Monday, August 31, 2009

Should You Compost Diseased or Bug-infested Plants?

Should You Compost Diseased or Bug-infested Plants?

I just got this question today from a former student of mine. She was removing the summer plants and noticed an Aphid infestation.

She had asked two other people, one being a plant nursery, and got 2 different answers. That's how it is with gardening. Everyone has an answer usually based on their experience.

Here's how I answered - I have a personal rule of never composting any diseased or bug infested plant - why take the risk? I compost a little more casually than the scientific or bio-dynamic version and I can never be sure if it gets hot enough to kill off the bug EGGS, the disease or bacteria.

What do you all do with bug-infested plants? I would love to hear from you!

Happy Digging,

Doreen, the Garden Goddess

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Green Beans Emerge from Vegetable Garden Early

Green Beans Emerge from Vegetable Garden Early

Took only 4 days from when planted to emerge - this pic is day 7. Made note in my planting journal. And this is during an extreme heat alert with temps over 100 for 3 days straight!

Look who I found chilling next the the water bucket where I collect the AZ evap water? Cats are so smart!

Happy Digging and happy Sunday!

The Garden Goddess, Doreen

Friday, August 28, 2009

4 Weeks to a New Garden - Week 4

4 Weeks to a New Garden - Week 4

Plant! Purchase your seeds or transplants at the nursery. When buying seeds, make sure they suit your garden location. When buying transplants, make sure the leaves look healthy and the root ball is not compacted with roots wrapping around the inside of the pot.

Here are some tips on proper plant placement. Be sure you know and consider:
•Spacing base on mature size
•Height and width
•Root vegetables vs. leafy vegetables
•Water requirements

Use this cool tool to plan your garden:

It will help you with identifying mature size so plants aren't too crowded.

What should you do seeds vs. transplants
Seeds – longer germination time
• Acclimate to garden environment from beginning
• 2-3 months longer to harvest
Transplants – instant plant
• Earlier harvest
• Uniform production

Allow space for the mature plant size. Many plants, especially vegetables, need room for their ‘fruit.’ When planting from seed, read the seed packet for recommended spacing. Allow space for the mature plant size.
Water well after planting, then relax.

Now it’s just a matter of time. Protect your garden as it becomes established. Keep birds, cats and other critters away from your garden by tying ribbons to sticks and placing them around the garden. For cats, consider laying down chicken wire over the top of the soil after planting. The seeds will grow up in between the holes in the wire.

Water your new garden daily at first, keeping the soil moist until seedlings are a few inches tall. Once they are, test the soil to see how much moisture it retains and water based on need. A soil probe, pushed into the soil will help with you see how deep the water seeps..

Enjoy your harvest! The flowers will look brighter and the food taste fresher as a result of your tender loving care.
If you missed the first three weeks, you can get the entire article here.

If you are in the Phoenix, AZ area, I wil be teaching this class in-person on September 12th at the Home & Garden Expo Center at 1700. E Washcington St., PHX from 9:30-11AM. Watch my website for more details.
Happy Digging,
The Garden Goddess

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Keeping track of it all

Well I FINALLY recorded what I planted and where so I can track what happens in the garden. I have been relying on my memory and now that I am expanding the gardens and have several all over my property, I think it is time to write it down.

For now I am using a blank journal someone gave to me. It has a beautiful water-color Impressionist style drawing on the cover.

On Sunday I planted Mammoth Sunflower seeds in four planting holes, 2 seeds per hole at the back of the existing sunflower sentries protecting the garden at the public sidewalk. According to the back of the seed packet, I can expect the seedlings to break ground in 7 - 21 days, a bloom in 75-90 days and a plant 7 - 12 feet tall and the bloom 1 foot across!! WOW! I will plant more of these each week until the pack is all planted and that way there will be Sunflowers all fall!!

