Rocks, Rocks, Rocks..

 I live on a rock. No, not in a rock but on a rock!

Creating the new garden area out here is tough. There are tons (literally) of rocks on the property. I’ve known this for some time from all my other outdoor projects. I guess I forgot.  And I’m not getting any younger either (I keep saying that a lot lately). I swear these 2 projects will be my last ground breaking ones. (Remind me of that next year).

Project number one is the greenhouse which is on hold for a few days now that I bonked my nose and we are in February.

Project number two is what I want to talk about today. The new vegetable garden addition. Why am I putting in MORE garden you say? Isn’t 2000 sq ft enough? Apparently not. The truth is I need to put my tomato plants on a 3 year rotation to help prevent diseases and I’ve used up the whole garden the last two years. So I’m adding 890 sq ft more. That will handle the third year (this year) in the rotation.

First I cleared the land last October with that Bobcat I rented. Thank god I had a Bobcat. Here is a picture of it then AFTER I scraped the ground of cactus and rocks.  Look at all the lovely raw ground! LOL!  The green t-post in the right side of the picture is…

the same t-post in the right side of this picture. Now it is starting to come along a little. I rototilled it in November to loosen up the soil  (if possible) and kick out many rocks. I think I’ll make an Andy Goldsworthy style of rock sculpture from all the rocks I will have taken out when I’m done. Today I put part of some fencing up after I raked up a ton of dirt and dragged it into what will be the garden area. I had to quit because it got sooo cold. I thought it was suppose to be 53°F today. Liars! It was 27°F at 4:45 pm. Notice all the rocks on the outside of the fence! Now I know how the pioneers must have felt breaking ground… I’ll have to update you with more pictures later when I can get out and do more work on it.

New vegetables I will try in 2012

I’m starting to make my list of what to grow 2012. Every year I refine my vegetable list to exclude ones that didn’t work out or I didn’t like and try some new ones. I’m keeping many of my varieties that I normally have but here are some new things I want to try: tomatillos, Atomic red carrots,  Di Firenze fennel, Argentata chard, Jerusalem artichokes, and a really ugly french beet called ‘Rouge Crapaudine’ that is supposed to be divinely sweet (the seeds come from France).  Some new tomatoes I want to try are: Southern Nights, Carbon, Woodle Orange, Flamme, Lollipop and Cour Di Bue. Oh yea, I want some small fingerling potatoes (I’m not sure of which type). I’m still looking for a good catalog for great potatoes-not just your ordinary potatoes. Anyone know of one?

My Future Veggie Garden (can ya see it!?)

MY FUTURE GARDEN-CAN YA SEE IT!??(click picture to see bigger)

Well, I told everyone on my blog and in the Master Gardening classes about Arrow Ranch’s free horse manure here in Santa Fe that they load for free  and when I went to get some, they were all out! So I had to scrounge around to find some OLD manure and finally did in Eldorado horse stables. Went and got 2 trailer loads full and got it all dug in main veggie garden except for 3 small beds that I will finish up this week. I will hook up the drip system and make sure it is working also this week. Here is a picture with what will be! Not much now but just you wait!

We’ve been having some great weather, but this week it’s suppose to get cold at night again so I think unless the weather changes, I will wait till next week to plant tomatoes. Now all I got to do is wait for good weather…

10 things to Do in April in the Garden

Here are 10 things we can do in our gardens this month.  As the season commences, we will get busier and busier which means I’ll be posting at night when it is dark and I can’t be out in the garden! (oh yea-I work too).

1. It isn’t too late to get a soil test to see what amendments you will need for this year. I just sent mine out last week.

2. Time to add AGED horse manure (at least 4 months old) to your beds and dig it in. Don’t use hot manure-it is too late for that. Use hot in the fall so it has time to cool off and break down. Every year I add more and the soil gets richer and richer. Our soil is so crappy that we need to enrich it for veggies. If you can’t find any old, aged horse manure, then buy some compost in bags from your local nursery and dig it in.

3. Finish cleaning out your garden and trimming perennials if you haven’t already.

4. Make some LARGE TOMATO CAGES. I use concrete reinforcement wire because it has 6 inch square holes to get you hand through to pick tomatoes and it is 5 feet tall. Go in with someone to buy a roll if you don’t need too many cages.

