Monthly Archives: April 2013

Raised Bed Gardening Part Two

The neighbors said I worked fast to get done what I did but it seems it couldn’t come fast enough for me. I had thought of painting the boxes with bright colors. I wanted yellow and green, blue and red but allas, I did not want to hassle with the HOA so I settled for a dark brown. Rustoleum camo spray paint. It took almost two cans for one 12 in deep box.

I leveled the boxes on the top section of the garden and finished the top with a 2×4 border. You can see one box painted now and the three upper boxes already planted. It’s starting to get exciting! I actually covered them today to help keep the sun and wind from drying out my seeds while they get their start. It is still a bit early in the year. I just can’t wait. If some of it doesn’t grow, I’ll plant again.

12 inch raised boxes plantedTop 3 boxes leveled and planted. The middled box is painted with the dark brown camo paint.


New Garden Boxes Are In!

So I decided this year to stop fighting the dirt and to get up off the ground with my garden. I will also be able to keep the wife happy because this year our garden will be in pretty raised boxes. I got them put together and setup in a couple days and then filled them with dirt this past weekend. I’ll be experimenting a little with the different soils. I have also done different sizes and if it wasn’t sol cold out today I’d be making another small one.

First I removed my old long boxes on the top level of my garden and then leveled the dirt for the new boxes. I then began constructing the new boxes. I opted for 24 inch boxes for ease of care and for depth with root vegetables.

Raised Garden Ground Prep 2013Raised garden beds

The green you see to the side of the lower box is wild spinach that I allowed to go to seed last year. I was hoping to have some to put in the garden but ended up tilling that section. Not to worry, I found more at the neighbors.

Once I tilled the ground I was ready to make the different levels with the top section closest to the grass being higher than the lower. I plan on putting in a small wall between the two. I have laid some rocks in there for starters but will need something more substancial. I may use larger builders or perhaps bricks or pavers. I’ll be sure and update when the wall is built. For now I am still working on the basic garden layout.

I stopped over at Home Depot and got a few new tools to help with the garden this year including a new garden rake and a new flat edge spade. I also got some sprinklers for the boxes. I plan on using a drip system but primarily using just sprayers at the sides, center or middle of the boxes.

Click for the next steps…

Blue Mustard, A Wonderful Spring Edible

Blue Mustard is one of my favorite edible plants. I lament that it is not available in my area more than a brief show in early spring. Blue mustard does not like the heat and will quickly turn to seed when the days start to get hot. The good news is it is plentiful when it is growing and it is one of the earlier plants to start peaking out as well. It is cold hardy and can withstand spring frosts.
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Composting for the Garden

Composting is one of the things I feel I do well and I enjoy it. I get some good soil by recycling the scraps from the kitchen and Julia gets tired of me not wanting to see organic material like fruit peels and vegetable waste going to waste. I have even brought home bags of such beautiful organic matter from family parties and get-togethers. It’s just too valuable to throw away.

I have tried multiple approaches to composting and my favorite option personally is to just work the pile on the ground. This seems to work best for me and allows a workout that works for my back. The compost bins and tumblers I have tried are not as convenient for me because they require daily turning and attention which is backbreaking and does not always happen. With my open compost pile on the other hand I am able to turn things with a shovel and pitch fork when it is convenient and I have time for it. if I do it right it is actually a bit of a work out but does not hurt my back like trying to turn a big round tumbler.




The trick behind composting is to research it thoroughly and then make sure you have a good mix of needed ingredients. Generally speaking this means you need Green material, Brown material, Activator and Water. Each of these will play a part in breaking down the waste into dirt and they do need to be balanced. I’ve found that as long as my pile is not too wet or too full of green material it will never smell bad.
It can’t hurt to get a good load of compost from a local source either though. I usually do that once a year and bring in a large amount of compost to mix with my garden.
SAMSUNGThis was this years load that was procured from the local dump/recycling plant.

Turning the compost is also important to make sure it gets air and the elements get mixed and chopped as needed. I can give some basic insights to what I have learned about composting here.

Green compost material examples:

  • Fruit peels and rotten fruit
  • Aquarium water, algae and plants from freshwater aquariums

  • Chicken manure

  • Small amounts of grass clippings that have not had weed killer in the past 3 weeks

  • Plants, flowers, weeds (Don’t use weeds that have gone to seed)

  • Horse or Cow Manure (horse has more nitrogen but also more seeds of weeds)

  • Rabbit or hamster manure

  • Egg shells

  • Carrot shavings and other vegetable matter

 

Brown materials:

Leaves and corn stocks or similar material

 

  • Uncolored newspaper

  • Cardboard (shredded)

  • Paper egg cartons

  • Dried vines, potato plants, tomato plants, old legume plants

  • Small branches and twigs

 

Activators are typically your manures and existing compost.

 

Vegetable gardening in the Utah desert

What to grow?


I’ve grown a lot of things over the years and have done some research on plants as well to try and improve my knowledge. The best advice I have seen if plant what your family will eat. Decide as a family what vegetables you will eat and then plant those in your garden.