I also planted Green Beans! Since they need something to grow on, I planted them all around the two peach trees that never leafed out - I am pretty sure they are dead. But they make an excellent nurse plant (trellis) for the green beans. I also planted some right at the walkway near the front porch where I have a bare trellis. These will take 7 - 14 days to germinate and 50 days to harvest.

With my journal I can actuall track how long it took in MY YARD for them to germinate and mature. This is useful information for when I plant the same things again next season. I will know if that location worked out, or the seeds for a specific company had a good germination rate, how they did in my soil, etc.

I am always looking for great ideas, so if you use a garden journal or format to track your garden progress, I would love to hear from you!

Happy Digging,
The Garden Goddess

Friday, August 21, 2009

4 Weeks to a New Garden - Week 3

Time to apply mulch and compost to the prepared bed. If you are planting directly into the ground, spread a six inch layer of compost, mulch, sand and topsoil on the ground. Dig down at least six inches (the depth of most shovels and shades) and mix in well. Beds should have a soil mixture at least six to twelve inches deep so the roots have plenty of room to grow. This is especially true for root vegetables likes beets and carrots. If you are creating a raised bed dig down to the bottom of the raised bed.

Next wet the area completely making sure the water soaks down at least 12 inches. This guarantees good drainage and deep root watering.

If you think the water drainage is poor, you can test it by digging a hole about the size of a gallon container (think of a gallon jug of milk or water). Fill it with water. Check it an hour later. If the water is gone you probably have SANDY soil. If there is still water, come back in a another hour to two and check again. If the water is gone or almost gone, you have LOAMY soil - the desired soil! If the water is not absorbing well, you probably have to much CLAY in your soil. If you have too much sand or too much clay in your soil, amend again with more organic material like compost.

Let this sit undisturbed for the week. If it is still hot and dry in your area, water every few days to encourage the microbes, fungi and worms to get to work!

Time to make the plant shopping list, locate where you will get your seeds or transplants and how much to plant because next week we plant! One of my favorite seed companies is Botanical Interests. They are available on line and in garden centers and store. If you are shopping on line, consider supporting one of my favorite non-profits by shopping here.

Happy Digging, The Garden Goddess

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Sunflowers - the garden workhorse

There was a bouquet of sunflowers on the counter at my local coffee shop, Drip, today and they reminded me how much I love sunflowers. Long before I started gardening and growing my own I have loved the sunflower. There is just something about the large yellow/orange blooms and the dark brown center that brings a smile to my face.

There are many different kinds of sunflowers as well with names like Ring of Fire, Teddy Bear and Claret, each one with its own uniquie coloring and size. From the small one inch bloom on a multi stalk plant that almost resembles a bush, to the elegant Mammoth almost one foot across.

These gentle giants help break up hard soil with their deep root system, provide visual pleasure for cut flower arrangements and in the garden and provide food for us and the birds. Sunflower seeds are a great addition to our diet and sunflower oil is a healthy alternative to other kinds of oil as it contains high levels of vitamin E. In fact this great plant even has it's own national association!

There is still time to plant the last of the seed pack in the ground for a fall color show. You know where you can find me early Sunday morning!
Happy Digging, The Garden Goddess

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Fall Garden Plant List

I made my veggie garden list last night watching TV. I pulled out the Planting Guide for the Phoenix area and went to town. I selected about 10 veggies (I already have seeds for 9 other vegetables) and 5 herbs. But before I run out and get the seeds like I usually do, I want to take stock of my various gardens and determine how much and what I can plant in each one.
I have 4 small beds (3 ft x 4 ft) in the back yard and two beds in front (3 ft x 20 ft) and (3 ft x 10 ft). As I said before it is a bit over whelming. I would like a salad bed, a root vegetable bed and another for those late harvest plants. There are several things to consider before I buy the seeds.

First, there is the companion plant theory about interplanting the plants for their mutual benefit. So I want to study that and use it for my garden planning. There's a great book on the subject called Carrots Love Tomatoes.

Second, how much do I want to plant. How much will I actually eat and do I want extra to freeze or can?

