Garden Transitions- The Fall Flip

I plan my garden very strategically so that there isn’t much work to do in June and July… For many reasons… Maybe first because I was a garden teacher for so many years that I planned spring and fall gardens with very little summer maintenance.  Even though I am not running a school garden this year, I now have a tiny baby and can’t really garden much at all…so it is convenient that I don’t have much to do but harvest in the high heat.  It is also convenient for leaving town during the hottest, driest time of year which we all want to do.

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Yeah for harvest help from our good friends from Ampersand, love you guys!!

And probably the biggest reason I plan so much for spring and fall gardening is that is when gardening in the high desert is at it’s best!  There is cool air, cooler soils and real water falling from the sky!  I start things outside as early as February (my pea crop was started then and yielded my best crop yet!)  and am eating out of the garden till Christmas eve.  Summer is for being lazy anyways right!?

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So though I am still being very lazy, I am starting to think about the transitions about to happen out there, the good old ‘fall flip’.  This is when I pull out all the lettuce and peas that have stopped yielding and bolted into pure bitterness that may still remain and I plant a whole new slew of cool season crops.  IMG_0273

Because it is only the 9th  of  July I can still plant a nice beet & carrot crop.  Later in the month I will plant more lettuce, spinach, cilantro, and whatever other cool season greens I wish.  I also have started planting big beautiful marigolds this time of year to have for autumn garlands.  IMG_9387

High summer I hear a lot of people say, ‘oh I am too late to have a garden this year’…but you are not!  Autumn harvest is within reach.  Plant now and you will abundance you will reap!!

Hardening off & planting out

I am sure many of you spent Mother’s Day weekend filling shopping baskets with new baby plants to bring home and fill your garden with, it is a Mother’s Day tradition,  (and it may be the only day of the year you can get the whole family to help you in the garden without complaint).  I received the wonderful gift of my son and mother planting a brand new climbing rose for me while I took a nap!! Heaven!!

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However around these parts Mother’s Day week and weekend is also famous for snow storms, which is why the last frost date is in fact May 15th- not May 5th!  Transitioning things outside and toughening them up enough to go from lush nursery conditions to exposed windy high desert gardens is an important step to protecting your investments.

IMG_3382Here is a post from years back that talks about the hardening off process and why it is important.

IMG_3379Here is another on with ten transplanting tips.

IMG_1946And lastly one about transplanting tomatoes, which is what I will be doing this weekend… and for many days to come until these babies are tucked cozy in the ground!  If you are planting according to the Bio-dynamic Calendar, Friday and Saturday are not only fruit days but (specially good!!) So hope you are hardened off and ready to go!

 

 

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

 

 

 

Take cover

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Sure is cold today and I am so glad I spent time last week tucking in my little garden beds.  Don’t get the wrong idea– I try to avoid buying new things at all cost, especially petroleum products…but once in a while I do spend some money on that little garden of mine.  Lately I have been in and out of three stores and purchased some really useful stuff I thought I would share with you all.

Row Cover and 9 gauge Wire

Row Cover and 9 gauge Wire

I bought about 60 feet of heavy weight row cover at Plants of the Southwest ( they sell it by the yard) and a roll of 9 gauge wire ( at Lowes in the fencing dept) to make even more hoops over my beds.  This stuff really protects against spring winds, weird weather like today…(is that snow I spy out my window?) and of course animals like chickens, dogs, cats and wild birds that are so drawn to mess around in my tidy, tender greens.  I have over wintered greens under this stuff and some plastic sheets all winter long and now that spring is officially here I am boldly transplanting cold season greens like Kale, Chard and Collards out there as well as direct sowing peas, spinach and lettuce oh and I even put this over the onions sets I planted last week… I say the cozier the better.IMG_2827

So, if you interested in doing your own cover up, the row cover cost about $3 a yard at Plants of the Southwest.  It is 12 ft wide so you can cut it down the middle or into any shape you like. The roll of 9 gauge wire cost $21 at Lowes but I am pretty sure you can get it at any hardware store.

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You will need bolt cutters to cut it, which is a whole other investment, but chances are someone you know has one.IMG_3197

First, I line up the end to the next ring and cut

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In this way I got 24 hoops.

