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demonwolfmoon 07-08-2013 09:18 PM

Veggie garden in the desert?! Help
disclaimer: im on my tablet until dh sets up the office so this may have some obnoxious errors.

Ok so we just moved back to so Cal, Nuevo specifically. I want to grow a garden to cut food costs and to eat healthier. My hubbys aunt hears this amd wants me to go organic, for health purposes. Ok, great.

However, unlike PA, where my last garden was, its a flat out desert here. Its really dry and the soil is hardpacked and looks devoid of organic material.

So where do I start? web suggests rototilling the desired area, spreading manure, tilling that under and letting it sit for a few months. would 1 month be sufficient if the manure isnt fresh?

Is there another better or faster way?

The entire area doesn't have to be organic.

Here are pics of what im working with. All the old horse/goat or whatever poo was from previous tenant.. we havent cleared everything out yet.

Phly 07-08-2013 09:49 PM

Hmmm I'm not in an arid area, but we are almost pure sand. So I'd think similar theory's may apply.

I'd definitely till or plow the current ground and add as much organic material as possible. If seasoned, I'd be inclined to till or plow again and plant.
Another option for now to get plants going while you try to improve the soil would be growing in containers of some sort. Even plastic drums cut in half. Should support some plants to get the ball rolling. And are easy on water.
And as far as watering, a drip system may be to your advantage there. Slow constant water, and you can cover the roots areas to prevent evaporation.

Just some thoughts from a guy in Indiana lol.
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Clayton Taffy 07-08-2013 10:19 PM

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If I were working with that soil, I would give up gardening!

But I have a plan.
It will be more expensive in the beginning but so worth it in the end!

Make a raised bed and buy some soil.
I use 8x8x16" concrete blocks, I buy them off Craig's list for 50 cents to a dollar.
I make my beds either 16' or 32'.
16' is 12 blocks on each side and four blocks on the ends, two rows high = 64 blocks.
32' is 24 blocks on each side and 4 blocks on the ends, two rows high = 104 blocks.
You can make the rows any length but I would keep them 4 blocks wide, any wider and you can't reach across, any narrower and you can't get two rows of larger plants in your beds, like peppers and eggplant.
Also stagger the blocks on first and second row.

Now for the hard part, see if there is a composting place in your area.
Mine is St louis compost, they sell mulch to top soil to garden blends to cow manure compost. I buy the Garden mix.

St. Louis Composting, Enriching the Soil - Naturally - Since 1992. 636-861-3344

Another place to try is a material supply co.

Kirkwood Material Supply, Inc.

I also add some bagged rice hulls and bagged cotton burr compost to the soil to help in aeration of the soil.
every year I add a little compost to the beds to keep them from compacting. The beds do need a bit more water and a bit more fertilizer than in ground beds. But you can get drip irrigation and be very water conscientious.

But anyway I would fill the beds with bought soil, If you get soil from a composting place, there are no weed seeds and the ph has already been checked, the sides of the beds are great to sit on when you need to weed or plant.

I love mine!

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FlyGap 07-09-2013 07:47 PM

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Wow, yeah I agree with Taffy!

Excited you are going to go for it though!

I would also recommend building a shade structure with cloth or even putting up a shaded hoop house.
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demonwolfmoon 07-09-2013 07:53 PM

I love all the ideas. Shade would def help the plants from burning up. Its over 100 here today. I cant convince myself to leave the house! god only knows how im gonna get a job and exist out in that heat, let alone grow plants!

FlyGap 07-15-2013 08:28 PM

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Hey girl,
Found this article and thought of you!
Straw Bale Garden
So how I would start your garden, then allow the straw to compost and develop your beds.

demonwolfmoon 07-15-2013 08:36 PM


Originally Posted by FlyGap (Post 3068426)
Hey girl,
Found this article and thought of you!
Straw Bale Garden
So how I would start your garden, then allow the straw to compost and develop your beds.

whoa thats crazy...I would have never thought of that! I may start yp a few experimental bales using compost from craigslist as soil. it would work good for some of the organic mcrops, probably.

One thing I noticed: the horses turned the water on last week and it spilled across the yard in a river.
Two rays later some sort of seedlings are sprouting. So...that crappy looking dirt supports some life. Maybe just not to the level of veggies. ;)

I have a bunch of seedlings in the kitchen and a giant handful of seed packs that I want to plant. Its starting to make me itchy lol

Kotori 07-15-2013 09:09 PM

Other than raised beds, don't let the ground go fallow. grow a cover crop- I believe clover, alfalfa or rye is popular, but anything would work. Alfalfa and clover would fix nitrogen into the soil. With cover crops, you turn them under before they get too stemmy, and they compost within the ground.

Get cozy with any coffe place, and ask for their used coffee grounds. you could also get used egg cartons, which are good for retaining water. other than taht, look up water gel. you mix those into the soil, and they expand 400x with water and distribute it as needed (or so they say. I use it to feed crickets.) Talk to any other horse, cow, goat or chicken owners in your area, and they might be glad to have manure taken off their hands.
Growing heirloom plants that are drought resistant would also help.

Won't help the garden specifically, but set up a water catchment system. the water collected could be used to water your garden during dry times. If you're in a really dry area, just a 55gallon will suffice. (Pro tip: Set it up on concrete blocks and put a spigot in it.)
Cheap raised beds idea: used rail ties, pallets (pallets have 1001 other uses too)

demonwolfmoon 07-15-2013 09:17 PM

Kotori, It's horribly dry here. Not sure a rain barrel would help! I did however buy some seeds...still gotta order some alfalfa. I wanted to experiment with it and see if it was even feasible to grow it here! I'm sure that even if the experiment patch fails, it couldn't but help the underlying soil! =)

I wonder if people offer free pallets on craigslist around here?

COWCHICK77 07-15-2013 09:24 PM

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I say talk to your Ag extension office. They can provide you with information on growing in your local area and most will provide free, or for a small fee, seminars on growing gardens or crops :)

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