In Texas Xeriscape Designs Can Be Lush As Well As Water Conscious

By far, most people tend to believe that in states like Texas xeriscape designs have to be dry-looking, mostly empty, and contain only cacti and gravel.  But this is due to a misunderstanding.  Xeriscaping is landscaping with less water, which in states with arid landscapes is an eco-conscious approach to take when redoing an existing landscape or developing a new property.

image: Texas xeriscaping designsMany deserts are actually desertified rather than natural.  The Chihuahua Desert, for example, was not too long ago a forested grassland; then mismanagement deforested the region and pulled up grass plants by the roots.  The area actually gets a large amount of water in the form of precipitation.  In the winter of 2022-2023, for example, an ice storm held millions of gallons of water in suspension for several days before it melted, giving it ample time to soak into the ground afterward.

Texas Xeriscape Designs That Match Nature

The issue is often degradation of natural landscape function, which frequently causes erosion and prevents infiltration of water back into underground aquifers.  The Big Bend region of west Texas has a varied hydrogeology, so that one land owner can dig down twelve feet for a well while her neighbor might have to go three hundred feet.  Despite this, precipitation can be captured and coaxed back into the soil instead of allowed to wash away.


November 4, 2022 0 Comments

Permaculture in Oregon

Oregon Permaculture: Challenges and Opportunities

Do you want to engage permaculture on your property in Oregon?  If so, it helps to understand the unique challenges and image: Oregon permacultureopportunities you have in this green state.  Permaculture was developed by an Australian, so it is uniquely capable of healing desertified lands.  However, with the amount of storm water many parts of your state receive, you can make the best of what this powerful discipline has to offer.

Challenges for Oregon Properties

One of the biggest hurdles my clients face is the abundance of water.  Combine that with colder temperatures during the winter season and you can get frost pockets.  A frost pocket is a patch where the ground is frozen or covered in frost for longer periods, making it tough to grow plants there.  Another aspect to this combination of seasonal conditions for Oregonians is drainage issues.  This is likely familiar to you as you read this, because it is a common issue.  If you’re new to the state or have just purchased property, this happens when soil is either slow-draining, high clay content, or the grade of your yard does not support good drainage.

Luckily, these issues can easily be solved by the application of permaculture principles.


image: rain dance
June 23, 2022 0 Comments

Creating Rain

Dry Land Rain-Making

In this article, I’m going to share my research and experience with making it rain.  Nevermind the data-less climate “crisis.”  The need for rain in dry environments is obvious.  Well, it just so happens that human beings possess the ability to cause rain to fall.  How?  Let’s look at some of the methods I found.

Plant “rain trees” – species such as Ocotea foetens, the original “rain tree,” are known to condense water and shed it like

image: rain tree
Ocotea foetens grows throughout the Canary Islands and Madeira, Portugal.

rain.  So much so that some villages where it grows as a native plant are able to get over 80% of their water from these trees.  Another rain tree grows in the Amazonian rainforest, but Americans are very familiar with it; the Brazil Nut or Bertholletia excelsa.  This species makes it rain by drawing water 14 stories from beneath the soil surface, where the leaves release it to condense as rain clouds.  Half of the rainfall over the Amazon rainforest comes from trees like this one.  Note:  it can be difficult to find seeds or seedlings of these trees, if you wish to try your hand at cultivating them.  Be sure to confirm any seeds you buy have not been boiled or otherwise treated, so that they remain viable for planting.  Even if you simply plant more of any variety of trees that grow in your area, you’ll more than likely thereby cool the soil, increase moisture in the vicinity, and provide vital microclimate conditions for additional diverse species to take root.  Science is perennially failing to acknowledge what people intuitively find until much later on, so while we wait for scientists to admit the next amazing breakthrough, we can plant trees!


image: permaculture
May 2, 2022 0 Comments

How Permaculture Creates Water

How Does Permaculture Create Water?

Can you actually create water?  I’ll leave that question for another time, but you can definitely find water where it doesn’t seem to be.  You can also make a smaller amount of water go farther.  How can you create water with permaculture?  By observing and doing earthworks.

What are earthworks?  Earthworks are simply the molding of the landscape into forms that achieve certain results.  In the case of water, image: create water with permacultureearthworks can help you to slow it down if it is moving too fast so that you can utilize it before it escapes.  In Old Town Pasadena, California, I observed gushing fountains of water being lost to storm drains when it rained.  I wondered then why the city, indeed the County of Los Angeles, wasn’t proactively capturing that amazing volume of precious H20 streaming across the vast landscape there.  Why weren’t those placed in charge of such things using that water to irrigate the landscape and green L.A.?

Well, let’s just say the system in place in cities across the United States is NOT geared toward water conservation.  Instead, it is set up to carry as much water as possible as fast as possible out to sea!

Using earthworks, you can essentially create water with permaculture and reverse that madness.  As the African man who transformed his patch of desert into a towering food forest did, you can dig pits and swales in the ground.  This simple act allows surface flowing water (think rain falling on compacted or nutrient-poor dirt and sheeting off overland) to infiltrate below the surface.


image: West Texas permaculture
August 26, 2021 0 Comments

Greening the West Texas Desert

Ask any Texan living in the far out western part of the state, and they will tell you; “this place is not for everyone.”  But what if it could be?  Is it possible to change the environment of a hot landscape?  Just like plants change their surroundings, we too can adopt strategies that improve the places we live.

If you live in far west Texas already, or you’re considering homesteading in that part of the world, this article will show you how you can:

  • grow a garden more easily and with less water
  • build soil out of sandy desert dirt
  • create shade quickly
  • cool down the area around your home, shop, or guest house
  • attract beneficial wildlife and precious pollinators
  • attract and increase moisture
  • grow food year-round

As a permaculture designer for over 17 years, I’m excited to share that this ecological design discipline has succeeded in transforming areas of the Sahara Desert into orchards!  Geoff Lawton, a long-time permaculture designer out of Australia, applied permaculture principles to revitalize dessicated sand dunes.  Here, I’ll show you what you can do to effect the same changes in your dryland landscape.


image: microclimate
August 12, 2021 0 Comments

Live + Grow More By Creating Microclimates

Is Your Yard Drier Than It Would Be Naturally?

If you are like one of my clients in Santa Ana, California, your yard may tend toward dryness.  This particular client actually only watered her landscape a few times a year prior to our working together.  I advised her that all plants need to be watered during their first one to three years in the ground so that they can establish their root systems.  Strong roots give plants the ability to draw moisture from deeper in the soil as well as pull the nutrients the plant needs.

As you might expect, the appearance of this homeowner’s landscape was on the extreme verge of desertification.  Even succulents were dessicated.  I knew that it would be a delicate conversation to convince her that plants need and deserve water.  Once I had brought her over to this understanding, I set to work creating layers of defense for her soil, existing trees, and the new plants I would be adding.


image: pasadena water
November 30, 2020 0 Comments

Pasadena Water: Lower Your Bill!

Pasadena Water Bills Don’t Need to Be High

Pasadena water bills don’t need to be as high as residents might think.  Most people want a nice-looking front yard, which boosts perceived property value.  But you do not have to use a lot of water to have a green, beautiful landscape.  Permaculture allows any home owner to pay less in water bills by needing less water.  This doesn’t mean that your yard has to be filled with cactus or rocks.  You can have pretty flowering plants and trees.  In fact, your neighbors won’t believe you’re saving more on water than them.

One of our recent clients near Pasadena told us that they used to have the least attractive front yard on their block, but after working with us to lower their water bill, their neighbors told them their yard was now the most beautiful one on the block.