Gardening Weather

This weekend the weather was wild– yet totally perfect for cool season gardening.  I know May 15th is the last frost date and thus a time when lots of us wait eagerly to beginning our gardening…but for me so much gardening happens before all that.  I have been growing starts in the green house since February.  With the increasing light they have been growing like crazy and so I have started hardening them off and of course make more room for warmer season starts!IMG_3326

Hardening off basically means taking the flats outside everyday to a partially sunny/partially shady table to get them used to wind, cold and even a little rain.  I still take them in at night and in one week they have gone from floppy green to strong upright little fellows.  This weekend I spent hours in the garden and tucked tons of these little guys into the cool ground.


I know that a plant is ready to go out when the little white roots start to poke out of the bottom of the pot…


When you squeeze the pot and slip it off the roots keep all the soil intact. creating their own little woven root basket.IMG_3379

If you wait too long, they will become root bound, and be a bit stunted, but if done right the plants actually seem to like the residence of a pot and when transplanted some feeder roots will die back and regenerate a bit stronger.


The perfect conditions help too…moist earth, cloudy skies and of course it is lovely if they get rained on just after planting…yes we had the perfect weather this weekend and now my garden is full full full.  I planted most things among what I planted either last fall or earlier in the year and now I have a continuous stream of greens.

Everything is still covered with row cover, mostly to reduce watering– the wind dries stuff out so much, but as of now I only water once a week.  Soon unveiling more often would be good, but until I turn on the irrigation in a month I just open, harvest, water and button back up until next week.  IMG_3367

Pretty low maintenance for the return.  Ahhh the abundance of spring seems so promising!!  I am even crossing my fingers for some peaches, this may just be the year!IMG_3452

All we can do now is wait and see what the season will bring.



‘Gardening in the Desert’ is about to begin

That's me

That’s me

As most of you know, I have been running the garden at the Santa Fe Community College for about a year and a half.  Before that I was on the design team, so for the past four years I have gotten to watch it go from good idea to a highly productive and beautiful garden, and we are just getting started!!IMG_6815

I can’t tell you how much I love to witness the process of a piece of land go from ignored to embed with love!!  Don’t get me wrong, this project has been less than perfect, but when I step back and look at what we have sown, I am deeply satisfied to the core and know it will bloom and grow as the years go on.   We now have 21 fruit trees, 16 vegetable beds, a pollinator garden, a worm compost and have plans for an outdoor classroom/ kitchen, berries, herbs, perennial vegetables, and more!!IMG_7756

This Friday marks the beginning of my first official class I will be offering in the garden, ‘Gardening in the Desert’ through the Continuing Ed Dept.  Because it has been a long time in the making, I have pulled out all the stops for this one.

It will be  a 6 week course where I will impart all my garden secrets weaving lectures and hands on learning to really get my students confident in growing in this wild western ecosystem.


I even invited the some of Santa Fe’s Garden stars to teach with me!!

Joel Glanzberg of Pattern Mind will be teaching about the high desert arid landscape and how understanding this distinct ecosystem aids in us growing well within it.


Joel Glanzberg & Son

Ken Kuhn of Grow Your Own will be sharing his experience in making raised garden beds for desert bounty.

Ken Kuhn

Ken Kuhn


and lastly Deborah Madison will join us for a lesson in Vegetable Literacy!!

I am so excited about this class and have to say I hope it is the first of many, but it very well may be a once in a lifetime course.

Deborah Madison

Deborah Madison

There are still 5 more spots left in the class so you can still sign up!  Go online or Call 428-1676 to enroll.

You can even enroll after the class starts on Friday, but trust me you don’t want to miss even one!!

I also want to say thank you to all of you wonderful readers who have already signed up, without you planning ahead, this class would not have run!!!  See you Friday!!


Take cover


Sure is cold today and I am so glad I spent time last week tucking in my little garden beds.  Don’t get the wrong idea– I try to avoid buying new things at all cost, especially petroleum products…but once in a while I do spend some money on that little garden of mine.  Lately I have been in and out of three stores and purchased some really useful stuff I thought I would share with you all.

