Think of Amarillo weather conditions: DRY comes to mind! Extreme temperatures Yes! When it rains it pours Yep! Now picture what is pictured to the left: waffle gardens.
“Waffle gardens can be either sunken beds with ground-level berms, or ground-level beds surrounded by raised berms of earth.”(Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands pg 119) The bermed or relief beds catch and hold rainwater and water brought by hand. The Pueblo of Zuni historically used waffle gardens on a small scale for especially valuable crops.
French drains are another way to catch and deliver rainwater to the root zone of the surrounding soil. Recall the rain storms Amarillo gets, fast down pours. “French drains intercept rainwater into a trench filled with porous materials like gravel, pumice stone, or rough organic matter.”
Extreme temperatures can be moderated by placing a bed lower in the ground. Also ‘cold houses’ can extend the growing season into winter and be used to start plants in the early spring. Cold houses inset into the ground and covered with plastic protect plants inside from harsh weather. Cold houses are heated by the suns rays only; green houses have supplemental heat.
Now combine a waffle bed, french drain, and a cold house cover. The sun will heat up the area under the plastic and the rocks in the french drain. The plastic and the 6 inch depth of the bed will help hold heat in an insulate from the cooler air temperatures.
The waffle bed combo will be good to grow a small winter garden and start plants in the spring. In the summer cold house can be removed and stored until the fall. The waffle bed can be used as a summer gardening bed too.
The life time of this set up is probably 4-5 years. Greenhouse plastic can last for 4 years and more. The wood frame will eventually decompose in 3-5 years because of the moist environment of the garden bed. In this 4-5 year period the owner will gain skills of gardening on a small scale of a 4 x4 bed and decide what his/her next step for season extension will be. Start small and grow!
Prep: Find an accessible location, close to the house door preferably on a path on the way to do something else, close to a water source, out of a pets path, out of kids’ play area, and open to day sun.
3 shovels- pointed nose, spade, flat head shovel,
1 pick ax ( just in case I run into hard ground)
1 wheel barrow
1 wooden 4X4 foot frame
1 bucket for expected cement and trash found in soil
a strong back, a song, and well soled shoes
1 bucket mulch in this case grass clippings without grass seed or chemicals
1 bucket compost
Possible other materials:
1-2 wheel borrow loads of good conditioned soil for areas with poor dirt
1 grate to sift through soil for roots, trash, and debris
cardboard to put under raised bed made by dirt removed from waffle bed.