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I space them 3ft apart in my beds and in 20 ft beds I put 7 in each bed….I was able to do 3 beds…maybe more info than you need, but I had fun figuring this all out.  So 24 hoops for $21.23, after tax…$1 per hoop.   The row cover is about $.50 per foot(after cutting it) so to cover a 20 x 3ft bed I spent $17 each. IMG_3259 

That kind of seems like a lot now that I really do the math, but they will last at least 5 years, maybe more if I take care of them and store them well when I am not using them.  I also know that I will be eating $17 worth of veggies from each bed in no time so it is money well spent.

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This is what we had going on last year- Photo taken April 20th, 2013.  So as you can see, a little protection grows a long way, hehhehe!

In my consumer roamings I also found I few treasures I will NOT buy, but would like to.  At Bioshield I found these…

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Haws watering cans

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and these fancy Italian, English and Japanese gardening tools.

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And the cutest Haws cherry red watering can you ever saw!

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They even carry the Stella Natura Planting Biodynamic calendar

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And a few more books I think I need for my shelf…ah someday!

Winter in the Garden

As winter slowly slips in we are starting to transition into the internal senescence of the season.  The leaves are falling, blanketing the world & garden for a rest.  As a human being I too will rest, though I continue to eat all winter long and love to provide, as least a little fresh food for my family.  I believe in letting go, but I also like to hang on, just a little.  The key is just consolidating so you can conserve your resources and maximum energy in all forms. Here are some of my secrets for high desert winter food production.

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Plan:

Timing is what makes a winter garden.  Planting your winter vegetables in August will ensure good hardy plants that you can protect and keep harvesting off into the winter.  Planning ahead is really what winter gardening is all about. If you got a late start, transplanting can be done into the fall, but don’t expect much growth till spring, your plants will most likely live, but may not thrive until spring…however they will have such a head start you will be eating from them when it is technically still winter, most likely March.  Last year I made my own calendar with sowing dates for year round high desert harvest and sold them locally.  I am working on the 2014 one right now which you can preorder, just send me a note that you would like one in the comment box.

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Plant:

You can still plant perennials in the fall and early winter. October is a beautiful month to plant, garlic, bulbs like tulip and daffodils, Perennials & Fruit Trees.  It is also pleasant, as most nurseries have big sales on perennials this time of year so they too can consolidate and converse labor in the coming months.  Perennials will need to be watered in the winter, but no more than a good watering every 3 weeks( unless they are covered in snow and then you get the day off!).  In the spring they will have a beautifully established roots system and be stronger against harsh spring conditions.  As for seeds, I honestly do not plant any seeds from Fall Equinox to Winter solstice, remember, mother nature needs to rest too.  If you do have ways to cover your beds or have cold frames, established plants, or even starts can be covered of put in cold frames in the fall.  After November 15th though, I would probably hold off till February for this too, as it is really hard for a little guy to go through transplanting shock in the cold season.

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Gather:

Building soil and adding organic material is our main goal as gardeners, especially here in New Mexico.  Learning wild foods is of course crucial, but if we want to eat cucumbers originally from India and Lettuce from the Fertile Crescent we must provide the tilth and nutrients needed for these delicacies.  To do this we must gather, save and cycle as much organic material as we possibly can into our systems.

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Leaves– for mulching beds, making compost and general building organic material on your site.  Bags are lining the streets right now, you have a trunk in your car, right?  Mine get delivered to my front yard; after years of living under the same big tree my neighbor and I have figure out the perfect harmony.  He rakes the leaves that fall in his yard, bags them up and throws them over the fence into my yard.  I dump them out onto my beds and give him back the bags to reuse!!

Jaengy smashes the toasted egg shell for me in the clay mortar and pestle, one of his weekly tasks

Jaengy smashes the toasted egg-shells for me in the clay mortar and pestle, one of his weekly tasks

Egg Shells– Every time you crack an egg put it on a cookie sheet in the oven, the pilot will dry them out and when the sheet is full they can be crushed to a powder and saved in a mason jar for calcium amending later.  I have found them very effective in preventing blossom end root in my tomatoes. Last year I saved a gallon full and it turned out to be perfect for 100 tomato plants, one handful per plant.  Since tomato planting time ( May) I have already gathered almost a gallon…luckily there are some other amazing uses for eggshells.

