Using Data To Plan & Monitor My 2021 Summer Garden

Vegetable Garden Photo by Markus Spiske via Unsplash

My grandmother used to plant a yearly garden behind her house in Nevada. She had a large dirt field behind her house and each spring, would have my grandfather run his big metal rototiller through the dirt to begin preparing it for the summer garden. I distinctly remember the long rows of dirt alternating between 2ft of flat walkway and 8″ channels dug into the soil. She and my grandpa would lay out long PVC pipes, capped at one end and connected to each other on the other. Each long pipe would be set inside the dirt channels to provide irrigation to the various veggies we would plant along the rows. I remember a couple summers where each row ended with a Mammoth Sunflower plant, which would grow huge, heavy heads filled with seeds that we could harvest and snack on at the end of the season. 

Shortly after I started college and found myself living in a variety of small apartments and dorms through the start of my 20s, I began to really miss that summer garden. I missed the experiences I had, running through the corn rows (trying NOT to think about the spiders who might be building webs between the tall stalks) and picking green beans right off the plant and nibbling at them while I played. So, I began experimenting with growing vegetable plants (largely unsuccessfully) in my apartment window, and when I moved into a townhouse with my ex-husband, I planted a small straw bale garden. Later, I when I moved in with my fiancé, I built a couple of DIY Earth Boxes to plant on our small townhome deck. And now that we’ve moved into our own home here in Albuquerque, I finally have a backyard where I can grow my garden!

SO, now that I have the space… where to even start!?

A photo of my New Mexico backyard garden space. There is an empty blue pond to the left and the rest is mostly a rock covered ground, a stucco house, and a grey concrete wall.

Admittedly, at the moment, it’s not much to look at. It’s VERY sloped, and it’s all rock. Basically, we’re up against a handful of challenges which I’ll list below. Because we hope to live here for a while, we do have some pretty big plans to make some pretty dramatic changes to the whole backyard but my primary focus right now is just to get A garden put together for this season at least. 

But in any case, we do have some challenges to deal with:

  • High Winds (we are in the high desert after all)
  • High Temps (again… desert)
  • FAST evaporation (did I mention it’s a desert?)
  • Monsoon Season [Usually June 15th – Sept 30th]
  • Alkaline soil (I’m pretty sure the soil under all the rocks in our backyard is really just clay 🙃)
  • Birds/Squirrels/Pests [We live close to some open spaces and we hear coyotes now and then, but our animal related issues are more likely to be much smaller]
Those are the primary challenges I’ve come across. Let’s address them:
High Winds – 
I’ve decided we’ll be using an alternative gardening method this year [I’m a big proponent of low-soil/container gardening for small households anyway], which means we’ll be purchasing garden soil and the existing soil won’t be an issue. 

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