On Tiny Gardens

People are often surprised when I tell them that Albuquerque has frigid winters. While it is true that we enjoy mild winters compared with northern climes, it does get very cold in December and January with nighttime temperatures routinely dipping into the teens. The mile-high elevation and close proximity to the 10,000-foot mountains means that we have some pretty wild temperature fluctuations: a 95-degree June day will transform into a 65-degree night. An added challenge is the small amount of precipitation we get – most of which comes in the form of monsoonal rains in July and August. Growing food here is not easy!

I’ve been an avid, organic gardener throughout my adult life. When I was home with our young children, the garden was large and bountiful! I had the time to pull weeds, ensure the watering was appropriate, prune, monitor for pests, and then harvest and preserve the food. That became more difficult once my career took off and the boys had numerous after-school activities requiring a full-time chauffeur. The garden suffered – both in size and bounty as I just did not have the time to devote to it.

Our garden has been moved numerous times to accommodate a dying irrigation well, as well as an obnoxious neighbor with a penchant for spraying toxic defoliants through the fence slats between our yards. It now resides right next to the house far from harm (or so I thought). It is the smallest garden I’ve ever had, but my schedule simply will not allow for anything larger. It really is the perfect size for two busy people and we supplement our produce with trips to farmers markets and a wonderful CSA.

Last summer my nice, little garden was going great until a new rescue dog joined our family. She thought I was such a wonderful lady to provide her with a large plot of soft, loamy dirt in which to dig and bury treats! Coupled with the fact that the yard’s toads sought daytime refuge in the garden … well, she just couldn’t resist and completely decimated it, violently yanking out the plants and seedlings and tossing them willy-nilly into the yard. Thankfully, Mr. Perfect built an impermeable fence to keep her out and I was back in business for the fall/winter garden which did quite well due to the mild winter.

I spent the winter going through virtual seed catalogs and plotting my spring and summer vegetable gardens – such a wonderful winter ritual for gardeners! I trundled down to my local garden store to purchase the seeds, bought some seedlings at farmers markets, and chatted with the fellow gardeners. My wonderful NYC cousins sent me packets of cucuzzi seeds because no proper garden can be without these giant, Sicilian gourds; these are growing up tall, sturdy cages and I look forward to their beautiful, white, delicate flowers. Mr. Perfect now grows our tomatoes and peppers using straw-bales, freeing up more of the tiny garden’s space for other crops. I’ve converted a long, narrow perennial bed into a sunflower garden for the bees and birds. Sunflowers make me happy and I’m looking forward to seeing their cheeriness outside of my kitchen window.

It’s time to chip our nails and get our hands dirty!

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