March 21 2010

Garden of the Day:

Weeded these out of my garden, using a shovel:
And found so many of these! The best year of worms in my garden--ever.

Game of the Day

Kid Quote of the Day:

My five-year-old, covered in dirt from playing outside, comes in and sits down next to me and waits for a break in the conversation. When addressed, he didn't even stall or stutter:

"What is the name of a six-cornered shape?"

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March 19 2010

Yay gardening!

New label:
Garden of the Day (to include my myriad adventures in gardening)
How to Start a Garden in Western Colorado

Choosing land and plants
First, you call 811 and have them mark where the gas lines or anything else are so you don't dig into them on accident.

Then pick a plot of land. Watch your yard and potential land plots over the course of the day and determine sunlight patterns.

Design the garden, thinking of what you'd like to grow. EVERYTHING grows here, except citrus, so you can have a good variety. For ideas, go to the nursery--my favorite is Bookcliff Gardens. As you design, stand at your plot of land and say, "here we'll put this, and here and here" and walk between your plants as if you are harvesting. This way, you can visualize how close your plants need to be practically, and how many plants and of what types you'll want. Include in your design pathways for harvest.

Some things we've learned about plants:
Tomatoes are great volunteers. If you let what grows late freeze and rot in the ground over winter, you will get tomatoes the next year and will not need to buy. However, they are unpredictable in location, so either transplant after they start sprouting, or maintain a corner for perpetual tomatoes.

One brussels sprout plant is enough. It grows a kabillion and two sprouts. Harvest often.

One artichoke plant will yield four or five flowers to eat, and you may get more than one at once, so love artichokes.

Bell peppers are very happy here. I recommend several colors.

Spicy pepper plants grow peppers abundantly.
They get spicier in hotter, drier environments. Choose carefully, or have lots of spicy-loving friends. Also, keep the pets away.

Tomatillos will strangle your other plants, so prune early. Also, without pruning they don't produce much.

A young cherry tree will yield a couple of cherries a year the first few years.

Mint is not as robust as it has been touted when a dog gets after it shortly after planting.

Lemon oregano is very very hardy, likes harsh sunlight, and is a perennial.

Potatoes need no special dirt. Just put them under.

Dirt, Rock, and Water

Dirt is infertile, mostly mineral content, but finer than sand. Topsoil is decomposed organic matter and minerals. You can get mulches which are all decomposed organic matter, but I stick with manure because it both fertilizes and provides additional decomposed organics.

Dig the dirt/soil out of the plot, about 8 to 12 inches. Line the bottom of the plot with rock. Cover with a mix of dirt, topsoil, and manure. Since this is the first gardening, you won't need to till. Next year, you'll weed and till because your dirt is where you want it. If you are going to line/rock your walkways, now is the time. Do not put rocks over your good soil, but instead fill your walkways with infertile dirt or rock. That way you're not wasting your grow dirt and you don't grow where you want to be walking.

All that rock in your garden is essential in this climate. Water will puddle in the walkways and seep into the soil as the soil dries out. It will also puddle in the rock at the bottom. You can encourage water retention by lining under the bedrock with landscaping fabric, or putting landscaping fabric on the top with holes for the plants. I do not put fabric on the top because weeds grow through it (anyway) and when I try to remove them, the fabric pulls on the plants I want to keep.

When you water, soak low and at night, especially if it is a high sunlight area. Watering the leaves during the sunny hours will keep them from frying, and they'll continue to shield your fruit. Misters work best for the daytime water, using less water and encouraging the cooling effects of evaporation.

Putting the Plants in the Ground

Plant anywhere between March and July, though giving the orchards a call and finding out if they expect an early winter will help you decide to plant or not to plant later in the summer. In a normal year, the growing season lasts until Halloween, and even later for hardy, frost-proof plants. (A brussels sprout will withstand a mild freeze that will kill most everything else.)

It is better to underbuy than to have too many plants, so buy the minimum number of plants you think will fit in your garden. Put them in the ground the day you buy them, or the next morning if it is early spring (give them a bit to get used to the ground before shocking them with a colder night).

You can read the tags about optimum spacing, but in this climate, closer is better. I have also reduced the height of the mounds I put my plants atop of: drainage away from the stems is still important, but most plants don't have the root network to reach where the water does end up draining to.

Leaving your plants unattended

If you go out of town, or on vacation, your plants will need some love. Timer sprinklers are okay, but they will water even if it rains, and can freeze if we get a freak temperature drop, which is not totally impossible in this climate. I recommend getting two or three neighbors, friends, or family and arrange they drop by and mist in the hottest weather or soak in the evening, and divvy up the responsibility so that if one becomes unreliable, your plants are still getting the love they need.

