The growing of a gardener

Here is Lynne Roberts story (who is on the Home Grown NM Board of Directors) of how she became a gardener.

THE GROWING OF A GARDENER
from peanuts and radishes to veggies, greens, fruits, and grapes…and more!!
by Lynne Roberts

I live now in Eldorado, New Mexico, surrounded by more garden space than I really knew what to do with.  When I first moved to Eldorado in New Mexico in January 2007 there was three feet of snow on the ground, roofs, and garden beds due to the many snowstorms from Thanksgiving, 2006, to late January, 2007.  I couldn’t walk out of the house without many layers of warm clothing, woolly pants, high boots, hats, scarves, and gloves, and both walking and driving in that really deep snow were scary activities. In memory, it seemed like a very long trip from the hot humid stale air of New York City, where I lived as a young person, in both Manhattan and the Bronx, to the dry, low humidity regions of Northern New Mexico.  There are times when I wonder how I made the journey to New Mexico, and learned to garden in this very dry, somewhat hostile, almost waterless environment, surrounded by pinon trees, tall juniper trees that seem to have taken over the land, sending their eye-irritating pollen into the air every spring, and being challenged by the lack of real garden resources, such as rich soil, water, and a welcoming environment.

But, I’m moving too fast into this narrative of being transformed from a wide-eyed nine year old girl, living in NYC, to a devoted and enthusiastic gardener/senior citizen in the always challenging gardening environment of Eldorado.

I first discovered gardening when I was nine years old, in NYC. I was sent to summer gardening “camp” by my mother, to keep me busy for that summer and away from the “wild and mean” streets of New York City and my ‘wild gang’ of  friends: Eugene, Ira, and “tomboy” Lynne.

PS l04 School_NYC

The “garden” was in the asphalt school yard of P.S. 104, where the school janitors had pulled the tar out of a three foot wide by 20 foot long area, to create the “garden.”  My first ever crops were radishes and peanuts; I was transfixed and delighted that something had grown from those hard pebble-like things that I had planted into the dirt weeks ago. I immediately developed a lifelong passion for growing things and a deep respect for Mother Nature, the earth, water resources, ecology, and all living vegetables. I was shocked, amazed, and delighted that I had grown something, and probably took most of the credit from Mother Nature, as I had never before really had any idea nor interest in knowing where our meals and “vegetables” came from.

Unfortunately, my mother was not a “happy cook”. She would open a can of heavily processed vegetables and pour that into an aluminum pot and boil the hell out of that mixture to “prepare” vegetables for our dinner.  If we ate salad, it was pale green, white tasteless iceberg lettuce sold in a plastic bag. Carrots and radishes also came from plastic bags sold at the supermarket. The carrots usually had long stringy “hairs” on them, like an old-man’s wispy beard, and the radishes were too sharp, “hot,” and unpleasant to eat. Green beans came as “string beans” -limp, tasteless, mushy pale green pieces of something. That was the extent of our vegetable “bounty” for meals.

My mother actually liked flowers, but mostly in pots, so that they would “last longer.”  She hated to see the bouquets of fresh flowers die several days later, and felt that it was a major waste of money to buy cut flowers for the house/dinner table. When we finally moved from NYC to the suburbs of New Jersey, with a “private house” and large yard, I began to take much more of an interest in seeing what I could grow in that soil.

Since it was impossible to buy a flower gift for my mother that she could actually appreciate without counting the number of days till those delightful smelling and highly colored flowers would die, I started buying her potted roses, fruit trees in pots, vegetable starts,  ivies, trailing vines, and perennial bushes. I planted everything myself, working tirelessly on weekends and during summer vacations, to make something grow (and survive), and to please my mother. Indeed, she was shocked to see a real vegetable garden growing by the patio, and real (tiny) fruits growing from the spindly little fruit trees that I had planted two years before.

I moved to Manhattan as an adult and was lucky enough to have a mini garden attached to the side of my apartment building. I had my own little plot of green with red radishes, teeny orange carrots, yellow, red, and orange marigolds. I learned how to grow in small containers and in tiny spaces. I bought fresh vegetables and sweet ripe fruits weekly from the many farmers markets in Manhattan.

