Becky Pinaz

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since May 14, 2011
Maricopa, AZ
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Recent posts by Becky Pinaz

Dirt: The Move is excellent! I too highly recommend it.

Thanks, Morgan. The mint in the mandala garden will all be planted in pots and the bee balm (and probably some other plants) will be dead-headed religiously. I'm going to try hard not to create problems! One of the gardening books I read had a story about trying to get rid of horseradish that had been rototilled. Not going to plant horseradish either. : )

Miriam - One of our main reasons for wanting to grow organic fruit and vegetables is the desire to be healthier. I have a multitude of health issues and often wonder how many of them can be blamed on chemical contaminants in our food and water. I totally understand where you're coming from.

Let's all enjoy the journey! If we're going to live at all, let us live joyfully.
8 years ago
Well... I like to attract birds but I think I'll leave the javelina on the other side of the fence. A nearby friend took a picture of a javelina family chowin' down on her next door neighbors' Halloween pumpkins. The coyotes have been known to snatch small dogs from back yards around here, but I'd just as soon avoid them too. I prefer that the wildlife in my yard be small and nonthreatening. LOL!
8 years ago
Susanna, that's a great idea! You will be able to share your gardening knowledge while giving other people the gift of a garden. Working together is a lot of fun and you can make good friends that way.

I took the Master Gardeners course last fall, mostly to improve my own gardening skills. What I found is that their mission is education - to teach people how to garden successfully. We have a demonstration garden, greenhouse and orchard just a few minutes from my house. Many of the people who take the course are not experienced gardeners or are people who have moved here from other parts of the country and need to learn to work with the climate instead of against it. I've taken leadership of a large project in the demonstration garden and am consulting on a couple of others. What people really seem to want is the camaraderie of sharing the work and learning together. My goal for this year is to get everyone working together - sharing labor, knowledge and enthusiasm. Then we can share the produce and herbs that we grow. When we have our spring tour, we can share all of that and maybe even a few recipes with the people who come through the garden.

I know it's not really permaculture, but there are elements. We chip and shred orchard trimmings and already have several working compost piles. Nothing goes to waste unless it's diseased and then it goes to the burn pile. Planting things that draw beneficial insects and hand picking are the recommended ways to manage pests. Mulching to conserve moisture and slow down the weeds is taught. We look at the sun and wind and discuss microclimates. We don't have guilds and some garden areas are not mixed plantings, but there are experiments going on to find the best varieties for our climate. Good things are happening and people are learning. Companion planting is discussed and that's the first step away from monocultures. I'm excited about what the volunteers are learning and what they will be teaching in the coming years. I pull out "Gaia's Garden" whenever I have the chance, and recommend it often.

I've also noticed that younger people are wanting to learn to garden. Some are wanting to eat uncontaminated food, but I think some are simply recognizing that a garden brings something of great worth into their lives. When you are in the garden, life is simpler and slower and much more peaceful. Your senses come alive in the garden and you learn to appreciate the turn of the seasons and the wonder of life. If we can share that with someone, we will have enriched their lives. And that's a good thing!
8 years ago
It's true that not everyone can or wants to grow all their own food. I spent the afternoon with several other master gardeners brainstorming ideas that are easy for your average, busy family to get them growing even a little of their own food. Most permies will turn their noses up at square foot gardens or container gardening, but if that's what helps someone get started gardening, I'm all for it. Once you taste the difference between home grown and grocery store produce, you'll never again be happy without a garden. We don't have to change the world, but we can help to turn the tide. Every small improvement is progress.

The more I read about GMOs and the heath consequences of eating pesticide drenched food, the more committed I become to growing my own to the extent that I am able.
8 years ago
Hi Miriam,

I wish I could take the PDC but it's just too expensive for me. I'm glad that you're educating people about the environment. Knowledge is powerful! We do what we can and take hope that we will make a difference. Have you seen the documentary, Gasland? It's about how destructive and dangerous fracking is. Sometimes I wonder about the people who run those corporations. Do you think they ever worry about whether their children or grandchildren will have water to drink?

I highly recommend the MG course. It was different than I thought it would be and I was a little disappointed at first. Then I realized that I could grow a plant better if I understood basic botany and my garden would be healthier if I knew something about soil chemistry. I have resources to help me diagnose problems in my garden and people to ask if I can't figure it out on my own. The quality of the teachers (most of them scientists of one kind or another) was amazing and I'm enjoying the community of gardeners in our city. After the first class on botany, I was sitting and looking out the window. I noticed the bushes and trees swaying in the breeze and was thought about how much unseen activity was taking place in every leaf and branch and blade of grass and I was struck by absolute amazement. The world is full of wonders and I miss so many of them! It was a significant moment for me. It hadn't occurred to me that the class might include some of those same subject that meant nothing to me back when I was in school and that now I would find them absolutely fascinating. Perspective is everything. : )

Becky
8 years ago
One more negative.

