St. Patty’s Day Peas and Potatoes

They say that Peas and Potatoes should be planted by St. Patty’s Day, which is today!  If you haven’t planted them already- go for it!  (Especially cause March is the new May around these parts!…you could have been planting peas since Valentine’s day really!)  If you have never planted either, there are a few tricks.

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Last years Pea crop planted on Valentines Day

 

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Some people pre-sprout and then transplant peas… I grow pea shoots and then mow them down and eat them as tender young things! Try them in your window sill, they are fast and delicious!

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Chittting potatoes is basically cutting seed potatoes into pieces with a few eyes each… making your potato seed go further

 

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Peas soaked in water overnight before you plant them swell them and give them a head start on sprouting in the ground.

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This weekend would also be great from planting cool season greens outside directly in the garden like Spinach, Lettuce, Mache, Cilantro, Kale, Chard, Arugula.  If you lay row cover it will keep moisture in and birds out so I highly recommend it!

Leaf Day!

IMG_3346Sunday Afternoon- What a great time to start seeds indoors!  Today would be a great day to start cool season greens inside – kale, cabbage, chard, lettuce… if you have a cold frame or even row cover and are ready to begin your outdoor watering routine.. you could also start all those things outside today (especially down south Amber!!)I am also starting my sunflower and pea shoot sprouts so we can have fresh greens asap!!

 

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I have to admit I am missing my own Planting calendar this season, so I dug up a few posts from my archives from the days before I ever made the glossy pretty calendar… So for this year I thought I would just share with you some of my informative blogs posts, already written and ready to go!!  My gift to you to jump start your growing season!

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Here is the Recap from my seeding class from years past

How to make Homemade Potting Soil

How to make Wooden Planting Flats

Garden Planning

Bed Prep

Also, if you are a more hands on learner- My dear friend Amanda will be teaching an indoor seeding class next weekend at the wonderful Ampersand Learning Center.  I am sure it will be super informative and get you growing!

There are also some cool classes Home Grown New Mexico is putting on this season too that I want to check out, including a cool looking one called Evolution Gardening/Revisiting the Victory Garden in the 21st century Awesome!!

So no shortage of things to learn and do these days!  Let’s get Growing!IMG_5210

Spring Greens

IMG_1658What a spring we have had! Erratic whether, moisture, crisp cool air, and really spring greens like nothing better!  I have begun harvesting multiple pounds of Lettuce, Spinach, Kale, Chard and Chinese Cabbage every week and just wish I had more garden space to plant more.

IMG_1666If you are doing succession planting in your garden planning, timing and leaving space for the future is everything!!  You have to think about how long it will take for a head of lettuce to produce,(about 60 days in the spring) and then plan what you will pop in its place once harvested.  In these pictures above and below you can see I planted Cabbage babies among the cut and come again Lettuce, so that by the time the Lettuce is bitter the Cabbage will take over.

IMG_1799I usually plant a lot of cut and come again varieties of Lettuce, Spinach and Kale and Chard so I don’t have to keep planting…but this year I knew I could sneak in a bunch of head Lettuce before the warm season crops needed the square footage, so now the garden is full of butterhead and romaine varieties so I can remove the whole plant and put in warm season crops the same day…..lots of salad ahead for Mama’s Mini Farm CSA!

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The next three days are leaf days, so in go the last of my greenhouse Romaine starts and I will be sowing directly more Cilantro, Spinach, Arugula and Lettuce.  Possibly for the last time till mid July, as once my attention and garden space goes towards the warm season crops I simply don’t have enough room or time for greens…not to mention when the weather heats up many of these spring babies go bitter or bolt quickly.  Luckily my Chard and Kale keep pumping through the heat and I may not even need to replant them if I care for them right…

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Which is to say I have found that if you shade cool season greens in the high summer they really like it and last longer.  As you already know I am a huge fan of row cover for a long list of reasons… but when it gets too hot and plants don’t get enough fresh air they can get very flimsy and over succulent.  So much so that they couldn’t survive one day in full exposure and they will just turn to mush before your eyes, so I try to gradually remove the row covers for more and more hours at a time to toughen them up to the real world.

IMG_1810I often raise the row cover so wind and beneficial insects can find their way in on the ends, because another set back of having your crops under constant cover is pests, namely good old aphids can take over while you aren’t watching.

At some point when cool spring breezy days shift to hot summer days, Often around June 1st.  I take the row cover off all together and replace it with shade screen.  This lets light, water, and beneficials in, but it takes the edge off those sweltering afternoons that will cause a cilantro to bolt in one day!

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I have found in full sun gardens these shades are very helpful for almost all crops even warm season crops, throughout the whole summer. I have learned my lesson with more than one June hail storm destroying my precious babes!  More info on what to use is in  this previous post.

