Gardening in the High Desert of Oregon

Learn about the challenges of gardening in the high desert of Oregon, includes information on composting in a dry environment and techniques for mulching.

| December 2001/January 2002

Gardening in the high desert of Oregon can be difficult unless you know these handy gardening tips. 

Gardening in the high desert of Oregon is very challenging and rewarding. We have a short growing season, early and late frost times, hardpan soil and only 7 inches of rain a year. Those of us who have gardened here for a long time have learned what to plant and how to make a garden on the dry side a success.

When I first moved here, I began a compost pile and soon found out why I hadn't seen any around here. It was just too dry for the compost to work. This revelation led me to the idea of composting right in the garden. We started putting all garden trimmings and vegetable waste in between the garden rows. Then when we watered the garden, the water helped break down the waste, and it soon disappeared. We used our grass clippings, leaves and any other green matter we could find to put on the garden.

The next big discovery I made was mulching. It seemed like the perfect way to save myself from some watering and weeding in the garden. After trying several ways of mulching I have found a way that really works for me.

I save my newspapers (only the black-and-white pages). I wait until the seedlings in the garden are up, and then I spread sheets of newspaper between the rows.

I use a watering can and sprinkle the paper with water to keep it from blowing around. On top of the newspaper layer I spread a thick layer off waste straw that the farmers around here will give you if you haul it away.

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