We’ve grown many fruit trees in our dry climate (citrus, fig, pomegranate, avocado, and others) and I’ve had plenty of readers ask about how they can get started too. So, I did some research to find the best drought-tolerant fruit trees and strategies for dry and even desert climates. Here’s what I found.

The best drought-tolerant fruit trees are date palm, olive, fig, plum, apricot, and pomegranate. Key strategies for growing fruit trees in dry climates include drip irrigation, heavily mulching, and providing plenty of shade. However, many techniques are available depending on the level of drought.

To save you some time, here are the drought-tolerant fruit trees the father of permaculture recommends:

“Suggested plants would be 5-6 date palms, 4-5 olives, a doum palm, 2 or 3 citrus, 1-3 avocados, 4-5 apricots, bananas and papayas (climate permitting), and a mass of vine crop.”

Bill Mollison, Permaculture, a Designer’s Manual

The key here is to use the larger, hardier plants to protect the smaller, more sensitive plants. For example, using the date palms not just to provide date fruits, but for its shade and windbreaks.

Keep in mind that in this example, avocado, citrus, banana, and papaya require more protection and water to get established. So, it’s best to plant these after you set up a microclimate and reliable source of water.

Let’s take a closer look at a few of these key strategies along with the 30 best drought-tolerant fruit trees out there.

In this article:

Tip: When choosing drought-tolerant plants, first observe which trees, shrubs, ground covers, and vines grow naturally in your area. You can likely save time if you enlist the help of native or other adapted species.

1. Date Palm

date palms with fruits

Date palms are one of the best drought-tolerant fruit trees to start with as they not only provide dates, but they’re also a support species—paving the way for more sensitive fruit trees.

For example, these palms are actually more of a grass than tree, which helps them grow quickly (1-3 feet per year). Once established, they’re drought-tolerant and provide much needed shade and wind protection for the rest of your garden. This gives your other plants a much better chance of surviving and reduces the amount of water required.

“[Palm trees] are the first line of defence against the sun in open fields, and in its shade grows the olive tree. Under the olive, the fig grows, and under the fig, the pomegranate and vine, then the grain and vegetables. The palm tree’s second contribution is dates.”

Williams, C., 1974, Craftsmen of Necessity

So, if you have the space, grow date palms as your overstory species! Then, select other species to plant in their shade.

2. Olive

our olive and fig trees with a sprinkler and drip irrigation
We planted our olive trees above our fig trees (and use drip irrigation to water both)

Olive trees are well-known to grow in dry and Mediterranean climates, but they can even grow in areas with little to no soil, including rocky soil.

They’re are also one of the best fruit trees to plant under date palms. So, once you have your palms or taller support trees established, consider growing olives in their partial shade.

Many olive varieties require very little water and are highly drought-tolerant once established. However, they are fairly vulnerable when they are young (as are most fruit trees), so make sure to provide a microclimate that protects them from excessive heat and wind.

The best place to plant olive trees is just outside of the taller tree’s canopy—on its eastern side to protect the olive tree from the hot, western sun.

For example, our olive tree has a support tree that provides it with partial shade for a few hours. We’re then training our olive tree to provide partial shade for our figs, slightly downslope, and so on.

If you have water to spare, citrus trees also grow well under the partial shade of olive trees (more on citrus trees later).

3. Fig

our fig tree holding in our soil
Our fig tree holding in soil on our hillside

According to Christopher G. Williams, of the Craftsmen of Necessity, fig trees are a great drought-tolerant fruit tree to plant under the partial shade of olive and other taller trees.

For example, we have our fig trees under the partial shade of our eucalyptus and olive trees (once they grow a bit more).

After they’ve matured, fig trees are low maintenance and don’t require a lot of water. They’re quick growing and their root systems are great for holding in sloped hillsides and preventing erosion. For example, we have fig trees planted at the top of our hillside.

Underneath the fig tree, plant pomegranate, dwarf citrus, and other smaller, drought-tolerant trees and plants.

