Posts Tagged Gardening in the Desert Southwest

Planting Season

As usual per this time of year, I have been outside planting and doing general cleanup activities. Unfortunately, I am not completely finished. Mostly, because I can’t decide if my broccoli is finished producing this season and whether to pull it out or not and I still have plenty of carrots left and am not ready to pull them up yet as I still have a bunch in the fridge. My husband is rooting for the snow peas to go, as he is very tired of them in everything we have been cooking.

We have had so many rainy days along with a little colder weather than we are used to, that the asparagus have been slow to come up this year and are just now coming into their full season. I am planning to try a new recipe for an asparagus frittata that I found in the newest issue of “Hobby Farm Home”. The strawberries are tasting rather delicious. I haven’t ever planted them and had them do well, so I have been so pleasantly surprised to see that happening. I am really loving this SFG thing! Out here we have such clay soil that with the SFG you don’t have to worry about that and it is amazing what you can grow.

Speaking of that, a few posts ago I mentioned that I was trying an experiment in growing celery. Well, unbelievably, the celery is almost ready. So funny that it actually worked. It is still rather small compared to full grown celery, but I am impressed. It looks like if you plant it from seed in October, it will actually grow all winter and do well.

I have plans to spend the afternoon out finishing up some cleanup projects outside and putting up a frame for a support for the Bayberry and Blackberry plants that I finally got planted on the north side of my house.

Happy planting!


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Winter Storm Cleanup in the Garden

For the last couple of weeks we have had some pretty constant days of rain and blowing wind. The garden looks terrible. Leaves are everywhere, and weeds are starting to show their ugly faces. So, with Saturday afternoon came some nicer weather and I decided to try to tackle some long overdue garden chores. I mainly worked on the grape vines which needed to be pruned back and the leaves raked and put into the compost bin. That took a little bit of time. I debated on saving the vines and wrapping them into a wreath, but in the end, they ended up in the garden waste pile.

I have been thinking vaguely about purchasing a wood chipper, but I am not sure I will have enough use for it to justify buying one. And, my husband, wasn’t too keen on the idea when I mentioned it in passing one day.

The peas, which are “Mammoth Melting” variety, are huge. I haven’t really had them get so big that they are tumbling over the supports. I put up some small supports because I usually don’t have them grow over about 4 feet. These vines are probably pushing 6 feet right now. I am just starting to get some snow peas off them, and they are very fresh and lovely.

As you can barely see in the bottom of the picture, the broccoli is ready for picking. We have oodles of broccoli right now, which my family does really like, so that is good. Out of the garden, for some reason, I have decided it tastes so much more tender. Yum!

My bell pepper plants really suffered this past month, because for a couple of days we actually had freezing temps. I know! Can you believe it? Anyway, I forgot to cover them and they just look pathetic. I am trying to decide whether to pull them out or not. If you look closely, you can just make out some new leaves that are popping out.

Bell Pepper - frozen back

Be that as it may, I am starting some others from seed inside under a grow light. YAY! I got myself a grow light! I wanted one for my birthday, but my husband said that if I did, the government would track it and come to check that I wasn’t growing marijuana! Right! So, I purchased one for myself a couple of weeks ago.

New seedlings under grow light on kitchen counter

It is actually working wonderfully. I just put a couple of hooks under the cabinet and suspended it from them with some wire. I leave it on for about 14 hours a day, and after 1 week they were already getting their second leaves. So exciting. I am trying to grow enough extras for my mom and father-in-law also. One day at a time. The only downside to having this light right in my kitchen is that my husband says he needs to wear sunglasses to watch TV because it is too bright on his poor little eyes. 🙂

Above you can see on the right, one of my brussel sprout plants that I started from seed back in Oct. On the left, the little seedlings are celery. I am trying that as an experiment. I am not too sure they are going to have enough time to grow before it gets too warm. We will see. They are definately slow growers!

My father-in-law is just putting up an awesome chicken coop. Here is a picture of it. It isn’t quite finished yet, but when it is, it will be really great. He has about 38 chickens which include 8 babies. On Saturday, we found 2 more hens roosting. I love to see those babies following after the mothers scratching for bugs.

