Picture of Making a Garden Bed in the High Desert
Growing vegetables is a big part of our spring and summer around here.  We like to grow our own food as much as we can.  Once you start you get spoiled.  The produce in the grocery store, while it looks good, pales in comparison when it comes to flavor and freshness.   We just had green beans last night from the store.  They looked great.  The taste?....Meh.....

Don't get me started on Whole Foods Paycheck either.  You don't really save money gardening unless you happen to shop there.  I don't know why they have all those buttons on their cash registers since it seems that they simply take the number of items you picked out and multiply it by $20.

Back to gardening...

Growing veggies is great but your results are going to be in direct relationship to the quality of your dirt.  Great dirt = healthy plants = awesome vegetables.

Step 1: What is Great Dirt?

Picture of What is Great Dirt?
From a plant's point of view great dirt is soil that is composed of neither too much clay (doesn't drain) nor too much sand (drains too fast) and chock full of decomposed organic matter.  Plants need the soil to be light and fluffy so that they can grow their roots easily.  Fluffy soil also means it's well aerated which the plants appreciate since they need air underground too to do their growing magic.

How does the soil in New Mexico look from a plant's point of view?  Not so good.  If NM dirt was being tested for the above requirements we'd have to pick...D-none of the above.  Our soil tends to be either just clay or just sand and since our climate is arid enough to keep all but the scrappiest of plants from thriving we don't have much of a natural cycle of organic material building up.
ratgirl131 year ago
I, too, live in the desert and have always made my garden beds the same way. So to all who read this, YES, it is worth all of the back breaking work. Great 'ible and yummy looking vegetables you are harvesting. Keep up the good work!
pcelica072 years ago
Bravo!Great job!Thanks for sharing!
calskin3 years ago
Congrats! This totally deserves to win!

There's a great video called Greening the desert on youtube that I think you would find really interesting.
spike3579 (author)  calskin3 years ago
I just found the one by Geoff Lawton a couple weeks ago. Totally inspiring. Now I'm starting to reconsider the backyard in terms of permaculture principles. I definitely could do a lot more in terms of water retainment and food bearing perennials.
That's awesome! I would love to see what you end up doing with it. Swales have facinated me ever since I saw that video and Geoff is pretty much the king of swales and ponds and resevoirs. There's another video I think called harvesting water the permaculture way where he digs a pond. There's way more to that than I thought.
solmstea3 years ago
Nicely done! I envy all that space. But then, I made a semi-raised bed in. My front yard and nearly killed myself just digging down 9 inches (why are pick axes so short? That cannot be good for your back...). Don't know if I could have done such a big plot even if I had the room.
spike3579 (author)  solmstea3 years ago
The nice thing about garden bed building is that once you've done it it's there forever. Do one this year, one next year, one the year after that and before you know it you have a lot of garden space.

I'm not always so patient so I'm thinking of starting exercise classes in my yard. For a reasonable monthly subscription you get to come and dig in my yard. Pick axe included!
Yeah, I tried the "good exercise" line on my boyfriend, but he didn't bite.
Fantastic information! Congratulations on winning the garden challenge.
Shirley Bovshow
spike3579 (author)  Shirley_EdenMaker3 years ago
Awesome! Since you're willing to do all that work, add one extra step that will pay off in spades! Add a bunch of whatever half rotten wood/brush you have laying around to the bottom of the beds and turn them into Hugelkultur beds.

spike3579 (author)  Sooner Aviator3 years ago
I have several massive wood/brush piles that I have been procrastinating on dealing with. I could easily (with a ton of labor) double triple quadruple my garden size.
Once I finish terracing the back yard and stacking rock I'm starting a hugelkultur campaign!
Thanks for the tip.  I hadn't heard of it.
Has anyone out there tried this?
what were your results?
This come from the Permaculture community. There is a wonderful forum that covers all areas of permaculture at...


spike3579 (author)  Sooner Aviator3 years ago
I ended up doing a post on hugelkultur....

Look what you started :)
read yr hugelkultur post. You really don't do half work do you? Haven't seen the finished heap yet but it seems to have one heck of a big base
spike3579 (author)  Sooner Aviator3 years ago
Great forum.
Thanks for the resource!!
Glad you like it, thanks for the mention in your blog.
nerdmom9203 years ago
Nice instructable. Pretty much the way I start my beds in Missouri, but I don't have to do as much protection. Of course, there are lots of things to distract critters in my area.
breumer3 years ago
We are planning to make our own earthship!
spike3579 (author)  breumer3 years ago
Now that's a lot of work!
I live about 1.5 hours from Taos- Earthship central.
Good luck on a mighty project!
breumer3 years ago
That's a lot of work! But you can eat your own vetgebles .And it is fun to do! before I start cooking ,I ask our daughters ,to do some shopping in the greenhouses ,It's free and without poison and all that stuff. And its taste much better!
spike3579 (author)  breumer3 years ago
I want a greenhouse bad. I've been building one slowly over the past 3 years.
respect! build your own greenhouses is quite something!
FireCGun3 years ago
i like your idea.
what desert is it?
spike3579 (author)  FireCGun3 years ago
It's outside of Santa Fe NM. Technically with 13" of annual precipitation I think we're considered semi-arid but we call it the high desert.