4. Pomegranate

pomegranate fruit on a tree

By now, you may have picked up a theme when choosing drought-tolerant fruit trees—plant trees that are native to arid or dry climates.

For example, pomegranates are native to the Mediterranean, the Middle East, and India and have grown there for thousands of years. This means that many, many generations of pomegranate trees have adapted to grow and even thrive in dry climates.

When looking at a more tropical and water-intensive fruit such as bananas, there’s no comparison of the water efficiency of pomegranates and other drought-tolerant fruit trees.

As mentioned above, grow pomegranate as a lower-understory layer in your garden, such as in the shade of palm, olive, fig, and other taller trees.

5. Acacia

our black acacia tree with bean pods
Our acacia tree at the edge of our food forest

Acacia trees are some of the best drought-tolerant fruit trees (yes, their pods are typically edible) as they grow incredibly fast and are nitrogen-fixers. For context, these trees commonly grow 6-8 feet per year.

Because of their quick growth and nitrogen-fixing properties, acacias are one of the ultimate support species for other fruit trees. They’ll quickly provide shelter from the sun and wind, and their cut branches can be used as a highly nutritious mulch—adding valuable nitrogen into the soil.

For example, our acacia tree provides plenty of leaf mulch for our other fruit trees. We’ve definitely seen a difference in the soil by the acacia tree compared to the soil on the other side of the yard.

Some of the best acacia varieties to use in dry climates are A. albida, and Prosopis spp.

6. Cactus

prickly pear cactus fruit

While it’s not a tree, prickly-pear cactus produce tasty berries and grow well with minimal effort in most dry climates. The fruit can be eaten raw, but you’ll have to remove the needles before eating them (I believe they can simply be burned off).

Prickly pear cactus is probably not a great plant to grow if you have kids or pets running around. However, at the same time, this makes them a great natural fence for your property. For example, when planted in rows, their thorns can easily deter deer, coyotes, and the like.

7. Pistachio

pistachio tree with nuts fruiting

Pistachio trees come from dry regions in Central Asia and the Middle East. They’re well-suited for areas with hot summers and cold winters and can manage with minimal water. These trees need well-drained soil and don’t do well in waterlogged conditions.

If you’re thinking of planting pistachios, keep in mind they have male and female trees, so you’ll need both for nut production. Under the pistachio, plant drought-tolerant herbs or shrubs that can handle some shade.

8. Almond

an almond tree with nuts fruiting

Almond trees are surprisingly drought-tolerant once established. Native to the Middle East and South Asia, almonds are used to long, dry summers. Their water efficiency makes them a fantastic addition to permaculture orchards in arid regions.

When designing your orchard, consider pairing almond trees with smaller fruiting shrubs like pigeon peas or dwarf citrus trees.

Recommended: 10 Best Companion Plants for Walnuts, Pecans, and Almonds

9. Apricot

an apricot tree with lots of fruit on its branches

Apricots are known for their drought tolerance and their ability to grow in areas with cold winters and warm summers. Once established, apricots require less frequent watering compared to other fruit trees.

Plant drought-resistant understory plants just outside of the apricot’s canopy, as they provide partial shade for their companions.

10. Plum

plum tree with purple fruits

While there are many varieties of plum trees available, several are fairly drought-tolerant once established. Popular varieties like the European plum (Prunus domestica) and the Japanese plum (Prunus salicina) have varieties that can withstand water scarcity.

With deep root systems, these trees can tap into underground moisture reserves. Note that while they’re young plum trees require regular watering, but once matured they can handle light to moderate drought.

11. Jujube

a jujube tree with fruit

Jujubes, or Chinese dates, have shown an ability to thrive in water-restricted environments. Native to regions in China, these trees have had generations perfecting surviving in dry conditions.

A unique feature of jujubes is their small but numerous leaves, which reduce water loss through transpiration.

Once they’re established, their complex root system taps into water sources deeper in the soil. While their canopy isn’t as dense as some trees, jujubes can offer a good amount of partial shade to the ground below.

