garden, june 3 part II – tire pots

I’d be remiss if I failed to mention the tires that we spray-painted to use as flower pots.

tire pots

This idea came about because there is always the early-spring space struggle between the kiddo and I. She wants to plant flowers; I want to plant food. And there is never enough space for both of us to do all that we want to do. I had seen this idea on Pinterest, and since we had several old tires lying around, I thought it would be a fun project. But since I’m not sure if eating food grown in old rubber that is potentially leaching metal and contaminants (not to mention the paint), I was happy to give them over to flowers. They’ll also add a nice pop of color to the front yard.

A friend of mine is going to give me some seeds for giant sunflowers, and we’re going to create a little (ahem, huge) fairy ring in the yard, with an opening so that said kiddo can hang out (or hide) inside of it.

Link to the post that inspired the sunflower ring (#24): http://www.echobrown.com/2013/04/25/32-cheap-and-easy-backyard-ideas-that-are-borderline-genius/

garden, june 3

It’s June. How did that happen? The solstice is coming, and I’m starting to feel a little bit frantic with how behind I am. I read other gardening blogs and see the size of their starts, the seeds they have already put out, and feel the chase of the chant, behind, behind, behind.

The last week yielded a lot of forward progress. My dear boyfriend went and picked up a load of garden soil, a bale of straw, and a wheelbarrow for me, so now planting can resume in earnest:

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Sorry for the crummy picture; despite the longer days, the sun was already going down when I took it.

 

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That’s a cubic yard of soil, my friends.

So this evening I moved a good portion of it into a second bed that I dug out a few weeks ago, made a few mounds, and planted zucchini. As the sun went down, I busted out my ever-so-stylish headlamp so I could continue working in the dark. I built a sandbank around the potatoes (more on those in a moment), started mulching the plants in the big raised bed, and watered.

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Geez I’m nerdy

Ah, yes. The potatoes. I have never grown potatoes before. I had some in the house that were sprouting, and I had read somewhere that potatoes like to grow in compost. So, in the slapdash way that I am a little ashamed has my method this year, I dug some holes, filled them with compost, and stuck the potatoes in there. Much to my surprise, they started growing not long after. After mentioning this to another gardener, she gave me some tips on how to encourage them to produce. I need to keep heaping soil and mulch on top of the greens, leaving just the growing tips exposed, and build up the mounds throughout the season. Tonight I added a good layer of soil and compost, and tomorrow I’ll add straw. And maybe more soil.

Potatoes with the fresh soil heaped on them.

Potatoes with the fresh soil heaped on them. Much bigger than they appear.

What else? I planted more peas in the spots where it seemed they weren’t going to come up. I have to get my melons, pumpkins, summer squash, cucumbers, and other sun-and-heat loving plants into the ground in the next few days. And see if I can find a spot that lettuce and spinach will thrive — I’ve not had any luck with spinach this year. Tomatoes, on the other hand, are popping up everywhere — in the container where I planted lettuce mix, in my rosemary, in random heaps of yard waste…

Hopefully it will mean an abundance is coming. It’s going to be in the 90s tomorrow, and I’m hoping that a late spring storm will pass through and soak everything for a day. Here’s to hoping, abundance, and gratitude for what the garden will bring.

garden, may 24

Vegetable gardening in the high desert presents a lot of challenges. A LOT of challenges. Soil is generally poor quality. Water is scarce. But for me, the biggest challenge of all is the unpredictability of the weather, especially in the spring. Soil can be amended and water collected, but there is nothing is to be done about the weather except for wishing and hoping.

The last few weeks, it has been all over the board. We had a late-season hard freeze just about the time of the average last frost date, followed by temps in the 80s. A little bit of heartbreak followed. Somehow, whether it was the wind or cat or kid, the lid got knocked off my seed starting dome. With the double-shot of it being hot and dry out, I lost damn near everything. Out of the 75 or so pods that were in there, I only managed to preserve one leek, two sunflowers, one echinacea, one chard, and possibly a watermelon (if it survives).

There’s nothing to be done but start over. I’ve lost a few weeks, but hopefully it’s still early enough in the season that I can play catch-up. If not, well, lesson learned for next time.

This weekend, it rained. And I mean, it rained, the way it only does in the desert extremes. Friday brought a huge deluge, complete with enough hail that it looked like it had snowed. Everything is saturated. I really wish that I had secured rain barrels by now, because I could have easily filled all of them. I had to make do with putting out as many containers as I could, and hope that in the next few weeks it doesn’t all evaporate.

On the positive side, I harvested the beets:

beets

The first patch was perfectly formed. The second batch contained a few wonky shapes, which I believe is due to over-watering and the fact that the soil got packed down from rain.

