Previously we wrote about our attempt to create a backyard oasis during this first summer in our home. Some parts are going well, like the garden, some parts still look like a sandbox, and some parts contain clumps of the world’s most expensive grass. Here’s our update on what ended up ok, and what we're going to re-try in our southwest gardening adventure!

Stupid Birds! Much of the grass seed we sowed ended up being very expensive bird seed, despite assurances from our nursery specialist to the contrary. The only part of the lawn that grew seems to be the buffalo grass. We definitely need to address this problem, since we still want a natural lawn of some sort. We’re considering the lawn plug alternative.



More Water!
Maybe we can’t blame the lack of grass solely on the birds. We may have watered too little… every other day seemed like enough at the time, but our dads (resident lawn experts) disagreed and encouraged us to water our lawn seed and seedlings every day next time.

Tomatoes are the heartiest plants ever The babies we planted have held up to a lot – wind storms, scorching heat, neglect… and are still producing! We’ve counted 11 growing tomatoes, and like Farmer Monte over at Los Poblanos, we’re craving some garden-fresh tomatoes!



Throwing random crap in a pile does not = composting
We have a huge compost pile that we inherited from the previous owner of the house. Luckily, there’s some gold underneath all of the dry dead leaves we’ve been adding. As has grown larger and larger, we’ve begun to do research about how to properly compost and have learned that you must water your compost, you aerate your compost somehow (but turning isn’t absolutely necessary), and the best compost is vermicomposting, which creates an ecosystem all to itself using red worms! Add another project to our list.


Puppies love garden hoses
Our garden hoses haven’t fared quite as well as our tomatoes. Who knew the biggest enemy of the hoses would be our puppies? I suppose it’s that supple, just-like-a-dog-toy consistency. Our solution? A concoction of dish soap and cayenne pepper, slightly diluted, and applied generously to all areas of the hose. We’ve been assured that it won’t damage any of the foliage through which we drag the hose, and the dogs will no longer be interested in such a distasteful dog toy. Fingers crossed.



The people who write “Full Sun” on all those little tags that come with plants don’t live in New Mexico
Especially if you buy any of your plants at a national chain store, watch out for promises of hardiness in full sun. As my dead ice plant would tell you, “full sun” in Ohio can easily mean “partial sun” in New Mexico…



Mixed results with UGOs
We’re growing accustomed to identifying good plants versus bad plants, but still need a little practice. Rather than pulling unidentified growing objects (UGO hereafter), we are letting them grow up to show us their full potential. Here are the results so far:

  • We did identify one particularly popular plant as a silverleaf nightshade, which has been identified as a noxious weed in six states. And no wonder! When I stepped on one without my shoe, I came back with over 20 itty-bitty pokers in my foot! Off with their heads!
  • We were pleased to note that another UGO turns out to be a beneficial plant rather than a weed – the orange globe mallow!
  • We’re waiting to see if several UGOs in the garden turn out to be carrots, brussel sprouts, or onions…

Are herbs supposed to flower?
Both our cilantro and basil are blooming… they sure are pretty! Will the blooms change the taste of the herbs?



No melon patch for us
Not a single pumpkin, watermelon, squash, or okra came up in our expansive melon patch. We’re considering starting some seeds inside and them moving the seedlings to the yard.



Is it time to fertilize yet?
We feel the urge, but don’t know about timing. We have been given the go-ahead to fertilize our roses by Down to Earth: A Gardener's Guide to the Albuquerque Area… but what about the garden, the trees, and the grass?



More pictures of a sometimes-green and sometimes-sandy yard and commentary are posted up at our Flickr account. See if you can identify our biggest UGO!



UPDATE:
Read our more recent updates!

Views: 17

Comment by Eckleburg and Grumblecake on November 22, 2007 at 9:39am
This post came from the original Duke City Fix. Here are the comments:

Spartacus wrote:
Silverleaf Nightshade? That's practically the most famous ABQ weed in existence. It'll take root anywhere it can find a spot, and will experience explosive growth in the days and weeks after a good rain. It's hardier than virtually anything else on the planet, and it obviously knows how to defend itself with it's little prickers. I swear, if we truly wanted to get even with Osama, we'd airdrop a few of these babies on his landscape for his camels to feast on.

