Author: Tiana

Eco-Friendly Gardening Checklist

For many people, gardening is a quiet, relaxing hobby that helps them feel closer to nature. However, many gardening practices don’t positively affect nature to the extent we may believe. For example, Americans use nearly 7 billion gallons of water per day on landscape irrigation, which is about one-third of all the water Americans use each day. Using that much water puts a strain on water supplies and impacts natural resources in other areas. Gardeners also impact the environment in unintended ways by planting non-native plant species, which can affect populations of local plants and even wildlife.

Eco-friendly gardening is becoming more popular as people across the country look to enjoy the benefits of gardening while reducing the harmful effects it may have on the local ecosystem. Through careful planning and good habits, backyard gardens can be a boon to the environment as well as their owners’ mood and well-being. A rain barrel can be kept close by to collect rainwater for watering a garden without depending on outside water supplies, for example. Planting certain types of wildflowers also can help attract birds and helpful insects that can eat harmful pests, which reduces the need for chemical pesticides.

Environment-friendly gardening is easy and just as much fun, while having the added benefits of helping preserve the ecosystem. The tips in the accompanying checklist can help you practice eco-friendly gardening in your backyard. Take a look and see what you can do to make your garden more of a help to the environment.

Infographic created by Power Planter Check out their homepage for more info: https://powerplanter.com/

 

Eat the Desert: Elderberry

Written by: Emma Jones

Elderberry is a plant closely rooted to human development. With several varieties found across the globe, many communities have used its flowers and berries for medicinal and culinary purposes for hundreds of years. Though there are many types of Elderberry, the one that grows especially well in the Southwest is the Mexican Elderberry (Sambucus mexicana). Reaching 15 feet tall in maturity, it can be used in residential or commercial design as a shrub or tree. With its beautiful cream colored flowers in spring and summer and it’s dark purple fruit in fall, Mexican Elderberry can become a valuable addition to any space.

 

In addition to its aesthetic appeal, the fruit and flowers of the Elderberry provide numerous health benefits. The berries are high in nutrients and antioxidants which help reduce inflammation, reduce damage from oxidative stress, and protect the body against free radicals from pollution. Multiple studies have also shown that Elderberry flower infusions and berry extracts aid in helping the body fight against influenza virus and soothe symptoms. Elderberry extract lozenges were found to reduce symptoms like headaches, fever, body aches, and congestion in 24 hours of consuming. Repeated doses of Elderberry syrup boosted symptom recovery in 2-4 days. These remedies can be used as a natural alternative to other commercial medicines available to treat influenza and the common cold.

In food, Elderberry can be used in jellies, pies, and homemade wine. It is important to note that before consuming, berries should be cooked to help the body digest them better. Here at the gardens we look forward to turning our Elderberries into syrup and the flowers in homemade loose leaf tea! If you don’t have an Elderberry tree in your backyard, look into local foraging laws in your area to determine if harvesting Elderberry in public spaces is a viable option for you. Whether it’s in medicine or food, Elderberry is definitely a multipurpose beauty!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Emma Jones is a student at Utah State University studying Conservation and Restoration Ecology with a double minor in Sustainable Systems and Sociology. Beans and rice speak to her soul and she attempts yoga on a regular basis.

Sources:

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/elderberry#bottom-line

http://omicron-pharma.com/pdfs/ElderberryClinicalOJPK_Published.pdf

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15080016

http://www.herbalpedia.com/ELDER,%20MEXICAN.pdf

Family Garden Fests!

Written by: Raye Myers

Over the summer of 2018, the DOT Garden is going to host three different events that are all part of a series of Family Garden Fests. With three unique events on June 23rd, July 21st, and September 8th, the DOT Garden strives to bring together community in all forms — from families, friends, volunteers, and garden regulars, to kids, adults, and new timers of the Desert Oasis Teaching Garden. The main idea for these fests is that the activities change from event to event based upon the season and current events in the garden (depending on the time of year, amount of rainfall, plants growing at the time, etc.). The activities are designed to be easy to replicate so that each individual or family can bring knowledge and dreams for their own garden back to their own home.

This series started off well with a successful event in June! For the first event, there were nine different stations and activities set up. I helped at the Seed Mural area, which depicted a bee on flowers and a spider on a spider web. I loved witnessing kids and parents contribute to art that was made out of native seeds, rice, peas, etc. and seeing the progression of pieces similar to color by number. It was especially moving to know that we inspired a little girl to go home and make her own mural!