Row Cover and 9 gauge Wire

Row Cover and 9 gauge Wire

I bought about 60 feet of heavy weight row cover at Plants of the Southwest ( they sell it by the yard) and a roll of 9 gauge wire ( at Lowes in the fencing dept) to make even more hoops over my beds.  This stuff really protects against spring winds, weird weather like today…(is that snow I spy out my window?) and of course animals like chickens, dogs, cats and wild birds that are so drawn to mess around in my tidy, tender greens.  I have over wintered greens under this stuff and some plastic sheets all winter long and now that spring is officially here I am boldly transplanting cold season greens like Kale, Chard and Collards out there as well as direct sowing peas, spinach and lettuce oh and I even put this over the onions sets I planted last week… I say the cozier the better.IMG_2827

So, if you interested in doing your own cover up, the row cover cost about $3 a yard at Plants of the Southwest.  It is 12 ft wide so you can cut it down the middle or into any shape you like. The roll of 9 gauge wire cost $21 at Lowes but I am pretty sure you can get it at any hardware store.


You will need bolt cutters to cut it, which is a whole other investment, but chances are someone you know has one.IMG_3197

First, I line up the end to the next ring and cut


In this way I got 24 hoops.


I space them 3ft apart in my beds and in 20 ft beds I put 7 in each bed….I was able to do 3 beds…maybe more info than you need, but I had fun figuring this all out.  So 24 hoops for $21.23, after tax…$1 per hoop.   The row cover is about $.50 per foot(after cutting it) so to cover a 20 x 3ft bed I spent $17 each. IMG_3259 

That kind of seems like a lot now that I really do the math, but they will last at least 5 years, maybe more if I take care of them and store them well when I am not using them.  I also know that I will be eating $17 worth of veggies from each bed in no time so it is money well spent.


This is what we had going on last year- Photo taken April 20th, 2013.  So as you can see, a little protection grows a long way, hehhehe!

In my consumer roamings I also found I few treasures I will NOT buy, but would like to.  At Bioshield I found these…


Haws watering cans


and these fancy Italian, English and Japanese gardening tools.


And the cutest Haws cherry red watering can you ever saw!


They even carry the Stella Natura Planting Biodynamic calendar


And a few more books I think I need for my shelf…ah someday!

‘In the Desert there is Space’

Last week my family and I had the privilege of nestling down in a cozy house in Castle Valley, Utah.  If you haven’t heard, this place is completely tremendous!!  I entertained myself marveling at the shifting light over the amphitheater of mountains, mesas, red rock and cliffs.  Morning light waned west and the evening light waxed east, turning a simple show of sun and stone into a palpable pleasure.  I cased the light, eagles and trees branches with my camera, quoted humbled, grateful.  Blessed by the simple and strong gift of overwhelming natural beauty.

Though I did not see her when I was there, I hear the western writer Terry Tempest Williams resides in this amazing place.  She lets herself be spoken to, moved and taught by this place, in a way I only got to dip my toes into and what these mountains have told her leave me wanting more…..So appropriately here are some of her words to go with the images I gathered there.

“In the desert there is space. Space is the twin sister of time. If we have open space then we have open time to breath, to dream, to dare, to play, to pray to move freely, so freely, in a world our minds have forgotten but our bodies remember. Time and space. This partnership is holy. In these redrock canyons, time creates space–an arch, an eye, this blue eye of sky. We remember why we love the desert; it is our tactile response to light, to silence, and to stillness.”
― Terry Tempest WilliamsRed: Passion and Patience in the Desert


“I pray to the birds because they remind me of what I love rather than what I fear. And at the end of my prayers, they teach me how to listen.”
― Terry Tempest WilliamsRefuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place


“Is this the curse of modernity, to live in a world without judgment, without perspective, no context for understanding or distinguishing what is real and what is imagined, what is manipulated and what is by chance beautiful, what is shadow and what is flesh?”
― Terry Tempest Williams


“Faith is not about finding meaning in the world, there may be no such thing — faith is the belief in our capacity to create meaningful lives.”
― Terry Tempest WilliamsLeap


“A shadow is never created in darkness. It is born of light. We can be blind to it and blinded by it. Our shadow asks us to look at what we don’t want to see”
― Terry Tempest WilliamsWhen Women Were Birds: Fifty-four Variations on Voice


“The Eyes of the Future are looking back at us and they are praying for us to see beyond our own time.”
― Terry Tempest WilliamsRed: Passion and Patience in the Desert


“Finding beauty in a broken world is creating beauty in the world we find.”
― Terry Tempest Williams


“For far too long we have been seduced into walking a path that did not lead us to ourselves. For far too long we have said yes when we wanted to say no. And for far too long we have said no when we desperately wanted to say yes. . . .