Eldorado subdivision_photo-by-j-arnold-via-wiki-commons.jpg

Moving to Eldorado in Santa Fe, New Mexico, I found that, ironically, I still had to continue growing in containers and raised beds (with hardware cloth underneath) to maintain any possibility of outsmarting the gophers and of seeing any vegetation survive. To learn more about gardening in the high desert, with all those unfavorable conditions and hungry insects, I took the Santa Fe Master Gardener certification courses. I graduated with a far better understanding of how to be a more successful gardener by respecting the vagaries of the weather and maximizing the growing season with raised beds, covered gardens, screening cloth. I learned how to garden in the high desert with its limitations and demands.

I madly composted in a straw bale worm composting set up which is one of the easiest ways to make compost and worm tea for my gardens. I bought garden books and read voraciously. I looked at videos on-line, from many different sources, with fruit and berry companies creating some very useful videos for planting and growing information. I attended workshops, Home Grown NM classes, and visits to farms and friends’ gardens. I visited botanical gardens.

I exchanged seeds at the Home Grown NM Seed Exchanges, and asked many questions of generous Master Gardeners, neighborhood gardeners and Home Grown NM gardeners.

My advice to new gardeners is to be CURIOUS, ask QUESTIONS, READ gardening books, WATCH videos, TALK to other gardeners and never lose your sense of wonder and appreciation for nature.

This has been a wonderful journey, from that tiny school yard “garden” to my own little garden in Eldorado. I have shared the information that I have learned and that others have shared with me. Gardeners have proven to be very generous and kind with their knowledge, experiences, produce, garden clippings, plants, and gardening “secrets” learned from experience and time.

Throughout the years, my mother told me that she was very proud of me as a gardener. Her roses and fruit trees (or their descendants or replacements) still bear flowers and fruit that the family currently living at our “old” house still enjoy.

 

Oxalic Acid

OXALIC ACID
by Teri Buhl

Did you grow up being told to “eat your spinach – it’ll make you strong”? Do you get excited (or weary) about a big bowl of dark, leafy “power greens”? How about rhubarb – love it or hate it? Besides being relatively easy to grow, these plants have another thing in common – oxalic acid – a good or bad thing, depending on your genetics and your gut’s ability to absorb nutrients.

Oxalic Acid, or Oxalate, is an organic compound found in many plants, e.g., leafy greens, vegetables, fruits, cocoa, nuts, and seeds. Your body can produce oxalate or convert Vitamin C into it when metabolized. Once consumed, oxalate binds to minerals to form compounds like calcium oxalate and iron oxalate, which are normally eliminated via the bladder or intestines. In some people, however, high oxalate diets have been linked to kidney stones and other health problems, like reduced calcium absorption.

Sometimes, high amounts of oxalate and calcium can form crystals and lead to kidney stones if urine volume is low. If you are prone to kidney stones, inflammatory bowel disease, or have had gastric bypass surgery, you may want to be tested for oxalate levels and limit your intake to 50 mg per day. You can reduce oxalate consumption by boiling the food item, drinking plenty of water, and making sure you get enough calcium, i.e., 800-1200 mg per day.

SORREL
One of my personal favorites is sorrel. It’s easy to grow and once established, it starts producing in early spring and continues throughout summer. According to a New Zealand study in 2013, “… [sorrel] should only be consumed in small amounts especially by people who are prone to kidney-stone formation. It is also advisable to prepare sorrel with other calcium-rich foods to reduce the soluble oxalate content, thus reducing the amount of oxalate absorbed into the body. Pesto is an ideal way of preparing sorrel as the serving size is small, so low levels of oxalates will be ingested.”

The study also found that “… incorporating Parmesan cheese in pesto and sour cream in soup also provided calcium, which can effectively reduce the soluble oxalates by conversion to insoluble oxalates…. Soup preparation involved cooking and this may have facilitated the leaching of soluble oxalates from the sorrel leaves, thus allowing the soluble oxalates to combine with calcium, from the sour cream, and form insoluble oxalates, which will not be absorbed from the digestive tract after ingestion.”