The sweetest smelling soft country roses outside my front door

The sweetest smelling soft country roses outside my front door

Coffee grounds– Great for acid loving roses.  They can be applied directly to the soil around the rose during the year, or you can cycle them through you compost system.  Worms love them too!

Compost– If you garden and don’t have a compost, start one.  You will be amazed at how much less garbage leaves your house and won’t have to worry about stinky, leaky garbage bags anymore.

Compost:

I usually start a new pile of compost every spring, so that by fall the old one is fully decomposed and can be harvested.  Making compost where you would like to have a garden the next year is ideal, as the soil is being worked & amended for you.  To harvest compost I usually take off the top ‘cap’ of leaves or straw, (used to keep moisture in a pile and keep in any smell) dig out the ready compost and pass it through a shifter over a wheel burrow.  This can be out of a chicken shed, worm pile or just plain old compost pile.  If the compost has sat all summer, it is probably ready to use, though sifting gets out any bigger pieces that have not decomposed which can be added to the new pile.  Shifting also gets out the worms so they can be added to a new pile.  Then sprinkle the beds with about an inch of compost and turn the compost in a bit.   By harvesting compost now you also can store it in a container so you have it on hand for potting mix in the late winter.  Trust me, you will only wait till January to harvest compost once, it is no fun at all!

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Turn soil:

This can be done with a pitch fork or a broad fork, which doubles your efforts and can be bought locally here.  If the compost has fresh manure in it, it will break down and leach over the winter and should be plenty safe for spring planting.  Fall is a great time to dig, fork or loosen beds, as the soil is warm and often moist from the fall rains.  If you wait till spring, the ground may be frozen when you are ready to plant your early crops.  perennial crops do not need tilling, and prefer not, but annuals do seem to respond best to lightly fluffed soil with good titlth (texture) and well broken down organic material so nitrogen isn’t robbed in the process of decomposing other things.  Here is a whole post on bed prep, oriented towards spring, but you will get the idea.

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Mulch:

Once this is done, heavy mulching really helps retain moisture, keeps the soil a bit warmer, as well as suppresses weeds in spring and build organic material.  Leaves & aged straw, are my favorites and usually free.  Cleaning, Composting, turning and mulching a bed now helps for early spring planting.  Once you do all these steps in the fall when the weather is still lovely, your beds are ready for early spring planting and you need not spend too much time out on the April wind chipping at frozen ground.

Lazy gardening- the self mulching bed.

Lazy gardening- the self mulching bed.

Row Cover :

I often will cover up my fall crops with row cover in late September before the first frosts, but most of the listed crops below are cold hardy and can take a few light freezes, so they can be ignored for a bit while you focus on rescuing the summer crops from the cold.  First you make little hoops from 9 gauge wire that you can buy in a spool from the hardware store.  Cut 3-4ft pieces and bend them to be a half circle.  Stick these in the ground about every 3 ft and then wrap with your row cover.  I get the heavy weight floating row cover from Plants of the Southwest for $3.50 a yard.  It is 12ft wide so you can cut pieces that fit over your beds…remember to leave extra on the edges so that it can be well weighted buy soil or stones- any strong breeze that catches under the covers will create a sail affect which could tear or remove your covers altogether.

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Let the Sunshine in:

Once I do cover my beds, I cover them for good, as protecting them from wind, and cold is important, the air moves freely, so no need to open and close them every day.  The fabric also keeps in moisture and with cooler temps you need to water less.  When I do open them up, I do it in the hot part of the day, as some plants actually freeze and thaw in the cold season.  Winter watering will need to be done, just like summer watering, when you scratch the surface of the soil and stick your finger in and the soil is dry a fingers depth, you should water, unless of course the soil is frozen.  I usually water my in-ground garden beds every 3 weeks in the winter.  Snow is a great thing for your veggies and there is no need to water if there is snow on the ground, just remember it also may not be the best time to harvest your plants either.

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Select Cool Season Crops:

Winter gardening really just mean keeping alive summer and fall crops.  Winter gardening for me starts in August when I start planting all my crops.  It can also mean prepping the soil in fall, heating it up early with cold frames and planting in late winter early spring.

In New Mexico, before or during the monsoon season is ideal for planting fall crops because the soil opens up and receives the rains and so do your seeds.  The moisture and cooling that season brings is great for fall crops and the plants thrive in the lessening light.  Choosing cold hardy varieites is key to a hardy winter garden.  In his book Four Season Harvest Eliot Coleman lists all his winter varieties and most seed companies now have lists of cold hardy crops like at High Mowing Seeds

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How low can they go?

