Archive for the ‘backyard’ Category

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.

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

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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.

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Feral Cats

Posted: April 10, 2011 in animals, animals, animals, backyard, pets

I want to keep the three black cats who have claimed my backyard for Spain.  I think they help with insects, plus they keep the plants company.

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Altered Tails has a Trap-Neuter-Return program for  Feral cats,  which means I trap the cat, schedule an appointment, remove the cats special purpose, and finally release the cat back into the hood.   It is either that or kill them, and I don’t know about you but assassinating a family of black cats seems like bad mojo.

Plus it will give me a little experience of how to trap and animal without killing.   Do pacifists make for bad hunters?

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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 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.

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Apollo’s Path

Posted: April 6, 2011 in backyard, solar
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As I have been planning and planting the garden I realize that I don’t know the sun’s path intimately.  I know summer has longer days but that’s about it.  Native Americans throughout the America’s had structures that marked where and when the sun was on the two solstices and two equinoxes. 

In Phoenix, on top of South Mountain there is a petroglyph, art chipped into the rock, that marks the summer solstice.

Above:  The view of the sun rising on the Summer Solstice from the view of the Hohokam petroglyph.

Below: The petroglyph itself.  The semi-vertical line that bisects the petroglyph points to the spot on the horizon where the sun rises on the solstice.  From that angle it sun rises on the eastern edge of Four Peaks, a dominant mountain in the area. 

With all this in mind, in March I started marking where the sun sets.  My backyard faces West, so chalk on the back wall is easy to track.

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At this point I am not exactly sure why it would be useful to know how to track the sun, but I figure if almost every civilization ever has tracked it, then I should as well. 

Some dates to mark:

The vernal equinox is the start of spring.  The day is 12 hours long. The Sun rises exactly due east and sets exactly due west. (March 20, 2011)

  • T he summer solstice is the longest day of the year because the Sun reaches the most northern point in the sky at local noon.  The days will now start getting shorter. (June 21, 2011)
  • The autumnal equinox marks the start of fall. The day is 12 hours long. The Sun rises exactly due east and sets exactly due west. (Sept. 23, 2011)
  • The winter solstice begins winter. It is the shortest day of the year, when the Sun reaches its most southern point in the sky at local noon. The days start getting longer. (Dec. 22, 2011)

Both my friend Neal and survivorman swear by their multi-tool. I would expect both would not be caught in the Apocalypse without it.  I was always find the thing inconvenient.  When I need to use it I am already doing something with my hands.  While it is true that fine detail work might call for the multi-tool, for the vast majority of stuff I find myself doing in the backyard my old painter’s tool has been just fine.

The painters-tool allows me to pry, screw (loose screws), open cans, hammer a light touch, and pry nails.  The multi-tool allows me to do the same (and more) but every time I use it I got to put down what I am using.

I have been packing the GTFOOD bag and I think I am going to include a painter’s tool.  It’s better for sloppy work on the go.  The painter’s tool is also easier to use when opening a beer, which makes it better for Pre-Apocalypse backyard gardening activities.

Below: My old painter’s seven-in-one tool.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

A while back I declared a truce with the gophers.  They, however, did not see my white flag.  Last week, they went at one of the two agave plants I have in the backyard. 

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Upon my return (I was gone for a week) I found one of the agaves dug out from underneath.  The agave is now in 6 parts.  The roots have been thoroughly gnawed.  I assume the plant is going to die, but the nice thing about agaves is they are like Abe Vigoda and take a while to die.  I have replanted the different parts to see if I can salvage any of the plant.  The stems that aren’t going to make it I am using by rubbing on my skin, giving me a nice glow.  (Sidenote: The agave nectar is a thousand times better for my dry skin that the expensive lotion I have been buying from the store.)   

I think the gophers attacked the plant’s roots because the agave was weak from overwatering.  I had recently pruned the mesquite tree behind it and also planted a brittlebush beside it.  Both activities involve a couple of deep watering.  I think the water caused root rot on the agave and the gophers saw a weakness.  This is the first time the gophers have committed a frontal attack on one of the plants in the yard.