Black Mesa Ranch
Snowflake, Arizona, USA
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3 Awards 2004 ADGA National Competition
1 Award 2010 ADGA National Competition
2 Awards 2005 ADGA National Competition
2 Awards 2004 ADGA National Competition
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This site last updated:
October 28, 2013
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The Vegetable Garden 7/9/04
Well, mid-summer is upon us and my plans for the garden projects have evolved (as they are inclined to do).
We did get a new fence up around the vegetable garden, enlarging the space in the process to about 70' x 70'. Instead of re-using the old buck fencing (for which we'll find another use, no doubt) we purchased a number of 16' long by 52" high cattle panels for the fence. Securely fastened to "T"-posts they are a sturdy barrier against the goats getting in. With the addition of 2' high x 1/2" hardware cloth around the base it also keeps out most rodents, rabbits and other small critters. I never did get the drive-through gates finished. Instead, I just added another panel section, held in place with a few bungee cords. It may not be exactly elegant, but it works.
Going back a bit to get caught up on the season... I started a number of herbs, tomatoes, peppers and chiles, and even a few lettuces inside beginning in March.
We started harvesting asparagus in April. This was its 3rd year and we can harvest with abandon until they peter out. We're still getting 10 or so spears a day from the 30' long by 2 ' wide bed but don't expect to get much more for the year.
Despite our last frost date being around the 1st of June I gambled and started 2/3 of my potatoes outside in early May. By mid May I'd brought out the inside lettuces and spinaches, started new lettuce and spinach seeds outside, and also set out a dozen Cornichon cucumbers, 18 tomatoes and a couple dozen chiles, all in wall-o-waters. The weather held and most of the plants survived. To my surprise, the newly planted outdoor seeds quickly surpassed the indoor starts I'd been babying for a month or more. Next year I think I'll start more things outside earlier. The peppers and chiles did not take well to going out early and, while they survived, they are taking a long time to actually look vigorous. We are planning on building me a greenhouse by this fall where I'll be able to do a better job with some of the starts (especially peppers)
I definitely was late in getting some of the seeds in the ground (notably beans, corn and melons) while I waited to get the hardware cloth part of the fence finished. They're quite a bit behind where they should be, but coming along
The Vegetable Garden 7/9/04
As of this date the garden is humming along at a great pace. Other goodies we have been harvesting and eating frequently include: beets, carrots, spinach, red Batavian leaf lettuce, Red Cos lettuce, Simpson leaf lettuce, rhubarb, herbs, broccoli, zucchini, scallions, red onions, Red-Gold new potatoes and Purple-White new potatoes. I have started harvesting the tiny cornichons gherkins and pickling them a little at a time. They are wonderful, but I'm hoping they begin to kick in and produce more than a few at a time soon.
Some of the earliest planted lettuces we haven't gotten to are beginning to bolt and the spinach has had it until fall, but the goats, rabbits, ducks and chickens are enjoying the change of diet. The new lettuces are coming in fine and we'll not be without salad this summer, that's for sure.
The herb garden is doing great - so great, in fact, that I have begun selling to some of our restaurant chef-customers who buy our cheese, and have sold some through a little local natural foods store as well. Using no pesticides at all is a real plus to these buyers and we are happy to supply them with quality herbs they can't get elsewhere, at a great value.
I'm worried about the tomatoes. They started our great-guns and grew fast and furiously, putting on lots of vegetation. A month ago they began to set small fruit but after a week or so they stopped. There are hundreds of blossoms, but not very many fruits at all. A few of the plants also seem to be withering and I'm afraid its a wilt disease taking hold. Wilts wiped out our whole tomato patch last year before we got to eat a single tomato. I will be very disappointed if that scenario repeats itself again this year.
The trees in the orchard are doing pretty well this year but we're not going to be getting harvest off any of them. Even the raspberries (of which we have about 10 little surviving plants left) who tried to fruit couldn't handle the wicked winds we had during fruit-set time. According to most of the folks around here who have fruit trees, a harvest every 5 years is about average. We just get too much weird weather (wind, snap freezes etc) in the spring to expect the trees to set fruit well on a regular basis. Oh well, it's still nice having the trees, I guess. The grapes, on the other hand - both the Concords and Himrods are absolutely spectacular with tons of fruit. I never did get the sunflowers planted again this year. Where did this spring/early summer go?
Garden planning for 2004 began in early December 2003 with the arrival of MANY gardening, seed, and plant catalogues. One seed order was placed 12/23/03 and another, bigger one is almost ready to go too.
I'm very happy with the current garden lay-out and irrigation system so at least the infrastructure is in place for this coming season... almost. We do plan on replacing the old, thrice-used, and very dilapidated perimeter fencing for the 50'x50' plot and finally finishing and installing the new wide-access gates I've had three quarters built for several months now. Our idea is to steal the newer fencing we previously erected around the buck's pen after we replace that fencing with a sturdier cattle-panel one. The cattle panels (yet to be purchased) will be available after we finish the new goat-barn project (slated for Jan/Feb 2004) where they will get first use as construction fencing.
