Archive for the ‘garden’ Category

aprilToolsWeedsWindow 020

I got the idea of making compost tea from the Grow  House as well as the book Gardening When it Counts.    It is also my first experiment with solar energy.  The solar panel pictured above hooks up to a tiny little air pump.  This system is supposed to be used in backyard ponds.   I bought it years ago, for around $120, when I was thinking about making a little pond in the back yard, which I finally decided against because of my irrational paranoia over West Nile Virus.

In some old socks I stuffed store-bought compost.  I let the compost soak in the water bucket, and the solar pump keeps the water gently moving.   I believe this is going to let me water less and help me deal more effectively with the heavy clay soil of Phoenix.

Update: The pump is dead. Oh sad day. I think I probably should have put a sock around it or something, because my guess is the crap floating around in the water junked it up. My other guess of what happened is the cats pulled the pump out of the bucket because they are like that, and then the pump blew a gasket when it was spraying air without the resistance of water. I went to Fry’s to see if they had another pump I could use, not luck. So I guess I got to buy one from siliconsolar.com, where I originally got the whole system.

Update to Update: I wrote the good people at siliconsolar.com to get there opinion of why the pump might have died.  They were very quick with response, which I like.  They said the pump being out of water would kill it,  which now is what I think happened.  I think the feral cats took the pump out of the water.  The siliconsolar folks also sent me a link to some trouble shooting videos, which I also like.

Advertisements

I am trying an experiment, based on what I think I read in Gardening When It Counts: Growing Food in Hard Times by Steve Solomon.

I filled bottles with compost tea and put the bottle upside down “above” the plants. The tomatillo seems to be doing the best.

waterPots 005

The rest of the plants still look a little thirsty, especially the squash.

waterPots 007

Also, after seeing what my friend Karina has done with growing plants in pots, I planted some plants in containers. Hopefully, I will be more succesful than in the straight soil. I planted tomatillo, tomato, and creosote. The seeds from the creosote I gathered myself in the desert. Creosote is truly the pharmacy of desert plants.

waterPots 011

I been reading Gardening When It Counts: Growing Food in Hard Times by Steve Solomon and frankly it just overwhelms me. 

After reading the watering section I am not sure if he is telling me to water more or water less.  I suppose one needs a little bit of a mathematical mind to follow his recommendations,  maybe having a mathematical mind is part of  a green thumb?     I wasn’t sure what he was talking about in the watering section, much less the composting or fertigation sections.

I believe my soil in Phoenix is Clay, and he doesn’t seem to think it is worth growing in clay.  This makes me sad.  The reviews on Amazon.com for the book are mixed, some feel as I do, while others strongly recommend reading the book a second time in order to get everything to sink in. 

I did like the idea of making a compost-tea and then use a drip method on the plants.   That might be a good project for the weekend.

Below: A less-than succesful experiment of using an old pallet to make a slightly raised bed.

gunsandgardens 023

Before leaving for 9 days I asked my neighbor to water my garden once while I was gone. I can tell from the exact position where I left the hose that he did not. Despite that everything (except the gopher attacked agave) looks good. In fact, I am glad the garden did not get any grid-fed water for a week. The plants look healthier than when I left, which leads me to think I was over-watering, which is bad for two reasons, 1: Overwatering is bad and 2: Overwatering will be near impossible when the grid falls.  By then I should have an idea of how to grow with the least water possible.
The plants I am growing all have been specifically selected because they are Southwest friendly, meaning they don’t need a lot of water (for example, like celery would.) I have planted bush beans, pole beans, winter squash, summer squash, tomatillos, and habanero peppers.The return of seeds and/or seedlings producing actual plants though seems very low. The first batch of seeds went into the ground on Feb 22. I then planted another round three weeks later, thinking I don’t want all the veggies to come in at once.
I seem to be getting about 2 plants for every 10 or so seeds planted. I am not sure why the low yield.

gunsandgardens 030

Above: From Front to Back, tomatillo, bush beans, summer squash, more bush beans, and winter squash. About 12 sees planted to each row, but each row is only producing 2 to 3 plants each, but those plants look strong.

gunsandgardens 031

Above: I have had no luck with the Habanero peppers, not even a single weed, much less an actual wanted plant has grown in the elevated garden. The elevated garden was made from a discarded baby bed I found in the alleyway. I think my mix of manure, compost, and soil in the backyard has too much of the backyard soil.

marchToolsSunTrees 022

Above: On a positive note, the Blue Palo Verde I planted a week and have ago seems to have survivied the shock of transplanting.

4 days ago I salted oranges.  Today, as instructed, I tried them.  I used two with some Mikes Hard Lemonade and they were delicious.  Best way to cure scurvy.

FebRandom 015

Despite the fact I have yet to even coming close to catching a gopher, much less killing, skinning, cooking and eating one, at some point I am going to have to think about cooking.

If I lived in the Appalachian’ foothills of my youth then wood would not be a problem.  But here in Phoenix it might be, the desert wants for lack of enough wood for multiple fires.  The wood is good for starting fires, but not good for keeping one burning for hours on end days in a row.

There would be wood to burn from abandoned buildings, but it might take a while for people to abandoned buildings wholesale, and even if they did, a constant pillage of smoke would advertise you to the roaming pillagers, gangs and exiles.

So next experiment will be building a solar oven, goal is to boil water, that would be two birds one stone.  And one stone for two birds is a good rule of thumb to follow after Armageddon.

I am not sure if one can actually boil water in a solar heater, I hear tales of Ray Reeve’s doing experiments with a TV screen, but I plan to try.   From what I read, I need 5 walls of tinfoil, a glass wall, a door to go in and  out, and some way to hold the pot.

In the meantime, anybody got some black sheets of metal I can have for the stove?

This weekend was mostly a research weekend.

First, I re-visited the Arizona Desert Botanical Garden and snapped off some more pictures of plants that I can use for food.

garden with dave Jan 2011 005

I also spent a couple of hours staring at the place I plan to have my garden, and trying to figure out how I would approach it and realized I had no idea of how to start.  So I decided to swing by The Grow House in beautiful Downtown Phoenix and study what they had going on.  The Grow House is an urban farm, which means they took a regular house and are wringing as much food out of it as possible.  I ended up meeting a gentleman (whose name I think was Brandian) who gave me a quick down and dirty tour.

The most important lesson was to make sure you make good berms to catch the water.  He said when he first moved out here from New Jersey, he had a hard time with all the “good soil and space” they were wasting on making berms, but he eventually “just had to let that go.”  A good berm is the key to growing in AZ. He was not as considered about the East-West vs North-South issue.

Next step on Garden is to research a site suggested by Melinda, PBS- Victory Garden.

I also did a bunch of reading about how to snare animals and read somewhere along the way that guitar strings make for good snares.  Apparently I know a lot of people who have old guitar strings.  I thought about making a donation box at the Trunk Space but Steph, the owner, is a vegetarian  so maybe I should not do that.  She got really mad at me when I told her my story about eating monkey meat.

I am going to do my first attempt at snaring the gophers in my yard next weekend.  My plan is to then skin and eat the gopher.

On a side note, internet searching led to Urban Dictionary and according got them a berm is “One who lacks the basic hygienic and social skills to lead a productive life.”

On another side note, my first attempt at gathering manure failed.  Anybody know where I can get my hands on some poop?