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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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1-Starts

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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9-Perrenialize

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.

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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!

THE GARDENERS YEAR 2014 Calendar is here!!

They finally came in the mail, I was so hoping they would come before the Waldorf Faire and they did, though I must admit, the jewelry took the spotlight that day, but I did sell a few to my lovely gardeny friends.

They are big, beautiful and very user-friendly, and frankly make me proud!!

Here is the write-up I put up on Etsy where they are for sale now and with this secret- not so secret code- Shipfree- you can get free shipping anywhere in the the US until Jan 1 2014!!

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THE GARDENERS YEAR – Planning your Plantings for 2014

This Calendar is 12 months of garden goodness, designed to make planning what to do in your garden simple and easy.

As a garden educator I often get the same question from my clients and students–
“WHAT TO PLANT WHEN?”
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I made this Calendar based off years of experience gardening in the High Desert of New Mexico, which is Zone 6 for gardeners in other areas.

I garden organically and learned what I know from a few local farms in New Mexico & abroad, but most of what I teach comes from my apprenticeship in Agroecology at the University of Santa Cruz, CA in 2002.  Many of my techniques and tricks are inspired by French intensive gardening, permaculture and bio dynamics.  This calendar especially reflects the Maria Thun & Stella Natura Biodynamic Planting Calendar in regards to following the recommendations of planting roots crops, fruits crops, leaf crops and flowers crops when the moon is traveling in correlated signs.  This is only a guide, but I like the idea of not only flowing with the seen, but unseen forces of our earth and planets as well.
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My calendar takes you through each month guiding you on what to plant, when and where.

I start many seeds inside as well as use cold frames and mini hoop houses for season extension and do all my gardening in the ground, all of which I provide guidance for within.
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Along with what to plant when, each month includes a brief tutorial on what to be doing in the garden that month, how to make your own planting flats, how to make your own soil mix, growing tips for Carrots, Garlic, Squash and much more.

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THE GARDENERS YEAR CALENDAR also includes the New Moon and Full Moon dates for 2014 as well as solstices, equinoxes and important seasonal holidays.

All the full color photography is my own from my own gardens here in Northern New Mexico.

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The Calendar Measures 11.5 x 14inches and is spiral bound, making perfect not only for reading, but recording what is happening in your own garden.

This is has been a huge help to new gardeners and seasoned gardeners alike and simply helps you get the most out of your timing, which in gardening is key to productivity.

Get Yours Here.

Use the coupon code- Shipfree for free shipping now till Dec 25th!!

Hope you enjoy it!!

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Singing in the Rain!!

There has been lull in the gardening around here.  Once everything got planted, t-tape set up and timers on I have been on to other things– mainly sewing in the cool house and hiding from the sun.  But this weekend the rain finally came!! Two days in a row and the world was changed!!  Finally braving the outdoors again, I am greeted with abundance of Beets, Chard, Cota, Calendula, Carrots, Basil, Kale, Lettuce…just to name a few!!

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Gardening with friends has been my greatest blessing this week.  Rejoicing in the bounty together, gabbing all the way.  Folding Cota together in the rain while our sons and husbands play around us.

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Here in the desert the rains bring us so many gifts, not just much needed water, but relief, reprive, revitalization of our sometimes hot, heavy hearts.  I often feel like the rains bring the new year, a place to start again, the reset button as a friend likes to call it.  The rains wash us of all we are carrying, allow us to set everything down to go out into the desert and call up to the clouds, “Thank you! Welcome! We have been waiting & waiting & waiting for you and now you have answered our prayers!!”Image

In thanks for the rains that fall and the garden that grows, these simple miracles remind me new life is always sprouting up around and in us–

Happy Rainy season, may it linger long and abundant this year!

Seeds Starting Recap

Last Saturday I gave a public class on Seed Starting at Earth Care community garden.  It went well and was well attended but made me realize a few things…..One was that a little re-cap may be useful,  as people tend to have the same questions and quandaries about starting seeds indoors.

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Seed Selection– Save your own, Trade, Share, Swap…If you are to buy seed go for heirlooms, locally appropriate and organic.  If you would like to start your own seed saving collection, open pollinated varieties are what you need.  Avoid hybrids (for seed saving) and GMOs at all cost! Sources I recommend:

Seed Savers Exchange

Native Seed Search

Fedco

High Mowing

Peaceful Valley

to name a few

Containers and Soil– There are of course so many choices, so I encourage you to use what you have and find what you like.  My favorite are wooden flats so here is a link to making your own out of old pallets or new wood.  I also prefer to make my own soil, so here is  link to that, but of course find your method of ease a pleasure.  Just remember for seedlings fluffy and light soil is best- high in peat moss or Coconut fiber.  Once the seedlings the bigger they will need more nutrient rich mix or a rich garden bed and I will write more on that later.

