Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Beat the Plants

My neighbor told me that her grandma used to say that a tomato wouldn't produce tomatos until she beat it with a broom or something simular. I hope it is true as my little baby tomato plants are being beaten with in an inch of their little lives by the wind we keep having. But they seem to be strong little plants and are surviving. That can't be said for the watermelons. I have lost half of them already. the squarsh are thriving and growing. I am having heck keeping them watered. I have to water them at least twice a day. That tells me just how dry our air is with no humitity in it at all. At this point I wonder why I ever started this project of having a garden and flowers.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Bathing Beauties

Bath time for the ponies! It's been a long winter for 5 very dirty equines. As the weather has warmed up I decided it was time to give each and every one of my horses and ponies a bath. It's taken several days over the past week but I did the last one this morning. What a chore. They were worse than I thought once I really got to washing them. I had already done a lot of the brushing to get as much loose winter hair off of them as I could. As I soaked each one then started soaping each one I realized how much dirt was ground into their hair. All that sand and dust can't be good for their skin anymore than it is for mine. It makes me wonder why the horses, dogs, and cats want to roll it it so often. I wish they wouldn't roll in the dirt.
I am grateful that Sunny, Nita, and Stormy like their bath. I think they would stand their all day and let me run water over them and massage them with a soapy rag or brush them and comb out their manes and tails. And Star didn't do to bad even though I know she doesn't care for a bath. But it is Trave that is the problem. He's ok about his head, neck, and front quarters being washed but doens't like his hind quarters or belly washed. I intend to try to do more of it with him this summer so that hopefully he will get more used to it.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Miracle of Growing Seeds

So now that we have reached this spring/summer type season I have planted my garden and flower seeds. Each year I get obsessed to plant some seeds. To me it is such a miracle to watch that tiny, little seed be planted, watered, and in about a week there is the first bit of green peaking up out of the soil. It doesn't matter if it is a very tiny little black speck of a seed, or the larger pumpkin, squash or gourd seeds. To me each one that sprouts is a miracle.

This year I saved several of the 2 litter soda bottles, cut them in half, added seed starter soil in the bottom half, plus the seeds, then slit the top on one side so that it would slide easily into the bottom half to make a small greenhouse. I do water the soil until it is very moist before I add the seeds. As seed starter soil is very dry you might need to stir it to help it absort the water. I use my hands to mix it up sort of like a bread dough. If you wait to water until after the seeds are planted the water will move the seeds around to different areas of the pot. It is best to make a few holes in the bottoms of the bottles to allow for excess water dranage and put the pot onto a saucer to catch the water. I use any kind of plastic container I can find for a 'saucer' like the containers that meat come in, or other plastic containers that are normally pitched in the trash. (Another way to re-cycle!) I did remove the soda bottle lids so that some of the moisture could escape from my make-shift greenhouse. You can do the same thing with other plastic bottles like gallon milk jugs, but I like the soda bottles as you can see though them (the green ones a more difficult) and you can use markers to write the names of the seeds on the top and bottom half so you know what kind of seed you have planted. Make sure they are in a fairly sunny location in the house but not to cool or hot.

I think each and every one of them came up. After a week most were up but I kept the greenhouse top on for another week to allow the baby plants to get a good start. You want to make sure they don't get too wet from the greenhouse effect or too dry. After about a week I took the tops off and allowed the plantlets more sun as when they go outside here they will get lots of hot sun and dry weather. This allows them to get used to our desert living gradually. After 2 weeks I start setting them outside on our patio for part of the day. Start with about 4 hours in the morning gradually increasing by several hours each day. I don't put them out if the weather is to drastic as when we have rain or bad wind. Now that they are into the third week I will start letting them spend the night outside. I make sure to watch the weather or some how check and make sure it won't be too cold for them at night. I prefer a temperature of at least 45 at night for them to stay out. If it should dip back lower I will bring them back in. As we don't have a roof on our patio I will bring them in if it should rain or get to windy.

Yesterday I have to replant one of my pumpkins as it got way to big/tall for it's little greenhouse. I put it in a 1 gallon plastic pot that I had saved in the pot pile. This happens faster to the larger plants like pumpkins, squash or gourds. The smaller seeds like tomatoes, cucumbers, or watermelon or flowers take longer to get to the transplant size.

