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!

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garden, April 18

Well… damn. This is what I woke up to this morning:

snowA blanket of snow coating everything. I’m not terribly hopeful that many of my seedlings survived this sudden cold snap. I didn’t have time to get row covers, and so in a pinch, I threw a sheet on top of them the other night. When the sheet didn’t give them as much protection as I was hoping for, I added a thick layer of straw over the bed and hoped for the best. But I’m not sure even that will be enough to protect against this kind of wet chill. And it’s not looking promising for the next few days… we’ll be hovering around the mid-50s to lower 60s.

garlic in snow 2It’s hard not to feel discouraged when this happens, but I remind myself that this happens every year: a few good weeks of warmth, and the inevitable cold. There’s a reason our last frost date isn’t until May. So for now, I’m going to curl up with a book, wait for the snow melt, and then evaluate where things are at. And maybe rewatch the episode of House Hunters International that showcased some properties with drool-worthy greenhouses.

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.

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 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.