The neighbor of one of my friends had several loads of wood chips dumped on his property to use in pathways and for mulching. Unfortunately, the wood was full of scorpions and the neighborhood that had very few scorpions is now infested. I wouldn't take the material unless I knew exactly where it came from. I had the opportunity to get a bunch of chips from a citrus grove that had been taken out. I refused the wood because I was afraid of all the unknowns that might accompany it into my yard.

I may be paranoid, but I'm going to build up my organic matter more slowly and safely.
8 years ago
I was a little concerned about using my full name since I freely talk about the small town where I live. I use my first name and last initial. Will that pass the test? I don't say anything on the forum that I wouldn't sign my name to but I am also concerned about security and safety. I don't want lurkers to see my full name and be able to figure out exactly where I live. Am I going to have a problem?
Wow, it's been a long time since I've posted on the forum, but I've been busy.

Last fall, just about the time I wanted to start yard renovation, I heard about a Master Gardeners course being offered about 5 minutes away from my house and I thought, it sounded interesting so I took it. The class really was amazing and now I'm a Master Gardener who is fully aware of how little I actually know! I'm very fortunate that the University of Arizona Agricultural Center is here in town and have given the Master Gardeners a greenhouse, a small orchard and space for a demonstration garden. The MG group out here is small but growing and I'm getting to know the other gardeners. It's true that gardeners really are the nicest people.

They've allowed me to be project leader for the Garden in the Round which is about 30' across and laid out like a mandala. There's an outer circle, an inner circle and the center bed, and when you enter you just walk all the way through until you come out where you went in. No pathways cross each other and it has a very Zen feel to it. I've recruited a group and we're going to turn it into an herb garden. Pretty much all the rest of the space is devoted to various vegetable growing projects and it seems to me that no garden should be without herbs and flowers. I can walk through the empty garden and smell and feel the herbs and flowers that we haven't even planted yet. It will be amazing! The only herbs I've ever grown are basil and parsley so I'm very excited. We have a greenhouse where we cans start our seeds and there are other gardeners to consult with and we will learn together. Everyone is pretty committed to companion planting and integrated pest management so I don't think we will have any chemicals in the garden other than fertilizer - and I'm hoping that we will be able to grow the herb garden using nothing but compost and natural amendments.

My backyard still looks pretty much the way it did last spring. At first I was really disappointed that we couldn't put the yard in last fall, but now I'm so glad that we didn't. My husband keeps saying that the money we spent for me to take the class has paid him back many times over in all the mistakes I didn't make. I would have planted trees which would have been a disappointment and I would have put them in the ground incorrectly. You don't have to take a class to be a good gardener but when you're planting trees in the desert, it really helps if you know for sure which ones will grow in our horribly alkaline soil and be able to take the heat, the freezes and the brutal dust/wind storms that we have. I seriously underestimated the difference in growing conditions when we moved from the middle of a large urban area to a small town in the desert but have learned a lot since then. I've also connected with the Valley Permaculture Alliance and have found their forum to be full of amazingly nice and helpful people. Between the permaculture forum and the Master Gardeners, I think I have a much better chance of growing a productive and sustainable yard. I'm pretty excited about the possibilities and about all that I've been learning.

The landscaper that I was so excited about wasn't nearly as good as I thought she would be. She thought she knew a lot more than she actually did and was not very reliable. I'm glad now that it didn't work out so that I can put what I've learned over the last 6 months into practice without having to undo unnecessary mistakes. When I saw the yards that she had done I knew that she was not going to be the right person for us. If we do our own demo and get the ground prepared then all we really will need is someone to put in a good drip system. Now that I've taken the MG course, I'll know what we really need in a watering system and how to use it properly - not an insignificant achievement when you live in a desert. We can plant our own trees and the satisfaction we will have will be well worth the work.

I could be that no one is interested in what I'm doing out here in the middle of the Arizona desert, but just in case...

Becky
8 years ago
They've been swarming in our area lately and I'm feeling just a little paranoid about them!
9 years ago
I've been wondering if wood chips might attract termites.

We live in the AZ desert and our soil is very low in organic material. I would like to get wood chips from a local landscaper to use in garden paths and at the base of the compost heap. My thinking was that if I use wood chips instead of gravel as path material, it would reflect less heat and add organic material to the soil, even if it wasn't in planting areas. I am hoping to eventually have a yard that would support a nice earthworm population. The reason I hesitate is that termites are a big problem in this area and I don't want to draw them to our yard, causing major problems down the road.

Local trimmings usually include trees such as palo verde, acacia, mesquite, sissoo, sumac, etc. Pine and walnut trees would not be included in the chips.

Can anyone address this issue?
9 years ago