The Nursetree Arch Project: Adapting Small-Scale Gardening to Extreme Conditions

Gardening in the Sonoran Desert is a challenge. On average about 12 inches of rain fall during the year, but more than 100 inches of water evaporates! This is the definition of "arid." Add to that a prolonged (15 years plus) drought, extreme's of cold in the winter (below freezing days are possible from mid-November to mid-March), and the pressing need to reduce use of expensive potable water (with its salts that make water uptake more difficult for plants), and you've got the design challenge faced by the Nursetree Gardening Arch project:

1) Demonstrate that a low cost structure covering a 8' x 12' square foot plot, can serve as both a rainwater collector, a greenhouse in Winter and a screened source of plant protection (from extreme weather and pests) year round.

2) Integrate rainwater harvesting, subterranean heating and cooling system, with the Gardening Arch

3) Keep the design simple and affordable for low-income communities.

4) Inspire the formation of the Nursetree Extreme Gardening community of practice that organizes a network to influence urban and rural small producer success planet-wide.


Nursetree Arch Project Timeline

  • Phase One  (October-December, 2012) - Fundraising campaign.  Procure materials for workshop series. Conduct Workshop One: Low-cost Greenhouse make-over of Gardening Arch Prototype One. Initiate Nursetree Extreme Gardening Community.

  • Phase Two (January-March, 2013):  Install subterranean heating and cooling system and terraced basin. Install Arduino monitoring sensors and data logger; plant seedlings.

  • Phase Three (March-October, 2013): Document Performance and Report the Extreme Gardening community.