Wednesday, October 6, 2010

If You are Thinking This is a Bird Deterrent...'d be wrong.

Not more than a few hours after carefully sowing our seeds in nice straight rows, plant stakes in place with names and planting date, we went out to finish the watering job Mother Nature had started.  Our lovely garden, well mulched with an even coat of alfalfa hay, had big gouged out areas, hay tossed aside, spots in the amended soil -- amended with steer manure -- showing dark and moist.

As this area is inside our block walls, the culprit couldn't be a rogue javelina, mule deer, or bobcat.  No birds around are big enough, or interested enough, to so seriously mar the new garden.  No children here to run amuck.  

The real culprit

The string and tin foil solution?  So far so good.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Winter Garden

Queen's wreath, tangled in the limbs (and shade) of a palo verde tree
We're not novice gardeners.  For many years we've learned, mostly through trial and error, about what will work in our desert garden and what won't.  We've become increasingly committed to native or desert adapted plants -- plants that work well here and are of use to the local birds and other critters.

A ghostly aloe in the barrio garden
It seems a bit odd to be putting in a winter garden when we were in triple digit heat a few days ago.  Now there's nothing but highs in the 90's in the forecast, and the nights are promised to be blissfully in the lower 60's, so hopefully we've turned a corner.  Still, while our family in Denver are harvesting the last of their crops, we are just beginning.

We always said that if anyplace could drag us permanently away from Tucson it would have to be somewhere that we could do edible gardening in terrific soil with rain that fell from the sky on a regular basis.  But we both love living in the Sonoran desert, especially now that we have a real cabin in the Colorado Rockies to escape to in the summers, so we're not moving.  Ever.  Recently my husband went to a winter gardening class at Plants for the Southwest, one of our favorite nurseries here.  The class was taught by a woman who's been veggie gardening here year 'round for over two decades.  Soil amendments (organic) and knowing what to plant when were the keys.

Do you know how stinky big bags of steer manure are in the back of an SUV on a hot day?!  Luckily that trip was followed by a trek to get a bale of alfalfa hay which has a lovely grassy smell and left enough of itself behind in the car to freshen up the Honda C-RV.  A dozen packets of seeds, some additional drip irrigation sprinklers, and a "flat free" puncture-less foam filled wheelbarrow wheel and tire to replace the far from "flat free" inner-tube (thorny deserts are hard on them) pretty much completed the necessities for planting our winter garden.

Double digging in the last of the shade
We chose a sunny wall to plant the garden against.  After moving a couple of plumbagos, a Mt. Lemmon daisy, and a salvia, Bob began the double digging process to incorporate these new organics.  This is not an untouched area; we have amended this before.  Deserts are not know for their rich humusy soils, and our yard is no exception.  Developing our vegetable garden's soil will be an ongoing project.

Deep digging and existing drip irrigation systems always clash, but after a lot of digging, a few repairs and additions to the drip system, some raking, with a well-deserved brunch mixed in, we were ready to plant.

Big brunch for hard workers

Ready for seed sowing
By the time we were ready to sow some seeds it near noon and in the high 90's, but we were determined.  In less than an hour we had rows of two kinds of snap beans, snap peas, sweet peas (the flowers), quinoa (our experiment), spinach, two kinds of kale, swiss chard, and garlic.  When it cools off a bit more we'll plant some lettuce mixes and radishes.  Herbs are growing in containers.  Onions will go in after Thanksgiving.  Bob spread a nice layer of sweet smelling alfalfa hay over the bed as a mulch to retain moisture and shade the seedlings.  Eventually it will be dug into the soil for enrichment for next years winter garden.

Just went out to check it...nothing yet.  I guess five hours is a little too soon for germination.

Watch this space