You know why your tomatoes are as invulnerable as Superman? They're a member of the nightshade family too.
06/05/06 07:53:11
Dirty Fingernails wrote:
Dead head those flowers on your basil and cilantro, next comes seed, and then the whole thing not so good anymore.

I have re-seeded from year to year from my basil, at the end of the season, but all in all, it is not good to have flowers on the herbs. If you have a lot of flowers and basil, you can trim them back a bunch and use the flowers/leaves in bouquets, very aromatic and nice filler/texture. Might work fine for the cilantro too, but definately keep the flowers back.

Hard to tell from the photo, but I think the big weed gets little yellow flowers that then get a little fuzzy seed head, not too invasive, but definately a weed. I don't know what it is called.

My squash, from the compost, have been flowering, but the plants are too small to really support the buds, so no action yet. They are liking the heat.
You have found carrots!

I got my red worms at the farmer's market in Santa Fe about 4 years ago, and they have kept going all this time. They are hearty eaters and can munch down piles and piles of leaves in no time!!
06/05/06 07:59:45
mesacrow wrote:
593I've been working on establishing a field of Blue Gramma & Buffalo Grass in the valley for the past 5 years. I suspect that it would take even the most accomplished gardener several years to get a decent field of this stuff going. There's no way those new seeds are going to sprout and do well without daily watering. Once my field was fairly well established I pretty much stopped all watering. At the start of the season I water it well to get it going. I have been raking out my end of season cuttings to spread the seeds to new areas of my field and then watering that area daily until it gets established. In my first mix of seed I had both Blue Gramma and Buffalo Grass. Hardly any Buffalo Grass sprouted except around the borders of my field. This 5th year all of a sudden I have Buffalo Grass coming up all over. Actually, I don't like it that much. I don't cut my field throughout the season but let it grow to look like a mountain meadow (I wish!). The Blue Gramma stands up tall and sways with the wind. The Buffalo Grass is clumped up fairly low to the ground in comparison. I think that those who like the mixture of the two grasses probably cut it low like a regular lawn. I guess this may be necessary in Albuquerque with their weed height law.

Oh yeah! Don't go buying that expensive $15/lb seed at the local nursery. I buy it in 40lb bags from Curtis & Curtis Seed Company in Hobbs. Have it shipped right to your door for a small fraction of the cost.

The tall Blue Gramma has had absolutely no bug problems and I can walk through it knee deep without getting any bites. My dogs love to lay down in it and act like they are stalking out on the savanna.
06/05/06 08:20:44
Jim M wrote:
Seems as if we're having similar results. I spread out my native grass and wildflower mixes and havesome green stuff out in the yard. Most of it looks like weeds to me, very little grass and a lot of something that doesn't look like grass, I've been watering every day.

My vegetable garden is faring better than the attempt at the lawn. Planted lots of herbs. Cilantro and parsley don't seem to like all the sun. Tomatos are doing well. Beans are doing great. And corn is getting taller every day.

http://static.flickr.com/60...
06/05/06 08:33:39
adp wrote:
Watering your native grass seeds every other day was a mistake. try at least twice a day until the seedlings sprout then gradually back off frequency and increase watering time until you reach a once a week deep watering the first season. Blue grama will sprout first, then buffalo. The following season would be to water as needed.

I wouldn't have tilled either.
06/05/06 08:40:21
chantal wrote:
Eck & Grumble, so it looks like you planted your tomatoes and such on a mounded hill. I've seen many people here do something different -- planting them in depressions in the ground sort of like the "waffle garden" used by the Zuni (http://www.nmia.com/~jaybir...).

Does anyone know if waffle-gardening works well with tomatoes, squash and the like?

(Nice garden pic, Jim M.!)
06/05/06 08:45:27
Cal wrote:
I can't believe that you are trying to start a lawn in this drought. I thought the idea- for the sake of water conservation- was to get rid of our lawns.
06/05/06 09:21:17
grumblecake wrote:
Thanks for all your advice, everyone! We'll keep you updated on our progress... and maybe invite you over for tomato soup, fried green tomatoes, and tomato ice cream later in the season.
06/05/06 09:32:27
adp wrote:
Buffalo / blue grama 'lawns' are more groundcover than well manicured high maint/water lawns. I have a patch that I water 2x month in summer. Compare that to the watering needs of your avg. bluegrass lawn in this city.
06/05/06 09:50:09
Randy wrote:
Tomato ice creamis only good if you get to sit on the lawn... I have planted a tall fescue lawn on half of my backyard this spring and except for the bird seed stealing critters that picked through the middle part, it is all coming up great! I watered it twice a day for a month, once a day for 2 weeks, and now just skipped my first day.

