It's been about a year since we moved into our dream house in Albuquerque's South Valley, and about five months since we started our mission
to "turn our sadly barren backyard into one of those natural-looking “native wildflower wilderness fields” that are always on the cover of the gardening magazines we read at Flying Star.
So now that the leaves are changing on the trees and pumpkins are being carved, you may be wondering how we did. So are we, actually.
We hoped to create a yard that would survive our dogs, survive our sorry watering habits, not require mowing, and be affordable. The good news is that we succeeded on all counts! No kidneys were sold in the course of working the yard (yet), and only a few plants (...and lots of grass seed...) were lost to lack of water.
Our vegetable garden was a bigger success than expected, and all but one of the trees we planted this time last year survived a whole year under our care! Here are some photos that display the transformation:
The garden area before we got started breaking the ground and planting baby veggies.
The garden shortly after the ground-breaking and transplanting.
The garden with happy green plants quickly taking over the carefully planned paths.
The garden just a few days ago, with the fence reconfigured for next year's plot. Notice the HUGE tomatoes, tall corn, and dead dead dead cucumbers and squash.
What a difference, huh? Despite attacks from silverleaf nightshade and squash bugs , our big little yard had an amazing year!
Our latest harvest yielded more and more tomatoes, some itty-bitty green bell peppers, several small zucchini, the last of the basil, and one under-ripe spaghetti squash. The poor thing didn't have a chance to ripen before the plant gave up the ghost... wonder if it will yellow up if it sits on a warm windowsill for a couple of days?
When we moved in last year, we were too overwhelmed with unpacking to harvest any of the pears off the sweet little tree in our courtyard. This year, though, the tree made us very aware that it would no forgive the slight for two years in a row... it seemed that every time I went out there, it threw a pear at me!
To celebrate this year's successes, we purchased more trees to round out the backyard. A couple of Spruce
and an Austrian Pine
joined us from a 30% off sale at Santa Fe Greenhouses.
Then, a visit to the Natural Resources building at the State Fair resulted in several baby trees: 2 Desert Willows
, an itty-bitty Gambel Oak
, a teeny-tiny Pinon Pine
, and a teensy Ponderosa Pine
. Grow little guys, grow!
Time to "Tuck the Garden In" for Bedtime
Now we have only to "put the garden to bed" for the winter. For us, that means quickly sowing some soil-improving, nitrogen-fixing cover crops like winter wheat
and hairy vetch
. Having never done this before, we don't know what to expect.... but we do know that Farmer Monte
does it, so it must be good!
2006 Lessons Learned
So What's The Plan for 2007?
- The mix of cow poop,composted cotton burr, and peat moss seemed to work really well in our garden. However, we were told time and time
again that we probably didn't have to go to the trouble - the soil in the South Valley is already rich in nutrients. Next year, we won't spend so much money on additives at the store, and will probably opt mostly for homemade compost instead.
- Ah, the compost. So little work for so much reward! We'll definitely be composting next year, and using the resulting material to
amend our soil and mulch our plants.
- In the Spring, grow all seedlings in small containers inside rather than throwing them to the wolves (and birds and sun and wind)
outside. When they're no longer seedlings, "harden them off" and then transplant them to the garden.
- Re-apply cayenne pepper and dishsoap concoction to hoses after heavy rainfall or puppies will ruin yet another hundred-footer. Damn
- Keep those ruined hoses around! They came in handy this year and we laid out next spring's big project - a path to separate (and
connect) the far reaches of our yard with a pecan-shell path a la Plants of the Southwest in Albuquerque.
Continue collecting spent coffee grounds from frequent Starbucks visits. The flowers really seem to love it!
- Water the baby trees obsessively. No, really. RIP, willow.
- Either plant squash and cucumber later in the year after the squash bugs have attacked, or plant a sacrificial crop, burn those
little suckers along with that first few plants, and then re-plant.
- Tomato plants are not aerodynamically designed and will easily flop over... even if you have a tomato cage. Luckily, we live in dry
New Mexico, so the fruit won't rot immediately upon contact with the ground like it will in some other places.
- Keep writing on Duke City Fix, because the advice provided by readers was truly primo!
Tell Us Everything!
- An even bigger veggie garden because the overwhelming amount of vegetation this year just wasn't enough
- Ornamental gourds growing on a trellis like this
- Three Sisters Gardening for corn, beans, and squash
- Moon and Stars Watermelon
- Basil, basil, basil
- Multiple cilantro plants so that if one of the dies mysteriously like this year, we've got backup
- Pear, cherry, and Cherokee Purple tomatoes, using the Florida Weave technique
- Sunchokes, aka Jerusalem Artichokes
- Some kind of structure for the zuchinni and cucumbers to climb
- A real compost station with three compartments
- Worms to eat our garbage!
- Paths and mounds like the Santa Fe Greenhouse Xeric Display Garden (which they don't feature on their site for some strange reason)
- A new fence that may allow for more topless gardening
So, green thumb readers, we're dying to know how your yards turned out this year! What pearls of Albuquerque gardening wisdom would you like to pass on to fellow DCFers?