Day 3 — With Pics!
They say people like these blog thingies better when you add pictures, so I’m going to try that today.
First, you probably want to see my site, so here it is. This picture is looking directly down at the dirt I want to use for this garden plot, from the northwest corner, on a sunny afternoon.
The first thing you notice is that there are not a lot of living plants nearby. That’s because I live in a desert, and the monsoon hasn’t made much of a splash (ouch!) in my neighborhood this year. You see that the dirt is a kind of light orange color, faded to tan. You also see a lot of dead grasses lying around, which I’m being generous and calling…um…mulch. Yeah, that’s it, mulch. I’ve been throwing dead stuff here for the last year and a half, thinking that it’ll decompose and that would be good for the dirt. This is before I discovered the Arizona Master Gardener Manual, and I haven’t got to the part where they say whether that was a good idea or not (fingers crossed!). More about this picture in a moment, but for perspective, let me show you the rest of my back yard.
Again, I live in a desert, so don’t judge me! When I bought the house (ten years ago), there was a lawn-like space here, and if you look closely, you can see sprinkler heads sticking out of the dirt. So the good news is that this space is basically plumbed, the bad news is that I’m good at electricals but not so good at plumbing, or there would probably still be a lawn here. My lack of plumbing ability will almost certainly become an issue as we go along. Anyway, the point of this picture is that all of my flat dirt is this orange-tan color, and while I have 6 more acres to play with, this is the flat part, and (bonus!) it’s plumbed!
By the way, that crooked little path through the dead grasses at the bottom of the picture? That was made by harvester ants. They’re the size of carpenter ants, but bite like fire ants, and they were very excited by me digging a hole near their nest. I’m ignoring them as a hazard at the moment, but they may come into play later, since they obviously eat everything in their path…
Back to the original picture: you can see where some of the dead grass is scraped away, and it has left a gray tinge on top of the dirt. I’m hoping that’s good. (Mulch, right?) Had the monsoon been a bit more enthusiastic this year, there might have been a whole lot less dead grass and a bit more black on the dirt, but we have what we have. In the picture, you see one of the sprinkler heads, the round black plastic thing near the center on the left. That’s so good: a water source nearby! You can also see some of the dirt turned over at the center of the frame; it’s brighter orange than the rest. This is where I took the cup of dirt for yesterday’s experiment, and now I’m digging a hole for the next bit of homework, which has to do with drainage. The hole is the darker brown part just right of center in the picture. That hole took me an hour to
hack out dig, and is about the size of a gallon jug. The experiment calls for a FIVE gallon hole, so I’ll be working on that for the next few days.
That’s not only because I’m very lazy, but the dirt here is very, very hard. And that doesn’t make much sense, because it appears to be very, very sandy. But most people I know who dig in their yards around here own pick-axes (there’s a local name for them that escapes me just now) for that purpose. I don’t have one yet, because up to now I’ve mostly only been digging in the stony borders of the yard (and the front yard, which is all stones), and for some reason, the stony parts don’t seem to get impacted like the backyard has become.
Which reminds me, it’s time to reveal the results of yesterday’s experiment:
This worked out pretty nicely, I think. I see a big layer of brown sand at the bottom, a small layer of darker gray silt, and then light tan clay at the top, with a ratio of 50/20/30%, respectively. I’m guessing that the water is brown due to dissolved organic material (there is a very small layer of plant matter floating on top). My impression is that the Master Gardener would be pretty pleased with these proportions, but I am surprised that there’s so much sand, given how (]-/&@-$.!;) HARD the dirt is.
More digging tomorrow!