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No where to go but up from here!

So we talked about getting started with dirt, worms, composting, pets and plants. I’ve had my garden and flower beds for almost 5 years. It’s had its ups and downs. But I wouldn’t trade it for anything. After child birth its the most satisfying thing I’ve ever done. I know that sounds crazy, but there is just something about taking a plant from seed to table.

My grandkids are starting to get involved. They pick stuff to grow, which is great until they name them. Then it becomes iffy. I hear things like “oh now we can’t eat Red, or we can’t eat Blue……… Eventually they get it. They picked an orange tree to plant for Earth day. Trying to make them understand it had to be a dwarf tree really limited what we got. My grandson wanted a Meyer lemon tree…… Because he likes to eat lemons. When I asked him if he would eat them all, he said no. So no lemon tree.

Everyone should grow something, veggies, fruits, flowers, just find something and grow it. Even if it’s just in window box (great for herbs) or on a balcony. It helps us appreciate where our food comes from and how much work is involved in producing so many things that people take for granted.

Lets talk about pesticides for a few minutes. I don’t use any…….. Seriously nothing, not even the occasional soap and water. If  showed you a current picture of my Brussel sprout plants you would think a bunny had been chewing on them. I’m not sure what is feasting, but what the heck. We won’t eat the leaves anyway. The first year we had such a large crop of tomatoes, the husband and sons spent many an evening picking tomato worms off the plants. Occasionally I find some of the grape leaves chewed on as well. Since I’m not some big farm and I’m only growing for us and not for profit, it doesn’t bother me. This year we planted corn and I’m sure I’ll find a few worms in the corn. Ah, the circle of life.

There are a few plants I plant to help keep tiny critters at bay. In between my plants I have marigolds, they have a smell that alot of insects don’t like plus they help protect the health of the soil under the plants . My mom use to say marigolds stink. So there ya go lol. Occasionally i’ll plant chrysanthemums when the husband brings them home from work. Lavender is one of my favorites, I plant it with my herbs. It’s a multi-tasker and ask Alton Brown, we love multi-taskers. Lavender will help repel fleas (not an issue in the desert), moths and mosquitos.  You get the added bonus of the wonderful smell of the lavender and the pretty flowers.

So now you know how my garden grows. Have a great day and make your own path

Gardening

Where to begin? At the beginning.

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So this is where I started. Doesn’t look very appealing. And it was a lot of hard work.

This is the end result of that first year. We planted strawberries (which are going strong), zucchini, crock neck or yellow squash (my personal favorite), tomatoes and bell peppers. Let me share with you what I learned about tomatoes. I bought 4 different varieties of large tomatoes, two different varieties of cherry tomatoes and grape tomatoes. HUGE HUGE  mistake. At least for our backyard garden. We had SO MANY tomatoes, I couldn’t give them away. Seriously, it was to much. I learned my lesson quickly. Now I only plant what I think we will use in one season. You can make only so much pasta sauce………… I learned so much in that first year. Bell peppers don’t like heat. If it starts to get to warm they will bolt. Watch the variety of veggies that you pick. Read the label carefully before you buy. I bought a large variety of zucchini. You can see from the picture they got huge. Also, don’t plant stuff you personally don’t like. What’s the point? I dislike zucchini, but my family professed to LOVE it……… Again I couldn’t give it away.

Everyone that I talked to and all the books I read all said it was almost impossible to grow grapes here……. Well, that sounded like a challenge. One guy at Star Nursery told me I could do it, but it would take perseverance and dedication…… phft…. Because it got planted against the wall (husband decided that), it gets neglected ALOT. The first picture is what it looked like when I ordered it. It was a year old. It takes grapes 3-4 years to yield a crop. I have been very patient, considering I’m an instant gratification kind of gal. But this year, all that neglect is paying off, as you can see. There are so many grapes on the vines and the plant has literally taken over half the garden wall. I just hope the neighbors like grapes.