12. Tagasaste

flowers on a tree lucerne or tagasaste plant

Often called tree lucerne, tagasaste is an evergreen shrub or small tree native to the Canary Islands. Known for its deep root system, it commonly thrives in low water conditions.

Tagasaste is also nitrogen-fixing, making it a good option for any drought-tolerant orchard for improving soil health. While its primary use has been as a fodder tree for livestock, its flowers are edible and can be a nectar source for bees and other pollinators.

It’s best if your tagasaste tree is cut down to the stump (coppiced) in the winter to promote more sunlight to the other plants. The trimmings are also highly valuable as nitrogen-rich mulch, so don’t throw these out! Using the trimmings as mulch for your other plants is commonly called “chop and drop”.

13. Mesquite Tree

mesquite trees in Texas with bluebonnet flowers growing under them

Mesquite trees are known to grow easily in the Southwestern US and parts of South America. Other than being nitrogen-fixers and drought-resistant, these trees offer bean pods that have been a food source for indigenous people and livestock for centuries.

These trees have deep taproots which pull up nutrients and water—benefiting the plants around them. You can also grow drought-tolerant shrubs and herbs beneath them, such as sage and prickly pears.

14. Pigeon Pea

pigeon pea with pods

While pigeon pea is more commonly known as a shrub or bush, it occasionally grows to the size of a small tree. Native to tropical regions, pigeon pea is well-adapted to a range of harsh conditions, including drought.

Pigeon pea’s deep roots not only make it resilient to water scarcity but also help improve soil structure. This is because it’s a leguminous plant—fixing nitrogen and enriching the soil. The seeds provide a valuable protein source in many traditional cuisines.

For best results, use pigeon peas in alley cropping (growing larger perennials on the outside and smaller annuals on the inside), or on the rim of swales.

15. Grape

our grapevine growing an overhang on the patio
A grapevine growing on an overhang above our patio

Grapevines are essential to dry climates as they provide a valuable vine—providing shade to the parts of the garden that the trees miss.

Many grape varieties, especially those from the Mediterranean, do well in dry conditions. The extensive root system of grapevines enables them to draw moisture from deep within the soil.

While regular watering enhances fruit quality and yield, these vines can still produce well in periods of limited water.

In dry and hot climates, Bill Mollison recommends planting grapevines on any wall or roof you can spare. You can also combine this with spraying or misting the trellis to rapidly cool an area.

For example, we have a grapevine growing on the overhang above our patio. While it provides shade in the spring and summer, since it’s deciduous, its leaves drop in the fall and winter. This allows the sun to warm our patio during colder weather.

If we wanted to drop our patio another 10ºF or so, we could also mist the grapevine with water.

16. Melons

watermelon plant growing with some fruit

Even though they’re not fruit trees, melons are a highly useful fruiting ground cover in hot and dry climates. Other valuable ground covers are sweet potato, squash, and gourds.

For example, cantaloupe (Cucumis melo) and watermelon (Citrullus lanatus), are natively from arid regions in Africa and Southwest Asia. Their deep, sprawling root systems allow them to source water from deep underground.

Melons prefer well-draining soil, and once established, they can produce bountiful yields even under water-scarce conditions. However, it’s essential to water them during fruit set and development to ensure the best fruit quality.

17. Spanish Chestnut

spanish chestnut fruits

The Spanish Chestnut, also known simply as the sweet chestnut, is native to the mountainous regions of the Mediterranean. It commonly grows to 40-60 feet tall and has been a source of food for humans since ancient times.

This deciduous tree is well adapted to regions with dry summers and mild winters. The extensive root system allows it to tap into deeper water sources during periods of drought.

Mature trees are especially resilient and produce consistent yields even in fairly poor water conditions. The nuts are not only delicious but also high in nutrients, making them a valuable addition to any permaculture garden or orchard.

Keep in mind that at least 2 trees are required for pollination to develop fully formed fruit.

18. Honey Locust

honey locust tree with pods

While the Honey Locust is primarily known for its ornamental value, especially in urban settings due to its adaptability, it’s also an excellent tree for drought-prone areas.