In containers, I have romaine, lettuce mix, chard, and cilantro all coming up. The mint has flourished to the point that I took cuttings and propagated them. Surprisingly, the cuttings that I got last year and haphazardly stuck into a random spot in the front yard have come back. Fine by me — You can never have too much mint! (I may regret saying that, as mint is a prolific plant that spreads like crazy.) Strawberries are holding strong and started to produce buds.

Once we get some warmer weather, the tomatoes and pepper will be going into the ground. Squash and melons need to be sown. I’m hoping for a big harvest of zucchini, but I need to get another bed built so they have room to spread.

Still so much to do. Fingers crossed that the next two days have some rainless sunny hours so I can get to it.

garden, May 5

We finally had a sunny weekend, and wouldn’t you know it — I woke up with a cough and runny nose. Owing to the ick, I didn’t do a whole lot outside. On Saturday, I did manage to plant the two grape vines and remaining raspberry vine. I also started hardening off the seedlings that were ready for it.

In the raised bed, beets, carrots, and fennel are coming up behind the radishes and carrots. Cilantro just started poking its head out of one of the containers, and I think the spinach and lettuce will be coming soon. (Assuming it’s actually spinach and lettuce and not just weeds.)

In the peat pods, I have leeks, sunflowers, chamomile, echinacea, Swiss chard, and romaine coming up. There are also two rows that I forgot to label; one is carrots that have not yet germinated (yes, I’m experimenting with starting these in peat pods even though everything recommends sowing directly into the garden bed), and the other is sprouting and I don’t remember what it is. Maybe broccoli, if I’m going off the open seed packets. Note to all: always label your seedlings to avoid the guessing game!

The only thing that hasn’t come up yet is the snap peas, and it has me a little concerned. They are usually among the first to start poking their heads out of the garden. I’m chalking this up to the fact that my kiddo got a little overly excited and soaked them in water for three days before they went into the ground. I might have to do a second sowing if I don’t see any progress soon.

Today, since I’m feeling better but was told not to come in to work, I started digging out a 3 x 6 plot in the backyard. I’m hoping this will be a good site for the squash and melons so they can sprawl. (Although now that I’m thinking about it, I might want to expand it another foot, to make it easier to get 2 square feet per plant.)  The soil is not particularly good — very sandy, which, while good for drainage, does not retain water in this dry climate.  I plan on amending it with a big dose of compost and organic matter, and mulch is going to be a very big necessity this year.

I still have a lot of work to do, but so far, I’m pleased with how everything is coming along. Now I just need to educate myself on cold season crops so I can be harvesting right now in addition to planting.

garden, April 30

As I said before, there is a reason that Santa Fe’s average last frost date is listed at the end of May. We’ve had a few weeks of really warm weather — upper 60s and into the 70s — and Sunday, it snowed. A mostly-sunny, wet, sleety type of snow, but still snow. The lows are dipping down into the 20s and 30s this week.

Over the weekend, luckily, I got some things done. I’ve been closely examining the yard to see where I can put in one or two more raised beds. The elms, I’ve concluded, are just not going anywhere. I could pull them and gird them and poison them to my heart’s content, but the sad fact is that there are more trees in my neighbor’s yard, which means the roots will find their way in despite my efforts.

And I figure, if I can’t dig down, then I’ll build up.

Right now, I plan to build two more beds, three feet wide by six feet long, and 24 inches deep. (By “I plan,” I mean getting my more handy boyfriend to build them, as I didn’t pay close enough attention in theatre shop class to remember how to do it myself.) This should give me enough room to for melons, cucumbers, and summer and winter squash (all of which need about two square feet of space per plant) and a few other goodies. In addition, I’m using a reduce/reuse/recycle mentality, and am gathering everything imaginable to use as containers. Tires? Old plastic tubs? Expect them to be filled with topsoil in the next few months.

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Seedlings enjoying the sunny windowsill.

I made an impulse purchase this last weekend, and came home with a bunch of berry vines. Two varieties of raspberry, one blackberry, and two different kinds of grapes. I have no idea if they will grow in this climate, and the online opinion on the topic has been mixed. But I’m going to plant them anyway, care for them the best I can, and hope they survive — my neighbors across the street have grapes that grow over their fence, and it doesn’t seem like they do much of anything to help the process along.

The radishes are coming along at lightning speed, and should be ready to be harvested by mid-to-late May.

radish seedlings

radish seedlings

My next investment is going to be rain water barrels. With as dry as the summers are here, I want to try and take advantage of any spring rains that we get. It’s amazing how much water we waste when you start paying attention — I’ve been putting buckets under the faucet when I’m waiting for the water to heat up, and even to capture some of my shower runoff. It’s more than enough to water all of my containers, and it’s startling. A few drums would do a lot to offset the water bill and conserve.

garden, April 24

Gardening has been moving at a snail’s pace this year. The weather has been unpredictable, as is typical of spring in New Mexico. Sunny days followed by a weekend of snow or cold rain. There is a reason our average last frost date is listed at the end of May — you just never know what the sky is going to do.

