What’s up in the garden!

I’ve been busy in the garden. Which is why I haven’t written lately. Hard to write when so many things need to get done. Here’s the latest update.

WEATHER: How about this crazy weather? Hot, cold, hot. Go figure! That’s how it is this time of year. It actually hailed 6 inches last Saturday between Harry’s Roadhouse restaurant and Seton Village Drive on Old Las Vegas Highway-a very small section of land. Drove through it right after it happened-would not have want to been in that one. Luckily we didn’t get much hail at the farm-thank you universe! Just missed us. One friend of mine was not so lucky and all her veggies got wiped out. Now it is getting warm again.

HARVESTING: Still harvesting lettuces and spinach. In fact I picked almost all the spinach as it will bolt soon with the warmer weather and the lettuce will also bolt soon, so much of that is picked too. The old kale is done now. The new kale ready to go in. The rhubarb is fantastic with many stalks ready to pick. I feel a strawberry-rhubarb gallette coming soon!

PLANTING: The main garden is about half weeded-Ugh! But the beds are all cleaned up and ready for all the tomatoes that will be planted next Wednesday. Now I just have to finish weeding the pathways.

DRIP SYSTEMS: The drip systems are now up and running. I hate it when they act up. Sometimes it takes 2-3 days to get everything going and not leaking. Feels great when it’s done. I can’t believe it went as smoothly as it did this year.

GIANT PUMPKINS: My first giant pumpkin was planted today at my friend, Deborah’s house. Hope it does well out there! Still have 3 more to plant next week here in my garden plus I have some giant long gourds and 2 giant zucchini (marrows) to put in. I’ve had trouble the last 3 years with getting any of my giant pumpkins successfully grown. Hopefully one of the pumpkins will do well this year. I have a plan!

DEER!: We had some deer come and eat all the Orach (which is ok) and half of one of my grape plants (which is NOT ok). Ate the leaves and the flowers of what woulda been future grapes. I covered the rest up with row cover. Hopefully they will not explore and find the plants. There is not much in the main garden to eat so hopefully they will move on. Luckily they did not eat the garlic plants!

MORE PLANTING: The peppers and eggplants starts will be planted the first week of June and the seeds of other warm season crops will go in next week too.

Busy time of year! Phew!

 

Reflections on the gardening year

winter veg garden

Here is the veggie garden in winter-now asleep

Happy Solstice! Yea-the days get longer now-and here it is the end of the year. As I look at winter, the first two months of winter-November-December are done and only two more months of winter (January-February) to endure. Then its early spring and off to the races! But let’s slow things down a bit. December is a great month to reflect on the gardening season and look at what worked and what didn’t work in the garden during the past year and what I might do differently.

So what worked and what didn’t?

-I only lost 10% of my tomato crops vs. last year’s 50 % tomato crop loss to the dreaded beet leafhopper.  I covered almost all of my tomato plants with row cover from May 15th until the first week of July. The leafhopper leaves when the rainy season comes and this year they hung out till the beginning if July when it started raining. -The downside of this is I really don’t like NOT SEEING my plants hiding under the row cover-I like watching them grow, but that seems to be a tradeoff. Also I want to try to transplant my tomatoes outside earlier than May 15th to try to get tomatoes earlier.

IMG_3363

-Rotating my crops seem to help with diseases. I have everything on a three-year rotation, which is why I made an additional 1000 sq ft section last year, giving me a total of (3) 1000 ft sections.  I move the crops around so they only return to the same section every 3 years. The pumpkins use to have their own additional section in the horse corral but now that I have a horse (Koko), I will put them into the rotation in the main veggie garden since the corral has been reclaimed by Koko.

-Speaking of pumpkins, I need to find a way to keep critters from eating them although it was almost impossiblerabbit damage to keep the rabbits away early in the season when food was hard to find for them-even with 2 fences and row cover over the pumpkins, something ate my prized potential pumpkin plant, so I’ll be thinking on that one a lot more this winter. Plus I want to get the plants outside earlier too if I’m to have a chance to break the state record again…

-I covered my eggplants with row cover for a while this year thereby avoiding the first hail storm’s devastating damage. That first hail storm set back many of my vegetables due to the severe damage by about a month. The downside was aphids found the eggplants underneath the row cover and it was a battle to get rid of them. The aphids also went after the summer squash and peppers with all the rain we got. I controlled them with strong sprays of water on them and insecticidal soap. Also lady bugs appeared and came to the rescue eating many aphids (and I didn’t have to buy them). I think I need to remove the row cover earlier.

The almost finished greenhouse was unbelievably hot last summer-110°F. Too hot to grow anything which was ok as it wasn’t ready anyways. So after I work to button it up this winter, I will have to find ways to cool it down next summer. Still, I have a greenhouse! I’ll take the challenges it will present.

swiss chard hail damage-I have to say I enjoyed all the rain we got after 4 years of an extreme drought. The fruit trees loved all the rain but 2 more hail storms almost wiped out the vegetable crops especially the chard and squash. It was amazing anything survived plus the one week of rain that we got-about 3 inches-watered down the flavor of the tomatoes for about 2 weeks but then they bounced back.

Most of the problems came from Mother Nature and there is not much one can do about her-she does what she wants and we need to adjust. We always think we have everything in control and then wham! She does a number on us!

-I will grow more tomato plants and other veggies to sell at the Farmer’s Market as many people seemed excited to try some of the different varieties I grow. To this effect, I think the greenhouse will be great asset this spring.

So now I will be going over all the catalogs that are coming in and start to plan the veggie garden for 2014.

Happy Holidays!

10 Things to Do in January

Now that the gardening season has slowed down to a snails’ crawl, put your feet up by the fireplace, drink a hot mug of chocolate and relax! You deserve it! But for those of us who like to stay busy, here are 10 things gardeners can do in January.

