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 11

I had one of those days where I woke up motivated to do some serious digging, but somehow the morning hours drifted by with little to show for them.

On the upside, I walked out to discover my sugar snap peas are coming up. Peas are funny; even though everything I have ever read on them has said to start them as soon as the soil can be worked, they take their time and wait until the temperature is just right before making an appearance. I hope they produce well, because nothing beats fresh-off-the-vine snap peas. There is also a random pea plant growing in the bed adjacent to the garlic; it came up in November (??), and has been hanging on for dear life since. Since it finally seems to be thriving, I’m just going to leave it.

In the salad bar, I replanted in the spaces where the seedlings had frozen and died off after my morning-watering mishap. I have carrot seeds soaking tonight (Scarlet Nantes and the last few of my Carnival Blend), as there is room for them in the garlic bed. I’m even staggering my planting, so hey, cheers to trying out some succession planting.

My strawberry plants are happy and even flowering already. This concerns me a little, as it isn’t unusual for us to have a late-spring freeze. I’m going to have to keep an eye on the forecast and invest in some row covers. I would like to expand the strawberry patch, since they are so tasty and we could easy eat a couple pounds in a week.

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Strawberries plants are already flowering.

One of my biggest struggles continues to be what to do with the front yard. The front of the house has a northern exposure and two big trees, which means the bed is simply not in an ideal site for optimal sun. I’ve been contemplating digging out the current dirt and filling in with topsoil that I have leftover from my last load from Payne’s Organic Soil Yard, but I’m not sure if it’s going to be worth it in the end. If anyone has experience working with such conditions, I’d love to hear your input.