Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Cooking with green and brown

It might be because I'm on a diet but whenever I read about composting and they talk about "cooking" it makes me hungry. And perhaps to divert my attention from eating I decided to make a new, easier to manage composting method. Composting has always felt a little like "too much" for me. If you don't have one of those handy-dandy rotating drum things and the composting "formula" correct will it work?

I read somewhere about using bales of straw and composting in the center of those. Adding the green and brown matter and removing a bale to go in and stir it up with a pitchfork on occasion. Part of the theory being the straw would disintegate as well over time and turn into compost so the whole compost pile would, in essence, bit an efficient compost-churning mechanism.

Ummm... not so much. Not only did I forget to stir it but all kinds of weeds and things grew out of the straw bales and it looked....well....decidedly not-efficient AND ugly on top of it. So I decided composting was going to be too difficult and abandoned the whole idea.

BUT then I read an article somewhere on an easier method of composting and cut it out and saved it somewhere safe so I could try composting again. Someone must have come into my house and stolen that valuable article (which is, of course, the only reason I couldn't find it to read the instructions) so I hope I'm remembering this right. Come along on this little experiment and we'll see what happens.

I conveniently found a $20 bill just laying around in my husbands wallet so I took it to Home Depot with me and bought a sturdy black trash-bin with a cover for 14 bucks. Woo hoo. Change left for Starbucks. I got a smaller one so that I can handle it easily by myself. If this works I will make several more.

Here's what I did. The first part is fun and involves power tools. Yee haw! Take your biggest drill bit and drill holes all over your trash can. Drill a few in the bottom and don't forget to drill holes in the lid too. You want good air circulation and some drainage.
Wow, look at all the holes. They look suspiciously like polka dots which are one of my favorite things in the world.

OK, now we need to use some brown stuff, some green stuff and some moisture. So I'm using some leaves.

And then some green stuff I thinned out of my garden. Cut up the woodier greens (such as sunflower stalks) to help break them down quicker. Don't throw weeds in there.

If you don't have a lot of dead leaves you can use shredded paper (which is made from trees and thus organic - but only use the black and white pages). I threw in some coffee grounds and some banana peels as well.

Put your little recycling project up on a cement block so it gets circulation all around.

Moisten the whole thing whenever you think about it. I am going to roll it around on the ground whenever I remember to mix everything up well.

I made this on April 25. I marked on my calendar to show you a picture again on May 2.

And yes, I truly might need to get a life.

I can't help it. I am a garden geek.

Oh, and if my husband asks you about the 20 bucks...it's our little secret.

Monday, April 27, 2009

And ... ta da... diverting the water into the raised beds.

Here's the little pump we use.

Can you see the hose snaking through the roses? It will flood that raised bed as well.

Then we will divert it into the bigger garden.

Please don't hate me cuz there's more about irrigation

A few people have questioned me about how fast the irrigation comes out so luckily we got water on Sunday at 8:30 in the morning for a change and I decided to enlighten them and anyone else reading this what it's like.

Here is getting ready to open the gate.

This is while the gate is opening.

This is after thirty seconds.

This is after two minutes.

Friday, April 24, 2009

I've got the beet, I've got the beet, I've got the beet...

Lovely day, lovely gardening. Here's a few others pictures of my out of control flowers. I love them!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy Earth Day

May the smile of your garden help the Earth laugh in flowers today. Happy Earth Day!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Yes, but it's a dry heat

Which is doubly true for our poor little gardens here in Arizona. Water is a precious resource and we do try to use it wisely as possible. I wrote in my last blog about irrigation water and how we receive it.

When we receive our irrigation water my husband has a little pump attached to a very long hose that we use to flood the raised beds as well. There is no way to divert the actual irrigation water into the beds without the pump. It seems to be a pretty efficient way to effectively deep water those beds while taking advantage of this super cheap water source.

I use thick layers of mulch around almost everything I plant and try to plant for shade. Right now in my tomato area I have random sunflowers growing, my rose bed is shaded in the afternoon by some pine trees, my melon and asparagus patch is shaded by a big Arizona Ash tree and the herbs get shade in the afternoon from the side of the house.

Even using mulch and shade the beds get dry. For the past several years we have run continous drip lines from the hose bib there which has worked fairly well. The problems with that unilateral type of watering is that the basically water the whole garden or none at all. Certain types of plants need different water requirements and some, like potatoes, need no water at all after a certain time close to harvest.

Our son, Greg, very cleverly came up with a solution for me. He ran a length of copper pipe around the top of my retaining wall and hooked up individual hose connectors and shut off valves every two feet. With this unique set-up I can run the soakers at very low volume almost continuously to germinate seeds or shut off entire sections of the garden. It has made my watering issues so much easier.

Next time Id like to write a bit about soil along with a simple soil test you can do easily at home.

But for now I am signing off and wishing you Happy Gardening from my sunny Arizona garden.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Another flood of information

Did you get that? Flood of information? About flood irrigation? OK, maybe it wasn't that clever.

I went and took some pictures of some other kind of interesting irrigation stuff for your perusal.This is one of the sign up access sheets for irrigation water. It isn't ours. Ours is in a long alley and I made my friend drive me to take a picture and it was too dusty for her black car. But ours looks just like this.
This is what's inside the little box.
And here are the irrigation rules. Do you know if you click on the picture it will show you a full-size version (don't do that with the earlier picture of my back view, though, or you might burn out your retinas) and it's interesting to read the rules. I never actually did it before now (but don't tell SRP on me, please)
And lastly here are a few pictures of the actual main irrigation canals. These are about 1/2 a mile from our house.

