It has been a stormy week for those of us here in the high desert. Corona cases jumped from 4 to 41 in our state one weeks time. We have been sent home & stayed home, social distancing for a … Continue reading
May is lovely- but can be wild too. As we have seen this weekend in Santa Fe- a foot of snow!!
It is such a transitional time, the last burst of winter before it finally passes. I looked back on my calendars and it does usually snow every year in the first week of May, so though odd, it is actually to be expected.
But the good news is no harm done over here. All the little cool season greens and seeds were tucked under row cover and only seemed to perk up from crisp air all the moisture gifted to them. If you are wondering how cold CAN your cold season crops get…well
How low can they go?
The hardiest of the winter vegetables are Kale, Collards, Peas 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.
Other semi-hardy vegetables are Beets, Carrots, Cauliflower, Celery, Chinese Cabbage, Endive, Lettuce, Radicchio, 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. (with the exception of Swiss Chard, this patch was almost invisible all winter under no row cover… but is coming back just fine!)
So not to worry, the storm has passed, we have gathered the moisture and now we prepare for hardening off and the planting out process… More on that to come.
It is the first day of spring and today began with an odd twist. For those of your with littles ones around, or those who just appreciate a good story… Here is a little tale for your first day of spring…
You see our pet bunny, Peter Rabbit, was missing. It seemed he had dug a tunnel through the garden and escaped sometime early in the morning! I was wrought with guilt because my son had warned me he would do just that and I neglected to move the cage so that would not happen! I was reminded of this story I found last year for our Home school group from Suzanne Downs Website ( exact link couldn’t find today). This tale kind of saved the day… and it all ended perfectly…
Here is Suzanne Tale of Lady Spring and the Easter Rabbit-
Lady Spring and the Easter Rabbit
Once upon a time, Lady Spring awoke from her long Winter’s nap. Just like last year, and all the years that came before, Father Sun gently tapped her on the shoulder and shone his warm light down on her to wake her.
Lady Spring dressed in her finest gown of sky blue, with a silken ribbon in her hair, and she set out into the meadow to greet all of the animals and flowers. As she walked, she listened and looked for the for the sounds and sights of Spring—children playing in the sunshine, families sowing seeds in their gardens, people celebrating the return of the season … but she saw no one. The doors were all closed, windows shuttered, and the yards and fields lay empty. Where were all the people?
A robin lit on a nearby branch to share his song with Lady Spring. She listened kindly and then asked, “Where are all the dear people of the village? Do they not know that Spring has arrived?” The robin tweeted a reply, for he had flown here and there and had picked up this news in the village: “The Winter was so very long … and so very cold, and everyone has been tucked in tightly into their houses for so long—I don’t think they know that Spring has arrived!”
Lady Spring had an idea. She called out to all the animals of the forest, and they gathered in the meadow. She told them all that the good people of the village needed their help. Someone must share the news that Spring was here. Who would do it?
All of the animals began to shout “Send me, send me!” and Lady Spring announced: “We shall have a race. The animal that can run all the way around the world and return here first will be our messenger.” The animals agreed.
The wild stag went first. “I am the fleetest afoot. Surely I will win the race.” And off he went. But when he got to the rocky hills, he started leaping from rock to rock and ended up playing there for many hours and forgot all about the race.
Next was the salmon. “I can dart through the water and swim with the tides. Surely I shall win the race.” The salmon began swimming as fast as she could, but soon the sunbeams dancing on the stream caught her eye, and she thought the sparkles of light were little flies. For the rest of the day she leaped here and there trying to catch them.
Then the hawk called, “I am the swiftest of all the creatures who circle the earth. Surely I will win the race.” He shot like an arrow into the sky and soared above the meadow, until down in a field, he spotted a mouse. He swooped straight down to get it and forgot all about the race.
The little rabbit went quietly on his way. He never looked left or right, but gazed straight ahead and held steadfastly to his course. Just as the sun was setting, he returned to Lady Spring in the meadow, completing his circle of the earth.
