Experimental Garden

All of this is the result of several decisions my wife and I made as we were packing the house in preparation for selling our home and looking for a new place to live.

We decided to pack everything, store it, move it and then, after we found a hew home, bring it up. From there we would bring in what we needed and hold onto the rest of the stuff. The things we decided we wold *never* use, but were in good condition, we would sell or donate. The idea was to not need to buy something that we had. To keep the storage costs down, I build some shelves so that everything could be stacked in the storage unit. Each unit was filled left to right, back to front and top to bottom. Opening the storage unit roll-up door revealed a literal wall of boxes. We managed to move the contents of a 2,000 square foot house, a 900 square foot garage, a 100 square foot shed, all fairly full of stuff, into 500 square feet (or 5,000 cubic feet) of storage unit space.

The place we found was in USDA plant zone 5 (our old place was zone 10) and we moved in too late to start a proper garden. The huge zone change also means we need to do some learning-experimenting to figure out what will grow at our new home.

Remember how “we packed everything”? Well, I pulled out of storage seven large plant pots. By large, they are 3 feet across the top, 2-1/2 feet across at the bottom and 3-1/2 feet tall. I also had a couple of rolls of wire fence/screen, several T-posts (metal posts for barbed wire fences) and many pieces of rebar. All I had to do was get some soil to put into the pots and get the plants. The hardware store, which is also a garden store, had some left over large plant starts, so I bought them; a bell pepper, a tomato, a jalapeno pepper, a crookneck squash, a cilantro plant and two serrano peppers. The total cost for filling my old truck’s bed with soil, and the plants, was just over $35.

We are already getting food from the plants. It’s obviously not enough to make an impact on our grocery bill, or to even cover the $35 I spent, but we are learning. For instance, the black tailed jack rabbits are trying to kick over the metal screening, but, so far the T-posts and rebar are holding the metal screening in place. I’ve also learned that it’s warm enough that the cilantro is going to seed.

While we do have an *excellent* well (more than15gpm) that supplies all of our water needs, I’m sensitive to the fact that we live in a desert, so I’m going to investigate plants that have adapted to the desert environment. Since they get no water, except for the rains, I’m expecting I will not need to “spend” (much) water on them.

There is an organization in Tucson, Arizona, called Native Seeds. They sell seeds of food plants, and other useful plants, that like my nearby sunflowers, have successfully adapted to the desert climate and soils. Native Seeds’ website is at https://www.nativeseeds.org/ I look forward to trying out their seeds next year. I’m sure I will need to do some work to grow “their” plants, but I’m hoping the effort will not be as intensive as growing plants that are adapted to some different environment.

I keep hearing about potential food shortages. Both “the left wing” and “the right wing” media like to showcase stories that attract viewers-readers so they can sell advertising and I feel both use fear to attract users…I haven’t decided if the shortage stories are “fear” or real. Even if the stories are “fear” or even if there were stories were about how there will be record harvests of *everything*, I still want to have a garden.

My dad used to tell me, “Prepare for the worst as best as you can and hope for the best. That way you will never be surprised or disappointed”.

By the way. The well. Right now I’m a bit nervous about it. If there is an electricity outage, we’re out of water, except for the 30 gallons of bottled water (and the water in the 50 gallon water heater) we have in the house. So far the electricity has “gone out” four times since we’ve moved here. Fortunately each outage has been no longer than 10 minutes.

A friend is giving me a 10kva propane-gasoline generator and a manual transfer switch, which will do for a short term solution. This is free except for my labor and fuel. The longer term solution is a solar and/or wind power system to generate electricity to operate the well. This would cost me a few thousand dollars and my labor. The ultimate solution would be a second well using a windmill to pump the water to the surface. This would cost in excess of $30,000. The “as best as you can” part of my dad’s advice applies here, so, after getting the generator connected, I’ll work on the solar/wind system.

It’s Really Done Part 2

We just received an email that the property deed, showing we are now the owners of the property, has been presented to the county recorder’s office and that the keys to the house are being brought to us by our real estate agent.

So, we are no longer homeless and we are now officially writing in the new chapter of “our life’s book”.

Tomorrow we will remove the camper from our truck and start bringing up our furnishings (and antique Jeeps) in a borrowed 25 foot (7.5 meter) trailer.

I am going to make sure I bring up the dozen *huge* pots in the first load as it is “about now” to be placing plants, like tomatoes and peppers, outside.


I haven’t decided if this is a truck or garden post.


1957 Jeep FC-170.  From the Jeep Forward Control Wikipedia article

Today I transplanted Yellow Pear tomatoes and Serrano peppers.

Over time I have found that using fifteen huge flower pots as a sort of movable raised bed garden works better than anything else I’ve tried.   During the summer, the sunshine and heat become intense enough that the tomato plants stop producing and moving the plants into the partial shade of our orange tree solved the problem.

What does this have to do with a Jeep truck?

Well, every few years I replace the soil in the pots and this year was one of those “every few years”.  It takes 1800 pounds (800 kilos) of soil to fill those pots and my truck, (like the one pictured above) is perfect for the job.  Unlike any other 3/4 ton truck I’ve had, it’s narrow enough that I can drive it into the back yard and avoid using a wheelbarrow.

An Experiment

I had a tomato plant in a huge pot at my mom’s house.  It was a Stupice Tomato, which is an heirloom variety of tomato.  Heirloom means that the seeds will grow into plants that produce more of the same kind of tomatoes…in this case, Stupice tomatoes.

Anyway, I saved one very ripe tomato and last week I smashed/smeared it over a large area of a paper towel so the seeds could dry.  Today I’m going to plant the seeds and see what happens.  The top of the refrigerator is warm, so hopefully that will help.

I put the pot right next to the door, so mom can water the plant, check for worms and gather the tomatoes.  It’s good for her to do something and the tomatoes are good for her.  Last year, when the plant was producing a lot of tomatoes, she was very proud to give some to me.

Like I’ve said earlier, if you asked anyone “really old” to make a list of things they fear the most, being a burden and not being useful (probably two ways of saying the same thing) would be at the top of the list.  Growing some of your own food and giving it to others…..what could be better?

Thank you mom.