Waffle gardens are not as easy on the gardeners back as raised beds are, but they can be useful, even in our area.
A recent magazine showed photos of women gardening in waffle beds in Senegal.
Waffle beds are depressed square plant beds; the ridges surrounding the beds serve as paths. The growing soil in the 4-foot-square beds in the photos appears to be about six inches below the beaten paths.
They are growing in this manner to use very little water. We can get water with a turn of a spigot, but they have to use a pole with a long rope holding a bucket and lower it into a very large hole (or well) to fill the bucket with water, then carry it back to each of their beds. This technique was used in the American Southwest, by Zunis in particular, but it can be used for other purposes, too.
Waffle gardens can protect tender growing crops from harsh winds. Ive seen attempts to garden in the western part of the Treasure Valley where strong winds sandblast everything in their path. If gardens there were depressed several inches, the plans would still get sunshine and could be watered but the winds would blow over the top of the low ones.
Areas of southern Ada and Canyon counties exposed to frequent strong winds would also benefit from this type of planting. I think thered also be some temperature moderation from that of the general area, by the presence of the insulating earth.
One way of preserving food youve grown is by dehydration. Youll find good information in Dry It, Youll Like It by Gen MacManiman. Because our climate is arid enough, you can even do a lot of solar dehydrating.
Make dehydrating trays with scraps of wood nailed in a frame, then cover it with cheap nylon net. Nylon net also is useful on canning jars, affixed with the ring, for sprouting peas and beans for planting or to use as sprouts.
If you intend to plant them, dont let the sprouts get very long before you plant out.
If youre oiling wooden handles of your long-handled tools, do so with knowledge and care. A reader said she had used cheap vegetable oil and found that it attracted ants and that wherever she touched her garden shed with her oily hands, they left a somewhat permanent mark. Use a rag to apply oil to the handles, not your hands.
A reader corrected my long-held notion that the earth tilts toward and away from the sun in seasonal change. The tilt is always 23 degrees, leaning toward the sun in summer and away from the sun in winter.
Plant geneticists working for the University of California Desert Research and Extension Center are breeding lettuces and spinaches that will thrive in the higher temperatures expected with climate change. Much of the nations lettuce has come from the Imperial Valley in the past, but most of Californias lettuce is now grown in the Salinas Valley near Monterey, under less scorching temperatures.
The UCDREC scientists so far have field tested lettuce that germinates at 100 degrees F. and doesnt bolt when the temperature climbs to 110 degrees.
When will these lettuce varieties become available to consumers? That information hasnt yet been released. If theyre palatable theyll beat Jericho, the Israeli-bred lettuce that is said to withstand hot summers. I havent had a good crop from that seed, so continue to rely on lettuce as a cool-weather crop, Batavian varieties and Italienischer continuing to yield tender sweet greens into part of summer, at least.
Send garden questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or Gardening, The Statesman, P.O. Box 40, Boise, ID 83707.