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Desert Gardening

“If you are going to take a stand in the desert, do not be unsure of your purpose.  More than anywhere else that I can think of, this land does not reward partial commitments.” 

This quote from the book, How To, edited by Susan McAllister, Jessie Rogers & Wade Patterson, describes gardening in the desert so well.  There are no “partial commitments”.  You are either all in or all out, as a gardener.  With blaring sun and little to no sky water gardening in the desert seems to be quite a feat.  And yet with a little tending life prevails.

This is the first year we are using the square foot gardening method.  This picture was taken soon after planting earlier this Spring, mid- April.


And here it is now.  We have very limited space for our tiny, backyard garden.  Just this little fenced in area for one garden bed, a palette herb garden with some containers on top & a small in ground bed to the left.

Vine tomatoes & two zucchini plants are growing well here.  There’s also some basil & marigolds in the center of the bed.


We’re harvesting zucchini’s semi regularly now.


The tomatoes are starting to turn from green to rosy.  The other day I counted 81!


The basil has given us many a pesto!


We’ve harvested a handful of cucumbers.

There’s something so beautiful about how the cucumber vines find their clingy way.


We have three cantaloupes growing strong.


And some Sunflowers growing along the perimeter of the yard.  They thankfully have kept the grasshoppers busy & away (mostly) from the garden.



The pallet herb garden is starting to work after a slow start in the dry heat.  We have parsley, sage, a newly planted oregano & basil.  And here also is my constant garden kitty companion.  I think she loves the garden as much as I do.

The wonderful thing about desert gardening is that we have an extra long growing season.  I hope to add more square foot garden beds here and keep them busy year round.  Wish me luck!


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A Year In the Garden, Part 2

Spring has definitely sprung in NY and it seems the rest of the country too. I don’t have any confidence it will stay this warm (who ever heard of 85° in March in NY?), but it’s made me want to continue with my seeds indoors and plan out the full garden so I can plant outside as soon as it is warm for good.

Last time I talked about garden planning, buying seeds and thinking about what I want to grow. Plans in hand, it’s time to start some plants indoors that need extra growing time, like tomatoes and peppers. We eat a lot of salads and red sauce, so we like a variety of both of these yummy veggies.

Starting seeds indoors can be as easy or as hard as you want it to be. I know some that have grow lamps and a mini indoor greenhouse. Those are very handy if you don’t have a lot of light. I am lucky and have French doors in the kitchen that provide lots of light for my seeds and young plants.

In year’s past, I have started seeds in just about every kind of container you can think of. I love the pints that blueberries and cherry tomatoes come in since they have drainage holes in them already and lots of room for roots to develop. Yogurt containers also make great seed starter containers, just make sure to poke some holes in the bottom before planting. This year though I did buy a seed starting planter. It was on sale and I was drawn to its self-watering capabilities. Watering is my weak spot, I tend to forget and with seedlings that can mean easy death to young plants. It even has a handy paper grid for marking what seed is where so I won’t forget what I’ve planted.

Planting in this, or any other container, is easy. Just make sure you have garden soil or peat to start the seeds in, that they have plenty of drainage, and that you mark your seeds as to not forget what you’ve planted (unless you want to surprise yourself later!). Add soil to the container, push the seed into the soil about an inch down and then water from below. If I plant in yogurt containers and the like, I sit those in a larger container or bin and fill that with about an inch of water, giving the planters a chance to draw water up from below, giving the seeds a continuous amount of moisture for germination.

I’ve planted 4 kinds of tomatoes and 3 kinds of peppers and they are coming along very nicely indeed. Makes me excited for the coming weeks when I plant the cool weather crops outdoors, like the spinach and lettuces!

Kristi Ashley is a homeschooling mom of three who spends time in the garden or hiking nearby her Hudson Valley, New York home. She is fabric artist, amateur photographer, scrapbooker and avid reader. Find her work and blog at Tickety Bu.