Temperature–  Seedlings need different soil temperatures to germinate.  For example some lettuces can germinate in soil that is 50 degrees and Tomatoes often need 70 degree soil.  Here is a great Vegetable Planting Chart form High Mowing Seeds blog that has great info on soil temp, germination times, spacing and more.   If you are starting your seedlings inside, the soil is probably stable at the temperatures of your house, but if not they are in an unheated greenhouse or cold frame, it is probably much colder.   I simple Soil thermometer, purchase at any nursery, should help you see what your soil temps really are.

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Check it morning and evening to see how it changes.  Also check your seed packet to see if it tells you ideal soil temperatures for germination, so you know if you are waiting long enough before starting over.  Remember if you seedlings haven’t come up yet, they are just waiting for the right chemistry, so don’t give up.  Just keep working the elements of warmth, light and water till you see those sprouts.  If you need to you can buy seedling heating mats here.

Light- This seems to be the most tricky for home growers.  Many windows simply don’t get enough DIRECT sunlight.  Choose a south-facing window that gets direct sun ALL day, that is at least 8-10 hours a day.  The more the better.  If your seeds sprouts but then get really long and leggy and look like the are desperately seeking the sun, you probably need to supplement with electric lights.  So many people know so much more about that so google that.

Water- Seeds really only need the right temperatures and moisture to germinate, that is sprouting before photosynthesis.  Once you sow seeds (in a moist sowing mix) you MUST keep them moist at ALL times.  Yep, Always!!!! that means watering many times a day if you need to, especially in a heated house in a south-facing window in the high desert!!!.  A helpful tool may be a spray bottle.  Set it on a fine mist and mist the soil.  If you have children helping this is a great job for them and really can’t be over done.  Once you see puddling on the surface of your soil, stop watering.  A watering can with a fine sprinkle really is necessary,  as big flows of water can wash the seed right out of the soil.  Because the seed is only in the first inch of soil, this is what need to be moist.  Once a plant grows the water needs to go deeper and the plants can be watered less frequently, but int he the beginning, moist always.

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Water quality has an effect too.  I use my precious rain water for seedlings and really have noticed a difference from the years I have used our hard well water.  Tap water is ok, but it is best to fill your watering can or a big bucket hours, or days before you water so that the chlorine in the water can evaporate and the water can come up to room temperature.  Cold water can shock plants and of course chlorine can harm them.

Seed Needs– Each seed of course has it’s own temperament.  Some like to be planted deep, some with no soil at all.  Some need fire, freeze or even scaring to crack their seed coats.  They say a generally to plant seeds twice as deep as they are wide.  Seed packets are great source of information, but if you don’t have packets, the High Mowing Vegetable Planting Guide works great to find out all the little special needs of each of your precious seeds.

So there you have it– If you seeds are warm, wet, sunned and in a good growing medium they should come up just fine.  Plants are more like us than we might think.  If you are cold, they probably are, too hot, the might be too.

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Now planning your sowing timing and taking care of the babies well so that they thrive and are ready to go outside when the times comes, oh and of course there is seed starting outdoors as well…..but I think I will write more on that later, for now this should get you started if you haven’t jumped in already.  Happy Seed Sowing!

Seed Starting Class

As you may have gleaned from my blog, I like to garden.  I like it so much that is mostly what I write about, and frankly do with most of my time.  I also teach gardening and have in lots of different places from the Children’s Museum, to Elementary Schools, then high schools, and now I even teach it at a college!!  This Saturday I will be teaching a class to the public hosted by Homegrown New Mexico and held at Earth Care Community Garden.IMG_0290

We will cover as much as we possibly can about seed selection, sowing mediums, containers, schedules, technique, and care in 2 hours.  It would be great so see some of you there!  RSVP here.

‘Work is Love Made Visable’

“Work is love made visible” these words of Kahlil Gibran were carved by hand onto a wooden sign that hung on the main lodge of my beloved Vermont summer camp, Farm & Wilderness.  This was a place where teens from all walks of East coast life would come together for 2 months to work the land, swim in the waters and learn to create community together.  As my dad reminded me yesterday, not only have those words been carved into my soul & life purpose, but also the community spirit.  In the years since summer camp I have found myself surrounded with similar earth loving angels actively loving the world & each other through their hands

.IMG_0312 They came smiling and laughing, eager to spend the day in the sunshine with me and my tomatoes.

