About Cultivating Dust

When I started my first garden as a little girl I didn’t know anything about hardiness zones or growing seasons. I just knew I had been given my own little patch of earth, (an unused flower bed in the front yard of my childhood home) some seed packets and a little spade. In that first garden I sowed carrots, sunflowers, green snap beans and zuchinni. I was hooked.

Fast forward 20 years to my first home and new family, and my own (albeit small) space to garden. I wanted to get more serious about gardening, particularly vegetable gardening, so I scoured the shelves of my local library, book store and even the limited scope of the internet at the time for all the information I could find about gardening. What I learned after following the gardening advice I gleaned from reading books and magazines was that it lead me to failure. You see, Better Homes and Gardens articles aren’t written with the Sonoran Desert in mind. “Full sun” almost never means full desert sun. Typical summer vegetables tended to fry toward the end of May in our heat. There was no mention of irrigation or watering techniques as most of the material I read assumed that you would simply water with a hose on the odd chance that you didn’t get rain one week, which I found incredible since I usually can’t remember the last time it rained. Never mind the fact that the soil depicted in the gardening books looked nothing like the parched hard-as-rock clay soil that I saw when I looked at my space.

Back then, it was very difficult to find information about gardening in the desert.  So I simply tried, and mostly failed, but had enough success to make me want to continue to try to cultivate the dusty stretches of earth that were in my care. Then one day I purchased a self published book that I found at a hardware store by local gardening guru Dave Owens called Extreme Gardening. That book changed everything for me and renewed my desire to grow food in my own yard. It introduced me to the concepts of deep watering, soil amending, mulching and edible landscape. And while all of those concepts will help a gardener in any climate, he helped me understand our skewed growing seasons and what plants worked best in our searing heat. Much to my surprise, the list of what I could grow was much longer then the list of what I couldn’t. With all of its challenges, the desert offers one advantage that most climates can not boast: Year round growing.

In the past few years, the interest in gardening has grown exponentially across the country due to economic and food security issues. Information for gardening in the desert has slowly accumulated, thanks mostly to websites and forums followed by more formal publications and county extension services.

More than anything else, I started to observe nature. We have an amazing Creator who made His Garden self-sustaining. I learned to look at how God created plants and trees to survive in their environment and knew that if I wanted to be successful I should try to emulate it.

I am now in a new, much larger suburban lot (just under a half acre) and I want to take growing my families food to a new level. I hope to one day provide 80 percent of our fruit and veggies, and 100 percent of all of our eggs.

My hope is that this blog will inspire you to try to grow some of your own food wherever you are, even if it is just some kitchen herbs on a windowsill. I hope it will be a clearinghouse for practical tips and techniques to help your garden flourish in any climate, but especially in the deserts of the world. I will share what I have learned that has helped me succeed and we will do a lot of quasi garden experiments to see what we can learn together.

So, get out in your yard, or on your porch, or balcony, or sunny windowsill, and grow something. It will bring you so much joy!

7 thoughts on “About Cultivating Dust

  1. Dear Karis, I love you. For reals. I wish I had a desert to garden in, just so I could take your good advice. One day, we’ll see each others gardens (or lack thereof) in person, until then, I will enjoy each post, or compost…whatevs.

  2. Congrats Karina,
    You are the first to comment on my new blog! As a prize, I will send you some veg seeds pronto! Love you too! Can’t wait to see each other’s gardens in person!


  3. Hey friend! I am officially stalking your video blog now. It was so wonderful to chat tonight…thanks for taking so much time to catch up with me. I need reconnection with friends more than ever right now, and I really appreciate you. As always, you make me laugh a ton here on your video blog, even while your stuff is very practical. I miss you!

  4. So glad you decided to make your lurking presence known, Jean! You are a big inspiration to me with all that you do over at your place. I’ve learned so much from you!

  5. you have definitely inspired me!! i really want to do a garden. I have many time consuming things on my plate right now, come fall I WILL get this planting thing started! i know you said i can start things in the house… but i truly DO NOT have space in my home to do that… so come fall i will get all dirtied up and get things ready to go!

  6. Thanks for checking out the blog Julie!

    When I suggested starting things inside I meant more for things like Tomato, peppers and eggplants done from seed. These warm weather plants are slow starting and need some extra time to get established before they are transplanted outside in the heat. That’s why most people just buy started plants of those varieties when its time to start their spring garden (mid Feb-Mid March.) Most things start easily from seed directly in the garden. Beans, peas, cucumbers, melons, squash, carrots, onions, radishes, lettuce, cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower are all easy to start from seed in the garden and grow fast. You don’t need a large plant nursery inside to be sucessful. Just plant direct seeded varieties out in the garden according to the Planting Calendar linked on the sidebar of this blog, and buy started plants for any that are slow from seed.

    You should at lease get a pot of basil and a cherry tomato plant in big containers for this season. Little victories encourage you to keep going. (And small defeats help us learn!)

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