High desert gardening

Monte Vista, CO(Zone 4a)

Funny, high deserts have the lowest temperatures, and low deserts have the highest temps. In any event, I'm not looking forward to the weekend in THIS high desert area, the San Luis Valley. Hope the GH can take it. I used to live in Phoenix...would you guys set your fans to blow some of that warm air this way? :)
Pic: our forecast, argh...

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Phoenix, AZ

We're supposed to be in the 50s-60s for highs this weekend. Not much better :(

Monte Vista, CO(Zone 4a)

The squash and tomatoes on the outside walls of the greenhouse got frost a couple of days ago, when the temperature went below 0, so I cut off the frost-bitten leaves, moved them toward the center of the GH, and stacked organic wheat straw bales on the inside and outside of the GH entry wall. I also added another little heater, and now the avocado trees are putting on new growth, the frosted plants new leaves and fruit still developing (despite their ragged leafless look) and time marches on in there. Nothing in the raised bed nor the near the water drums were touched, though, so all is well. I'm thinking about adding a layer of bubble wrap and another sheet of plastic on top to insulate the hoop. That should also help with the intense sun/heat next summer.

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Phoenix, AZ

Below zero? Oh my.

No Central, AZ(Zone 7b)

Oh Solace, how lucky you are to have a GH!! This is my first winter in cold country. Actually the Farrier, who came in shorts, in late am when it had warmed up to 50, said he loves this time of year - before winter. BEFORE winter?? Really? I must be a big time wimp because I thought mornings with 16 degree lows and light snow on Sat eve WAS winter. I only have a little vegetation, all in pots, and brought a bunch in to kitchen and most of the rest was fried/melted by the cold. Until about 3PM, it is actually warmer outside. This all from the girl (ok, old lady) who kept wanting the thermostat lowered in previous houses. We do have a couple space heaters to compensate for lack of HVAC.

I was caught crying while watching an HGTV episode of House Hunters Renovation. I remember all those plants they were planting in their newly landscaped back yard in Playa Del Rey, CA. When I lived near the coast EVERYTHING grew all year - including lots of people (that is a negative).

Looking at the Valley/Desert plants and gardens this time of year makes me misty eyed. BUT, do I want your hundred guzillion summer temps?? No thank you. Need a happy medium.

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Monte Vista, CO(Zone 4a)

The snow on your plants even makes me sad, quiltygirl... even plants that get frost-bitten, if you cut off the frozen leaves soon enough, will regrow, I've found. I can't take the heat very well, you can only take so many clothes off, but you can always put more on, if it's cold. ;)

I'm seriously considering turning a spare bedroom into an indoor greenhouse, because I'm running out of room in the GH. BUT..I still need lights in the GH, so that will come first. I start seeds in my little two-bookcases-facing-each-other-greenhouse-with-one, four-foot grow light setup in the living room. I have a white-meated watermelon in there, too, that's getting tlc. I'd like to partition off the south end of the LR which has a large window and turn it into a greenhouse as well. I have tons of seeds, yet, to plant. Not having enough pots and enough room is why they're sitting on a shelf in the dark, now.

No Central, AZ(Zone 7b)

When we lived in SoCal and had a couple freezy mornings I had some plants that did the "I am melting" thing. Then we had some nice weather and there was new growth. I made the mistake of cutting off the dead stuff, then when we had another cold snap, the new growth died.0

Monte Vista, CO(Zone 4a)

Corn is tasseling in the greenhouse - in November in Colorado - YAY! Yeah, I'm excited...

Monte Vista, CO(Zone 4a)

Here's the latest on the greenhouse project: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pIll6NQohTQ&feature=share&list=UUjYBwcIoMwt6T95QkVmuPmQ We've had temps in the low 50s during the day, so that's been great. Pretty cold at night, though.

Mesa, AZ(Zone 9b)

Thanks for sharing. Everything seems to doing great in your greenhouse. I have plans to build one in the future but have a lot of cleaning up first and a hugh Eucalyptus tree to be removed.

