Amy Gardener

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since Aug 29, 2016
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5,000' 35.24N zone 7b Albuquerque, NM
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Recent posts by Amy Gardener

Biodegradable garden staples! I need some garden staples to hold down some burlap and chicken wire. The options are metal or plastic. Metal rusts. Plastic breaks down into micro sized plastic particles. So I decided to make some garden staples using organic garden twine (jute or sisal) and bamboo skewers. With practice, each staple takes 1 minute to assemble using 2 knots: common whipping and the surgeon’s knot. A pack of 100 bamboo skewers and twine are each $1.25 at the dollar store: $2.50 for 50 handmade permaculture staples.
18 hours ago
I have very good luck scratching  ~1/2 inch of dried worm castings (no, they don't stink) into the top layer of the potting soil once per year. If the roots are exposed on top of the soil, don't disturb them. Instead, mix the worm castings with pea gravel, perlite, or coarse sand and use that as the top dressing to encourage water to seep through the top dressing castings. Worm castings are essentially a nutritious tea every time you water. I don't mix castings with water because too much is lost out the pot's drainage hole. Misting the foliage also really helps perk up the plants in the dry winter!
1 day ago
Welcome to the Forums, Russ. The clear plastic might work with the extreme temperature swings (30 degrees or more!) here in the high desert, and certainly many other places that have more even temp's. The purpose of the temporary black landscape fabric is to absorb the sunlight and warm the soil to 45F. The black fabric will stay on the ground with a daily check to see if seedlings begin to break through the soil; at that time the black fabric comes off for good. The soil temp is swinging from 35F to 45F without the black cover but the cold spell is nearly over.
As an update on this particular high desert project, Jan’s suggestion to germinate the peas (rather than just soaking them over night according to word of mouth learning) has inspired me to go further along in the seed germination process before planting. Yes, root disturbance is a no-no, however, can we push the seed planting stage beyond an over night soak? Hopefully, germination in a jar will wake the peas up inside where temperatures are more consistent.
As a helpful tool to describe the process, I'm borrowing a lovely pea germination photo series created by Noahjgagne, posted on Wikipedia

Following the picture numbers:
Picture I happened after 24 hr soak plus 24 hours, rinsed and drained in jar at 50 degrees.
Picture II is what yesterday’s peas looked like: a barely perceptible white root bulge not yet detached from the pea seed after 3 days at 50F.
Today, 4 days into germination, the tails have detached as in picture III. Given that beans don’t respond well to root disturbance, I planted at stage III rather than disturbing the more developed root at stage IV.
Daytime high desert temps are in the 50s (F) and February nights will be in the low thirties which is acceptable for the young plants without any plastic.
I’ll keep the soil moist and update this thread when (if) the shoots break through the soil....
2 days ago
Thank you for providing background info and perspective T.
Given that you are a design engineer and you have the freedom to examine ideas beyond Cochise County, I'm guessing that you might find New Mexico's Earthen Buildings Materials Code useful as a data point for your inquiry. Yes, the code does specify some concrete for the grade beam that is built atop the rubble trench:
"Concrete grade beam.  Rubble filled foundation trench designs with a reinforced concrete grade beam above are allowed to support rammed earth wall construction.  An architect or engineer registered in the state of New Mexico shall certify the grade beam/rubble-filled trench design portion."
The rubble trench specifications could be ascertained by contacting a certified architect or engineer. The next exploration could examine concrete alternatives or, at the very least, ways to minimize the length of the concrete beam atop that trench.
I look forward to hearing from the professionals who might share ideas here.

3 days ago
Welcome to the Forums T!
Please give us a little more info about your, "home/structure in Southern AZ" so we can be more helpful. People have been building earthen homes/structures in your area for thousands of years without concrete footers and many are still standing as US National Parks and historic monuments. There are many ways to build out in the Southwest using materials at hand.
How big is the structure? Have you drawn up a plan yet? What kind of "rubble" is available? What is the drainage like on your site? Is this a forever home or a building that will be repurposed when funds increase for a more permanent home down the road? What county are you in?
Info/engineering data for rubble trenches is available but help us narrow down the subject by telling us more about your plan.
4 days ago
Stories like yours are cautionary tales. Thanks for teaching and giving us a happy ending!
5 days ago
I'm checking in on you John! Give us an update and let us know you're okay.
All the best to you.
5 days ago
Shade by April will be very important indeed Mike! The trellis is pup-tent-style (double A-frame) using 10, 6' bamboo with 2' of chicken wire at the bottom then strings coming from the wire, over the top and zig-zagging up and down side to side from front to back. The trenches run E and W to maximize S sun. I'm planning on replacing the peas with climbing cucumbers in May when the peas wither. Maybe some white Agribon over the pup-tent would help extend pea season. Any other suggestions? The wind is pretty fierce in spring.
6 days ago
Thanks for the seedling pots idea Jay. That will certainly work for someone jump-starting early pea planting who reads this thread.
In my race to get the peas in the ground in 2 days, I'm going with the trenches. As of 11am with sunny sky, soil temperature was back up to 45F without the paper or burlap. As Jan suggested, I put the seeds in a sprouting jars and put it in a 50F dark room. I pulled all the remaining beets in the 12' bed and trenched 3 rows, a foot apart that could accommodate the 4" wide burlap roll. The total planting area is 36 linear feet. The burlap cover is 40" wide by 10 yds (30') which means I could fold it in half for a double thick 15' top blanket and skip the brown paper (or line the trench with that). I sifted about 3 cubic feet of composted horse manure and sand to top the barely sprouted seeds in a couple of days. I'm on my way to collect black stones to hold down the blanket.
Keep those ideas coming for all of us early planters!

1 week ago
Thanks Mike!
No gutters here but I do have a 300' roll of burlap for wrapping tree trunks that would work as a liner for the trench. Maybe putting the barely sprouted seeds on that and rounding up the mulch would insulate from the cold ground? I can remove the mound in a few weeks and surround the seedlings.
1 week ago