Virtual Garden Tours

The Desert Forest Garden Tour

Written by Cricket

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Our second Virtual Garden Tour is unique in that this garden has been around for only 7 months! I can hardly believe what can be done in such a short amount of time. I am in awe of the planning and execution that has gone into making this a future edible paradise in the desert. Welcome to The Desert Forest.




Desert Forest SMALL

This is the design for the Desert Garden. Colored areas are current plantings or structures while outlined areas are planned for the coming months. The raised beds, while colored, will be finished this month.







Our names are Zeth and Melanie. On Instagram, Facebook or YouTube people may come to know our little project as ‘The Desert Forest’.


We started in January 2016 with a completely blank slate. Just a small home we moved into while Melanie attends Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine for the next 5 years. Both of us have a passion for living a healthy, compassionate and plant-based lifestyle. This really drives our interest in food production which is what ‘The Desert Forest’ is all about. Our aim is to follow the principals of natural farming and permaculture on a small scale and to do so in a way that makes sense. We are always looking for ways to simplify every process. I work full time at a local nursery and Melanie is in medical school full time which doesn’t leave a whole lot of time to manage our property. Even at less than 1/4 acre it’s a lot of work but not an exact science. Growing plants never is. The internet is riddled with people proclaiming that this way or that way is the best way or only way to be successful. It’s not true. The most successful farmer takes a step back and opens their box of creativity and thinks through their processes and ideas. They imagine and then make it happen. That’s the cool thing about natural farming and permaculture. There’s room for individualism. You will have many successes and many failures too learn from whether you are just starting out or are a natural farming pro. The best way to start is to go to your local nursery and buy any food production plant and just try. The Phoenix area is a tough environment to grow in but not impossible and it allows you to grow multiple crops in one year along with some hardy tropicals. Water according to the individual needs of your land, plants and self, fertilize or don’t and never worry because you are never using synthetic chemicals which strip the land and kill biological activity within your soil… We want this home to be a model for maximum food production. Our goal is 80-90% self sufficiency as far as food goes. If we can do it, and save money in the process, then just about anyone with a little land can. We have much to say and share so we welcome anyone to our home to learn and to see what works for us. Just ask to come over.





January 2016



Basically it was gravel and weeds with a few cacti and palms. Not much life here.





This is 7 months Later





Mulch changes everything



We applied 50 yards of mulch to our yard. You need the mulch to create the right environment for microbes to develop and start feeding your soil. 6″ min mulch depth. Tree trimming companies with choppers will deliver mulch for free in most cases. 10 yards per delivery typically.




Living mulch is ideal



Ultimately you want to create a living mulch. Living mulch can be Bermuda grass if you already have it, weeds, perennial peanut, clover, nitrogen fixing shrubs, beans, peas etc. in general you do not want to harvest your living mulch and remove nutrients as you are trying to use a living mulch to provide nitrogen, improve the soil structure, retain moisture, protection from heat and cold create a home for microbes etc.




Fences for food-bearing vines



Our neighbors asked if we would grow grapes on our fence, so we have several of them along with passion fruit and eventually other food-bearing vines.





Tree Installation



Much of our plan involves planting lots and lots and lots of trees.





Providing Shade



We built these structures to provide shade in the summer and frost protection in the winter.





Fruit Already!






Sugar Cane Propagation



We have 3 types of sugar cane. A yellow stalked variety we acquired locally, a Florida red variety, and a red and green variegated variety. Sugar cane is easy to grow and propagate. 1 stalk will make maybe 15 cuttings. Of those 15 each will grow and produce up to 15 more or less stalks.
We love sugar cane juice as it is full of nutrients and tasty. No, sugar cane juice is not unhealthy, but I won’t get into that conversation.





Special Brew



We use filters to remove chorine from the water we use in the garden. (We currently use filter of Eden rather than the one shown here)  Chlorine kills the microbial life in your soil.