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Not only did they work, but they sang, told stories and charmed the baby & us all while doing so.IMG_0327

There were parents, neighbors, old friends and new, this incredible little hard-working crew just breezed in with great blessings and warmed our little home until it sang right along.  In return dad cooked the burgers & freshly picked ‘Lovely Day Farm’ (on our street!!) Asparagus on the grill and we feed them well.  When I sent out the invite I mentioned that I would feed them all but ‘if any one wanted to ‘WOW’ us with desert or beverages they were welcome’ and WOW us they did! Handmade Mojitos and Fresh Pear Pie and Raspberry Tart and homemade yogurt on top!! OH MY!!!

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And now the greenhouse is at maximum capacity with 250 tomatoes, all in brand new little pots, the only question now is, where will I put everything else?  Plant sale anyone?

I almost felt guilty having them do all that work for me on a beautiful Sunday afternoon, but then I remembered all the seeds I have sown, beds I have dug, weeds I have pulled out of other people’s gardens and like them, I sang too… so happy to have dirt to put my hands in and a hard task to put my strong body to real use.  As we were working Jaengy jumped in helping with sorting the pots after shying from the crowd for the first hour.

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I commented how he is happiest when he has a job to do.  Casey responded, “I think we all are!”  and I thought, ‘Well you are my kind of people!’  So Thank You garden angels with your kind and helpful hands, you have shown me that there should be no guilt in asking for help and that for many of us there is no greater gift than working together to complete the task at hand, to share the load and to enjoy being of use together.

To Be of Use

The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half-submerged balls.

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.

I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.

The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.

Marge Piercy

The Step by Step of Bed Prep

Ready to getting digging, to break a sweat and work out those winter kinks.  Well I know I am, and bed prep is a great way to get spring started.  Once you read this you may think– ‘Well that it a lot of WORK, do I really need to do all that!!’

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The answer is of course no, you can do whatever you and your garden deem fit…There is no-till, there is lasagna gardening, there is digging in cover crop, there are raised beds, and of course rototillers & tractors could to the hard tilling work for you… oh I could go on, but if you do have in-ground beds, and want to get digging….. it goes like this….

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First I raked off all the straw that was placed there to mulch the tomatoes that grew here last year.  I removed the tomatoes and left the straw covering the beds all winter– though this is in the hoop house I like to keep my beds covered– Reduces erosion, keeps the soil warmer so it can be worked earlier and keeps in the moisture.

*Before prepping a bed, checking the moisture level is really important– If it is too hard you will be digging rocks, if too wet you will be slopping in the mud, lifting HEAVY wet soil, working you back twice as hard and of course compacting the soil where ever you walk….So always check the moisture level before you start. It should feel cool to the touch, leaving dampness on your skin, but not water…It should crumble in your hand into chunks rather than into dust….If your moisture level is too high, dry it out of course, if too low water it well and plan on digging a couple of days later, even the worst looking soil can be transformed with a little water.

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Once the moisture level is just right and the is bed clear, you can get digging.  I began with my Spade to edge the beds, that is cut a line along the bed edge to make sure my bed is nice and straight by just sticking the spade in as far as it will go all the way down each side of the bed.  This gives you a nice border to work within.  Then I use my beloved digging fork, starting at one end and working backwards down the bed, flipping up the soil ad I go.  That way I dig where I step, not vis versa, so the bed is nice a fluffy when I am done.

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Next, I add my compost.  This was harvested from my backyard pile that had been resting since last summer.  I was delighted that I got 3 wheel burrows of compost from what looked like a pretty small pile.  It may not be enough for my whole garden, but it was good to note that with our food scraps, leaves and garden waste we can produce about 3 wheel burrows worth of compost per season.  I took my spade and sprinkled it on the bed, about 3/4 inch thick.  I used 1/2 the wheel burrow for a bed measuring 3X20 ft.Image

Once it was spread I went back with my spade in the same way I passed with my fork and dug and flipped and smacked, incorporating the compost and continuing to break up the chucks.  A big part of what I did that day was in fact break up chunks, but I have to say it felt good!!  I worked up quite a sweat in that hoop house, sure beats the gym!!!IMG_9576Now with smaller chucks I went back over, yes again, with a rake.  This is the zen part. There is still a little smacking of clumps but mostly just smoothing it all out.IMG_9577

