Raised Bed Gardening Blog


13 Foods to Eat ONLY Organic!!

According to the Environmental Working Group, and transcribed by Dr. Andrew Weil, these are the 13 Foods to Eat Only Organic, due to the fact that they are the most likely to contain pesticide residue. This 'Dirty Dozen Plus' list includes: Apples, celery, peaches, strawberries, sweet bell peppers, spinach, nectarines (imported), grapes, green beans, lettuce, cucumbers, blueberries (domestic), and potatoes. Plus kale and collard greens contain organophosphate insecticides, which EWG characterizes as 'highly toxic' and of special concern. Celery, sweet bells, spinach, green beans, lettuce, cukes, and potatoes can ALL be grown in your Grow Y'own hooped and covered raised beds...for FREE! Go to my website- growyown.com for more blogs, info, and recipes!




Early bud freeze

Early bud freeze. Something all of us cringe to hear. Last year was a total bust for fruit here in Santa Fe, and the way this mid-Winter is warming up, the possibility exists once again. There are actually two types of frost- advective and radiative- that can destroy your crops. Advective frost is cold air from another region that moves into an area and winds remain relatively strong. Radiative frosts are produced locally, and occur only during clear, calm nights. Growing late-flowering varietals is one way to partially counter killing frosts. Soil moisture is a second concern. Excessively wet soils gain less heat energy during the day, as more of the sun's energy goes into evaporating moisture. This can reduce the heat available to the crops at night. Excessively dry soils are poorer heat conductors, and are able to store less heat, and therefore result in a higher risk of frost. Mulches are another alternative. On the soil surface, they increase the risk of frost by behaving as insulators. Less heat is absorbed by the soil during the day, and less is released at night. Mulches can help to avoid freeze damage if they completely cover the sensitive plant parts. Covers are a passive way to reduce injury to young buds. Any cover is effective in reducing heat loss by convection. When covers are placed, particularly thin material like plastics, care must be taken to prevent contact with the plant to reduce heat loss by conduction, as the temperature of the exposed surface is usually lower than the air below it. Passive and active systems both have an effect on reducing freeze havoc on your crops. Siting your plants on a leeward side of the winds is a good, preventive start, as well as choosing hardier varietals. Working to alleviate climate change is probably the most important factor, as the temperature swings around the US get more radical, and weather situations leave hundreds of thousands of citizens shaking their heads, and waking up to the fact that 'the times they are a-changin'!


Cover Up! The covers ARE the key to growing in most places in the US. Here in the Southwest, they are most important for keeping out the heavy-duty UV sun, abrasive winds, and all critters, while still letting in 85% sunlight. In the Pacific NW, they keep out the relentless rains that can drown crops. In the East and Midwest, they protect your plants from mice, packrats, squirrels, rabbits, skunk, raccoon, deer, and even bear. In Arizona and Utah, they shield your greens from the 100 degree+ sun. In the Winter, we use our 6mill, UV resistant plastic cover, which serves as a waterproof barrier, over our triple-weight, breathable, UV resistant polypropylene layer, which serves as an insulation skin, thus creating a double-paned window effect. Both Summer and Winter covers have the option of zippable, opening flaps that allow for better bed aeration. We also retrofit beds to any particular situation, keeping a pattern on file for future orders. All the covers are simple and easy to use and operate, since all you have to do is slide them up on the UV resistant hoops, and clip them when you want to work in the bed, give it more air and sunshine, and let the beneficial insects inside like parasitic wasps, ladybugs, lacewings, and even birds, to keep your garden free from the bad bugs.  Most gardeners give up on their greens in mid-Summer because of the heat, but we plant 12 months a year, even at the hottest times! The covers keep your delicates from becoming brittle, bolting, and tasting bitter. So why grow for only 6 months, when you can be enjoying free food for 12?!? Learn to cover up, and fresh, organic, healthy crops will be your's for the picking year round! 


Seeds. Yes, its that time of year again. Maybe even a little late for some. But, you still have time to check out one of the coolest Heirloom catalogues for seeds from all over the world. Especially if you're looking for seeds that will do well in hot, dry, and windy conditions like here in New Mexico! Micki and her husband, at www.skyfiregardenseeds.com, have assembled a prodigious selection of seeds- over 100 Heirloom tomato varieties, eggplant, squash, and more. They also have mixes of flower seeds that I guarantee you haven't grown before. I have been getting seeds from them for years, and ones like from Russia, Afghanistan, and other places have produced unusual, prolific crops. These are non-GMO, non-altered seeds that you can have peace of mind growing. And the catalogue will take you to places you've never been. So order now, enjoy your new crops, and SAVE YOUR SEEDS for next year!


Water. Every drop counts. Here in the desert Southwest, we all MUST try to conserve and contain water as much as we possibly can. That was one of the premises of Grow Y'own at the beginning, and continuously. These beds are highly water retentive, and they recycle it through condensation and then drip-release, over and over. They act along the same principles as a terrarium, in that once the water is inside the beds and under the covers, it takes a much longer time to dissipate than in an outdoor garden that's exposed to the sun and wind. I have clients that haven't watered their beds in the Winter for 2-3 months, and finally open them up and they have growing plants. And outside the beds, mulch is the key for healthier plant growth, as well as 'welling'. Due to the caliche (clay) content in our soil, most water that falls from the sky is either evaporated, or runs off. So its very important to contain it as much as we can. The drops you save today, could be the tipping point for the plants that will ultimately sustain you.

