Gardening in the Desert

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It’s another weekend on the Ranch, and once again, we will be busy outside. Peter’s big project is completing our first piece of furniture, while I’m making slow, but steady progress on the garden.

Allow me to share what we’re up against.

We expect the garden to prove difficult. We live in a desert and there are many obstacles to overcome. Extreme highs and lows, rodents, sun, alkaline soil, and a lack of water are just a few. The first steps to creating our garden were deciding on a layout, selecting a location, and staking it out. The picture above is a sketch of our proposed garden plans.

After speaking with neighbors, we have learned that ground squirrels can cause countless problems for a garden. Naturally, there aren’t many food sources in the desert and gardens provide great food for the hungry critters. As a result, we have made a change to our compost plans and are working on additional changes to prevent our potentially pesky friends from becoming neighbors.

We have decided to build two rotating barrel composters rather than one large composting pile. This will keep the scraps off the ground and contained. The barrel composters will be elevated on four 4x4s. Each barrel will have holes for ventilation, and a latching door. This should keep our scraps in and breaking down while keeping our pesky friends out.

The entire garden area will be fenced in with ½ inch chicken wire to keep out the jack rabbits and cotton tails, which are also known to do their fair share of damage. The fence will not be an effective deterrent for our rodent friends since they are expert climbers. As a result, we are forced to look into other areas of prevention.

For the raised beds, we were already planning to use ½ inch chicken wire on the base of our raised bed to prevent rodents from burrowing up to our roots. The chicken wire will be stapled or nailed in place just to keep everything secure.

The most obvious way of keeping ground squirrels out is deciding how to keep them from climbing up the raised beds and getting to our plants. I’ve learned that ground squirrels can climb just about everything except sheet metal. This gives us hope. We ruled out using the sheet metal on the fence since that would require us to use chicken wire on the floor of the entire 20×14’ space. I thought of changing our proposed 1 foot raised beds to 2 feet and lining the outside with sheet metal. Peter thought of placing brackets around the outside of the raised bed. The brackets would hold sheet metal out in a cone formation and prevent any climbing (although we haven’t figured out how the corners would come together??). The sheets of metal could then be pulled out and removed when I wanted to work.

I’m sharing this because we are open to, and looking for any and all suggestions. As I’ve declared in previous posts, this is the year of the garden and we will find a way to make this work, we just need to settle on the best solution. I also realize that this sounds pretty extreme for a simple ground squirrel problem, but from what the neighbors have shared, it can be a serious problem. In addition to garden problems, these little buggers can wreak havoc in your house. So, the goal is to give them no reason to be hanging out in the garden or near the house.

So, as we spend our weekend playing in the dirt, we want to know, what are you doing to get down and dirty this weekend? Feel free to share your thoughts on our project or links to your own. There is nothing like a good weekend project and we could all use a little inspiration sometimes!

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  1. Pingback: Garden Update » The Homespun Journal

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