Gardening has NOT been Canceled

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Your mobile gardener!

It has been a stormy week for those of us here in the high desert.  Corona cases jumped from 4 to 41 in our state one weeks time.  We have been sent home & stayed home, social distancing for a week now.   Spring came, and so did the snow.  And my phone has been ringing, friends asking “is it time yet to sow?”

The answer is yes!  Our world is sick and it IS time to grow! We must kneel on the earth, with each seed a prayer; for hope, for health for love in this time of despair.

So gardening, my friends is not canceled, the time is now. You want to grow and I will show you how.

(Sorry for the rhymes, did I mention I spend a lot of time with children who think I am so clever!)

IMG_6676High desert gardening has been happening for hundreds, thousands of years.  Don’t be sacred, things were even harder back then.  But people grew food, saved seed and foraged off this very sacred land.  If they could do it with what they had, I guarantee you too can.

IMG_6714Start Here:

Planning your Garden-

1. Assess Your Space
Look at where you’ll be growing your garden. How is the sun, soil, water? The more abundant these resources the tighter you can plant your garden, the less abundant, the more space you will want to leave for each plant to thrive. Is your garden raised beds, in ground, how much digging do you plan to do before planting. Make sure you leave time and energy for that.
Measure the garden space; draw it out to scale on graph paper with sq footage so you get a clear picture of how many of each plant you will be able to fit.

IMG_23162. How to know to Grow?
Think about the purpose of your garden.  If is it to feed your family and decrease your food bill, start with what you are buying weekly.  What do you like to eat & what costs you the most?  I like to grow things I consume a lot of and have a shorter shelf life and higher costs:  Lettuce, salad greens, basil, spinach, cilantro, arugula, and dark leafy greens like kale and chard, herbs, peas, think tender and expensive!   Because I have limited space I have to choose every year if I will grow tomatoes or cucumbers on the trellis’ above the garden, I usually choose a little of both.  At farmers market I can buy bulk beets, carrots, winter squash, chile, potatoes and onions for a good price so I leave those field crops up to those with more land, more skills and more knowledge than me, farmers are trained professionals and I want to support them as much as I can right now! I do, however, grow lots of garlic because it thrives here, takes little effort and is sown in the off-season so I rotate it with other crops. I also grow carrots cause my kids love to harvest and eat them!! So seriously consider what you will grow and then you will have clearer idea of when and where you will sow.

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4. Resources & Restraints
Once you have your ideal garden in mind, think about the restraints:
Water– When does your irrigation get turned on, no irrigation?, how much time do you have to hand water, how much water do you have, do you have rainwater catchment?
Time- Do you have time in the day to water, sow, record, ventilate, etc. a seedling set up, or would it just be easier to wait till you can have everything outside
Weather-The last frost date in Santa Fe is May 15th, which means you can sow & transplant warm season crops outside after this date, however you can start sowing & peas, spinach, potatoes, lettuce, arugula,  cilantro, parsley, and transplanting kale, collards, cabbage, chard, other cool season greens in March. ( I did it last week).  Using row cover to protect against the weather really helps and can even make your garden sowing schedule start in January. This post on Row Cover will help
Pests-There may be other restraints, like animals, so try to think of them ahead of time.

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5. Seed Sorting
Go through your seed collection. Note the date they are packed for. If your seed is more than 5 years old, has been stored somewhere other than in a cool dry place, or simply isn’t labeled you may want to do a seed viability test.
Sort your seeds into Cool Season Crops & Warm Season Crops
Then sort those piles into seeds you want to Transplant & Direct Sow. This post will help

IMG_84436. Seeds or Starts?

Once you have your seeds and garden dreams sorted into Direct Sow and Transplant categories look at your Transplant list you will know what to sow where and when and you will have you garden calendar and plan ready. Seed Starting Indoors  is super fun and pretty easy, but many people struggle with having enough light & air for seedlings.   If you want you can even make your own Homemade Potting Soil. I say try it if it calls to you, but there is no shame in  supporting local business like Agua Fria Nursery  by buying a few sturdy little plants for your garden.*** Don’t forget to harden babies plants off before putting them into the ground. Learn how here: Hardening off and Planting out – Preparing your seedlings for going outside

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7. Map It Out-
Now that you know what you can plant think about where. The sq footage will guide how much you can grow.
*Space -How much space does each vegetable need? ( It will say on the back of your seed packets)
*Resources-What do my plants need in terms of sunlight, water, shade, etc.. That will dictate where you place them and with whom?
*Crop Rotation-What was planted in the previous years, did it thrive, are there any records of disease to be aware of?
The general rule of thumb for balancing out soil nutrients is to avoid planting the same general category of crop (root, legume, and leafy/fruiting) successively in the same place. It’s best to follow nitrogen-fixing legumes such as peas or beans with nitrogen-loving leaf or fruiting crops such as lettuce or tomatoes. Then, follow the heavy feeding crops with light-feeding root crops.
*Companion planting-What companion plants would help my garden thrive and where should they go?
*Intercropping– Are there cover crops, under story and intercropping I plan on doing to maximize my garden resources. Remember, the earth prefers to never be bare. Buckwheat and mustard are both commonly used here.

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My Garden Sowing Schedule-
January– Greenhouse: Leeks, Onions, Peppers
February-Greenhouse: Eggplant, Tomatoes, Parsley, Celery, Kale, Broccoli, Collards, Chard, Mustard Greens, Lettuce
March-Greenhouse: Lettuce, Cucumbers, Melons, Summer Squash, Basil, Bok Choy, Flowers- Calendula, Zinnia, Nasturtiums,
In the Garden Under Cover: Peas, Radish, Spinach, Turnips, Parsnips, Rutabaga, Arugula, Hardy Greens, Cilantro, Dill, Fennel
After St. Patrick’s Day Outside: Potatoes
April-Greenhouse: Cucumbers, Melons, Zucchini, Squash, Pumpkins, Basil
In the Garden Under Cover:
Direct Seed: Mache, Lettuce, Spinach, Arugula, Mustard Greens, Kale, Chard, Collards, Cilantro, Dill, Fennel, Carrots, Beets, Parsnips, Turnips
Transplant: Bok Choy, Kale, Swiss Chard, Collard Greens, Cilantro, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Cabbage
May-In the Garden:
Direct Seed: Corn, Beans, Carrots, Beets, Melons, Cucumber, squash, Gourds, Flowers-Sunflowers, Zinnias, Calendula, Marigolds, Cosmos
Transplant: Basil, Tomatoes, Eggplant, Peppers, Melon, Cucumber, Gourds, Squash, Flowers- Zinnia, Calendula, Marigolds, Cosmos
June-In the garden:
Direct Seed: Carrots, Beets, Green Beans, Dry Beans, Winter Squash, Watermelon, Cucumbers, Gourds, Summer Squash
Transplant: Winter Squash, Watermelon, Cucumbers, Gourds, Basil, Summer Squash
July-In the garden:
Direct Sow: Carrots, Beets, Kale, Collards
August-In the garden:
Direct Sow: Kale, Arugula, Cilantro, Dill, Lettuce, Spinach, Beets, Carrots, Peas
September-In the garden:
Direct Sow: Kale, Arugula, Cilantro, Dill, Lettuce, Spinach, Beets, Carrots, Peas
October– In the garden:
Garlic, Winter Cover Crop

Now that you have a plan and plenty of time, go get digging and dig deep!!

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Step By Step of Bed Prep

That should keep you busy for the week ahead!

When there is no place to go, we all gotta grow!

I hope to bring you more guidance and resources for the growing season ahead, it may be the healthiest thing you can do for your heart, mind, body and world right now.

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