Seedybeans Blog

Celebrating the Humble Harvests of High Desert Homesteading

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The garden fool

Most of this blog is about all the garden good I have in my life; all my little secrets and success’s, my joys and triumphs…. so I feel like that is covered.  But the bad and the ugly however, don’t get as much press.  I figured April Fool’s Day would be a perfect day to show my garden fool, my failures and simply the humblness I must have to work with the mysteries of nature and think I know anything.  

Though I am a garden teacher, I by no means I know everything about gardening and just teach about it.  It simply means I love gardening enough to want to spend most of my time doing it and talking to people about it.  I learn right along with my students, who often end up being my teachers.  Though I have a blog about high desert gardening, I am and will always be learning how to do it.  So, here I humblyshare some of the not so bright moments of my gardening year. In the spirit of being able to laugh at myself,  it is only fair to include, learn from a move on from, the little garden fool in me.  

Aphid infestation in my greenhouse– What to do?

Aphids control– soap and water spray- I use Dr. Bronner peppermint- freshy fresh, but only helps for about a day 

Green Gunk!! Gross green mossy algae that grows on top of soil surface in pots in greenhouse that stops the water from penetrating the surface to reach the roots.- bad bad, Just scratch it off and plan to scratch again tomorrow]

Cooked cilantro– Opps– The cold frame lid blew shut on a sunny and windy may day– Creating a solar oven, cooking my cold loving cilantro, sorry guys

These are all bad things that happen to good gardeners, and OH, there have been more, though in those tragic garden moments I rarely think to grab my camera.  So as the optimisim of spring seeps into you and your garden, I say, let it take over.  There will be bumps and challenges along the way, but learning from them, not letting them stop your heart felt efforts is the only way.   Nature’s ways of fooling us is only to remind us we are not in control of our gardens, but being grown by them.  Gardening isn’t about being perfect it is about being natural.

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Weighing In

Greenhouse lettuce harvest-Planted Christmas

Today I went to harvest my first crop of lettuce of 2011 in my greenhouse and I realized my harvest sheet from 2010 was still hanging on the fridge.  After years of working in school gardens trying to convince people that not only were school gardens great teaching tools but productive members of our local food systems, I trained myself to take careful records of everything I ever grew.  Many people asked me how much of my own food I actually grow and I really never had a good answer– So I brought the record keeping home for 2010 and now have an idea of what my garden produced.  So here are the tallys for 2010, May it inspire you all to grow your own.

Garlic Harvest

Home Garden Harvest 2010

 

 

Name                           Total lbs

 

 

Lettuce                  8.75

 

Orach                           3.75

 

Spinach                  1.25

 

Cilantro                  0.25

 

Chinese Cabbage         1

 

Tat Soi                  0.75

 

Mustard Greens         0.75        

 

Carrots                  0.75

 

Zucchini                  31

 

Summer Squash         22.75

 

Potato                  6.25

 

Tomato                  20.5

 

Armenian Cuc.         26.25

 

Japanese Cuc.         4.5

 

Pickling Cuc.         5.9

 

Basil                           3

 

Garlic                           5        

 

Onions                  0.5

 

Beets                           4.25

 

Green Beans         1

 

Plums                  0.5

 

Kale                           1

 

Chard                           2.75

 

Parsley                  0.15

 

Squash Blossoms         Many

 

Cabbage                  23

 

Winter Squash         8

 

                          

 

Total Lbs of Vegetables—–162.05

Maybe next year I will actually add up the cost of the vegetables to show how much money I saved, but we all know that is only part of why we grow our own, now isn’t it.

 

                           

 

Making Winter Medicine

Harvesting rosehips on a cold winters day

For the first time this season I got a cold.  Nothing serious but it made me really appreciate the medicine my garden has provided for me this year.  Over the last month I have been sipping my brews of dried herbs, giving away my precious Osha honey (made from Osha harvested in the mountains this fall and honey from our beloved bees) and of course making tinctures of this and that.  Here are a few of my favorite garden medicine recipes and links to some darn good medicine makers here in New Mexico.

Preping Calendula oil & Rose Hip Oil

Garden Teas– Really the easiest way to use herbs through the year is to pick them, dry them, and drink them.  You will want to dry herbs in a cool, dry, dark place—I usually just hang them under my porch where the wind blows through and the sun never shines.  I also have a few old window screens I got for cents at the habitat re-store.  The beauty of New Mexico is that drying herbs is a cinch.  Our dry climate is perfect.  Just be sure you don’t harvest herbs when wet (24 hours after watering or rain has touched them).