Happy Gardening,

No Central, AZ(Zone 7b)

Solace, I like your video. Is your corn, avocado and citrus in the ground? Most of rest in pots? What soil/mix do you use for the plants/edibles in pots? We should be able to do well here with that kind of system as our days are warmer and just freezing at night. I would like to see a video where you pan away further to see the structure I am looking at needing to have raised beds to grow the edibles I want, then I could hoop some of them in winter. It is disappointing as I was hoping to be relatively self sustaining wherever we moved and this is not the right property for that. It would cost so much more to have an acre of raised beds on this rocky/hard/sloping land. We have a great view, but that and the fact we got the place cheap (but needs lots of work) are the only benefits.

Monte Vista, CO(Zone 4a)

Thanks, Pam, just keep moving one foot in front of another, and like me, you'll get closer and closer to getting there. There are sooooo many things I'd like to do, but not enough time and physical strength to do everything I would like. A little at a time will get us there, though. I think planning (and dreamin') is key.

quiltygirl, the corn is in a raised bed that I put a mixture of Happy Frog soil conditioner that I had used on the potato bed last season, our sandy soil, compost (chicken manure, leaves, soil, molasses from the kitchen, some Epsom salts remediation for our alkaline soil, crushed up calcium citrate and aspirin from my medicine cabinet, and a few drops of liquid B vitamins, also from the medicine cabinet, coffee grounds, tea bags, kitchen vegetable scraps). The avocado trees are all in pots three I grew from seed, a Hass - the biggest one - and a Cold Hardy, all in pots. The lemon trees are tiny ones I am growing from seed. I'd like to get a couple of Meyer's Lemon trees, some Key Lime trees, and some others (aren't there always others, lol?). I just repotted two of the tiny lemons and moved them into the in-the-house bookcases converted to little greenhouse under the grow light. Something I really want to grow is Turmeric (Curcumin Longa) for its health benefits and beauty. Plans are to build a Rocket Mass Heater in the house (they only use around a cord per winter season) with warming benches, and the tropicals would be surrounded with clear plexiglass at the ends of the warming benches, like an indoor floor to ceiling terrarium - including some herbs and salad plants. See what I mean? I want to do too much!! LOL The only thing growing in the ground right now are the flowers, green beans on the edges planted in the cement block holes, and in the raised bed, corn, okra, squash, and tomatoes. Everything else is in various sizes of pots. I haven't planted the sweet potatoes yet; that will take a very large pot like the Hass Avocado's in, I think. I will grow garlic on the bales surrounding the outside of the greenhouse, barley straw bales topped with some soil/compost mixture. I just planted some cabbage, green peas, and spinach (or was that lettuce, lol), in the house and transplanted some cantaloupe and a couple of the lemon seedlings into bigger pots last night. It never ends. One step at a time...
1. The construction phase of the GH- south wall and raised bed
2. Other end of the raised bed, with one 55 gallon drum placed to be filled with water (as you can see, I couldn't wait to plant the corn!)
3. South wall (it would have support rebar through the piers into the ground, more blocks behind the piers as stanchions and hay bales outside the plastic around the whole thing.
4. Looking east - what a mess, huh?
5. I leveled each block and placed the six drums on the north side. Drums now are the load-bearing wall for the hoop/rail/board on that side
more in next post

This message was edited Dec 3, 2012 4:37 PM

Thumbnail by Solace Thumbnail by Solace Thumbnail by Solace Thumbnail by Solace Thumbnail by Solace
Monte Vista, CO(Zone 4a)

