Category: Agriculture

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/

 

Bug of the Day: Riddle of the Sphinx (Moth)

Written by: Vilheim Piwowarek

Hornworms are a problem many who grow tomatoes will encounter. Many people loathe them for their habit of eating loads of plant material at a time (though I don’t understand how anyone can hate something so cute).

Tomato hornworm
Source: https://www.almanac.com/pest/tomato-hornworms

The name Hornworm often refers to a large green caterpillar pest, named for a harmless “horn” at the end of their bodies. These caterpillars are not simply pests however, because their chubby, voracious caterpillar state is only temporary. These larvae are destined to transform into Sphinx Moths.

Five spotted hawk moth
Source: https://www.almanac.com/pest/tomato-hornworms

Sphinx Moths are a family of moths (Sphingidae) that includes about 1,450 discovered species, including your average Tomato Hornworm. You may find Tomato Hornworms, the Five Spotted Sphinx Moth, on your plants, or perhaps the closely related Tobacco Hornworm, both species in the genus Manduca. Either way however, you are likely to encounter a number of other species, many of whom are not pests, all of whom are remarkable.

Sphinx moths are distinguished by their large size and whose fast flight makes them resemble hummingbirds. These moths are good pollinators, and some are even the sole pollinators for a plant species. They also have characteristically little feathering on their antennae, unlike many moths. Quite a few species are colorful, and some diurnal species mimic bees or hummingbirds. In the DOT Garden, and across New Mexico, White Lined Sphinxes are quite common. You may see one of these elegant moths sleeping on random surfaces, or hovering around flowers, feeding.

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

 

Bug of the Day: Mullein Thrips

Written by: Vilheim Piwowarek

While having a fun time weeding one day, I was very excited (and perhaps would be alone in my excitement) to see a species of a unique and obscure insect group in the garden. The bane of some farmers, though not a problem for us –Thrips, specifically Mullein Thrips (Haplothrips verbasci).

Mullein Thrips, Source: https://lacrossetribune.com/couleenews/lifestyles/ridgerunner-reports-some-insects-are-breeding-in-middle-of-winter/article_cb66eb46-5e46-11e1-af23-0019bb2963f4.html

Never heard of a Thrips? (yes, Thrips is singular!) That’s ok, neither has Microsoft Word, as I just found out. Thrips are an order of insect, Thysanopterans. They feed on plants and sometimes other insects. Their bodies are often tiny dots less than a millimeter in length. If you ever get the chance to see one closely, they are usually darkly colored, thin elongated beings that, frankly, don’t look too remarkable. However, Thrips are very unique, primarily due to their wings.

Thrips wings
Source:https://gl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ficheiro:Pampelmusen-Thrips-Fl%C3%BCgel1.jpg

Thrips have fringed wings that are thin with jutting hairs, that make the resemble feathers. While their wings may appear incapable of flight, the design of Thrips’ wings allow them to use a type of flight called Clap and Fling, a feature unique to them and certain wasp groups. Rather than normal flapping, these little guys clap their wings together, then fling them apart, hence the name. This motion creates a vortex that pushes the tiny insect aloft, as they fly into the sunset.

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.

 

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.

(https://www.nature.org/ourinitiatives/regions/northamerica/unitedstates/newmexico/new-mexico-prairie-and-desert-grasslands.xml)

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.