I think it's time to close the gates of information for the moment and let you absorb all this (just in case you missed it, another clever water statement - ha) but come back and check soon because next time I am going to tell you about soaker hoses. Try to be patient. I know you are excited about this subject, too.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Raindrops keep falling on my head

Great song, but a definite rare occurrence where we live. Our average rainfall is 5 inches. No, that's not a typo. FIVE INCHES! This is a year. Which is pretty much zip, squat, nada, drrrrryyyy.

So where do we get our water from here? Much of it comes from municipal sources in the form of sprinklers and drip lines. But I am luck, luck, lucky here in the older part of Mesa where I live.

My primary garden areas are in what we call a flood irigation area. We have a cool little water gate that we open to get water "delivery" twice a month for about 8 months of the year. Yards are contoured with banks with retain the water.
The water usually takes about 24 hours to dissipate which gives us plenty of time to redirect (more on this next time) and to let Granddaughters play in it. This is the only picture I can find without my granddaughters playing in the water in their underwear. Sigh. So I have to show you my most unflattering view in the interest of being real about my garden. Gulp. I hope you don't have a queasy stomach.

The water comes from the snow melt and rivers and here's some info on it if you're interested. http://www.srpnet.com/water/irrigation/defined.aspx

Here's how it works ... at least from my standpoint. The technical stuff you need to read all on your own.

We "order" our water on a website or you can go into one of the alleys here and actually sign up on a print board. I should take a picture of that because it's cool. In fact, I'll try to do that later today along with a picture of a canal that is the water source. But you have to wait for that.

For now I'll just tell you that water delivery is often at some ridiculous time such as 3 am or 5:40 am.

You take your flashlight, curse the delivery time, go into the backyard and turn that little metal pipe thing (I don't think that's the technical term - sorry) Water gushes out. It is cold. It is freezing. You try not to drop your flashlight and try to control your language just in case someone overhears and thinks the irrigation schedule has beaten you again. The best way to handle this is to make your husband do it. At least that's what I try to do as often as possible. Sometimes you have to pretend you hurt your foot or something but it's well worth it to pass the job along to someone else. (but don't tell my husband....he thinks I'm just really, really clumsy and hasn't connected foot and leg injury to irrigation delivery times - ha)

We take 50 minutes of water. During that time you just kind of wait because you don't want to forget to turn your gate off. If you forget two things happen - your yard floods to the top of the banks and it goes all over your patio and makes a mess to clean up AND your neighbors get really, really ticked off (they call it stealing water and you definitely do not want to do this EVER)

We pay $80.00 per year for all that water. It is economical, efficient and does the deep watering so necessary in our desert environment. More on that later.

This is getting pretty long so next time I'll talk about redirecting our irrigation water and the supplemental watering method we use for our garden and I should have the photos of the sign up board and canal for you then, too.

Happy gardening!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Continuing with some current garden pictures

See, I gave you a break so you didn't get burned out reading this already. I just wanted to finish showing you pictures of what is happening right now in my Mesa, AZ
garden. This is the gate leading into my herb garden. This is where I'm attempting to grow peppers this year because they do nothing in my regular garden. This is my last year of the experiment. But so far they look like they are coming along
This is also where I will plant some small gourds. I use these masonry ladders for them to trellis on.

OK, bye for now!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Well, Good morning!

It's a lovely day here in Arizona. We had a bit of rain over the weekend which we always, always need. I want to show you the gardens I have and then catch-up on my tomato prep and planting information....so, let's go for a little walk. Grab your coffee and some crocs.
This is my crazy vegetable/flower garden. It is about 28 feet by 25 feet and contained in a 20" raised pony wall. This garden was built on a large retention area that had nothing but cement-packed dirt, scrub and lots and lots of weeds and ants. Before we began building the walls I had a guy with a tractor break up the caliche deposits (something that is the curse of all gardeners I know here in AZ) The soil was amended with lots of masonry sand, compost, top soil and native soil.

As you can see it is a wonderful area for growing. In fact, all the random sunflowers and even that huge hollyhock were volunteers again this year. I have giving up trying to make straight rows in my garden because I never have the heart to pull out all the valiant little seedlings that survived our scorching summer to bloom again.

This little sweetie is my youngest "garden helper", 2 1/2 year old Granddaughter, Morgan. She mostly just tramps on things since there are no peas to harvest at this time. She wanders around in there trying to find the peas no matter how many times I tell her they are done for the year.

This is my first year for trying dahlias and this is one of the first blooms. It isn't as big as the dinner plates but is still approximately 6 inches across.

I'll share some more photos later. Didn't want to overwhelm you too much right when we first meet - ha!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Let me introduce myself

Hi, I'm Jenny. I'm a garden-holic. I love to garden. I don't always love the weather I garden in, though.
I spent a lot of years gardening in Northeastern Ohio. Rich garden soil, 80 inches of rain a year, moderate heat, four distinct seasons.

Then I moved to Arizona where our garden soil is primarily decomposing granite, 5 inches of rain per year, triple digit heat for over 130 days a year and pretty much two seasons - hot and not so hot.

The first few years I lived here all I did was whine (and try not to die from heat stroke). I missed my friends. I missed my century old farmhouse. I missed my apple trees and vegetable garden and perennial flower beds.

But then I found out you can actually grow things here! Really! Lots and lots of things including tomatoes.

For the past five years I have been ordering tomatoes from The Tasteful Garden and I think I've finally gotten it right. Last year I think we harvested well over 200 pounds of tomatoes and it was amazing and wonderful!

I don't know if the way I do it is the "right" way but it is the way that works for me and works well with our climate and soil and short gardening seasons.

But I'll tell you more as we go along.

I have to warn you, though. My tomatoes have been in the ground since Mid-March so I'll have to catch you up which might involve lots of information. Here are the boxes that arrived on my door-step on March 10.

But first things first. Hi! I am Jenny. And I am a garden-holic.