More pics October 28 (the building process began in August, but what took most of the time was rounding up materials, digging, leveling, and design work. The next one will be build with a 2x12 wood frame around the bottom, with a stud wall and header that's from 4 to 8 feet tall that the hoop will rest on. Next one, if I ever build another, will be higher so I can have shelves to use the vertical space. I still have a lot of vertical space in this one I haven't used, yet, but have to consider the change of the sun's direction for different seasons, and longevity of some plants like tomatoes that will just continue to grow up. Not having to anchor the hoop rail boards and build stanchions to make them studier would be a load off my mind. And the hoops would be a little more secure attached to the framed walls - but knowing me, I'd still anchor that puppy down with stakes and rope, lol
1. Wide shot, raised bed looking toward the southwest
2. Corn in the end of the raised bed, drums of water support board, angle iron rail, and hoop setting in the rail. Note to self: when the young man loads the 55 gallon drums, make sure he's chosen ones that are all the same height. We had to do some shimming.
3. Kentucky wonder beans I transplanted from the outside bed, along with zinnias, growing in the blocks
4. I used felt strips to protect the plastic from the metal rails. I also put felt on each end of the cattle panel hoops, with spray glue, before placing the plastic, to keep the metal from poking holes in the plastic. It's working great. We bent the plastic over the ends and used the spray glue to make a hem under of sorts- over the felt and then glued back to itself underneath about 4 inches. Plastic is stapled to the boards on the north, south, and west sides, and pic 4 shows where the end wall will go, under the hoop hanging over. Organic wheat bales are stacked inside and outside the plastic wall on the east with a slit cut for the door and some great tape holding the flap door. I just move a bale into the door opening to close it up at night. The hay has warmed the GH up considerably, stacked 2-high on the east and single rows along the south and west wall. I have two full size air mattresses, if I ever get them blown up, to place behind the barrels for insulation under the north side plastic.
5. The new chicken coop has cattle panels bent and resting against the barley bales I used for my strawbale garden last summer (heavy as all getout) and the second level will be the wheat straw bales. Chicken wire will cover the back and hoop, and then we'll trick our chickens into going into the outside yard they currently have while we pull away their current hoop to add to this end for a total 16' long coop that's 7' high. Fencing with cattle panels straight around the area, backed with snow fence will provide an outside run for them. We'll move their red heat lamp into the new one and then put four strands of our current electric fencing outside the fence. A bear killed a neighbor's dog this summer, down the road, and we have foxes, coyotes occasionally, etc. so can't take any chances. There will also be a chicken wire top that will go all the way from one side of the fence over the hoop and back down to the fence on the other side. (An owl with a six-foot wing span got my kitty lying on the bench a couple of years ago, so the topper will keep chickens in and predators like hawks, owls, and eagles out).

Never ends.... :) But it is fun to see things shaping up, each step. The Lord has blessed us with the ability to do this, and anyone could, with some planning. Just a single hoop (using several of the 4' x 16' cattle panels to make it any length you want) like this chicken coop could grow some great vegetable beds, too. Don't have to have a high tunnel to grow a great garden. Last summer I used just one hoop and had hay stacked around it two bales high, and the plants loved it. I only had a clear dropcloth as a covering, then, 3 mil plastic, and that avocado tree loved it. If I hadn't opened the plastic up during the day it would have gotten 110 degrees in there. (It did, one day, and wow it was sizzling in there).

quiltygirl, where there's a will, there's a way. I'd start with a simple one like the chicken coop one, if I were you, just to get an idea of how you want your permanent one to be designed. That's how I started.

Thumbnail by Solace Thumbnail by Solace Thumbnail by Solace Thumbnail by Solace Thumbnail by Solace
Monte Vista, CO(Zone 4a)

If we don't get to build a Rocket Mass heater in there this winter, I may have to add another little milk house heater. It gets down to -30 and -40 here in January/February. Lost my well pump one year.

Oh...did I mention that I want a waterfall in the next greenhouse? :)

Monte Vista, CO(Zone 4a)

It's so cold I can't sleep...

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Monte Vista, CO(Zone 4a)

I obviously spoke too soon...

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Lisle, IL(Zone 5a)


Phoenix, AZ(Zone 9a)

What frogy said...!

Monte Vista, CO(Zone 4a)

Lost the tomatoes, squash, and some other stuff. Makes me more determined to build a rocket mass heater for winter out there, or build the greenhouse inside the house. Sigh...very sad day here, my dog is in the hospital too, to make it not a good day at all.

Monte Vista, CO(Zone 4a)

The ice patterns are pretty, but Cecil B de Kitty is unhappy about not being able to see the birds. It's minus 24 degrees here. I know some folks like winter, but I do not.

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Phoenix, AZ

OMG I'm cold at 43 degrees . Can not imagine. How is the pup?

