Above: garlic harvested yesterday from our garlic patch, started last October.
Here’s the design concept I (Jay) used, from Desert Gardening for Beginners: How to Grow Vegetables, Flowers and Herbs in an Arid Climate (click image below to bigify):
We grew the garlic patch in the round stock tank that I had originally hoped to use as a greywater pond. That hadn’t worked: algae kept overpowering the water hyacinths that were valiantly trying to clean the water. So, I decided to use the tank as a raised bed garden, with garlic as the first crop. I emptied the pondwater into the sand; put sand on the bottom of the tank, skipped the blood meal step, and then laid down six inches of rotted manure (sourced from a nearby one-horse stable), newspaper and straw. Then I dug into the straw and through the paper, added in fresh rich soil that I’d made over the last few months, inserted a clove of garlic (prepared following Mr. Extremehorticulture of the Desert’s instructions), covered the ‘inverted tower’ of soil with straw, and watered.
Green shoots appeared almost instantly and the plants grew all winter (including five straight nights of frost in December), with twice-weekly watering. For whatever reason, our local critters never ate anything (keeping wild animals from eating stuff we plant is almost always a challenge).
This is what the patch looked like yesterday, before the harvest (the plants’ leaves are drooping because they hadn’t been watered for two and a half weeks—you cease watering when you deem the plants are close to being ready for harvest). The yellow flowered plants around the tank are our native creosotes.
We got about twenty plants out of this harvest, which are now being cured in shaded open air and, with our dry air, will be ready for consumption/storage in a couple of weeks. I see now how we could’ve done a lot more, and I could probably have left them growing in the ground for a while longer. So it goes.
As for what’s left in the tank: the soil beneath the straw is now richer with beneficial microbes than before, and thanks to the straw, which cuts down on evaporation, very moist. Next up: onions? More garlic? Peppers? Hmm…