Great herbs to grow and dry for tea: (mind you these are my favorite as I am a woman of childbearing age and these are my greatest allies)

Mint-Mentha  piperita (any kind, but grow the one you love to use)

Lemon Balm-(Mellisa officinalis)

Lavender-(Lavandula augustafolia)

Calendula-( Calendula officinalis)

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)

Borage(Borago officinalis)

Hops(Humulus lupulus)

Wild herbs worth gathering– (I actually have invited all of these into my garden, or they have arrived there and I love them and let them be.)

Nettles(Urtica dioica)

Raspberry Leaf( Rubus idaeus)

Red clover( Trifolium pratense)

Comfrey( Symphytum officinalis)

Dandelion-( Taraxacum officinalis)

Rosehips-Rosa rugosa

Gathering forest Medicine in the summer time

Garden Oils-

I don’t know about you, but my skin is so dry, especially in the winter, probably accredited to our wonderful woodstove.  I cherish it as our only heat source, but it is drying nonetheless.  So a few years ago I started just washing with oil and salt.  It feels fancy but is really cheap and easy to make.

Herbal oil & salt wash

I fill a container, about 1pint with Epsom salt

Pour herbal oil over it and let it seep in to cover the salt

Add a few drops of my favorite essential oil – I change it every batch but my favorites are Lavender, Rosemary, Grapefruit, Tangerine, and Lemon Verbena.

That is it.  I just put it on a washcloth and wash

Preparing Herbal Oils

I use both fresh and dry herbs to make these oils deepening on the season.

I have found that with fresh herbs the oils can go rancid, so covering with cheesecloth instead of a lid is imperative for good oils.

Fresh

I usually just chop up fresh herbs and jam as much as I can into a glass jar.  My favorite is Comfrey leaf, as it is wonderful for healing of the skin, bones cuts and bruises. I then pour oil over the herb (I use Grape seed, but Sesame, Olive, Almond, etc.. are great) fill the jar to the top with oil and push the herbs that float up back down with a clean chopstick.  Cover with cheesecloth and a rubber band.  Label with ingredients and date and let sit on the shelf for about 6 weeks.  You can also put them in the sun and the go a lot quicker and some say the sun is the power that draws out the medicine.  if you put them in the sun, 2 weeks should be plenty of time.  You then strain herbs out and store oil in a glass jar with a lid until you are ready to use it.

Dried-

I do the same thing with dried herbs and have found Calendula flowers and Lavender flowers do wonderfully with this technique.

Dried Osha root

Osha Honey

Osha is a magical root, strong and cleansing.  My favorite lore about this herb is that in the spring, when the bears wake from their long winter naps, they dig up Osha Roots, chew them up and bath themselves in the purifying herbal wash.  For this and other reasons, people call it Bear medicine.  It is a great protector, carried to ward off snake bites, and wrong doing, placed over doorways in homes and on new born babies.  I love this root and it’s pungent medicine and this year, a dear grandpa showed us his secret gathering place.  It is super important to be humble and conservative when gathering this root, as it has been over harvested and is rare to find, not to mention a great gift that should be treated with the greatest respect.  I will never tell where I found it, but will say I am deeply grateful and intend to share it’s medicine with many.

Coffee(Herb) Grinder

I wanted to make honey out of Osha this year because when I am sick,  all I want is Osha lemon ginger tea, with honey or course.  (though I haven’t had my precious honey yet, as I am pregnant and Osha and pregnany don’t mix well)  So all I did wash and dry the roots, I then ground them into and fine powder in my coffee grinder (actually I have two grinders, one for coffee and one for herbs, they don’t mix well)

Ground Osha Root

I mixed our honey harvested this summer from our freinds the bees, with the powered root of Osha and put them in little jelly jars.  As it steeps together they create a pungent beautiful medicine that can be taken by the spoonful when you are feeling sick with colds or tummy aches.

Little jars, 1/3 filed with ground osha root, awaiting honey (in the big jar)

Osha Tincture– Similar to the honey,  grind the Osha root and fill up a pint glass jar with it.  Then covered it with high quality 100 proof vodka.  Label it and put the lid on and let the tincture sit for at least 2 weeks.  When the strength you desire is attained, strain the liquid from the herb and store in a dark glass jar (old tincture bottles, boiled to sanitize, work well)

My recipes are really casually written but that is only because I have read many a recipe and had success enough to be comfortable and casual.  If you all would like further recipes and reading, please look into my favorite herbalist and their incredible plant wisdom.

