Heather and her family live in the Northwestern region of the U.S., in a high desert area. Although the elevation is much greater than ours in Phoenix, the growing conditions sound so similar with low rainfall, heat, clay soils and caliche. Read Heather’s story and how she used recycled materials to create water-retaining raised beds that overcame these common challenges.
Fast-forward a few years- different house, but the same soil. When the economy collapsed, I took a job in a tractor dealership, as a warranty administrator. (I had formerly been a chef, but with the birth of my two children, I'd given that up.) My boss was lamenting one day about the disposal cost, for skidsteer tracks, so I asked him, what do they do with them? He said, well, the landfill will take them, but it costs a fortune. I thought about it, and said, wanna send a few to my house? He asked me why, so I told him, I want raised beds. He laughed at me, told me I was crazy, but had our trucker forklift a bunch onto the flatbed, and had them delivered to my place. My husband almost ruptured a couple of discs in his back, arranging them, but boy, do they work a treat! It actually cost the company less to deliver those treads on the big rig, than it would've to dispose of them.
We currently have 15 tread-beds in operation, located on the north edge of the property, in a pretty compact space. They are sheltered somewhat by a 6' wooden fence, and a row of yew trees, to the north, and exposed to the sun southward. Using the treads, we're able to start plants sooner than most of our neighbors, due to their heat retention- this year, we even had, and are harvesting from, volunteer tomato plants, something that no one around here's ever seen before! My husband built the fences and trellis frames shown in the pictures, made from pallet wood gleaned from the tractor shop.
Our growing philosophy is basically, use what you have, alongside of "live and let live", with a kind of benign neglect. For example, we don't pull all of the weeds- some of them have turned out to be either much-loved by the pollinators, or to be herbs, like the white yarrow that's popped up in the back. (We still don't know where it came from!) This attitude has brought us more joy, and more serendipity, than with any other project we've ever worked on, as a family. It's not the prettiest urban garden, perhaps, but it's the most lively one in our neighborhood. The variety of pollinators, predatory insects, and surprise flowers and plants has made our growing season an everyday feast of miracles and delights. We do not use pesticides, but we do manually remove squash bugs, and the occasional noxious weed. Most things, even sowbugs and slugs, we just leave where they are- they're just letting us know that we're watering a bit too much. Without a few aphids, you won't have ladybugs. Without some grasshoppers and other leaf-munchers, the mantises have nothing to eat. Everything seems to be serving a purpose out there, even the occasional hornet.
We're not sure what we'll be planting next year, but we're firm believers in the intelligence of crop rotation, to reduce pests and diseases. Whatever it is, I'm sure it'll be abundant! (And probably at least 3 times as much as we planned for, LOL!)
Now back to those reusable Tattler canning lids that I mentioned at the beginning of this post. I am sooo excited to use them! And if your into canning and preserving, check them out.
Here's why. They are...
Seems that they are everything I want in a canning lid. Read more about them here.
Get them here.
Happy gardening and canning!