Next, there was a food station that featured herbal lemonade made with basil and mint along with radish varietal tasting. There was also a worm area and a station to make your own salt scrub from calendula petals grown in the garden. At the worm area (aka the worm petting zoo), attendees learned about the importance of organic matter/ castings in soil for water absorption through touch. Around the whole garden there was a scavenger hunt that acted as an educational, self-guided tour through the DOT Garden. Signs were hung around the area to provide information about cisterns, vertical bins for sweet potatoes, leaf corrals that store leaves for free organic matter, and ollas and irrigation. With this quick scavenger hunt, what could seem like inherent components of our garden, such ollas or vertical bins, can be brought to light as new options and ideas for other’s gardens. Lastly, on the sidewalk, people created their own dream garden with chalk. This allowed people to have fun and show their creative side while simultaneously learning about companion planting.

To conclude the event, there was a local dance group performance by Ballet Afrique, including the DOTG’s own Tiana Baca! This group practices at the Maple Street community dance space and fosters inclusivity and community, perfect for the family garden fest occasion. The energetic dancers accompanied by live drumming were an excellent way to end the morning. Overall, the culmination of hardwork and planning was displayed during the event, which highlighted sensory exploration during each activity with taste, feel, touch, and play while also engaging a wide audience and providing the community with something to take home, whether it be knowledge or a salt scrub. And to put the cherry on top, this fest and future ones are sponsored by the Water Authority so that the events can be free!  

Even if you did not make it to the event in June, there are more to come!! Check out the DOT Garden Facebook or event page for more information.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Raye Myers is a currently working in the DOTG for the summer and is a member of the environmental club during the school year. She loves all things nature, reading, diving, and speech and debate. She will be starting her senior year in the fall.

Cricket Flour Cookies

Written by: Vilheim Piwowarek

Many of us Westerners find the very idea of eating insects distasteful but we’re in the minority. Insects are eaten in 80% of the worlds countries and for good reason. Insects are numerous, can be easily raised humanely with a small carbon footprint, and are high in protein & low in fat. One can even make flour out of ground up crickets and use it to create all sorts of baked goods that have an extra health benefit. Here is a recipe for some tasty cricket cookies, made with flour you can buy (or perhaps make yourself if you have access to truckloads of crickets or grasshoppers).

Cricket Cookies Recipe

Ingredients:

3 cups cricket flour/normal flour mix (or 2½ cups normal flour and ½ cup pure cricket flour)

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

2 sticks softened butter

¾ cup sugar

¾ cup brown sugar

1 tsp almond extract

2 eggs

Optional: 1 cup chocolate chips or topping

Process:

Preheat oven to 375°F.

In a bowl, mix the flour(s), baking soda, and salt.

In a separate bowl, add the sugar, butter, and almond extract. Start beating this, then slowly add eggs. Add flour mix and beat until fully combined. You can add chocolate chips/other now or when you set the mix on a pan.

Spoon out the mix onto a standard baking pan. You can size cookies how you like, but one spoon should be sufficient. Also note the bigger you make your cookies the longer they will take to cook. Cook cookies in oven for about 9-10 minutes.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Written by Vilheim Piwowarek, resident entomologist of the DOT Garden. As an insect enthusiast and insectivore, he is very passionate about understanding insect roles in the Garden, alternative pest management, undercutting insect-related misconceptions, and staring at insects for hours at a time. He is starting his Senior year high school.

Growing & Processing Garlic

Written by: Diego Moore

Garlic is amazing! Along with being delicious to eat and great to cook with, it also has many benefits other than its tasty insides. For example, eating garlic can reduce your cholesterol. Vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants are also contained in garlic. Potassium, iron, vitamin C, and calcium are just a few of the nutrients that you benefit from when consuming garlic. Additionally, If you cut the cloves of garlic in half and directly apply to your skin, it can help get rid of acne and cold sores.  In fact, garlic has been used as a health aid since ancient times.

In the garden this summer, I helped harvest and clean garlic. The type of garlic that we harvested in mid-June is called Spanish Roja. To harvest, we loosened the ground around the garlic so it could be pulled out of the ground. We were very cautious to not dig into the vegetable with our shovels. We then carefully placed the garlic in a pile. If we tossed the garlic too vigorously on the ground, it could bruise. Once all the garlic was harvested, it was placed on racks to be dried.

In addition to the process of harvesting the garlic, we also had to clean it. After a few weeks of drying on a rack we began cleaning another type of garlic called Tashkent Violet Streak. To clean the garlic we cut off the stems about an inch from the garlic itself. Then we peeled off the outer wrapper of the garlic which was covered in dirt. Finally, we trimmed the roots as far up as we could without hurting the garlic. When all of the cleaning was done the garlic was set on the drying rack once more. These vegetables were now ready to go to be sorted into seed stock and food for the CSA.