When we don’t listen to our intuition, we abandon our souls. And we abandon our souls because we are afraid if we don’t, others will abandon us.”
― Terry Tempest WilliamsWhen Women Were Birds: Fifty-four Variations on Voice

Time to Sow


I have been puttering around the house this week, knowing I should be starting seeds, but way more drawn to spring cleaning and trying new things.  I have unconsciously been putting off starting seeds outside or in the greenhouse, though my calendar tells me to do so and all my experience from years past point to NOW, I just haven’t felt drawn to do it…. and know I know why,  WATER.


There simple has been none.   For almost 2 months very few drops of anything have fallen from our skies, while the rest of the country wades through multiple feet of snow, we kick dust around, sweep our porches constantly and sneeze our way through a disturbingly early spring…..


But the gift of rain has fallen upon us, finally!! So beautifully slow and steady all night, so well received by our parched, dry earth.  Every thing feels back to balance somehow and today my seeding instincts have finally kicked it.

For those of you who are following along with my calendar this year I know you may have seen seeding dates since January, but if you haven’t planted anything yet, you are NOT TOO LATE.  The dates in the calendar are what you could plant, not necessarily what you must plant.  In fact if you planted everything I recommended on every day, you would need at farm to grow all that food.  Every garden and gardener is different, every single season, so if you are gardening this year, today would be a great time to get started with a few simple questions before you get those seeds in the ground.


Ask yourself and your garden…

How much room do you have to grow this year?

How much water have you collected, or are you willing to pay for city water?

Are you going away at all this summer, if so when?  You will want to plan your harvests around your trips.

What do you know you will want to eat fresh daily?  What can you afford to source from farmers instead of growing yourself?

How much windowsill/greenhouse space do you have fro starting seedlings?  If none, what is your budget/plan for getting starts for your garden?


These are all big questions I must address every year before I start throwing seeds and water around.  I try to change things up every year too, to keep up on the needs at hand.  For example, having a new baby, no money and lots of time at home in the past few summers, my garden was tremendously ambitious.  I planted mostly spring greens and during the summers my garden was filled to the brim in tomatoes.  From 110 plants I weighed in 300lbs of red and 75 lbs of green (early frost) tomatoes from my backyard.  I grew enough to can and supply for my families needs for a year.  With the same plan in 2012 I never bought a tomato product.  This year, to date I now have 25 pints & 3 quarts of diced tomatoes, 5 pints of salsa and 5 half pints of ketchup left to carry my till July. I will let you know if I run out, but I think we will plan accordingly and be just fine.  So these past years it was my goal to never buy a tomato product,  and my experiment worked….

Put up for the long winter ahead

Put up for the long winter ahead

This year I am wondering, will I do that again?  We have more travel planned, the water is looking less promising and I am actually more excited about growing spring greens for my Mama’s Mini CSA and trading for milk and eggs, than having all that tomato processing to do this fall… Decisions, Decisions!!

Well, While I mull over mine, what will you grow this year?  What will you buy, trade, what will you forego?

If those questions are already answered, well then now my friends, would be a good time to begin to sow.  If you are beginning your garden journey here are a few posts that will help you get started-

Homemade Potting Soil

Bed Prep

Seed Starting


What are the top ten ways to simplify your gardening?

Christina, over at Tumbleweeds and Seeds posed this question to me the very same day I mixed up a fresh load of potting soil, filled my homemade wooden flats and sowed seeds to be pampered in my greenhouse till it is warm enough to transplant them outside under row cover…..All this to say- -my gardening style is hardy simple.  Because I love it and love to do it all myself it is totally worth all the effort, but simple it is not.  So as I worked, I thought of all the ways you (or I if I so choose) could make gardening simpler.


The first would be simply Don’t garden.  NO seriously I am not kidding, yes I am a garden teacher and yes I would love to teach you how, but seriously like any hobby, life-giving or not, one must consider the time, skills, costs, resources and water, that go into any new endeavor.  Gardening can help take you out of an industrialized food system, it can get you out into nature more, it just might address pressing personal and global shifts, but consider if it is the right fit for you and your time and resources because honestly it may not be worth doing if you can’t do it well.


I worked as the school gardener a couple of years back and I had a co-worker who told me a great story.