Third - do I want to start them all by seed or get some transplants too? Then where do I want to get the seeds? Definately non GMO, but heriloom, southwest native variety, organic?

So I am back to the planning phase - feel like that little hamster on the wheel going round and round. Kind of squeaky, too!

Happy Digging, The Garden Goddess

Monday, August 17, 2009

Seeing my Garden Through Another Person's Eyes

My business, Down 2 Earth Gardens, is being profiled in the August 27 edition of the Arizona Business Gazette, part of the Arizona Republic. I am very honored and flattered. I spoke to the reporter/writer by phone last week and today she stopped by to see what I was referring to when I mentioned I took out a bermuda lawn and put in an edible garden.

As I was waiting for her arrival I walked through my garden thinking about what I wanted to show her. Mid August in Phoenix is not when your garden looks it's best! Yet as I walked around the garden beds, I thought about what it looked like this time last year - dead grass.

I am pround of what I have created and I am critical about what I should have done differently. But the nice thing about a garden is that it is easy to redecorate the next season.

Now back to dreaming of a new garden this fall........
Happy Digging,
The Garden Goddess

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Garden Planning & Remodeling

I've been doing a lot of thinking about what to plant this next season. So many choices - broccoli, cauliflower, beets, onions, garlic, and so much more. I woke up at 5 AM one morning last week thinking about it! I actually got out of bed, put on a pot of tea and sat down with the planting calendar and my collection of seeds. Check out the Phoenix Area Planting Calendar here.

I cleaned out the packets of seeds I don't want. Some will go to the community gardens, the squash seeds I threw away - I am so disgusted with my experience in growing squash both in my home garden and the community garden that I don't want to try growing them for a while. There are other veggies I really enjoy that I will focus my energies on. Why put all that time and energy to something that doesn't grow well for me, especially when I can get it at the Farmer's Markets.

I also came across some flower seeds. I love flowers and want to create a cutting garden, where the flowers grow tall enough to be cut and brought into the house for flower arrangements. If I grow the flowers among the veggies, they will add color to the otherwise green plants as well as attract pollinators (bees & butterflies) and help to manage the bugs as well.

I am excited about cleaning out some of the ornamental garden beds as well. I want to focus more on native plants that can survive on less water and will still give me color and beauty.

Boy I really wish it would cool off! I want to get into the garden beds and start moving plants around, getting the bulbs in for the Irises and amending the soil. But it is still a little too warm for me & the plants!

For now I will just focus on creating lists of what I want to grow and getting the seeds. I will probably start some soon in small pots. Toilet papaer and papaer towel cardboard rolls also work well. Just cut them down to about 2 inches tall and fill with potting soil. Place them in something with a solid bottom and sides for support, put a few seeds in each one and with them grow. You will have your own transplants ready in a few weeks!

Watch for my 'shopping' list soon. I will share my fall/winter garden list with you. I have 4 times the garden space I did last year! This is going to be fun!

Happy Digging

The Garden Goddess

Friday, August 14, 2009

4 Weeks to a New Garden - Week 2

Last Friday during week one your job was to walk around your yard and just observe sun, shade and water. If you live in the Phoenix Metro area, I hope you walked through your property after the big thunderstorm Wednesday night to see where the water created puddles or washed way the soil. Water flow on the property is an important element in garden placement.

Now on to Week Two - this is the week you get dirty and do some physical work. If it has rained recently - lucky you. The soil will be that much easier to dig.

Prepare the soil. Remove all weeds and grass by old-fashioned weeding or an herbicide. If you use an herbicide, you will need to bio-remediate the area before you grow edibles in the garden (at least one full season.)

Dig the garden bed area. You can use a shovel or a rototiller. Break up the clumps of dirt into small pieces. The dirt should flow freely through your hands. There is an intense process used to do this called double–digging. It aerates the deep layers of soil and allows the roots of the plants to go deeper. For heavy clay soil it also improves the drainage as clay soil is very dense. Double-digging is the first step in creating the most productive garden bed possible.