When you do open them up, do it mid day, as the plant enjoy the sun and may even be some what frozen.  If you harvest them like this they will turn to mush, but if you wait till the thaw they will be fine! It is kind of amazing to watch during the day.  I have negelected to cover my Chard yet and it looks totally dead in the morning but by the afternoon it is perky again and ready to harvest.  Different vegetables have different cold cold tolerances which are useful to know.

The hardiest of the winter vegetables are Kale, Collards and Spinach which can take Temps as low as low 20’s and in the high teens.

Broccoli, Brussel Sprouts, Cabbage, Kohlrabi, Mustard Greens, Parsley, Radish, Parsnip, Turnip can all take temps 28-25 degrees.

All of these can survive under thick row cover all winter, though they may not show many signs of growth, they will start to spring new leaves in February.

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Other semi-hardy vegetables are Beets, Carrots, Cauliflower, Celery, Chinese Cabbage, Endive, Lettuce, Radicchip, Rutabega, Salsify, Bok Choy, Tatsoi and Swiss Chard, tolerant of Temps from 32-29degrees.  These can usually be harvested till Christmas under heavy row cover, but will need to be replanted in the spring under row cover as well.

Cold Frames:  Cold frames can be built in all kind of ways and there are some great designs out there you can easily be guided by.  I would start by reading Eliot Coleman’s books.  There are glass, plastic, straw bales, adobe and even some pretty sweet custom made ones by our local ‘Grow Your Own’ veggie man, Ken Kuhn.  I love cold frames and could talk forever about them.  But the first thing to think about tis your winter reality.  How much do you really need, how much are you really willing to do and how far are you willing to go.  I recommend finding a nice south facing nook close to your front doorstep where you can reach out in your bathrobe a slippers, raise a lid and snip a few fresh leaves on a cold winter day.  Now doesn’t that seem nice.  I wrote a whole post on making those greens last.

 So hopefully all this should get you started.  Stay tuned for the ‘Late Winter in the Garden’ post in a couple of months when you & nature are really ready to get growing again.

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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

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!!

The Tomato Report

As the first frost looms around us, threatening to nip my tender garden with it’s frigid fingers any night now…..and I am having a hard time letting go.  You may already know, my tomatoes are overly doted upon, but to me everything I have given them has been worth it.  It all started way back in January you see, sowing those baby seeds, a bit early maybe, but I just couldn’t wait. I watering and pinching back flowers,

fertigating and tending to their care daily, and they grew and grew and grew

Until it was time to harden them off and send them out into the great wide world

Where a ceremonial garden once grew

…we rearranged things a bit to accomodate our growing family of vegetables.

Wheel burrow upon wheel burrow of yummy Soilutions compost, bags and bags and bags of my neighbors leaves,

rototilling,

hand digging, fluffing, shaping of soil into beds…..

drip tape irrigation,

Finally planting them loving into the well prepped earth

Mulching like crazy

Even laying tiles in the paths for solar/rain collection as well as for walking…excessive maybe, but I had them laying around

staking,

tying & pruning & training

And of course the waiting……

And then one fine, late July day, they started to come on.. pound by pound….

…..by pound

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Well paced, but incredibly abundant!!

And boy were they good!  It was all worth it!

There were a few problems of course, like blossom end rot

And some serious cracking

But I still ate them of course

and sauced and roasted and stewed them —

125lbs pounds of ripe gorgeous tomatoes to date, and at the looks of things I might still be in for plenty more.

You see, my husband decided he could whip a little hoop house over them to protect them from frost and help them ripen.

I thought he was crazy at first,I mean they are over 6 feet high by now… but of course, whip on up he did.

With 8 cattle panels, contractors plastic

an old post from a stop sign & some scrap lumber made into a ridge pole, some bailing wire and some of those cool paper fastener things….

Amounting to about $275 and 2 afternoons… we got ourselves and hothouse baby!!

And hot it is, steaming in fact, so much the tomatoes were sweating and my camera was clouding up.

It is all an experiment of course, I have no idea how it will all end, but I do know it sure was tasty fun and I will let you know when they finally fade,

but for now….no frosty nights for these girls!