Fall really is a lovely time to garden here in Tucson. We had a few nights in the low 3o’s that scared us into getting out the row cover, but since then, we’ve been enjoying days in the mid 70’s and nights in the mid 40’s. This fall we are growing spring mix, spinach, beets, carrots, green kale, purple kale, dino kale, red chard, bok choy, watermelon daikon radish, parsley, and dill. We also still have some eggplant and peppers hanging on from summer. Quantities are limited, but when available you can find our produce on the Conspiracy Kitchen salad bar in some of their prepared dishes, and on the produce department shelves.
Measuring and cutting pieces of row cover (frost protection).
Heirloom Chantenay carrots
Dino kale and baby bok choy.
Beet and carrot harvest.
As part of the co-op’s partnership with Desert Harvesters we hosted a workshop on November 1st in which local rainwater harvesting expert, Brad Lancaster, taught us how to harvest rainwater, air-conditioning condensate, and stormwater to irrigate native perennial food plants.
We learned how to use bunyips-simple water levels, and how to shape earthworks-landscaping features that direct and capture the flow of water. We also learned where to place trees to maximize summer shade and winter sun. Finally, we applied our knowledge by constructing the earthworks for and planting eight native trees at the entrance to our garden, alongside our kitchen’s walk in cooler, and between the staff parking lot and Hoff building. They may be tiny now, but one day they will grow to provide glorious shade as well as edible pods.
We are grateful to Trees for Tucson whose team worked against a tight deadline and came through with eight great quality trees for us, 3 Velvet Mesquites, 2 Desert Ironwoods, 2 Foothills Palo Verde and 1 Blue Palo Verde. When you are ready to plant in your own yard, Trees for Tucson is a great resource for low cost shade trees!
Today we got our first rain since the planting. Look how the earthworks are directing and holding the rain right where the trees can use it! It’s hard to see in the photos, but the basins are full of rainwater!
City High students
This past summer the co-op’s good neighbor, Noel Patterson, was kind enough to share with us some Tohono O’odham cowpea seed which he got from Native Seeds/SEARCH. We used the cowpeas as a summer cover crop to add nitrogen and organic matter to our soil.
While we turned most of the plants in before they produced pods, we left some to mature. Now most of those have dried on the plants. On a hot afternoon last week, a class from City High came out to the garden and harvested the dry cowpea pods. Now we will be able to save the seeds for next summer’s cover crop!
A full 5 gallon bucket of dry cowpea pods!
Check it out! The rainbow ends at our rainwater harvesting cistern!
Our very own 3300 gallon pot o’ gold!
Just when we start thinking we might not make it until fall, monsoons arrive to lift our spirits. The summer rain has a way of making the garden grow like no amount of irrigation ever could. Our summer cover crops are looking good and sunflowers are blooming. The bees are happily buzzing in the flowering Thai basil and buckwheat. The fig trees look amazing! They have more than doubled in size and even have fruit on them. I think we might just survive summer after all!
Conspiracy Gardens from the roof of the Hoff building
South beds cover cropped in buckwheat
Bee on flowering buckwheat cover crop
Buckwheat and cowpea cover crop
Bee on the flowering Thai basil
Sosa Carillo Black Mission Fig tree
Black Mission figs
Oro Blanco White fig tree
It’s time for summer harvests! We’ve been getting decent harvests of squash, tomatoes, Anaheim and Serrano peppers, basil, eggplant, and flowers. The sun has been taking a toll on the plants though, and we are thankful that the monsoons are arriving!
A days harvest in buckets saved for the garden by our awesome kitchen team! Thank you, Conspiracy Kitchen!
One morning a few weeks ago I turned on the irrigation to the fruit trees and saw a geyser of water coming from one of the lines. Not good. Investigation showed that something had severed the line. I repaired it and all was fine…for a few days. Again, I found the same line severed. I repaired it again. Several days later, I saw a rabbit sitting under the tree where the irrigation had been damaged. Could that be the culprit? Indeed, as I got closer, I could see it was a mother rabbit nursing baby rabbits! She had chewed through the irrigation lines in digging her den. As a nature lover, I was thrilled to witness the miracle of life right there in the garden. However, as a grower, I was horrified at the thought of rabbits multiplying in the garden. Since then, I have not seen the mother, and the babies are no longer in that spot. Hopefully, they have found a suitable spot to relocate!
Our flowers are blooming! There are sunflowers and cosmos. Bouquets are for sale in the store or just enjoy them as they grow when you pass by on 3rd avenue. The bees certainly seem to be loving them, as am I!
The green bean plants are working their way up the trellis. There are flowers, but no beans yet. The tomatoes are beginning to blush. Won’t be long now! The yellow squash and basil have been producing well. You can find both in our produce department, freshly harvested three days a week!
Several days ago I was out on the Rillito River path where I had the good fortune to come across a Ben’s Bell! I couldn’t think of a better place for it than Conspiracy Gardens, so it now graces the branches of our center Lisbon Lemon tree.
For a hands on project, University of Arizona’s Water Harvesting Class volunteered to help us create the landscape on the South side of our lot where we planned to plant fruit trees.
Desert Survivors Nursery donated three fig trees from the Kino Heritage collection, two Sosa Carillo Black Mission and one Oro Blanco White. We also purchased three Lisbon lemons, two Bearss limes and a Nagami kumquat from Mesquite Valley Growers. On subsequent work days, the class planted the trees and completed the project by filling the water harvesting basins with wood chips.
We think it turned out great! Thank you Water Harvesting, SWES 454/554! Looking forward the first harvests..rain and frut!
Behold, our new Conspiracy Grown logo. When you see this logo in the produce section, it means the fruit or vegetable in question was grown by us in our urban micro farm, which we’ve named Conspiracy Gardens. It doesn’t get any more local than this!