New Garden in the High Desert


| 10/1/2014 12:45:00 PM


Tags: gardening, dry climate, soil building, Aaron Miller, Oregon,

My wife and I took some risks moving down to Klamath Falls, Oregon, from Olympia, Washington, but no change comes with absolute certainty and thus every decision means some degree of risk. We wanted to be near the 20 acres of land we bought for our homestead last year. The first tangible piece of our dream. We came here to be away from the traffic, the noise and pollution, to get back to nature and to be together with our brother and sister-in-law to create the “it takes a village to raise a child” scene we wanted around when we begin our own family. First things first though and we needed to start somewhere, what better way than in the garden.

Hugelkulture

Planning the New Garden

In moving into my brother-in-law's house in Klamath Falls until our home is constructed, our big dreams of big gardens needed to get reined in a bit. Not only is there lots of landscaping to do first being that most of the lot is overgrown juniper bushes, but it is a totally different climate. We went from one of the rainiest parts of the country to one in a level 3 drought. We went from sea level to 4,000 feet in elevation.

Lots of different approaches will need to be tried (and most likely failed) before we get it right. And one way to do it is to start is small. They say you can yield more from a smaller and properly managed garden than a big one that is overwhelming and mostly neglected. You can always add more growing space as time goes on.

I decided on a bed that was five feet by about eighteen feet. Big enough to grow some crops but small enough to incorporate a hoop tunnel. In deciding whether to do raised beds or dig into the dirt, I thought about the pros and cons of both. The raised bed is good for drainage which worked great in a rainy climate, but now I’m in a drier one. On top of that the more exposed the soil is to the elements (i.e. the sides of the raised bed) the more susceptible it is to temperature changes. In high desert Klamath Falls you can go from mid-70s to below zero and back again daily. With these thoughts in mind I decided to dig into the dirt for my bed.

The Deep Bed Method

The depth of the bed is important in many ways. The closer the roots are near the surface, the more exposed to the elements they are. If you have intense heat and a dry climate, even for short periods, the top few inches of soil can be a devastatingly harsh place to live. Constantly getting dried out and over-heated followed by heavy watering can be stressful on roots. And what’s bad for the roots is bad for the plants health. Mediterranean plants are more drought tolerant after established not necessarily just because they need less water, but because their roots had had time to delve deep into the soil where water is found.




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