1. Start your digging at one end of the bed and dig a trench the depth and width of the head of the shovel. (approx. 12" deep) Put that dirt in a wheelbarrow.
2. Use a pitch fork to loosen dirt in the bottom of the trench.
3. Dig a second, similar-size trench directly next to the first. Place that soil into the first trench you dug. Loosen the soil at the bottom of this second trench with the pitch fork as well.
4. Repeat this process until your entire garden bed is dug.
5. Put the dirt in the wheel barrel into the last hole.

Do not till the dirt at all when it is either bone-dry or very soggy/muddy. This will ruin the garden plot by destroying the soil structure. The soil should be as moist as a wrung-out sponge. Clods of the dirt should crumble in your fist, but it should not ooze-out or crumble into dust.

Use a garden rake to even out the garden bed. Place a border around the bed now if you choose. It will help to define the garden space and keep people and pets from roaming through the bed.

Now soak in a warm Epsom salt bath to relieve those achy muscles!

Only two more weeks to go - You could have a garden bed by Labor Day!

Happy Digging,
The Garden Goddess

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Mourning the Loss of Baby Rain Drops

Well it FINALLY rained at my house in Phoenix, AZ last night - and into the morning. We had a real honest-to-goodness thunderstorm. By the looks of the yard it was pretty windy, too.

I was very excited to see how much rain I got and how much I collected in my 55 gallon rain barrels. I have three barrels and although it is only 165 gallons of water - I reuse that water over the span of a few weeks to water some of my gardens. Rain water is SO much better for the plants than city water. It has less chemicals, especially salt and chlorine, in it.

I stumbled out of bed and directly into my sandals and headed outside about 6 AM. It felt cool and certainly smelled like the desert. Although I live in an urban neighborhood, I have a creosote bush in my back yard that smells heavenly when it rains.

I immediately looked into my barrels. I could hear the water trickling down the gutter and into the barrel. I went to the closest one and was surprised to see so little water in it. Scratching my head I looked down and saw water trickling out the tap (spigot) near the bottom. I had forgotten to close it the last time I drained it! So I turn the handle closed and went to the next barrel. Same thing! Darn! I wondered how much I actually lost.

Then I remembered, I still have one barrel I have not tapped yet! I went around the side of the house and checked it knowing it would have water in it and I found it half full! Woo Hoo! Now it is heavy with water. I will be leaning into it to dunk the watering can to get the water out. After it is empty I better get busy and install my new Barrel Conversion Kit.

Next I checked the rain gauge in my garden and it measured 1/2 an inch of rain - that is a lot of rain for a storm in Phoenix!

As I sat on the back porch sipping my morning tea and watching the cats play in the wet grass, I reflected in my loss of all those baby rain drops. Frustrating? Yes! but I was very happy overall that we got such a nice rain for the first time this summer!

Happy Sloshing!
The Garden Goddess

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Green Features Now Listed in MLS

It does pay to incorporate green or sustainiable features into your home! If you are selling your home in Arizona your realtor can now list these green features in the Arizona Regional Multiple Listing Service (ARMLS). Just make sure that the features are installed by an expert and you also get any required permits. Using a registered contractor or company is important.

The list of features includes solar, greywater harvesting, LEED Certified and more. See the complete list here. Thanks Terry B - an excellent realtor who stays up to date in current trends.

Also consider the exterior look of your home before you sell. Is the landscape in top shape? Here are some tips to make your outside as inviting as the inside:

Tips on Exterior Home Staging
1. Make sure the outdoor area is clean. Sweep away all ground debris, dust
and trash. Clean off all furniture and cushions. A layer of dust and or bird
droppings is not very inviting!
2. Eliminate all dead or dying plants. Outdoor temperatures take its toll on
anything living. Cut back or remove dead plants. Not only is this good
from a Feng Shui perspective, it removes the notion that the property is
3. Keep lawn and bushes maintained. Curb appeal is so underrated. First
impressions do matter.
4. Don’t forget about the back yard. If it has been neglected and never
landscaped, consider staging it with patio furniture and potted plants.
Stacking paving bricks, pavers and masonry blocks to give to illusion of an
outdoor room will improve even the most dreadful back yards.
5. Use color to add visual appeal and excitement. Bright colors used as
accents will draw the eye to them. Use this tactic to divert the attention
away from less desirable areas.

