Thursday, May 1, 2014

Desert Gardening - Starting Seeds

Last year I started my first Nevada garden.  I had high hopes, after all, my thumb nearly glowed green in Ohio.  I’d pop a few seeds in the ground and soon I’d have the start of what would be a great garden. Not so in the high plain desert. 
I knew enough about gardening to understand that due to the dry climate, I would have to water the seeds more often—which I did. But still, my results were disastrous.  Only a few of the seeds I tenderly laid in the soil came up.  And if they did, they soon wilted under the abundant sunshine.
I planted more seeds, still no luck.  Rather than giving up, I tried again, using differing techniques, trying to understand the difference because it was more than just the lack of water.
Water, water, water – Like I said, I knew I would have to water more than in my Midwest garden.  But what I realized was I had to keep a regular watering schedule. The plants in this part of the country, because the soil doesn’t hold the water or it is evaporated away, depend on a regular supply of water. By doing so, a few more seeds came up, but still, not what I expected.
Soil – As you’ve seen in some of my previous posts, I do believe in starting off with good soil—which I did.  But still, the soil in Nevada is nothing like the rich loam I purchased in Ohio.  It still contained an enormous amount of sand.  So even though I had good soil and watered abundantly, the water didn’t linger in the soil long enough to benefit the seeds.  So I went to the store, purchased a bag of seed starting soil.  Before placing the seeds in the soil, I put down a thick layer of the rich soil.  Then after putting the seeds on that, I covered it with the same soil.  My efforts were rewarded.  The seed starting soil held the moisture the seeds needed to start.
Ditching – This one surprised me, although now that I think of it – it makes sense. Most gardens on the east coast get an abundant amount of spring rain on top of ground that is already saturated by the winter snows.  The rule of thumb when planting seeds it to plant you seeds on the hills.  This keeps them from drowning.
But here, I had to do the opposite. I created long furrows and planted the seeds in the lowest part using seed starting soil as I described previously.  This did several things. 
   1 - It created a trough in which the water settled, giving the seed starting soil time to absorb the moisture then in turn provide more water to the seeds and seedlings.
   2 - It blocked the seeds and small seedlings from the constant winds that blow across the desert and dry out the ground.
   3 - If the furrows were positioned north to south, it also sheltered the tender plants from the hot afternoon sun.  By doing this I had the best results yet.
Needless to say, I am throwing out almost everything I knew about gardening and starting over. But I’m looking forward to the experience!
Your Turn:  What problems have you had starting seeds?


  1. It never occurred to me that planting would be so different in a different part of the US. Good to know. Nice post and very pretty site.

    1. Hey, Kim, thanks for stopping by! I really didn't imagine it either. But I'm learning more all the time!

  2. You never cease to amaze me, Jennie! Wow!

  3. Thanks for the encouragement Reba!