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My First Garden


March 4, 2021

Hi there, I am going to plant a vegetable garden in my yard. I am planning on planting it in the ground.  I live in Belen about one mile west of the Rio Grande.  My yard is currently soft dirt and I am wondering what I need to add to it.  I would appreciate any advice, as this is my first attempt at gardening. Thank you.


Answer by JZ: Here are my thoughts.  Great to hear about your gardening plan. In general local desert soils are sandy, somewhat salty, have an alkaline pH, low moisture, often low in nitrogen and usually low in organic matter. A way to get more information about your particular soil is by testing it.  Free soil test kits should be available at your county extension office:

NMSU: Valencia County Extension Office  The test itself may cost about $35.00. You may do a soil shake test to determine the percent of sand, silt & clay in your sample: Soil Texture Analysis “The Jar Test” | Home & Garden Information Center

If your garden area has never been amended with organic matter, then compost would outperform any other soil amendment in the desert. For every shovel of soil you turn over add one shovel of compost, then blend, then water, then cover with 4” of organic mulch. Move mulch to the side when you are ready to plant, then replace it after planting. Consider shading during summer months.

A useful consideration in the desert is a raised bed setup.  There are many precut kits on the market. An RB helps with soil, water, shading and plant management. Your choice.

I have attached a 2 page, more detailed summary of recommendations and soil amending resources.  Let us know if you have more questions.

All the best.

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