KUSA - In our semiarid climate, traditional hill and furrow vegetable gardens don't make sense. Those are for humid, rainy climates. By adapting the gardening traditions of the Native People of the Southwest, Colorado gardens can achieve high vegetable production with water-wise "waffle" beds.
In this style, the vegetables are planted in depressions surrounded by earthen walls. These depressions hold water the way waffles hold syrup. The size of the beds may vary but generally they're at least two by two feet. The beds catch and hold rainwater or they may be filled with the hose.
The walls of the beds are best made while the soil is moist, shaping them and patting them firmly into place. Although they erode and must be re-formed each spring, I've solved this by planting creeping thyme on the walls to keep them in place. The thyme can also knelt on comfortably for planting and harvesting.
It takes several years for the thyme to fill in, so some patching is necessary. The thyme is easily trimmed to keep it neat and from over-running the planting area.
Each spring I work in about a half inch to an inch of thoroughly composted manure to enrich the soil. This helps promote vigorous vegetables. Crop rotation (varying what is planted in each bed from year to year) helps prevent the depletion of nutrients by any one vegetable and helps prevent disease.
Cool season vegetables that must be planted very soon include leaf crops such lettuce, cabbage, spinach and chard, as well as root crops such as radish, carrots, beets, turnips, onions, shallots and potatoes. The window for planting these--as well as peas--is closing. They need cool weather to develop properly. Peas, for example, mature in about 65 days, and will fail when daytime temperatures start to hit 90 or above regularly.
The cool season vegetables can be replaced in late May and early June with heat-loving crops such as beans, corn, eggplant, tomatoes, squash, pumpkins, melons, peppers and basil.
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