All the seeds are now putting on their second leaves. If you arn't formular with growing seeds youwill notice that the second leaves are totally different in shape and size to the first leaves. All seeds, for what ever reason, the first leaves are different to the leaves that they have as plants. There are all kinds of theories as to why they do this. To me it is just part of the miracle of plants. But it does make it more difficult to recognize what kind of plant you are growing.

I also took several of the 1 gallon pots that I have saved over the years, filled them with potting soil three fourths of the way up and then with seed starter soil the top one forth and planted seeds in them, some being the same type of seeds I had started in the house. I have kept these pots of seeds out on the patio to sprout when they can according to our weather. The first ones are now coming up.

In the next couple of weeks I transplant the seedlings from their small pots to their permanent home in the garden. Some of the seedlings will find homes in some larger pots as here in the desert I have found that many garden plants and flowers do better in containers. Especially tomatoes. All will grow, flower and produce in pots if that is the way you want to do your garden rather than to dig a big patch of ground for a garden in the traditional way. Sometimes it is a lot easier to water and fertilize this way.

What ever way you decide to grow your seeds or if you prefer to buy them already up and ready to transplant to a bigger pot or directly into your garden, growing plants is a wonderfully way to add to your groceries or just to experience one of the miracles of nature.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

What Season Is This?

For several weeks, or has it been months, we have been trying to decide if winter was going to leave us, and spring come to visit. And that is the secret word. Visit. That is all that spring really did here. Visit. In the past week we have had a winter storm, a touch of spring, and now summer has decended on us with lots of sunny days and warm nights. The winter storm was nice with it's scattering of snow and rain. We only got rain but we always need moisture. Spring was wonderful; for the few days it lasted. So today it is up to 80 degrees and only supposed to get down to 50 tonight. 50? Last Friday we had a high of only 50.
I do beleive that Mother Nature is very undecided as to what season it is.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Iffy Spring

Spring can't decide if it wants to come or not. Trees are bloomed out, a few anuals are coming up but we have another storm. It is spitting a combination of rain and snow. TV says lots of snow in mountains and points north. Sure wish mother nature would make up her mind what season it is.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Gardening Suggestions

Here is another short article that was in a former gardening newsletter. Hope you find some suggestions you can use.

Early spring or winter makes it difficult for those of us who love to garden or are thinking of taking up this wonderful hobby. It’s hard to get out to do anything in our gardens or yards when it is cold, windy and sometimes snowy. Plus it is the ‘rest’ or ‘sleep’ time for all of our trees and plants. Most plants need to have this dormant period in their lives to be able to put on new growth and flowers during spring, summer, and fall.
But don’t despair. It is the perfect time to plan what you will do and grow in your garden. Winter is the time to sit down, relax, put your feet up, and look through all the seed and plant catalogs to plan your garden for the next growing season. Or if you prefer to use your computer most gardening catalogs have extensive websites with lots of information besides their online catalogs. Gardening catalogs seem to come quickly to your mailbox but the web sites are always faster.
I’m not pushing or even recommending these particular web sites, but these catalogs have been around for a long time. I have used them as did my parents and grandparents. Henry Fields Catalog has been in business since 1892.
At these websites you can find out which “zone” you live in. The United States is devided into plant hardiness zones by the USDA These zones tell you which plants will live in your area. Each zone is based on the average last frost date in the spring for an area and the average first frost date in the fall. Knowing your frost dates will help you know what plants you can grow, when to put your seeds out in the spring and when to harvest vegetables in the fall before it freezes. The above mentioned websites have a place where you can put in your zip code and it will tell you which zone you live in. Many of us will have problems figuring out which zone we live in when we look at the map. I know I always have. You may find that different sites say you live in different zones. I live in New Mexico. Some sites say I live in Zone 6 and some say I live in Zone 7.
This just goes to prove that gardening is not an exact science or art. A lot of times gardening can be fun and interesting by experimenting to find which plants we can grow and which ones we can’t. I have found that I can grow certain plants that the books or professionals say won’t grow in my high desert garden. Other times I have bought plants that those same professionals and books say will grow in my yard and they don’t, even with the best TLC, and years of trying. Gardening can be different from your yard to your neighbors.
Here is a list of websites that have lots of plant and gardening information with out a catalog.