Do you need help in getting the outside ready for a sale? Or perhaps you have a home for sale and no one looks at it? Consider the curb appeal may be lacking that 'Welcome Home" look. I can help you get the yard/landscape in tip top shape that will attract buyers into the home. Contact me for a free phone consultation.

Happy Digging,

The Garden Goddess

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Catching the Rain

OK - For the readers in the Phoenix area I know this sounds crazy - WHAT RAIN? Now that we are officially in the downstretch of the 'nonsoon' and we have had no measurable rain since May it seems pretty ridiculous to talk about rain water harvesting.

BUT THIS IS EXACTLY WHY YOU SHOULD CONSIDER RAIN WATER HARVESTING. YES I AM YELLING! When we got so little rain (about 7 inches a year), every little drop we get is very presious.

I have had lots of fun catching rain and reusing it in my garden, even if I just dump out a bucket into the garden. That extra water will provide deep water to plants – more so than the rain that fell in my yard. I built my own rain barrels last year and it was so much fun!

Last winter I added a few feet of gutters strategically to further help with rain water management. What I realized after that first rain is that I can now capture more rain than before! When my 55 gallon rain barrel runs over – but not to worry as I have an overflow valve that I attach a hose to and I just redirect that water out to a tree which loves the deep watering!

Saving, reusing and redirecting rain water has been one of the smartest thing I did. Now I plant the rain where I want it to go rather than letting it drop wherever it wants. Making your own barrel is not that complex and the parts are now easy to find right here.

If you already rain water harvest please drop me a line and tell me about your experience – I would love to see pictures too! And if you don’t, then drop me a line and maybe I can help get you started!

Happy Digging,
The Garden Goddess

Monday, August 10, 2009

Bug of the Month - Squash Bug

Being Bug of the Month is not necessarily an honor. It is not like being Employee of the Month or Teacher of the Month. I was once Volunteer of the Month – that was nice.

But being the August 2009 Bug of the Month is no prize! The notorious SQUASH BUG is hated by all gardeners. There is nothing beneficial about it. They make my skin crawl when I see them swarming all over the vines in my squash or pumpkins plants. In fact – I will NOT be growing my own Halloween pumpkin this year – nope – just pulled those vines out this morning. They were infested with the squash bug, eggs and nymphs (again not cute sea nymphs frolicking in the water) but spidery-looking immature bugs crawling on the underside of the leaves.

And not just the leaf of the squash plant – they were on the leaf of the nearby weed and the sage plant. Other parts of the country may only have ONE cycle of these pests each year, but we have more. The mature bugs can hide in waiting for the squash plants (only sucking and eating the leaves – not the ‘fruit’).

When I pulled up the vine, I saw the nymphs crawling all over the mulch in the garden bed under where the vines were. OHHH so creepy! I grabbed the Diatomaceous Earth and sprinkled it carefully in that area. Yes, DE can also take out the good bugs too, but there were so many in a concentrated area, I just had to do something.

A Google Search revealed many different ways to deal with this pest:

Physical Removal of Squash Bugs (Extension office in MN)

1. Remove or knock off and kill nymphs and adults by dropping them into a pail of soapy water. This is particularly effective if only a few plants are affected. This can be challenging because squash bugs hide under leaves and move quickly when disturbed.
2. Crush eggs that are attached to the undersides and stems of leaves.
3. Trap squash bugs by laying out boards or pieces of newspaper. Squash bugs will congregate under the boards at night, and then can be collected and destroyed in the morning.
4. Remove plant debris around the garden during the growing season to reduce the potential harborages where squash bugs may hide. Clean up cucurbits and other plant matter around the garden in the fall to reduce the number of overwintering sites.

