I’m an ever-learning home gardener in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Our seasons are extreme, with high winds, blistering hot summers and frigid winters. My cycle of planting requires very little effort and is water wise, employing simple cold frames from late Fall to mid Spring. I find that the cold frames considerably increase the length and yield of harvest from my tiny garden. My three hens also provide me with manure to use several times a year to add nitrogen back to the soil–meet them here. With chicken manure, I dilute a scoop of it in a large bucket of water as it is a famously strong source of nitrogen and can burn plants if left undiluted.
I begin the year with a heavy early spring planting of greens (chard, kale and lettuce at the minimum), herbs (cilantro, parsley, dill and thyme), beets, carrots and celery.
Depending on my wildly varying work schedule at the hospital, I will add as many cucumbers, melons, tomatoes, squashes, and peppers as I can manage. I always have at least three large pots with basil plants, which thrive with big drinks of water and high summer temperatures. A trick with my basil is to heavily harvest several times a season: I’ve found the more I pick, the more they flourish.
Fall is the time for another heavy planting of greens (chard, kale and lettuce), beets, turnips, carrots, celery, and sets of onion, shallots and garlic. I also absolutely love planting violas (often called Johnny jump-ups) and pansies, as these edible flowers can be used fresh or candied to garnish treats year-round.
Throughout the cold season, I pick greens, herbs, fresh violas, and baby garlic/shallot/onion to cook with. There is nothing quite as satisfying this time of year as eating fresh greens. My cold frame makes this possible! It’s a series of arches over the plot (metal cattle fencing) spaced four feet apart, covered with 4mm thick plastic sheeting and weighed down at the corners with bricks. I’m sure to give the plot a big water once a week, and if the temperature is forecast to hit over 55F, I’ll open the plastic sheeting to avoid overheating the plants. That’s it!