Category: Sustainability

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/

 

Homegrown Gourmet: Garden Snails

Written by: Vilheim Piwowarek

If you are a farmer or gardener, you have likely encountered snails, and they can sometimes be a problem. Snail infestations often need to be controlled in one way or another, often meaning said snails will die, perhaps from some Sluggo or simply removing them by hand. But, if you have to deal with a snail problem anyway, why waste such a tasty food product? You may recognize escargot as a delicacy, but you may not know that it can be made with your common garden snail. The only real difference is that snails used to make typical escargot have stronger shells, making them easier to process. If, however, you’re interested in using your own snails as food, the method below is tried and true. Just note that you may also not want to use garden snails if you think there is a risk of them having encountered pesticides, for example those used in a neighbors yard.

HOW TO COLLECT & PREPARE GARDEN SNAILS

First gather your garden snails. It would be good if you identify your snails and make sure they are safe to eat before cooking. Any non-poisonous snail should theoretically be fine, but garden snails are preferable.

Starve snails in a clean container or series of containers for two days. Provide constant water, but no food. This will allow the snails to clean out their systems. Depending on how many you stuff into one container, containers may need to be cleaned once or twice to ensure sanitary conditions. Do not use chemical cleaners. Soap is fine so long as the containers are properly rinsed and no residue is left over. Make sure most of the container is dry to keep sanitary, preferably with a water tray or two.

Now you are ready to prepare your snails. Put snails in a container of room-temperature water so that they come out of their shells.

Heat a pot of water until it is at full boil (this will ensure snails die instantly and as humanely as possible). You may need to boil several batches to ensure snails hit full boiling water, as adding snails will likely make the water cool down drastically. Boil for three minutes, then remove snails and place on a plate.

Wait for snails to cool before shelling. It is best to have a container nearby to put empty shells. Using a fork gently poke snails and remove from shells. If boiled properly, snails should come out smoothly.

Nest, you will need to clean your snails of remaining mucus. Put snails in relatively light vinegar-water solution for thirty minutes.  After this, put in normal water for another thirty minutes to dissipate vinegar.

Congratulations, your snails are finally ready to freeze/cook. You may want to take a nap.

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.

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.

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.

(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.

 

Bottled Sunlight: Making Calendula Salve

By: Tanya Hebert

In the middle of winter it can be difficult to remember the vibrant colors of the calendula plant.  The deep oranges, yellows and even whites of this beautiful medicinal plant bring back feelings of sunshine and buzzing bees.  When the calendula was in full bloom, we harvested the heads and put them aside to dry.  We were as careful as possible not to mix them with the spent heads that were producing seeds but, alas, our 6th grade Environmental Club had to come to our rescue and separate dried petals from seeds.

The dried petals were put in quart mason jars and filled with olive oil.  The jars lined the greenhouse shelves with their warmth and our kids had fun gently shaking them everyday.  After six weeks in the greenhouse, the kids helped strain the calendula-infused oil (quite a mess!) in preparation for salve making.

The salve is prepared by mixing beeswax (locally sourced) with the oil at a gentle heat to liquefy the beeswax.  Some of the salve got an extra special dose of lavender essential oil (also locally sourced).  The salve is poured into tins while it is still a liquid – this is an adult job as it cools quite rapidly.  The end product is a tin of beautifully scented hand salve infused with the healing quality of the calendula plant.