Awe the Bougainvillea. It’s so beautiful in bloom. One of the things I love about it is the color. Such a huge burst of color that comes from leaves, not flowers. The bougainvillea is a tropical plant originating from Brazil, way back in the day ( that day was a Wednesday….. Not a Dane Cook fan? Oh well). The climate for the bougainvillea is tropical. If by tropical they mean feeling like your living In an oven, then that’s what we got. I don’t do anything special for it. I don’t protect it from the cold winter, I don’t prune pinch or trim. It just grows like a 60’s flower child.

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Finally for today is my berry vine. Came straight from the pacific northwest. Ha! You can see the grape reaching out for the berry. They are great friends. This is actually an older picture. Year 2 I think. The berry (which the husband has convinced the grandkids its called a poisonberry) grows profusely in Oregon. Along streets, in the woods, in yards. You can tell it’s berry season when you see people on the sides of long country roads with buckets. Just out for the day picking berries. Its the most amazing thing to watch our grandkids literally eat from the backyard. They pick strawberries, tomatoes, and berries. Instead of farm to table at our house its garden to mouth. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

My point of all of this is just this; plant what you want. What happens if it fails? Well then it fails. I planted Chinese cabbage this year, also called Napa cabbage. It was the first time trying it, I was pretty excited. I love Napa cabbage for coleslaw and stuff like that. I invested time and energy into it. I had 8 beautiful seedlings in the garden. Our weather was weird this spring. Hot, cold, hot, rainy, cold on and on. My cabbage grew and grew. I watched it everyday waiting to see the heads start to form. Instead, I got flowers…….. It never formed its heads, its bolted and started to flower. Failure…….

Just start planting stuff, even if you live in an apartment or a rental. A lot of things work well In containers. Just start at the beginning. You’ll be surprised how quickly you become addicted to growing things. Loving, nurturing, eating all those wonderful things you grew in your own special place.

Have a great day and follow your own path

Gardening · Uncategorized

Plants vs. Animals

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Ahhh, the agony of choosing plants. In our front yard we chose flowers and ornamentals. And plenty of gnomes to protect the garden. My poor Tony Gnomo has gotten so beat up out there. Broken arm, broken back….. I retired him to the back yard this year. 🙂

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Don’t let anyone try to convince you, you need a greenhouse. NOT IN A DESERT. I was so excited about gardening I wanted to do everything right. I bought a small inexpensive one before I commissioned the husband to build one. Just to test it out. Alot of my gardening books say you should have a greenhouse to germinate your seeds in colder weather.  You can keep your seedlings in the greenhouse until the last frost is passed and stuff like that. I was very successful in cooking my seedlings. Even in the winter months of the desert the sun is still hot. The general idea of a greenhouse is to keep the heat in. The sunlight passes through the transparent walls, heats up the ground which then radiates warmth and heats the air……….. It was so hot and humid…. Never again

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This what I did instead. Soda bottles and paper cups in the garage. No grow lights, no heat lamps. When the humidity seemed a little high inside the cup, I removed the tops and let them get some air. The grew just fine in December and January. Also there is alot of misleading information on what you need to grow seeds. Let me clear something up. Seeds only need water to grow. Your obviously going to want to put them in something. You don’t need a bunch of potting soils or fancy dirt. Until seedlings get their first true leaves they only need water to grow. I really feel like that needs repeating. In warmer months when I don’t need the heat and humidity for the seeds I recycle our k-cups. I just plop the seeds in the coffee grounds and water. Hasn’t failed me yet.

 

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A couple of points on buying plants. I do buy them occasionally. I order them as well as get them at local nurseries. I don’t limit myself to just what they sell In the nurseries. When I order from out of state nurseries I usually get a warning that those plants don’t grow in my area. I insist that they send them anyway. My motto is, if you want to grow it, then grow it. I totally ignore that whole zone system. Some sites say I’m in zone  8, some say zone 11……. Whatever. I have green grapes growing in my backyard, they aren’t supposed to be. I also have a berry vine that grows in the Pacific Northwest, doing quite nicely also in my backyard. Not everything works, its all trial and error. My bougainvillea does well, the jasmine barely hangs on every year. Not quite dying, but not quite thriving either. Trial and Error.

