A desert-style environment for the backyard garden could become even more appealing in the future thanks to technology.
The Desert Institute, a nonprofit that promotes sustainable agriculture and the sustainable use of natural resources, says it’s working on ways to mimic desert habitats to help make the garden more sustainable.
“There’s a lot of technology available now that allows us to create environments that are a bit more like desert than the deserts we’re used to in Canada,” says Steve McQueen, executive director of the institute.
“There’s even a product called Desert Kitchen that has an artificial rainwater cycle.”
McQueen says that technology can help gardeners create environments with a less-polluting source of water and produce better food.
“One of the biggest benefits is that if you’re going to do a project that’s really important to your community, like you might do a composting or a lawn or you might want to plant a vegetable garden, then you can actually use that to create that environment,” he says.
“You can create a habitat that’s not very polluting, you can create the environment where you can really reduce greenhouse gases, and you can grow food that’s going to be sustainable for your family.”
McKnighten says he believes that the potential of such technology is great.
“We’re going from an environment that’s a bit of a novelty in terms of what you can do to actually making the garden into a really sustainable thing,” he said.
“If you want to have a garden in the desert, then it would make a lot more sense to go out and do a really good job with the technology and do the right thing.”
The institute’s research shows that a variety of techniques can be used to create deserts that resemble those found in the deserts of Central and South America.
McKnightine says he thinks there are other possibilities.
“What we do in the lab is we actually look at how you’re doing this, and we look at the properties of the soil, and what kind of organic matter there is in that soil, the kind of soil that’s been grown there,” he explained.
“We can actually see how the soil is reacting to a specific kind of light, what the soil’s reacting to, what kind the plants are doing, and then we can use those properties to try and create these environments that look like desert.”
Mc Knighten says that while desert gardening is a bit new, he believes there are already a number of technologies being explored that could help create a similar environment.
“It’s interesting that we’ve seen that there are a number [of] different techniques being looked at to try to create similar environments in a desert environment, but we’re not sure if they’re all going to work,” he added.
“But the fact that we have this kind of a collaborative effort is really exciting, because we can see that there is a lot that we can do together, and that we’re working towards bringing things to fruition.”
For more information about the Desert Institute’s research on how to create sustainable environments, check out their website: desertinstitute.ca