When to plant?

Each plant will grow best in certain conditions. Some plants do well in the cold while others are heat loving. Some can be grown in winter months though I have not mastered that yet. I have had chives and onions last out the winter. The Chives are great but onions that have wintered will generally only be good for seeds unless they started as seeds in the fall and start growing through winter.

By about January I’m getting pretty anxious to start planting when the weather first starts to warm up I am often choosing some cold weather plants to start with. Peas are one of my favorites and they can handle cold but not a hard freeze. They do need to be planted as early as possible though because they do not like the heat at all and will wither and die when the sun starts to beat down on the day after day. The good thing about that is you can pull them out at that time and place a new crop in the ground in their place.

Carrots can handle cold if they are insulated from the direct harsh cold air. Covering you crop of carrots with straw or leaves or something similar in the fall will give you excellent carrots in December and through February. The cold weather will cause them to store sugars and often the best tasting carrots can be harvested in cold weather.

Many leafy greens also do well in cold weather. You can plant cabbage, spinach and lettuces in February and as long as they are able to germinate without a hard freeze they will grow well. Onions are the same from seed. I have done this. There are many greens that grow wild now that are considered weeds that do very well in the cold. They include yellow dock and curly dock, blue mustard (one of my absolute favorites) and wild spinach, often referred to as Lamb’s Quarters.” Dandelion is another misunderstood and hated edible that does very well in the cold.

Water and care?

There are a lot of theories on watering the garden and a lot of opinions on what is best. My personal favorite is to just put a sprinkler on to spray all of it. The plants that need a lot of water will take it and those that don’t won’t. There are some exceptions of course and only your own practice and research will find what works for you. I have used a soaker hose with fair success for many years as well.

Plants need room to grow and with many plants what you see above ground is only a small part of the plant. If you plant your potatoes 2 inches from each other and cram them all in together they will have a tough time creating more potatoes for you. Pay attention to the spacing recommendations and give them the space needed.

Weed the garden. I have often used the strategy of planting lots of good things in an area so there is not room for the weeds. It hasn’t always worked well for me. I also like to eat the weeds and I’m familiar with the value they provide so sometimes I have a hard time pulling them out when I know they offer value as well. I would suggest you decide what you are going to eat and what is going to grow in each area and then remove anything that is not part of that plant. Just remember to snack on those dandelions, tumble weeds, blue mustard, cats ear and wild spinach as you pull them out.

Weeds? Eat em or pull em?

A few years ago I was asked by brother Smith to be part of a youth activity related to the Trek experience. He needed somebody to teach about wild edibles and I was chosen to teach on the topic. At the time I had little knowledge about what was available and what could be eaten so I had to learn. He assured me that I would be able to learn enough to present well and also introduced me to somebody who could teach me more about it.

I put in the study and lots of prayer to be prepared and in the end I was very surprised at the many options even in the desert. There are a lot of plants growing wild that are edible. I also found that there is not a good book or resource for this information specific to Utah so I developed one. I started www.WildUtahEdibles.com and posted teh information I was learning including books I found valuable to me for the Western states and especially for teh Utan desert where I live.

Some of my favorite wild greens are

  • Blue mustard
  • Wild Spinach
  • Purslane
  • Yellow dock or Curly dock
  • Cats ear
  • Young Dandelion (I like the buds)

 Large garden or raised boxes?

The amount of garden and how you space it is really a personal preference I think. For many years I preferred to just plant straight in the ground but that has a lot of trials in the dirt I have. The dirt is Eagle Mountain is largely clay and it’s hard and difficult to work with. You can add things to it to condition the soil but realize that much of what you add will go into the plants and you will need to constantly work the soil or deal with the hard soil year after year. I have had good success with potatoes in our soil and just tilled the earth each year and added my compost and other things to it.

I personally have decided to move to some very nice decorative raised boxes for my garden which of course has nothing to do with the desires of my dear wife. I figure the boxes will allow me to get up away from the hard clay soil and will allow me to segregate the different types of plants well. I can weed them a bit easier and that will be easier on my back and they will hopefully add a bit to the landscape as well.

Composting

Composting is one of the things I feel I do well and I enjoy it. I get some good soil by recycling the scraps from the kitchen and Julia gets tired of me not wanting to see organic material like fruit peels and vegetable waste going to waste. I have even brought home bags of such beautiful organic matter from family parties and get togethers. It’s just too valuable to throw away.
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Wild edibles of Utah and the west

Since 2010 I have been quite interested in wild edibles of utah and the west wehre I live. I started researching and found it difficult for a novice like myself to find the identification of the plants I was seeing. I set out to help with that identification and started this site as a resource for others seeking to identify wild edible plants. I try to offer resources that will be helpful to others to assist in the identification of wild edible plants in Utah and surrounding areas.

I also enjoy gardening and have done that for more years than I have researched wild edibles. The two go quite well hand in hand and so you will see many posts from me about my gardening in Utah desert soil as well. I enjoy writing and while my efforts are not focused on one area I will probably present much here so stay tuned for more of my personal insights.