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    • Who here on Cake gardens? My 5,000 sq ft backyard is empty, and I want to create a garden of it. It's daunting to me. Wondering how to get started. Looking for ideas and advice.

      I'm thinking vegable garden, lots of fruit trees, maybe some flowers. Is it realistic to have a lush garden if I only get 15 inches of rain a year and I'm reluctant to irrigate much because utility water is extremely expensive 😬

    • I live in west central Indiana and we receive 44 inches of rain annually. Even with 44 inches annually, our soil gets pretty dry in late July and August, and we do supplement with some sprinklers every few days as needed. 5000 square feet is approx 70 feet x 70 feet or 0.12 acres - about the size of our vegetable garden I think

      I am a reluctant gardener - never really liked it as a chlld and still don't - but my wife grew up on a farm, and expects farm fresh corn, tomatoes, beans, black berries and water melon. By farm fresh sweet corn, I mean less than 4 hours from the stalk in the field to our dinner table. So I have learned a little about gardening along the way. A Troy Built Pony or Horse tiller is quite helpful to break sod and prepare the soil for a garden. We added several tons of horse manure a few years ago, to help convert the low grade clay soil we had, to nice black loam presently. I try to collect the oak and maple leaves in our yard each fall and let them decompose over the winter on the garden soil before tilling them in in the spring.

      My spouse is tireless and relentless in creating beautiful gardens of both flowers all around our house and barn, and a vegetable garden with sweet corn, beans, water melons, black berries, and tomatoes. (If our tomatoes don't weigh at least a pound each, she's not interested in them - we eat tomato sandwiches almost daily from late July to mid-October if we're lucky.)

      Good gardens take some time - my spouse has been at it for many years and in additon to vegetables we have lots of plants for hummingbirds and butterflies - butterfly bush, butterfly weed, milk weed, bamboo grass, irises, and many others that I don't remember the names of.

      With only 15 inches of rain a year, I think you will have a significant challenge for a large garden, and will need to suplement your water in some manner. Nice link here about desert gardening in the South West which look quite lovely -

      Here's one about southern Nevada - that sounds like a tough place to garden to me -

      Here is a swallowtail on a butterfly bush in our garden

      Hopefull we will get some more knowledgeable garden folks here to help you with your question

    • I'm very lucky/blessed to live in the South where gardening isn't such a challenge as it would be in your area, but that doesn't mean it's impossible, It will certainly be a challenge, but humans have lived and thrived in a variety of geographies so, with a little prep, research, and patience; you should also do well.

      I grew up on a huge tobacco farm and my family has always had a garden of some sort. The first step I would suggest is to locate and contact your local Agriculture Extension office. They would be the knowledge base for ideal crops in your area and should offer soil analysis (strongly encouraged), as well as best practices for maintaining a garden in an arid climate.

    • I found the desert gardening PDF fascinating and informative. It's got some pretty good ideas about what the challenges are (I didn't even think about soil pH), and how to succeed. Notably, though, I believe irrigation is essential. The geek in me really likes the idea of deep watering techniques. Taking advantage of rainwater catchment might defray cost of irrigation.

    • You can definitely get a garden going in your backyard. Key things to note - gardeners have a high churn rate & as Pathfinder pointed out, it can be tiresome but is an amazing experience once it's going. It is definitely worth your time to plan what you want out of your garden and what you need to put in place to get to your goals.

      The biggest single issue with gardens is watering, followed closely by soil nutrition. I'd highly suggest looking at sub-irrigation systems inside of raised bed. These will make the effort and water usage much less than any other systems and greatly increase your success rate. Sub-irrigation will eliminate the need to weed (top layer of soil dries out which prevents unwanted germination). While you think about structures, consider placement based on how much sun your yard gets each season. SunCalc can be helpful when looking at lighting for different seasons.

      Once you have the structures, the seasonal planning will be the next thing to figure out. Square Foot gardening can be helpful for quantity planning (and works well with sub-irrigation). The hardest thing to get right is exactly when to plant each type of plant. This varies from yard-to-yard and nurseries / plant supply businesses can give poor advice based on general area trends that are not relevant to you. Unfortunately, the only way to really know is to follow the best advice from gardeners near you and iterate until you find the timing and varieties that work best.

      I co-founded a business to help with your exact journey, if you have any questions, ping me. If you're ever near Santa Rosa, we can walk you through our beds, coaching and our show garden!

    • With regard to sub-gardening in an arid climate and with, drier-than-normal, soil; would you dig out the area of the bed to depth and line it with something to prevent leeching of the water from the bed to the underlying ground?

      I'll agree about the weeding part, as I've been using Patio Planters on casters for years now to raise my annual hot peppers and they are perfect for adding a big dose of water to the reservoir under the soil bed after hardening the plants for a few weeks. I can roll them in/out of sun easily as the season progresses.

    • Im in an area that goes dry in the summer, so I built raised garden boxes out of old cedar fencing and used some sturdy metal hinges as braces to hold them all together. Then I simply lined them with landscaping fabric, stapled into the cedar. I then filled them with good garden soil and mulch mixed up together.
      This keeps weeds from growing and also helps keep ground critters from eating the harvest, but watch the birds. I water the boxes daily, it's in the high 90's here. The tomato's, Cucumbers, peppers and summer squash yield much higher results than when we were growing in the ground. Less water needed, no weeds.

    • It sounds like raised beds are the way to go. I was going to be cheap out and just till my existing dirt, but it makes a lot of sense isolate the garden soil from the dirt below. No need to let my irrigation water percolate back to my water company's well, just to be charged again.

      Has anyone experimented with gray water systems and/or rain storage?

    • Not sure about the water storage, but either way you go, this kind of drip system works really well for getting just the right amount water to your plants. I've got mine on a timer in Portland, OR (not very much rain in the summer growing season) and don't have to think about it much. Different plants require a different amount of water. Bigger the plant, the more water (trees are big!)

    • I think gray water systems require quite a lot of work and/or investment, unless you are doing a teardown and rebuild. You have to plumb the different fixtures differently (bathroom sink/shower/washing machine good; toilet bad), and there is a filtration system that goes underground. The irrigation from the gray water system cannot be used to irrigate edible plants, only ornamentals, etc. You can buy rain barrels from most garden supply catalogs, though. Most have a hose connector at the bottom, and you just put them under your downspout. Cheap and easy, and in a really rainy year. If you try and store it long term, though, you probably have to put water preserver drops in it so it doesn't get slimy and gross.

    • Look into permaculture and create a mini food forest. I mulch deeply-or I like to call it composting in place because my mulch is everthing I'd normally put in a compost bin, in layers, somewhat following a 2/1 ratio of browns to greens. This has so many benefits. It conserves moisture, builds organic matter which then feeds the soil life that is responsible for breaking things down that feed your plants. When I want to plant, I pray the mulch and sink the plant in or sow some seeds.

    • We just finished eating the last of our home grown tomatoes for 2018. We have tried with growing tomatoes in large pots year after year, but always end up disappointed - no where near what we get with tomatoes in the soil in our garden.. We must be doing something wrong, in the pots.

      We will mulch and till the fall leaves from our yard into the garden this winter and next spring. This has seemed to work well for us, here in humid central Indiana.