Tag Archives: Organic Gardening

Asparagus and the New Year

Asparagus yellow and dormant
Asparagus yellow and dormant

I start each New Year by cutting down my asparagus plants.

These perennial vegetables may live for 15 years or more. The yellow stems show they’ve gone dormant for the winter. Now I can remove existing dead foliage in preparation for new, tasty shoots to emerge in spring. This is also the time to establish a new asparagus bed or expand an existing one.

The delicate, lacy foliage of this plant presents a false impression that the beauties are tender and require a lot of loving care to survive, especially in the hot, dry desert summer. In fact, these hardy guys love the searing sunshine, even during the hottest part of the year. Once triple-digit temperatures arrive in my Arizona garden, asparagus is one of the few crops that can withstand the extreme conditions.   Continue reading Asparagus and the New Year

Lettuce Tree?

26 lettuce tree-1-LNo, it’s not a tree at all! Just a lettuce plant reproducing.

My grandmother would have said the little guy was “going to seed.” As the plant matured, an ancient process encoded in its DNA caused the stem to elongate and push skyward. Flower buds formed on the top and will soon burst open. This process also caused the leaves to taste bitter.

I don’t harvest the best plants in the garden, but leave them alone to produce seed for next year.

This is another picture taken by my friend, Bonnie Wright, during her last visit. (Bonnie Wright’s Photography)

Belligerent Turnip

Boule d'Or TurnipThis Boule d’Or Turnip is often called a “Golden Ball.” The arid Arizona climate and sandy soil encouraged this odd fellow to reach deep into the earth rather than form the traditional ball. The root of this little guy also grabbed his neighbor and strangled him to death! It’s survival of the fittest out there in the garden! Continue reading Belligerent Turnip

Last Year’s Broccoli

Broccoli-2nd Year productionI harvested the first of the season’s broccoli…but it was on last year’s plant.

The row of broccoli I planted this fall in my Arizona garden isn’t producing yet. This tough guy, however, survived from last year, through constant triple-digit summer temperatures, to leaf out and produce for the second season. Continue reading Last Year’s Broccoli

“Look…baby chicks!”

Mother and chicksI must have talked to about 800 children today at a fair at Garden Lakes Elementary School in Avondale. All of their faces beamed with joy at the fluffy bundles in the cage.

I told them the story, “A mother hen laid one egg each day until the nest was full. Then she just sat on them for three weeks. The weather was very cold, but she didn’t move. Finally the babies hatched! But the nights were still cold. So the hen gathered them under her feathered arms and snuggled them all night.”

“Where is the mom?” they wanted to know. Continue reading “Look…baby chicks!”

I was enchanted! Can you tell?

Donna with Jim and TiffanyDonna Hamill pictured with husband Jim and daughter Tiffany.


The awesome speaker (not pictured) was Dr. Gary Paul Nabhan.

The internationally-renown author spoke on January 12 to a group of beginning farmers about the challenges and opportunities for producers growing for local markets. The mixer was presented in association with the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension, Maricopa County, Master Farmers Program.

I was pleasantly surprised when the world-famous Gary Paul sat at our table briefly to sign my books (three of my least-tattered copies). I will treasure that moment forever! Continue reading I was enchanted! Can you tell?

Meeting Gary Paul Nabhan is on my life-long bucket list. I’m giddy with anticipation!

Aug_Amaranth_092114Dr. Gary Paul Nabhan co-founded Native Seeds/SEARCH (www.nativeseeds.org), a non-profit dedicated to conserving and promoting arid-adapted crops throughout the US and northwestern Mexico. I’ve been buying precious, endangered heirlooms from this organization for twenty years, which was my introduction to the work of Gary Paul. Continue reading Meeting Gary Paul Nabhan is on my life-long bucket list. I’m giddy with anticipation!

Gnome’s Heirloom Garden enters a new year with some surprises!

Harvested with stemsBeing a brand-new website, I expected the readership of GHG to be almost exclusively local. What a wonderful surprise this morning when I receive the 2014 site summary from WordPress.com documenting the countries of origin for the site’s audience.

That’s 48 countries in all!
Most visitors came from The United States. Brazil & Italy were not far behind.

Wow! Thank you all for joining my family (and Gnome) in our humble Arizona garden. Of course, the real star is our rare onion friend, the Tohono O’odham I’itoi. It is he who drew the most visitors-and that’s exactly how it should be.

Read more about Tohono O’odham I’itoi multiplying onions.

Can a garden gnome really come to life to help me?
Can a garden gnome really come to life to help me?

Baskets for Butterflies is ready to take flight!

Ohmygosh! I can’t believe my book is almost ready for publication!

Here’s the latest update:

Written—complete. Readers can share four months of my crazy life on an Arizona heritage farm with dairy goats, turkeys, chickens, and a few mishaps. My organic garden struggles in the extreme Arizona heat. Thank goodness, my seeds are heirlooms from the ancient Native Americans. Unfortunately, many of these priceless treasures near extinction! I wish a mentor were here to help—and then mystical forces conjure just the gnome I need. Who knew that the little guy needed me, too? To me, the art of garden lore and storytelling is as endangered as the seeds I grow. Continue reading

What is a Tohono O’odham I’itoi multiplying onion?

Tohono O'odham multiplying onion becoming dormant So many heirloom vegetables stand near a dangerous precipice, ready to drop into the darkness of extinction. In my book, Baskets for Butterflies, the story of this rare onion illustrates the importance of saving heirloom plants.

Read more about this bulb on a new Tohono O’odham I’itoi Garden page.

Please share this new website with friends who would like to know more about saving heirloom vegetables.