Native to North America, honey locusts have a deep and extensive root system allowing them to tap into hidden water reserves deep within the soil.

This deciduous tree offers dappled shade, which can be beneficial for understory plants that require some protection from the harsh sun.

The tree produces long, flattened seed pods that are sweet-tasting (hence the name “honey”) and have been eaten by both livestock and humans in times of need.

19. Carob

a carob tree and its fruit pods

Native to the Mediterranean, the Carob tree is a great example of a plant that has adapted to thrive in areas of drought.

Unlike many other fruit-bearing trees, carobs don’t shed their leaves during dry periods, instead, their leathery leaves help conserve moisture.

The tree produces dark brown pods that are not only edible but often used as a cocoa substitute. These pods are naturally sweet, packed with fiber, and can be consumed raw, roasted, or processed into powder.

20. Eucalyptus

our eucalyptus tree in our backyard
Our eucalyptus tree (back) in our backyard, serving as a windbreak and shade giver from the northwest

Eucalyptus trees are native to Australia and are well-known for their quick growth and drought-tolerance areas. They have evolved over many thousands of years to thrive in the often harsh and dry Australian climate.

Their aromatic leaves are not just a favorite for koalas but also serve a practical purpose—the oil-rich leaves reduce transpiration, which in turn helps conserve water.

While most species of Eucalyptus produce non-edible seed pods, their primary value in permaculture design is for shade, windbreaks, and soil stabilization (from their deep-roots).

Eucalyptus are often considered to be an invasive species in the US but are now being accepted as part of the ever-changing environment. For example, in our backyard, I’ve seen many hummingbirds take shelter in our eucalyptus tree to avoid crows and other predators. One even took a nap on a branch.

21. Cork Oak

a cork oak with bark removed

Coming from the western Mediterranean, the cork oak is often a symbol of resilience. Not only can it withstand periods of drought, but this evergreen tree is also the primary source of natural cork, harvested from its thick, spongy bark.

The bark regenerates every 9 to 12 years, making it a sustainable choice for various uses. Its deep root system allows the tree to tap into deeper groundwater reserves, ensuring its survival during long droughts.

Also, the cork oak’s dense canopy provides shelter and habitat for various bird species and beneficial insects. The acorns are generally edible and are often used to feed livestock.

“The acorns of the cork oak tree can be used to feed and fatten livestock since the acorns are full of carbohydrates and low in protein. Acorns from other oak species such as the red oak contain higher amounts of bitter tannins than the cork oak species, contributing to their sweet, nutty taste.”

University of Redlands

22. Mulberry

a mulberry tree with fruit

Mulberry trees are common in the southern US for their tasty berries, and are surprisingly hardy when it comes to drought.

While there are several species of mulberries (commonly white, red, and black), most are tolerant of a variety of soil conditions and can withstand periods of water scarcity once established. More specifically, the mulberry’s deep root system seeks moisture from below the soil’s surface, ensuring consistent fruit production even under stress.

Mulberries also provide shade and are often used in silvopasture systems, where their fallen leaves and fruit provide feed for livestock. Similar to grapes, you can train mulberries to grow on trellises (espaliered) to shade walls and parts of your garden.

Tip: Mulberry trees are illegal in some areas.

23. Tamarisk

Tamarisk or salt cedar tree

Also known as salt cedar, tamarisk trees are known for their ability to thrive in challenging environments, including saline and dry soils. Native to Eurasia and Africa, these trees have become invasive in some parts of North America due to their adaptability and rapid growth.

Tamarisk trees have fine, feathery leaves and produce a cascade of pink or white flowers, making them visually appealing.

While they are not typically used for their fruiting value in permaculture designs, their tolerance to challenging conditions makes them useful in specific scenarios, such as windbreaks and soil stabilization in arid regions. However, take caution when planting them in areas where they can become invasive.

24. White Cedar

white cedar with fruits

Often called the Persian Lilac or Chinaberry tree, the White Cedar is a deciduous tree known for its drought tolerance and adaptability to various soil types. Originating in Southeast Asia and northern Australia, it’s adorned with beautiful lilac-colored flowers in the spring.

