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!

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!!


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–
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.
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.
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.


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.


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!!


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!!’


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….


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.


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.


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

Starting the new year right

Or at least we are attempting to….Image

Juicing Carrots, Beets and Ginger for a little mid winter zing.  Oh and did you notice the magazine I used as coaster? Yep, these very hands made the cover of the Spring SFCC       (Santa Fe Community College) Continuing Ed course catalog.  I have been helping them start a garden there that will produce food for their student run cafe!! So cool!  ImageFriday will be our first harvest ever, I am anticipating a couple of lbs of Spinach, some Parsley and maybe some Chard if we get lucky.  I am not officially teaching in the garden this spring…but some of my cohorts are and their classes look great.  Check out Botany for Gardeners by Scott Voorhies or Amanda Bramble’s intro to Permaculture.Image

Jangy and I started on cleaning my bags and bags of seeds yesterday in the greenhouse..let’s just say seed cleaning with a 20 month old is…interesting.  But we got a bunch lettuce seeds and they went right back into a flat sown on the first Leaf Day of the Year!! (the 7th) along with some spinach and sprouts– indoors of course.

We also got to work on trying to de-ice my little hooped lettuce beds.  I am sure they are alright under there, snow is a pretty good insulator…..Image

But I simply can’t reach them to harvest.  I put a few layers of plastic, one black, one clear.  I am hoping with a few of these warmer days and some greenhouse action they will open for me.  This what they looked like on Christmas…Image

Hang on little guys, I will eat you up soon!!( or I could just wait and let them grow even more, but they look so good don’t they).

I am also trying to post a bunch of new jewelry on my Etsy page


Oh and attempting to ritualize an awesome yoga class into my life…..Here’s to a new start and good intentions!  What are you sprouting up this year?

Ten Transplanting Tips

Little guys ready to go outside

So when I started gardening in Santa Fe the last frost date was May 15th….this year however it was more like April 15th!! Crazy….But I am still cautious of putting my little starts outside and if you too have waited, dotting over those tiny creatures in your window sill as I have, or worked hard to make money to buy those babies….you want to make sure they have a good strong transition into the great wide open wilderness of your garden from the climate controlled nest from which they are pushed.  So as you prepare for the final transplant, here are a few tips to help those babies along.

Just right

#1-SIZE DOES MATTER– Though it may be transplanting time, are your plants ready to transplant is a really good question to ask – Plants do have an optimum size for transplanting– if it is too big the root to shoot ratio will be way out of proportion and the roots will be circling in the bottom of the pot or the top growth toppling over, many more times higher than the depth of the pot.  In this case plant ASAP and you can also do a little root stimulation to break those pot bound roots out of their tangle, even trimming roots if necessary and prune back the top foliage.  If you haven’t purchased plants yet– please don’t buy things that seem top heavy, and though is pretty, NEVER buy something in flower or fruit stage.  If it is flowering in a pot it is probably stressed and will continue to be in your garden.  Most thing will tolerate a little pruning back, if it is an annual crop and few clean pinches with clean finger nails should do the trick.

Now If a plant is too small–If a plant is too small for transplanting it will not yet have it’s second set of true leaves and seem very tender.

This Basil is too small…It only has it’s Cotyledons (first growth) and one set of true leaves. Better to wait until it looks more like ….

These Basils are getting second sets of true leaves, much better time to transplant, the one my finger is on is too small, see the difference

Adequate ‘root knit’ is also a sign your plant is ready, meaning the roots hold the soil(at appropriate moisture, see below) when removed from the pot. Root to Shoot ratio means that the plants has equal root and vegetation growth.

This guy has good root knit- the roots hold in the soil when the soil is moist to the touch

Here is it’s foliage, in balance with the root growth inside the pot

#2-HARDENING OFF- is a process of transitioning your plants from inside to outside taking anywhere from 3-25 days.  You can begin bringing the plants out for a couple of hours each day in a nice shady, cool spot.  Then maybe a few more hours adding direct sunlight, even placing them where you might plant them.  Remember, plants in pots dry out quicker than those in the ground, so keep an eye on them so they don’t dry out.  Little by little, lengthen the days and then add few nights.  Once they have spent a few night outside their cell walls should be acclimated, and hardened enough to be planted in your garden. If you don’t have time to harden things off, see below for ways to protect them in harsh conditions after planting in TAKE COVER.

#3-MOISTURE LEVEL– You don’t want the soil in you pots to be dry and crumbly, nor just watered and thus muddy,  moist to the touch, but not wet.  The best bet is water well in the morning and plant in the evening.  Your roots should hold the soil together enough so that you are planting a soil mass and not bare roots.