So if you aren’t out there already….get sowing!! You can plant pretty much any cool season crops, flowers and roots right now and in a few short weeks it will be tomato time!! Hooray! IMG_1670

 

 

 

When to plant what?

For the past three years I have made a planting calendar that combines the Biodynamic planting recommendations with my own gardening experience here in the high desert.  This was mostly made to assist my fellow gardeners and to answer the question all my students ask most of me, ‘When to plant what’?  It is also a great tool for me to record everything I did in one place (I am awful at record keeping) and cross reference in the following years…..

IMG_6966 What can I say, this winter has brought lots of hibernation and big changes that have needed my attention….so my friends, sadly there is no calendar this year.  Luckily these hands know what to do and I am happy to share with all of you through my blog what I am up to in the garden and greenhouse this season.

It may make for a series of short, possibly boring posts, but if you are one of my many gardeners out there you can just follow along as we plan and plant for an abundant season ahead, ( I hope you have been collecting all this moisture in your water tanks!).

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I am also teaching a few classes this spring on Seed Sowing if you are new to all this Seedy business for Homegrown and the Botanical Garden.

The Planting Report

So for now the planting report is this….Last Saturday I went ahead and planted a ton of tomatoes (I think somewhere near 300, lord help me!!).. My Biodynamic calendar said it was an “specially good”day and I just couldn’t help myself!!

This Friday Feb 12th, is a Leaf day and I will be planting Celery, Lettuce, Kale, Chard in the greenhouse.  I probably could have done all these a month ago, but I just didn’t feel the seeds calling.  Now that Bridgid has blessed them all it feels time.

IMG_7324If I set up some row cover I may just plant Spinach outside…But then I have to start watering out there and I am not sure I am ready for that!  But let’s just say I Could.

Planning Ahead

Have you ordered you Potatoes and Onions sets yet?  Those go in around St. Patrick’s day and lots of companies sell out of certain kinds, so order them soon.  I often buy Potatoes from Ronniger’s which is based in Colorado, or Irish Eyes which have lots of organic varieties.  I have bought onions sets from Dixondale farms in the past and wow, serious onion bounty!  Both Potatoes and Onions can be bought locally as well from Aqua Fria Nursery and lots of other seeds companies you may already be loyal to.

IMG_7071All this said, I do have a passive solar greenhouse and have very particular temperature and light conditions, so even though I can start stuff indoors it may not quite be time for you.  The best way is to try of course, or your could come to my class and I can help you find the right conditions and timing for your situation! Happy gardening!

 

 

 

Not bad for a snow day!

Last night I trusted the whether man enough to go out at dust, uncover my greens and take a look.

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Hey not bad for total neglect!!  I haven’t looked under here since Christmas when I got another nice little harvest.  The spinach is doing beautifully (harvested 1 1/2lb and could have doubled that had it not gotten dark on me) and the kale is starting to come back too ( 1/2 lb of baby leaves) !!  This is all in the ground, no heat, thick row cover and 4mm plastic (Not very tight!!)  Cheap and Easy and a bit Lazy!!

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And here is last night harvests with this mornings snow- we have already eaten spinach in 2 meals today (going on 3!)

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And now there they are sleeping under a thick blanket of snow.  Who knows when I will get under there again, but feeling so thankful for all the moisture that will slowly seep in and keep them growing into the spring.

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Speaking of spring….If anyone wants to take a Seed Starting class with me, now this is your last chance for a while….Baby due in just 4 short weeks, but I am teaching on FEB 10th at SFCC so sign up here— you will go home with your own flat of babies ready to grow!

