Interview With a Desert Gardener

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Learn how to grow organic vegetables and more in desert climates from someone who is doing it successfully!

Certain climates can pose special challenges for gardening – such as lack of water, harsh conditions, or extreme cold, among others. However, if you live in a climate where any of these conditions are common, this doesn’t mean you can’t garden – it just means you will have to take some special considerations into account, including what types of crops you grow, and what time of year you can plant and harvest, etc.

The interview below by UrbanFarm.org with this Arizona desert gardener is a perfect example. Ray uses some special gardening techniques such as wicking beds (an interesting way to grow vegetables that is particularly well-suited for desert climates or others without much rainfall) to grow a wide variety of fruits and vegetables in his small backyard.

Here’s how Ray is making it work:

…My primary growing plots are two 4 X 8 foot raised wicking beds (Read Raymond’s article on wicking beds here). Additionally, I use a variety of global buckets, earth boxes and various sizes of planting pots. My yard is approximately 50 wide and 30 feet deep with a pool which is 30 feet long by 15 feet wide located mostly to one side of the yard.

What are you growing?

Along the walls of my yard I have three citrus trees, a bay leaf bush, grape vine, three dwarf peach trees, three Japanese Privet trees, a small flower/herb garden and a wall of white Lady Banks roses. Located on my extended patio in pots are blue berries, a loquat tree, a kumquat tree, tomato plants, basil, chives, a caper bush and various flowers. Currently in the wicking beds are various varieties of tomatoes, summer squashes, bush beans, dwarf kale, cucumbers, celery, parsley and green onions. When I look at my yard, I don’t think I am growing that much but when I write it down, I am surprised because, to me, it sounds like a lot.

What kind of climate are you growing in?

My home is located close to the Sonoran Mountain Preserve in the northern part of Phoenix, Arizona. Our climate is warm to hot most of the time. Our average annual rain fall is less than 7 inches and the humidity levels are quite low. Most of the country considers us a desert but I think it is closer to paradise.

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Do you use any organic, permaculture, hydroponic, biodynamic or other methods? Explain.

Everything I grow is organic. Nature has been kind enough to provide us with all we need to control weeds, harmful insects and feed the soil… I have adapted much of my gardening practice to adhere to the principles of permaculture and it seems to be working very well. I look on my wicking garden beds as a hybrid planter since the moisture comes from the bottom up.

Do you use compost? Where do you get it and how does it help your plants?

I find compost to be an indispensable part of gardening. After all, what does one do with the refuge left behind from all that is growing? I have three types of composting. First, I have a rotating compost barrel which takes care of the growing matter. Second, I use a Bokashi compost system on everything except my wicking garden and grow buckets and that takes care of most of my kitchen scraps. The last component of my composting system is my worm bin. I believe compost returns nutrients to the soil and keeps it healthy. It is the soil that feeds our plants and gives us bountiful nutrient rich fruit and vegetables.

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Do you have any advice for someone that’s just getting started?

Most people are fairly busy in their day to day lives, if you start with just a planter or two and grow something you like to eat, it’s a start. You may find you like the fruits of your labor and want to expand when time and money allow. Don’t expect your garden to be perfect. Successes and failures happen, even to experienced gardeners. Embrace the failures and learn; celebrate the success and rejoice. Gardening should be enjoyable and relaxing not something to stress over. Take time out of your day and get back to the feeling of playing in the dirt, like when you were a child.

Read the full interview at UrbanFarm.org

Image Source: UrbanFarm.org

 

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