The rest is what we use to make foliar feed. Boogie brew from boogie two air stones 2 5 gallon buckets. We also use sea 90 minerals. We do this as often as we feel like it. Sometimes twice a week. Somethings once a month. Brew for 24 hours. Then dilute 50/50 with water for foliar or use straight up on plants.








We will be growing over 150 varieties of rare heirloom seeds in 520 sq ft of raised bed. 50% compost 50% coco coir worm castings rock dust and California basalt deposit minerals. Great resources are


Southern Exposure Seed
Strictlymedicinal Seeds





Current Short Term Goals



  • 500 sq. ft. of raised bed installation



  • Installation of 12 more fruit trees to front yard.
  • Food production vines along entire fence.
  • Finish fence.
  • Divide banana pups which will double-triple our banana plants.
  • Seed ground with red clover, micro clover and perennial peanut so we no longer need wood mulch. A living mulch is always more effective and will keep the ground cooler in the summer and warmer int he winter.
  • Begin planting more non-food small trees and shrubs in front. Popcorn cassia and Pidgeon Pea especially (experimenting to see if it can make it through our winters).






Our plants more or less:

  • 9 – Manzano Banana
  • 1 – Pineapple Banana
  • 1 – Pisang Ceylon Banana
  • 12 – Double Mahoi Banana
  • 6 Rajapuri Banana
  • 25ish – African Rhino Horn (had many more but the birds and hot weather took their toll) Banana
  • 25ish – Lacatan Banana
  • 13 – or so various papaya varieties
  • 1000 – stalks of various sugar cane
  • 1 – Acacia Smallie
  • 1 – Jacaranda
  • 2 – Goji Berries
  • 9 – Pidgeon Pea
  • 1 – White Pomegranate
  • 1 – Hotuni Zigar Pomegranate
  • 2 – Wonderful Pomegranate
  • 1 – Ambrosia Pomegranate
  • 1 – Texas Ebony
  • 1 – Pink Guava
  • 2 – Strawberry Guava
  • 5 – Dragon Fruit various
  • 1 – Kinnow Mandarin
  • 1 – Meyer Lemon
  • 1 – Ponderosa Lemon
  • 1 – Moringa
  • 2 – Tea Tree
  • 1 – Carrie Mango
  • 1 – White Kadota Fig
  • 1 – Olympia Fig
  • 1 – Desert King Fig
  • 1 – Black Mission Fig
  • 1 – Brown Turkey Fig
  • 1 – Catawaba Grape
  • 1 – Crimson Grape
  • 1 – Unknown Grape
  • 1 – Red Baron Peach
  • 1 – Chocolate Persimmon
  • 1 – Hachiya Persimmon
  • 1 – Coffee Cake Persimmon
  • 1 – Frederick Passion Fruit
  • 1 – Pim Seng Mum Mango
  • 1 – Valencia Pride Mango
  • 1 – Christmas Loquat
  • 1 – Hong Kong Orchid Tree
  • 1 – Mimosa Tree
  • 1 – Tipuana Tipu
  • 3 – Icecream Bean
  • 4 – Golden Goddess Bamboo

-Zeth Kinnett

About the author


Welcome to my blog! I’m Cricket (yes, my parents named me that!) and I’m a natural homesteader. Growing up in rural Idaho with a garden, a horse, and lots of canned food, I like to bring those sensibilities to my suburban home in Phoenix, Arizona. Add a little dose of cottage garden flavor and permaculture tendencies, and you’ll see why GardenVariety.Life is a reflection of everything I do.

I truly enjoy sharing the skills that promote a meaningful and practical connection to our gardens and environment. Because so many residents of the metro phoenix area are transplants, I find that the area’s unique desert climate is often misunderstood and underestimated in terms of what is possible. That’s where the fun begins. Arizona is a burgeoning permaculture haven with homesteading written all over it, and there is nothing I enjoy more than encouraging others to jump in and give it a try.