Early spring is also a good time to review your gardening books or buy some new ones, either online, or at your local bookstore or plant nursery. So many of us buy those pretty gardening books, put them in our bookshelves and forget about them. Most gardening, landscape or plant books will have at least a little bit of information that will be valible for your particular yard or garden.
Did you know you can contact your local county extension agent for more information about your area? You can look up the number in your phone book or online. Each county has someone who is good at knowing about what plants, trees, or scrubs grow well in your area and can advise you on how to grow them. Many Extension agents have handouts they can send you for free.
Remember there are several good TV shows, like The Victory Garden, that give great advice for gardeners. Check your local TV guide for The Victory Garden on PBS or Making it Grow on RFD.
Northern states are mostly covered with snow so actually working in the garden is difficult. If you live in an area that doesn’t get much snow, like I do, put on some warm clothes, get out, and plan your garden. You can take a single piece of blank paper and draw a design or you can use a tape measure and graft paper. You might want to consult with others in your family on what they would like to grow. This is a great activity for the kids on a winter day, which can be expanded into a full summer project.
If you still need to, now is the time clean up dead plants, and weeds. It’s a perfect time to put a layer of mulch on your vegetable garden area and around your shrubs and trees. Local nurseries should have different kinds of mulch as well as steer manure. Mixing steer manure in with the mulch for a top dressing of fertilizer that will slowly release into the soil. Manure can be either turned into the soil now or allowed to sit on top of your garden as a mulch until you are ready to plant.
I have an unlimited supply of horse manure. You can use horse, cow, or chicken manure on your garden. But be careful. Fresh manure can be way to ‘hot’ and will burn plants if you get it to close to them. You need to put the manure into a compost and let it set and fry for about six months to a year before using it. Then that manure becomes a great fertilizer. Steer manure you buy at a store or nursery has been heat treated and is ready to use.
So don't be afraid to try some gardening this spring and summer. Turn over a garden plot, get some seeds and plants and go for it. You might even find you like it, especially those fresh veggies that taste some much better than the ones you get at the store.


According to the date we are into spring and even though the wind continues to be nasty (last night we had sustained winds at about 45 miles per hour and gusts up to 65 miles per hour, according to the TV) my flowers are trying to bloom. One of my favorites are violets and pansies. Following is a short article I did a few years back for a gardening newspaper.


One of my favorite flowers is the wood violet. It may not be very big but it certainly sends out a lot of very fragrant, heady perfume. Not only do violets have this wonderful odor, they bloom and smell good in winter in the southwestern states, and in early spring in other parts of the United States. In fact I found my first one this winter on New Year’s Day. One doesn’t expect to find flowers, let alone such a wonderful perfume, from such a small, usually unnoticed plant.
There are lots of different kinds of violets, or violas, which are kin to the pansy, and they come in several different colors from white, and yellow to light purple and dark purple. Wood violets seem to have the sweetest odor of any I have smelled. I got my start from my mom and she got hers from her mom, and that’s going back some fifty years so I couldn’t say for sure which verity it actually is. They grow rapidly from seed and are easy to start from division of clumps. Some people think that violets can become a pest if not kept under control. I try to keep mine in beds or containers where they won’t choke out other plants that I want. Wood violets are larger than the wild violets but not near as big as a pansy and are a deep purple in color.
Violets of all kinds do well in containers or pots. Wood violets, by themselves, take very little care except for water in the summer. They do prefer a bit of shade for part of the day as they are not real fond of the hot sun of the southern states. A few annuals added to the container, or bed of violets can add color and height during the summer.
Wood violets make a nice cut flower for a tiny vase or with other flowers. A pot of violets makes a great gift at any time especially for the beginning gardener. I have heard of people picking violets and candying them to make decorations for cakes and cookies, but have never tried it myself.
I have let my wood violets take over a small flower bed right by my front door. I know that this wonderful little flower will greet me and my visitors with a lovely sight and a profusion of smell for about 6 weeks each spring. Following the spring blooming period violets put on lots of heart shaped leaves. These leaves look nice in the flower bed, and can add interest to a bouquet of flowers.
Wood violets might be the right flower for you to consider adding to your flower collection.