First REAL winter storm Nov 16

winter storm_ Nov 2015a

Sure we had some light snow on November 6th but it only lasted a couple of hours and promptly melted off but it still felt like fall. This Monday November 16th we returned a day early from the San Juan River fishing trip because of a storm coming in. Didn’t want to be caught hauling an RV trailer on icy roads. Good thing we did as it turns out we had our first major snow and now it feels like winter. This pic was taken about 4 pm on Monday after coming home. We got about 5 inches total by Tuesday morning. Yikes! The garden is dead but isn’t out yet. I have to get it out soon before the ground freezes!

Final Clean Up in the Garden

Nick unloading manure

I’ve now cleaned out most of the beds except where the gourds are, the kale bed and the 2 perennials in the garden.

gourds in wheelbarrow

The gourds are drying nicely and I picked some of them this week. These are African Bushel Gourds.

rhubarb in dec

The 2 perennial plants in the garden have gone to sleep-the rhubarb and the strawberries. I will cover the rhubarb crowns shown above with straw (they look dead but they are not).

strawberrys in Dec

I will put row cover over these strawberry plants as I don’t like raking out straw from the strawberries in the spring-too much work. It is much easier to just uncover them. Look how the leaves turned red.

Since the kale is still alive, it is covered with row cover for now. I expect it to die too once we get really cold at night again.

nick closeup

My friend Nick and myself put 2 huge trailer loads of horse manure on all the beds after we cleaned them out of the dead plants  in November.

beds finished

Then we lightly turned the manure over in the soil to add more organic matter to the soil as shown above. This will break down over the winter and be ready to plant by spring. Yea! Because of him I actually got all the fall clean up done! Finally the garden can go to sleep and maybe me!

Fall garden clean up-slow and easy

Nov tomatoes

Fall is a wonderful time of the year. The pace slows down for us gardeners. The perennial plants are looking sleepy now as am I, ready for our winter slumber. I want to prune the plants as they are shaggy but don’t dare as pruning now could kill them with these cold nights.

Just about everything is done. The outside beds have been cleaned up and I only have a few more beds to put horse manure in. I cut the smaller sunflower heads (with all their seeds) and laid them on the ground for the birds – they’re  crazy for them. I just planted garlic before the cold snap and watered it and covered with straw for the winter so it will get a head start before next spring. The herbs will get compost and straw over them to help see them through the winter. I’ve built 2 big compost piles that are hot (140-150°F) that should be ready by next month but will be saved till next spring for the beds. I still have some gourds left in the field, hoping they dry ok. Gourds are always iffy about drying properly especially with our winters, at least for me. I’m waiting for them to get lighter (in weight) before I take them out.  And most important, the plants and trees have been watered since I turned off the drip systems. All this sounds like a lot and it is, but I have the luxury of taking my time now.

The only tomato plants left were in the greenhouse and froze this last week with the 13°F nights. I had finished buttoning up the greenhouse before the arctic cold blast hit but it still killed the rest of the tomatoes as the greenhouse is not heated. I’ve already planted cold hardy lettuces in there which I can harvest in December and they made it through the cold blast with some winter weight row cover over them. I put a coffee pot in the greenhouse for me when I tinker in there. Perfect! The greenhouse will be very warm in the daytime and pretty cold in the nights which is always a challenge with unheated greenhouses in winters.

The goats, horse and chicken water heaters have been turned on and fixed after discovering one of the heaters was not working. The old chickens get a heat lamp to keep them warm at night. The bees have been readied for winter. The barn cats which never came in the house last year are now coming in the house at night which is such a relief. We are ready for winter here at the little farm. Can’t wait to read a good book by the fireplace when it’s cold outside.

And lookee! I still have tomatoes in the house and here it is-Nov 15th! I will relish each one now as I won’t be getting any homegrown for a long time!

 

Saving water in your vegetable garden

polymer crystals2Saving water is so important now in our high desert especially with the drought. Last year I read an article on a company who created oasis in the Saudi Arabia deserts where they get less water than us. I noticed the main ingredients used were polymer crystals and a volcangenic sedimentary mineral (volcanic ash) called Zeolite, both of which absorb water and hold it and nutrients close to the root systems where the plant can use both as needed. I didn’t buy any of the company’s product because they had chemical fertilizers in it but instead experimented on my own with those 2 ingredients and adding my own organic fertilizers/amendments. It doesn’t take a lot of these 2 ingredients.  The brand of  Zeolite I got is called Zeomax Garden Aidzeomax_gardenaidbag and both that and the polymer crystals came from Amazon.com. The results were amazing.

Some of you may know that I expanded my garden last year by 1000 square feet going from 2000 sq ft to 3000 sq ft in my main garden. I put about a tablespoon of both ingredients along with my usual yum-yum mix, compost and other stuff I put in the bottom of each hole for my tomatoes. Then I mixed it up well and planted the transplant on top of the amended soil in the bottom of the hole. All of my garden is on a drip system.

