Introducing Arizona Urban Ark: A Family Micro-Farm

Our new adventure is underway!

Visit our new home at  arizonaurbanark.com then make sure to sign up on that web page to receive notice of each and every new blog post.  Even though you are currently following us on this page you will need to resign up on the new page since I haven’t figured out how to transfer email address from this page to the new one.

You will not want to miss the new adventures of our urban farm family’s move to a country micro-farm.  Join us on that adventure!  Plus you can learn with us as we adapt our skills sets to a new working environment.

You can also follow Arizona Urban Ark on Facebook.  The Facebook page will focus on implementing urban farming in the Sonoran Desert, pursuing homestead skills, and investigate the diverse world of plants and heritage breed animals.   It will include posts from reliable sources as well as our blog.  The goal is to provide an informational center that will be helpful to urban farmers and homesteaders.

If you like pictures, you can also follow Arizona Urban Ark on Instagram.

Thanks for taking the time to following Arizona Caretaker over the last several years!  Now you can get in on the ground level of our new adventures.  So thank you in advance for taking the time to now follow us as Arizona Urban Ark!

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The Start of a New Adventure

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.  So throw off the bowliness.  Sail away from the safe harbor.  Catch the trade winds in your sails.  Explore. Dream. Discover. — Mark Twain

Yes, I know the blog has been silent for the last six months.

It all started when we decided to try and take the blog to the next level.  Yes, we were experimenting with vlog and other social media.  Then we discovered others were using the name of our blog on other social media arenas.  We learned a good lesson in business skills on that one 😦

We were trying to figure out how to relaunch with a new name, when we came to a decision, time to sell our property after 21 years and pursue our dream.  So at the end of February we sold our house and became homeless.  No, no that wasn’t our dream, just the way it happened.  However today, we close on our new property which is truly a homestead or some would call it a micro farm or hobby farm, but to us its our dream house.

Stay tuned, if I get motivated we may relaunch under a new name and into new media.  So yes, you to can laugh and learn along with us as embark on our new adventure!

 

Ultra Extreme Gardening

Hey you forget to tell us how you upped your game and started ultra extreme gardening?  Um, so I did.  Life got a little busy.

So what is ultra extreme gardening?  Well, if trying to grow normal fruits and vegetables in the Sonorian desert is considered extreme gardening, then growing something outside the norm would be ultra extreme gardening.

What did you plant?  Some tropical trees.

What?  Yes, tropical trees.  It was a spontaneous purchase.  My wife and son had been doing some research and decided it was what they wanted in the urban farm.

Normally, the ground is supposed to be prepared 90 days before planting.  However, in our case the ground was specially prepared and the trees went in on April 30, 2016.

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Digging the first hole for one of the trees.

The first tree was a Coconut Cream Mango.

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Examining the Coconut Cream Mango before planting.
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Coconut Cream Mango Tree

Soon after planting my son advised me that during the first year it is recommended that the tropical trees have filtered sun or shade covering.  He claimed that after the first year they should be okay without.  So up went a temporary shade structure.  Only problem was the tree outgrew the shade structure and fried the leaves that were touching it.  So we had to improvise a new shade structure.

Temporary shade structure over the Coconut Cream Mango tree.
Temporary shade structure over the Coconut Cream Mango tree.

Today the Coconut Cream Mango tree has grown to about seven feet tall.  About a month ago the branches were growing upward.  Then after a wind storm caused the branches to look like some one sat on it.  So we staked the limbs in an attempt to cause it to grow upward.

The Coconut Cream Mango Tree as of September 20, almost 6 months after planting.
The Coconut Cream Mango Tree as of September 20, almost 6 months after planting.

The second tree we planted was a Nam Doc Mai Mango.  This one originates in Thailand and is a dwarf.

Nam Doc Mai Mango Tree
Nam Doc Mai Mango Tree

After almost six month you can see the growth to the tree.

Nam Doc Mai Mango as of September 20, 2016.
Nam Doc Mai Mango as of September 20, 2016.

The final tree that went in was a Barbados (Acerola) cherry tree.  Well its more like a bush.  This tree replaced the two sweet cherry trees that we were experimenting with.

Barbados Cherry Tree being planted.
Barbados Cherry Tree being planted.

Almost six months later we see the tremendous growth of the tree.

Barbados Cherry tree as of September 20, 2016.
Barbados Cherry tree as of September 20, 2016.

Yesterday, we spotted several flowers and buds on the tree.

Buds on the Barbados Cherry Tree.
Buds on the Barbados Cherry Tree.

So yes, we have gone crazy and trying to grow tropical plants in the Sonorian desert.  This project is not for the faint of heart.  We are on a steep learning curve but after six months the trees are still alive!

Are you going to try any more tropical trees?  Maybe, we have plans to convert the greenhouse into a sanctuary for dwarf tropical trees.  At least the concept has been discussed.  Time will tell,  stay tuned!

Life’s Lessons From Garden Flowers

 

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Look at the lilies and how they grow.  They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are.  And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. ~ Jesus Christ (Luke 12:27-28 New Living Translation)

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Golden Bantam 8 Row Sweet Corn

Wait you never told us what type of corn you planted?  Golden Bantam 8 Row Sweet Corn.

Why that variety?  I had left over seed from last year and we wanted to experiment with growing patterns to see if we could enhance pollination.

Okay, I guess I should have asked why did you choose that type of corn seed originally?  According to Terroir Seeds this is the benchmark of heirloom yellow sweet corn.  The stalks grow to about six feet tall.  Each stalk produces two or more slender 5-7 inch cobs which have 8 rows of medium deep broad golden kernels.  They have an old-time hearty flavor that is rich but not sugary sweet.