Here's a list of what we're planning on growing this year:
I undertook the major task of rebuilding all of the garden beds this spring and installing all new drip irrigation throughout. I'm please with the changes and expect it to have a lasting positive effect on our gardening for years to come. I also built 16 new tomato cages, a pea fence, a cucumber fence all out of a roll of 6" re-mesh. Last week I extended the fencing 2' higher on the North and east sides of the garden to prevent attempted goat incursions.
We were actually able to get a bit of an early jump on planting this year, thanks to the mild late spring. Some Celebrity and Roma tomatoes and assorted chiles/peppers went out mid-May - a full 2 weeks ahead of our official "last frost date" and all did just fine. Surprisingly the rest of them, that we waited to set out until the first of this month, seem now to have fully caught up in size and vigor so apparently not much has been gained with the risk of the early planting.
As of mid-month 2 of our 4 plantings of sweet corn are in with the first set nearly a foot tall. The early planted melon look great and are already flowering though the earliest pumpkins and zucchini seem behind expectations.
We have already found squash bugs on the 6" plants and have begun pyrethen/rotenone treatment much earlier then we have had to in the past. There was a pretty fierce attack by some small green caterpillars, primarily on the peppers and chiles but a couple of treatments with BT seems to have it under control now. We also fought a small army of field mice that were intent on digging up seeds and nibbling off just-sprouted seedlings, but a couple of weeks of intensive trapping pretty much took care of them for now.
We have had a great harvest of asparagus that is just now tapering off and the leaf lettuce and scallions have been early garden staples though we only got one small spinach harvest before it all died - probably due to the quickly warming weather.
Other annual crops currently in the works: bush beans, shell peas, Italian beans, sugar snap peas, broccoli, cornichons (small gherkin cucumbers), red new potatoes, carrots, and beets. Our perennial rhubarb is doing pretty well, though still kind-of small, the strawberries are ahead of last year, most of the herbs are doing very well despite my having moved each and every one of them when I rebuilt their beds this spring. As an experiment this year we are trying to grow horseradish (not doing too well as of this writing) and comfrey (doing great).
The orchard is looking fine this year so far with all the remaining trees healthy and strong. The grapes got too early a start and were nipped back but seem to have recovered, the currants look very good and the few surviving cane fruits (mostly raspberries) from last year have been joined by 50 new plants we put in early this month. After setting up 15 new rows in the orchard with drip irrigation for sunflowers I've only gotten about 1/2 planted so far: they have to be row-covered for the first few weeks to prevent excessive predation of the seeds or seedlings.
We installed and populated 2 hives of honey bees in the orchard this spring and they are both growing faster than we had hoped.
One current garden project is making nice new pair of welded steel gates for the West side (replacing the make-shift ones we erected 2 years ago when we put the garden in).
We're still getting snow flurries occasionally and overnight temperatures are below freezing but it's definitely time to begin garden work. I finalized this year's garden plan around the first of the year and all my seed and plant orders were in by the middle of January. Nearly all the seeds were delivered by mid-February. Some of the onion plants arrived 2/24 and it will be a task keeping them alive until the ground is ready for them.
The winter was pretty mild with only a week or two of really cold (low teens) temperatures. So far late winter/early spring has been wet with cloudy weather bringing some precipitation nearly every week for the last couple of months. Late February was beautiful with several days in the mid 70's. It is so hard on days like that to remember that our last-frost date here is May 30th.
Our rhubarb plants are poking through their winter straw mat. Chives, parsley and tarragon are all coming to life and looking good. The cotoneasters are beginning to bud and leaf out a little. No sign of asparagus yet.
3/10: Started broccoli, basil, purple ruffle basil, chervil, marjoram and summer savory seeds indoors.
3/21: Started jalapeno, fooled you jalapeno, anaheim, cubanelle, fresno, fresno grande and suave red habanero chiles; red, yellow, purple, orange and mixed bell peppers indoors. Worked in garden prepping beds and working in the winter's animal bedding straw - got maybe 1/2 done, not counting rototilling. Took a few cotoneaster cuttings to try and propagate.
3/30: Started 18 each Celebrity (slicing) and Roma (sauce) tomatoes indoors.
4/3: Nearly all of the pepper and chile varieties have germinated. Some have come up fine but many fairly poorly, some as low as 50%. I've recently been reading about the possible negative effects of the US Postal service's mail irradiation policies and practices on a variety of shipped goods (foods, medicines, electronics, etc.). Perhaps my seeds have been effected by this as well. The annuals section of the garden has been tilled and the beds made. A small start has been made on raising the strawberry beds. Rhubarb is growing well as are many of the herbs and the asparagus has begun to sprout up - enough for a side dish in the next couple of days. The past week has been very very windy.
4/6: Picked up 5, free, 300' rolls of used 25mm irrigation line, complete with emitters from the managers of a big green house complex in town and began work on a total overhaul of the watering system for the garden.
4/7: Tested a large section of irrigation system I have installed: dismal flop! The system will work but I'm going to have to re-think my distribution method and re-do everything I did so far. I am thrilled that the new emitter lines are just fine and it will be well worth the extra effort to get it all up and running. Planted first 10' of spinach plus 2 bunches of each Red Burgundy and Spanish onions today.