Hard to tell moisture form a picture, but about like this

#4-SPACING-You will have in mind how far apart you plants should, be but sometimes you are so eager to get them in the ground you end up with a mess.  I like to mark out my rows with string, that way as I am planting I just plant along the string and measure with my trowel according the to space I want.

Strings strung to keep a straight line when digging trench and planting potatoes

You can also, as a school garden teacher passed on, measure and mark every spot with a popsicle stick, before you plant, that way you get to plant twice!  Exciting if you are a kid gardener.  You can of course plant here and there and everywhere, but keep in mind how big your plants will get when planting, they look little now but just wait till September!! Also irrigation lines, if you are adding them, are linear and can only bend so much, so laying the lines and then planting where the water drips out is a perfect way to get it right.

#5- TIME OF DAY-Think cool and crisp.  I like to transplant in the evening, so peaceful and lovely….some prefer early morning..Or during the day when the shade hits your garden..When ever you choose, try to make sure it is Cool, crisp and the plants will not be in direct sunlight very long.  These days we have had some clouds rolling in and that is perfect for transplanting.

#6- WIND PROTECTION– Spring winds can be fierce and take a toll on young plants, especially those that have never experienced it before inside.  You can’t always predict or work around the winds in spring, but you can protect your plants in a few ways.

Glass Cloche for sale in Italy

Homemade Cloches (glass covers for plants) work well.  Just cut a plastic bottles bottom off and place over the plant after transplanting.  You can leave it on for a week or so until you notice the plant has really taken hold and is showing new growth.

Bottle over a transplant creates a mini greenhouse

You can also add floating row cover for protection from wind, bird, bug, etc…This is basically making a mini hoop house over your bed with wire hoops and woven fabric.  I believe the Row cover is sold by the yard at Plants of the Southwest and the wire is 19 gauge wire you buy in rolls at the hardware store, I found mine at Lowe’s in the back of the garden section with the fencing supplies.  I fasten the cover to the hoops with clothes pins and pile dirt or rocks where it meets the ground.  If the wind gets underneath it, it will take off like a sail. Here is a video on Using Row Covers from Johnny’s Seed Co to get the full idea.

#7- WATER-Water well, really well- The soil into which you plant should be pre-moisten, not a mud hole, but moist.  I like to water the morning before transplanting, so the soil has a bit of time to absorb the water.  If you can’t do that go ahead and water first, then plant.  Once your plant is in the ground, water the plant daily, or twice daily, for about a week until you see it thriving, then you can taper off down your irrigation schedule.  If you are using a cloche, it does create a mini greenhouse so make sure the plant stays moist in there.

#8- DEPTH-Pretty intuitive, but do make sure you plant your plant at the same soil level as it was in the pot.  You can make a little moat around your plant too so that the water will pool around it and not runoff, but seep in slowly around the roots.

Little moat helps catch water

#9- FERTIGATE– Meaning add liquid fertilizer to a watering can, and give a little to each transplant.  This vitamin boost will help them along in the transition.  I use Super thrive and liquid seaweed or Kelp Extract.  Remember a little goes and long way!! (dilution recommendations are on the bottles)

ORGANIC Liquid fertilizers

#10-WHO TO TRANSPLANT— Every seed packet comes with a recommendation for your plants, but in the case that you inherited all home saved seed and don’t know where to begin.

GENERALLY (there are always exceptions)

I like to transplant ( Heat loving Crops)

Tomatoes, Basil, Peppers, Eggplant, Cabbage, Broccoli,

I like to direct seed ( Large Seeded Crops & Roots)

Large Seeded Crops:  Corn,Beans,Squash

Root Crops: Carrots, Beets, Parsnips, Turnips, Rutabega, Kolrabi, Potato, Radish,

Hearty Crops: Dill, Kale, Chard, Arugula, Leeks

Things that don’t transplant well: Spinach, Cilantro, Peas

Exceptions: Onions (though onion sets are transplanted and do wonderfully here) Lettuce does well direct seeded, though I do transplant lettuce for early crops,

Summer Squash, Melons, and Cucumber are traditionally planted direct seed, but I have had great luck transplanting them.

What to plant When?-The ever burning question

I started teaching classes again, talking to friends and doing my own garden planning and this question comes up every season- What to plant when— I tried to answer it as simply as I could by just sharing what I do at home, so here is my garden schedule in case you want to follow my lead– PS if you are in Santa Fe don’t stress about being behind me, it is just a bit warmer here in the Pojoaque banana belt so you have a bit of a grace period.  I hope this helps makes gardening just a bit easier for everyone, but don’t take my word for it, grow it yourself, and do let me know how it goes!!Image