Sorting Seeds and Drying Leaves

IMG_6308Nothing quite like a frigid morning to inspire some garden action!!  Don’t get me wrong, I lingered long over a hot cup of tea this morning, but I have to admit the freezing breeze just nagged at me all the things I had left undone out in my autumn garden.  For one, I haven’t planted garlic yet! Yikes I MUST do it before the ground freezes, I will today, I must!!  I peeked under my row cover at all my little fall greens, and wow, I am happy to report all was well! Spinach, Chard, Lettuce, Cilantro, even a little dill perky as can be!IMG_6293 I harvested like crazy and tucked them back in.  If the snow does bless my yard this weekend I plan on laying a thin sheet of 4mil plastic over the whole 4 rows, it is not greenhouse plastic, but a painters drop cloth type plastic sheet I got last year, and it seemed to do the trick to just keep th snow off and it helps melt it fast when the sun does shine again, which we all know can be quite quick around here. I also scrambled around the yard gathering the last medicines I could find.  Mint, yarrow, Comfrey, Mallow were all doing just fine in the crispy air so I gathered those up eagerly and set them to dry in the extremely dry (heating with wood really sucks the humidity out of the air) cozy house. IMG_6334 All of these delicious leaves will be used in an upcoming workshop my Radical Homemaking conmadres are putting on called the Winter Apothecary- Stocking up for Seasonal Wellbeing.   We will be making teas, cough syrup, medicinal stock and all kinds of magical potions for the cold season ahead.  This is always the best part, when all my seasons efforts get mixed and brewed and put the finishing touches on and magically they transform from weeds to medicine ready to dose out to the sick and the weary. Ahh, so a brisk morning it was, but now I can at least enjoy another cup of tea, sort the garlicIMG_6524 And hope for another day before the ground deeply freezes (though usually it takes until about Christmas for that so I am not that worried!!)IMG_6329 And while I am sorting, the mail comes and delivers my first article in print!  Actually it was a nice season of press for this little gardener….I had a story about ‘Psyche and Her Seeds’ published in the Seed Broadcast, a very cool little free paper all ode to Seeds.  An article in this Seasons Edible Santa Fe (p.64) about the work we do to grow local food at Santa Fe Community College.  And lastly an article I wrote all about the planning and planting seasons of High Desert Homesteading in this seasons edition of the Permaculture Activist. IMG_6330 Oh and do you recognizes those cute little tomato holding hands!  Yep my photo made the cover, cool to have the love I put into my garden spread out and inspire beyond my yard, those are the seeds I wish to sow in the world.  So with the literature spread before me, and the leaves and the seeds, my table is full, my harvests are in and I am feeling like this year was indeed an abundant yield indeed.  Ok winter, now you may come on in and I will rest the best I can!!

Time for sun screen!

The sun is up and the cool has gone, welcome but rough transition for some of us in the garden world.  In fact last Friday, I boldly removed my covers from my garden at SFCC, which is highly exposed to sun and wind.  Everyone was delighted to ‘finally see what was hiding under there’, but was nervous.  I was in a rush and just went for it, crossing my fingers the rain would be light & gentle and the gray skies would protect my newly transplanted babies…..Alas no such luck!!  The weather at my house is extremely different than at SFCC and it turned out the ‘rain’ there was actually hail, damaging all my newly exposed plants and even killing some newly planted ones.

 

The ones that had been uncovered weeks ago had a chance to toughen up so they weathered the storm just fine.  IMG_3924

But the ones that had been babied under row cover got deeply scarred by the rough weather.

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So what is a gardener to do?  Because row cover and custom covers are somewhat sensitive to sun and wind, I like to store them in the summer, so I can really use them when I need them in the colder months, and get the most life out of them possible.  However, a totally exposed garden in the high desert sun can really suffer from sun and wind and yes, summer hail storms…. So here is my solution, actually it is not mine, it is my husband’s idea, he is the brains behind most of our operations.IMG_6889

We bought these grass mats at Lowes that are used for fencing out your neighbors view of your yard.  We cut them into 5 ft pieces and laid them over our cattle panel hooped beds last year.  They provide great shade to a very hot part of our garden and made it useable all season.  So this season I did the same at the SFCC garden.

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Since these beds have hoops built-in, I just wired the mats to the middle bar, the sides are just clipped down so I can unclip and roll them back for easy access to harvest.   They work like a charm and look nice too, since hundreds of people walk through this garden every day, that matters!

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At home, I put them over my greens so they last just a little bit longer into the summer.  Crazy shadows make things taste better too!!

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They also work really well to shade things right after transplanting.  After a week or so they can be removed, but transplanting can be quite and shock, so protection really helps those little guys adapt.  So, since I already have had 4 people ask me, “Where do I get those”, here you go……

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This ‘Natural Reed Fencing’ is found in the way back right corner of he Lowe’s garden section with the fencing stuff.  I tried big Joe’s on Siler and they DO NOT carry them, so don’t try there.  These cost me $24.97 each and since I cut them into 3 5ft pieces, that means $8.32 per piece.  They will last me many years if I store them well when I am not using them….so I say totally worth it, especially if one is investing cash into baby plants this year.  You can of course use other things for the same effect, like old window blinds or how about loosely woven coffee sacks?  Anything that let’s rain, wind, bugs and some sun through is good.

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Whatever you choose, do consider a little sun screen for you and your plants this summer, you will all weather the weather better that way.

PS– Just a footnote on a big lesson learned (or reiterated) to me this week:

Trust you instincts

Make transitions slowly and

Don’t be afraid to protect your little ones so they can get well established before toughing up to the bright, windy, wild world.

 

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.

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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…

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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.

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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.