Organic SolutionsGuinea Hens – Mother Earth News

This one may not work too well for me as my garden is in my front yard and it is not fenced in. I do not want to be chasing Guinea Hens down 12th Street!

Companion Planting - article with several solutions including companion planting (catnip, tansy, radishes, nasturtiums, marigolds, bee balm and mint), and selecting bug resistant varieties.

So much time, energy and resources goes into growing a plant and I have had the squash bug attack several years in a row now that I am ready to leave the squash growing to others and just get mine at the Farmer’s Market!

What about you?

Happy Digging,

The Garden Goddess

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Life Changing Events in the Garden

I moved to the Valley 12 years ago from Chicago. Gardening was much different there. You put seeds or a plant in the yard or garden and they grew. It rained regular and the soil was rich with organic materials. Never really too hot or sunny. Actually that last part is why I left. I couldn't stand the cold winters and the grey skies.

When I bought my own home in 1998 in Glendale, Arrowhead Ranch Phase 5 (I was proud of that long sub-devision name) I really had no idea how to landscape it. The front landscaping was included. I drove around similar neighborhoods and looked at plants I liked and that's what I picked for my yard. Although my house was the third on the block to be built, by the time the street was built out, we all looked the same.

Back yard was pretty much the same - lots of bouganivillea and lantana. But soon I began to experiment with different plants. Got my first Hibiscus and agave then. Added several other vines and bushes and expanded garden beds and irrigation systems, all kind of helter skelter. Some lived, many died. It was very frustrating and costly.

Several years ago I worked with someone who had a certificate in her office for a Master Gardener program. I was in awe of how easily Rhonda spoke of plants and where they should be planted and when. I wanted some of that for my self!

Four years ago I had the chance to take the Master Gardener program and it changed my life. Not only did it give me more confidence in my own gardens, but I started sharing it with my friends. Soon people were offering to PAY me for my knowledge. They didn't have it and didn't want to go off the learn it themsleves. They wanted ME to come to their house and answer their
questions about specific plant problems or help them re-do or add a garden.

With the encouragement of my friends, I started my one-of-a kind Garden Consulting and Coaching business, Down 2 Earth Gardens (thanks Robert for helping me create the name).
D2EG provides advice to homeowners on how to reduce the use and dependency of outside resources in their landscape. I create low water and low human energy use designs which are creative and natural. I specialize in working closely with do-it-yourself gardeners and people just starting to use their yard for food production and respite from their busy lives.

I am now doing what I truly love - working with people and the earth. After 25 years in Banking and 10 years in Non-profits, I am doing work I LOVE!

Well now you can apply for and hopefully attend a wonderful program that could change your life as well. The 2010 Master Gardener Program Dates are out!

Jan. 12 - May 4, 2010 (Tuesdays)
9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Desert Breeze Police Substation
251 N Desert Breeze Blvd
Chandler, AZ

July 13 - Nov. 2, 2010 (Tuesdays)
9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
U of A Cooperative Extension, Maricopa County
4341 E Broadway Rd
Phoenix, AZ

Information regarding the class, including the application and maps, can be found at

The fee is minimal compared to the knowledge and friendships you will make! I highly recommend you take the program wherever youlive! There are Cooperative Extension Offices throughout the US. Look them up in your part of the country and run, don't walk to the next class near you!

Happy Digging,
Doreen Pollack aka The Garden Goddess

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Do you have ‘Ratoons” in your garden?

No, it’s not a furry animal that eats your vegetables and wears a mask – that’s a Racoon!

Ratoons are second crops that grow from the stumps or stubble of the first. This according to Barbara Pleasant who writes for, the company that created the wonderful gardening planning tool I use. You can also subscribe to this newsletter and get great money saving tips like this.

