garden, may 25

I haven’t posted in quite some time, but that’s because the weather has been wacky and there hasn’t been much forward motion. We’ve had rainstorm after rainstorm, and the temperature has been hovering in the low 60s. We even had snow (SNOW!) the day after our average last frost date (May 15th), which had all of us gardeners giggling and groaning simultaneously.

What I have accomplished: Since I haven’t had a whole lot of success starting tomatoes from seed, I picked up a few starts at the Santa Fe Master Gardener’s Fair a few weeks ago. (Early Girl, Super Sweet 100, and Black Truffle.) Thinking that cold weather was behind us, I put them out in containers with some of the amendments that I read about on giantveggiegardener.com — worm castings, dry milk, Yum Yum Mix, and a bit of Epsom salts — and then it snowed. They survived the cold blast, and are hanging in there, but seem to be longing for warmer weather. Luckily, the forecast is calling for temps in the 70s this week, so I hope they perk up.

Last year’s strawberries were super sweet, but really small and didn’t produce a whole lot. So, I moved them to one of the raised beds, in hopes that with more space, they will fill in and thrive better this year.

My “salad bar” has been a source of endless frustration — greens are supposed to be easy to grow! I thought I had the problem solved when I put a row cover over it, which helped for a while, and then things started dying off again. (I’m down to 5 spinach plants, 1 chard, 1 romaine, and a few arugulas.) Turns out the bed has been infested with red ants. It’s infuriating, because there seems to be no solution that will not also kill my plants. I’m to the point that I’m ready to give up on that bed and just start everything over in containers.

Today, I started prepping my straw bale. I’ve never tried this method before, and I’ve read that it’s not always recommended for desert climates because it is water intensive. But the straw has been just sitting there for a year, and the season has been so wet that I have enough water in my barrels to get through the preparation stage, so I decided to give it a go. The basic idea is that you wet the bale for 3 days to start the straw decomposing, and then water in a nitrogen-rich fertilizer such as blood meal to the top of the bale for a few days, and it will feed whatever you plant there. Then you plant directly in the bale. I’m thinking either cucumbers or squash will go in the bale — but I’m really terrible at sticking to a garden plan, so that might change.

Fingers crossed for warmer weather this week!

garden, april 26

Wowza. April has had a steep learning curve, which is ultimately a good thing, but it also means my plants are not quite where they should be at this point in the year.

My greens have been causing me a great deal of frustration, and I can’t remember the last time I had so much trouble getting them started. Some seeds simply weren’t germinating; others were coming up and dying shortly after.

Once I took a closer look, I discovered that, no, they weren’t just dying, something was eating them — I’m just not sure what. But I decided it was high time to get some row covers. So after work, I hightailed my hiney to the nursery and grabbed one before heading home. Unfortunately, in my rush, I failed to grab anything to make the hoops with. So we improvised; boyfriend gave me an old motorcycle fender that was the perfect length to span the bed, and then staked it down with rocks. It’s not pretty, but it’s functional. And adding a row cover worked! After just two days of being covered, my greens are coming back, and I’m even seeing new seedlings coming up.

This weekend, I decided to tackle a task that I’ve put off due to the sheer immensity of it: foxtails. Grass is such a rarity in the desert that I’m always hard-pressed to yank it out when it’s new and adding a little green to the yard. But now that it’s going to seed, I need to get on top of it before they start sticking to my pants and my cat and ending up all over the house. And they are EVERYWHERE — front yard, side yard, back yard, between the cracks in the sidewalk…

Luckily, I don’t mind physical labor, and actually find weeding to be largely meditative. I can easily get lost in the motion and spend a few hours outside, forgetting everything else (including putting on sunblock). So I got to work, and cleared out a good portion of the backyard patch where I’m hoping to put another raised bed:

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It doesn’t look like much, but it’s a huge start, considering the weeded section is about 4x bigger than the picture shows.

