Growing vegetables in somewhat rocky/sandy/alkaline soil

boba26June 7, 2014

Hello,
my prepared area:
http://s1056.photobucket.com/user/bobila1/library/

Background info:
i am new to gardening and i am trying to make my first organic vegetable garden, i am pretty sure the land is very alkaline because i tested with vinegar,

and it fizzled very strongly, the top of the land is sandy but after i dug in the land it seems alittle bit better beneath but still mostly sandy and alot of rocks.

here are all the photos the garden it self will be inisde the dug-in area around the 4 white pillars:

http://s1056.photobucket.com/user/bobila1/library/

i am planning to cover or mix it with organic compost i bought + later cover it with the wood bark you can see in one of the photos and maybe with lawn cuts.

the season here is at the moment is hard summer so it's very hot most of the time and the area is very sunny.

the winters include mostly occasional rains and most of the time only moderately cold.

now for my questions:

1. i have been watering it for about 1 week to let weeds grow before i put the organic compost and plant the vegetables, but nothing grows, how long should i keep watering it?

2. should i use those small water sprinklers or drippers at the beginning?

3. what other suggestions do you have, as to what to grow, how long to water each session depending on what method will be used to watering.

hopefully i provided enough info for answers, thank you very much!

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cold_weather_is_evil(9)

>> at the moment is hard summer so it's very hot most of the time and the area is very sunny.

Hard time to start anything without copious amounts of water. Heck, itâÂÂs a hard time. Period. I would strongly suggest an airy mulch such as straw instead of a flat mulch such as bark or wood chips. Both can work well, but in your high temperatures you need insulation on the soil.

>> should i use those small water sprinklers or drippers at the beginning?

If you can, itâÂÂs easier to control the watering with slow drip emitters and you control the amount with time. Most plants do not need to have their leaves watered, so the less water that gets sprayed, the better. Sprays can be helpful when seeding, but I use lines of drip tubing (with the holes all along its length) covered with lots of airy-type mulch to keep the surface, and thus the small seeds, from drying out. It seems to work well. I do hit it with a hose occasionally.

However, end emitter drip in the desert carries the possibility of a hidden problem. With very stingy drip and good drainage, such as with "sandy compost" ground, you can have underwatering in a way. You can drip water for an entire day and although the water has gone down quite a bit there might be no trace of moisture in the soil just one foot away. Be sure to check often for what is NOT getting watered.

>> how long to water each session depending on what method will be used to watering.

Your times depend on your results. HowâÂÂs THAT for a wimpy answer! We have had less than an inch/25mm of rain in the entire year so far, so the drip system is everything. At times I watered cucumbers, tomatoes and peppers every single day. Now itâÂÂs every three days at 100+F/39C+. The tomato roots are huge and the plants wilt at about four days in the full sun. Most everything else gets watered along with them since the drip system has only two circuits.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2014 at 2:32AM
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Kimmsr(4a/5b-MI)

Soil as sandy as that will not hold enough water to grow much of anything, so you need to get that organic matter in the soil. the organic matter will help hold water where it is needed.
Drip irrigation would be a much better method of putting water where its needed with little waste.
How long to water will depend on how much OM is in the soil, temperatures, and what you grow. Just keep the soil evenly moist but not too wet.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2014 at 6:20AM
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boba26

yeah i am planning to place the organic compost and mix it with the existing soil,
also when i water it, it dosen't disappear quickly so i think it does retain the moisture with fair amount for a few hours (at least on the top of the soil i think).

also do you have an answer for my first question?
1. i have been watering it for about 1 week to let weeds grow before i put the organic compost and plant the vegetables, but nothing grows, how long should i keep watering it?

    Bookmark   June 8, 2014 at 7:03AM
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Kimmsr(4a/5b-MI)

All seeds need a fairly consistent moisture level, one that lasts more than a few hours, to germinate. Your sand is not providing that.
You may also want to look into what today is referred to as waffle gardening, something practiced by the Zuni's in the southwest United States years ago.

Here is a link that might be useful: waffle gardening

    Bookmark   June 10, 2014 at 5:56AM
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lazy_gardens

1. i have been watering it for about 1 week to let weeds grow before i put the organic compost and plant the vegetables, but nothing grows, how long should i keep watering it?

If nothing is growing, stop watering it. Some weeds will come up later, and you will have to pull them out.

You need to mix the compost into the soil to help the sand retain moisture, and also top the whole garden with a mulch over the drip system to retain moisture.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2014 at 8:45AM
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boba26

Thank you for the replies, iv'e now mixed the soil with the compost, the water not hangs much longer with the compost.

i think i will try the waffle gardening, from what i understand it's basically placing your plants in clay pots and burying the pots inside the soil then covering the area with mulch and beneath drippers

    Bookmark   June 10, 2014 at 10:50AM
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lazy_gardens

i think i will try the waffle gardening, from what i understand it's basically placing your plants in clay pots and burying the pots inside the soil then covering the area with mulch and beneath drippers

No, it is not ... The Zuni gardening system uses a complex system of rock walls carefully placed around small garden terraces to block wind and trap snow combined with small sunken growing areas inside the walls to trap the summer rains. There are no clay pots involved, except the ones traditionally used to haul water to the gardens - these have been replaced by metal or plastic buckets.

The system is still in use today - I've actually been to the Zuni Pueblo and have seen the gardens. Kimmsr has only a vague idea of what is involved and has grabbed onto it as the panacea for any arid garden.

It takes a lot of room for the walls and the paths around the depressed areas, which is not a problem for the Zuni.

For your area, keep adding organic material to the top of the area, keep it mulched, and plant a few things that have deep roots. Okra (bamyeh) thrives in heat and has huge roots. If you cut the old plants off at ground level the roots remain in the soil and rot, leaving organic matter several feet under the surface.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2014 at 9:48PM
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