Desert gardening update and (oddly enough, related) thoughts on blog monetizing….

I’m unsure if I can actually call myself a “gardener” right now.  After having a true, desert, organic garden for about 2½ years at our previous house (plus experimental forays into gardening sporadically over the previous ten years or so), I’m not certain if my current efforts qualify.

In desert climates, the GOOD news is that you can garden year-round.

The BAD news is that pictures like this make you want to puke, just a little bit:

Or cry.

This sort of pic implies — or outright states, on most gardening websites — that all a prospective gardener needs to do is remove an offending layer of sod, roll it back, and plant some veggie seeds in order to turn your lawn into a thriving garden.

Not so in the desert, dear reader.

  1. There is no “sod”.
  2. The soil underneath the sparse surface vegetation is not actually soil.  It’s a compacted, dry, humus-free clay dirt called caliche.
  3. If the dirt isn’t transformed by adding VAST amount of compost, you’re wasting your time.
  4. If the composted dirt has no water source, you’re wasting your time.

So.  If you want to have a “real” garden in the desert, you must prepare the bed with much greater effort and many more nutrients than is required in virtually every other climate.  You must also supply a water source.

I know a guy who lives on a property that is flood-irrigated.  He invested in storage tanks and pumps, and sucks up the flood irrigation water that is delivered (via a small gate and a neighborhood system of irrigation pipes) every two weeks, and then metes it out with an additional drip irrigation system he has attached to the storage tanks.

That sounds really expensive to me.

It also sounds impossible, as we have no flood irrigation available in my neighborhood.

I live really close to a flood irrigation district;  less than a block to the east of my street, the homes have flood irrigation as an option.  My home does not.  😦

The home into which we moved, July 2012, has a large property (just under a half-acre) and MUCH SPACE for my garden.  However, under that potential growing space is a broken sprinkler and drip irrigation system.  The WHOLE THING needs to be dug up and re-done.  That ginormous project is among the next things we hope to accomplish, but right now, it’s seeming a long, long, long way off.  In the meantime, we had to shut down the sprinkler system.  About 1/3 of it simply didn’t work at all.  One third had broken pipes resulting in a few marshy areas.  The other third did work, resulting in a few patches of green in our back lawn.  We decided that the small amount of green provided by the sprinkler system wasn’t worth the overall waste of water.


This means that everything growing in our yard must be watered by hand, including any gardening efforts by me.

I have decided that supplementing a patch of dirt on the ground to turn it into actual soil and then watering it by can or hose was not going to be sustainable, especially when I would have to remove the whole thing when we finally re-do our sprinkler system.

So…  All I have right now are two raised garden beds on legs, similar to this:

Except mine aren’t quite as big.  They’re 2′ x 3′.  That makes a grand total of 12 square feet of garden space, which is less than 1/10 of the size of my previous “real” garden.

I’m also trying to not think too hard about how difficult it is going to be to sustain these beds in the summer, when keeping ANY container moist enough in the bone-dry 115° air is nigh-impossible.  I may just have to abandon them during the summer.

In the meantime, though, I have muted excitement about what IS growing in them, these last few days of January.

I have:

  1. Crimson Giant Radishes
  2. Calliope Blend Carrots
    (both direct-sown into the soil)
  3. Brocade Marigolds
  4. Bouquet Dill
  5. Clary Sage
  6. Simpson Lettuce
  7. Yevani Basil
    (all started indoors in Jiffy “pellet” pots, then transplanted outdoors when large enough)

Additionally, I have more seed starts going, some nearly ready to transplant, some still not germinated…

  1. more marigolds
  2. more lettuce
  3. more dill
  4. more sage
  5. Italian parsley
  6. Feverfew
  7. Common thyme
  8. Big Red (bell) pepper
  9. Stevia

I also have at least 10 other things that I would LIKE to plant, and for which I have the seeds — some purchased, some saved from previous gardens — but I likely won’t have the space.

So, how is all of this related to blog monetizing??

This post started its life in my head as a wee blurb that I was thinking about posting on my Facebook page singing the praises of Botanical Interests’ customer service.

