Greetings from the Sonoran Desert! We just built a new home on a compacted clay/sand/alkaline soil platform, and are now planning out a â€œsurvival gardenâ€. Thought Iâ€™d throw this out and see what others think or might advise us on.
Since the surrounding ground is hard as concrete, the plots are on the softer east side of the house where theyâ€™ll get morning sun, and shade in the afternoon from the intense summer heat. Consisting of two 4â€™x12â€™ raised beds in untreated wood 1â€x12â€ frame boxes, chicken wire will be laid underneath each bed to keep out moles/gophers, with anti-rabbit/squirrel fencing around them. Diatomaceous earth mixed with cayenne pepper will be laid around the fencing outside the beds, and dried molasses around and on the beds, to protect against ants and other crawling pests. Gravel laid upon cardboard will provide weedless paths. Birds and locusts will be kept away by mesh screening over forms/covers, once cloches arenâ€™t needed as the weather warms up.
Weâ€™ll use Square Foot methods primarily, but with a few twists and adaptations from Howard Garrett and Patricia Lanza among others. For instance, the beds will be layered in with a combination of newspaper, rotted straw, blended steer manure/compost, peat moss, corn meal, alfalfa horse pellets, chicken manure, and composted forest mulch, all of which will be allowed to â€œcookâ€ under a rye cover crop until next planting season.
Taking a method from local Native American growers, vine or stalk crops like corn, beans and tomatoes will provide some shade for the other plants, being grown upon vertical screens set up on the west side of each bed. Shade clothes can be draped from forms whenever necessary, or as shelter when our thunderstorms threaten their drenching rains and winds.
Now, all this is preliminary, understand. We've been out here for fifteen years, but one never knows where or when the next curve ball from Nature will come from, and this is the first garden I'll have built since my youth. If anyone has extensive experience growing veggies in our hot desert, or anything else they can suggest, weâ€™d love to hear from you. Thanks!