The high desert region of Oregon draws thousands of enthusiastic visitors each year ? winter and summer. Though vacationers enjoy the stunning natural beauty of the area, year-round residents often find that creating a backyard paradise can be quite a challenge. A quick look around, however, shows that many gardeners have really made the desert bloom. Here's how you can do it, too.
These gardens face a short season for growing ? less than 100 days, in most cases. But, some are tucked into valleys, while others are on wind-swept hillsides. Gardens at higher elevations usually experience colder nights, so extra winter protection could be in order. Plant a windbreak for winter and summer protection. A few extra degrees could mean the difference between green and ripe, red tomatoes.
Choosing plants that will thrive, not just in the high desert, but in your particular yard means less time spent maintaining their health and more time enjoying the garden. Look for varieties of garden plants (vegetables, fruit trees, shrubs, and flowers) that are adapted to the shorter season and tolerant of the cold winters. If your backyard is on the deer trail, select plants that look good, but are less attractive to these garden invaders.
One part of the high desert challenge is the cool nights. When night temperatures drop into the 40s even in the height of summer, vegetables and flowers struggle to get all the heat they need. When checking seed packets for ?days to harvest? it?s best to add 14 days to the number you find.
Water is a critical element in gardens that get less than 3 inches of rain during the growing season. Adding organic matter, such as compost or Miracle-Gro® Organic® Choice® Garden Soil at planting will help hold moisture in the plants' root zone. Using organic matter such as compost or bark as a mulch reduces evaporation in summer and insulates plant roots from freezing temperatures in the winter. Scotts® Nature Scapes® uses water-directing polymers that make sure the water goes where you want it, so you can use up to 30% less water.
Even in a challenging location, the determined gardener will get good results with just a little extra effort. Add a few days to the season by using a cold frame or frost cover to protect early-planted vegetables. Use an inexpensive soil thermometer to tell the right time to successfully start seeds or plant starts. In winter, water plant roots when your soil isn't frozen and protect tops with mulch or other coverings.
Great gardens are found everywhere and the high desert is no different. Get to know the idiosyncrasies of this dramatic and surprising landscape and your garden will bloom, too.