SEMI-ARID "NO-IRRIGATE/NO-WEED" GARDENING
IN EASTERN COLORADO

This dryland vegetable/flower garden was constructed on 3 May 1993 by Renee Hink, an innovative Colorado State University Extension 4-H Specialist at Lincoln County Fairgrounds, Hugo, Colorado, about 90 miles E/SE of Denver. This semi-arid site on the Eastern Plains of Colorado annually receives about 14" (350mm) precipitation per year. The plot was constructed by incorporating four rates of Hydrosource Standard (see below) to a depth of 6" (15 cms.). After construction it was then fully charged with water by the Hugo Volunteer Fire Department to simulate rainfall/snow melt accumulation over the winter. (NOTE: Because it takes 15-30 days for the silicone used in the Sunbelt weaving process to biodegrade to the point where the fabric will become porous, the bed was charged with water prior to installing the Sunbelt.)

The summer of 1993 was unusually dry and for the first 75 days after planting, the National Weather Service's Limon (CO) Station (15 miles or 25 kms. to the north) recorded only 2.14" of rainfall (5.2 cms.). At the 75-day mark on 4 August 1993, the drought was broken with a good rain.

Please note that almost nothing grew in the control plot in the foreground, except for some plants which were able to send roots to tap moisture stored under the nearby Sunbelt-only section of the bed.

Both control and treated raspberries (left side of photograph) quickly perished after planting, probably from poor handling of the stock prior to transplanting, but the remainder of the garden performed quite well. The plot under Sunbelt was divided into four different rates (foreground to back): a.) Sunbelt-only; b.) 25 lbs. per 1000 sq. ft. (11.1 kgs. per 91m2); c.) 50 lbs. per 1000 sq. ft. (22.7 kgs. per 91m2); and e.) 100 lbs. per 1000 sq. ft. (45.5 kgs. per 91m2). In addition, a control plot without any polymer or Sunbelt (foreground) was established.

Yields were better for all crops at the 50 lb. (22.7 kg.) and 100 lb. (45.5 kg.) rates. For example the cabbage heads were fullsize at the 50 and 100 lb. rates, but only 4" (5 cms.) in diameter grown in the Sunbelt-only plot.

NOTE: As of 15 January 1997, Renee Hink was serving as an Extension Educator with the University of Minnesota Extension Service , 209 2nd Street NW, Aitkin, MN, tel: (218) 927-7321; fax: (218) 927-7372; E-mail: rhink@mes.umn.edu

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Copyright 1993 by Daniel J. Wofford, Jr, and Dale Greenwood.