5. Transplant your little tomatoes that some of you are growing into the next larger size and give them light.

6. Check your drip systems and timers to make sure they are in good working order BUT do not keep them attached yet because we still can get freezing nights. If you don’t have a drip system, look into doing one. I use the store, Firebird here in Santa Fe to get parts and their expertise on the subjects. It’s not hard to do and really saves on the water and your time.

7. Start adding to your compost pile again. Heat it up. Turn it over. Use HOT MANURE to heat it up or powdered blood meal which is high in nitrogen. I don’t compost in winter because it is too hard for me to keep hot but it is a good time to start one now..

8. Put CORN GLUTEN down in your veggie garden paths. It is a PRE-EMERGENT for controlling weed seeds and is ORGANIC. You can order it from The Feed Bin here in Santa Fe. BUT if your weeds are up already, it acts as a fertilizer. (It is very high in nitrogen and that is why it burns the seedlings but will also feed weeds that get established). Don’t put in veggie beds where you will be planting any seeds as it will burn any seeds

9. Now you can plant carrots, shallots, beets, lettuces, spinach, all greens, onions, and garlic OUTSIDE. I will still use some row cover to protect them at night.

10. Speaking of ROW COVER, now is the time to get some from our local nurseries. MOST of them carry it (but not Home Depot or Lowes-no big box stores). The nurseries usually sell out. I would get some heavy weight for now and a lighter weight for summer or get the lighter weight and double it up for now. You can also order it online. Just google: row cover.

That’s it-Get busy!

Bees!

Yea! Here is Caleb's top bar hive this morning

For 2 years I’ve been waiting for one of my beekeeping friends to bring over one of their hives but no one had any extra bees or top bar hive to bring. I’ve wanted bees to help with pollination in my veggie garden and thought what a great relationship that would bee. My friends get space to put their hive and I get pollinators.  I promise not to use chemicals that will harm the bees and will give them water. I didn’t think I would be interested in bees that much. I don’t want to take care of more things. I’m already overloaded. I just want pollinators and they can do the beekeeping thing. But still, I’ve wanted them.

closeup top bar hive this morning

So last week I was ecstatic when Caleb, a friend of mine, told me he would move his hive here to the garden area. Finally. Yea! I’ve been waiting with great excitement all week for him to come not quite knowing what to expect. Caleb is a 3 year beekeeper and I can tell by the way he talks about his bees that he’s good and he cares about them. Yea, like children-all 10,000 of them! (the hive will grow to around 50,000 this summer)

Yesterday afternoon he came over and scoped out the property to see where he wanted to keep his bees. He picked out a lovely site that was nestled in some trees facing southeast (that is the direction they want to fly out in the morning) plus they will get protection from the hot west sun and wind this summer. They would be within 50 feet of the vegetable garden. Excellent! He decided to put the top bar hive up on a stand he built. He dug a hole at the site and buried his stand so the top bar hive won’t blow away during our high wind periods. Then we had dinner and off he went to pick up his bees at sunset after they came home to the hive.

water for bees

While he was gone, I brought down a bowl of water and put some twigs halfway in it so the bees can walk down the twigs to get to the water. Caleb said you have to move bees at night because when they come out in the morning they will have to recalibrate their internal GPS so they can find the hive again by the end of day. He came back an hour after dark and he had the top bar hive with the bees inside covered with a towel in the back of his truck. They were upset about the bumpy ride on our dirt road. How do we know? Because they were LOUD! They were humming loudly and sounded upset-no actually they sounded pissed. Glad the towel was covering the hive. So he let them settled down and once they were quiet he picked up the box and with flashlights we took them to their new place.  After we got there and Caleb attached the top bar to the stand, a few bees came out just inside their entry hole to check it out but they stayed in. Wonder what the neighbors thought last night with us walking all over the property with flashlights carrying a coffinlike box! I’ll have to show them the bees!

First bee out on top of top bar hive exploring it's new surroundings

This morning was cold (about 38°F) so only a few of the bees came out to explore. While I’m working, they will come out when it is warmer. I hope they like their new property!

Later today, Caleb will come back and put up some plywood to protect the hive from rain (hah! fat chance of that) and he needs to put on their ‘porch’ that they like to land on when entering or leaving the hive. I wonder if bees have an air traffic controller for take offs and landings?! Perhaps they do have an air traffic controller. Perhaps our traffic controllers could learn a thing or two from their traffic controllers. I can see this is gonna be fun! I’m learning a lot from Caleb. Bees are fascinating creatures with an incredibly structured society. Caleb said they can follow the sun even when it is on the other side of the earth with their GPS-how cool is that?! Looks like I’m going to need a bee hood soon to learn more..

