Graduation Day

purple cherokee, green zebra and sungold tomato seedlings in their new home

In the perfect world I live in, you know, the one that only exists in my mind, I would have spent this past fall building and preparing the planting beds for the spring kitchen garden. I would have been a responsible gardener, sowing winter cover crops to help break up and enrich the soil, ensuring that the spring vegetables had a more nutrient rich welcoming home. However, fall and winter were mostly spent wielding a hammer, not a shovel, as we were frantically trying to finish our studio renovation project. I did manage to squeeze in some gardening in early March, quickly constructing a couple of beds for some early greens, peas, fava beans, and carrots. However, since then, I’ve been consumed with installing flooring and trim with no time to move soil. Well, Saturday was the big day – we were finally able to move our gear into the finished studio which left Sunday free for some quality pick axe bonding time.

It took me three hours to carve a new 4’ x 4’ x 12” bed out of the hard packed clay in the backyard. It took another four hours to construct the edging, fill the basin with moderately better soil I’ve been hording, add compost and organic fertilizer, build some tomato tepees, perforate and install some pvc pipe for below surface watering and actually plant three tomato seedlings. One day later I’m still exhausted, but quite pleased with the results. Unfortunately, to live up to my grand scheme for summer homegrown eating, I have five more beds to build in the next three weeks. Hmmm, looks like I’ll be doing some moonlight digging.



The spring winds carry all sorts of things into my yard – most of which I don’t want. However, I was quite pleased when I spotted this guy foraging among the spicy salad greens this afternoon. I wonder if he found anything good to eat. . .

What not to do

When we moved into our Albuquerque house in 2006, it was easy to live in denial. Seven months of severe drought had rendered the yard a seemingly blank slate. We definitely had not purchased a house with a lawn. Absolutely not. When monsoon season arrived it became more difficult to maintain that state of denial. The Bermuda grass miraculously regenerated, rapidly turning into a thick expanding mat.

August 2006

So, despite reading all sorts of sound advice that advocated converting a traditional landscape to a Xeriscape in stages, choosing small projects that could be accomplished in a single season, I purchased a pickaxe and, in my stubborn way, decided to eradicate all the grass in the front yard as soon as possible. Needless to say, I quickly became known as the insane new neighbor. Each time it rained I had a three or four day window of opportunity as the impenetrable hard packed clay was temporarily rendered into a slippery, but workable, mess. I would work late into the evening chopping out sections of grass and moving around piles of dirt to create a system of swales and berms. Twenty-two months later, I’m still not quite done.

April 2008

There punch line to this story. Due to my involvement with the Xeric Garden Club of Albuquerque, I frequently receive calls and email from folks looking for advice on converting their own yards. And yet here I am a stunning example of what not to do. . .

Spread some seed, please


If I were a plant, I’d like to think I’d be like the plucky Perky Sue that blooms continuously all spring, summer and fall, thriving despite that fact I don’t irrigate and only grace it with an extra dribble of water on the rare occasion I have a few drops to spare. I know some folks are inconvenienced by this plant’s tendency to reseed generously, but given the moonscape quality of my front yard right now, I’m quite amenable to some profligate reproduction.

Auspicious beginnings

Echinocereus coccineus

I’ve been stalking “carrot top” (what, you don’t have pet names for your favorite plants?) for the past week waiting for the blooms. I didn’t think this cactus would survive the first year as a homesteader in my nascent xeric garden. There seemed to be what looked like the beginning stages of rot, to my untrained eye, that emerged during the week between purchase and planting last spring. I figured this would be one of the many plants crossed off my plant inventory list due to “user error.” So, I was quite surprised to see new growth and flower buds emerge this spring. Perhaps it is an auspicious event, signifying that I may just yet get the hang of this gardening thang.