In addition, the scientists found that variegated sorrel with a lot of red in the leaves and stems contained more oxalate than green sorrel. This may have implications for rhubarb, chard, and other plants with variegated cultivars. What I really like about this study is that the researchers actually used the following (delicious) recipes to test their theories!

Spicy Sorrel Pesto
80 g large green sorrel leaves
40 g garlic cloves
40 g ground walnuts
8 g chili sauce
1/2 cup (60 g) grated parmesan cheese
10 g olive oil
6 g salt and 2 g pepper

 Romanian Sorrel Soup
46 g large green sorrel leaves
50 g chopped onions
6 g olive oil
28 g sour cream
12 g ground rice
1 egg yolk (≈18 g)
6 g salt

For more on oxalic levels in food, please download a copy of the attached chart from St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton. Chart-oxalate-in-food. You may be surprised to discover that even navy beans, baked potatoes, and soy contain a relatively high amount of oxalate.

 

 

Sweet Grass

Sweet grass
By Steve Haines

Hierochloe odorata  (commonly known as sweet grassmanna grassMary’s grass or vanilla grass, and as holy grass in the UK, Bison grass e.g. by Polish vodka producers) is an aromatic herb native to northern Eurasia and North America.

It is a sacred grass of the indigenous peoples of Canada and the United States. It is used as a smudge, in herbal medicine and in the production of distilled beverages (e.g., ŻubrówkaWisent). The name Hierochloe odorata is from the Greek and Latin. Hierochloe means “holy grass” and odorata means “fragrant”.

Propagation is easiest by cutting out plugs from established plants. Grown in sun or partial shade, they do not like drought. It will spread and can take over.

The plant is harvested by cutting grass in early to late summer at the desired length. Hierochloe odorata harvested after the first frost has little or no scent and is less desirable for basketry. Basket weavers sun-dry cut sweet grass until it is dry and brittle. The brittle form of sweet grass must be soaked in warm water until it becomes pliable. The pliable grass is typically braided into thick threads and then re-dried for use.

Everywhere it grows it is prized. The thing that makes sweet grass sweet is coumarin, a naturally occurring aromachemical that in its pure form has a scent somewhere between vanilla and warm hay. As the grass dries, the scent of coumarin becomes more pronounced.

European traditions
Holy grass was strewn before church doors on saints’ days in northern Europe, presumably because of the sweet smell that arose when it was trodden on. It was used in France to flavor candy, tobacco, soft drinks, and perfumes. In Europe, the species Hierochloe alpina is frequently substituted or used interchangeably. In Russia, it was used to flavor tea. It is still used in flavored vodka, the most notable example being Polish Żubrówka.

Native American traditions
Sweet grass is widely used by North American indigenous peoples from many different Nations. Among many of the Plains Indians it is considered one of the “four sacred medicines“. Though being used for many purposes, its main purpose for many tribes is to attract good spirits. It is also known as the “Hair of Mother Earth”. Sweet grass is often burned at the beginning of a prayer or ceremony to attract positive energies. It is also to be used after burning white sage. White sage is burned to clean the energy, and sweet grass again invites in positive energies and spirits.

Sweet grass can be dried and used as a tea throughout the winter. Added by itself or with other garden herbs and flowers to alcohol, a delightful schnapps or liquor can be made. Sweet grass is a natural mosquito repellent. Some research claims it more effective than Deet.

There is an excellent book on the history of sweet grass covering both indigenous wisdom and scientific knowledge titled Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer

squash bug recipe

Here’s a recipe to try in your garden to discourage squash bugs from NM Farmer’s Market Association. Let us know in the comment sesction if it works for you.

Mix together and spray on leaves:

  • 1 gallon water
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1/4 cup neem oil
  • 1 teaspoon dish soap

Grow Some Grapes!

