Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Desert Gardening----Trying Again!

We had ferocious heat and a devastating drought this year across most of the country.
The garden I had hoped would feed my family got baked. That's the only way to put it! Blossoms shriveled up and fell off, seedlings I watered and kept watch on withered and died or were so stunted by the heat and sandstorms (a delightful  side benefit of desert living --yeah, sarcasm there) that they never produced.

BUT...now it is time to get my Fall garden in the ground and going!
I WAS going to try using the raised bed boxes I tried growing my Spring/Summer garden in. However, long term weather predictions say that we will have continued severe heat until the end of August and drought until the end of October.
I went to a couple of lectures/talks given by local Master Gardeners and went to check out a local community garden run by Master Gardeners to see how they do it. Their gardens had suffered in the heat, too, but not as badly as mine. They actually had veggies!
The big differences iin what they did as opposed to what I did:
Drip Irrigation and Shade Fabric.

LOTS of shade fabric. One MG I spoke to said he had spent several hundred dollars on shade fabric alone this year to protect his garden! I certainly don't have the money for that! So, I looked through what I DO have. I have tarps. And some camo netting stuff the Darlin' Man brought home that looks like it could approximate shade fabric pretty good.
So, tarps and camo netting (actually, that's a misnomer and it's more of a fine screen that net!) to start with.

Moving on...Drip Irrigation.
Some of the gardens I saw had 10 or more drip irrigation hoses snaking through the rows. The gardeners themselves told me that in order to keep up with evaporation and the heat and the sun, they had to run them at 3 to 5 times the pressure they normally do.
I am HUGE on water conservation AND, here in the desert, we have to be as careful with our water as we can. The water bills can get pretty high, too!
So...my strategies will include the following:
Burying 2 liter bottles in the garden at two foot intervals.The bottles will have holes poked into them so water can trickle out. I figure I can fill them once a day and they will seep water into the ground all day and night.
Using *gray water* as much as possible. I can't exactly route it directly to the garden, but I can, for example, use a bucket to empty the tub instead of letting that precious water go down the drain! I have figured out a way to route my washing machine *gray water* to the garden, so that's a plus.

I had plenty of seeds left over from this spring, so I have already started some seedlings. Butternut squash, cabbage, etc.
Although I still have loads of raised bed boxes, I think I will borrow my neighbors tiller and give a try at putting this garden directly in the ground. Maybe put a few things in the boxes.
Seems a shame not to put them to good use!
Remember all these?
I figure I can use at least one for a small herb garden...
I already turned a few of them into shelving for my food storage and am ripping apart a few more for a chicken house project.

 I have my fingers crossed that my Fall garden will succeed!


  1. Ooo, the potential for all those boxes!

    Even though we're no where "desert" living, usually the opposit (humid in the ozarks), but this year it was just like the desert & most of my veggies dried up even after watering them daily. Drip irrigation is definately in the works for next spring!

    Good luck with you fall garden!

  2. I think this year has kicked just about everyone's butt, gardening-wise! All we can do is hope for the best for our fall gardens, I guess.

    I LOVE all my boxes and lumber...was all free! I am finding more and more projects I can use them for. Gave some away to neighbors, built shelves here, making a chicken house, thinking about making a couple of much needed bookcases....

  3. Good luck with your fall gardening. I know how frustrating it can be. Do you have irrigation water rights where you live, or do you have water meters and pay for what you use? We use our well for watering our garden, and we have water rights that waters our pasture and trees. We need to figure out a cheap way to get the irrigation over to our garden.


  4. Good luck Lamb, living near Phoenix, I know exactly what you mean. I have to water the snot out of my stuff every year. But it also helps to find out what makes it through the drought so you are prepared for the next one.

    Good luck!

  5. Great post. Your frustration is mine as well here in Tucson. In fact, I've escaped the garden for awhile because it has been so depressing. Who knew shade cloth or cloth to protect plants from freezes could be so expensive!!!??


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