Although its berries are inedible to humans, they serve as a food source for some bird species. With its strong root system, the white cedar tree is capable of tapping into deep water sources, helping it survive in drier climates.

The tree is also used for timber and ornamental purposes, making it a multifunctional addition to landscapes.

25. Beans

runner bean plants with pods

While beans aren’t trees, their significance in drought-tolerant gardening cannot be understated, especially when considering vining or pole varieties. Beans, being legumes, have a unique capability to fix nitrogen from the atmosphere into the soil—enhancing its fertility.

Certain vining bean varieties, such as the runner bean (Phaseolus coccineus) and yardlong bean (Vigna unguiculata subsp. sesquipedalis), have shown an impressive ability to produce even under limited water conditions.

Properly mulched, these beans can thrive and produce good harvests in periods of low rainfall. Also, the beans can be intercropped with taller plants, allowing them to climb and utilize vertical space, further optimizing water use.

Other beans such as lablab are great for ground covers in arid climates.

26. Citrus

our dwarf meyer lemon tree with lots of fruit
Our dwarf Meyer lemon tree

Citrus trees, including oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruits, and more, are not immediately thought of as drought-tolerant. However, many mature citrus varieties can endure short periods of drought once established. This is typically after 3-5 years.

More specifically, even though regular watering provides the best chance of fruiting, citrus trees can still survive and produce in conditions of water scarcity. Especially when you provide enough compost and mulch. For example, we provide our citrus trees with 2 inches of compost every 1-2 months and 4 inches of mulch every 3-6 months.

It’s worth noting that deep, infrequent watering is more beneficial for citrus trees than frequent, shallow watering, as it encourages deeper root growth. A good strategy for this is drip irrigation. Avoid using soakers or sprinklers in dry climates as much of the water is lost to evaporation.

In dry climates, citrus trees grow best on a small mound (berm) in swales. This provides them with more water while protecting the graft union from excess moisture.

27. Casuarina

Casuarina pine tree with fruit

Also known as Australian pine or She-Oak, casuarina trees are incredibly resilient and well-suited for drought-prone areas. Native to the southern parts of Asia, Australia, and the islands of the Pacific, these trees have fine, needle-like foliage and can mimic the sound of the ocean when the wind rustles through their branches.

Casuarinas possess a unique ability to fix nitrogen in the soil through a symbiotic relationship with root-dwelling bacteria. This trait not only allows them to thrive in nutrient-poor soils but also enriches the ground around them.

“The roots of C. equisetifolia (Casuarina) produce root nodules where the bacteria fix atmospheric nitrogen, which is an essential nutrient for all plant metabolic activities.”

Growth response of Casuarina, Journal of Bioscience

Their deep root system makes them proficient in water harvesting, allowing them to flourish in arid environments.

Like eucalyptus, casuarina trees are a great choice to establish windbreaks in dry climates.

28. Paulownia

Paulownia tree with flowers

Often referred to as the “Empress Tree” or “Princess Tree,” paulownia is renowned for its rapid growth and adaptability to various soil types. Native to China, this deciduous tree is embellished with beautiful, fragrant lavender flowers during the spring.

What makes Paulownia particularly impressive is its ability to withstand drought conditions once established. In addition to its drought tolerance, Paulownia wood is lightweight and highly sought after in the timber industry.

29. Stone Pine

stone pine trees

The Stone Pine, also known as the Umbrella Pine or Italian Stone Pine, is native to the Mediterranean. This evergreen tree is not only recognized for its unique, umbrella-like canopy but also for its seeds, which provide the delicious pine nuts.

Well-adapted to the Mediterranean’s dry summers, the Stone Pine’s deep root system helps it seek out water from deeper layers of the soil. While it prefers well-draining soils, this tree is remarkably tolerant of drought, salinity, and even wind, making it a versatile addition to various landscapes.