I expected my water bill to go up substantially. Amazingly there was no increase in my water bills from the previous year-a savings of about 33%  (since I had increased the garden by  1/3 its size or 1000 sq ft) and I only used them on 50 transplanted tomatoes in a brand new raw garden that hasn’t been that heavily amended yet (better amended soil =better water retention). This year I’m going to use them on everything I grow. For seeds I plant, I’m going to dig a trough and amend the soil with both of these items, sprinkling it in and plant the seeds on top of it in hopes of saving more water. You can get polymer crystals at Payne’s Nurseries here in town if in a pinch but they are expensive locally and I could not find Zeomax at all locally. Amazon cost less and if you plan ahead before planting this year, I believe you could save some substantial money in your water bill and cut down on your water usage. You can also dig holes around your new plant or an established plant and mix these two ingredients with some dirt and put it back in around the plant being careful around the roots if you already planted.

Soil Testing For Your Garden

Gardeners should consider getting their soil tested to see where their soil is at-if it has adequate organic matter, what the Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium levels are at, what the pH is of their soil, how high the salt content is, and calcium, sulpher, iron, magnesium levels and much more. The problem is we use to be able to give soil samples to our county extension agent and he would send it off to the state lab for analysis but that service is no longer available to us here in New Mexico. You can still get a soil analysis done but will have to send it away.

I like A & L Labs in California and have used them before. It was well worth it as I found out a lot about my soil. The first time I submitted samples and the form, I had someone walk me through it as it seems complicated but is not. So here’s how to submit your soil samples to A & L labs. This one is in California but there is another one back east if you like. They offer many different kinds of tests but you only need a soil test.

1. Go to their site http://www.al-labs-west.com/

2. Click on ‘Analytical Services’ . They have many different services but you want the  ‘Soil Analysis’ section.

3. Click on ‘Sampling’ to see how to collect the soil specimens. Follow their procedures and send the samples (I put mine in a big ziploc baggie) to the address listed along at the bottom of the ‘Sampling’ section with the money $35.00. The price may seem a little steep but when you consider how much money we spend on gardening, it is not a lot to find out about your soil.

soil analysis report

SAMPLE-Soil Analysis Report-say what??! I didn’t understand this!

Graphical Soil Analysis Report

SAMPLE-Graphical Soil Analysis Report-I can understand this much better!

4. Then go back and look at ‘Example Reports’. See examples above. I got the ‘Standard Soil Report’ and be sure to get the ‘Graphical Soil Report’I didn’t understand everything in the standard soil test but you have to get it to get the graphical soil test which is easy to read and understand.

Scan

5, Next print out the ‘Submittal Form’ and fill it out.  See example above. Put what crops you are growing and other information they ask for. I just put in general vegetables. Check off  SC3 report (complete analysis-$35.00) and check off Graphical Soil Report-additional-$1.00. (The ‘soil analysis fees’ are in the blue column on the left side of the web page if you are wondering where I got these)

6. Mail soil samples, money and form back to them. Be sure to check off email return on the form as you will get it sooner than snail mail. It takes about a week to get the results after they receive it.

New vegetable garden section update

Here is a picture of the new vegetable garden section this morning after a dusting of snow. It is now fenced completely except for the 2 gates, one of which was created today but still needs to be hung. All the raised beds are done.

My friend Adam, has been helping me and boy what a help he is! Quite the worker bee! He came out the other day and finished creating the beds except for one area that has a giant rock in it.  I swear  this rock keeps the whole neighborhood from sinking! So we let it remain (like we could dig it out-ha!) and will make an area with a bird bath and flowers to show it off.

The new garden has gone through an amazing transformation since I cleared the land last fall. I still have to put the horse manure in the new beds. It’s been a lot of work but is coming along nicely and should be ready by tomato planting time.

So many things to do for the vegetable garden in March!

Time to Get Busy!!

March is an incredibly busy month for gardeners. So many things to do (or should do) that it makes my head swim. New garden sections to make, ordering my final seeds, starting seeds inside, starting seeds outside, transplanting seedlings, amending the beds-the list goes on and on and I love it! Soon my hands will be brown again from digging in the dirt. No wonder I liked to play in the dirt when I was a little kid!

Next I will complete the new beds, finish the area around the new garden, make two gates for the new garden section to keep the rabbits out. Then I will put horse manure as a soil amendment on all the beds both new and old. My trailer was so full, my Forerunner could barely pull it. I bet I have about 2000 lbs of poop in it!  The stuff I got is still a little hot (oh really? the manure was a little steamy when it was loaded!) but will cool down over the next 2 months before I plant tomatoes. I’ll use my really aged (6 months or more) horse manure, aged chicken manure and compost for the potatoes and fava beans that will go in the old section later this month. The vegetables I plant in May will get this newer ‘aged’ manure as it will have time to decompose and cool down.

I’ve decided to put the greenhouse on the back burner until the garden is in and then have it ready for fall which makes more sense anyways as it will be hot in June.