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June 30th, 2008

You Aren't Going to Believe This . . .

bio_lesliedLas Vegas, NV.  It’s 4 pm in the hot Mojave Desert.  The candy thermometer that sits on the top block of a raised veggie bed displays a temperature of 138F degrees in the sun.  Next to, and up close to the blocks, the pepper plants are growing big and producing like bunnies . . . lots of blossoms and lots of peppers in all sizes.  Here is a picture of some of the several test varieties I am growing.  Notice the little ant on the pale green pepper?  Soon he will leave on his own as there’s no sweet aphid honeydew for him on these plants.

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All the 2008 test veggies are thriving in our heat.  However . . . this test gardener isn’t; I only go into the garden for 2 – 3 minutes at a time in the afternoons.
-Leslie in Las Vegas

June 24th, 2008

June 24

bio_donOne of our main projects these days is creation of a labyrinth from painted urban rubble, on a weedy part of the property beside the parking lot, just made a bigger problem because the police asked us to move a fence. There’s a benefit – painting rubble turns out to be very popular and open to all, as you can see from this young artist at work.

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We are a beehive of activity in the garden these days, stimulated by the generosity of Organic Gardening Magazine, Aveeno, Nature’s Path and Seeds of Change. Their beautification grant, accompanying the grant for our new cistern, is helping us tackle long-troublesome areas like that spot beside the parking lot  in very creative ways that involve everyone. It’s what our Center is all about – the hope and engagement are, in their own way, as important as the food we serve. Of course, we need both eats and inspiration.

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Here’s a quick look at our inner courtyard, with daylilies coming on strong. Just outside the station, you can see the growing pile of stones for the labyrinth. The family walking past has a story to tell, which is posted on the garden blog here.

Meanwhile, we have an excellent, partly volunteer crop of sunflowers going crazy in the garden. Hope we can botanically wheedle them into flowering this beautifully through the big cistern dedication event July 10 at 6 PM, at the Center. Don’t know how the doo rag got on the bottle tree, maybe it wanted to keep the hot sun off it’s head. Tomatoes are coming on strong as well, though some varieties are showing a bit of blossom end rot  in the first ‘maters to size up, with the variations in rain (and uneven watering we do down here), plus probably our soil could use a higher calcium level. We didn’t lime this year, which adds Ca as well as raises pH. Some ‘mater varieties, of course, handle the stress much better than others. I notice that early fruits tend to be affected more than later ones. No signs of blight, though, which is good. The game of chasing smokers out of the garden has begun again, an annual epic where I get to explain about tobacco mosaic virus at least 3 times a day. No one has yet tried to smoke the tomatoes, though.

For more stories and pics of this week’s doings in the Urban Ministry garden, and our gospel choir, please visit the blog at http://urbanministrycenter.wordpress.com, or via the Urban Ministry site (where you can also read about our soccer team) at www.urbanministrycenter.org, click on ‘blogs’.

PS: Very good garden news – it rained this weekend! Now, I need to get back over to the Center, rumor has it that the cistern is there!
“Looks like a big, black silo.” Said Jason, our facilities director this morning by phone.

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June 16th, 2008

Veggie Tales

bio_lesliedHi All, Leslie in Las Vegas here.

I have many little squashes and melons, and I think some eggplants and peppers . . . and triple digit temperatures now.  It’s heating up in the desert.   It’s 104 on my porch right now.  Out in the garden it’s much, much hotter.  The thermometer blew over in wind last week . . . face down, of course . . . nuts, and I can’t read it.  It’s too hot to pick up, so I will wait ’til after dinner (dark), to turn it over.

I just finished resetting my irrigation clocks by adding some minutes to the morning watering and also adding another cycle at noon.  The plants are getting bigger . . . more water is needed for them as they grow.  I usually wait to see what time they get limp, and this is when I go around and adjust the irrigation clocks.  Today the veggies got limp at 2 o’clock and we still have a several hours of heat and sun left in the day.  This meant I need another frequency period to help them get through the hot afternoons.  By early summer I will be watering them 3 times a day, at 6am, noon and 6pm . . . 6-12-6, it sounds like an NPK number.

The heat really makes them grow fast and they are looking pretty good.

By the way, the Heartland tomatoes (not an OG test variety), are loaded with fruit and I picked a few more this morning.  Stupice (stew-peach-ka) is chugging along doing what it’s supposed to do, and we eat them every day.  Tomorrow morning I will go out with my electric toothbrush and make like a bee.  I seem to get a more prolific harvest when I vibrate the blossom petals.  I will do this to the peppers, too.

I’ll take some pictures in a few days.  Tonight I have to treat the new growth with some Die Bug.  I see some evidence that the grasshoppers are still here.  Does anyone know how long grasshoppers live? I don’t remember any issues with them in previous years and so far, they are the only uninvited visitors in my garden . . . I think.  But . . .  I’m ready to go hunting tonight.  I’ve got my Die Bug, my glass of wine, my radio, my little flashlight and my pruners . . . I am good to go.

Leslie

June 16th, 2008

Urban Ministry Garden

bio_donIt’s been a busy week at the Urban Ministry community garden, getting plants in and continuing to gear up for the cistern dedication. We’re grappling with the idea of what “beautification” means in the modern landscape, especially at the Center. Keats said “Truth is beauty, beauty truth”, but do we take our model for truth to be the complexities of nature or the aesthetics of our culture (such as they are).

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For more and pics, visit our blog for an update:urbanministrygarden.wordpress.com.

June 13th, 2008

Weeping Santa Rosa Plum Tree

bio_lesliedA new variety to the Las Vegas plant palate that I began testing about 4 years ago.  I love standing inside this weeping plum, it makes a cozy room draped with fruit.

They have just approached ripening and now I am going out to harvest some before the birds get to them.  I’ll finish ripening them in the kitchen.

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