Gardening in New Mexico is … interesting.
It seemed easy when I was a kid. I watered and picked vegetables according to my parents’ instructions.
We typically had pretty good harvests overall, even if one particular vegetable didn’t do well that year.
As an adult, I’m gardening for the third season. It turns out gardening looked easy because my parents were good at it and did all the hard jobs.
Despite often being better at killing plants than raising them, I’ve managed to get at least something of a harvest the last two years. Last year, I had more squash than I knew what to do with, literally.
So, I froze a bunch of it. It wound up being handy whenever I needed a vegetable on the spur of the moment or was wondering what side dish to cook.
I’m down to my last couple of bags of squash and a bit bummed they probably won’t last until I can harvest more.
You think I should just buy some from the grocery store? What!?
Last month, for the second year, I tried starting seeds inside.
The effort was mostly a flop last year. Out of a few dozen seeds, only a handful sprouted, and even less survived long enough to be planted outside, much less produce a crop.
I keep my equipment low-tech. I’m cheap. I planted seeds in potting soil left by the prior owners of my house and used old cardboard egg cartons as pots.
Then I put the seeded egg cartons in those clear plastic boxes that hold pre-washed salad greens at the store. They’re mini-greenhouses — and free with the purchase of your next salad.
This year, I used a warming pad, requested and received as a birthday gift, to encourage the seeds to sprout by heating the soil to 78 degrees. You don’t expect me to pay for enough natural gas to heat the whole house to that temperature, do you?
The warming pad was worth every penny my parents paid for it. Hey, it would have been worth every penny if I’d paid for it.
Almost all the seeds have sprouted. Most of the ones that didn’t were in the egg carton I spilled, with all my usual grace and agility.
Now, I just have to keep the sprouts alive until they and the weather are ready for planting outside.
When it’s going to be warm enough is anyone’s guess. It’s not hard to find the average date of the last winter/spring freeze, but as you know, New Mexico weather changes its mind about what season to be every 10 minutes.
I planted Swiss chard seeds outside last weekend, when we were doing spring. Then we switched to winter Tuesday and Wednesday.
The cold shouldn’t hurt seeds, and Swiss chard is supposed to be a cool-season crop. So, I’m hoping it’ll survive, maybe with a cover, even if we get an Easter snowstorm.
Now I just need to figure out how to keep dogs out of the garden.