Caging the Cactus
As I mentioned in the last post, rabbits and ground squirrels eat just about everything living in the desert. Our first go-round with planting was a total waste of time--all the little cacti we put in were annihilated. Now wire cages will protect all new plants, until thorns are long enough to thwart the hungry critters.
I'm getting a kick out of imagining the rabbits staring longingly at the new prickly pear growth, unable to get at it.
The desert is war!
Our property has mature trees on it, but they are mostly tamarisk, or salt cedar. I was always taught these trees, which are not native and were planted for wind breaks, should be taken out. That is easier said than done. They have very long tap roots and each drinks up to 400 gallons of water per day. They are sucking our well water up. Recent research, however, says that tamarisks are better than no trees at all. Other trees can grow at the edges of the groves, and they provide shade for birds and animals in the desert.
So our tamarisks will have to stay for now.
We have two dwarf olive trees that were extremely stressed by our lack of water the past three months. Now that the well is flowing again, we are watering them and they are starting to come back. Yesterday in the later afternoon I needed a simple job for my heat-addled brain, so I crawled under one of the olives that is more like a big bush, and began to prune all the small growth off so the main trunks and branches can flourish. Pruning trees is very satisfying, because you can quickly see the difference in the shape of the tree. I imagine the tree thanking me for pampering it, and making it stronger.
While I was pruning I remembered sitting under another olive tree at my grandparents' house, and having difficult conversations about the end of life. The tree is still there but my grandparents are not.
I'm researching other trees to plant in the fall. We have gray water that runs from the kitchen, so I'm planning a couple of shade trees nearby, possibly desert willow and mesquite. I may also try a pomegranate and a pepper tree. As with everything else here, gardening has a heavy learning curve. Rabbits and ground squirrels ate almost all our first attempts at cactus planting. Now we are caging everything that goes into the ground.
Anna does most of the writing. Ted does most of the photos. But sometimes we switch. We are repairing a distressed property in 29 Palms, California, and eventually hope to run an artist residency there.