‘The Vegetable Gardener’s BIBLE’ by Ed Smith

The Vegetable Gardener's Bible by Edward C. Smith

The name ‘The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible’ is really appropriate as this is truly the bible for vegetable gardeners. My edition is 11 years old being printed in 2000 and the information in it is as current as if it was written yesterday. It is one of those garden books I keep handy to go back to over and over again. In his methods, he advocates wide rows, organic methods, raised beds and deep soil which just about says it all.

Ed Smith has a 1500 ft garden that he tends with his wife, growing nearly 100 varieties of vegetables in Vermont. He states if you can grow in Vermont, you can grow everywhere. I guess he hasn’t tried growing in the high deserts of New Mexico! Having said that, I feel that no matter where you grow there are always challenges and his book addresses many that gardeners experience everywhere. He shares step by step instructions on how-to build raised beds, soil conditioning, crop rotation, greenhouse gardening, cold frame gardening and so much more. Everything is explained clearly for both the novice and experienced gardener. I love this book.

Red Orach-More info and pictures

A gardening buddy of mine is growing Red Orach and I thought it would be good to see pictures of it as it is coming up. Mine just reseeded itself so it grows everywhere. It will get quite tall  (3-5 feet) if left unattended and that is how it has reseeded it self everywhere at my place. I let a few go to seed 2 years ago. That’s ok with me. I can always pull it if it grows somewhere I don’t want it to be. But don’t wait till it gets tall to pick the leaves. Pick them while they are quite young and they will be tender.

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Wind broke my coldframe

Plexiglass broken/bubble wrap insulation shredded

Dang it! I left the lid to the coldframe up the other day and the wind came up while I was gone and broke the lid. I mean it must of really come up cause it broke one of the 1/4″ plexiglass panels in it. Plexi isn’t so easy to break.

Rabbits don't need to sneak in with an 8 inch gap!

Anyways it also torqued the frame as well because now there is an eight inch gap in the corner where the wood frame was forced apart. Great, now the rabbits can walk in. I have to rebuild the lid and somehow pull the wood together on the frame with the dirt inside and re-screw it back together. Way more work than I have time for. And the arugula is coming up inside. Bummer…

Whole left side of coldframe broke-ARRRGH!

On the good side, look at my view from the house in the bottom photo!

Red Orach (mountain spinach) and Bright Lights Chard

I just picked some Bright Lights Chard that overwintered in the coldframe and with the chard were a few plants of Red Orach (also called mountain spinach) that have been reseeding itself.  The variety of orach I grew came from Baker Heirloom Rare Seed company and it makes a great red addition to salads or used as steamed greens. I steamed the chard and Red Orach on top of some pasta tonight yummy. It tastes like spinach and you should pick it when it’s young and tender to eat. Red Orach really is an incredible deep magenta red color. Look how beautiful they look together!

Chard and Red Orach for dinner tonight

Plant peas, spinach, and arugula on St. Patrick’s Day

Today is ST. PATRICK’S DAY- TIME TO PLANT PEAS, SPINACH AND ARUGULA. I always plant them right around now and use the holiday as a reminder. I stayed home today to recoup after putting Butch down. Getting my hands in the soil is always grounding for me. Lots of things to do right now regarding gardening. Here are some of the things I did today.

COLDFRAME-I inspected the rabbit damage to see if the spinach seedlings are salvageable. All but one of them are starting to grow back from the crown which were undamaged. I planted seeds of the following in the coldframe:

SPINACH-Bloomsdale-45 days in the other half of the coldframe.

CHARD-I didn’t know (or remember) that chard is a biennial (meaning two years) but spends it’s second year mostly growing to produce seed which is why they never seem to produce as big of leaves the second year. I will pull them and plant more chard seeds-white variety.

