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Going Green in the Desert Update

gerry HoganIt’s been a year now since I completed the hardscape and bones of my desert garden. I’ve never been a shamrock waving, green beer swilling Irish woman but the green, as in “my patch of”, emerges as more important to me as I grow wiser – some may suggest older! Wiser because I recognize the healing, the therapeutic, the aerobic, the health value and, the aesthetics associated with gardening. With our local nursery telling me that they increased sale of vegetable plants 65% over this time last year; with talk of Victory Gardens – even at the White House – I become ever more convinced that the self-sufficiency, no matter how limited, that comes from tilling a patch or pot of soil, cannot be measured as anything other than treasure – a true pot of gold.

The dry riverbeds are serving the native plants well; the vines are softening the brick columns and veggieflowersharshness of my new “sala fresca” and the front flowerbed is home to Vinesonions, radicchio, kale, lettuce, spinach and broccoli. The $1.99 Shasta daisies put in this time last year survived summer and winter and are now a glory of blues and purple; wild Arizona Bluebells emerge from between the “river” rocks and jasmine scents the tiny courtyard off my study. Hummingbirds love the Tangerine Trumpet vine and the many native sages I planted.
 I harvested Meyer lemons, tangelos, grapefruit, limequats and kumquats over the last six weeks. Lemons have been preserved for use in Moroccan dishes and, thanks to a friend giving me her secret, to flavor spinach; recipe follows. Tangelos and grapefruit have provided morning juice and six pots of marmalade; kumquats and limequats have been preserved in vanilla syrup to go over ice cream. Unfortunately, the kumquat that I nurtured from 2” tall into its bountiful production stage, succumbed to one of the few hard frosts we had in February. To honor it’s many gifts of ripe fruit, I’ve saved seeds and will try my own cloning lab.

The fig was amazing. It produced three full crops and just this morning the first leaves of a new year veggiepotsunfolded.  The grapes didn’t get much bigger than an M&M but they were sweet and plentiful. Pots, in the sanctuary off my study, provide baby lettuce, broccoli sprouts, carrots, beets, spring onions and herbs of every flavor. Last week my grandsons came and harvested strawberry suckers (they love that name), green onions and broccoli babies and we planted them in pots at their house.

I’ve not sacrificed pretty. I cut five perfect white rose blooms yesterday. Study of the roof rain flow has shown where the water-harvesting tank (on order) will be placed.  My water bills varied and I have learned what plants need and cut back accordingly. It’s been a joy to go green in my patch of the desert; my garden and I have grown together. It’s made clear to me what works and what doesn’t work and those lessons, I’m incorporating into my life.


See part 1 of this article from March 2008.



2 Tbs. Olive oil
2 cloves garlic minced
˝ piece of preserved lemon minced
Sea salt (Maldon preferred)
Freshly ground black pepper
6 big handfuls of fresh, baby spinach

Pour olive oil into a large skillet, add the garlic and preserved lemon and heat over low heat until you can smell the aroma of the garlic and lemon.
Add the spinach. Turn the heat to medium and with a wooden spoon, gently “move” the spinach in the pan so that it is all coated with the oil. Keep ‘moving” it until it wilts.
Serve immediately.

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