I am not brand new to Vegetable Gardening, but am in a new place. We moved to Northern AZ (altitude 4800') last summer and NOTHING is like my old SoCal. May is very windy and I have but together a cinder block raised bed and today filled it with compost, peat and vermiculite. I got out there early before the winds so I could mix it all without it all blowing away. I got it watered well. I have started some seeds in window boxes outside and it is very hard to keep it moist. The raised bed will be even more difficult to keep moist.
Would you suggest covering it with plastic or something until the shoots come up?
Wind can dry the soil, pull the water out of the plant leaves, and damage young plants and delicate leaves. Here are a few ides:
1) If you put up a barrier to stop the wind make it a 'flow-through' barrier, perhaps like the bamboo screening that is used for fencing. Or a light mesh shade cloth.
If you put up a solid barrier, it will have to be a lot stronger, and it will make a very bad wind pattern in the yard. The wind will go over the top, and stay up, but only for about twice as far as the barrier is tall. Then the wind will crash down into the garden. For example, if your barrier is 6' tall, then there will be a very bad area about 12' inside that barrier.
2) Your garden will need some air movement. A 'flow-through' product will moderate the wind, allowing enough air movement for good plant health.
My set up is a very good one, but cannot work in every garden. My wind comes out of the north west.
On the north is a wood fence and the neighbor's house. On the west is a wood fence and some trees. At ground level the wind is rather calm most of the time. A bit higher up the trees are the 'flow through' screening so the wind is mild, not zero, above the fence.
Unfortunately, higher than that the wind can be quite strong and gusty. I am having trouble with my greenhouse. Gotta build it stronger.
If you have not yet planted the beds, just gotten them ready, then you could cover them with clear plastic. This will start warming the soil, and will keep the water in. When you are ready to plant, remove the plastic and allow it to air out for a day or two. Make sure the plastic is anchored down on all sides, or else the wind will get under it and tear it up.
If you are starting seeds in an area exposed to the wind the clear plastic idea can help. Make sure it is supported high enough that the seedlings will not bump into it as they grow.
Make sure there is enough air flow. There are several fungi and bacteria that can attach seedlings that are too moist.
Actually, I think I would build something more like the old fashioned cold frame: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cold_frame
Cloches would help, too. Especially in the transition from the cold frame to the garden.
I have a container garden on my 2nd floor porch, and the wind whips through there. However, the way I set it up really helped to calm things down. I set my tomatoes on the side that gets the most wind, and supported them on pyramidal cages driven deep into the boxes. Now that the tomatoes are up, they break the wind for everything else. The only things that really mind wind, anyway, are my bush beans--the leaves tend to snap off. So when bad weather is on the way, I always take their pots down off the railing and shelter them right under the tomato plants.
I have a hard time keeping my crusty soil damp so the seeds can pop through, and i have found that spreading the Frost Barrier cloth directly on the soil will help keep it moist until the seeds come up. they will lift the barrier for a couple of days, but it will need to be removed when they start growing and bending over. I just water through it, but lift it up to check the germination.