Saturday, May 30, 2009


Originally uploaded by rarichard
I put the chiles in the greenhouse today: serranos, poblanos, and habaƱeros. I kind of wanted to try the horizontal method of transplanting but they are sensitive little creatures and don't like being transplanted so I thought I should give them a break. I

Planting tomatoes in graves

Originally uploaded by rarichard
This year I'm trying a new technique when I transplant my tomatoes. I remove all but the top set of leaves from the plant. This leaves the plant looking straggly and pathetic. Then I lay it down horizontally in a little grave-like hole. I bury the plant except for the topmost leaves, which I try to push up a bit vertically. The bare stem is supposed to root all over the place and make an awesome healthy plant. So far the ones I have done this to look great once they start putting on new growth.

The strategy I've tried in the past is to bury the plant up to the top set of leaves. So this involves digging a deep hole. I like this horizontal method better. Plus the roots start off in the top soil where there are more nutrients.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Rearranging Plants

This weekend I rearranged a bunch of my perennial plants. Some of them were not thriving in their current location and looked as if they were going to turn into plant mulch if I didn't do something soon.

They either didn't get enough sun because of the location of these raised beds, or from shade from other plants -- or the heavy clay soil had poor drainage. Some areas seem to have better drainage than others. Other plants were just too close to their neighbors and it didn't look right or they just don't "go." So I pulled out my trowel and dug things up and moved them somewhere new and improved.

I added in some new plants as well. One thing I've learned is that it's better to have more of one plant to tie together the look of the garden. Before I kind of went for the strategy of one of each plant I like.

I also divided, rooted, and covered stems with soil in an attempt to make more of these perennials for free. Dividing plants is especially satisfying because it's easy and you instantly get a new plant that looks like one you might have bought new at the nursery. It's also convenient because these are the plants that like my garden soil, and it aids in the strategy of planting more of the same.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

yay hoophouse

The weather here in May is usually sunny and windy and hot. This year it's been rainy rainy rainy. We've gotten a number of thunderstorms. Well, let me correct myself -- it's been rainy since I erected the hoophouse a few weeks ago. Yesterday we had heavy rainfall and pea size hail. It got down to 37 degrees outside last night. The hoophouse was only a few degrees warmer, but I had a cold frame over some plants, clear tupperware over others.

Without the hoophouse my plants would most certainly be dead by now. Or I would be out obsessively covering them up with makeshift shelters every time it started dumping rain and every evening and then uncovering on the sunny days.

The heavy rains over the last week (multiple inches which is unusual), the cool temperatures during the day, the sustained hail and the cold winds would have taken pretty much everything out. So, so far so good!

About my garden obsession

About my garden obsession. I've liked gardening for some time -- especially vegetable gardening. When I lived in Espanola, NM, at an elevation of about 5500 feet I had an awesome garden. Hot summers and warm(er) nights (warmer than lofty Santa Fe and Los Alamos), and a decent growing season. I lived in a fertile river valley with amazing loamy soil that I didn't have to spend money and time improving. I grew some corn (somewhat successfully, at least it looked cool) and I actually got ripe tomatoes. It wasn't all great. I had my beautiful winter squash decimated by squash bugs. Those bugs actually started making me nauseous, I hated them that much and had to kill hundreds as well, or what seemed like hundreds.

Now I live in Los Alamos, at an elevation of 7300 feet. The last frost date is May 8 and the first frost is around October 15th. The problem is it stays in the 40s at night a lot, and killing frosts are known to occur in June and September. We have daily thunderstorms in July and August, which drops the temperature way down in the afternoons. Sometimes it rains too much and the plants get unhappy about the waterlogged clayey soils. Sometimes it hails and damages the plants. I don't have a great southern exposure. So there are some challenges involved in growing stuff in this quirky mountain town. Highest temp on record in the summer is 98 degrees, generally it's in the 80s during the day on non rainy days.

There are some benefits to the location as well. My cool weather plants can often last all summer if I keep them in a location with sunny mornings and shady afternoons. The lettuce does go to seed eventually. Chiles do pretty well here.

This year I built a hoophouse, also known as a high tunnel or cold greenhouse. The goal is to grow some awesome veggies that need that little extra warmth and heat year-round. Last year I had a tiny cold frame (3x4) that grew swiss chard, turnip greens, lettuce, and spinach all winter long. I want to have farmers market-like veggies every day -- or at least once a week. That's the goal -- we'll see how it goes.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

New theme for this blog

I keep thinking of garden Notes I want to write on Facebook, but I also don't want to lose friends who get totally bored of seeing constant garden obsessed blog posts. So how about a blog dedicated to gardening? Why not? Plus Facebook Notes are not quite as good anyways as a "real" blog.

I'm optimistic I will manage to make more than a few posts like I did last year, as I have a bunch of mostly written posts and I'll stick up some of my old ones on building the hoophouse as well. I'm also planning on gardening year round so in theory I should be able to post all year long. Last year I did garden year round so I know that is not just a fantasy...

The four old posts in the blog from a year ago are off-topic, so read those if you want or ignore 'em. They are a bit outdated now as I was complaining about political election stuff.