Thursday, December 18, 2008

What has been happening in the Gardens

It has been slow. Weeding and thinning. We have had a couple of days of great rain. So I have not even needed to water!

I was so lucky to be able to use some of my herbs yesterday and today. Being able to pull off fresh basil, rosemary, cilantro, oregano, and sage was amazing. The aroma that it sent through the house was wonderful. I made this wonderful meal. Also used the cilantro to make Mexican Flag Salad.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Easy Container Garden

We do not drink that much soda, but today we finished the soda from Z's birthday party. Instead of throwing them away, I thought they would make a great container to plant a couple of plants in. So, I cut of the top of the 2 liter bottle, punched holes in the bottom for drainage, filled it with potting soil, and Z and I planted seeds. We will see what happens. I have never done it before. So in about 7 to 10 days we should see. I did romaine and onions.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Problem with Children

The major problem with gardening with children is keeping the plants in the ground.

Yesterday our son took a stuffed monkey out and pulled up ALL of the flowers around one of the trees. Today my husband caught him digging up the plants in one of the containers. This is a challenge for any active, curious, stubborn, disobedient child. So any one with any advice to help keep this from happening would be very much appreciated!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Composting any one?

One of my chores growing up was taking the compost out to the compost pile. My brother and I would each fight over who did it last, because neither of us wanted to do it. It truly did smell! Come to find out, as an adult, that our family had added stuff to the pile that should NEVER have been added. For one, if you are going to add grass clippings, make sure that any animal feces are cleaned up and put in the garbage. Second, and very important, NEVER PUT ANY ANIMAL PRODUCTS IN THE COMPOST, even if it was the shells of squash and the squash came in contact with butter. Animal products do smell when decomposing.

There are many different types of compost containers (which I recommend getting to keep your pets, kids, and any neighborhood animals from getting into the piles) out there. I have three. Yes three! The first one was made by my husband out of old pallet wood. It is a great container but was very difficult to get apart to assemble the box. We put a screen over the top and have a black yard trash bag. The bag is to keep moisture in. It was not long ago that I found out a little secret that our city waste management companies are keeping from us. For $5 a container, you can get a compost container from the city. They are recycling our old trash cans by cutting off the bottom and drilling holes in the side. They have a lid. One of these costs less than a one pound bag of potting soil.

The reason I have three is so I can fill one and let the decomposition start while I start to fill the second. Once the second pile is full, the first one should be almost complete and ready to use and I start filling the third. This way, if all goes as planned, the first is ready to fill when the second is ready to be emptied and the third is decomposing.

There are two very important things to do while composting in our desert. The first is to make sure that it stays moist. Without the moisture the bacteria that breaks the material down can not survive. The other is to "stir" the pile. It is not a pleasant job but by keeping animal products out of the pile, the smell is almost nonexistence. I have found a couple ways of keeping the moisture in, good old watering it when I water my garden and shredding newspaper into strips and putting it in the pile. This is actually needed to add carbon to the compost. For compost piles need four things to be successful: carbon, nitrogen, water, and oxygen (Desert Gardening For Beginners pg 34). Adding water to the pile, but not saturating it, and stirring it adds oxygen. You can know you are adding carbon by adding "brown" materials like newspaper, sawdust, dry hay and grass. Nitrogen adders are fresh grass clippings and yard waste, fresh hay and kitchen scraps. Now some of you are very lucky and have live stock of some sort. If the animal is a herbivore their waste can be added. Do not add dog, cat, or pet bird waste as it can contain parasites that are harmful to humans. I also like to add coffee grounds, filter and all. You can also get grounds from Starbucks.

To get the compost started, you may want to try asking your local grocery store what they do with their rotten produce. If they just toss it, you may ask if you can take it to compost. Some will let you others will not but it is worth asking.

The compost will also help get our lovely clay soil broken up and easier to plant and manage. It is recycling, reusing, and reducing! It is also great for teaching children how things decompose, the organisms that help break the material down and allows them a place to dig and get dirty!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Books to get

There are many books that I have looked at and love, but they did not seem practical for me. One that I found that gave me great ideas, but again, did not fit for our backyard and climate, it was Roots, Shoots, Buckets, and Boots. I loved the idea of a sunflower house, a pizza garden, and using containers for vegetables. However, I don't have the right square footage for the sunflower house and I had no idea what to plant and when.

That is when I found Desert Gardening for Beginners. What is great about this book is that it gives a step by step on how to prepare your garden soil, amount of watering, where to place the garden, composting, getting rid of Bermuda grass (which I so love!), and a chart in the back as to when to plant what and in what form (seeds or transplant). After getting this book, I discovered another book that corresponds to it and does have a lot of the same information, but has great ideas for gardening with children. It is Success with School Gardens. I know that there are many others. But with a very active three year old, I am doing my best.

When we moved into our home the backyard was nothing but gravel. VERY UNATTRACTIVE! With in the first year, my wonderful hubby moved the gravel, dug trenches, with the help of a ditch witch, put in irrigation, bricked the boarder, and seeded for grass! So the next summer we had a green yard. Next we added more trees on the back fence and sage bushes. I also tried to garden, with little success. I was a little discouraged. I did have gorgeous rose bushes that are thriving. I will give tips on what I do for my roses also. I have tried off and on to do vegetable gardens and flower gardens. But now I will tell of the trials and tribulations that I come across.

So here are pictures of what the yard looks like today. If I find any pictures of what it looked like when we moved in or while my hubby was working on the yard I will post.
My Roses (There are five Bushes)

The Side yard which is my garden. Right now there is broccoli, spinach, lettuce, and Basil. There are also flowers on the side closest to the house. This is my memorial garden.

Container Gardening, Tomatoes, Jalapenos, broccoli and beats (Learning on this First Time)Around the tree is my Herb Garden. Just starting to see sprouts

My Desire!

My desire for this blog is to give helpful and useful tips for gardening in the Desert Southwest. Some of the ideas will be from trial and error and others from books, web sites and other gardeners.

Some of the problems that I have already come across is the growing season here, what to grow and when to grow it. The other is lack of space. Finally, is just getting the soil ready. I just LOVE clay soil.

Having been raised in the Denver metro area, the growing season was very obvious. Plant when the frost is over and harvest when the frost comes. Well here in Arizona (specifically Mesa) there is rarely a freeze and we are HOT, dry and HOT. This makes it difficult to want to be outside in the traditional growing season, let alone garden. Leading me to garden mainly in the late fall, winter and early spring. However, I would like that to change. So that is my hope, to learn as I go and for others to learn from my mistakes and successes.

I have a wonderful three year old boy that will be helping me garden. I also have a 10 month old who is watching us garden while in the arms of Jesus. Part of my garden is my memorial garden to him. Along with an apple tree. To learn more about our family please visit here.

Happy Gardening. Hope your harvest is plentiful and marvelous.