 

Grow Some Grapes!
by Bob Zimmerman

I grew up in Western New York on Lake Erie not too far from the vinyards that grew grapes for Welch’s grape juice, jelly and preserves. Fall meant bushels of concord grapes and the taste of them brings back vivid memories of life there. At each place I’ve lived in since then I have had grapes growing by my house. The first was a large rambling Victorian mansion at a university town in Ohio where we rented the first floor. I cleared out the overgrown back yard to reveal an old grape vine. The “trunk” of the vine was about 4” in diameter and I was told by my landlord that it never bore any grapes. I pruned it back severely and the next year it produced a huge crop of…. yes… Concord grapes!   After that I planted grapes at every house I’ve lived in.

On retirement I moved to Santa Fe and figured that would be the end of my grape growing. Imagine my surprise when I found a large rambling grape vine growing on the coyote fence of the house we just bought. Again, I trimmed it up and sure enough… the next year I picked quarts and quarts of Concord grapes! I had no idea that grapes would grow so well here.

You too can grow grapes. They are very easy to grow and you will be rewarded with wonderful foliage during the summer and fall and delicious fruit as well. You can train them over an arbor to make a cool shady spot to sit under or grow them along fence lines. Deer will like them too, so it’s best to plant them inside your yard if the deer roam about in your area. Other than that, they aren’t bothered by many pests and our dry climate prevents mildew from attacking the leaves and fruits. There are many varieties to choose from but you should do some research to select the ones that you will like and are hardiest in our area. I have seen nurseries here sell California grapes that are not winter hardy for our area, so be careful. There are a number of tried and true varieties such as Himrod ( a green seedless), Concord ( there is a seedless variety that is great), Swenson, and Reliance ( red seedless). They are hybrids of American grape stock developed on the East Coast and have been shown to be good producers of table grapes. Wine grapes are a whole different proposition and probably best left to the professional growers.

You can buy them as potted plants at local nurseries or order them bare root online.

Look for well rooted 2 year old plants, and plant them as you would any other shrub or vine as early in the year as you can. Let them grow naturally the first year, making sure to water them regularly to develp good stem and root growth.

You will need to learn how to prune your grape vines to get the best fruit production. If you don’t prune the vines, the canes will grow everywhere, and the grape clusters will get smaller and smaller over the years until there will hardly be any grapes at all. But all is not lost. A good pruning will bring the vine back into peak production. Grapes will grow on vines that grow out on the previous year’s cane. Pruning is done in late winter. Be sure to do it before the sap starts rising and buds start swelling. A nice sunny February day is just right for this. Cut out any old vines (two years old or more) that you don’t want. Remove most of last years fruiting canes, leaving just the ones you want. This is the point where you can decide how you want your grapes to grow. Cut back canes to 6 – 8 buds. Each bud will grow a cane that will produce grapes for the current year. After a number of years the main trunk will get thicker and stronger. It is a bit confusing at first but don’t let this scare you off. The grapes are very forgiving and you will learn as years go on. You can read about all aspects of selecting and growing grapes, including pruning at this NMSU page: https://aces.nmsu.edu/pubs/_circulars/CR483/

Within 3 to four years you will have a healthy vine and will be rewarded with the very best grapes for eating fresh, juicing or preserves.

Three year old grape vines on the ramada at the SFEMG Vegetable Demonstration and Teaching Garden at the Fairgrounds. Seedless Blue Concord ( left) and seedless Swenson Red (right)

Immature bunches of Swenson Red grapes on the ramada.

Concord grape vine trained to grow over the gate to my back yard.

 

 

 

From Top to Root (and Everything in Between): Eating the Whole Plant


From Top to Root (and Everything in Between):

Eating the Whole Plant

by Mike McGeary

When I was a child in Portland, Oregon, in the 1950s, my parents decided to grow as much of our food as possible. They bought what had been a dairy farm, which came with fruit trees and berries, and planted all sorts of vegetables, which we ate fresh, cooked, frozen, and canned. But despite this effort to get closer to nature, we still peeled our carrots and potatoes and discarded the turnip and radish tops. It wasn’t until years later that I realized that vegetable peels, skins, stems, and leaves were not only nutritious, but tasty. And there is less food waste.