We have dogs……. I almost feel like that’s all I need to say. None of them are diggers, lucky for us. We have unique problems with them. One of them is a food snob (not my fault) and likes to eat the herbs. Especially the basil, which is planted In the front yard now. It’s hard some times to keep him out of the garden. When plants are young and tender he will eat them…… (idk, he’s French) . The other two like to lay in the dirt. Not necessarily an issue for the tiny one, but our medium size dog is a bully. She doesn’t care who or what is In her way when she wants to lay down. Many a day Ive walked out to the garden and plants are smooshed. One of the corn stalks is stunted from her laying on it. All the others are 3 feet tall. The little runty one is barely a foot. I don’t think it’s going to make it. I put up a little 12 inches fence, the kind you see at the dollar store. It helps keep them out. Until they see me in the garden doing stuff. Then the jump right in.  So just be prepared if you have pets. They like to get involved, not always in a way you want. Cats……. If you have cats or cats In your neighborhood. Cats see a garden as a giant litter box….. So gross.

Ok time to grab some lettuce from the garden and make dinner. Remember, follow your own path.

 

 

 

 

 

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Dirt, Worms and Composting

The Southern Nevada Water Authority says on their website that our native soil contains a small amount of organic matter.  HA! Maybe in some lush green park or the grassy area at a casino, but not our yard. Unless you count some long dead dog or cat that the previous owner buried years ago. Their website also says many of the nutrients needed to support plant life are missing. By many they mean most. What we decided to do was remove as much of the native soil as we could and build our own.

Now I have a ton of reference material on gardening. A lot of the books talk about amending the soil, but very few talk about starting from scratch. Since that’s exactly what I wanted to do I needed to come up with a soil formula that would not only support plants I decided to plant, but native plants as well.  The first thing I knew I would need was organic matter, contrary to what the water authority says. Another name for organic matter is compost. We will discuss compost in detail later, but for now we know we need to add compost or organic matter to our beds.

When I was a kid I use to be very jealous of my mother and my older sister because of the way they could grow house plants. If I bring a plant In the house, within days it will be dead. I’m not sure why, I’ve since realized I should stick with growing outdoors. Back to what I was saying, my mom use to say that good soil makes all the difference. She would add peat moss to her house plant soil. She told me it helps the soil to be lighter and have better water retention. That got me to thinking about peat moss in my garden. I decided to look into the benefits of peat moss, this is what I found.

Most websites I found did in fact say that most gardeners use peat moss as a soil amendment for potting soil. It holds several times its weight in moisture and releases the moisture to plant roots as needed. WELL, THAT SOUNDS AMAZING! Especially in the desert where water is at a premium. Peat moss doesn’t compact or breakdown quickly, one application of peat moss lasts for several years. This all sounds like exactly what I need. Then I found more information that made me hesitate about the peat moss. There is apparently some controversy over the use of peat moss, because its not a long-term sustainable resource (who knew). Even though it is organic peat is being used and mined faster than it can be produced. There are dwindling natural supplies and bog (yes, it’s harvested from bogs. Nope, I didn’t know that either) destruction is evidence of a supply problem. This can lead to a number of problems including changing or destruction of natural habitats for animals. AAAAAHHHHH!!!!! Why did I have to find that out!

The last thing I wanted to add to my soil is Vermiculite. I’m going to tell you that vermiculite is mica like rocks. It comes in various sizes for various sized gardens. It has a technical name, blah blah blah. If you want to get some all you need to tell the guy at the nursery is you want vermiculite. So what does vermiculite do you ask?. Well, it also helps with water retention, it helps plants to easily absorb various minerals and it helps keep your soil well aerated. It has a lot of other uses too that we will probably discuss in future blogs, like working with root cuttings and seedlings.