Monte Vista, CO(Zone 4a)

Fish_knees, he died on 12-12-12 after a blood transfusion at the veterinary hospital that didn't help him. Still heartbroken over losing my soul dog. Miss him soooo much.

Mesa, AZ

I am so sorry to hear of the loss of your dog. Our 4 footed furred children own our hearts and take pieces with them when they go. Someday you will meet again, at the Rainbow Bridge.



Phoenix, AZ

Im so very sorry xoxox. I lost my soul dog 3 years ago ; (
He was lucky to have you and you were lucky to have him

the Mountains, CO(Zone 4a)

Love your greenhouse.
I'd like to start one some time soon.
I live in the San Juan Mountain range of Colorado and cannot believe
the temperatures lately!

How expensive was it for you to make your greenhouse?
I'm looking for the most cost effective way to do it.

Monte Vista, CO(Zone 4a)

The materials cost around $500 and were bought over a period of months, in preparation for building it. It expanded the season, but I would like it to be a year-round greenhouse, so plans are to put a rocket mass heater in there for next winter. It uses thermal mass (sand or cob/adobe kind of material) to hold the heat, and if it is next to the barrels of water, then it will heat the barrels which will hold more heat than even stone or adobe. The rocket mass heater, especially for our northern climate, will make it warm all winter with just using about a cord of wood. They reburn the smoke, so all the emissions are steam and CO2. Do a youtube search for rocket mass heater. I want one in my house, too. I lost a lot of plants in November when it got down to -22 degrees outside. The two electric heaters just couldn't keep it warm enough. I would also suggest getting a clear swimming pool cover to put on the hoop to insulate it. Can't wait to get things growing out there, probably a month or two earlier than our June 15 planting date here. Since you live in the San Juans, which is the range on the west side of our valley, you should have plenty of sunshine - on days when the jets don't spray the particulates that spread out and dim the sky, that is. We used to have the most sunny days in winter, but that's all gone now, thanks to the powers that be.

Monte Vista, CO(Zone 4a)

Last month, I lost both my Hass and Cold Hardy Avocados to a -22 degree freeze in the greenhouse. Well, I thought they were lost. Stubborn as I am, I brought them inside and kept watering the miserable leafless/lifeless looking things. The cold hardy avocado had two or three half-blackened leaves hanging on for dear life before they dried up and began to fall off. I also had three that I had grown from seed, about a foot tall. Brought them in, too and the cats finished off the leaves before they could rot naturally. Well, lo and behold, the 6 foot tall Hass skeleton is putting out buds below the black top limbs, on the trunk. It's a grafted tree, and the graft is putting out bud/tiny limbs, too (so I will have two kinds of avocados on that tree, looks like) I haven't the heart to break off those lower buds. Even the roots are putting out buds. Crazy. The cold hardy has sprouted new limbs with leaves budding out, and the tiny home-growns are budding on the very tops. The big Hass has some centipedes in the soil, which kinda gives me the creeps with it being in the house, but I don't know how to organically get rid of them. I'd like to transfer all the trees to a hydroponic system, once I get it set up, but for now, I think I'm blessed. Hass isn't supposed to survive a hard freeze. Miracles happen!

No Central, AZ(Zone 7b)

good news Solace, about the avocados! With this being my first winter here, I am disconcerted about the amount of cold. Growing will be challenging and a new learning experience. In inland SoCal, this time last year my geraniums and petunias were blooming. Well, the geraniums are still blooming here, but everything is in pots in the kitchen. The shelves they are on are next to the back door with the doggy door and lots of extra cold air comes in there - had ice INSIDE on the door window a couple time. The plants seem to like it though and several are blooming. Guess that means they will need to stay in pots, to be brought back in next Nov.

Monte Vista, CO(Zone 4a)

Quiltygirl, you're already learning to deal with the cold, sounds like. I get ice on my doggy door sometimes, too. The utility room, where the pet door is, gets pretty chilly, so I keep my garlic in there. If I don't quit eating it, I'll have none to plant.

I've always thought that northern Arizona would be a nice place to live. I was tempted to take a radio station job in Flagstaff, once. I like pine trees.

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