It’s easy to document the added nutrition. According to the New Mexico Farmers’ Marketing Association, beet greens contain more iron than spinach; are high in vitamin B6, calcium, potassium, copper, manganese, and antioxidants; and have more nutritional value than the beet root. The same is true for turnips. One cup of turnip greens provides 115% Daily Value (DV) of Vitamin K, 37% DV of Vitamin C, 35% DV of Vitamin A, 27% DV of folate (Vitamin B9), and more.

Some of you may already cook the tops of root vegetable and eat carrots and potatoes with the skin on. But if not, read on.

To Peel or Not to Peel
Let’s start with the easiest way to add nutritional value, save time, and eliminate waste. You generally don’t have to peel carrots, sweet potatoes, potatoes, or other root vegetables or tubers even if you mash them. Just scrub them well with a vegetable brush to remove any dirt. You can also eat beets with the skin on, although the skins of large beets that have been in the ground for a long time may be too tough to eat.

Then there’s winter squash. Some winter squashes have skins thin enough to leave on when you cook and eat them. They include delicata, Rred kuri, small dumpling, and even butternut and kabocha when they are still petite.

Stem the Tide of Waste
Many recipes that include greens, such as chard, kale, and collards, direct you to remove the stems and discard them, but you do not need to, particularly if the greens are young and fresh. I generally eat chard and kale stems but find that collard stems are a bit too tough. I cut or strip the chard and kale stems out and either eat them raw or, if they are thick, cut them into 1-inch lengths and cook them with the leafy parts. Deborah Madison, in In My Kitchen, has a recipe for chard stems with lemon, which uses the chard and cilantro stems left over from her recipe for silky braised chard and cilantro.

Great Taste and No Waste!
Herbs like cilantro and parsley are used mainly for their leaves, but if the herbs are fresh and tender, you can chop up their stems with the leaves and add them to your dish. Less work for you, and the stems are as flavorful as the leaves.

When cooking with mushrooms, some people remove and discard the stems, but they can be trimmed and cooked with the caps. The stems can also be saved and added to other vegetable scraps to make stock (we keep all our scraps in a resealable bag in the freezer).

Start at the Top
In addition to the traditional greens, you can also eat the leafy tops of root vegetables, such as carrots, beets, turnips, and radishes. A tip: You will find the freshest tops at a farmers’ market; by the time they get to a supermarket, they are often over the hill or may have been removed. Another tip: Andrea Bemis, of Tumbleweed Farm in Oregon, recommends in her cookbook Dishing Up the Dirt that you separate the tops from the roots when you get home and store them separately or the greens will leach the moisture from the roots and make them go soft too soon.

There are numerous ways to cook the tops of root vegetables. On our farm in Oregon, my mother steamed the beet tops and served them as a side dish with a dash of red wine vinegar on top. Deborah Madison has a recipe for braised turnip greens in The New Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. The Santa Fe Farmers’ Market Institute (SFFMI) has a recipe for creamed turnips and greens on its website: https://farmersmarketinstitute.org/tag/market-fresh-cooking/. The tops of the small white Asian turnips sold at the Santa Fe Farmers’ Market are especially easy to cook and good to eat.

Radish greens, if they are fresh, are delicious raw in a salad, but some people might not like the fuzzy surface. When you cook them, however, the fuzziness disappears but the peppery taste remains. A recipe for braising radishes with their leaves is on the SFFMI website.

Carrot tops—yes, carrot tops—are also edible. The SFFMI website has a recipe for sautéed carrots served with carrot top pesto. At our house, we like carrot top salsa verde with pickle juice, from Mads Refslund’s cookbook, Scraps, Wilt + Weeds: Turning Waste Food into Plenty. We put it on chicken, pork, fish, and vegetables.

Though not root vegetables, celery and fennel also have several useful parts. Generally, we freeze the celery leaves with other scraps saved for making vegetable stock, but they can also be added to a green salad. The fennel bulb is the most commonly used part of the plant, but the fronds can be chopped and sprinkled on the cooked fennel bulbs or sprinkled on a salad. Scraps, Wilt + Weeds has a recipe for fennel pesto using fennel stalks—the part between the bulb and the fronds.

