Anyway, that’s what they say.
I think they say this usually in the context of applying liberal amounts of agua. But I am not making the desert bloom doing that. I’m applying just enough water and then doing a lot of other things to make liberal amounts of water unnecessary.
When we bought this place the garden looked like this:
Whoever lived here before had put up chicken wire fencing, a gate, a rickety two by four shade structure and the shade cloth covering it had deteriorated in the sun giving it a Pirates of the Caribbean look. The grape arbor had grown completely out of control.
I’m improving this to make it a flourishing vegetable and flower garden. I’m trying to work with the environment as best I can so I’m growing vegetables and flowers that are adapted to this high desert climate (for the most part). My indigenous crops are going to be Santo Domingo melon, Mayo watermelon, Mexican amaranth, Blue speckled tepary beans, Navajo copper popcorn, and Anasazi sweet corn. Crops that aren’t indigenous but are desert adapted are the Windsor fava beans, Armenian cucumbers, Red Russian kale, broccoli raab, and Parris Island cos lettuce. My flowers are a mix of Southwest natives: Desert bluebells and marigold, lupine, fire wheel, penstemon, Desert senna, Globe gilia, Mexican hat and more.
All that black stuff is the tons of compost I’m incorporating to enhance the sandy soil. My long-term goal is to farm using no-till methods but first I need to get the soil to where it will be receptive to that. Shouldn’t take too long. I hope. The soil will tell me when it’s ready.
When and if we get the monsoon rains, I will be utilizing the ak-chin method that the Tohono O’odham peoples have used for millennia. That is to say, I will be creating shallow ditches to funnel the rain where it needs to go. The worked-in compost will help the soil hold moisture. In addition to that I will use mulch spread on top, both sheet and straw.
To counter the “pests” (I know, pests have to eat, too, but….) I am reinforcing the fence, making below-ground caging, and companion planting. We had a lot of rabbits when we moved in, but I haven’t seen many for a long time now. However, I saw rabbit pellets the other day so I know they’re out there. The good fencing should keep Peter out! I have one short row of straw bales to raise the tasty roots away from the gophers and homemade hardware cloth cages will deter the gophers from eating the other plants.
Top photo: Upright cage secured with zip ties. Bottom photo: The cage bottom is kinda hard to see but ya gotta cover that, too.
Mint planted next to the brassicas with deter flea beetles and make great mojitos later on. Thyme around the bean plants will deter black flies. French marigolds near the tomatoes will deter white flies. You get the idea. It’s a multi-pronged approach!
The more alert of you will now be getting exhausted reading about all my preparations. This leads me to the last comment I want to make:
Gardening is fun. Once the garden is established.
By and large I would say that projects are the most fun in the beginning. You know, the newness of it. The excitement of trying something new. In gardening this is not true. I want my garden to flourish and not be overrun by insects, rabbits, and gophers. The soil has to be right. If I neglect the soil, it just spells trouble later on. Good soil grows strong plants that resist disease. All this preparation and planning needs to be done up front. Yeah, you can go ahead and throw seeds on the ground and hope something grows but chances are it won’t very well and even that small amount of effort will be wasted. No, gardening is not fun in the beginning if you’re doing it right and this is the phase that I am in right now. The laborious, not fun phase. But it will be worth it. And I can see it all now.