See, the stevia seeds are quite pricey:  I paid $3.49 for a packet of 15 (TEENY TINY) seeds.  I have been trying since the beginning of December to get those suckers to germinate.  My two little seed-starter window boxes only hold 24 starts at a time, so I’ve been starting four seeds each of the various varieties.  Every other seed variety has been successful so far, though a couple of them have taken two tries.  I have had three go-rounds with the stevia seeds with zero success.  This morning, as I was about to start the fourth try — and thus use the last of my stevia seeds — I decided to call Botanical Interests to see if they had any suggestions to increase my chance of success, this final attempt.  “Final” because I didn’t think I was willing to spring for another $3.49 packet of seed, even though thoughts of homemade stevia tea and smoothies sweetened with fresh stevia leaf are VERY appealing to me.  (Plus, stevia wards off aphids whilst it is growing among other garden plants.  THAT is a valuable asset to have.)

Here’s what happened when I called:

  1. A person answered the phone.  A HELPFUL person, not just a receptionist.
  2. After I explained my stevia germination problem, she told me that Botanical Interests guarantees that their seeds will germinate and if I would give her my address, they would send me a new packet, for free.  That was a surprise to me;  I wasn’t calling as a disgruntled customer demanding a refund…  But I happily gave her my address.
  3. She volunteered to transfer me to the voice mail of the staff horticulturist who specializes in germination.

So, I did leave a message, and look forward to hearing from said horticulturist.

Over all, I would say that was a very successful call.

In my glowing satisfaction with Botanical Interests, I thought to post a bit, singing their praises.

THEN, I hesitated, concerned that I would come off as a shill for the company, as I have posted a number of times about how much I like them, as a company, and their products.

Please believe, gentle reader, that Only Sometimes Clever is NOT a money-making venture.  I’ve been blogging for seven years, and if I post something saying, “I like this product,” it’s because I actually like it, not because someone has paid me $20 to say that I do.  Or, if there is a link I’ve included, it’s because I think it’s for a worthwhile read, not because I am receiving a kickback per x number of clicks that link generates.

No one pays me.

I receive offers — usually 2-5 per week — for money in exchange for a positive review or a link or a guest post (where someone with financial interests guest-posts on OSC, and for which the other author will pay me).

But, I turn all of them down.

I do occasionally review products which have been sent to me for free, but I’ve been doing less of that lately.

I like to think of myself with a Consumer Reports mentality:  It’s for your benefit, dear reader, that I post.  You don’t have to worry about my reasons for suggesting a product.  If I do, it’s because I have had a positive experience with it.  Simple as that…  I’m not trying to make money off y’all.  🙂

So, happy reading and happy gardening to you!

And go buy some Botanical Interests seeds.


About Karen Joy

I'm a partially-homeschooling mother of six -- 3 boys ages 19, 17 and 15 years old, and three girls: 11, 8, and 3. I like birding, reading, writing, organic gardening, singing, playing guitar, hiking, the outdoors, and books. I very casually lead a very large group of homeschooling families in the Phoenix area. I have a dear hubby who designs homes for a local home builder and who is the worship pastor of our church. I live in the desert, which I used to hate, but now appreciate.

Posted on January 28, 2013, in Blogging, Desert Gardening, Organic Gardening, Shopping. Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. I read an interesting article about adding “rock dust” to soil for the minerals; it sounds like an amazing thing, but I need to do more research and find out if there’s a source here in GA. Have you read about it?

    • I haven’t! The ONE good thing about our soil is that it is richer in most minerals than most other soils, especially in calcium, which is greatly lacking in most humus-rich soils. I do add iron as well as gypsum. (Gypsum helps with water penetration by breaking up the caliche clay.) We also have alkaline soil, instead of the acid problem that most gardening soils, do — like the link you posted. Those veggies look amazing, though!!!

  2. I gave up gardening in the soil. I would hose(sprinkler) water in the morning-by afternoon the wind was howling & 110 degrees & stuff barely survived. & that was before I started working-no time now. I commend you for your “good” desert garden by the way!

  3. Are you having twins?!

  1. Pingback: JUST GROW IT!!! Big Seed Giveaway from Botanical Interests « Only Sometimes Clever

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