Thursday, May 28, 2009

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.

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