New chicken coop

Baby chicks

This one is a rooster.

I am hopefully getting a couple of new hens today from a friend of mine. We had one of ours die a couple of weeks ago and now we have 4 hens. I am not quite sure what happened. It is possible she was egg bound because she had not yet started laying and was due any time to begin. I went out there and she was just dead. So sad. I really hate that, but it is part of having animals. My son always has a hard time.

Other random things happening in the garden right now:

– strawberry plants are starting to set fruit

-lots of carrots (By the way, I had planted some carrots of the variety “Tonda di Parigi” which are small round carrots similar looking to a radish. They are a little sweeter and very good raw. Interesting to taste the difference when compared to a regular baby carrot – “Little Finger” variety.)

-some tomatoes are starting to ripen and for some reason the starter plants that I purchased from the local garden center were labeled wrong and I have 3 cherry tomato plants. (Although, there is no where near the amount that I get in the spring/summer, even with a greenhouse type effect of growing them.)

-the eggplant are still producing the dreaded eggplant. I am definately pulling them out in a couple of weeks. I have just left them really because the little sparrows sit inside the plants and I feel sorry for them.

Happy Gardening!

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Starting to get ready…(this post should have been posted on July 18)

Tomato Hornworm

Tomato Hornworm

So, I remember myself saying that,thank heavens I haven’t had any tomato hornworms, and lo and behold, what do I see staring right back into my face? You guessed it! The dreaded hornworm! I really could only find one, but it had made a great meal of the tomato plants so out the tomato plants have come. Unfortunatly, most of the heat had done them in.

So, out with the old, in with the new! It’s time to get ready for fall. YAY! My little tomato starts had to be restarted so they are about 10 days old right now, and looking good. All but 2 have sprouted. Which is a pretty great percentage, all in all. I hope to have some nice plants for next month. We shall see. I keep rotating them in the south facing window and in the mornings I put them out on the back patio. So they seem to be doing fine,with that.

Last year, in the winter, I decided to start some plants early, because I really had the spring planting bug, and all the plants sprouted, did fine, and looked wonderful. For about a month. Then, they all started wilting and dying. I discovered that they actually need some air blowing over them, like they would if they were outside, because otherwise they get wilt. Interesting.

Melon growing up a trellis.

Melon growing up a trellis.

The melons (canteloupe and watermelon) are really going to town right now! Love it! I discovered last year if I could just hold them through the squash bugs and the heat, that in late July early August, they would really take off. And that has held true this year again. So, my advice, when they look like they can’t hack it anymore, baby them along, and they will reward your efforts with more melons! Awesome little plants. I have a variety of melons out there right now. And the melon in the picture above just got picked yesterday. Tasted wonderful, too.



These new little zucchini plants are doing fine. And just when I was congratulating myself on gettng all those dreaded squash bugs, what do I find infesting one of my little plants? More of them. I am telling you, these things are everywhere. I just keep picking them off and putting them in my little jar and this does seem to be a good way of killing them, but not preventing them. How about a magic wand?

I used my first compost the other day in the old tomato bed. I pulled out some new compost from the bottom and integrated it into the bed. I think that bed needs some calcium. A few of the tomatoes had blossom end rot, which I think means the soil needs some calcium. That compost had some egg shells in it, so hopefully that will help.

 According to Mary Irish, in her book, “Gardeing in the Desert Southwest, you can plant fast maturing corn right now. So, that is what went into the old tomato bed. I haven’t really had much luck with corn fertilizing very well, eve though they are planted 4 across, 12 long. That should be sufficient according to all the literature I have read. I will let you know how it turns out. They are all just sprouting right now. I love to see those little plants poking themself up out of the dirt. I love to go out and count how many have come up since yesterday.

Last week I FINALLY got my automatic watering system put in. It works fabulous, except I need to adjust the length of time, I think. It’s only watering about 1 inch depth, instead of 2-3. But it does save me about an hour a day. Which is great, if you ask me.

With the kids back in school, and the weather not quite as hot, I am finding myelf thinking about what I will plant in October. Time to plan…

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