Growing a Garden in High Desert Soil is Tough
Years ago, I made a plan for my first garden bed. I fenced out rabbits from my plot of land. I dug up the heavier rocks and raked and turned until thought I had a decent bed to start. I then made a deal with the groundskeepers at the local park that I could collect their lawn and leaf trimmings. I hauled home a small trailer full of rich composting material.
It pays to talk to other gardeners in your community. They may have the background you don’t. Why work so hard?
Use Gardening Magazines but Don’t be Beguiled
I raked and tilled, mulched and watered. I knew that in this virgin soil, nothing would grow for the first year. So I tended the plot and added some amendments that I had read about. Pored over the organic magazines all Summer. True to their word, they recommended that planting in the Fall would be better for a sound crop; I only planted two rows of potatoes starters. The bitter winds of Winter made gardening brutal. I was on a water tank system, still am, so each time I watered, I paid more attention to how much absorbed into the ground.
Garden magazines are helpful but they can draw you into false security, thinking that everything is just fine. They don’t know your climate or soil health. I watered and tested my young spud plants until early Spring.
Seduced by January Garden Dreams
You know all of those gardening magazines arrive in your mail boxes in January just to whet your keen edge for a voluptuous garden … the dream garden. I devoured each page. i was seduced by promises and beautiful pictures.
By early February, after the frost, I planted several rows of green onions, yellow onions, garlic and some pepper plants. I even planted marigold plants between rows to discourage bugs and worms. Master Gardeners suggested that. I was on my way to having a “green thumb”, or so I thought. But the High Desert had different ideas.
It seems that while I was developing the soil and strengthening the PH balance, diligently following the master gardeners’ insider hints, the desert was killing off my dreams.
The first early shoots of my potato plants withered. The onion rows sprouted a feet high but when I pulled a few, no onions! Even my “anyone can grow” marigolds refused to send out roots. The first wind that came along blew them right out of the ground! And the horn worms that can attack tomato plants like an army on the move had made a night raid and wiped out my two feeble pepper seedlings.
Find Out What Your Garden’s Enemies Are
You’ll need to study who your enemies are: underground, under leaf, in the stems or on the stems. Consult your local gardening department in a building and housewares store. They always have a gardener on hand. Take their advice.
It seems that the lack of humidity in the ground, even with my diligent watering, was not enough to grow a garden. The rodents conspired to burrow under my rows and finish off my harvest long before it showed above ground. And, for all of my watering, it seems that it all percolated down and away from my baby garden roots. I didn’t have the soil primed for holding the moisture.
By the time I expected to harvest early onions, potatoes, and garlic… I found two … yes, two onions. No Garlic. My potato starters were still small, laughing at me, I’m sure.
So I am the Brown Thumb gardener. I still buy my produce from the store. I still have my garden outside my window. Now I grow rustic antique cultivators, harrow row rakes, steel wheels, and antique hand plows … the basic elements of a gardener’s tool collection when the tools brought great harvests to more fortunate gardeners.
Rusty, no dirt under my fingernails …