You can read more about Ratoons and learn how to rejuvenate your plants and get a second harvest from the same plants! So do not pull out those plants yet. Try the process Barbara suggests in her article here and let me know the results!

I love hearing from you – please write!

Happy Digging,
Doreen Pollack, The Garden Goddess

Friday, August 7, 2009

Summer Garden Maintenance

The weather has been bizarre all over the US this summer. Boston just had its wettest July on record and Phoenix it's hottest. So how does that affect your garden? I really can't answer that in a universal way. Each and every garden bed - no matter if they are in different states or in your front or back yard has its own microclimate. The soil is different, drainage is different, sun patterns differ.

What I do know is that there as several things you should always do in your garden on a regular basis to monitor and maintain them:

1. Check the moisture level of the soil. Stick your finger in it, or use a soil probe to see if the soil is moist before you water. If it has been cooler than normal and maybe even cloudier, you may not need to water – even if it is watering day!

2. Look for sick or diseased plants. Do the leaves look different – perhaps eaten up, curling up, spotted or yellowing? Look under the leaf to see what’s ‘bugging’ your plant. Remove them or treat them (responsibly – no chemicals please!)

3. Deadhead flowers (no not Jerry Garcia Deadhead) – pinch or cut off the dead blooms on annuals and perennials to encourage new blooms.

4. Lightly prune any broken branches on trees and shrubs.

5. Apply several inches of mulch to the top of your garden bed to help keep moisture in and reduce weeds (that compete for water).

6. Apply a layer of compost to the top of your garden bed, no need for fertilizer!

7. Harvest any vegetables or fruit that are ready to eat and enjoy them for the next meal!

8. Admire your garden or landscape and be proud of your creativity and hard work!

9. Share it with friends by have a summer cookout.

Just few minutes in your garden every day will help you catch a problem before it gets out of control and help you also notice all the wonderful things that are happening in nature.

Don’t forget to slow down and stop to smell the roses!

Happy Digging,
Doreen Pollack aka the Garden Goddess

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Four Weeks to a New Garden - Week One

Vegetable gardening is all the rage – but not in a trendy sense. It has become a must-have for many people who are concerned with food security and safety. Today’s vegetables are often harvested before they are ripened and shipped across the country, even the world, ripening along the way. In fact many fruits and vegetables come from seed that have been genetically modified. The seeds have been altered to produce fruit or vegetables that will withstand the early harvesting and transportation.

Today people are growing their own so they know how the food has been nurtured. Starting a garden might seem like a daunting task, but tackling the work over several weekends makes the work load lighter.

September marks the beginning of the fall/winter planting season here in Phoenix. Not sure what to plant? Download a free Phoenix Planting Calendar at the Phoenix Permaculture Guilds website.

I’ll be sharing a week-by-week plan each Friday that even novice gardeners can follow to get their gardens ready to plant between now and the end of August, just in time for getting those seeds into the ground.

Week one:

Determine what you want to grow. Vegetables, flowers, or both? There are many vegetables that do well in our fall/winter/spring planting season. Beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, cucumbers, all lettuces, peas, radishes and spinach can all be started by seed. Flowers can be started by seed or from transplants available at nurseries. Some of my favorites are carnation, hollyhock, nasturtium, pansy, petunia, snapdragon, sweet pea, verbena and viola.

  • What kind of garden do you want. Raised beds, pots, or in-ground? Square, rectangular, spiral, key hole (u-shaped)? Each one has it's pros and cons. The available space will usually determine the shape. A spiral is good for small spaces since there is more vertical planting surface. Whatever you choose for an in-ground or above groung bed, make sure you can reach all area of the bedding area without walking on any of the soil. There are many possibilities.

  • For hard ground, raised beds may be an easier option. Check out an easy way to get more garden in small spaces above ground with a concept called Square Foot Gardening.

  • If you rent or live in an apartment with a sunny balcony, pots can be moved with you so consider a container garden.

