Sunday, April 12, 2009
#3 on the "Where You At?" quiz: Describe the soil around your home.
Since I live in a desert, the first thing that comes to mind is sand. There is some sand, for sure, but around my home, that comes mostly in the cuffs and pockets of my sons pants after he has played at the park.
The Sonoran desert is not a place of rolling dunes. The soil here is made of sediments carried from innumerable washes over the eons mixed with the fallout from past episodes of volcanism. Not a lot of organic matter, since the arid climate doesn't allow for a huge turnover of plant material as in the Amazon or great deciduous forests. The result is a splendid blend of clay, sand and silt that is actually perfect for holding the sporadic and not so abundant rainfall that we are blessed with. Native plants are well adapted to live frugally in the arid climate, but also have the benefit of soils that create a reservoir to draw from over a long period of time. This is very different than a very sandy soil, which drains very quickly, and holds very little moisture after a storm.
Yesterday, we had a beautiful rain all day long. That one day of rain will provide moisture for a month in the desert, because the soil hangs on, but not too hard (as in a dense clay soil), so that plants can sip, sip, sip and grow, grow, grow, little by little.
However, when it comes to growing veggies, the two dozen squares of garden space we've created need a lot of help from Home Depot. We hauled in 10 bags of manure and other packaged soil amendments to blend in with the desert soil salvaged from our landscaping projects. I dutifully planted a dozen kinds of seeds and starts: tomatoes, peppers, carrots, lettuce, spinach, kale, squash, chives, peas, green beans, arugala, and parsnips. We managed to grow two $100 cherry tomatoes, three baseball sized eggplants (~$50 each), and a few pathetic carrots worth zip. The arugala did well. Sorry, but my brown thumbs and limited patience have resulted in two giant kitty litter boxes, rather than abundant organic, home grown produce.
The Hohokams figured it out well enough to grow some squash, beans and corn, but I think they ate a LOT of mesquite beans. When I'm ready to grow my own food, I'm moving to a landscape blessed with loam.