Getting Ready to Start Seedlings

Wow, December is almost gone which means planting time in my area of desert climate is just around the corner.  So, to get ready, I planned out my new garden, counted my seed needs, rounded up and will plant my seeds to meet all my needs.  Now I know there is the issue of germination rate and I still have not seen a good formula for calculating it.  The best advice is because it depends on the quality of your seeds.  Since mine this year are pretty good, I will plant and hope for the best.  Now, to achieve as much success as I can, I have picked some good quality potting soil (because I am not in the position of making my own … yet), a controlled temperature area to put the seed trays in, and my new fancy, home made light stand.  I am using a standard fluorecent bulb since that is all I have access to right now.  I have seen people achieve good results with them, so that is what I am going with for now.  To also achieve success, I have made the seed growing area neat, clean and asthetically attractive to my family, thus attaining domestic tranquility.  This way I am assured of real estate usage INSIDE that has controlled temperature qualities instead of having the area placed (thrown out?) OUTSIDE where it is cold.  🙂   The next step is decide when the last frost date occurs then count back 4-6 weeks and start my seedlings then.  I am not sure how to find that data yet as I can’t seem to find it on the Internet and the locals I ask don’t seem to know either.  It can snow here (it did just 2 weeks ago briefly) in January but also sometimes in February or March.  And there was the unusual year it snowed in May.  Well, I will venture a guess it will be in February sometime but will keep you updated.  Here are some pictures of my new seedling growing area.

Picture A

Seedling Growing Table and Light

Note this has the potential of being two story.  It can hold 4 trays of 72 seeds in each tray.  I may set-up a light below to help 2 more trays get growing. 

Here is a top view.

Picture B

Seedling Table and Light Top View

Personally, this is the most exciting time for me-planning and getting ready for a great garden.  Oh, I should add I am rounding up all my needed seedling numbers in case some don’t germinate.  I also am going to put only one type of seed in each plastic “6-pack” container (there are 12 in each container).  This way I don’t get the plants mixed up like I have done before!  I hope all goes well. 

To also prepare for a successful garden, I have been learning new companion planting ideas to try out.  Companion planting is where you put one plant next to another one when the combination can be good for both.  Sometimes one plant can help nurture the soil in a way another plant needs it (such as legumes trap nitrogen in the soil for corn) or one plant can repel the bugs which feast on another plant (like garlic or basil help tomatoes).  There are lots of video’s on Youtube for this and books as well.  I am getting pumped up about this years garden just writing about it!

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Cold Weather Comes

Well, it seems cold weather has come at last to my microlocation of a desert climate.  I noticed that my lettuce was not looking too spry when I went out in the morning.  I then noticed it was somewhat cold on the tile porch shade area where I had them.  Well, since they are in containers, I moved a couple around the corner to a sunnier, hotter spot and poof they looked much better.  So I moved all of them after a few more days experimenting and now they all looked better.  Then a week or so later, I noticed they were looking a little sad again.  I had built some portable greenhouses so I put the containers inside these and poof they looked better  again.  This helps them keep warmer at night or evening now.  I also put the smaller pots up off the ground a ways so the plants would get out of the cold air that settles at the bottom.  Even better the plants told me (sort of) by how they  looked.  Here are some images to illustrate my points!

Photo A

Large greenhouse open to catch the suns rays!

Photo B

large greenhouse all bundled up for the cool night!

Now when it gets hot I will reverse the order for them because these same plants wilted out here just a month or so ago, but loved the cool shade of the tile porch.  I guess I need to “listen to the plants” to see what they like or don’t like!

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The Adventures of Painting!

Hanging Container Holder Update-Painting!

Well, all three of the Hanging Container Holders (HCH) seem to be holding up so I decided the next step was to paint them.   But what color.  Hmm.  That is a tough one.  At first I thought green would be good, as there is not a lot of that around here and it would maybe encourage the plants to grow and look green too.   But, when I asked for input,  a friend of mine suggested brown.  I frowned in side at this suggestion.  “I am in a sea of brown,” I thought, “Why do I want more?”  Well, off to the little hole-in-the-wall hardware store to find GREEN paint for the HCH project.  Wow, I thought, won’t green look great on the blog.

