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Everything I didn’t want to know about nematodes

Tuesday, October 27th, 2015

I’d heard of nematodes, but was only vaguely aware of them as some sort of awful garden pest. Mostly, I focus most of my energy on challenges I already have, and nematode problems we did not have. Until now.

This year in clearing out some beds for fall plantings, I found roots that were gnarled with lumps, indicative I learned, of bad nematodes.


I went on to learn that nematodes are the most prevalent multi-celled animals on earth and roughly resemble microscopic worms. There are both bad and good varieties, and the bad ones destroy about 5% of crops worldwide. In gardens like mine, they are responsible for lower yields and weaker plants.

There are several ways to combat bad nematodes: replace all your soil (not a great option), plant French marigolds (questionable as to effectiveness) or fight them with so-called beneficial nematodes. These good nematodes can also combat other insect pests.

Turning to Amazon, we found many vendors who sell these beneficial nematodes, and these are the ones we ended up with.


They are shipped live and must be kept cool or they’ll die. They come in a little sponge which is washed out into water which is sprayed on the garden with a hose sprayer. They need to be applied in the evening when it is cool and there is low light. Apparently, they’re most effective with multiple applications, so we’ll do this again a couple times in the spring.

How did these bad nematodes get here, you ask? We asked ourselves the same question. One guess is that they were brought in with loads of external compost.

It will likely be another year before we know if this worked, so stay tuned for that.

In the meantime, about 400 garlic and shallots are now in the ground for winter. We’ll hope the nematodes don’t affect them.

Spring bed preparation

Saturday, March 15th, 2014

It’s spring here, and that means it’s time to start cleaning out last summer’s beds and preparing them for the next season. There is a municipal compost program in Sierra Vista, and we got a truckload (1 cubic yard; about 1,000 pounds) of compost there last week.


Here is one bed after weeding, composting, and watering.


The spring tat soi (an Asian green, similar to spinach) is looking good, and we’re starting to eat asparagus!


And as usual for the time of year, my office conference table is full of tomato starts.

Spring is here…

Sunday, April 21st, 2013

And we’re spending a lot of time outdoors. This weekend, I finally finished prep’ing the last of our six new beds. (The rock walkways between each bed were made from rock filtered from the dirt in the beds. We have lots of rock in our soil here.)

Our compost is finally going really well. I sifted out three big wheelbarrows full today. I think that some factors in the success have been: putting it in a big pile instead of the spinning composter, which never really worked (large mass seems to be a key), more water, and the addition of a microbial solution.

Our starts are thriving, and I’m getting anxious to get them out of the house and into the garden. Two more weeks and then everyone out! We’ve been eating asparagus, and of course, lots of lettuce, and we have our first tiny strawberries.

My winter rye has formed seed heads. (This was a green manure cover crop planted to enrich the soil and retain moisture.) It grew well, so we’ll save the seed and plant more in the fall.

Lastly, our hedgerow has been started. So far we’ve put in holly hocks, penstomen, gaillardia, salvia, Jerusalem artichockes, and sunflowers. They’re all very tiny right now, but stay tuned.

I can’t wait for the next step of getting seeds and plants into the ground!

I put a lid on it

Saturday, October 17th, 2009

The battery house is progressing nicely. Yesterday, while I had some other work to do, Brad put up hangars for the i-joists. Then this morning, we cut and put in the i-joists. Then while Brad cut OSB for the decking for the roof, I nailed it all on. I didn’t count the nails, but it was a lot. A 9′ x 12′ space with i-joists every 16″ and nails every 6″ on every i-joist and every edge. Very satisfying work. Brad also got the back wall covered with decking which added quite a bit of stability to the whole structure. I do think that framing is one of my favorite parts of construction.



Now, for an update on some of the everyday details of our life here and some of the things we worried about initially and how they’ve worked out. (Feel free to stop reading now.) The 50 mile distance to a grocery has been no issue at all. We go shopping  every couple weeks, though we sometimes go into town more often in need of construction supplies. I cook every day, and we eat better than we ever did in California.

We just ate our first salad with produce entirely grown ourselves. The compost…well…it’s about the same.

The guesthouse we are staying in continues to be a godsend in terms of easing the whole building process, though I am anxious to move into our own house. This will most likely not happen by the end of the year, but I am hoping for early next year. I keep thinking of ways we could move sooner, but always forget about that pesky occupancy certificate.

We have both lost weight and are in better physical shape than we’ve been in a long time. (Amazing for me, since I’m eating more than I’ve ever eaten. I’m worried that when we stop building, I’ll gain a ton of weight.) We are still running every week, but the yoga has fallen by the wayside for now. We’ll resume it again at some point. Brad found a new doctor that he really likes, and his  blood sugar, etc. is better than it’s ever been.  I have started taking the full recommended dose of Gucosamine/Chondroitin/MSM, and my hands are better.

Our Internet here is great (more reliable than the phones and/or power sometimes), and we don’t miss cell phone service. We have started using Google Voice which works well. We don’t miss much from “civilization” except for the occasional sushi (which we have in Tucson) and once or twice, a movie (Julie & Julia…, Star Trek, which we’ll catch on pay per view).

I love my new camera. (In case you don’t get enough of the photos here, you can always check out our Flickr page.)

My planned decrease in regular “work” work has gone well. I’ve been able to spend a good amount of time working on the house, while still maintaining enough business to pay the phone bill. :) I am doing projects with three local school districts now as well. I’ve managed to reduce my travel significantly. I have a couple projects that are ramping up now (one that involves no travel and one that could be a lot of travel but only for a few months) and am a little worried that will cut into construction, but we’ll see.

We love spending 24/7 together (but that’s not really a change). And I especially love working outside in the sun almost every day. Very good for the mental health.

All in all, we are loving it here. Come visit!

Compost post: What a nice surprise!

Sunday, May 24th, 2009

What a nice surprise to come home from a trip and find that Brad had built me the tumbling composter I wanted!

The hatch

Aerated tube inside the composter


If you haven’t followed it, we’ve been doing a lot of reading on composting to prepare for this. For the mix in this batch, I used those bush-type weeds I’m allergic to and dry grass mixed with some tea and coffee grounds and dried cow dung as activator. I’ll add some veg and fruit peels, etc. over time.

I’ve set up a page to show compost updates over time for those who are interested.