 

I had no idea that harvesting garlic was such an intricate process. I have learned that farmers take time to provide quality food to our families. I definitely have more appreciation for the farmers that deliver the food to our tables.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Diego Moore is a rising sophomore at Albuquerque Academy. Self-proclaimed lover of puppies, kittens, rainbows, and Lucky Charms, Diego also has a passion for music and plays guitar in a band through School of Rock here in Albuquerque.

 

Watering During the Heat of the Summer

We’ve teamed up with the Water Authority to offer a series of new WaterSmart Gardening classes! Check back regularly as we post class content throughout the season.

Class: Watering During the Heat of the Summer (June 9, 2018)

If you’d like a PDF of the powerpoint, check out the link below.

Watering During the Heat of the Summer 2018

 

Planning a Summer Garden

We’ve teamed up with the Water Authority to offer a series of new WaterSmart Gardening classes! Check back regularly as we post class content throughout the season.

Class: Planning a Summer Garden (March 10, 2018)

We filmed this class! Video content will be added in the next few weeks.

If you’d like a PDF of the powerpoint, check out the link below.

Planning a Summer Garden WUA

Handouts:

Resource List

Vegetable Spacing

Planting Planning Guide  

Companion Planting

Worldwide Travelers: Transferring Crops from Similar Climates

By: Andrew Pick-Roth

When planting in the desert, getting your crop to thrive isn’t always a guarantee, let alone getting it to survive. Plants that make their home here have adapted to the dry seasons and hot summer days and as such require less effort to keep growing when compared to un-acclimated crops. However, other arid deserts exist around the world with a variety of plants that will also grow well in New Mexico.

One of these similar environments is found in Kazakhstan, a country whose southern border is lined with arid shrublands. The landscape of areas like the Kazakh Desert would look very familiar to those living in New Mexico.

(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kazakh_semi-desert)

We planted several crops from this area in the DOT Garden, in the hopes that their traits that helped them survive elsewhere, like the ability to conserve water, will help them thrive in New Mexico as well. One of these plants is the Kazakhstan eggplant, which is already growing happily in our meadow beds.

When adopting crops from other areas, it is also worth looking into what sorts of techniques the farmers from these similar areas may have employed that you can adopt as well. New ways of growing our own crops may prove fruitful as well!

Beat the Heat: Keeping Plants Alive at the Height of Summer

By: Elisabeth Lawton

This past June saw a merciless heat wave sweep through the country, particularly the southwest region of the United States. Here in New Mexico, we reached temperatures of up to 105°F during a time when the highs normally sit in the mid 90°s. Heat advisories were issued, suggesting everyone stay indoors. Despite it all, the garden continued to grow. It will always require care and attention in any weather. If you are feeling the heat, it is guaranteed that your plants are too. There are steps that you can take to protect your plants even in the hottest and driest of climates. Here in the Desert Oasis Teaching Garden we are very familiar with this struggle, and have some good tips to share.

 The DOT Garden is always growing

When trying to keep plants cool, take action to lower the temperature of the soil. Soil can easily trap the heat of the day and lose moisture in extreme temperatures. To shade and protect the soil as well as keep moisture inside, place a decent layer of mulch on top of the soil and around the base of the plants. The DOT Garden often uses the leaf litter from previous autumns as an effective mulch. It will also be important to water thoroughly with cold water. The cold water will lower the soil temperature and replace the moisture that has rapidly evaporated away. However, if watering with an outdoor hose, make sure you check the temperature of the water coming out of the hose before you begin soaking your plants. A dark hose laying in the sun will heat the water inside to burning temperatures; in some cases, you must run the hose for a few minutes before the water reaches a good temperature. You do not want to scald your plants or boil your soil!

The water sitting inside this hose is hot and will damage plants.

Managing sunlight exposure is another important method of controlling temperature. Plants can burn in direct sunlight just like we can, so provide shade in whatever ways work best for you. Choosing a garden location that receives plenty of morning sunlight none of the ruthless afternoon rays will already give you an advantage. However, if this is impossible, building shade structures will also work to protect your plants. Using white row cover or other shade sheets are a good method because they will reflect the sunlight and are easy to take down and move around to meet your garden’s needs.

White row cover shields our delicate lettuce.

Between the natural extreme temperatures of the desert and the uncertainty of the weather due to climate change, gardening during the peak of summer can be a grueling challenge. However, make sure to show the same care to yourself as you do to your plants: drink plenty of cool water, protect yourself from the sun, and rest frequently in the shade. The bountiful harvest at the end of the summer growing season will be a well-earned reward.