The ‘Golden Bantam’ owes its standing as the favorite of all sweet corns to its delicious flavor.  But its earliness also has been an asset; and this earliness it owes largely to its not wasting time in growing seven-foot stalks.  ‘The ear’s the thing!’ is its motto, and thus it has started a new era. ~ Henry T. Fink, “Gardening With Brains,” 1922

“Golden Bantam” was introduced to the public in 1902 in the Burpee catalog.  The important thing to remember is that prior to 1900 most people thought yellow corn was only fit for animal feed.  However, a few years after the release of the “Golden Bantam,” people in the United States began to favor the yellow corn over white, black and orange sweet corn varieties according to Victory Seeds.

So how did Burpee get the seeds?  Well there is a story behind that one.  In Greenfield, Massachusetts in the late 1800’s there lived an old farmer named William Chambers.  He liked to provide his friends with some “choice early corn long before they had thought of having any ripe enough for the table.”  The catch was he would never give them any seed to plant.

Chambers obtained some “Golden Sweet” corn which was introduced by James J. H. Gregory of Marblehead, Massachusetts in the late 1860s.  Chambers worked with this hybrid for many years, selecting and refining it till he had developed the current variety.  In case you’re wondering the “Golden Sweet” variety disappeared by the late 1880s due to lack of demand for yellow sweet corn.

When William Chambers died around 1891, the corn seeds were obtained by Mr. J. G. Pickett also from Greenfield, Massachusetts.  He continued to grow the corn keeping the seeds pure.  Then in the spring of 1990, E. L. Coy, a friend of W. Altee Burpee, was visiting family in Greenfield and was served the corn as part of his meal.  Realizing the potential impact of this corn upon the seed trade, he sought out and obtained all of the seed Pickett could spare.  The amount was less than two quarts.

Mr. Coy sent the seeds to W. Altee Burpee with this note:  “You now own the very sweetest and richest corn ever known, and I am very glad to help you to its ownership.”  Burpee trialed and increased the seed inventory before releasing the corn to the public in 1902.  Now you know the whole story.

Six week old corn field of Golden Bantam 8 Row Sweet Corn.
Six week old corn field of Golden Bantam 8 Row Sweet Corn.

Corn Planting During Dog Days Of Summer

While the dog days of summer brings laziness, there is one crop that must go in during mid to late July, i.e. corn.  The goal is to plant just before the monsoon season starts.

So did you do anything different this year with your corn crop? Well, we are always exploring and experimenting to see if we can improve from year to year.  So yes.

We explored the world of no till planting with the corn field this year.  Traditionally, gardeners dig or turn over the top layer of soil before planting.  This is done to remove weeds, work in compost or fertilizers, and to plant crops.  Several months ago we had planted annual clover as a cover crop.  Why clover?  Clover helps replenish the nitrogen into the soil and corn is a heavy nitrogen feeder.  So a week before planting we cut the clover down to just above the soil.

Annual clover, used as a cover crop.
Annual clover, used as a cover crop.

Then the corn field was soaked.  Granted, it was supposed to be done the day before we planted, but the dog days of summer struck.  So, it got done minutes before we planted.  Not ideal but the ground was ready to provide moisture to the corn seeds.

Soaked corn field, more like a soggy field.
Soaked corn field, more like a soggy field.

The measuring tape was laid down each row to measure the location of each plant.  Then we used our favorite tool, an old broom handle.  The end of the stick has a notch which makes a perfect sized hole in width and depth to plant corn.

Pocking holes in ground for seeds.
Poking holes in ground for seeds.

Every six inches a hole was punched into the ground for the seeds.  Then on the alternate side of the tape starting in the middle of two holes, another hole was punched every six inches.  In theory, this created a triangle down each row in for the corn to grow in.  Yes, is also a different method than we use in the past.  Last year we realized that with this type of corn we could plant closer than what the package said and this also would help with pollination.IMG_4020

Within each hole two kernels of corn were placed.  Why two?  To ensure germination.  When you buy seeds rarely do you get 100% germination, so you always plant two seeds to ensure one will germinate.

Seeds waiting to be covered with soil.
Seeds waiting to be covered with soil.

Once the seeds were in place, we came back and covered each hole with dirt.  This ended our day on July 13, 2016.   Then we waited to see what would happen.

Then five days later on July 18, 2016 the germinated corn seeds started poking their heads through the ground.IMG_4008

What about the holes that had two seeds germinate?  This begins the tedious job of thinning them out, so you leave only one plant per hole.  Now the hard part waiting to see what kind of crop the three hundred stalks produce.

Well, maybe I did drop more than two seeds in some holes :)
Well, maybe I did drop more than two seeds in some holes 🙂

The Dog Days of Summer

With temperatures consistently over 100 degrees Fahrenheit since June, oneWeather 120 2016 really doesn’t want to go out and work in the garden.  This really has been a mild summer even though we reached a high of 120° on June 19.   Then came along the monsoon season and the temperatures slightly dipped but the humidity made it unbearable to be outside.  Yes we are in those dog days of summer!

Yes it really hit us in early July when we took out all the tomato plants.  Those beds needed to be worked up and cover crops planted.  Well, you guessed it the dog days got to us, the beds got worked up ready to plant but the cover crops never got planted.

Never fear, those beds did not stay empty.  A few beds got some experimental transplants that we picked up on clearance from a company in Oregon.  The others had basil planted among the tomatoes and now with the extra room and heat they have taken off.

Crimson Sweet Watermelon
Crimson Sweet Watermelon
Squash
Squash

While it may be the dog days of summer and we tend to get lazy, there are sill things growing out here in the Sonorian desert making parts of the urban farm look like a green oasis.Green Corner 2016