Holes for the trees, to be placed around the gardens, were dug to depths of 3' to break through the cleechy, and to provide the plant-roots opportunity to search for water in the deeper levels. Center Gardens #1 and #2 were positioned to obtain water from the gabion during periodic intensive rains. Garden numbers 3, 4, 6 and 7 were boosted with the DriWater product, while Garden #5 received no additional aid.

Trees were planted, using 3 to 5 quarts of DriWater, in a circle radiating 25' from each garden center to allow for a significant level of shade needed to stimulate growth for both existing and newly planted shrubs. The Shrubs, planted using 2 quarts of DriWater, surround the center gardens, bringing focus to the grasses and perennials.

Bernard designed the system so Garden #2 could be fed from the cistern. In order to do this, it had to be dug 3.1/2' below ground level. After #2 was completely excavated, we placed plastic sheeting in its bottom, and at its edge we installed a watering timer connected to a net of 1/4” pipes. All was then covered with a layer of gravel to help spread any moisture.

Once the bottom layer was arranged, Garden #2 was covered with1.1/2' of sand. Further steps, to prevent erosion, were taken by shaping the edge with a 45° slope, and at half the garden's depth we made a 1.1/2' terrace on which we positioned plant material (mentioned below). The excavated sand was then used to create berms designed to protect Garden #2 from sheeting water during intense rainstorms as well as protection against the dessicating winds.


Hearing of a strange invention called DriWater from a PBS documentary titled “Water: The Drop of Life,” we set out to investigate the possible inclusion of this unusual water-holding gel. After making contact with DriWater, and their parent company Rain Bird Corporation, we were offered support. A few weeks later, a very generous supply of their product arrived. Company representatives expressed their desire to see the DriWater product tested in one of the driest deserts on the planet. We agreed to take on the challenge.

And so it would be the use of DriWater that would significantly transform the garden portion of the project. Our desire to create subtle micro-climatic change was encouraged by this new product. Establishing a wider range of native plants and trees agreeable to our site's region was finally a real possibility.

The third portion of the project, implemented in March of 2004, uses remote-sensing technology to monitor the site from afar. If purchasing the 15 acres was the first step toward the establishment of one type of control over our site, the use of the water-content reflectometer and the datalogger have established another. These technologies, which function much like those tools use by cartographers and surveyors, allow us to take precise time-based measurements. And by adapting such technologies, our ability to understand the effects of our modifications to the site increases.


Claude's wireless system allows us distanced monitoring along with a new way to visualize the long-range changes in the physical and climatic conditions. It is the technology that links the remote desert with the urban realm. If Interstate 15 acts as the physical conduit to our site, the sensing technologies employed function by connecting two locations, conceptually erasing the space between.

After 3 months of recording data, we are seeing the region quickly dry out. As we face the worst Western drought in 500 years, 120 plants and trees grow on a remote plot of land in the Mojave Desert. The system awaits a much needed rain even as the DriWater keeps things living. With repeated trips to the site and electronic monitoring we learn as we go. A long process continues.

July, 2004

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As the project moved into the garden design stages, the 15-acre site was evaluated. Existing plants were mapped and identified. We observed many plants growing in circular patterns with almost perfect spacing between. Just on the edge of our property, we discovered two 10 ft. circular water troughs that would eventually provide the inspiration for the garden diameters.

Deena devised a plan for seven gardens to be positioned directly below the pattern of Little Dipper visible in the night sky above the site. Each circular garden (10' circumference) was excavated to a depth of 2' through crusts of compact soil. Of her many plans, one was to boost the development of grasses and perennials by adding small amounts of gypsum to reduce the high alkali levels in the soil.