Keep Hope Alive…

…and keep Joy alive, and Faith, and Alvin…(what?  You don’t name your plants?)
Yep. I’m hoping to keep things alive at this point, 4 days into what will likely be a record cold spell for Phoenix.  But I don’t really want to focus right now on who’s dying.  (Like my tomato plants, and eggplant, and zucchini, and potatoes.)
Sad eggplant, happy lettuce!

Sad eggplant, happy lettuce!

For your Monday Muse, I want share some of the inspiring things happening in the garden.  First off, the veggies!  Even in the midst of below 32*, I still have lots of dill, cilantro, sage, thyme, chives, lemongrass, oregano, chocolate mint, lemon balm, green onion, and leeks.

Herbaliciousness!

Herbaliciousness!

Most of these are protected under cover, but at 22* in my garden, it’s necessary.  Some of my bigger successes are my leafy greens – lettuce, kale, and chard – all ready for harvest.
Unstoppable rainbow chard.

Unstoppable rainbow chard.

I have other cruciferous veggies (broccoli, cabbage, choi, brussel sprouts) growing strong getting ripe for spring plucking.
Don’t think my success here is some magical gardener trick.  This takes some effort.  Like the bunch of plants I have to keep in the garage until its safe enough to plant.  I’ve had to hustle them outside every other day for watering and to soak up some sun.  (These would be a bunch of tomatoes, peppers, hibiscus, and new geraniums.)
Cheddar Chas is babysitting the plants keeping the frost away.

Cheddar Chas is babysitting the plants keeping the frost away.

The real treats in the garden are all the blooming wonders. My orange justicia (justicia spicigera) is completely un-phased by the extreme cold, and continues to bloom, keeping Lizabelle (my garden hummingbird) quite happy.
Justicia spicigera - garden radiance all year-round.

Justicia spicigera – garden radiance all year-round.

Right alongside is the rosemary, blooming for the occasional bee.  Another spectacle in the garden is the valentine emu (eremophila maculata).   This one has blooms as well as a wonderful fragrance (I often carry a branch in my pocket as aroma therapy).
Not all hope is lost for those hit by the freeze.  Many of the classic perennials taking a hit (a nice dormant nap for them), will later wake up vibrant come spring.
Lavender pinata waiting for spring to spring.

Lavender pinata waiting for spring to spring.

Wildflowers are on the way!

Wildflowers are on the way!

So keep your chin up, and in no time this too shall pass, and our gardens can get back to their usual warm, blooming selves.
Magical geraniums summoning spring!

Magical geraniums summoning spring!

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Cold. REALLY Cold.

Waaah!  I know, we don’t see ‘real’ cold here in Phoenix.  But for us cactus, tomato, and pepper growing types, it’s fah-reezing!  And it’s gonna get colder.

Photo Jan 09, 11 18 18 AM

Even warm and sunny Southern California is catching a nice chilly wave of real winter.

Sunny (and cold!) southern California.

Snow capped San Gabriel mountains above Pasadena.

So get into the garden and get your plants protected.  Not just the veggies and herbs, but also the hibiscus, justicia, ficus, even agave!  And move all those poinsettia and geraniums under the patio or into the garage over night.

Sorta happy cozy plants at Xericopia.  Brrr!

Just took down the Christmas lights, and just put ’em into the garden!

See more tips for protecting your plants in my previous post.

Happy Gardening!

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Happy New Year! Now Cover Up!

Happy New Year to everyone.  Hope you had a great New Year’s celebration.   While I was out enjoying my New Year’s eve last night, in the dark with Tom Cruise (don’t ask…), my garden was slowly slipping into hypothermia.  Yep it got cold last night and I didn’t cover anything.

For Phoenix, that's c-c-cold!

For Phoenix, that’s c-c-cold!

36* degrees may not seem like much, but that translates into an easy 32* or lower in some micro-climates around my garden.  My plants felt it too.

Zucchini finally getting smacked around this winter.

Zucchini finally getting smacked around this winter.

The lens isn't cracked, that's ice!

The lens isn’t cracked, that’s ice!

And it’s going to stay cold for a few so time to cover up. But you don’t have to a whole big elaborate thing to help your plants survive the frost.  Here is my quick and simple double-layer method.

Photo Jan 01, 4 32 34 PM

Even if you don’t have frost cover material, this works great even using sheets or other fabric.  It keeps your plant insulated AND keeps the frost away from the plant.

Here’s what it looks like for my bell pepper plant (that is still producing):

Bell Pepper getting through the cold.

