Converting raised flower bed by previous owner, compost bin and.

carmkellyJune 3, 2007

Hello, help please? The flower bed is about 30 ft long with four established "bushes." It is landscaped with rocks. I've been longing to veggie garden for 23 years so dying to give this a try.

I dug down with a trowel. I think there are 3 inches worth of these rocks. I could use a pick axe the ground is so hard.

I tried another flower bed close to the house. 3 inches down is a palpable clay. The ground is damp near the house. I think the sprinkler system nearby needs help.

I look at bags of soil at Home Depot. There is one that "improves" the clay? What should I get to mix with the clay?

Also part of the raised flower bed is in direct sun. At the nursery (not Home Depot) they said, yep, it's time to plant corn, cantaloupe, cukes, and squash. In direct sun??? I asked. Yep.

I was thinking of putting tomato starters in the filtered shade since the "bushes" love it there and I feel I am getting a late start. Tomatos love sun, but do I dare put them in the direct Arizona sun, especially this late in the year?

Thanks for any help. p.s. I hope to try to be organic.

Okay, last, where can I find models of composters? This is our first house and my husband is enjoying the garage... and tools. Have any of you built a compost pile or rather a bin?

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bucks(9 Arizona)

First off I know that you can plant about anything that you want and get some sort of results. The key here is to plant in the optimum month. Plant corn? no, melons, Armenian cukes, squash? Yes. Tomatoes? No but put them in the filtered shade and try if you want. The key to the clay is to work as much organic material into it as you can afford. If you have a truck, you can pick up an entire load at 99th ave and Mcdowell. I have never seen it so cheap in my life. You need to give the microbes and the worms something to eat so they can bring this soil back to life and continue to do so. Remember the sun will eat about 10% of all of the mulch that you put down each year. Please if you have more questions I will be glad to help as I am a small organic grower in the West.

Why do you want a composter? Put it right on the soil. Use your lawn mower to cut it small and put it right back in the soil. Feed that dirt!

    Bookmark   June 4, 2007 at 8:11PM
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Hi Carmkelly,

There are an amazing assortment of vegetables you can grow here in the desert, but as bucks mentioned, the key is soil preparation.

Locate your garden beds where they will receive at least six hours of sun, preferably not against a west facing wall where reflected heat will be a problem. Before you try to dig you'll need to moisten the area to a depth of about 10 inches. Run your drip system or lay a hose in the area and allow it to slowly water the area. You can also use a soaker hose. Wait three or four days and then till the soil. You will want to add a 4 inch layer of organic matter (compost, mulch), and a 4 inch layer of sand. Till into 4 inches of native soil and, voila, you'll have about a foot of good garden soil.

Each year you will need to add another layer of organic matter to the soil because here in the alkaline soil of the southwest it decomposes rapidly.

I've included a link to information from the University of Arizona on growing vegetables and herbs. It has a time table that will show you when to plant depending on the season.

Good luck.

Here is a link that might be useful: Vegetable Planting Calendar

    Bookmark   June 6, 2007 at 11:30AM
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tomatofreak(Z9 Phx USA)

Bucks, would you give a little more info about the place at 99th Ave. and McDowell? What's the name of the company? And by cheap, how cheap? Thanks for all info; I'm way away but would love to go get some material for an area I want to build up.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2007 at 8:47PM
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bucks(9 Arizona)

Well I do not know the name. I really do not remember if there is a sign. I just go there, find someone on a tractor and ask him how much for a load. It depends on who is driving that day, but I have paid both $20 and $25 dollars and they just come up with a loader and drop the load in the back of your truck! It is best if you come a long ways to bring a tarp to tie over it, but the price is just to good to be true. Right almost on the corner of 99th ave and Mcdowell. You cannot miss it or miss the smell. It is right at the 101 and 10 connection.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2007 at 10:58AM
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tomatofreak(Z9 Phx USA)

Thanks, bucks; I'll have to plan a trip over there.

Carmkelly, how goes your project?

    Bookmark   June 14, 2007 at 7:04PM
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carmkelley - We just built a make shift compost bin out of 2 55gal drums. The drums used to hold paint, so they have a nice coating on the inside to it doesnt rust. We just hammered some holes in the bottom. I keep the lid about half on, and roll the bin in the yard about once a week. It's been about 3 weeks now, and I already have 75% finished compost. I water it as needed. I thought I would have to water it more, but it actually stays pretty damn moist. I was surprised by that, because it is so damn dry here.

I was thinking I would have to purchase extra compost for the veggie garden I am planning for the fall, but it looks like I'm not going to have too. Of course, I have been scrounging for compostables though... Plus a few trips to starbucks for grounds.

Oh and I got the drums from an ad on Just search 'Barrels Metal', it should come up. They were $15 each. The guy was really nice too, and didn't add any more for delivery.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2007 at 12:45PM
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Wow. Thanks everyone. Barrels for composting and rolling around on grounds? Mixing sand and compost and ... ah geez.

I gave up on the raised flower bed for the moment. We had problems with our water out back and ... It seems I am destined for cool weather crops?

I did bust into a lowered flower bed. That is an eye-opener as to clay. Sure I put down some soil for the herbs but that crust and those cracks over the top? Eesh.

I don't think I'll be able to get a barrel soon -- are you worried about the paint inside, leaching?

I am happy to report there are at least three if not four lizards out back, baby geckos apparently, and I see the occasional honey bee. I really do want to do this.

I feel like I missed the boat on the hot weather craps but then I read it's okay to keep planting. So... I guess I am starting on a small scale with "four herb plants" and figuring out what deep soaking a lemon tree is. What is deep soaking a lemon tree with a hose on moderate?

I planted a bougenvilla as well. I was talking to a friend and she said, oh you have to water that this time of year. Well.. it's true the leaves were unhappy and drying out but the ones remaining are curled, especially near the top.

Am I over-watering now? I am so grateful to have a forum such as this and fellow gardeners. I don't understand why so few people garden. Is it a lost art?

To the person who used the word "damn" twice. You think I am screwed on the herbs and cracking clay? Of course the question is opened to all.

For those who don't have a garden, what's happening out there???? How are your cantaloupes and other hot weather crops progressing? I still want some romano beans.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2007 at 8:22PM
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