Once arriving and establishing who could speak “Inglizi” and who could understand my broken Arabic sign-language, I asked for green paint.  The young man brought some out, opened the can and promptly took a little on his finger and swiped the wood counter.  A beautiful color I think he said in Arabic.  In broken English I heard, “Like grass.”  Well, I thought, if that is grass green, I think it best be left to be in the paint can.  It looked more like an off olive drab at best.  Hmm.  Ok, humility, adapt and overcome.  “Do you have any brown?” I ask in sign language, pointing to four or five brown items in the store.  After my helper had an animated with two other guys in the store, he goes back to the paint shelf and brings another can to me, opens it up and swips another finger of paint on the counter.  “I sure hope he doesn’t get in trouble with the owner with all this wet paint,” I thought.  I look down, and, well, I am sure somewhere in the world that would be brown, but to me it was very red looking brown.  “Lah”, I say with confidence, which means ‘no’, I wave my finger back and forth, shake my head and say, “Lah aahkmar” or no red.

Now, I realize at this point I am in trouble of losing the whole bridge of communication I have built with this very helpful young man and his friends, who are watching the whole thing with great interest.   The pressure builds.  Animated Arabic side conversations occur.  They are sure they k new my English word was brown but how come the Inglizi refused it?   What to do?  “Ah hah” I think.  I remember my training.  Stop, Think, Observe, Plan.  I quickly ask to see the green again.   He brings it back off the shelf, obediently opens it up and swaths another paint strip on the counter.  I look closely at it, Nope, that just looks too much like someone tossed their cookies.  The attendant, looks at me, looks at the new paint swath, and looks at me with a look of, “Does this Inglizi think the green color changed in the last few minutes?  Is he crazy?”

Ok, I did humility, STOP, and still I am not getting success.  Hmm, oh yes, A.A.O., Adapt And Overcome.  I look at him and, (speaking  loud enough for his friend who understands English to hear), “Do you have another brown?”  His friend, quickly spins his translation wheels in his mind, thinks he understands, rips out some Arabic and his friend goes back to the shelf, looks around, reads lots of labels, then triumphantly pulls one out, brings it over to me and, to make sure I understand, he holds the can up to me, points slowly, and carefully reads out “CHO-CO-LATE” in clear, LOUD English.  After all, we all know if someone doesn’t understand what you just said, say it next time LOUDER!

I know he needs a reward to show him he is on the right track and to preserve international relations, so I give him the universal sign for success, I smile REAL BIG!  He opens the can with a patient look a parent gives his child which seems to say, “Why didn’t you ask for this in the first place.  This is what you should have asked for. ”  (He is right, but more on that later.)  He opens the can, sticks his finger in and adds more to his counter artwork for the very nice but seemingly ignorant Inglizi.  I look down and there is the perfect color of brown!  I mean it is beautiful.  It is perfect.  I mean I didn’t even want brown and it just excites me to think of painting it on my HSH’s in just a few minutes.  Now we are all happy, I am grinning and saying “Na’amb, na’amb.  Shokran, shorkan” (Yes, yes, thank you, thank you), the ‘gang’ are all happy, backslapping each other, and the attendant knows, as he puts the lid on (tightly I notice) that he has made a sale .  Yeah, truly successful international relations between everyday people.  I quickly order a brush and thinner, and after paying up with cash, I exit the store with farewells of “Ma salama!” and smiles coming from all of us.    Whew.  I made it through another one.

Now what would have made this a lot easier is if I had known the words “booni” which is brown with a masculine ending.   Important since I was talking to a male!  If I wanted to get really advanced I could have asked  for “booni chocolatay” or chocolate brown after seeing the booni ahkmar.  I need to be better prepared!

Well, now on to the point of this blog entry, painting the HRH’s!  Thought I had forgotten didn’t you.  Well, I got home, painted the HRH’s and they looked REAL good.  I wasn’t even finished painting them yet and three people came by and said, “Wow, that looks real good!”  Success.  Now, if I had stayed with my green idea, well, maybe no success.  You be the judge.  To me, I did the right thing by practicing humility, S.T.O.P. and  A.A.O.

Here they are from different angles.

(Photo A)



Wow, what a difference it makes!

(Photo B)

Another angle of the HRH's

(Photo C)

The original HRH freshly painted!

