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Desert gardening

 
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Alright y’all, I need help. I just moved to a small town in north/central New Mexico, and I really want a garden! I have very limited gardening experience, zero in the desert, and I’m definitely on a budget. This place is a rental, so I’m also not trying to put a bunch of money into it. I have one thing working in my advantage, which is the fact that my kitchen sink drains into my pasture. Otherwise, growing conditions seem rough. The wind is insane, and the sun around here seems to burn things up. The soil doesn’t seem to drain well either.

 My original thought was to dig a trench and fill it with good soil, rather than build a raised bed, but since my drainage doesn’t seem great maybe a raised bed is the way to go? I was under the impression that you wanted your beds a little below ground level in the desert for water retention but I guess that doesn’t apply everywhere? I tested the drainage by digging a foot deep hole and filling it with water. It’s been four hours and it still hasn’t fully drained..

  As far as the wind goes, it seems my options are either building some sort of fence, or building/buying a greenhouse, right? Are there certain varieties of plants that are wind tolerant?

  For the sun, sun tolerant plants? Shade cloth? Green house?

  I’m also planning on just bringing soil in since the stuff out here seems to be poor quality.

  Sorry for all the questions, I’m just feeling super overwhelmed. Hopefully someone here has experience growing in a climate like this! I’m trying not to break the bank. Thanks!  







 
 
pollinator
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Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even Soil:SandyLoam pH6 Flat
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forest garden solar
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How much water does your kitchen sink generate per day? This info is critical, but lets say it was 20gallon/day, 7days a week. This much water would be perfect for a 4ft by 8ft sunken/raised garden bed. The plant roots will not get too much water if it is a sunken bed they will still be super thirsty but you could probably do  2 such beds if you found out it was still too much water.

The hard part is digging sunken beds, its back breaking work vs just building a box and pouring in woodchip, compost and dirt.

I would start off with herbs esp. in the thyme/rosemary/mint family, also chive/garlic family, and warm season vegetable.
 
pioneer
Posts: 102
Location: Herding farming god of travel and fast horses.Holy fool.
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I'm in northern az.Water seems like the key element out here.If you don't have enough water then your plants die on you.My friend is farming up the road has to water everyday by hand.otherwise his corn wilts and slumps down.Some Australians have some interesting techniques for growing in the desert.Geoff Lawton uses shade houses and some cool things called wicking beds.I want to try some of these techniques[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6HXCpVRmOYk[/youtube] Out here Traditionally they flood farm.Some use waffle garden technique.Others I've seen make bowls around their plants to hold water while watering.Drip irrigation and rainwater harvesting our almost a must with this changing climate.Like S.Bengi said mulch is your friend.Windbreaks seem to be helpful.[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=28gAFESNGMU[/youtube]
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Posts: 371
Location: St. George, UT. Zone 8a Dry/arid. 8" of rain in a good year.
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I'm no expert, but I've been gardening here in St. George UT (basically northern AZ also) and I don't think it's possible to over water (within reason).

I've made 10" deep raised beds with homemade compost over the existing clay and they've worked okay.  

I've made a couple of sunken beds about `10" deep in the clay, and back filled with compost, and they've worked okay.  Very poor drainage with the clay, and I still can't seem to water as much as they'd like.

I recently made 3' tall raised beds back filled with wood chips to about 2', and then the top 10" or so is homemade compost.  The beds are on solid concrete with no earth contact.   They've performed the best for me, but they take even more water.

Everything I have is on 2gph drip emitters.  I also occasionally (maybe once or twice a week if that) soak them by hand with a garden hose.

I run the zones in the in ground sunken and raised beds six times a day for five minutes each watering cycle.  (35 minutes a day!)
I run the tall raised beds six times a day for seven minutes each cycle.  (42 minutes a day!)  
The soil is bone dry to my middle knuckle in all the beds before the start of each watering cycle.  I'd water twice as much if I could.
Last month I used 15,000 gallons of water including water usage for the house.  In January I use about 3,000 gallons of water (obviously nothing is being watered in the garden at that time, so I'm using 12,000 gallons of water basically for the garden!!!)

I know, it's not going to make some people happy to read that, but those are my real world results.  

There is no sand or perlite, or any type of drainage material in my compost.  It holds water fairly well in my opinion.  
105f average temperature here the last two months.  No rainfall whatsoever for the last four months.  Humidity in the teens or lower most days.  3,000' elevation.  Also very windy.

I'm a bit ashamed to admit all that, but it is what it is.  

Good luck!  
 
josh ober
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S Bengi wrote: The plant roots will not get too much water if it is a sunken bed they will still be super thirsty but you could probably do  2 such beds if you found out it was still too much water.

The hard part is digging sunken beds, its back breaking work vs just building a box and pouring in woodchip, compost and dirt.



I honestly haven’t figured out how much water the drain will provide, I’ll probably get a rough estimate soon. If it’s not enough I’ll resort to rainwater catchment. Already have a gutter in place so it wouldn’t be too hard to set up.

Do you think I should be concerned about downpours if I do sunken beds? If they actually are more efficient than raised beds than I don’t mind a little extra work. I’m still young haha.

 
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