How to Grow Vegetables in the Desert | Ask This Old House

How to Grow Vegetables in the Desert | Ask This Old House



this is called a waffle garden it's a part of our demonstration garden here at campus it's based on an eight thousand year old technology that was developed by the Pueblo Indians of the Southwest to make efficient use of water and still in use today as you can see the shape of the garden actually mimics a waffle so that like the syrup on the waffle any water that is given to the garden is concentrated directly right into the plant root system so any rain Dew even hand watering it all goes right to the roots that's right now I understand the principle how do you set up a waffle garden I've got one going at the top let's go check it out so Roger as you know to be a successful gardener you have to have a balanced soil the same is true in our waffle gardens but here in this part of New Mexico we deal with heavy clay soils I hate heavy clay soils it's so hard to get anything growing it because it's hot as a rock that's right but you know that same quality is to our advantage in developing these berms on outside because clay does hold water so it allows the water to be retained in these cells right where it needs to be all right well how do we get started I'll grab a shovel we're going to take and start to move this clay we want to take the outside soil and pile it to the inside this is going to make our berm before you get too far and keep in mind the size of that cell I use the square pointed shovel to be able to determine that it really makes it easy to work later on and weed because the shovel really fits the size of the sale well long as you got your shovel with you you got your tape measure right that's right you need to keep compacting the soil in this firm and really take advantage of the quality of that clay to take all of the air out of it thereby it keeps holding that water in our sale so get up on it and use your feet because I really think the white is really important are you trying to say something to me looking great the Roger take your Collins action let's start turning over the soil in this sale we want to combine the sand silt and clay that is present use the pick in first we want to go as deep as we can because remember these soils are pretty shallow too so now that we have our parent material incorporated let's take a look and see what we've got feels pretty good but still a little heavy yeah a little too much clay but we can fix that let's do it so let's use some coarse textured material sand to improve the drainage on this that will help break up that clay while you're pouring it in I'll just incorporate it you see how this amount of sand affects the texture let's see what this sand is done to our growing media it's really improved that you can see now it clumps a little bit but it's very friable breaks right apart I also want to add some mushroom compost to the soil I love adding compost to the guide and it does three things it adds nutrients it helps soil structure but most importantly it adds microorganisms to the soil and helps it become alive you know it's really important that we have a sterile compost you have to make sure it's sterile otherwise you're going to end up with a whole bunch of weed seeds in your garden well what do you think we ready to plant let's do it so Roger we're going to plant this bed from seed but I did is picked up some organic seed at the nursery got lettuce chard mustard greens and beaten brick so as you know good rule of thumb for planting depth on seed is one and a half times the diameter of that seed so let's do a random mix in this it's just beautiful when it starts coming up it's also very indicative of a kitchen garden to have several different varieties that complement each other so looking a lot least sprinkle these in cover them up very lightly are you going to put some beet seeds over here with you sure it'll be beautiful when they come up together huh I just love the mix and the randomness of this gonna be great let's go ahead and continue the plant you can see this soil is so friable you really don't need a planting tool at this point either nope Roger even though this is an organic garden we still want to do a soil test most of the time we do soil test to determine what can be added to the soil to grow certain plants but in our case we want to see what plants we can grow based on what the natural fertility of this soil is so the soil is helping you select the right plant that's right our last step is to water in the waffle garden initially we want to do the whole bed including the berms to settle the clay particles as you can see as we water this using a shower nozzle real soft spray the water does start to collect in our cells after this first time I'll only concentrate on the cells so now we've got this watered in our seeds should germinate in three to five days and a couple of months we'll have a nice salad Luke thanks for all the great lessons I mean anyone growing plants and an arid climate would really benefit from this I think don't you Rasheed Roger people have known that for thousands of years you

26 thoughts on “How to Grow Vegetables in the Desert | Ask This Old House”

  1. I love This Old House. How the heck did you get Buster Scruggs as a guest? Just kidding. The guy's cool.

  2. I actually want to move to New Mexico someday, so this was very helpful. Thank you!
    Which part of New Mexico is this?

  3. Pueblos invented that a long time ago and built a flourishing culture.

    Incas too.

    Nowadays UN ships an endless stream of rice, oil etc to Africa….

    Maybe people are just different…

  4. Thank you so much for sharing this video. I live in AZ and it's hard to find a type of garden bed that works for my area. This style will suite me just fine.

  5. That's a great achievement, but to be fair you don't have any other hurdles than lack of water.
    No persistent underground weeds that pop up every few inches, no cats that dig up your just seeded patch to poop in, no thousands of snails and slugs that eat anything that you put in the ground. This year I planted dozens of different crops and all I'm left with are a few corn.
    Seriously, I could get a better harvest in that desert than what happened in my backyard this summer.

  6. says add mushroom compost for microbes …than says it must be sterile…you can't have both, guys….

  7. Great video. I would much rather watch videos like this than see how to refinish a dresser into some shabby chic trash.

  8. I tried to live off the grid in the desert, the desert kicked my ass. It's definitely not for everyone even with water and solar. This was a great video! But the part of the desert I was in had soft fine sand, nothing could grow there

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