Garden Update

The end is finally in sight for our planting season!  We’re getting ready to put away the gloves and shovels, brush the dirt off our pants, and rest.  For a week.  Then the weeding season begins.  Yay!

The climate here offers us a small window of opportunity to get as many seeds and plants into the ground as possible.  The rains come at the end of May and start to dwindle away in September, really ending for good in October.  As soon as the rains begin, we start putting plants in the ground.  Each year we get a little more efficient, a little smarter about plant and garden placement, and a lot more ambitious.  This June and July we have planted hundreds of small trees, thousands of tree seeds, and about one hundred half-acre garden plots with various vegetables.

The small trees are doing well, for the most part.  Some of the fruit trees on the mesa appear a bit perturbed by the soil we’ve stuck them in, but they will struggle through and establish their roots and do well next year.  Others have already situated themselves in their new home and seem to be saying to us, “Don’t you worry, we’ll be delivering fruit by 2011. “   Besides the fruit and nut trees, we’ve also planted lots of jacarandas, the pretty tree with fern-like leaves and a gorgeous bright purple flower.  They will do well here and provide lots of bright colors during different seasons, depending on their altitude in the forest.

Every year we also plant lots of trees from seed, including the capuline, a native cherry tree that yields a small, semi-tart, semi-sweet fruit.  Capulines are wonderful to grab directly off the tree and pop in your mouth, handfuls at the time.  The elegant trogons love to sit at the tree above our main terrace to feast on the berries.

We’ve also planted nuts, other fruits, and various types of pines, oaks, and madrones from seed this year.  Some we plant directly in the forest, others we plant in pots or in special prorogation beds to watch and maintain throughout the year.  We have plenty of these trees ourselves, but we’ll be using the baby trees in reforestation effors in this area.

One of our great successes this year is the Pinyon (Pinus monophylla) tree which are popping up happily out of their pots!  Pinyon trees produce pine nuts, the nutritious nut that you can find in pesto and salads. The trees are, as of today, about the size of a thumbnail.  We will let them grow for 2 to 4 years in pots, and then plant them in the forest.  Some generations from now will be able to enjoy fresh pine nuts from the Pinyons here!

And lastly, our vegetable gardens.  We are very pleased to report that this year our gardens are doing extremely well, especially compared to the disaster of last year.  Last year the combination of late planting, irregular rainfall, and bad soil conditions yielded us a very low amount of fresh garden vegetables.  On Monday we walked around to all the gardens, and about 60 percent are doing quite well.   Some will do well as the rains end, but even the failures will teach us about our opportunities and limits.

  • Below the Casita we are growing squash, peas (though the birds got most), feverfew, beets, cabbage, onion, chard, carrots, jalapeños, cauliflower, epazote, strawberries (one plant lived from last year’s attempts), cilantro, tomatillos, and broccoli.
  • Above the Casita we are growing corn, tomatoes, squash, mustard greens, radish, and zucchini.
  • Below the studio we are growing squash, flax seed (an experiment), sunflowers, corn, chia, amaranth (another experiment), cilantro, and spinach.  The forest is evidently growing wild tomatillos, which are native to the area and quite sweet.
  • By the View composting toilet we are growing wheat.  Mysterious.
  • On the Mesa we are growing lentils, wheat, and various other crops.  Most of our Mesa gardens are not doing that well, and likely need both nitrogen fixers and manure.  Next year we will plant cover crops of fava and other beans.
  • Near the parking area we are growing garlic, soy, squash, tomatoes, carrots, radishes, corn, and most importantly POPCORN!  Who knows how that will do…
  • The pool gardens: Spinach, collard greens, cilantro, zucchini, lettuce, chard, fennel, and cilantro.
  • Behind the Black Rock Lodge we are growing broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, tomatillos, corn, arugula (growing back from seed), peas, beans, epazote, lettuce, and chard.

We are pretty pleased with our planting progress this year.  We owe a lot of thanks to our volunteer managers, Brian, Chilino and Adan, as well as our enthusiastic volunteers.

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