30. Avocado Trees

our backyard with avocado lemon and tangerine trees copy
One of our avocado trees in our backyard

Avocado trees are typically more sensitive than other fruit trees and require more water, but once established they can be fairly drought tolerant.

For example, native to the humid and subtropical regions of south-central Mexico, several avocado cultivars have shown adaptability and resilience in the face of mild to moderate drought.

The tree’s wide-spreading root system efficiently absorbs available moisture, and with proper mulching, it can retain this moisture for extended periods. Certain varieties, like ‘Fuerte,’ prove increased drought tolerance, making them better suited for water-scarce regions.

Compared to frequent shallow watering, regular deep watering and mulching significantly strengthen an avocado tree’s ability to tolerate dry periods. Like our fruit trees, we also mulch our avocado trees with at least 4 inches of mulch.

However, it’s best to save avocado trees until after you’ve established a microclimate and a good layer of soil and water.

How to Plant Fruit Trees in Dry Climates

placing the fruit tree in the hole in our backyard
Planting our Valencia orange tree in our arid backyard

Tip: Remember to grow fruit trees that match your hardiness zone. For example, if you live in Zone 7, avoid growing avocado trees (zones 8-11) and instead grow plums (zones 4-9) or other temperate fruits. You can find your hardiness zone with this map from the USDA.

Before planting your fruit trees, it’s best to establish your support species and microclimate. This will significantly reduce the amount of work and dying fruit trees.

Until you get support species established, it’s best to keep fruit trees in pots under shade until the rains arrive. Shallow roots can die in soil temperatures of 85ºF temperature or above, so planting in rainy or cool weather is key.

You can check soil temperature (and dryness) by using a thermometer or the finger test—push a finger into the soil 2-4 inches and feel for dryness and heat. Typically, it’s best to only water fruit trees when the soil is dry.

Once you’re ready to plant, dig a hole with enough space for the entire root system. Then, soak the hole, and add a small amount of fertilizer or soil amendment.

For acidic soils (under 6.0 pH) add alkaline amendments such as lime (ground limestone). For alkaline clay soils (over 7.0 pH) use acidic amendments such as gypsum.

Once planted, push a palm frond or shade-creating branch into the soil on the sunny side of the tree. This is generally southwest if you’re in the northern hemisphere. You can also use stakes with shade cloth or a leguminous tree (ideal).

After the fruit tree matures and has deeper roots, start cutting back on the shade or support species to allow for more sunlight and space.

Strategies to Grow Fruit Trees in Dry Climates

our avocado tree with drip irrigation at its base
One of our avocado trees with a basin and drip irrigation

As a quick overview, I put this table together to illustrate the different dryland strategies to use, depending on the severity of the drought you’re experiencing.

Level 1 is mild while Level 3 is extreme.

Level 1Level 2Level 3
Drip IrrigationPlant in SwalesOnly Plant After Rain
Heavily MulchingCollect RainwaterHeavily Vining
Create ShadeRecycle GreywaterCondensation Strategies
In any level of drought, it’s much easier to first establish your support species to create a microclimate before planting your fruit trees.

Here are the main steps to grow fruit trees in dry climates:

  1. Establish a microclimate by reducing the drying effects of the wind and sun
  2. Collect water with a swale
  3. Plant support species on swale’s mounds (berms)
  4. After the support species are established, plant fruit trees
  5. Over time, prune the support species to make room for the growing productive species

To turn our garden into essentially an oasis, we’re going to need to establish a microclimate.

To do that, we first need to protect the site from the drying effects of the sun and wind. Common methods include using shade cloth, walls, and even other trees (once established).

The next step is to collect water.

And one of the best ways to do that is with a basin or swale. To make one, locate a spot on your site where water commonly drains (or create one by redirecting greywater or rainwater). Dig a hole 6-12 feet wide and 6-12 inches deep. Add organic matter such as leaves, twigs, and compost in the hole.

Next, create berms on the outside of the basin or downslope of the swale. Start by planting your support species—typically fast-growing plants that provide shade and other benefits such as nitrogen-fixing and mulch. For best results, plant just after a rain and run drip irrigation with plenty of mulch.