Additional Reading and Related Topics
For further reading, I would recommend Deborah Madison’s Vegetable Literacy, which includes a section for most vegetables on “Using the Whole Plant.” Mads Refslund’s book, Scraps, Wilt + Weeds: Turning Wasted Food into Plenty focuses on waste prevention—using not only all the edible parts of plants, but also wilted, dried out, and otherwise over-the-hill vegetables and fruits. His recipe for vegetable scrap and peel stock lists additional plant parts that can be used, such as onion peels, cauliflower and cabbage cores, and stems of herbs, such as parsley, rosemary, and thyme. He also has chapters on making the most of meat, seafood, and dairy products.

Finally, as a last resort, you can compost vegetable and fruit scraps that you don’t want to eat or save for stock. Our worm bed produces wonderful compost that we use to help grow the next generation of vegetables in our garden.

And finally, finally, if you enjoy using all parts of your vegetables, you might look into related activities, such as foraging for wild plants, edible flowers (such as nasturtium flowers and chive blossoms), and herb vinegars, which are topics to explore another time.

Sourdough Starter Crackers

 

I’ve been making sourdough for over 10 years and I wish I’d had tried these crackers sooner! They are very easy to make and are a veritable umami bomb of flavor. The tangy quality of the lactic acids in the starter produces a tastes reminiscent of Parmesan cheese. This is an excellent use for excess sourdough starter that we are generating during the Covid baking epidemic.

My starter is 25% wholegrain organic rye, 25% organic wholewheat and 50% organic all purpose white flour. It is 100% hydration meaning that it is half flour and half water by weight. It is a thick pancake batter consistency. Any sourdough starter will work and flavors will vary depending on your starter. If your starter is thicker just add water.

The crackers are 100% highly fermented flours which improves digestibility and nutrient availability.

Butter will result in a more tender, flakier texture while olive oil tends to produce a slightly sturdier cracker.

Any type of toppings can be added for flavor and texture. Some favorites are flake salt (black), sesame or caraway seeds, herbs de Provence and edible flower petals which are more decorative than flavorful.

To get started you will need:

¾ C inactive (unfed and straight out of the refrigerator) starter

2 T unsalted butter or olive oil

½ t salt

Flake salt for the top plus any additional toppings

 

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325F

Whisk together: starter, oil or melted butter, salt.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment or a silicone baking mat

 

 

 

Spread the batter evenly on the pan. Don’t worry about getting it all the way to the corners. It also does not need to be crazy thin. This amount will mostly fill up a standard household baking sheet. A rubber bowl scraper or an off set spatula works well for spreading the batter.

 

 

Bake for 10 minutes and then score with pizza cutter or a knife

Bake another 40-50 minutes until they are golden and firm.

Cool on wire rack and enjoy!

 

 

Feel to share your results with us on Instagram by tagging @homegrownnewmexico

 

 

 

 

Bugs in your yard….. a closer look

Take a walk around your yard and garden and you will quickly see that there are a lot of bugs and insects there; a lot of them! Some are beneficial and some can be real pests. A general bug killer will get rid of them all, but that is just ignorant and wrong. How good are you at telling them apart and what you can do to control the pesky ones? You know, the ones that can ruin your plants and make you want to quit gardening altogether!

Most of us know some of the good ones; bees, ladybugs and praying mantises for example, and some of the pests like aphids, squash bugs and flea beetles. But we may not recognize them in their immature stages when they can often be more voracious feeders. So… let’s take a look at some more insects in your yard and see how many you can recognize as either a “good bug” J or “bad bug” L

ladybug larva

 

#1 This is the larva of ladybug and it actually eat more aphids than the adult. J

 

 

 

 

praying mantis egg case

#2 This is an egg case of the praying mantis. The female creates a foamy mass full of eggs that dries and protects the eggs over winter. Just leave it alone.In the spring, the young emerge fully formed and begin eating aphids, leafhoppers, mosquitoes and caterpillars. J

 

 

pill bug

 

