The School of Hard Rocks

Living in the high desert southwest for over thirty years has necessitated the study of alternative planting methods. With the graduation from the "School of Hard Rocks" it became evident to me that the most important aspect of Southwest gardening is site preparation - both soil and barrier.

Soil amendments are necessary for a successful garden plot. A mixture of native soil, sand, and humus, humus, humus is ideal and then mulch those plants after placing them in the earth.

The creation of micro-climates within your yard can block sun and wind and can also be used to retain moisture. A wall built of blocks will be sturdy and permanent, but a wall of stone is the best building material. The stone offers a natural moisture retentive barrier.

Once your plantings are mature, they also act as an effective wind break. Staking young trees is also important since gale-force winds can tip a tree on its side. A cold wind also adds more stress to an exposed plant, lowering the temperature and robbing it of moisture.

The past few winters have been mild and there hasn't been much wind or frost damage. With preparation and protection, some headaches can be avoided if we are visited with adverse conditions this winter. If cold enough, even mesquite trees will freeze.

Preparation for the possible winter freeze should be considered. What methods can be used to protect susceptible plants? Mulch and newspaper are effective covers for small plants, but for the larger bushes and trees consider using blankets, large pieces of cardboard or canvas to drape over the exposed extremities. Do not use plastic.

If you have questions as to cold hardiness of plants, visit a mature neighborhood in your area. The plants that have survived are a good indication of what might be successful in your garden.

Barbara Kishbaugh
October, 1996