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In the 1970s, I had a 7’x8’ former sand box as my garden in my small back yard on the Franklin Mountain foothills in El Paso, Texas. Organic compost was hard to come by in the desert of West Texas. I usually had some tomato and jalapeno plants along with lettuce and spinach. When we moved to the El Paso upper valley in 1984, my wife wanted a large enough lot for me to grow a larger garden. She said I needed that to stay out of trouble.

I am now in my 79th year of life having gardened here in Aransas County on the Coastal Bend of Texas for 13 years. The issue now is not staying out of trouble, but it is the trouble of gardening at my age. The last blog I wrote was about my unintentional semi no till and no cultivate garden with its abundant harvest, which maybe have been because of the healthy weeds and grass in my rows and middles. I have just finished reading an article in Texas Gardener stating that weeds and grasses along with flowering vegetables can help to provide a sustainable environment for beneficial insects.

Some of my gardening friends have dealt with the limitations of age, time, space by building raised beds, keyhole gardens, and green house hydroponic gardens. Raised beds allow a person to stand, use a walker, or even a wheelchair rather than bend over to the ground at their feet. Raised beds can be made from various materials including lumber, concrete blocks, and rocks. They can be of various sizes that allow a person to reach the plants in the center. They require enriched soil and compost that needs to be replenished at least annually, and they require a watering system. My observation is that raised beds dry out quickly, seldom provide enough root depth which limits the vigor and productivity of vegetable plants, enhance the diet of deer and other robbers, and are susceptible to root knot nematodes in our area.

Keyhole gardening requires a 6’ diameter retaining wall from 2’ to 4’ high made of rock, concrete blocks, or wood with a pie wedge notch leading to the chest high center 2+’ diameter wire bin which is filled with layered types of compost. This is replenished regularly with kitchen and garden waste plus water. The area from the bin sloping down to the retaining wall is also filled with layers of compost and enriched soil. Various vegetables can be planted with the taller ones higher up. Deer will love it.

Hydroponic gardening requires temperature controlled indoor space, special lighting, a water container with a regulated watering system, soilless inert planting medium like perlite, soluble fertilizers, and seeds. It requires some engineering skills, expensive equipment, and learning from mistakes. It can produce vigorous vegetables more quickly than my garden.

-Herman Green

5/4/2020    Garden Journals