Rosemary Gladstar-http://www.sagemt.com/rosemary-gladstar/about-rosemary-gladstar.html

Michael Moore-http://www.swsbm.com/HOMEPAGE/HomePage.html

Susan Weed-http://www.susunweed.com/

Kiva Rose-http://animahealingarts.org/?s=home&searchsubmit=

Slowly sowing spring

 

Lettuce ready for transplanting

 

This spring has been holding out on us, chilly air, gusty winds, late snow storms. yes it is spring in Santa Fe, but this feels slow to me.  It has actually been great though. It may be that my life and schedule is different this year, but the chill has warded off that frantic feeling that I am behind on getting everything in the ground and I can’t keep up on all I want to do.  I actually feel the opposite.  I am ready to get my warm season cucumbers, melons, tomatoes, etc.. into the garden, or at least out of those 2 inch pots, but it is still too cold.  I know the last frost date is May 15th, but we are all ready. I did however take the cold frames off everything in the garden and am pleased to say that head start was fantastic.  We have been eating from the garden for weeks now and though it will be while till fruits come on, the salad season may just feed us right up till then.

It has given me time though to get in all the cool season crops.  I have been transplanting lettuce in every nook a cranny I can find.  I am a big fan of inter cropping.  In any intensive garden weather home or school, I love to see lots of diversity and things taking advantage or being cozied in together.  Many vegetable crops need different care, water and light than perennial foods and flowers, but one thing I have found to be very successful is planting cold season greens in among my herbs, flowers and fruits in the front yard.  I can’t take full credit, I was mostly my husband’s doing, before I became the head gardener here on Bouquet lane, but I sure do pack them in there.  A few reasons why this is possible. 

1- It is watered well– being right near the facet

2- It is sunny in spring and shaded in high summer because of the trees above it

3- The microclimates created by the perennial that all grow and bloom at different rates creates a dynamically changing and dense ecosystem. 

How I do it.  I start my lettuce for example in wooden flats (I have a post all about it Here) in February.

Take a little slice

 

Once they are big enough I slice little sections out, like pieces of cake.  I plant them in clumps in the garden among the re-emerging perennial herbs and flowers.

I am a fan of garden gloves after 10 years of New Mexi dirt you might be too.

 

 They grow up and are shaded by the others so have a nice long season as salad.  

Lettuce planted among perennial herbs and flowers

 

When my lettuce that is in full sun goes bitter I will still have lettuce that is tucked away, cool and crisp for summer salad, and more open ground for full sun crops.  

Yarrow, lambs quarters, columbine, valerian, and lettuce

Stalking the Spring Salad

 

With this new flush of lettuce from our cold frames, we now are eating salad every night!! And so perfectly timed with mother nature’s spring offerings, the lettuce is really a small portion of what ends up in the salad bowl.  Most of what I am harvesting is growing in the cracks of the garden, around the edges, completely volunteering their life in on our fertile land, with no effort on my part.  If there is one thing I have learned from gardening in the southwest is it how much can I get way with NOT doing.  I realize that creating a lush fertile environment not only attracts the right friends, but the right foods.  Build it and they will come, and oh they do!   Salad harvest time is right at dust, my favorite time, when everything is perky from the cooling air and just calling out to me pick! me pick me!.  I can wander in an area of about 10 feet and gather Orach, salad burnet, perennial Arugula,french sorrel, yellow dock, dandelion leaf, lambs quarters, mint, loveage and even volunteer lettuce.  It all feels so effortless.  Granted, much of the work has been done, the soil turned and seeds laid years back..now new things find their way in, go to seed and have whole new gaggles of youngens below them next year… I planted nothing that is in my salad tonight– this year that is, but that lettuce, bless it!  Here are some wild friends to invite into your salad bowl or garden.  

Arugula rustica-Diplotaxis tenuifolia- Perennial - cool season peppery, spicy flavor very italian

 

French Sorrel- Rumex acetosa 'De Belleville' perennial cold season-lemony flavor

 

Salad Burnet-'Sanguisorba minor'- Perennial cool season - fresh & tasty

 

Dandelion-'Taraxacum Officinale'- perennial all season- bitter & zesty leaves

Potato Planning

 

Well the next day to plant root crops is Monday, March 27th— Full moon…So what am I doing tonight– Chitting potatoes.   Chitting you ask, why yes, chitting.  I am cutting up the little potatoes chef Andre passed to me that he bought from farmers market, but unfortunately left under a sink somewhere to forget about.  Somehow that guy is totally in sync with me, because last year, end of March he came out of the kitchen with a huge bowl of sprouting potatoes too.  Luckily I intervened and put them in the ground before the compost.  They went on to produce a fabulous crop I must say.

