June 8, 2012

Vegetable Garden 2012

I am so glad it is spring! Technically almost summer, but I digress. Last fall I set up a new vegetable bed, four feet by twelve feet. I planted 18 garlic cloves, and I am proud to say that every one of them is growing and doing well.

If only I could say the same for the rest of the garden. I used a different seed starter tray, one with joined peat pots. The seeds germinated fairly well, but by setting them outside to become adjusted to the weather, something happened. They just stopped growing even though I tried to keep them well-watered. I transplanted three tomato plants and one broccoli, and all but one tomato died. I had extras, so I replaced them, and two of those died. I had to resort to planting the broccoli and one tomato plant by seed in the bed directly. I also lost several parsley, rosemary and thyme seedlings. I water them every day in early evening, after the bed is in shade, but they dry out so quickly. It is so dry around here, I wonder if that is the issue this year. I have never (in my whopping three years' experience) had such a hard time getting the plants to grow.

Not shown in the photo, I also bought a blueberry, a raspberry and a strawberry plant. I put them each in their own pot for now. I had them in full sun for a while (that's what the directions said!) but I think the raspberry and strawberry plants have given up the ghost already. I deliberately bought live, well-established plants and I still killed them (I have had zero success with berry plants so far). Here's hoping the blueberry can hang on....

The good news is many of the seeds I sowed directly in the bed are sprouting. I have several lettuce and spinach plants, one or two green onions, and one corn. I think I'm going to work on a more efficient watering system, but in the meantime, I'll be hoping the monsoons come early this year.

November 11, 2011

Preparing the Garden for Winter

About a week ago I decided it was time to pull up the garden for the summer. Winters are cold enough around here that most vegetable plants don't survive, at least that's what I've been told. I harvested the rest of the green tomatoes and cut down the plants. A great trick for ripening green tomatoes is to put them in a paper bag with an apple. I got so many romas this way that I was able to make a large batch of yummy pasta sauce. The grape tomatoes are not ripening as well, though, but there are so many I hope they do.

The three tomato plants were the biggest part of the garden. The pepper plant didn't get very big, probably because it was crowded by enormous tomato plants, or partly because the peat pot it came in (the only plant I didn't start from seed) never opened up to let the roots out. I did cut it open before I planted it, but I guess I should have pulled it off completely. The broccoli plant was also huge. I guess that's why the variety is called "Green Goliath." That took some effort to cut up. The only plants I left were the carrots, but I don't expect them to grow much more. In all, it was a great season for tomatoes and broccoli, not so much for carrots, lettuce and bell peppers.

Once that was done, I pulled out the black plastic 3x3 raised beds. I'll move them to the lower tier and possibly do some berries next year (we'll see). I filled the new wood bed with the remainder of the soil and compost that I had. One side is full, but the other is only half full. On the full side, I planted two square feet of garlic, about 4" apart (I hope that's enough) for a total of 18. What I will do with that much garlic I have no idea, but I spent money on them so I planted as much as I could. I covered it with leaves like mulch and then covered it with a net so the neighborhood cats don't use it as a litterbox again. The leaves still blew away, so I did it again and set the folded up green pop-up net on top for weight.

Other than pulling up the remaining carrots, I think I'm done with the vegetable garden for the winter. I'll wait until spring to add the rest of the soil and compost to the other side. And with that, my outdoor adventures are done for the season. See you in spring!

October 22, 2011

Small Flower Bed

This is one of our two fences separating us from our neighbors. It's not much to look at, and the northern-facing fence casts a constant shadow on a small part of the lawn. This shaded area is constantly subjected to weeds, moss, and a different look and texture than the rest of the lawn. The lawn itself is not Kentucky bluegrass. We're not sure exactly what it is, but it seems to be a native grass. It is patchy, but slow-growing (I only mowed once this season). Repairing the lawn will be the last thing on our yard to-do list.

Because this small strip of the lawn was so different, and the fence so boring, we decided to put in a small flower bed. It is about two and a half feet wide and about 27 feet long. First I dug out all the existing plants (weeds). Then I dug a narrow trench to put the concrete edging stones, making sure they were straight and lined up vertically to each other. I used a weed cloth over the dirt and tucked under the edgers. Finally, I topped it off with mulch.

