At Home With Nature

Garden News: Spring 2020

Howdy friends!

It’s time to show off what Chad and I have been up to recently. It’s so nice to have energy to work on these projects instead of moping around sick inside the house.

Starting warm season seeds

I have added a new item to my daily routine: daily care for the warm season seedlings I started from seed, and which we’ll transplant into our garden towards the end of May.

We have two big southern-facing windows, and in those two windows, we now have 4 terrariums for growing seeds.


You don’t necessarily need a terrarium to grow plants from seeds, but to keep our cats from “disturbing” (ahem, destroying) them, the terrariums are essential!

I may be most excited about growing our own basil from seed – and can’t wait for tons of delicious homemade pesto.


Most of what I’m growing, though, is in the nightshade family: tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers. And ground cherries.

I’m not sure I’ll be able to eat the fruits of these veggies later this summer, because I’m trying out the AIP (Autoimmune Protocol) diet.

At least I’m trying to try it out – I haven’t yet managed to remove eggs and nuts from my diet. More on that some other time.

Eggplant seedling


While I have been busy with the mini nursery, Chad has been busy outside, getting our rows ready for planting.

He mixed compost and well rotted sheep manure into our rows – which are sunken, to conserve water in our arid climate.

After that, he worked on getting water movement through these rows just right.

Chad working on garden earthworks

Our rows are on a slight slope, which is how we irrigate – by letting the water run down and soak the rows as it’s running down.

Last year we had some issues getting water to flow like we wanted, so he’s perfecting his system before we plant this year.

And since we want to make sure we have plenty of homegrown produce to live off of, he’s adding some extra planting area to our garden.

New compost pits

Since the soil is soft right now, I’ve been working on building new compost pits, which is how you have to compost here in the desert – underground, not above ground where the pile dries out too quickly.


I got my first pit dug about 2 feet deep and then asked Chad to finish it for me, to save my back.

If you know anything about composting, you probably know that you have to have a mix of browns (carbon) and greens (nitrogen).


Back when I lived in North Carolina, I used fallen leaves for my browns. Here, I can count the number of trees we have on our 6 acre farm on both hands. So there is no source of dry leaves to speak of.

Instead, I use rotted hay and unbleached, unprinted packing paper.

Not much to eat

Any good permaculturist would plan sources of food growing in all seasons, if possible.

This is an area where I definitely need to catch up – the only perennials we have in food production mode right now are rhubarb, sorrel, mint, chives and dandelion.


The chives are nice, because I’ve been experimenting with a Low-FODMAP diet, and so have been avoiding garlic and onions.

Allium greens are ok, though, so that’s how I’m getting that oniony taste into my food.


I have been letting the sorrel get established before I dig in – but a quick nibble out in the garden made me happy – such a nice, bright, citrusy taste.

This plant is good to have around because it can stand in for a lemony taste in some dishes if you don’t have lemon on hand.


Our rhubarb isn’t ready to eat yet – it’s all poisonous leaves and no stem for now.

But soon – not soon enough – there will be rhubarb pie in the house.

Chocolate mint

And our mint actually survived our zone 5a weather – we planted it last year and I was curious to see if it would live or not. Guess it’s a hardy little beast!

Chad will enjoy making this into homemade herbal tea.

Cool season crops

A week or so ago, we planted our cool season crops: beets, carrots, kale, radishes, turnips, dill, cilantro, peas.


And now we are graced with the sight of some adorable little seedlings sticking their first leaves up through the soil.

Meanwhile, our apricot tree is in bloom.


We had some nights with temperatures in the low teens recently, and I cringed to think that the blooms were probably going to be toast. Ice toast.

But most of the blooms hadn’t opened yet and they still look like they are in good shape!

We don’t know if the buds will make it through the rest of the spring intact and reach maturity – aka, fruit. Two years in a row of bumper crops in our difficult climate would be a miracle!

Or just another sign of climate change.

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