Once the support species are successfully established, plant the more sensitive productive species (including most fruit trees) around or in the basin/swale, depending on their water requirements.

As the garden matures, prune the support species as needed to provide more sunlight and mulch for the productive species.

More Tips For Growing Fruit Trees in Dry Climates

our basin and drip irrigation around our avocado tree
It’s difficult to see, but we have basins around our fruit trees to collect more water

When growing fruit trees in dry climates, the end goal is to create a system with high biomass production and effective use of wastewater. While the above strategies and tips are a good start, I wanted to provide you with even more tips.

Soil and Water Management:

watering our olive tree
In the morning on hot days, we often water our fruit trees with a hose (other days we use drip irrigation). Pictured: our olive tree.
  • Reduce soil evaporation and transpiration.
  • Limit weed and grass growth around trees.
  • Use basins or depressions to guide water directly to the tree roots. For sloped lands, utilize swales. Use berms on the edge of the basin or downslope of the swale.
  • Redirect greywater and rainwater into swales or other water harvesting systems.
  • In basins/swales, incorporate materials like wood chips, logs, manure, straw, and plant scraps. You can top with at least 3 inches of sand for protection from the sun and wind.
  • Create silt traps to build and enrich the soil.
  • Divert runoff from streets or sidewalks into your garden for additional moisture. Some gardeners even remove their street curb (check with your local ordinance first).
  • If severely water-limited, maximize nighttime condensation using techniques like stone mulches or plastic sheets.

Planting and Microclimate Creation:

  • Prioritize growing support species initially to establish a microclimate.
  • Begin with a small area, like a swale (6-12 ft wide), to cultivate a microclimate and then expand from there.
  • Plant during cool periods, preferably right after rainfall.
  • Plant fruit trees spaced at least their mature canopy width apart. Compared to tropical environments, dry climates require fewer plants to minimize competition for water and nutrients.
  • Allocate about 30% of your garden to support trees for windbreaks and mulching.
  • Establish hedges to shield crops like corn from harsh conditions.
  • Use your home as a natural barrier from the sun and wind. The southern and western sun is the hottest (if you live in southern hemisphere, this is northern and western).

Shade and Protection:

our olive tree with a sprinkler and drip irrigation
Our other trees provide the olive trees with partial shade for a few hours of the day. Even just a couple of hours of shade makes a big difference in the heat.
  • Use lots of vines to offer shade for walls, roofs, patios, and more. Keep their roots cool with mulch or shaded walls. Grapes, mulberries (if espaliered), and sweet potatoes can all tolerate heat if their roots are protected.
  • Planting in a courtyard is best, if available. If not, plant on the east side of your home to optimize the morning sunlight and shield from the hot afternoon sun.
  • Shield young fruit trees with palm fronds or other shade providers.
  • Use shade cloths providing 50% shade or more. Also, consider using vines, palms, and acacias as natural umbrellas.
  • For vegetable gardens, check the soil is rich, mulched, and flooded every 3-10 days. Partial shade is also beneficial.
  • Clumping bamboo is beneficial for windbreaks, slowing water, and soil building, especially on slopes. Avoid running bamboo as it’s invasive.


  • Apply as much mulch as possible.
  • Use high mulching plants such as casuarina, bamboo, tamarisk, acacia, comfrey, and specific legumes.
  • Select organic materials like leaves, bark, wood chips, sawdust, ash, coffee grounds, and rice hulls.


  • Use drip irrigation for the initial 1-2 years until tree roots are self-shaded. This can save 10-50% of the water compared to sprinklers. For the best water conservation, place the drip irrigation pipes 5 inches under the mulch.


  • If incorporating small livestock, consider heat and dust-tolerant species like chickens and quail. Ducks can be used if there’s ample water access.

Once Excess Water is Available:

  • Plant moisture-loving plants like avocado, banana, and cassava in the wet zones for food and mulch.
  • Use comfrey for mulching and reeds for purifying greywater.


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