In the spring, I'll pick out some shade-loving plants and ornamental grasses to plant there. I don't expect it to be too hard to push aside the mulch, cut open the weed cloth, dig a hole, and insert a plant.

October 12, 2011

The Third and Final Stone Wall

After some weather delays, I have finally finished the last stone wall. It was hard pulling out enough rocks to complete the project, and I had to use a few more of the smaller ones than I wanted to, but I did it. The dirt has been regraded through most of it, but there is still some work to do in that arena. I think I will call this project complete until spring. Then, I will start planning which plants I will put in and where they will go.

While the weather is still nice (at least for the next week), I'll be tackling a smaller project - putting in a bed along the fence we share with our neighbors. I have all the material already. The plants will have to wait until spring again, though.

September 23, 2011

The Second Stone Wall

The second stone wall is all but finished. I only have about two feet left on the far side. I would like to see if I can make it a bit taller, but I am starting to run out of rocks and still have another wall to build. This one was considerably harder than the first wall for several reasons. First, I had to dig into the steep hill to set the wall, whereas the first was just set on relatively level ground. Second, I had to work under the low branches of the big tree. Bad for posture for carrying rocks. And third, the far side is covered with small rocks, about 4" diameter, which cause a landslide every time I dig out a path for the wall.

I figure I can finish this one with another hour of work, so hopefully by tomorrow. Once the wall is finished, I can back-fill it and start digging the path for the final wall.

September 22, 2011

Constructing a New Vegetable Garden Bed

I've been thinking for a while about expanding my vegetable garden. Things have gone so well the last two years I'd love to have more room to try more veggies. Today I constructed the perimeter of the bed. I used 2x6 redwood. The short ends are 4-foot lengths and the long ends are two 6-foot lengths end-to-end. I put a cross brace at the joint to keep it from bowing, and sealed every joint with metal braces suitable for outdoor use. I am quite happy with how it came out.

The next steps will be to remove all the landscape stone from the inside, see if I can get the ground level underneath the wood, start filling it with roughly a 50/50 mix of garden soil and compost, and then constructing the net. Some may think the net is unnecessary, but I don't want my veggie garden serving as a litter box for the neighbor's cat like it was last winter. Finally, if possible, I'd like to scavenge some earthworms I found in the back yard and add them to the mix.

At the end of this season, I will move the two existing 3'x3' beds to the lower tier and consider putting some berry plants in them (my attempt with raspberry failed miserably this year, as I couldn't get the bare-root plants to take to the pots). I have heard it is best to keep fruits and vegetables separate.

I preparation for the new expanded garden, I bought new seeds. In the spring, I will be adding corn, snap peas, green onion, watermelon, spinach, and celery. This fall, I will be planting garlic.

September 15, 2011

Rain Delay

In New Mexico, we have five seasons. Winter, spring, fire, monsoon, and autumn. I live in the mountains at 7300ft altitute, so we actually get a reasonable amount of snow during the winter. In spring, we get very little precipitation for months. Everything dries out. This is fire season, when wildfires are common. This past year, we got so little snow things dried out even more and earlier than usual. There were no fewer than eight wildfires state-wide at one time being tracked by the media, and who knows how many smaller ones.

And then, sometime in July, the skies open up. We get rain nearly every afternoon. Sometimes for only a few minutes, sometimes for half a day. During August, the forecast is 85 degrees with a 30-40% chance of rain. Every day. You can imagine the moisture roller coaster plants around here put up with. This is why it is very important to me to plant only native plants if at all possible. They can already deal with it.

This is where we are now. While the thunderstorms are more common in the afternoon, it does occasionally rain in the morning or during the night. Last week was a great week for working outside. It is starting to get cooler, 60s and 70s. With two small kids, I can only do yardwork while the older is in preschool and the younger is napping, which limits me to an hour and a half three times a week. (Yes, I tried letting my preschooler "help," but with the stone wall I'm working on it is way too risky for broken ankles. She does like to help in the vegetable garden, though.) Nevertheless, I managed to finish that first wall in a week. I really, really wanted to have the second one done this week, but it has been raining the last three mornings in a row. This is great for the plants and all, but not so much for digging in the dirt and lugging rocks around. However, it will be good to see if the first wall will hold up to the water, especially where I back-filled it.

My plan is to get these last two walls in place before winter sets in, or it gets too cold to work outside.