Yesterday, we finally broke ground on our sunken veggie beds! This is the first in a whole series of permaculture/urban homesteading/water harvesting projects we're planning to do around the house. With new pickax in hand, we took to the yard with plans to dig two sunken rows.
Sunken veggie beds make more sense than raised beds in arid climates, because they capture rainwater as well as make better use of the water that irrigates them, because they retain it longer. The sunken beds also create a small microclimate that protects plants from the wind and hot sun, forces that become especially brutal during the summer. (For more information on drylands gardening and water harvesting, check out local guru Brad Lancaster's website and books, Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond, Volumes 1 and 2.) We are just starting to apply these principles around our home (which we hope to transition into a homestead), and I use them all the time at work.
We finished digging the first row yesterday, and made a plan to finish the next one today. After a leisurely morning, we meandered out to the yard, and no sooner had we swung the pickax than the unthinkable happened: it started to rain. J had just read yesterday that, assuming we didn't get any rain today, Tucson would have gone the entire month of January without it, and apparently the winter rain gods were listening, because a downpour commenced. Not that I'm complaining - we'll take it whenever we can get it - but it was pretty funny that we hadn't even considered the possibility that it might rain - even when we looked outside and saw black storm clouds gathering over the western mountains.
So we made a trip to the nursery and hardware store instead, and by the time we got home, the sun was shining and we were ready to go. We had lunch, relaxed a bit, and headed back outside, where the clouds had once again gathered and it proceeded to rain some more! Sometimes what nature is telling you is that actually, it's a really good day to go inside, change into your pajama pants, drink tea, and watch multiple episodes of Dexter while snuggled on the couch with the kitties, and that your gardening plans, however noble, will have to wait.
To be continued...
Disclaimer: It didn't take long during the excavation of our first sunken bed for me to realize that it was not a good idea to proceed without having the property Blue Staked - that is, marked for all utilities. I have a tendency to jump headlong into these things without really thinking, but in this case, I don't recommend doing that! We did hit an old clay pipe of some kind, but luckily it doesn't appear to be in use anymore. When we hit what I believe is probably a water line while digging out the second bed, we decided to hold off on digging until we get the utilities marked.