Wednesday, March 11, 2009

How Does Your Garden Grow?

I have been working pretty hard in the garden over the past week or so. I have planted out all the pepper, tomato, and tomatillo seedlings, and sown basil, cucumber, watermelon, and cantaloupe seeds. I have also sown a row of sunflowers all down the middle of my little plot. When they grow tall they will shade the veggies to their east and protect them from the hot afternoon sun that will be here before very long.

I still want to plant more cantaloupe, and also summer and winter squash, but until some of the other crops have finished I don't have enough room. They can all be planted over the next few months as long as they are protected from the sun, so that should be fine. I desperately want more space but for now will have to make do with what I have.

I had an almost completely full compost bin which had been cooking for about six months. It provided enough compost for a really good thick layer for the seedlings and seeds to be planted into which was great.

We are still getting masses of spinach and swiss chard every few days or so, and I am also finally picking snow peas. There are only a few each day right now but there will be more. I also still have cilantro, dill, nasturtiums, parsley, radish, and lettuces. I have been happily sharing with our neighbours because we have way more than we can eat. I got some fresh and lovely pink grapefruits in exchange from one neighbour which was an unexpected, but welcome treat.

My little leeks, and beets are almost ready, and I am also getting a few little ichiban eggplants each week or so. I also have some green cabbage and tomato plants plants that are growing well. There are no red cabbages of course, but at least nothing else has been eaten.

Recently though I have to admit to feeling rather anxious over the amount of water I am using to maintain my veggie garden. I am not using nearly as much as I would be if we still had grass instead of bare earth, but it still doesn't feel quite right. Of course my paltry three rainwater collection barrels don't even come close to supplying the water I need, and I imagine I would need to have literally hundreds to really have enough water to grow all the veggies I want to grow here.

I feel like Barbara Kingsolver in "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" when she wrote "Living in Arizona on borrowed water made me nervous." I know exactly how she feels. It just doesn't seem right somehow, even if I am growing actual food.

Is it better for me to be doing as I am, and using such a precious resource here in our desert, or is it better for me to rely on produce that may have been transported thousands of miles to get here with all of the environmental implications that has?

I know seasonal eating is supposed to be better for the environment but how does that really apply to us here in the desert where we don't have the traditional growing seasons of other states with the corresponding seasonal precipitation.

These are questions I have been mulling over a lot recently, and I still don't have any easy answers I am afraid.


Amy said...

I understand your concerns re: water usage but I think growing something as beneficial and useful as vegetables outweighs the risk of utilizing the AZ water supply. (Not that I have done any studying on the matter.)

Don't forget the great things plants and trees do for the air as well. AZ--and all states, for that matter--can always use better, cleaner, fresher air.

Gail - Fort Rock Glimpses said...

I agree with Amy. I think you are doing a wonderful thing. But Good Lord girl, when does your growing season start?!!! You are way ahead of us. We haven't even started baby plants yet. (soon)
We are in the process of building a year round greenhouse. You can see it at
We would like to have at least greens on a year round basis. We live 35 miles from the nearest store. Anyway, I am envious of your beautiful veggie garden right now.

Mo said...

Thank you Amy, and Gail for the encouragement!

Gail, we actually have three growing seasons here which means there is pretty much always something edible that can be grown year round. It also means though of course that we use water year round, and as you know we certainly don't get rain year round!

People here are beginning to get into using "Greywater" for watering gardens, but you can't use that on veggies, so the only other resource is rainwater. I imagine if one got really serious about rainwater harvesting you could collect a lot, but right now that isn't an option for us with where we live and our future plans.

Amber~ Care and Feeding of Wild Things said...

You said: "Is it better for me to be doing as I am, and using such a precious resource here in our desert, or is it better for me to rely on produce that may have been transported thousands of miles to get here with all of the environmental implications that has?"
My very in-expert opinion: Water is a precious resource, but speaking as a mother, I think you and your children are more precious. At least you know the quality of your own veggies. If they come from hundreds (or thousands!) of miles away- there is no way to know what environment they were grown in, and how safe the food actually is. This is something that I have just recently been delving into... changing really old in-grained eating habits for the better I hope. I am not there yet. I count it good when I buy organic - not even knowing where it comes from. In a perfect world, it would all be organic, and within a hundred miles of where we live. Or in an even more perfect world - we would grow our own, and eat in season... and have plenty to give away! I am a wannabe gardener/canner/food dehydrator/homesteading gal stuck in the suburbs for now! I think you are doing awesome with the tools you have!

Mo said...

Thanks Amber! Its good to have encouraging friends!

Your description of yourself as a "wannabe gardener/canner/food dehydrator/homesteading gal stuck in the suburbs for now", describes me perfectly too! I long to live somewhere where I can walk out of my back door into nature each day, but that plan isn't coming for a few years at least I am afraid.

For now growing and cooking our own food makes me happy so I guess that will have to do for now.

sugarcreekstuff said...

Your garden is beautiful. I love the paths and the fence keeping everything safe.
Beter late than never, Happy Anniversary!

Mo said...

Thank you SCS! x

Bill Kisich said...

Hi Mo!

Think progress rather then perfection. You actually have rain barrels, most people don’t. Thinking like you are about water use is what we need to change our collective attitude about it. And we can certainly use an attitude adjustment around water use in this country.

By the way, supplemental water is needed to grow vegetables where ever they are grown.

As big a nut as I am about water, I have to admit I don’t know enough about Grey Water. From what I do know, Grey water is a blanket term. The substances in grey water vary a lot depending on the source and that is where the opportunities exist. I think the American Home is going to go through a restructuring process regarding the handling and use of water and that will include some sort of grey water system. As a simplistic example, we don’t really need drinking water to flush a toilet. I think some grey water may end up being used two or three times before finally entering the sewer system.

Sorry I missed your anniversary post. Happy Anniversary!

Mo said...

Thanks for your positive comments Bill! :) The encouragement means a lot to me.

I was lucky enough to see Brad Lancaster speak last year and he made me think more then ever about the waste of perfectly good drinking water on landscaping, and as you say for flushing our toilets!

I sometimes feel like I have such a long way to go with this but I guess it is good we are thinking along the right lines. Thanks again.

Titania said...

Hi Mo, You have such a nice walled garden. I am impressed with all the vegetables you are growing. To keep the soil moist you have to apply a very good mulch. You could also make a shade cloth from wall to wall over the hottest time of the year to keep the soil moist. You could also use hessian which looks quite nice and natural and keeps the hot sun away. We have shade cloth over the veggie beds which we can roll up when it is not needed. It was not expensive.I do think it is still better to grow your own. Better for your family, which comes first, and for the environment. You can always get more rain barrels later on. Rome was not build in one day! Good luck with your vegetables and do not worry to much.

Mo said...

Thanks Titania and we will probably rig some kind of shade cloth again this summer. My little plot gets so hot. I mulched with a thick layer of compost too so that should help! :)