Edible Landscaping

Edible Landscaping. Maybe this is the year your rip out that Bermuda grass, and replace it with something you can eat! A field of mint, English thyme crawling amongst flagstones, red orach covering the ground in deep purple, violets and violas intermingled with sorrel bushes and mounds of herbs. Along your walls and fences, a beautiful array of different-colored amaranths, sunflowers, artichokes, peas, beans, and so much more. Surely the squirrels and rabbits can't eat everything! Share the wealth, and have plenty left over to give to friends, neighbors, shelters, and family. And if planting 'out in the open' is just impossible because of critters, then do it in a Grow Y'own raised bed, and have the protection from the heavy-duty UV sun, the intense, abrasive winds, and all animals. See more at growyown.com, but THIS Summer, increase your bounty many fold, and think and grow beyond your normal boundaries.


Canning. Its dead of Winter in Idaho, 1977. Outside its -40, and the snow is piled 6' high on the level. The snowfall last night measured about 2' of pure powder 'feathers'. The only way to get out, is to go out a window, slide down a bank, shovel out the door, and escape! There's no way the country road is going to be plowed today, tonight, or maybe even tomorrow. No chance to go for food at the local grocery. And THAT'S when you're SO glad you went to the extra effort to can fruits and veggies last Fall. So you go into your pantry, look at the fine array of goods, and pick out what you want for dinner that night. What a feast!

   Canning is too easy not to do it in the Fall. The remuneration is immense, and delicious. A bunch of quart and pint Ball jars, a canning pot, a container of salt, some sugar if you're doing fruits, and water. Meditation time while you're slipping skins off of peaches, tomatoes, or pears, or chopping up chunks of squash, beets, or onions, destemming beans, or making up a future ratatouille or creamed corn batch. All the effort will be rewarded later when you're yearning for the taste of fresh food, and the remembrances of picking, washing, preparing, and canning it, especially if it came from your Grow Y'own raised bed gardens!

   'Keeping the Harvest' is a wonderful compendium of canning how-to's. You CAN do it. Its un-CAN-ny how easy it is. So summon up that CAN-do energy, go get some supplies, choose your favorite fruits and veggies, and look forward to the compensation that surely will be yours when you truly want it.


Shishitos. Those delicious Japanese Summertime peppers, and for those you 'can', year round! I put them up in a salt water and vinegar brine, and pull them out anytime as a mid-Winter treat. They have no heat index like their sister peppers- the Padrons. To cook them, you heat a bit of olive oil in a pan, saute them, slowly, for about 10 minutes till they start to blister, sprinkle with a little salt, and serve. You can 'pop' the whole pepper, and throw away the stem. They're great as an appetizer, and they're pretty infectious, so make plenty of them! Some folks like to make them with some chopped sauteed garlic as they cook, or just squeeze on some lemon. Any way you do it, you'll be coming back for more. Many of the vendors at the Fall Santa Fe Farmer's Market cook them in their booths, and serve them to wide-eyed attendees. So next year, don't wait till they come around again. Can those babies, and be the envy of all those aficionados of this special dish. More on canning- here, and on my Grow Y'own Facebook page!

Ancestral Gardening in the Galisteo Basin

The Native Americans inhabited the Galisteo Basin for over 10,000 years. You find their signs everywhere- on basalt rocks as petroglyphs, on the ground in the forms of pottery chards, flints, and arrowheads, on Pueblo sites where they farmed, captured water, and dug out pits for their houses. Corn, beans, and squash were their staple foods- known as The Three Sisters. In an attempt to emulate their growing methods, I was involved in a building and conservation project in the early '90's in the basin, to bring back the native grasses, and to grow The Three Sisters in dug-out barrow trenches at the base of hills on the property. Without any supplemental water, we grew corn, beans, and squash. Its not rocket science to grow food. It simply requires some ingenuity, and the desire and necessity to sustain oneself with plants for our pleasure, and our survival- just like the ancients.

Homemade Soup Day

Homemade Soup Day, 2014. This morning, around 6 a.m., I let my dogs out the back door, feeling the shimmering after-current of last night's snow storm, the awakening blast of cold air, and the beautiful scene of several inches of freshly-fallen whiteness. Looking across the Galisteo basin to the enshrouded Ortiz Mountains, the early morning light was just starting to 'pink up' the landscape, and I knew for sure that this was going to be one of those homemade soup days. My favorite soup cookbook is 'Vegetable Soups' from Deborah Madison's Kitchen, by my good friend and neighbor. It has the world in there on homemade soups, as well as recipes for stocks- Summer and Winter, wine tips with soups, restorative soups, and instructions to take you from beginning to delicious ends! The very fortunate thing that those of you can take advantage of, is gleaning fresh vegetables from your Grow Y'own hooped and covered raised bed gardens, year round! Chards, kales, spinach, carrots, onions, beets, and much, much more can be picked and put into your homemade soups, even when the weather is too adverse to garden. Baby its cold outside, but soon we'll be filled with a delectable, healthy, organic soup that will warm our insides and nourish our souls! Eat Soup! Grow Y'own!