Bell Pepper getting through the cold.

Installing a bamboo stake for support of the fabric.

Installing a bamboo stake for support of the fabric.

Wrap the plant snuggly with fabric cover.  Tuck all around plant.

Layer #1, tuck around the plant snuggly.

Layer #2 just drape over the plant lightly.

Layer #2 just drape over the plant lightly.

Lastly, secure the frost cover so it doesn't blow away.

Lastly, secure the frost cover so it doesn’t blow away.

If you’re covering a larger area, just add stakes (1 or 2) on plants that may collapse under the weight of the frost cover fabric.  Then, cover the area with Layer #1 and tuck it around plants as you can.  Then, drape Layer #2 over it all and anchor it down.

It’s easier than making your bed!  (depending on how many beds you need to make.)

Happy New Year of growing!

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Full Moon Fun

Look up! Yep, that’s a big ol’ moon out there. The full moon is a couple days away, but something unique is happening – there will be a lunar eclipse! Unfortunately, those of us in the northern hemisphere and in the United States, we won’t be able to see much of it without a really nice telescope and an early wake-up call. (If you want to geek out and set your clock, you can find a timetable for visibility check out Science.com ).

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So what’s all this mean for us gardener folk? Not much, but its a great time for planting! Actually, the full moon is very important for us gardeners who know a little bit about lunar planting.

According to GardeningByTheMoon.com, these couple of days leading up to the full moon (waxing phase) is the ideal time “for planting crops that produce above ground, but their seeds form inside the fruit, such as beans, peas, peppers, squash, and tomatoes”. That’s exactly what I’ll be planting: tomatoes, zucchini, bell peppers, and in my sunniest location out by the sidewalk, some squash. I know a lot of this sounds like summer time veggies, but I’m actually preparing for my spring and summer garden harvest. Many of these grow about 90+ days to harvest, which will put me right about March for picking.

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Now, don’t think of lunar planting, or gardening by the moon, as some new age ‘woo-hoo’ hippy-dippy idea. This is a practice that has been going on for centuries with generations of gardeners and farmers. Just check any good ol’ Almanac.

The great benefit in planing with the moon cycle is the moon’s gravitational pull on the earth. Similar to the effect on ocean tides, the moon also affects ground water tables, and garden watering, causing moisture in the soil to rise toward the surface, helping seeds to germinate. It’s also believed that the full moon provides extra light which supports seed germination.

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In addition to planting into the full moon phase, it will also be good planting time after the full moon, during the waning moon phase. Ideal veggies to plant at this time are root crops like beets, carrots, onions, and beans.

But don’t feel like you have to scurry and get a lot of planting done today. During the actual full moon cycle, which will be Wednesday (midday) through Thursday (afternoon), it’s time for gardeners to enjoy some rest. Planting during the full moon and [the day] immediately following is not recommended for planting. This is according to the Farmers Almanac.

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So if you’re looking for more ways to aid your gardening efforts, just look up for inspiration. The heavens are on your side.
(p.s. it starts all over again next month, so try it!)

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Thanksgiving – Instant Replay

Now that I’ve slept and digested, I thought I’d share photos of the amazing feast my Wife and I created for Thanksgiving.

We recently tapped into a local gem here in Phoenix, The Meat Shop, where we got our bird.  We decided on no turkey this year, because we could get free-range local chicken.  How cool is that?!

Wow, a real butcher shop!

It just wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without bacon.

We bought these amazing crimson mini apples on a whim, and my Wife did some serious magic.  A tartlette with a flax seed-walnut-cranberry crust.  Uh, YUMMM!!!

First things first!

We harvested a few goodies fresh from our garden.

Whoo-Hoo Just enough taters, just in time for today!

(It’s okay to scratch the screen to try and smell.)

Lots of fresh herbs and fixin’s for the chicken bird, a cute lil’ 4 pounder, and now she’s all dressed for the party.

I’m ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille.

Did I mention I was cooking the bird on the grill?

Got a grill? Gotta grill!

But still, my favorite part was all the incredible veggies!  Brussels Sprouts, butternut squash, mushrooms, cauliflower – oh my!

Here’s how you get everyone to eat their sprouts.

Butternut squash soup, topped with toasted seeds, garden sage, and homemade croutons.
(oh yeah, and bacon)

Heaven for two.

Hope your Thanksgiving was just as lovely and memorable.  I’m so grateful and blessed to have spent it with my best friend (my Wife).

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