OUTSIDE RAISED BED-Checked the outside raised beds by the house. Last fall I I dug some old horse manure into one of them and it looks great. I planted the following seeds and covered them with row cover to keep the rabbits from them:

PEAS-Dwarf Grey peas and Oregon Sugar Pod II-60 days

SPINACH-Bloomsdale-45 days and a giant variety of spinach (there I go again!) called Monstrueux de Viroflay-50 days

BUTTERHEAD LETTUCE-Yugoslavian Red-40 days

MESCLUN-Provencal mix-40 days

CILANTRO

CUTTING LETTUCE-a new super red variety of  called Sea of Red-40 days

ROMAINE-Paris Island Cos-68 days

ARUGULA-Apollo-30 days

IN THE SECOND RAISED BED- Took out the last of the carrots from fall that overwintered. They should be extra sweet! The garlic I bought at SF Farmers Market last fall is coming up in it. Lightly dug in some Yum-Yum Mix in the remainder of the bed as I’m going to plant more carrots, beets and shallots which are heavy feeders and need some extra fertilizer especially if you are putting them back in the same area. I will plant:

CARROTS- Purple Haze and Danvers

BEETS-Detroit Dark Red-60 days, Bulls Red Beet-50 days and Early Wonder beet-48 days

DUTCH SHALLOTS-picked up some Dutch Red Shallots while I wait for the French shallots to arrive. Should be a good taste test at harvest time.

MAIN GARDEN-I hooked up the hose and watered the strawberries and the asparagus. Underneath the layer of dried leaves in the strawberry bed I see new leaves starting to grow from the crowns. The asparagus is either dead from our very cold winter or they haven’t started growing yet, we will see..

Master Gardener Tomato Disease Sheet

Hey Master Gardener Interns! I want to let you know you all were awesome with some great questions and suggestions. I really enjoyed the classes. I thought I’d put it in my post below so others can read it as well as the pdf here TOMATO DISEASES in case some of you didn’t get one.  (It’s easier to print off the pdf than the post). This is not a complete list of tomato diseases in New Mexico but some of the most common. Also the HERB SHEET is two posts back for you to get.

TOMATO DISEASES/PROBLEMS

EARLY BLIGHT (Alternaria solon) SOILBORNE FUNGAL DISEASE
Most tomatoes are susceptible to Early Blight which usually develops in early summer, after heavy rains or when it is humid and warm.
SYMPTOMS: Leaves at the base of the plant near the ground develop dry looking, irregularly shaped brown patches surrounded by concentric
rings. The best prevention is prune off the affected leaves as soon as you see them. I prune off all branches and leaves within 18 inches of the ground to try to prevent this as it is a soilborne disease. Early Blight overwinters in the soil. Remove affected plants and clean up fall garden debris as it overwinters in plant residue. Wet weather increase likelihood of getting this disease.
CONTROL: Protectant fungicides-Copper or sulpher can prevent further development of it, Green Cure (potassium bicarbonate), and Serenade (QST 713 strain of Bacillus subtilis), a biofungicide helps more to prevent
disease and is not a cure. Also spacing plants farther apart for good air circulation may help. Good sanitation and disposal of plants at end of season are important.

SEPTORIA LEAF SPOT

SEPTORIA LEAF SPOT (Septoria lycopersici) NOT SOILBOURNE-FUNGAL DISEASE
Septoria leaf spot can occur and any stage of a tomato plant development especially after heavy rains or when it is wet and warm. Spores are spread by windburn rain, insects, splashing rain
SYMPTOMS: It’s usually observed first on the lower leaves. Leaves that are heavily infected have small circular brown spots, turn yellow, dry up and drop off. The fungus is not soil inhabitant but can persist from one season to the next if the debris from the diseased plant is not removed and ends up in the soil.
CONTROL: Copper fungicides, Green Cure (potassium bicarbonate), Serenade (QST 713 strain of Bacillus subtilis), a biofungicide, helps more to prevent disease.

Bacterial Wilt

BACTERIAL WILT-SOILBORNE DISEASE
Soil borne and waterborne pathogens that causes leaves to wilt in day only to recover at night and then complete sudden wilting of plant.
TEST: Cut a four inch long section from low down on the stem and suspend this cutting in a jar of water. If a cloudy, milky ooze comes out, this in an indication of bacterial wilt. Dried leaves may remain green.
CONTROL: Dispose of plants. Plant in different location. 3-4 year rotation
of crops

BEET CURLY TOP VIRUS DISEASE
Transmitted by the beet leafhopper which build up high numbers on tumbleweeds and survive the winters on mustard plants.
SYMPTOMS: upward curling leaves that become thick, stiff and twisted. May stay green or become yellow with purple veins, plants become stunted. Plant next to them may be virus free.
CONTROL: Provide partial shade is beneficial as leafhoppers prefer to eat in the sun. Possibly use row cover/shade cloth to cover plants.