The finer you go, the tilth better for your seeds.  And the more even you go the more consistently moistened when watered.  Now this stage seems to be the most appealing for toddlers to step right in the make their mark… So I baby trapped the bed by putting in a few stakes and wrapping with twine about a foot or two high.  This seems to work well for a person of 22 months– though past 2 years they can just hurdle it with ease– I guess I will cross that bridge when we come to it.IMG_9579  There is drip tape already in the hoop house so I just re-laid it.  It won’t be turned on for another month, but having it out gives me nice straight lines to plant along and a sure thing my babies will get the water they need as the season progresses.  Now we Plant!!IMG_9581These are cool season crops started in the greenhouse, ready to have more space!!  I divide them ever so carefully and placed them individually in the ground.IMG_9585

As I transplant I make sure to make holes deep enough for all the roots to rest in without being scrunched, I also make a little moat around each plant to ensure water pools around each and doesn’t run off.  IMG_9587Now we water & wait– though with the warmth in the hoop house it shouldn’t be long now!!

IMG_9513I had to go away for week before posting this– so here is what it looks like a week later!!  We should be eating in no time!!IMG_9517

Homemade Potting Soil

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I make potting mix every year for my greenhouse seedlings.  I also make mixes for my mom’s raised garden beds, (at home I grow in the ground and do things a bit differently for that).  I have written about making potting soil many times here & here, but every year I refine it, learn more, change things, or get my hands on something new.

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I gather my materials from my yard and pre- sift everything so I have it ready to make mixes when I want to.  I sift it because little plants need readily available nutrients and fine tilth so their roots have an easy time growing.  Any big chunks sifted out can go back into the landscape under big trees and around perennials.

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Materials

Sifted Compost from your own pile (or another source if not is available)

Sifted Soil from your garden

Sifted Sand from your arroyo

Moistened Coco Peat ( this is the only thing I buy and I get it locally at Agua Fria Nursery)

I get all this stuff in advance and store it in bins so everything is ready to go when I need to mix.

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Once I have everything gathered I get my

wheel burrow,

a 5 gallon bucket,

a shovel and

a hoe.

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Here is my the recipe I use, adapted from my Alma Matar, CASFS.

It is a parts recipe, but if you use a 5 gallon bucket as your measuring cup and follow this recipe you will get a full wheel burrow, which will be enough soil for 10 flats of 2 inch pots or 6 homemade wooden 2x1ft seedling trays.

Mix into wheel burrow

1 Bucket-Shifted Compost

1Bucket- Shifted Garden soil

1 Bucket Coco Peat

This is the base recipe from here you can add all sorts of fancy things if you have them:

Ground up egg shells

Perilite

Moonshine

Grape seeds

Oh there is so many thing you can add to soil mixes and that is really determined by how much money you have, what you are trying to grow.  I keep things pretty simple around here, but have fun with what you decide to add to you soil, (or ask me for more advice!)

Mix everything well with a hoe and sprinkle occasionally with water.

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The moisture level is key, not only does it cut down yucky dust, but you want a nice moist mix in your flat before you seed.

If it is too dry it will actually repel water and you tiny seeds will float away in the run off.

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Give it a squeeze and release

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If it stays in a loose ball and breaks apart when you bounce it in your palm you have got it.  Now store it in a bin with a lid to keep that perfect moisture, or put it directly into you flats and sow away!

And that is that.  Once you have your flats made & potting mix made, now all you have to do is decide what to grow.  Go here if you are ready for the next step!

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Planting into pallets

Is there anything you can’t make out of an old pallet?  Yes, it does take more time and a bit more know-how to upcycle a pallet into a totally different and functional thing, but luckily I have an expert on my side.  Yep, Joel does it again.  This time he made me a new seed planting flat out of recycled pallet wood.

(Note: I do also do make these out new wood too, see here)

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Cool Huh?  Want to try? Here is how he did it.

First, he tore the pallet apart with a flat bar to get the the lumber in order. Image

Then he used the cross pieces which were 3.5inches wide and 1/2 to 3/4 inches thick.  There was mix of oak (harder, longer lasting, heavier) & pine (softer, easier to work with lighter)

 

Then he cut off the split tips with the nails in them- to have clean, split free ends and not to bother with pulling out the nails.Image

Then he cut 2 pieces at 1ft long and 6pieces at 2ft long

He nailed 2 of the 2footers & 2 of 1footers into a rectangular box.  The 2 footer edges over lapped the edges of the 1 footers.  Unfortunately he moved so fast I didn’t get to photograph every step… but I hope you follow.