Lady Spring gave thanks to the humble rabbit and asked him to visit the village that night, sharing news of the arrival of Spring. The little bunny asked, “How will they know it’s true?” Lady Spring thought for a moment and then took a small egg from her pouch. She gently gave it to the rabbit and said, “Show them this egg. Just as the golden yolk shines inside the hard shell of the egg, so the light of the sun shines again and warms the earth in Springtime, so that new life can begin.”
The little bunny set out on his way with joy, and every year he journeys from house to house, village to village, bringing beautiful eggs to all the families and sharing the news that Spring has returned.
Snip, snap, snout, this tale is all told out.
Our tale ended almost as sweetly… Our Bunny , after his long trip around the world telling of Springs coming got a bit lost on his way home, but luckily just before dark he hopped past a man on the road. “Are you lost little Bunny” the man asked. ” Indeed” said the little bunny. “Well I know where you live, your family must be worried about you, I will take you home” The kind man scooped up the Bunny, cradled him in his arms and walked the bunny to the little house down the road where the three children lived. He knocked at the door and the children came running out in their pajamas, for it was just before bed, and the kind man said, “I think I have found something of yours!” The children cheered and hugged the Bunny and the man! “He must have been out spreading the word that Spring is here”, smiled their mother and everyone went to bed happy that night and grateful Spring was here!
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!!
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.
Here is a post from years back that talks about the hardening off process and why it is important.
Here is another on with ten transplanting tips.
And 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!
What 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.
If 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.
I 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!
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…
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.
I 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!
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!
It was 7:30 pm last night when the rain first hit our roof….soft at first, then…. patter patter pat! I could not resist, I left two children inside alone, in bedtime mode to run outside and uncover my garden beds. … Continue reading
I have written many times about growing sprouts at home cause it is just so darn easy and rewarding. I have lots of friends out there who simply can’t start vegetables indoors but sprouts only require attention for 10 days or so and really only need heat and water and a little sunshine.
You can grow them with kids and they just love it and you could just keep that going and forgo a garden altogether and still get a constant supply of yummy fresh food for your table.
Here is last years link on growing sprouts and Micro greens. But seeing as today and tomorrow are leaf days I thought I would remind you to sow some sprouts indoors.
If you do they may just be ready for Easter salads, and Easter baskets for that matter. Why not grow peas shoots or sunflower sprouts this year instead of grass and when the thrill of Easter morning has worn off, snip the sprouts into salad and get double your money…
Happy Spring everyone and Happy Sprouting!!
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.
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.
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.
Once I have everything gathered I get my
a 5 gallon bucket,
a shovel and
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
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.
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.
Give it a squeeze and release
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!
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)
Cool Huh? Want to try? Here is how he did it.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
I know you all have been muchin’ salad lately. The fresh greens of spring are something we look forward to all year. Baby lettuce, spinach, arugula….and what of the wild greens? My lettuce is there but often hidden under handfuls of french sorrel, dandelion greens, chervil, arugula (leaves and flowers), rocket, mint leaves…all of which I wrote about last spring here.
Arugula is in the Cruciferae family ( as in cross, see the flowers, they are all like that) though now the family is called Brassicaceae after it’s most popular member, broccoli. Arugula flowers, as well all the other Cruciferae cousins flowers are edible, just look here. This season I have added Siberian Elm seeds and Mallow Leaves to the mix.
I know the Siberian Elm can seem a great nuance, and that it is when those seeds go flying and take root just about everywhere…but if you pick the seeds before they fly, when bright green and brand new, they are sweet and delicious. I have heard they can be eaten later too, cooked with the papery seed hulls rubbed off according to eattheweeds.com
My newest friend, ground cover, medicine, and munchy is Malva. It has been used for everything from headaches, to poultices to post- partum cleanses. The leaves can be eaten young and are medicinal. This sweet little blog tells you even more.
So as your greens come up, don’t forget to eat those weeds!!