Ok, so now I know what I want for soil. I’m still struggling with the peat moss issue, but I rationalize it knowing I won’t have to amend with peat moss as often since it last longer than other soils. I mixed my ingredients on a large tarp with a pitchfork (muah ha ha ha). I used 16 cubic feet for my two raised beds. That broke down like this; 2 full bales of peat moss, 4 big bags of vermiculite and the rest compost. It was actually quite easy when I finally worked it out. Now my soil isn’t limited to just native growing plants. I can literally grow anything, except in the summer. Special allowances have to be made for summer since we get so dang hot. One of the things I did was put my garden on the backside of the house so it only gets the morning sun. It still gets hot back there, but at least the afternoon sun isn’t beating down on it.

Lets talk a little about worms. We didn’t have any. Does that surprise anyone? It didn’t surprise me, our ground was so hard there was no way the little guys could have survived. How did I solve this problem? I sent my husband to a bait shop, they keep them there on ice for fishermen. I sent him for earthworms. He came back with nightcrawlers……. I made a joke about X-Men, he just looked at me like I was crazy. The bait shop was out of earthworms, don’t worry if that happens. Nightcrawlers are apparently the same only bigger. They were also never part of the circus……..

So now I needed something to feed my little friends so that they would make me amazing soil. Everyone talks about composting and big composting bins. Watering, mixing, turning… UGH no thanks. I went to Bed Bath and Beyond, I bought a kitchen composting bucket with charcoal filter(that part is VERY important). EVERYTHING organic goes in the bucket. Everything except meat and dairy. Once a week or truthfully when I remember, we dig a hole in the garden and dump it In. I don’t have to worry about small animals like bunnies or raccoons, so that makes it so much easier. No turning or mixing, it’s available right then for the worms to eat and poop, eat and poop, eat and…… Well you get the idea. The composting bucket that I have is pretty amazing, at least the filter is. I’m pretty sure no one has emptied it for about 3 weeks. The charcoal filter keeps the kitchen from smelling like rotten veggies. Once you start using it, it will become second nature. We also recycle as well as compost so our actual trash is cut way down. I think the trash can gets emptied once or twice a week.

A couple of final thoughts on worms. Don’t over water or flood your garden. The worms can drown. Yep, found that out the hard way 😦 Also if you never had birds in your yard before you’ll have them now. Get a bird feeder, it helps distract the birds from the worms they really want to eat.

That’s my soil story and I’m sticking to it. Enjoy your day. If you have any questions or comments about the soil, worms or composting let me know. I’ll do my best to answer In a timely manner. Have a great day and follow your own path.

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My Garden Path

Hello, my name is Michele welcome to my garden blog.  This is the first in what I hope will be a happy relationship between me, you and my garden. I am definitely not an expert in gardening and I won’t ever claim to be. Gardening may seem pretty simple and straightforward for most people that live in say….. South Carolina. Gardening in a desert like Las Vegas isn’t quite as simple. As a matter of fact it can be tough, there is little to no information available for the weekend gardener or hobbyist living here. So my goal is to share some of the tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way. Mostly through trial and error. Alot of error and some OMG that worked stuff.

I was so excited when my husband and I decided to start gardening. Until of course we had to dig……… The ground here or at least in our yard is this super rock hard stuff that I found out is called Caliche (apparently the husband already knew this). Now caliche is a sedimentary rock, it’s a hardened natural CEMENT of calcium carbonate that binds with other materials, like gravel, clay and silt. It was horrible trying to penetrate the caliche, I was so frustrated I started crying. The husband freaked out, he doesn’t handle me crying very well. His “manly, knight in shining armor” kicked in, he decided he was going to rent a backhoe, dig up the entire backyard and “fix it” for me.  Before he could run off to AHERN or where one might rent a backhoe I suggested raised beds. 🙂

That is just one of the many issues I came across here in our backyard. Hopefully you’ll stick around to see what I’ve got to say and maybe at some point be inspired to start your own garden. If you do I would love to hear about it. Feel free to leave a comment or ask a question. Have a great day and follow your own path.