1. Reflect on what you did in the garden last year-what worked, what didn’t and what you might do differently this year.

2. Get those new seed catalogs and start planning next season’s garden.

3. On a warm day tidy up your garden shed or tool area.

4. Sharpen and oil tools. Sand rough handles and oil them too.

5. Sort and organize seeds you’ve collected and older seed packets/ Get new seeds for packets over 3 years old.

6. Catch up on all the gardening magazines you have lying around.

7. If we get snow, shovel it off the pathways and put on your trees nearby-they will love the extra moisture.

8. If we don’t get snow, water your garden on a warm day.

9. Empty the hoses out so they will be ready for the next watering.

10. Prune and shape fruit trees-cut off those waterspouts now that the trees are sleeping.

And don’t forget to feed and give water to the birds.
Can you think of more things?  I’m sure I’ve missed many things we could do and would enjoy hearing what you will be doing this January.

Cosmic Atomic Carrot Soup

Check out the color in this carrot soup!

Check out the color in this carrot soup!

If you haven’t had carrot soup before, this is really good. I’m not a huge carrot eater but went back for seconds with this soup! It is made with Cosmic Purple carrots and Atomic Red carrots (hence the name) but can be made with any other variety of carrot as well.

Cosmic Atomic Carrot Soup

1 large onion

½ lb. Russet potatoes

½ stick butter

1½-2 lbs fresh carrots, cleaned and sliced

6-8 cups veggie or chicken broth

1 cup cream (or half and half)

salt/pepper to taste

honey (to taste) – tablespoon+

Saute onions in butter on medium heat in a SOUP POT till tender. That way you can just add the other ingredients without using more pots. Add carrots, potatoes and broth and cook till they are fork tender. Pour into a blender and blend till smooth. You will have to do it in batches. You could use a ‘wand’ but I find the blender purees it better and it should be silky smooth. Pour it back into the soup pot. Add honey to taste to just bring out the sweetness of the carrots and stir in well. Taste. Add more honey if needed.  Stir in cream. Reheat till warm but do not boil. Delicious!

Catch Up in the Veggie Garden

I can’t believe I haven’t posted in almost a month! Not like me! But I have an excuse-I’ve been headless with the final harvesting of giant pumpkins, tomatoes, harvesting the rest of the veggie garden, being ‘The Tomato Lady’ selling tomatoes at the Santa Fe Farmers Market AND planting the fall garden. What’s that you say? Planting a fall garden? Am I not burned out yet of the season? Well almost, but I know I will crave something green in Dec-Jan so I sucked it up and planted some greens in my cold frame. They are already looking so pretty and green. So now that it has gotten cold at night and the garden has been put to sleep (I disconnected the drip systems), I will catch you up on what’s been happening in the garden in the next few posts and what to do with all that produce!

Giant Green Squash-‘Greenies’-all over 100 lbs now..

This is my first year of growing ‘greenies’ which are basically giant green squash the shape of pumpkins. I really like this plant. It is huge, by far the taking up the most space in the pumpkin patch. The leaves come up mid thigh to me and they have basically been very easy to grow. I have three good sized greenies that are taking off right now, all well over 100 lbs so far. One will go to the NM State Fair next week and the other two will duke it out to see who will be the heaviest for the Great Pumpkin Commonwealth weigh-off in Colorado. They all have names now. Meet the ‘greenies’!

Here is ‘Jabba the Hut’ named because it’s belly button is tilted more on top instead of on the side like the others and it is very lumpy. I like it’s shape! It is growing the fastest and is the largest at 118 lbs last Sunday.

Here is ‘Kyrptonite’. It has that classic perfect pumpkin shape with it’s belly button in the normal position on the side. It was 111lbs last Sunday.

Last is ‘The Hulk’, who is also growing in a weird shape as seen in the second picture below. It was 100 lbs last Sunday. I probably will take it to the NM State Fair next week.

Growing gourds- Giant Long gourd plants growing wild

Long gourds grow over the top

Fuzzy little long gourd baby-4 inches long

The long gourd plants are really taking off. They are now over the top of the gourd trellis or tower as I like to call it and filling in. They seem to like the heat, humidity and extra moisture we’ve been getting lately-in fact all the gourds have gone bonkers.  Caleb is coming over today and after we check the bees, we are going to reinforce the top of the tower they are growing on as I hear they get extremely heavy as they get longer. They already have some babies growing but not on top where I want them. If they get big enough this month I will put those smaller ones in the State Fair at the end of the month.

I read and heard from a fellow gardener at the SF Farmers Market that gourds are pollinated by night pollinators like night moths. I’ve never seen a honeybee interested in them. We must have some night pollinators here as I have some baby fruit growing on them.

Mystery gourd (I don't know what type it is)

This little pear gourd came from an 89 lb giant pear gourd

I’m growing three types of gourds this year-giant long gourd, giant pear gourd and a mystery gourd (not sure what type it is but looks like a small pear). All the gourd seeds were extremely hard (at least for me) to germinate-they took forever to come up and some I had to plant twice, but once they came up and I put them in the garden, they have been easy keepers and give a certain lushness to the garden without lots of water. They are part of the Curcubita genus which includes, pumpkins, squash and cucumbers. I bet you didn’t know pumpkins and squash are part of the gourd family did you?

So far none of the gourds seem to attract bugs-like the squash bug, perhaps because of their scent when you handle the leaves. They are kinda stinky but not too bad. But like I said, they are beautiful to look at and the leaves and small furry fruits are fantastic. Both are really soft to the touch, like suede, unlike pumpkins or squash whose leaves are rough. They also have beautiful delicate flowers. I’m really enjoying them so far.

Mystery gourd flowers