My family and I had lots of fun and excitement this summer. We were able to get away on vacation to New York, where I spent time getting to know my in-laws, and do some sightseeing; we got a chance to beat the heat by getting out of Phoenix to go fishing in Payson; and we took some day trips to Sedona and Jerome. Of course we can’t leave out the fact that our entire family has caught Pokemon fever, and we spent lots of time at our favorite parks trying to catch ’em all!
During our time in New York we spent a week upstate surrounded by tall trees and rolling fields – far from what we have in Arizona! The kids enjoyed swimming in the pond, riding around on quads and playing with sparklers on the fourth of July.
I want to share one of my favorite memories of this summer. While visiting New York we spent the better part of a day exploring New York City. One of the most intense moments of my life, right after witnessing first-hand the Berlin wall come down right in front of me, was to go and visit the 9/11 memorial. I could remember listening to the attacks on the radio, yet, in reality the attacks seemed so far away from Phoenix. Sarina shared what it was like to see the smoke on the horizon. Her uncle shared his story of being in Manhattan on the actual day, what it was like for him getting out of the city, only to return the following day and set up the communication post in the city. His team established the call center for families who were missing their loved ones. With the information they collected they assisted rescue efforts in the attempt to locate survivors.
While at the 9/11 Memorial Sarina was overcome with emotion and at that moment I snapped this picture. It reminded me that not all was lost for humanity and that there was still hope and love.
Our trip to Payson was full of adventure! We went hiking, swimming, and Sarina and I took the kids fishing with my dad. A more perfect day could not be had. Everyone enjoyed being out in the fresh air, away from the pollution and heat of the valley. The only downer of the whole trip was when my mother tripped and fell, and ended up breaking her leg. She’s been such a trooper, getting around as best as she can with a big cast on. Fortunately, she has only two weeks left until it comes off!
Onto more good stuff – the garden! There are many moments in adulthood, that you sit and ponder the age old cliche, “Where did the time go?” I think summer vacation is a perfect example of that scenario. This summer was an amazing time of adventure, learning new things, exploring, and rest. Regretfully all good things must end, and the routine of school and work once again must resume. The garden gets neglected as Arizona temperatures maintain a grizzly 110 degrees for the months of July and August. Our plants flourished underneath the protection of the sun shades, however they also blocked the bees from pollinating our crops, preventing the plants to produce to their full potential. Eventually the dreaded squash beetle came swooping in, destroying what the sun had not. With the old garden pulled out, a new planting season nears.
For the majority of us that have raised garden beds in Arizona, the cost of purchasing bags upon bags of organic soil can be exuberant, and after reading the labels of “organic” pesticides I am leary to read the labels of the soil. So the question remains, “How do I prepare my soil?” Most soil in Arizona is very clay based; it’s rock hard, and doesn’t drain properly. This often leads to root rot, and roots not establishing properly. Here are a few things I do to help keep the soil quality at the perfect consistency:
Till your soil. Regardless of what type of soil you have this is always the first step. Clear the soil of roots, rocks, and break up the dirt clods. There are many types of tools that you can utilize for this step based on the size of your garden, physical ability and budget. My favored tools for this project are a garden claw or a good old fashioned pitch fork.
Add organic matter. This can be confusing and slightly costly, if you’re not sure what do infuse into your soil. You can use manure, organic compost, and wood chips. Our keyhole garden has it’s own composting system built into the center, but we have a free-standing compost bin going for our other garden.
Mix in gypsum or sand. Sand will help the soil to drain properly and prevent your plant roots from rotting. Gypsum is dehydrated calcium sulfate, and it helps to break down dense clay when it’s reconstituted in water. It works double time by also removing excess sodium from your soil, and adding calcium, a necessary nutrient for any garden.
Re-till your soil. Turning over your soil 10-12″ deep is ideal. This will make sure you’re even distributing all the good stuff you added to your garden, and will naturally aerate the soil.
Rake, until your ground is as level as possible.
By now you’re ready to replant your garden. Prepping your soil should be super easy, with the right tools. Be sure to leave your comments to let us know what you think, or there are other ways that you get your garden ready for planting season!