She rode her bike to work, shopped locally, she did all she could to reduce her carbon footprint and contribute to her community.  One summer she decided to add growing her own food to her good green efforts.  She built a raised bed, bought fancy soil, invested in little plants from the greenhouse and watered like crazy.  She worked so hard that summer and got very little return that ended up losing money & time, but she did gain the realization of how much effort it really took to grow your own food here in the high desert.  She concluded her tale with,

“After all that, now I happily shop at farmers market and I will never scoff at a $3 bunch of Carrots again.  Those farmers know what they are doing, have the appropriate resources to grow beautiful food, and man, the earn every penny!!”

Did you know that one of the biggest problems with the Santa Fe Farmer market is that the farmers CAN’T SELL all their beautiful food!! So much effort, water, land, money, highly precious resources here in the high desert all gone to waste….So if you can, just buy your food from the local pros and save your water bill and spare time for something else.  Gift your local farmers with the value and respect you give any professional.


Now if you are continuing to read, it is probably because you love to garden, can’t afford market or have some other very good reason you are set on growing, or like me, you simply MUST, so my dear gardeners, here are a few more tips for you.



If simple is what you are truly looking for, the first advice I would give would be don’t make your own flats, soil or even grow your own starts.  Though a wonderful and pleasurable task, it is not simple and not always easy to do all the pre-growing yourself.  I would recommend buying starts from your local Nursery, Aqua Fria always has a good selection, and of course plenty of folks at Farmers Market.


2-Choose your crops wisely

Grow only what you eat constantly, what costs a lot and doesn’t travel well.

Like greens, salad, or herbs.  I say make good friends with Swiss Chard, it can be eaten raw of cooked, grows almost year round, bugs don’t like it, it is truly a loyal pal.  I also recommend people start with potted herbs that come come inside in the winter.  This way you always have them on hand and start to really save money and those darn plastic containers most herbs in the supermarket come in.  Dark leafy greens like Kale & Chard are always giving and take require very little attention and really you can’t eat enough of them!

Grow crops that will supply for your needs all year.

Garlic is super easy, low maintenance and you can grow a whole years worth in your backyard.

Skip field crops

If you have a small yard and are trying to grow some of your own food, skip crops like Onions, Winter Squash, Corn, and Potatoes unless of course you have really great success with them.  You can buy all those in bulk locally and cheaply from farmers at market and store them all winter long.  There is no way I could produce all that I consume, so I save my garden space for things I consume daily.


3-Consolidate Resources- Small is Beautiful

Plant intensively one area, don’t spread your gardening all over the yard.  Choose a small are and really love it up, water it well, spoil it with compost and mulch and wind protection.  Even use containers on your porch that have great soil and are convenient to water, but make sure this precious area is well cared for.  Your work is a resource too, so make sure you are using your time and energy as wisely as well as your water and nutrients.  A small intensive area that is well cared for will sing, rather than over doing it and spreading you and your garden too thin.


4-Mulch like crazy & STOP Weeding!!

Mulch suppresses weeds so you don’t have to worry about them.  It keeps in moisture so you water much less and builds up organic material in your soil.  If you do have weeds, let them be if they aren’t encroaching in precious vegetables.  Just change how you see them , call them cover crops, call them water catchment, call them green in the desert.  If they are getting in your veggies way, pull them up and lay them down right where they are and call them mulch.  They will just dry up and look like straw anyway!!


5-Plan well

I have found good gardening really is good planning.  Sow succession crops so as you harvest you are continually adding more seeds.  This makes so you are always harvesting something, so no time, water or space is wasted.  If you need help, here is my handy planting calendar to help guide your way.


6-Low till to No till

Build up the soil with constant additions of organic material.  You are building up an ecology that does not need to be disturbed every season.  Once you dig deep the first couple of seasons, a light fluffing of the top soil should do the trick for sowing seeds and transplanting.


7- Chicken tractors

Have you ever had chickens loss in your yard?  Then you have seen them scratch, pick and rake your garden to a nice fine tilth.  Build a little cage that fits over you beds and put the chickens in there before you sow.  They will do the work for you in day!  No chickens?  I guarantee you have a friend who will lend you a few for a day.  They of course eat bug and weeds too, you don’t need to be the only one working out there!


8-Swap and share

Your friends have chickens and you have Chard- just trade, we don’t all need to do it all the time!  Things are only worth the value we put on them.  Create your own little underground swapper market.



