New garden help

zeus369June 24, 2013

Hey there...just thought I would ask for some help...I just recently built a raised bed gard and decided to plant some armanian cucumbers and sweet potatoes. My problem now is that the soil that I used forms basically a hard crust during the day after watering and of course nothing that I planted is growing...I don't really know where to go from here..if there is anyone that could give me some tips it would be appreciated.
I live in the east mesa area.

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Mulch around the plants and in the complete bed to keep in the mosture. It will also keep the soil from compacting. I have cedar mulch 2/3" deep in all my raised veggie beds. Don't have to water as much either. I used 2 large bags of the stuff per bed 8'x4'-- cost about $3.50 per bag. Hope this helps

    Bookmark   June 24, 2013 at 7:55PM
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Howdy! Welcome to gardening in the desert! Campv is right - you need to mulch. I have decided to use straw this year as it is cheap (about $7/bale) and I already have it on hand for my chicken coop. I am having excellent results with moisture retention by putting a1/2-1inch layer of straw over the top of the soil. One bale is more than enough to cover my 500+ sqft of raised beds.

You also need to water properly for our climate and plant things at the right times, which is a lot different here than many other parts of the country. This time of year, I like to water twice a day, morning and dusk, for about 1/2 hour using soaker hoses placed in the beds on top of the soil but under the mulch.

To gauge how much water your plants are getting, place a cleaned-out tuna can under the soaker hose. They are about an inch deep, so at this time of year when heat stress is high, I like to give my veggies an inch twice a day.

Armenian cucumbers are just coming into their own this time of year - I harvested my first one a couple of days ago. On the sweet potatoes, I think you will have better luck planting in the very early spring just after last frost if you get any in your area or in the fall when it cools down a bit. Do plant a couple of bell, sweet or hot peppers and perhaps a watermelon - they all do well in our heat and will give you encouraging results, which every gardener needs!

Some of the best gardening tips I have found on the Bonnie Plants web site: Those are the ones they sell at Home Depot, Lowes, etc. I also fertilize about every 10 days with a combination of Bonnie's plant food which is a moderate organic fertilizer and a product called Quantum which I discovered by accident but is a microbial soil conditioner that will help your plants' roots retain moisture. You can find it at

Here is a picture of my garden taken about a month ago, so you can see what is possible :) Yes, those are misters - my plants are a wee bit spoiled. Happy gardening!

    Bookmark   June 24, 2013 at 11:23PM
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tomatofreak(Z9 Phx USA)

Ditto, ditto, ditto; mulch, mulch, mulch! I do use bark in containers where it is easier to get down, but I love straw in larger areas where you can lay down a sheaf without having to tear it apart. You could also plant purslane all around your plants for living mulch.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2013 at 12:52PM
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wow!...thanks for all the more thing I noticed in your picture..(AZGardenqueen..your garden looks amazing) is you have a covering over your you find that to help during the summer time?

    Bookmark   June 25, 2013 at 3:01PM
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tomatofreak(Z9 Phx USA)

I bet she's going to say, "heck, yes!" to that cover question. I've used everything from umbrellas to shade cloth to cover even 'heat-loving' plants. Nobody - even plants - can withstand the coming temps of 117 without stress and some damage.

P.S. That is one beautiful garden, AZGardenQueen! Whereabouts are you?

    Bookmark   June 25, 2013 at 5:36PM
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tomatofreak(Z9 Phx USA)

This site is so slow, I unintentionally double-posted my reply. So who's out buying shade cloth?

This post was edited by tomatofreak on Tue, Jun 25, 13 at 17:39

    Bookmark   June 25, 2013 at 5:37PM
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Hi guys! Thanks for the compliments on my lil' ole garden! I am in the North East Valley out by Cave Creek Yes, the "cage" as I call it, helps considerably with both cutting the sun and also the wind, which out here really kicks up most summer afternoons and is incredibly withering to plants when combined with the heat.

I would say I have reduced wind by 60% and sun by 40% with the cage, and the best part is I plant my climbing sun-lovers (watermelons, cucumbers) on the parts of the beds closest to the cage, and they grow up and over it providing more shade to the other plants.

The downside of this is last year we had to break out the big ladder so DH could get up on the roof to harvest said melons and cukes-LOL! Birds won't touch anything that stays green as it ripens, which is another bonus.

Now, my "cage" was welded out of steel 2X2s, 1X2s and a rigid diamond-pattern steel mesh like what is used for lofts in industrial warehouses - you can walk on it! I admit this was a bit extreme, and not cheap, but on the other hand - we have javelina, jackrabbits, cottontails, coyotes, bobcats and every bird known to man out here. We also have view fencing, which many of the aforementioned critters can waltz right through (well, not the javelina).

I have seen so many friends try to do raised beds out here and cobble together an affordable solution that still costs a few hundred bucks and be devastated when the critters managed to sabotage their best efforts and eat their entire garden! So I called my friend who welds...

I do have 2 raised beds outside the cage with watermelon and other melon and instead of shade cloth I went to HD and got 4 of the 4'X8' prefab lattice panels over in lumber and a couple of 2X6s and sorta stuck 'em over the top about 5-6' up. (see pic) They are providing adequate shade/support so far, but don't know how long that wood's gonna last here, LOL. I figure I can run shade cloth over it later if need be...

    Bookmark   June 25, 2013 at 9:23PM
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Wow, I wish I had a lath house. I need to find out from my HOA what requirements they'd impose (or if they'd let me build one at all.) I guess I can always plant wispy trees like shoe string acacia, etc., for light shade.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2013 at 9:16PM
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