Until next time, “Ma salama!”

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More Hanging Container Holders

More Hanging Container Holders

Well, It has been a week or so and my first Hanging Container Holder did not fall off the wall.  I personally take this as a success, so I decided to build two more. Here they are hanging on the long wall to our porch area.  Photo A shows the Holders over our Kitty Kat Hotel and Photo B shows the porch area with now three holders … and the new Kitty Kat Hotel!

(Photo A)

More Hanging Cointainer Holders!

Notice the side bracing on the far right holder?  Adapt and overcome.  I was down to the nubbies of my wood scrap pile and I could not exactly replicate the first holder.  So, I put all the wood and an empty holder out in front of me, pulled up a chair, sat back, and pondered my predicament.  I soon found out I could not complete the task.  So I set it aside and went to work on one my other projects.  A couple of days later our landlord came by and wanted to know if we wanted a busted vanity for scrap wood.  Hello!  I sure do.  After carrying it down the stairs, I soon went to work pulling wood off it and “viola!” I had enough wood to finish my third official Hanging Container Holder and it looks great.  Well, if you don’t look real close where I split the wood a little.  That’s OK, I went to the local hole-in-the-wall hardware store and got some official chocolate brown paint.  That should cover all sorts of oopses!  While I am at it I will probably paint the sides of the new Kitty Kat Hotel so I can up the rent on the ol’ cat.

(Photo B)

All Three Hanging Container Holders doing their thing!

So far so good!  A definite improvement on floor space and it starts to make the porch area look a little lush here in my little desert environmental section.

Next step-painting.

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Hanging Container Holder

Hanging Container Holder

Marhaba! (welcome in Arabic) If you are new here to Desert Patrol Blog, I discuss and show photos of desert climate gardening and traveling.  Here is a project I am working on.  I have a lot of plant containers and not a lot of horizontal room.  I am renting a flat that has a small porch area and I have no experience putting things into plaster walls. Plus, the landlord may not like permanent holes in the wall.  What to do?   Here is the project area shown in Photo A below.

(Photo A)

What to do here?

PROBLEMS Section!

1.   Floor space is limited, but I want to grow a lot of food plants.

2.  How do I fill the white wall place with plants in a rental where I don’t want to mar the plaster wall?

3.  See the white 5 gallon bucket at the photo bottom?  I want to keep that on the floor (it is pretty heavy) but also have the horizontal planter container here as well.

4.  I can’t block the steps as that is how I get in and out!

SOLUTION Sectioin!

If you read my blog post on Water Usage, then the first thing I do is get a proper mindset:

*Humility, not Pride

*I Will Survive

*S.T.O.P. (Stop, Think, Observe, Plan)!

Whew, got that one done.  Hmm, now … oh yes,

*A.A.O. (Adapt And Overcome)

Well, since I can’t go sideways …

Solution #1.  Think vertical! Building up is a plus here.

Solution #2 .   The first thing that came to mind was to hang something on the wall that easily comes off and not permanently mark the wall.

Solution #3.  Build over the top of the bucket that leaves room for the tomatoes!  Why keep the white bucket?  Because it is an integral part of my new official Low Water Usage Plan, critical to my hopefully successful desert climate garden.  Thus the white bucket is my Official Global Bucket (see below for more on this) which has carrots but will have tomatoes next year that will hopefully grow 1.5 – 2 meters tall, not quite covering the wall, leaving room at the top for more plants.

Solution #4.  Build something that can be built to any width, thus narrow enough so I can easily get in and out yet grow enough plant to meet my needs.

Well, what I came up with this in Photo B.

(Photo B)

Hanging Container Holder doing its thing!

I left this hanging container holder unpainted so you could see how it was built.  While doing this I lamented the fact I was doing this with just a small hand saw and a tape measure.  The wall is pretty unequal too so I figure they match!  Nothing precise here but it comes out pretty close to ok and is functional.  With a nice square and a small table saw, you could build this into quite a gem.  I look forward to painting it a brown to go with the desert climate I live in.  The container just sits in place and can easily be removed.  I used scrap wood, nail’s for most of it, but the top area has all the weight pulling on it so I used screws there.  The small horizontal wood piece in the front keeps it from sliding forward just in case.  Here are some more photo angles.

