Backyard Garden 2011

We wanted to dedicate a special corner of our website to the pursuits of gardening. After all, living gluten free makes you  place a stronger emphasis on eating an abundance of organically grown fruits and vegetables, and not just on the consumption of all things bread.

Gardening in the high desert is not always easy, especially in a drought year, and following a brutally cold winter where temperatures reached -36°F, highly unusual even for us. Our comfort zone has rested more with gardening in the  Pacific Northwest, where your main nemesis are the ever present slugs beating you to your juiciest strawberries, and any greens that you were just hoping to collect for dinner.

At the beginning of June, we returned home one evening to find that a giant dust devil, later confirmed by one of our neighbors, had completely demolished our back fence. We were only alerted to the fact by our dog who insisted on acting as though alien invaders had stormed the back yard. Much to our surprise, we realized that the wind had even go so far as to twirl the heavy wooden posts, set in cement, right out of the soil. Quite amazing when you think that each one weighed upwards of 40lbs. It was a lot of work just disassembling the broken panels, setting new posts, and hanging new boards. We salvaged whatever we could, and in the process wondered what we could do with some of the boards which were not quite good enough for fence material, but still too good for recycling, or the land fill.

Up to this point, we managed to grow raspberries, flowers, herbs, and keep our non-producing fruit trees barely alive. So now, with all of the left over boards, it occurred to us that we could try the much read about square foot gardening method. We began by purchasing a cedar 4×4 square foot kit at Home Depot, which was simple enough to assemble, just requiring the addition of healthy soil.

The Garden Kit is on the left, minus the shade covering which we added later

This became the inspiration for reusing the left over fence boards. Therefore, our second planting bed turned out to be a 4×6 configuration, which you can see in the photo above on the right. We also purchased some large stakes, hammered the stakes into the ground, and simply attached the boards to them with screws. Again, like in the first bed, we added lots of healthy compost and soil, and began planting one seedling (which we had already been growing in the house) per square foot of space.

Despite daily watering, and our greatest efforts, we realized that the seedlings were struggling to survive due in part to the high UV in New Mexico, and the ever present wind. We used whatever fence boards remained to construct a wind barrier on the Western side of the garden beds, where they seem to get hit the hardest. Again, we used some tall garden stakes, very inexpensive to purchase at any home center, hammered them in the ground, and fastened the fence boards to them with screws. We placed 5ft. metal fence posts behind each wind barrier so we could mount a wire fence cloth over the top of each bed. In order to secure the fence cloth across the bed on the other side, we needed to place additional stakes which we again secured to the existing frame with screws. We then drilled holes at the very top of the stakes to secure fence cloth to them with strong wire. When everything was secured, we draped the shade cloth over the fence cloth, and secured it with plastic zip ties.

And what a difference it has made to our plants. Where before they were struggling to survive at all, now they are thriving, and growing into an absolute jungle.

This is pretty much what our garden looks like now — a jungle

Right now, zucchinis are ripe for the picking, growing to enormous sizes.

In case you are wondering about the blue glass bottles seen in several of the photos, they are an experiment to see whether the myth is true that they draw bees, for natural pollination. So far so good, although we have noticed a definite decline in the bee population this year due to the extreme cold of the past winter.

There will be an abundance of tomatoes. In addition to the traditional Roma variety, we are also experimenting with several heirloom tomatoes, namely Purple Russian, and a type of dark burgundy nearly black tomatoes, too interesting to resist.

No Southwest garden would be truly complete without the addition of chilies in all varieties. We have been experimenting with jalapenos, sweet banana peppers, and bell peppers. Maybe next year we will branch out and try different varieties.

We have also planted several varieties of cucumbers, red cabbages, Brussels sprouts, two different types of basil, fennel, lemon balm, parsley, thyme, and sweet potatoes.

Outside of the actual garden beds, we have also planted grapes, though they have yet to bear fruit, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, blueberries, a peach and a pear tree. Following are just a few selected pictures. We will continue to upload updated photos showing the progress of any of our further gardening endeavors, as they become available.

Please feel free and share any and all of your successes and/or failures in your own gardening pursuits by posting in the comments section below.

cucumber
cabbages and Brussels Sprouts 
Basil
A Tiny Pumpkin
Strawberries in bloom
Our beautiful Thompson grape, which miraculously survived the harsh winter

8/20/11  Update:

An unwelcome visitor appeared in our otherwise very successful garden.

To read the complete story, check out our link to today’s post.

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7 thoughts on “Backyard Garden 2011

  1. hello !
    if you want to attract more bee’s you need to plant flowers between your veggies, such as verbena bonariensis and lavender and you can make a bee hotel on a stick for solitary bee’s and voilà the bee’s will love your garden.

    1. Gwennie, we have lamb’s ear planted throughout our garden, to the delight of the bees, but will still have to plant some flowers amidst the veggies. Also like your suggestion about the bee hotel. Thanks.

      Lee, Happy your grandma loved the photos. Thanks for sharing your part of the world with us as well. Much appreciated.

      Brook Alice, Happy you liked it. Thanks.

  2. And thanks for this look at your garden! I know a dust devil is destructive (too many d’s in that phrase!) but I do love that word haboob! It actually sounds like a dance — doin’ the haboob (like a tarantella!) I hadn’t heard that about blue bottles attracting bees in the garden. Is it only blue? I have long used wine bottles (mainly green or clear) as garden edging (digging a trench and inserting the bottles neck down leaving 6-8 inches above ground, lovely in sunlight and nearly indestructible) and am also now up to 3 bottle trees. If the in-ground bottles have a punt they catch rainwater and provide little drinking pools for various living things.

    1. The bottles also serve the dual purpose of holding up the plastic coverings, during the early planting season. We just started experimenting with it, and your idea of a rain catchment system is another great suggestion. Thanks for sharing.

  3. I use the square foot gardening method, too, which I sort of inherited from my Dad, who has been organic gardening since the ’80s. He started with a small strip of land along the side of our suburban home and was able to grow enough to feed our family of five all summer long.

    1. Gardening is fun and ultimately rewarding. However, here in the Southwest in the midst of a severe drought, it can be a real challenge. Have not yet uploaded our current images of our gardening endeavors this year. We agree, square foot gardening is the most productive way to feed a family.

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