Front Porch Raised Desert Garden

The temperature has been in the 60’s and 70’s in Rio Rancho and Albuquerque this last week. I decided to stop work on the master bathroom project and foucus on outdoor projects why the weather is good. There’s a good chance I will be sent out of town in spring and early summer so I won’t get a lot of chance work on the outdoor projects until fall.

There’s a structure in on my front porch under my front window, the best I can think to call it is a flower box or a raised planting bed. It’s about 8 feet long and two feet wide and a permanent structure made of brick.

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The previous owners had something growing in it. I’m not sure what it was as there is no signs of life in it and it’s filled with potting soil. The only thing that it has really been used for is a litter box for the neighborhood cats.

This area of the front of my house is ugly and I get disgusted to look at it every day I walk by it. I’ve been thinking about what I wanted to do with this area for a while, I considered tearing it out and concreting the whole area but that’s going to be just as ugly as the mess that is already there. I decided to make it into a desert rock garden with a few low water usage native plants. This will also be the prototype for what the rest of the front yard will look like.

I’m using low water usage desert plants in the yard which generally like sandy soil. I removed about 6 inches of potting soil (and cat crap) from the raised bed and replaced it with sandy New Mexico dirt from the backyard. I didn’t worry too much about the dirt being clean and I doubt the plants will care.

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Of of my goals with this project is try and reuse materials I already have. I searched my property for volunteer plants that have sprouted up around the yard. I found two different types of Yucca in the yard (yucca is the state flower of New Mexico). Yucca is a rhizome and from what I have read, appear to be pretty forgiving when removing from the ground.

There was one kind of Yucca in the very front of my property near the road. It was challenge digging these two plants up because of the spikes on the end of their leaves.

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Further up my property there are several more mature Yucca plants of a different variety. They had some smaller plants sprouting near them. The smaller plants were much easier to dig up. I actually don’t know exactly what kind of Yucca varieties any of these plants are.

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I was dissapointed that I didn’t find any cacutus anywhere on my property. I ended up buying a small barrel cactus from Lowes for about $10. In retrospect, it was probably easier to buy the cactus and transplant it from the panter rather than dig it up. Getting it out of the planter was difficult enough by itself. Each of the Yucca plants would have probably cost about $10 each, so I saved about $40 in plantings.

I found some small bunches of what I believe is buffalo grass on the south side of my property. They have been growing there for several years but I have a feeling they won’t survive due to the lack of a full day’s sun at the front of my house.

The material I have in the most abundance is rock. It’s unfortunately the kind of rock I would rather not have. It’s small, less than 1 inch, round and grey river rock. The original landscapers were in love with this stuff. It’s everywhere, in the front yard, in the backyard and on the side yard.

The side yard has a thick layer of the round river rock and this is where I access my back yard with a vehicle. Driving on round river rock is very much like driving on marbles. A better choice would be to use the angular aggregate and if I was starting over I would use decomposed granite. In any case I’m stuck with this stuff so I will try to reuse as much of it as I can and make it look nice.

There’s also a small amount of dark red volcanic rock aggregate, which is native to New Mexico, and larger boulders in the yard. I used both the river rock and the volcanic in the raised bed.

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This is my first attempt at desert landscaping and I think the results came out good. You can view all the photos of front porch landscaping project on Flickr.

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The next project will be to do something about the ugly 1970’s white rock that borders the raised bed.

3 thoughts on “Front Porch Raised Desert Garden”

  1. Hi Greg. You did a great job with the transplant. A few points to be aware of.

    We have a flower bed like that along the back of the house. Sometimes I over water and

    sure enough…there are water stains inside the house, so be careful.

    Are those plants going to get as much sun as they did where they were found?

    Xeriscaping calls for the plants that use the most water to be planted next to the house, but with these raised beds against the house, I question that wisdom.

  2. The plants will only get about half as much sun where they were. That is a concern.

    The planter is partially covered so they won’t get much rain water on them. I will keep an careful eye on this area to keep water from soaking into the wall.

    Thanks for the suggestions.

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