(Photo C)

Hanging Container Holder side view

Notice how the hanger rests on the uneven plaster wall.  I wanted the weight of the container, initially a negative force that would pull nails out of the plaster wall, and became a positive force.  The vertical pull of the container actually pulls the hanger part down onto the wall to make it more secure.  This thing is real solid on here, hardly moves, but you can quickly pull it off and move it if you want.

(Photo D)

Hanging Container Holder open view

Photo D whows the Hanging Container Holder sans container.

(Photo E)

Hanging Container Holder bottom view

Looking up at the bottom to show how I reinforced it.  Notice the sky line.  The building on the left is the same building I live in and the one on the right is the neighbors.  Close quarters in this desert climate location!

(Photo F)

Hanging Container Holder at home!

Here it is in action (in the upper middle area) looking quite at home hanging in the front porch area.

Something to keep in mind here also.  I just moved into this place about a week ago and am having fun placing plants in different areas to see how they do.  In this very hot and very, very dry climate, these plants tell me sometimes within hours if they like it or not.  The lettuces, flowers, and anything that is a green, leafy plant LOVES this porch, so this porch is hopefully going to go through a lot of changes.

See the far left window?

(Photo G)

Global Buckets at home!

Below it are the Global Buckets and I since cut down the vertical watering pipes.   Here is a close up of them.

(Photo H)

Global Buckets working around the Globe.

So far they work real well if the plant roots go down enough.  As far as water usage, they rarely need refilling here so I judge them a water saver success!

This is the Global Buckets homepage,  http://www.globalbuckets.org/ .  Next year they will have tomatoes and I plan on tying them off to the window safety grills.  Global Buckets are a poor man’s (that’s me!) version of the fabulous Earthbox.  Here is the Earthbox homepage, www.earthbox.com .  They are incredible inventions but I am not able to afford them or get them easily delivered here in my little desert climate environment.

Oh, in the background, see the trash can?

Trash Can Water Reservoirs

They are my ‘water reservoirs’ that I currently use to hand water the plants.  I have lids on them (very important so I don’t lose water to evaporation).  Every time I lift the lids their insides are covered with moisture and I don’t want to waste that water!  I carefully knock the water back into the can and use it to feed the plants.  Hand watering is very inefficient water system, proven in test situations done by many universities, but I am stuck with it for now.

But I have another big plan!  To be more water efficient, I am planning three hydroponic vertical water systems AND a gravity fed drip system using one of those trash cans on the roof as a water reservoir.    Here is the link for the hydroponic system: http://www.container-gardening-for-food.com/hydroponic-growing.html .  I am curious to see how well it works here.  It looked good on the video!   I suspect it will be very successful here, after I figure out some things with it.  Like how to build it and get it up and running properly!   I am still gathering supplies for it, quite a task since I am trying to get as much by ‘urban hunting’ as possible.  This is also known as scrounging in all sorts of places.  It also requires that I am humble enough to ask people, “Are you throwing that out?  Can I have it?”  It is amazing what people throw out.  I have built entire livestock shelters that withstood heavy inclement weather out of things people were taking to dumps or piling on burn piles.

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A funny thing happened on the way to the bathroom …