If it is harvest season and you go out of town, have someone pick stuff they want. A quick lesson is in order if they have no experience: things like twisting tomatoes instead of pulling straight down, and that artichokes need scissors. There are also people out there that don't know what an ear of corn looks like on the plant, though you will likely not find them in this community. The point is, being obvious never killed a garden.

Bugs and other Pests

Ladybugs love marigolds and eat aphids, so plant marigolds near your tomatoes. It is not an option. Your tomatoes will love you. Dispensing with aphids is a horrid matter.

Some plants will get bugs you will need to wash off, so use a mild soap like Ivory with water, about a 2% solution, and spray them down. A Miracle-Gro mixing bottle that fits on the hose works well because you have pressure, or a plain spray bottle, like those for cleaners. The dead bugs may remain, just hose them off or wipe down the plant.

Rabbits, deer, dogs, cats, and other creatures like gardens because they are cool and have tasty things. A small fence is in order, and maybe a pellet gun depending on the attitude of the cat you're trying to repel. (That part was a joke.) I have no idea how to keep cats out, except with my dog, who digs holes in my garden. Maybe turning on the mister might scare the crud out of them. I would actually love to see a deer in my yard, so I haven't tried to repel them specifically. If you get mice, don't worry: the owls will come after them.

Bees! If you are putting in flowering plants, you will need bees, and will invariably get them. Check with your neighbors if they are not obviously attracting the creatures themselves because they will need to know you are inviting bees into the neighborhood, especially if they are allergic.

Wasps will also come. Keep an eye on any posts, rails, decks, overhangs, garages, and chairs in the vicinity because they will set up housekeeping near your garden. It is, again, a cool supply of water and food.

Molds: If you notice your watering cycle keeps your garden from drying out ever, you will need to inspect your plants and the surface of the dirt around them for molds. If you get them, wash them with your soap solution and let the garden dry out as best you can. You can also dig them up and move them. Molds are the reason I do not use wood mulches in my vegetables, and have a fair amount of infertile dirt mixed in.

Black ants can be ecologically removed with Borax: like a seagull eating alka-seltzer, the Borax expands, and any that is left will not harm your plants.

Things you will need

A hose that will reach your garden from your spigot.
A mister head and a soaker head, or one that does both, and does it unattended (no squeeze handles)
A small shovel for the more wicked weeds
A large shovel for dirt moving
Pruning shears or scissors

(*you don't have to buy each of these, use what you have and buy to supplement. You'll want about a 1-1-1 ratio of the grow stuff and whatever rock fits your design.)

If necessary:
Soap solution


landscape fabric
something to keep the dog out (or rabbits, or cats, or whatever)

If you have grass growing somewhere you're going to plant, and you push under the grass and plant, and water as if it were a flower bed, you'd get fruit yield. Not as good, not as long, and not as much, but you'll get food.

P.S. Where are the rest of my "-a-day" from March? They're on ice. I'm slowly drooling things out, as opposed to spitting it out, or even chewing it thoughtfully. It's an interesting method, not really efficient, but it is definitely How it is coming out, and when Ever

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March 2 2010

Reading of the Day:
Here's the challenge--my daughter reads at a soaring level above her maturity. Harry Potter, not yet. More like Hardy Boys. So...into the past where books for children were more innocent--well, not as far as the Brother's Grimm, not much innocence there-- I mean the fifties.

Random Fact of the Day:
Today's advertising work was all about the excrement. See, there's this enzyme that helps people with Cystic Fibrosis to absorb more of the fats in their diet--an essential change for their development. They can measure the fat absorption by, uh, evaluating their stools. And then there's this treatment for women with SUI: Stress Urinary Incontinence. (Oh, the google searches that will turn up my blog!) See, you don't have to live wearing pads advertised with lovely pinkness and radiant, petally pink flowers. No, you can try this treatment that will keep you from--uh--peeing a little when they laugh--a phrase that is now okay in some circles to express a level of LOL. It just disturbs me. Get fixed, girl, then you can laugh so hard your face hurts instead of peeing first. Remember when that happened? I should work in advertising. Oh wait...

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March 1 2010

Teaching Link of the Day:
Sketching Lego Creations

I wrote about a Lego(R) and sketching exercise that we did last year, and this year the lego construction projects have become exponentially more complex. I've been encouraging one model a day become sketched, which increases difficulty to 3D, 2D, rounded bricks and bricks of odd shapes, internal perspectives for things like houses and drawing without grids. It's like jumping jacks for the brain.

Development of the Day:
I spent my afternoon filtering through all my pictures, downloading the newest version of Picasa, running AdAware because Picasa kept crashing, just to get an online album created with photos of the kids for the grandparents.

It took forever ...forever ...forever ...forever

But I don't have to do it again. Re: just upload them to the album when I upload them to my computer.

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