Before you pick which plants you want to plant on your homestead, take a moment to do some homework about what kind of environment they like and what their needs are.
The first step is the Plant Hardiness Zone. This is a map that takes into account the average annual extreme minimum temperature of a location to determine which plants will live there. (Does it get too cold or not cold enough)
Here's the link for the official interactive map of the Plant Hardiness Zones.
New Mexico is below.
So each plant and tree has a temperature that it thrives in. Some like it hot, some like it cold. Some need it a certain temperature for an amount of time in order to produce fruit. Others will die if it stays below a temperature for too long.
The easiest way to ensure your plants survive, is to look for native breeds to your local area. If you're looking for plants outside your native circle, try to find locations with similar environments and climates and use native plants from there as well.
First look up your area so you know your Hardiness Zone. Once you have that, you can sort through plants to make your list of plants that will work in your area.
I know that my area is Zone 6B-7A.
Next, click here to look up rainfall in your location and compare it to how much water the plant needs annually.
Next, go down your list and highlight the plants that have water needs within your rainfall ranges.
My community gets about 10-15 inches of rain per year. So I just need plants that are 6B-7A friendly and want 10-15" of rain per year for my off grid community in New Mexico.
These will be the easiest to grow in your area. The ones that need more water will need some kind of irrigation system set up near them to keep them healthy.
Now you have a list of the best plants for your location. Those should be the first to plant so that you have something long term growing while you experiment with the more challenging plants on the side when you're ready. These sure-fire plants should be the priority in your food forest or garden.
For a list of desert friendly trees, check out the resource on Fruit and Nut trees for New Mexico.
Written by: Page Ollice
Founder of Good Old Fashioned, Page has spent over 7 years researching off grid and sustainable living techniques to design one master project: A self reliant homestead in New Mexico that takes into account shelter, water, fuel, food, waste management, heat/cooling, and electricity. He is putting all his notes online open source for public use so that anyone can follow his plans to building their own autonomous, self-reliant homestead.
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