So many home gardeners just don’t bother: potatoes take space and you can get such great ones at market for cheap, why bother?  Well to begin, kids love, love, love digging potatoes.  Every garden I have ever loved that is kid friendly has a potato patch, it is just, well, right. Not to mention they are amazingly delicious when home-grown and gardeners have access to hundreds of type,  where are simple buyers we are oh, so limited.  I think the best supplier is Ronnigers, conveniently located in near by Colorado, if you are in the market.

What is so great about Potatoes?

 First off, potatoes rank second, being beat by soy beans when it comes to protein produced per acre.  Because of all this protein they rank third in NPU (Net Protein Utilization) Eggs ranking 100, Beef 80 and potatoes 71.  That means “The high NPU of potatoes means that they can satisfy the protein requirement of more people per acre than any major crop”…..Need I praise more!?

They are simply fantastic and a must for school gardens.  If you insist you don’t have the space, I understand.  Think containers… We grew potatoes last year in these old plastic drums a student showed up with and  some artistic students painted them ( no pics available).  Watering was a breeze, as I ran a drip line to them, and harvest, well a simple dump.

So you are convinced… Great.. Now Chitting….

As far as I know chitting is imply a word for cutting seed potatoes up so that one can produce many plants.  It is pretty simply really, it is asexual propagation.  Potatoes do make seeds, but, they are much more easily and productively grown from cloning.  Chitting is imply getting more for your money.  You can chit any seed potatoes (ones sprouting under your sink or those you order from the catalog).  A few rules of thumb:  you want about 3 eyes on the piece you cut, less than that and the potatoes should stay whole.  Too many eyes and the plant will create too many stems and tubers to get a good yield.  

Once you cut the little guys you need to let them dry out and heal.  If you plant immediately they will be susceptible to infection, like any open wound put in dirt.  

You should store them in a humid place with diffuse light.  I will put mine in the green house in a covered basket so air can flow around them but not be in direct sun.  5- 10 days should heal them up good, it will be 6 till the full moon, that should do it.  They will look like this when they are ready.

Spring planting!!! (& protection)

I know, it is so exciting to get those seedy babies right in the ground now!!  And with this wet spring, just think how they will all love all the moisture!!  I have to admit, I often hesitate on planting in the spring because of funny late frosts and snows here in Santa Fe, but now many years have passed that I feel that I have waited too long.  This year I am already planting stuff outside now, ….but with a little protection.

Direct Seeding

This is the south side of our greenhouse where we grew the most lovely tomatoes last year.  We ran sheep fencing along it and secured it so now it is a permanent trellis bed.   Last Tuesday I planted peas along the back and three varieties of spinach in front.  No germination yet, but I am hopeful with last weekend snow.  We have no guts on the greenhouse so the water flows right into the bed.  This is the most protected bed in the garden and the first to warm up and lasy to cool down because of the radiating heat off the greenhouse.  I hope the peas like it.  Weather you have a greenhouse not, peas can go right into the ground right now, along with spinach, mache, kale, chinese cabbages.

Cold Frames

This is a cold frame build by students( with guidance) at Monte Del Sol.  It was based on a design from Elliot Coleman’s Four Season Harvest Book, which is a great book to own if you want to really get serious about season extension, and who doesn’t!!  In fact anything by Elliot is worth an inch on your book shelf.  So the cold frames here were planted two weeks ago with spinach & kale two weeks ago, and look at them now! By the time I see them tomorrow I am sure they will be looking very different.

Cold frames are fantastic, easy and really a great way to garden at school and home because you can get a lot out of a small space, during the school year, and they are protected from bouncing balls, running feet, and other treats that educational heavily trafficked gardens might have on them.  Cold frames can be a manageable space for a class of family to adopt and care for all on their own.  They are a great easy math/ building project and are relatively cheap to make.  This one here cost about $50 in lumber & materials….But that would be the high-end.  You could use salvaged shower doors (my favorite are the translucent kind (defuses the light a little so that the plants don’t cook) old windows, even a layer of thick plastic like this one. You can see it did get a rip, but tape seems to save it just fine.

Our cold frames at house are made from windows we replaced.  The entire window frames were pullout out so all we had to do was put them on the ground.  Pretty sweet.

I planted them last March and by April they looked like dinner!! I don’t know about you, but I sure am ready to be eating out of the ground!!! If you haven’t been inspired enough here is another link to get you cold framing soon from Mother Earth News.  It also mentions cloches made from Milk Jugs (mini greenhouses for individual plants).  I prefer these I saw in Italy, if only I knew a glass blower!! That is enough inspiration for one night.  Good luck!!

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