#3 Pill bug. You might think these “roly-polys are harmless detritivores but they can take out a whole row of seedlings overnight! Use Sluggo Plus to keep them under control.  L

 

 

 

spined soldier bug

spined soldier larva

#4 The spined soldier bug is a common stink bug and a great predator of the gypsy moth caterpillar, and the larval forms of the Colorado potato beetle and the Mexican bean beetle. The immature form looks somewhat like a ladybug. J

 

lacewing larva

lacewing adult

#5 The lacewing larva is the main predatory stage where they feed mainly on aphids. The adults are fragile looking, weak fliers and squash vine borergesubsist on nectar and pollen. J

 

leafhopper

#6 Leafhoppers are very tiny insects that can carry the curly top virus which will     kill your tomato plants and can damage peppers, beans, potatoes, spinach, beets as well. There is no cure. Cover your plants with row cloth to prevent the leafhopper from infecting them. Remove the cover in July when the monsoons arrive. J

 

squash vine borer

squash vine borer larva damage

#7 Squash vine borer. If you see this brightly colored insect watch out!   She’s about to lay eggs on the stem of your squash plant at ground level. The larvae will burrow into the stem and feed off the plant tissue causing the leaves to wilt. You might at first think that the plant needs watering, but take a closer look at the stem and you will see yellow-orange frass, or droppings around a hole. Once the larva has entered the stem, it’s very difficult to save the plant. Prevention is key. You can try covering the plants with row cover until the blossoms open. They overwinter in cocoons in the soil so don’t plant your squash in the same place as last year. Make sure you dispose of all squash vines at the end of the growing season. L

 

sphinx moth

tomato hornworm

#8 Sphinx moth. Often called the ‘humming bird moth”, it appears in the garden in late afternoons and evening. Enjoy the adults but be on the lookout for their caterpillars, called tomato hornworm. The female moth will lay her eggs on plants in the nightshade family including tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, pepper. The caterpillars grow quickly and can defoliate your tomato plants.   Inspect your plants regularly and pick them off as you find them. L

 

ground beetle

#9 As their name suggests, ground beetles live in the ground and both they and their larvae are considered beneficial predators of soil invertebrates. There are over 2.000 species in North America. Just leave them alone. J

 

 

squash bug adult

squash bug eggs

#10 Squash bugs are the bane of all gardeners. These bugs inject a toxin into the plant and suck the sap right out of it with their sharp, sucking mouth parts. This causes yellow spots that eventually turn brown. The leaves will wilt because the damage prevents the flow of nutrients to the leaves, and then they will dry up and turn black, crisp, and brittle. To control these you must be vigilant. Look for egg masses and scrape them off the undersides of the leaves or cut them out. Once they hatch you will have a difficult time finding them all. If you constantly have trouble with squash bugs, try growing squash varieties that are more resistant to them, such as butternut squash. Good luck! L

These are just some of the insects that you will come across as you spend time in your yard. Learning how to control the harmful ones without using pesticides will result in more beneficials and a healthier garden overall.

For more information about these and other beneficial garden insects check out this pocket guide to beneficial insects of New Mexico.

https://aces.nmsu.edu/pubs/insects/welcome.html

Vegetable Gardening in Containers

Vegetable Gardening in Containers
by Jannine Cabossel/The Tomato Lady

Whether you’re new to vegetable gardening or an experienced grower, it’s worth considering growing produce in containers this year. We were all caught off guard with the coronavirus pandemic.

With some know-how, you can still find and grow seeds, seedlings, or larger plants in containers. Tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants are best planted as seedlings around May 15 or later. Most veggies like six to eight hours of sun, so find your sunniest location for them. Some cool season vegetables, like lettuce and peas, do better in partial shade. In all cases, when you’re growing in containers rather than in the ground, don’t forget to water more because the soil will dry out faster. Use a mulch like straw to slow evaporation from pot. Consider watering twice a day.