Indoors, I have started the following:

  • summer squash
  • bell peppers
  • roma tomatoes
  • cherry tomatoes
  • honeydew
  • watermelon
  • cucumbers
  • sunflowers
  • echinacea
  • chamomile
  • leeks

My seedlings are still very small, owing to the fact that I got a late start getting them into seed pods, and I only have about a 50% success rate with seed germination.

Outside, things are rolling along. I pulled a bunch of dead roots out of planters, and was dismayed to discover that the elms had even gone up the bottoms of ones that did not have a plate underneath them. I pulled a ball of roots about the size of a soccer ball out of one of them! Lesson learned. I also pulled out what I thought was garlic, and discovered it wasn’t garlic at all. It was green onions, from bottoms I had cut and regrown on the windowsill. They went without water for too long, and died, or so I thought. I had buried them in with the garlic, and they grew back. I separated them, put the actual garlic in the garden bed, and then moved the onions to the front yard.

In containers, I planted romaine lettuce, another lettuce mix, spinach, cilantro, and 5-color Swiss chard. I also transplanted a mint plant to a container, and it is happily spreading at this point.

I sowed radishes, carrots, fennel, beets, and snap peas. I knew radishes germinated quickly, but I didn’t realize just how quickly. They went in the ground on Saturday, and I already have shoots coming up. I didn’t have any success with beets last year, so I’m curious to see if turning the dirt and getting rid of the elm roots will result in a yield this year.

But one thing I quickly realized is that I’m not going to have enough room for everything. The squash and melons require room to spread their vines, and they alone would take up most of the space. After surveying the yard, I found a spot behind the coyote fence that I think will work for another raised bed. This weekend, I’m going to try my hand at building a frame.

I’m still torn about what to do about the elm roots. Conversations with friends and gardening centers have confirmed that the only way to get rid of them is to gird them and then douse the girded area with weed killer. Being someone who fancies organic produce, I’m having a really hard time convincing myself that it’s okay to put poison on anything, even an invasive weed. It’s not just that it will kill the trees and leave residue in the dirt; I also don’t want to inadvertently kill any wildlife that might eat something contaminated with it.

Speaking of wildlife… it looks like gophers may have moved into the yard. That’s going to be another big problem if they have. I’m hoping the presence of the cat will be enough to convince them that my yard is not a safe place to live.

White Lies

You ask where I have been
and I finally tell the truth:
I have begun seeing a therapist
because I have taken to wearing my bones
on the outside. The therapist tells me
it’s all in my head and that injured birds
should not attempt to fly. You tell me
I do not need therapy and we will figure
this out together; you do not ask the
questions the therapist asks, like why
you do hide from the mailman?
and how
do you feel about losing your favorite mug?
You’d think I’d be used to it by now:
the patterns we stitch around the house
so we do not accidentally touch.
But I begin to see a therapist anyway,
to wear high heels while I clean. I step
on ants with stiletto points.
This makes me feel large and powerful,
though still unusually sad.

originally published in The Rampallian, Volume 1, issue 3

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Three Things I Do Not Like to Admit

Lately, I wake up with the shape of your name
bent across my tongue. You live on coffee and
cigarettes, and I find this endearing. (I once
dated another man, years ago, who also lived on

coffee and cigarettes. I did not find him endearing.)
Perhaps it’s because you are so recently a used-to-be that
I think of you this way: torso like a startled scarecrow,
your hair some bemused Batesian mimicry, mottled eyes,
clumps of copper. I wake up with the shape of your name

bent across my tongue, and I do not like to admit this.
I fancy leaving my notebook in your truck to see if you
will flip through the half-thoughts scrawled sharply as
though with a scythe. To see if you will look at me

differently – watery, a little apprehensive, venomous.
The thing is, this is not about you so much as the idea
of you, my idea of you, all detuned and discordant. I
am obsessed with your pin-up tattoos, your incessant
coffee drinking, your hands like vices, hands that should
belong to a surgeon, or a cellist, not some capricious

mechanic. I am also obsessed with blackcats, the
number 14, and the way this will not end. I want you to call
and say, “Everything went wrong today. It all fell apart
and the only thing that will make me feel better right
now is seeing you smile.”
You do not say this. You

do not call at all anymore, and I do not like to admit
this, either. When the star V838 Monocerotis suffered
an outburst – a stellar death process – it somehow did
not die. It flared then fizzled, ebbing lightly in suspended

space. I wonder if this is the thrum of our metaphor,
our aborted fairytale, our astronomical cliché.
I wake up with the shape of your name
bent across my tongue, but the final thing I do

not like to admit is that you did not choose me, did
not choose our supernova. And so I begin to think that
maybe instead of us, this will be me: the star that mysteriously
erupts and then fades back into obscurity.

originally published in The Más Tequila Review, Issue #6

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.