Water-A precious resource in a Desert Climate

See, in my current desert climate living situation I have water, which I am very grateful for, but it is rationed.  The first week I was here I said in my mind, “It is rationed?  What does that mean?”  I soon found out.   You see, I set up my home in a desert climate assuming I knew how to acquire water.  Instead, I was oblivious to the whole situation of how one gets water enough in this particular desert climate to fulfill all my needs, including living.  Big mistake.  One that was not lethal so I am able to share the story because I lived through it.  Whew, I avoided the stranger finding my dead body in the desert scenario.  Well, here is what I learned. The government turns the water on for about 30 hours and then it is turned off for the rest of the week.  If you run out, well, then it is bargaining time with neighbors or getting bottled water!  Well, the first week here, unbeknownst to me, I moved in on the main water day and was busy drinking lots of available water while arranging the furniture and unpacking.  Over the next few days I thought, “Wow, this is a great new place.  Shade, plenty of room, water is plentiful so I can take showers and wash laundry all week … until reality hit four days later when I discovered something important, no water came out the faucet!  “No problem,” I thought,  that is why I have landlords.   See, they take care of these things so I don’t have to.  (Does this sound like a wrong mindset?)  I talked to the owners and they said, “No problem.  We will turn on the well pump and refill your apartment reservoir.  Just wait about ten minutes and you can flush the toilet.” Great, confirmation I had the correct mindset after all.   An hour later, still waiting for water to come out the faucet after three tests, there was a knock at the door.  Yup, it was the owner.  “So sorry,” they said, “The well is dry!”  “Ok,” I say, trying not to sound worried, “Is there a place in the neighborhood to go to the bathroom?”  I never received a direct answer, just “Wait two days and water will come back on.  Ma salama!” and they were gone.    Now this is a problem.  Two days!  I have to go NOW.  I am thirsty NOW.  Argh!  Time to get proper mindset.  Humility, next  S.T.O.P.  (Stop, Think, Observe, Plant) Whew, glad I remembered those. Now that I can think clearly, time for A. A..O.  (Adapt And Overcome).   Plan B was then to find bottled water and water ration.  No flushing number 1 and hold out number 2 till lots of number 1’s are in the toilet.  I was blessed with a good source of bottled water only two blocks away.  I also quickly scheduled my next two days activities around which library, gas station, or shopping mall had a bathroom and when would I need to do a number 2 in the toilet!   I will survive.

Week number 2 in the apartment was very different. One day of the week is now designated “Water Day” and everything revolves around getting water.  If it doesn’t involve water, the activity gets assigned to another day.  Lots of filling up water reservoirs large and small in the 30 hour window and no flushing number 1’s all week.  I also made sure all laundry and showers were done in the 30 hour window, with sponge baths the rest of the week.  So far it is working but I have big plans!  I hope to have the main apartment reservoir replaced with a larger one.  The water is expensive too after a reasonable amount is used, so I want to conserve the budget as well.  I want to add that, from what I can tell, the government water rationing policy here is very reasonable and living comfortably is easy to do.  I did a little research and in my desert climate, 85% of the water is for agriculture, 8% for industrial use and 7% for domestic use.  They just want people to think smart in water usage so everyone can have enough.  Yet, that could take some time.  Just the other day, during our neighborhood “water day” I saw people out washing their cars with litres and litres of water flowing into the ground.  Sigh.  Well, first things first and hopefully we will all be better users of water including me.  My first thought when I saw the agricultural use was, “Why don’t they use drip irrigation?”  I will have to investigate that since I don’t remember seeing any here.  The average income is not poverty level, with many people doing quite well actually, but the average farmer is not quite that wealthy looking.  Maybe they cannot afford drip.  Hmm.  Well, something to check out.  I know when farmers use open ditch or large sprinkler irrigation there is a major amount of water wastage, let alone the soil erosion that occurs which will destroy good farmland.   A good case is America where I am told a hundred or so years ago the topsoil was measured in feet but now in inches.  I have read where heavy water waste and soil erosion is going on in developing nations who adopt western agriculture methods, BUT that is another discussion!

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Adapt And Overcome

Usually, after humility and  S.T.O.P. have been applied, A.A.O. which stands for Adapt And Overcome comes in real handy.  In other words, stop beating your head against a wall.  Look up, look right or left. Say, look at that, the wall ends a little to my left.  How about I go around the wall since going through it with my head beating is not working!  I have to laugh at myself as I so easily beat my head against the wall.

This is good to remember when you are in a situation where what you want to do is not working.  Everyone watching knows isn’t going to work, but you want to keep doing it anyway because you just know you are right and it should work.  Sigh.  I have been here many times.  When I see others doing it I think, “Wow, do I look that silly when I do this?”  The answer is yes, I do.  Remember the story of the young lawyer?  When I stop doing what I am doing (experience), admit it isn’t working (humility), step back and look at the situation. I can then change my behavior to do such and such or so and so, it usually works (success).  I adapt what I am doing to fit the situation and by so doing I usually overcome the obstacle and go on successfully.  If it is something I need to succeed at, I keep adapting till I overcome.

Adapt And Overcome.

Simple, but it is amazing how hard this can be when you get “stuck” in your mind while in a situation.

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