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Then he nailed the remaining 4 2footers to the bottom of the box using 4d galvanized nails. These are rust resistant and small enough that they will keep the wood from splitting, but large enough to hold your box together when it is full of heavy, wet soil.  Because the wood was irregular enough he just pushed the bottom slats together and nailed…but it is important to note during this step to leave a little space between the slats for water to drain out, but not soil.  I usually stick a quarter between the slats which has always proven to be just right.

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And there you have it.  Here is one I made from Redwood and screws in 2010 (in front) and the new Pallet one (in back).  Image

Similar—-but there are few subtle differences.

*The new one is a bit wider than the other.  As far as size go, I pretty much try to maximize my table space.  If you table is a 3×6 (which many tables are) you can fit 9 2×1 flats on it.  That should be more than enough (much more in fact) for all your seedling needs.  Remembering, when you start seeds in wooden planting flats you will need to divide them or thin them before they reach the garden, so leave space in you table(s) for transplants.  This is basically bio-intensive gardening, but more on that later…here is the next step if you are eager.

*The other difference is that my new flat is mostly oak and the older one is Redwood.  Both have their pros and cons

Oak- Hard, Heavy, Durable,Rot Resistant, Brittle-(Available in Pallets)

Pine- Soft, Not Rot resistant, Light weight, Cheap or free-(Available in Pallets)

Redwood- Light weight, doesn’t spilt easily, VERY Rot Resistant-(Must buy)

Wooden Flats are a great thing to add to your garden shed if you find yourself starting seeds every year.  They are pretty simple to make, relatively cheap and last many years, not to mention they are NOT plastic.  They work beautifully to hold moisture and give ample space for those babies to grow.  Many farms use them, which is where I learned about them.  Here are a few I stumble across while ambling through a sleepy farm in Colorado last spring.

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Yes, I take pictures of other people’s planting flats, I told you I was a farm tourist.

Good Luck and I hope you help rescue one more lonely pallet from the back of your hardware store and put it to good use.

When you are ready here is a link to how to make potting soil for the flats and one on how to plant into them properly.  Let the sowing begin!!

Bring on the Bounty & pass it along

The Tomato basket weighs as much as my baby!!  (well almost!)

Oh the bounty of these days is so divine & delicious!! This must the best fruit year as long as I have lived here in the high desert and I am buying stock in the Ball Jar company right now! No, Not really, but I am stocking up as well as co-planning a local harvest swap with my Radical friend Kyce.  This is not a new idea, people have been swapping their bounty, well forever, and the new wave of happy homesteaders are doing this in cities all over the country, like here and here, with great success and tons of great resources like here.  As far as I have heard, this will be Santa Fe’s First Harvest Swap.

Gathered from the garden, and that’s just today

It is open to all – though you must register here to save your spot – (the room is only so big).  It surely will be a good time, just think a room full of canners, gardeners, seed savers, wild crafters, milk maids, foragers, and even a few hunters and their stashes!  It is such a wonderful way to celebrate the bounty of our abundant desert, share the fruits of our labors, and experience a truly fair version of Fair Trade. To me this feels like a way to bring our work, our livelihoods and our hearts together to eat, swap and be merry.

Better make room in the pantry for more jars, oh my!!

So here is the official invitation, Come join us!!

Dear Fellow Preservers of the Harvest,

You are cordially invited to a Delectable Harvest Swap in which the bounty of our gardens, barnyards, orchards, and wild lands will be celebrated and shared.

Consider this your advance notice to put up extra of whatever putting up you do. Bring that extra bit you know you can’t use, and let it be your currency to barter your way to a dream pantry while spending a morning amidst fabulous folk.

Wondering what to bring? 

Whatever you’ve canned (according to Dept. of Ag regulation specs, please!)—chutneys, jams, fruit butters, sauces, salsas, whole fruits, pickles, but also vinegars, condiments, fermented fare, dried fruits, cider, chiles, and garlic.

Not a big canner? How about baked goods, salves, tinctures, honey, soap, seeds, dried culinary or medicinal herbs…or whatever your homemade, homegrown, or wild harvested specialty is. Oh, and don’t forget pumpkins, cabbages, and other fresh fall crops.

Register here: Santa Fe Harvest Swap

Learn more about food swaps here: Food Swap Network

As you can see I am very excited to swap, meet and eat the bounty of our harvests together, in the meantime, I’ll be out picking!!

Glistening Choke Cherries, one of New Mexico’s Finest Wild Offerings