You can plant your whole yard in edible berries, trees, herbs and shrubs and have a lot less work to do weekly.  You may have bumper crops one year creating a lot of work at one time, but I am sure you will have tons of friends all of a sudden who want to come over and help pick.  Also Perrenialize annuals too.  Let things go to seed and they will be sure to sprout up in odd places next year.  You can wild harvest out of your own yard if you let things naturalize and learn to eat your weeds! Generally perennials take less water too and you can use grey water on them more easily.  All our dish water goes onto our perennial front yard.


10- Only garden if you love it!!

Forgive your self if you don’t love gardening and use your precious time and energy on some other righteous earth healing soul nourishing endeavor, I am sure you can think of one that is calling to you right now!

For the Love of the Land

Have you heard of Ampersand?  Well you would love them, I guarantee.  They are truly loving a little piece of land here in the high desert the best they know how.  These folks built their home out of mud from their backyard, drink rain water off the roof on top of it and cook their food from the sun.  Not to mention they love their community because they invite everyone in on the fun through workshops, classes, internship and some seriously. fun dance parties.  Amanda and Andy are lovers and I love them……Screen Shot 2014-02-13 at 10.07.22 PM

So on this day of love I want to introduce them to you and their latest land loving projecting and fund-raising efforts.  Spread the love and support their water shed project through indigogo today, they are half way through and could use a midpoint push to help them go above and beyond their goal.

And much love to you!

Planning for Spring


Ahhh, the subtle return of the light, the seed catalogs in the mailbox, it is still cold outside, but the garden dreams have started.  I know you are with me here, as I have gotten numbers emails lately about this year being your year for you to grow some serious food.  I often forget how valuable growing my own food truly is and then I wander into the produce aisle mid winter and see Kale for almost $4 a bundle.   All my winter garden laziness falls away and I  get to down to business with my garden planning, compost collected and double digging.  Honestly I don’t really buy many vegetables, in 2012 I grew over 500lbs of veggies here on 1/5 of an acre and though I haven’t done my math yet, but I am pretty sure 2013 there was even more.  Every year is different, but I am hoping for an abundant year ahead, with the Wood Horse on my side and all. ( We just went to a Chinese New Year party, for those of you who missed that reference)


Today to celebrate Imbolc, the half way mark between Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox, I am making potting soil for my green house flats which I plan to sow tomorrow with lots of cool season greens.  For those of you who bought a planting calendar, are you gardening along with me this year? ( If you didn’t get one, I still have a few.)


This spring, starting March 28th,  I am excited to be offering a class at the Community College on Gardening in the Desert.  These cold winter eves are spent in pouring through my book collection, organizing my thoughts and recruiting signups for this class.  If you are familiar with SFCC Continuing Ed courses here is the course info is: course #Hg337 01/crN 31535 if not just call 505-428-1270 and they will get you all set up if you care to join me.  We will be going from seed to harvest, focusing on home scale vegetable production in the high desert and since I run the garden at the College, we will have lots of opportunity to get our hands dirty.


Meanwhile, today in the backyard we harvested almost 1 lb of Spinach and are about ready to get the hose out and just spray down the entire lot if we don’t get some moisture soon!  Enjoying the sun, praying for rain, the eternal dance of the desert grower!


Mid winter meal

Oh baby it is cold outside, but the garden is still growing, slowly slowly, & generously provided us with salad for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years!  Thought I would share some tips I learned this year on my season extension.

First off plan and plant your fall/winter crops in late summer and cover with floating row cover when frost start to get rough.


Seeds Savers American Spinach does beautifully in my winter beds!


When it snows, sweep it off while it is still fluffy, if not it will freeze, harden and smash your hoops down and freeze your little greens underneath.


When the weather is really nasty, cold and snowy add a layer of plastic, like the rolls of painters drop cloth you get at the hardware store, over your row cover to collect sun heat and help the snow shed.  The heavier duty the better– this is 4mm.



Open up beds in the middle of warm sunny days, other wise you might be shocked to see that some of your greens are actually frozen…but if you wait, they can bounce back and be eaten!!

In this weather, I barely water in ground crops, especially cause snow melts slow in this spot, and when I say barely I mean I haven’t watered in over a month!!

Hope your harvests are still feeding you well.  Happy New Growing Year!