  • Make sure that the chosen spot has a convenient source of water and that your plants will get the light they need. Vegetables need lots of sunlight, at least six hours a day. A flower garden may need full or partial sun, or shade.

  • If part of your yard is crushed granite or dirt, you may want to plant a wildflower garden to add color to an otherwise drab area. Wildflowers do well in full sun.

  • Consider the full size of the plants you will grow and the amount of space they need. make the bed large enough so don’t overcrowd them when planting. Check out my blog post on August 6, 2009 for a cool garden design planning tool.

  • Mark the borders of your garden using natural items like river rock, bricks, or trendy Urbanite (broken up concrete sidewalks) .

  • Break ground if you like, turn the earth over, pulling out the weeds and grass and then take a break until next weekend rolls around.

If you are overwhelmed and need someone to guide you don’t forget to consult a Garden Coach like me!

Remember next Friday will be Week Two where I cover amending or building up the soil!

Happy Digging,

Doreen Pollack aka the Garden Goddess

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Garden Planning - Design Tools

August – the dog days of summer. Yes, especially here in Phoenix, AZ. We just had the hottest and driest July on record (since late 1880’s!) and does my garden ever look like it! My water bill is up and at least my plants are alive but not much production from them.

That led me to start researching ways to increase the amount of food I get from my garden (also known as yield). Every gardener has a different way to do it and it differs from coast to coast. One thing I know for sure is I still have more research to do before I decide what I will do in my garden this fall.

I came across a cool software program that helps me determine how many of each plant I can fit in the garden bed. It has just about every vegetable, herb, tree (flowers, too) and the mature plant size. It also has botanical information on the plants.

All I do to start is put in the garden bed measurements and then drag and drop the plants, easily rearranging them until I get them just the way I want them. I can save the plan, start another one and play with it on the computer until I get one I like. Just think about how much time and effort this will save me when I go to plant them!

Here, you can check it out and play with it yourself for 30 days for free and then it is only $25 a year! Click on this link.

In Arizona we can plant 2- 3 time a year so this will pay for itself in no time. No more moving plants around and damaging the roots or break the delicate stems of the transplants. And if you are planting seeds and you crowd the plants or find out you put plants next to each other that shouldn’t be, you have to wait a few months until they get big enough to move. Why waste all that time when you can thoughtfully plan it on paper?

Try it and tell me how you like it

OK back to the drawing board – or computer screen that is!

Happy Digging,

Doreen aka The Garden Goddess

Eating from the Garden - Red Amaranth

Amaranth – a new edible for me!

Last summer I got some Red Amaranth seeds from a friend. I just thought it would be fun to grow something I never had before. I grew them – they are such a deep red color and really tall– almost to my hip. The flower looks like a bunch of seeds, not petals like most flowers and that is what actually dries into the seeds. I collected the seeds and stored them.

This spring I came across those seeds and threw them (literally) into the garden bed. I just watered as usual and watched them mature.

Well I found out on Sunday from a few of my Master Gardener friends that the leaves are edible! They can be used like lettuce in a salad, in a frittata or stir fried with other veggies. They have a strong taste like a micro-green.

The seeds are also very nutritious. There’s a great article on how to grow, harvester and cook with Amaranth from Seeds of Change

But here’s what the article says about the nutritional value: “Nutritionally, amaranth is a very valuable food–higher in protein than the major cereal crops (13 to 18 percent as compared to 10 percent in corn and wheat) with a high level of the amino acid lysine, an essential amino acid that is usually deficient in plant protein. Amaranth is also a good source of calcium, iron, potassium, zinc, vitamin E, and B vitamins.”

I am excited to have another plant in my garden I can eat. I am going to start experimenting with everything in my garden. So many things that we consider ornamental or a flower are edible. I love foraging in my garden for food for my dinner. It is always an interesting mix of what is available.

What do you eat from your garden that is unusual?

Happy Digging,

Doreen aka The Garden Goddess


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