I am one who fails to see the water conservation issue, since it is impossible for the Earth to lose water. It is just recycled in different manners. What I soak my ground with ends back up in the aquifer at some point. The watermelon, pumpkins and canteloupe are doing great with 4 waterings a day. The last time I grew watermelon, they were destroyed by a late-summer hail storm. But they are under a thick tree this year, so they should do just fine. Just remember that growing things produce oxygen and we wouldn't want to run out of any of that!
06/05/06 09:51:09
GypsyRose wrote:
I used to have a friend who swore by this method and it always seemed to work. When you plant the grass seed, cover it lightly with a layer of hay and water it alot. The straw protects the sprouts from harsh sun and also holds moisture. Once the sprouts look healthy, gently rake off the straw and voila.
06/05/06 09:51:53
eckleburg wrote:
Hey Cal,

Our goal was definately NOT to have a lawn -- we hate mowing and dnot want to spend all that water. On the other hand, we also don't want to feel like we're on the moon/in Iraq/in Arizona. So our goal is to have something growing in our yard - think southwestern meadow. Buffalo Grass seemed like a great idea, but agter reading mesacrow's idea, Grumble and I are probably going to try again with blue grama. Our dogs will love pretending to be savannah hunters!
06/05/06 09:54:25
eckleburg wrote:
Gypsy --

Where did you get your hay from?
06/05/06 09:54:57
chantal wrote:
I've purchased a truckload of hay bales from the feed store on 4th street. Forgot the name of it, but it's on the East side of the street not far from Candelaria.
06/05/06 10:02:09
EFP wrote:
Gypsy is right. The "straw-over-seed" method works but you have to be careful with mold growing because straw is excellent at holding water. So a thin cover of straw is best. There used to be a place that sold a chopped straw/fertilizer mix with seed already mixed in, but for the life of me I cannot remember the name of the business. HydroGrow stick in my mind but can't be sure.
06/05/06 10:09:01
Ron W. wrote:
Yes, we've used the "waffle" method. We call it the "post-hole" method, because that's what you use to dig the holes. The idea is that the tomato plants will send their roots deep into the hole because 1) the dirt's already been dug up and is looser; and 2) the roots will go down deep because that's where the moisture is. The post-hole way will keep you from watering as often.

BTW, what kind of tomato plant is that in the photo? It's a broadleaf type. I'm betting it's a Brandywine.
06/05/06 11:04:29
Jim M wrote:
I'm definitely interested in hearing how E&G's project goes since they're pretty much attempting to do the same thing with their yard as I am.
06/05/06 17:07:14
Emily wrote:
Please don't buy hay! We horse owners need it in this drought. Instead, email me and I'll give you my dead bales. I have PILES OF IT AND ITS FREE!
06/05/06 18:26:36
Phil wrote:
Chantal - I'm pretty sure waffle gardening ought to work with squash and tomatoes...after all, that's pretty much what the Zuni were using it for!
06/06/06 02:25:42
GypsyRose wrote:
I don't know where my friend used to get her hay but it sounds like Emily has a great idea. What are dead bales though? Inquiring minds want to know...
06/06/06 10:51:50
nora wrote:
We call those "evil plants". Dad hates them.
06/06/06 18:33:53
Clyde wrote:
I have heard that hay from bales is full of weed seeds that you would not want in your garden or yard.
I have always stayed away from it for that reason.
06/07/06 08:46:52
Straw Man wrote:
Hay is green. Straw is yellow. You want to mulch with straw. Which is full of hay seeds which are easy to pluck as they come up.
06/07/06 15:32:54
grumblecake wrote:
Ron W., I finally remembered to check the tag on that broadleaf tomato. It's a Husky Cherry Red, and it is delicious! We plucked our first red tomato off that vine this morning and it was goooood. Yum!
06/08/06 10:53:24
Tukwila wrote:
I like to let some of my cilantro plants flower each year I grow them. Let them mature and dry and voila!- instant coriander! Use some to spice your feasts and save some to plant next year.
10/29/06 14:47:23

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