Tomato Spotted Wilt in tomato

Tomato Spotted Wilt

TOMATO SPOTTED WILT

This virus is caused by thrips that transmit the virus from infected tomato plants to other healthy tomato plants.

SYMPTOMS: Two symptoms are dominant- young leaves turn bronze and develop small brown spots. Second, the leaves wilt and tips die-back. Infected plants produce poor quality fruit and less yield. Pull plants and dispose of them.
CONTROL: Elimination difficult. Using reflective mulches may help reduce
infection, physical barriers like covering plant with row cover when it is young.

BLOSSOM-END ROT DEFICIENCY
Hard brown or black leathery patches on the blossom ends of ripening tomatoes indicate blossom-end rot. It is more common in large fruited varieties. This is generally caused by a calcium deficiency at fruit set or uneven watering and is prevented by planting tomatoes in compost enriched soil and mulched with straw to keep moisture levels more constant. I put a tablespoon or two of dry milk in the bottom of each hole when first planting tomatoes. In the fall dig in some gypsum which is a good source of calcium without raising the ph of the soil here in Santa Fe.

Santa Fe Master Gardeners Herb Sheet

I just finished teaching the Vegetable class this evening class for our Master Gardener Interns and realized during the class I didn’t xerox off the Herb Info sheet. I told the class they can get it here by Tuesday but I’m teaching the other class at 9am so here it is now for anyone liking a copy of it. You can get it here HERBS as a pdf and print it out for yourselves. Class was great tonight with some very intelligent questions and I hope they all enjoyed it!

Santa Fe Master Gardener Vegetable Class

Tonight and tomorrow am, I ‘m teaching the Vegetable Garden class to our new interns in the Santa Fe Master Gardener Class. I can’t wait! There is so much useful information that it will be hard to share it in only 2 hours. Coming to my blog is a much better way to get information on a daily basis as we move forward in this new gardening season!  I’m planning to give more how-to info and advanced info on vegetable gardening this year. I hope many of you will also exchange useful information with me this year. You can send your information via commenting on a post so others can see it and learn as well. Now is the time to get busy in our veggie gardens! Plant something that still likes cold nights-like greens!

10 Things to Do in March in the Garden

Now is the beginning of our season for fruit and vegetable gardeners. I got my light boxes out! Woo! Hoo! Here we go! Here are 10 things to do for or in your garden this month.

1. Finish ordering your seeds or getting your seeds if you haven’t already.

2. Get your light tables and heating mats out and ready to go. Use florescent lights that are at least 3000 lumen. I use the daylight ones. They produce less ‘leggy’ veggies.

3. Start tomato, pepper and eggplant seeds indoors to set out later as transplants depending on variety.

4. Finish your garden plans

5. Get your soil tested to see what amendments you might need to add to it.

6. Put  horse manure that has been aged for at least 6 months on your garden beds and dig in. Don’t put on ‘hot’ manure.

7. Hurry up and finish pruning your fruit trees. Not much time left.

8. Spray your fruit trees with dormant oil before their buds turn color to smother any dormant bugs.

9. Water your trees.

10. Plant COOL SEASON vegetable seeds OUTSIDE on ST. PATRICK’S DAY.  Some varieties include carrots, beets, lettuces, spinach, arugula, bok choy, swiss chard, onions, brocolli, cabbage, peas, radishes, mustard, kale and other greens.

Still Time to Order Seeds if You Haven’t Already

Still time to order seeds if you haven’t already. I need to order my seeds Monday, now that I’m home from the show so I get them in time to plant in March. Probably most of you have already order your seeds. I only need to order a few as I still have many seeds that I will regrow this year. It feels late but it is what it is. Last year I started the seeds the first week of March. Because it was such a cold spring, I couldn’t get them out till late May and even June last year They got too tall in the house, but what was I to do? Stick them out in 27°F weather? I’m still going to plant seeds from March 1 -15,  inside, under the lights and hope with this La Nina we have that all of us will be able to sneak out some of our warm season crops early—think April 15th! It’s always a crap shoot when trying to decide when to plant seeds but I’m going early! Bring out the gro lights! (I hear, “oh no” in the background!) I do have ‘plant envy’ for those of you have greenhouses or hoophouses!