Wednesday, February 13, 2019

How to Deep Mulch Your Garden with Hay | The Prairie Homestead

How to Deep Mulch Your Garden with Hay | The Prairie Homestead

OK, maybe not today

I've been searching for an answer to our gardening problems. A good fence has helped a lot, but I really think our biggest problem is that this is the desert. Our land is 1 1/3 acres of rocks held together by sagebrush and clay, watered by and "average" of 10" or rain a year ("average" meaning every ten years we get 30"; the rest of the time we get less than 10"). I am beginning to think that every property needs it's own method and you just have to experiment until you find the best for your land.

If I had unlimited money to put into our garden/orchard (both enclosed by the same fence):
  • I would build a wall of either straw bales or rock around the perimeter and plant a producing vine of some sort all along it (grapes? berries?) Such a structure is supposed to alter the micro climate for the length of its height x 4 (a 4' wall will reduce wind and our intense sun for 16' inside the garden.) This should drastically reduce the need for watering and the just plain loss from our blow-dryer winds (honestly, in August you can stand out watering the plants and watch them wilt as the wind dries them faster than we can water them). 
  • I would build better beds throughout the whole area, including one that goes around the whole perimeter. 
  • I would fill all the beds (new and old) with high quality potting soil. Not the organic way, I know, But it would give us a jumpstart we desperately need.
  • I would probably mulch all the planting areas with straw and the paths with pine needles, except the one area with a table and chairs which I would plant in a nice grass. This area also needs more chairs.
  • I would install automatic waterers on timers for the whole area, plus add a storage shed.
  • I would need some sort of compost scheme. The one that attracts me the most is a run around the garden with chickens in it (which would require us moving the chicken coop). Then garden waste would just be dumped over the main garden fence into the run, kitchen scraps added, and the chickens do the rest. Once a year we rake up all the compost and add it to the garden.
  • Lets add miniature greenhouse covers to each bed to extend the growing season (Our last frost is in June, first is in September, and I've seen it snow in July here). I would also make it so these could be covered with screens to keep the sparrows and quail out. The trees need nets over them too, as we are already losing our cherry crop to the sparrows this year and they aren't even ripe yet!
This is a lot of work and though some of it can be done without money, too much of it needs some investment, which I just don't have. So, the modified (more realistic) version:

  • Pick up some sort of cloth/plastic to toss over the fence to cut the wind down. It would have to be replaced more often, but a wall is out of the question right now.
  • Work on the perimeter beds and plant something drought resistant that can cover the fence, even if it doesn't provide food.  
  • Keep simply adding kitchen scraps directly to the garden beds that don't currently have anything in them and just keep tilling them under. We aren't moving the chickens. 
  • One small greenhouse over several of the garden beds. Less total space "under roof," but cheaper and easier to manage if I can find a way to keep it from blowing away. This would eliminate pests with 4-6 legs, cut the wind, and maybe retain more of the water. We will have to open up a window in the worst of the summer or the plants inside will cook. So, less space planted, but likely more space successfully growing food. 
How about you? will you have a garden this year? What pests and weather do you have to deal with?

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