Potatoes growing in a basket. Photo Linda Archibald

Be creative about your containers. You can use any pot-like vessel with holes on the bottom for drainage. If the containers have been used before, sterilize the inside with a solution of two teaspoons bleach in a quart spray bottle of water and rinse well. If pots are new, you don’t have to do this. Use bagged potting soil, not garden soil, which may have pathogens. Completely wet the soil until moist like a damp sponge; it is hard to get many potting soils sufficiently moist. I moisten the potting soil in a bucket first and then I put the moistened soil into containers or pots before planting seeds or plants.

If planting seedlings or plants, place them so the crown, where the leaves come out, is level with the soil; do not cover the crown. When planting tomatoes, however, you can plant about half the length of the plant underground. The hairy stem will grow roots, which makes the plant sturdier. If planting by seeds, follow the depth and spacing on the seed packet.

Where to get seeds, seedlings or plants
Besides nurseries and big box stores, one of the best places to get vegetable seedlings or plants is at the Santa Fe Farmers Market. Many of the farmers there should be offering tomato varieties as well as other vegetable varieties.

Vegetables that do well in containers-most can be grown by seed.
Beans: Grow ‘bush’ varieties instead of vining ones. Put 1 plant in a 10–12-inch
pot. Can been grown by seed.
Cucumbers: Grow ‘bush’ varieties by seed. 1 to 2 plants can fill a 20-inch pot.
Eggplant: Transplant 1 eggplant seedling into a 10–12-inch container. Grow by plant only, not seeds, which take too long to start.
Kale and chard: 1 plant per 10–12-inch container; in longer containers you can put in several. Can be grown by seed or plants.
Leafy greens: Lettuces are among many greens that you can cut the outer leaves off of to eat and later cut again for another meal. Keep cool-season crops in partial shade. Can plant by seed or seedling. They do not need deep containers. There are warm season lettuces called Batavian or Crisphead lettuces that do well here in the summer.
Peas: Put tall supports in the pot when planting the seeds. I like to use sticks for them to grow up on. Grow many peas 2 inches apart in 10–12-inch pot or a long container. Place container in partial shade. It’s too warm now in June to plant peas but you can plant them in the fall again. Plant by seed into pots.
Peppers: Grow bell peppers and hot peppers from plants only, not seeds, which take too long to start. 1 plant per 10–12-inch pot.
Potatoes: Grow in large grow bags or containers. Put 4 inches of soil in bottom of container. Then put potato “seeds” on top of soil, eyes up, and cover with 3 or 4 more inches of soil. As plant grows, cover plant leaves with soil. Do not trim the leaves but bury them; they will grow through the soil. Continue to cover the leaves as they grow until you reach the top of the container. Then just let the leafy parts grow. The potatoes grow in the soil above the original potato seeds while the roots grow down. Harvest when plant starts to die. The Farmers Market is good source of potato seeds.
Radishes: Short or long containers work will for these crops. Plant seeds 2 to 3 inches apart. Plant by seed into pots.
Tomatoes: Grow by plant only, not seeds. Tomato plants need support. Use a tall stake or tomato cage to keep your plants upright. Plant determinate varieties, which typically grow shorter. For each plant use a 5-gallon bucket or equivalent with drainage holes. Plant the stem deep. Determinate tomatoes are perfect for containers.
Zucchini or summer squash: Plant a ‘bush’ variety. A single plant can fill a 24-inch pot. Plant by seed into pots.
Winter squash: Plant a ‘bush’ variety. A single plant can fill a 24-inch pot. Plant by seed into pots.

More coronavirus info

In the previous post we told you we are cancelling all events for the remainder of this year to keep everyone safe. Anyone who got a membership this year in 2020, will be transferred to next year starting in January 2021. We will try to offer the same classes next year if the instructors are still available.

In lieu of this very disappointing info and wanting to keep in contact with all of our followers and members, we will put out a post every week on subjects that are interesting for us on the board as we will be writing them.

That means we will be touching on anything from vegetable gardening info, kitchen gardening cooking, preservation techniques, bread making, pickling, beekeeping, seed saving and anything that has to do with self- sustainability.

If you haven’t done so already, please signed up on the left hand column of this website at ‘Follow Blog via Email‘ where we will notify you via email of any new posts.