I was happy with what I accomplished, but I still have a long way to go. There’s still this:

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And this:

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And oh yeah, this:

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Yesterday’s forecast called for rain. Since it wasn’t coming down when I got out of bed, I set out to clear the front yard. I was about halfway done when the rain started coming down, so I decided to head inside. The rain turned to sleet. And then the sleet turned to snow.

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It looks like we’re going to have another year where we run close to the last frost date. Luckily, the latter half of this week has forecasted highs in the 70s, so hopefully then I can make up some lost ground.

garden, April 7

It’s barely April and I already feel like I am behind! I seem to sleep through March and completely forget that all of the good gardening seminars happens BEFORE the season gets into full swing. That’s okay. Things are still happening!

Garlic:
The garlic I planted last fall is looking beautiful. It should be ready for harvest some time in the summer. (The blob of purple is random volunteer lettuce growing in the mix. I haven’t picked it and figure that at this point, it’s probably not going to be terribly tasty, but I can’t bring myself to pull it up.) And, for the record, I do make every effort to plant in nice, neat rows or squares with even spacing, but for some reason, things come up all higgledy-piggledy.

garlic apr15

Garlic, garlic, garlic. And some lettuce.

Greens:
I started my “salad bar” toward the end of March, which consists of arugula, spinach, Farmers Market salad mix, buttercrunch lettuce, chard, radishes, and beets. (I somehow overlooked planting any romaine, which I’ll rectify soon.) I decided to forgo kale for now, as I really wasn’t a fan of the Red Winter variety that lives in my collection. Maybe I’ll try for a different variety later in the year.

My seedlings were coming along nicely until I made a critical mistake —I attempted to water them early morning, not realizing the temperature outside was colder than I thought. After a few minutes, the water had frosted over, and I lost a few little guys in the process. Lesson learned. The silver lining: I spent a long time devouring the wealth of information over at Giant Veggie Farmer, and came across the post on cool season crops. Hopefully, armed with some new knowledge and tips on pre-sprouting seeds, the little patch will make a strong comeback.

spinach apr15

Spinach seedlings.

I’ve had a terrible time growing spinach in the past, but finally discovered that I had been starting it far too late in the season for it to germinate. Hopefully, since I started earlier this year, I’ll actually get a good harvest.

Herbs & Flowers:
My mint, rosemary, and lavender are all coming back nicely, as are the chives. The daffodil and iris bulbs that I planted last year have come up, although they seem to be a bit small, and I’m not holding on to high hopes that I’ll get blooms out of them.

Inside, I’ve started some Roma tomatoes, bell peppers, and leeks. I think I’m going to do my tomatoes and peppers in containers this year, since they have a tendency to take over my small bed regardless of whether I plant them or not. A lot of these decisions are hinging on whether or not I manage to get a few more raised beds built before transplant time comes. Fingers crossed, because if I get it done, it will more than double the amount of space I currently have.

Other things in the plan for this year:

  • zucchini
  • cucumbers
  • squash
  • watermelon
  • strawberries
  • carrots
  • chamomile
  • echinacea (my seedlings died last year; I’m going to try again!)
  • sunflowers
  • peas
  • marigolds
  • shallots
  • onions
  • thyme
  • tarragon
  • cilantro
  • basil

A fellow gardener friend and I also realized that we could save a good deal if we go halvsies on our seed order, and split the goods. It seems like a smart move, seeing as neither of us ever go through an entire seed packet in a season, and she’s a whiz at seed saving… so depending on what we order, the list may change, shrink or grow. I can’t wait to start looking at all the different varieties out there.

And, this season is going to be about education. On my list of things to understand better are 1. succession planting; and 2. fertilizing. I know next to nothing about fertilizing, which is kind of embarrassing seeing as promoting fertile, living soil is THE most important aspect of gardening. So, I am making it a goal this year to better understand the components that make up healthy soil, and how to amend it to better suit various crops