[Market-farming] Clay

cheselka at theriver.com cheselka at theriver.com
Sat Nov 27 10:46:38 EST 2004

> Speaking of growing things in the desert:  I wonder if it's possible to
> garden in the area of Sierra Vista, Arizona?  It's southeast of Tucson,
> not far from the border.  I understand it is up in the mountains so it's
> not so hot.  I suppose I could check with their county officials, but
> wanted to ask here first.

Marie, I live 30 minutes from Sierra Vista and one of my farm plots is
about 15 minutes from SV.  SV is not up in the mountains, but the Huachuca
mountains are right next to it.

I've found that growing in the desert is very very easy as long as there's
water for irrigation.  The only other big concern is the wind.  The hot,
dry, 20-40 mph winds we regularly get really make the veggies unhappy
unless they're protected, even if the temps are ok.  Some plants, like
tomatoes, peppers, and melons are ok with the wind, but leaf veggies like
lettuce suffer greatly.

Sierra Vista and the surrounding area is at an elevation of about 5000 ft. 
The hottest parts of the summer will see temps above 100 for a while, but
nothing like the 110's in Tucson.  Also, the high temps don't last as long
-- we might have a week or two of 100+ temps.  The warmest it got this year
on my farm plot just north of SV was 104F.  We got our first frost a little
early this year when it dropped to 26F about a month ago.  Now we'll be
pretty consistently below 32F at night until late Feb.  But as long as I've
got my babies covered and ones that don't care about being cold, they're
doing great.  I've got very very happy lettuce, mustard, spinach, vitamin
green, cauliflower, brocholi, and tatsoi.

I'll be planting and growing right through the winter, where the coldest
it'll get is into the single digits for a week or so.  These plants will
slow down or stop growing at that point, but they won't die (or at least
they didn't last winter).

In my specific area, the soil is sand and clay, with not much organic
matter.  I've simply incorporated compost into the soil (about a 4 inch
layer) and the veggies are very very happy.

Feel free to write back if you have any specific questions.  I won't ever
claim to be an expert, but I do have a year's worth of growing experience
now that might be of some value.

Matt Cheselka
Cosmic Lettuce

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